The immature prophet.

The dangers of someone who can hear the Holy Spirit, but lacks his fruit.

Every Christian can hear God. This being the case, every Christian can share God’s messages with others: They can prophesy. They can be prophets. That’s why the Holy Spirit was given to us Christians in the first place: So we can hear God, and so we can share God. Ac 2.17-18 Now, whether every Christian hears God accurately, and prophesies accurately, is a whole other deal.

See, Christians are at all different levels of maturity. Some of us call it “spiritual maturity,” but there’s no practical difference between intellectual, emotional, and spiritual maturity: No matter what kind of immaturity we’re talking about, immature people are gonna do something dumb, because they don’t know any better. An immature human is always gonna be an immature Christian. We need to recognize this, and not move ’em into any positions of responsibility before they’re ready. 1Ti 3.6 And since I’m writing on prophecy today, obviously this includes letting people speak on God’s behalf. New prophets need supervision!

To the new believer, every voice in their head sounds exactly the same. Unless they’ve been supernaturally gifted (and don’t just take their word for it; what do they know?) they don’t yet know how to discern spirits. They can’t tell the difference between God’s voice, some other spirit’s voice, and their own. They all sound alike to them. You know the devil’s gonna take advantage of this.

Some of ’em never do learn the difference. Cessationists, fr’instance, assume every voice in their head is their own. Any clever idea which is actually a God-idea: They’re just gonna assume it’s their clever idea. Or assume it’s so out-of-character, it must be their crazy idea—and never share it, never obey it, don’t grow, and don’t grow others.

On the other extreme, we’ve got those Christians who for the rest of their life presume their own voice is God’s. And whattaya know: He shares all their wants, desires, and opinions! Some of ’em even proclaim these things as if they’re from God; they’re totally convinced they do speak for God… and it turns out they’ve been false prophets all along. You might remember Ahab’s prophet Chidqiyyá ben Khenana in the bible; I suspect he’s one of those guys who convinced himself he heard God, and of course he totally didn’t. 1Ki 22.24 Such people pass as authentic prophets ’cause they sound so certain—and know their bible well enough to be right more often than not. But they’re fake ’cause they’re sharing their voice. Not God’s.

The rest—the actual prophets, who actually hear God—tend to bollix their own prophecies for one rather obvious reason: They don’t yet have good fruit. They’re new, remember? They’ll grow fruit eventually. But because they’re still deficient in love, kindness, patience, grace, and gentleness, they’re not yet ready to speak for God. Because—

1 Corinthians 13.1-3 KWL
1 When I speak in human and angelic tongues:
When I have no love, I’ve become the sound of a gong, a clanging cymbal.
2 When I have a prophecy—“I knew the whole mystery! I know everything!”—
when I have all the faith necessary to move mountains:
When I have no love, I’m nobody.
3 Might I give away everything I possess?
Perhaps submit my body so I could be praised for my sacrifice?
When I have no love, I benefit nobody.

—they’re noise. They’re nobody. They benefit nobody. They will, someday. Just not just yet.

Let me reiterate these immature Christians do actually hear God. I’m not at all saying they don’t. Nor am I saying they’re frauds, nor malicious, nor bad Christians. But because they’re fruitless, they’re functionally just as error-plagued and destructive as any false prophet. So I warn you about ’em now. Watch out for them. Don’t become one of them.

The impatient prophet.

Hearing the Holy Spirit is awesome: God’s talking to us! Problem is, when we’re new at the whole prophecy deal, we’re so jazzed about this fact, we lose our tiny minds: “I just heard from God! Lookit me!”

With this lapse of commonsense come a whole lot of other lapses. The impatient prophet doesn’t bother to…

  • ask the Holy Spirit just what he meant by that message.
  • ask for further revelation, further insight, further anything.
  • think about the manner in which this message should be presented—whether discreetly, tactfully, kindly, fruitfully.
  • meditate on the message a bit, and see what more they could unfold from it.
  • double-check it against the scriptures.
  • bounce it off fellow prophets; they don’t figure they need to. And they need to.

When God drops a message on them, they wanna share it at that very instant. And so they’ve adopted beliefs which justify this behavior. They claim God wants them to share it immediately: His timing is perfect, and he saves his messages for the perfect time, so they’ve gotta be declared now. If we delay, it means we’re disobediently quenching the Spirit, or lack faith, or some other rubbish thing which tries to make impatience sound like fruit.

Now sometimes God’s messages need to stand alone and speak for themselves. Other times the prophet is meant to interpret it, and provide an explanation. The Spirit tells us which is which. The impatient prophet doesn’t wanna wait that long. Either they present every message as if it stands alone—and as a result, a lot of ’em make no sense. Or they interpret every message the Spirit grants them—and turns out they suck at interpretation.

’Cause they put no time into interpretation. The prophet Daniel asked for time, Da 2.16 but impatient prophets won’t do likewise. Daniel once had to wait three weeks for an interpretation; Da 10 impatient prophets can’t fathom waiting three minutes. They don’t check the scriptures, don’t seek the Spirit’s insight, don’t compare messages with fellow prophets. They assume whatever knee-jerk interpretation they immediately come up with, is likely correct.

How do they justify this? They assume the Spirit put it in ’em. That this is one of those cases where we needn’t worry what to say, ’cause the Spirit does the speaking for us. Mt 10.19-20 When the Spirit dropped us the message, he also dropped (into our subconscious, I suppose) the interpretation. ’Cause if every message is meant for instant distribution, interpretation’s gotta come with it. Part of the package.

