Personal Revelation

The most important witness that the Lord has provided for us is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26) We are empowered with direct communication from Heaven, not from other men, but from God. I firmly believe in spiritual communications from God. At times I have experienced spiritual direction that so precisely matched the outcomes that followed that the probability of mere coincidence was infinitesimal.

There is no way to eternal life except by faith, and there is no way to faith without the Holy Spirit. "…no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor 12:3) It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive the strength to overcome the temptation to rebel against God. "For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship." (Rom 8:13-15) To blaspheme the Holy Spirit and reject his testimony throughout one’s mortal life is the unpardonable sin, from which there is no redemption. (Mark 3:29)

However, the apostle John teaches discernment: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1-2) This is because the Spirit of God speaks to us spiritually, through our own feelings and emotions, and it is not always possible to distinguish spiritual communications from our own internal emotions.  So it is important to make certain that spiritual promptings are truly from the Holy Spirit and not from the spirit of deception.

One might ask, why would God allow someone to be deceived into thinking that his own self-generated feelings are promptings from the Holy Spirit? It is because God provides all the information that we need in order to discern truth from falsehood as long as we are not blinded by stubbornness and pride. This is evidently a means of separating those who have humbly accepted the grace of Christ from those who are Christians in name only. Those who are overwhelmed by pride and unwilling to open their minds to the truth provided by God are allowed to be victims of Satan’s falsehoods. Since God is omnipotent, He clearly has the power to stop Satan, but since it is necessary for us to be tempered in the flame of trial, he allows Satan to provide such powerful delusions to us. The Apostle Paul writes, "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." (2 Thess 2:9-12, italics added.) In this context, "wickedness" includes any stubborn allegiance to false doctrines. Please note that this scripture does not say that God deceives us. He allows us to be deceived by our own pride when confronted by powerful delusions. In other words, He created us to exist in a world with sin and opposition.

Paul effectively teaches us that it is impossible to recognize falsehood on appearances and feelings alone. He makes it clear that we have no choice but to apply rational discernment because there are always people disguising falsehood as truth. He states, "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." (2 Cor 11:13-15, italics added)

On the other hand we are assured that God does not leave us defenseless. He always provides us with everything that we need, including all of the information that we need, to overcome the opposition as long as we accept His offer for help. Paul also taught, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (1 Cor 10:13)

We have to be careful about using feeling good as a test for truth without using discernment. Feelings are important and are a powerful factor in motivating both good and bad actions. We feel good simply because others agree with our opinions, whether or not they are correct. We feel good when we receive praise and when people positively stroke our prideful egos. History seems to indicate that when people get together in large groups and get worked up emotionally together, they can be motivated to do some pretty awful things. It would be reckless to make a decision about eternal life without any research simply because it feels good.

Many people have burning testimonies that their denomination is the one and only true religion: the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Scientists, the Unification Church, and so forth. They sincerely believe that God has confirmed to them through the Holy Spirit that their religions are singularly true, and their testimonies are all equally strong. They dedicate their lives to these religions, and they trust their eternal destinies to them. Yet, they can’t all be right. The simplest logic requires that most or all of the denominations that claim to be the one and only true church organization must be wrong.

There's an old adage, "be careful what you pray for because you may actually get it." I suspect that too many people pray for a strengthened testimony of what they already believe whether or not it is true. It seems to me that the correct prayer should be "please tell me what You want me to believe instead of what I want to believe." And certainly prayer should be followed by quiet patient listening.

True personal revelation doesn't necessarily bring a feeling of comfort. A calm feeling is more likely the result of compliance with personal intuition, personal desires, or family pressure than heavenly direction. Although doing as instructed by revelation will bring comfort, the revelation itself and the decision to obey it may be gut wrenching if the Lord demands a difficult choice. Jesus said,

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law - a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matt 10:34-39)

Real revelation may be surprising or inconvenient. Spiritual direction that appears to be of human invention often is. Real direction from God is often unlike anything people conceive on their own. For example, by obeying revelation Noah became the ridiculous joke of his community in building a large boat on dry land. Sarah laughed when she heard the Lord say that she would bear a son in her old age. Abraham certainly wasn't receiving a confirming answer to something of his own choosing when he was instructed to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. Moses received an assignment in the presence of the burning bush that was the opposite of anything he would have ever expected. David was rejected in his craving to build a great temple. Jonah tried to go in the opposite direction from the Lord's instruction after he received it. Joseph had planned to back out of his betrothal to Mary until the angel Gabriel told him otherwise. The Jews who didn't understand revelation in the scriptures were expecting that the Messiah would vanquish their oppressive captors. The apostles expected that Jesus would not be killed even when He told them that He would. Peter thought that the Jews remained the Lord's only chosen people until the revelation in his dream in Joppa. And as a devout Jew, Saul thought until his trip to Damascus that he was doing the Lord's work in suppressing the Christians.

So people should be wary of spiritual confirmation that they are already going in the right direction, especially if the Bible does not back up that confirmation. The Bible warns against even miraculous spiritual direction that is contradictory. The apostle Paul, in writing to the Galations as well as to future generations, explained that even if a resurrected apostle or an angel brings a gospel that differs from the gospel taught by the original apostles as documented in the Bible, it is not from God:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! (Gal 1:8)

© 2004 William C. Hamer