Often you hear preachers say we should only do what God tells us to do. In the Charismatic circles, what is implied is that God will communicate directly to you through an impression, a vision, dream, by speaking to you, etc.
I too am all about receiving personal revelation from the Lord and have had the privilege of living in that for most my life. However, when it comes to actively living out the gospel, there is more to the equation than doing something only when God gives you a specific word. As I explained in my last post, hearing from God and having the Spirit come upon us was an event in the Old Covenant. In the new, this is to be our 24×7 lifestyle.
Should we do what God tells us to? Of course! Should we not do what He tells us not to? Um… yeah, unless you like living miserably. But the question is, should we not do what God does not tell us to do?
This is where I have gotten confused. What should I do if I want to do something but God has not “told me” to do it or not told me not to do it (this is turning into a tongue twister)?
Many of the non-Charismatic parts of the church would say to just go by the Bible. Without getting into a big debate, although we should continually read the Bible and live out of a Biblical approach to life, the Living Word (Jesus) told us the Spirit would guide us. The Spirit will work with the written word but this does involve specific, timely revelations.
On the other end of the debate are people who say we should only do something IF we hear or see something from the Spirit. They might bring up how Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing.
However, Jesus was not conducting a Charismatic meeting on how to move in the Spirit when He said that. He was defending Himself to religious Jews who found fault with Him for healing a man on the Sabbath (see John 5).
These religious leaders needed to know that their beef was not with Jesus, but with the God they claimed to know. Their idea of Him was all wrong. Jesus was saying He knew what the Father liked. They obviously did not as they valued keeping their traditions a certain way above healing a hurting individual. So Jesus explains to them that they don’t know God because they don’t recognize that He and the Father are one and He is simply about His Father’s business.
There are indeed plenty of Scriptures in which Jesus instructs His followers on Kingdom living and doing the works. But these are more broad; He doesn’t say not to move unless we get a specific revelation. For example:
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15-18) Where in the world? All places. Who should we preach the good news to? Everyone. You might even wonder if your neighbor is half-beast, so Jesus makes it clear by saying we should preach to “every creature”.
Here’s another one. Jesus said whenever we are received in a city, we should heal the sick there (Matt. 10 & Luke 10). Which sick people should we heal? The ones who are… SICK.
Now I am not saying that the Holy Spirit will not guide us as we go about doing the works of Jesus. I love it when He highlights a person to pray for or gives me a clear word. Often, I’ll feel compassion and anointing rising up for a specific person. The problem is, we have assumed that means God is NOT concerned about the other people and have limited the works of the gospel to special occasions in which God tells us to do what should be our normal lifestyle.
My main point in all this is not that we have to flag everyone down and preach to them or go to the hospital to pray for every patient there. Preaching and healing are fruits of our relationship with God. I am trying to talk about the root. We as Christians do not have a God switch that gets turned on only during special events. Christ is in us as a full-time resident. Letting Him live through us is our privilege and calling. If He is in me, then should I not have His heart for the person in front of me? Shouldn’t His heart be my heart too, even if God doesn’t say “I want you to love that person!” specifically?
A Lesson from Paul
Paul was a man who lived in obedience to the will of God, right? Well he did not model a life of sitting around until God said to do something. He was captured by God’s heart and the power of the gospel.
One time, he was going from place to place with the gospel and the Spirit forbid him to go to Asia. Okay, so he thought it might be good to go to Bithynia. Nope, the Spirit said no again. Then he had a dream about a man in Macedonia needing help. Yep, that was the Spirit re-directing him (Acts 16:6-10). But did God ever rebuke Paul for not waiting to hear what to do originally? Nope. As Bill Johnson put it, the light is green unless God says red, not vice-versa.
God’s main objective in our lives is not to get us to listen to a command and then do it the way a worker simply follows orders. Yes he wants us to learn His voice, but the main goal is to become like Him through experiencing relationship with Him.
For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
This is a life of adventure and excitement, not passionless rule following. In fact, He longs to be able to do our will! Rather than restricting us, God wants to free us to be like Him so we can truly be who we were created to be. When someone asks us, “Was that God or was that you?”, God wants us to be able to honestly answer with a “yes”.