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Should Christians say "God Told Me"?
When I was a lad I always connected taking the Lord’s name in vain with things like OMG or saying “Oh, Jesus Christ!” in a disrespectful or flippant manner. Even before my conversion back in December 2002 I never uttered a word against God, although my mouth sure did spurt out a whole lot of foul dirt.
Now that I’m a little older and saved by the grace of God, I’m still as anti-OMG and “Oh, Jesus Christ!” as I ever was. Nevertheless, my understanding of the third commandment has expanded somewhat. Which is the third commandment? Exodus 20:7 declares, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain”.
In Thomas Watson’s (1620-86) stunning exposition of the Ten Commandments, he lists twelve ways in which folk may take the name of the Lord in vain. Here they are:
Obviously we don’t have time to dig into Brother Watson’s twelve-point analysis, but I’m pretty certain that if our old Puritan friend were still amongst us he would have to add a thirteenth element to his list, namely, the contemporary ‘God Told Me’ (GTM) phenomenon.
GTM is absolutely everywhere nowadays. It’s nigh on impossible to go to some churches without hearing someone in the congregation telling you what God supposedly told them during the week. As a recent convert I was simply overwhelmed as I heard believer after believer using GTM phraseology: “The Lord has shown me”, “The Lord gave me a word”, “The Lord spoke to me very clearly”, “The Lord has put so and so on my heart” and a host of other related expressions.
At first, I confess that I was a little envious of my ‘more advanced’ brethren. I wished I could somehow climb to their level and be as spiritual as they were so that I could hear the audible voice of God penetrating my inner silence. But how? What could I do to make God speak to me? How could I attract the Lord’s attention? Why was I not hearing what so many of my brothers and sisters in the Lord were receiving? Where was His voice?
Well, after much soul-anguish, I came to the conclusion that whatever I had burning in my heart was definitely from the Lord. In such a case I could boldly proclaim to all: “The good Lord has told me such and such!” So I fell victim to the GTM spirit and started parroting the same language as my GTM colleagues: “The Lord has shown me too”, “The Lord gave me a word too”, “The Lord spoke to me very clearly too”, “The Lord has put so and so on my heart too” and a long etcetera.
The first problem was when I realized that I was merely baptizing my own feelings, inclinations and desires in the name of the Lord. How was it that the Lord never seemed to say anything that went against what I had in my heart of hearts? At any rate, is my heart not a darkened world of iniquity? Didn’t Jeremiah say that “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it”? (Jeremiah 17:9).
A second trouble was how to square my so-called words from the Lord with what happened to the servants of the Lord in Scripture. What had my tingly inner-feelings in common with the hammering force of God’s voice in the Bible? For instance, my wife and I are reading through Ezekiel in our devotional time at the moment and last week I was dumbstruck by the first verse of the book: “Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month of the year, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1).
Do you see what Ezekiel’s saying? He could pinpoint the exact moment in time when he was granted a vision of God Almighty! He was so shaken that he spent a whole week afterwards with his jaw on the floor: “I remained there astonished among them seven days” (Ezekiel 3:15).
When a man truly receives a word from heaven he is left undone, obliterated and reduced to nothingness. So how is that so many modern-day GTM gurus are so full of self-confidence and arrogance?
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to children of God hearing the voice of the Lord. But I am persuaded that such hearing must always come via the channel of Scripture. Any spirit that doesn’t line up to the standard of God’s holy Word must be rejected. The Word of God is the one, sure, infallible, time-tested means of bringing down rampant false prophets. God’s authority is infinitely more important than my heart’s authority or a preacher’s authority. Therefore, the message we must announce aloud is: “Stick to the Book!”
GTM, as far as I’m concerned, is a twenty-first century violation of the third commandment.
So my word of exhortation for all you readers today is: never say “God told me” unless you’re one hundred percent certain it’s Him. And if it is Him, it will always, always, always line up with the Word of God.