Again, rubbish. God is perfect at timing, but that means he does include time for us to interpret his messages correctly. Not quickly but thoughtlessly speak the overflow of our hearts. Lk 6.45 And in an immature Christian, you know that overflow could stand to be more Christlike.

Impatient prophets don’t think about any of this stuff. They figure if God made ’em a prophet, and gave ’em a message, infallibility is also part of the package.

’Tain’t so. Prophets are human, and humans make mistakes. Just as young children will misunderstand Mommy, and what they think they heard her say comes out garbled, partial, or sometimes not at all what Mommy said: An immature prophet makes the very same mistake with the Holy Spirit. They got his message, jumped to a conclusion about what it meant, preached their guesses, and in so doing totally bollixed his message.

Patience. It’s a fruit of the Spirit. It absolutely needs to be part of every prophet’s behavior.

The unkind prophet.

Love behaves patiently and kindly, 1Co 13.4 so on we move to kindness, another fruit of the Spirit, and one we don’t see in a lot of angry prophets, who don’t realize the purposes of prophecy are to build up, help out, and advise. 1Co 14.3 Not tear down, create division, and criticize non-constructively.

Problem is, prophets who have only a passing knowledge of how Old Testament prophets behaved, assume that’s what a prophet does. They’re angry thunderers, quick to condemn sin and call down fire. They’re not about grace, for the time for grace is past. They’re about judgment and wrath.

Obviously they skipped the moral of Jonah, in which God had to demonstrate to his rebellious prophet—who knew this already, and wasn’t happy about it—how God doesn’t wanna destroy sinners; he wants them to repent! Jh 4.2

Immature prophets aren’t the only folks who wanna zealously denounce every sin they don’t like. This attitude of wrath, fury, and hellfire is the entire foundation of dark Christianity. Those who minister in those churches will preach this graceless gospel whether they consider themselves prophets or not, whether they hear from God or not.

If they are prophets, and do hear God’s messages of forgiveness… well, they’ll either squelch and de-emphasize them, or they’ll twist them: “God wants you to know he loves sinners. He’ll forgive your every sin. But let me just remind you he’s telling you this because a day of wrath and judgment is coming, so you’d better repent now!” And they actually believe God’s cool with their graceless little additions.

In other cases they skip the whole truth-in-love idea, Ep 4.15 and figure the truth comes before all. So it’s okay if they were indiscreet, harsh, cruel, impolite, sarcastic, rude, outspoken, rough, or angry: Truth is their justification. Ends justify means.

They forget the fact kindness is what draws people to God. Ro 2.4 Harshness drives ’em away. The reason people regularly reject God and his messengers is ’cause they don’t believe he loves and cares about them. They think he’s distant and absent, or angry and vengeful. God’s prophets particularly have to fight these false images and demonstrate God loves people. All Christians do, but those who share God’s messages particularly have to be kind. A jerk of a prophet is exactly the sort of noisy gong and clanging cymbal Paul and Sosthenes wrote of. 1Co 13.1 Plenty enough of those in Christendom already.

The loveless prophet.

Too many churches see prophets as a position of honor and authority. Too many immature Christians see prophets as a position of power. Obviously some of ’em covet power. So that’s why they wanna become prophets, and get involved in prophetic ministry. It’s less about people, and more about might. It’s less about love, and more about control.

Hence you’re not gonna see a lot of love in immature prophets. Go down the rest of the 1 Corinthians definition and you’ll see ’em violate every bit of it:

  • Prophets who can’t get control of their emotions. Nor do they care to. 1Co 13.4
  • Prophets who definitely draw attention to how great they are, or how important their ministry is. It’s all part of looking out for themselves. 1Co 13.4-5
  • Prophets who exaggerate. All their stories are made to sound like successes. All their messages are made to sound like they were received with awe and gratitude. Sometimes truth just gets in the way of exalting themselves. 1Co 13.4, 6
  • Prophets who ignore others’ considerations. They want to get people out of their comfort zones. Want to hop over boundaries. Don’t care about keeping confidences when it makes a really great story. 1Co 13.5
  • Prophets who are deliberately provocative. It’s “who they are.” 1Co 13.5
  • Prophets who love to be the “bad boys” and “bad girls” of their churches, and tell the pastors off, or challenge the status quo simply because it maintains their rebel status. 1Co 13.6
  • Prophets who try to maintain their rank and position. Hence they put up with nothing, trust no one, hope for nothing, and worry about their survival. 1Co 13.7

It’s all about them. Little about God.

Now like I said, this is immaturity. Hang out with the Holy Spirit long enough, and he’ll rebuke all this loveless behavior, correct them, and reshape them into a proper prophet. He’ll put legitimate prophets around them, who can disciple and guide them. They’ll grow out of it.

Or, y’know, they can go find an immature prophet who’s been clinging to their immature behavior for a good long time, know how to successfully disguise their immaturity as fruit, know how to convince Christians they’re the real thing by telling us everything we want to hear, and learn how to arrest their development in its tracks. True, they won’t be listening to God anymore, but so long that they don’t destroy any lives (or nobody finds out), they can make a good long successful career of prophesying to all the King Ahabs in our world.

Really hoping you’re not interested in that, though.