Knowing how you determine what is true is the first step in winning an argument.
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
It’s a sad fact that critical thinking has become scarce in today’s culture. People tout their opinion or belief as though it’s true just because they believe it. This is especially true when discussing God. Mention God’s judgment and they will say something like, “God isn’t like that. He’s a loving God and wouldn’t punish anyone.” To deal effectively with comments like these we need to appeal to authority. We must find a reliable source who is clearly an expert in the area under discussion. (This applies to every controversial claim.)
The question we need to ask is, “How do you know what you have claimed is true?” This is a question that needs to be asked often until we get a satisfactory answer. To see the bigger picture here, we must take a brief look at two branches of philosophy that lie at the heart of every discussion. The first is ontology, which is the science or study of being. The ontological question is, “What is it?” We are dealing in ontology when we ask questions like, “What is man?” or “What is truth?”
Once we have reached an answer, it’s time to engage in the study of epistemology which is all about knowing. The epistemological question is. “How do you Know?” In our case, we are asking how can we know with the greatest certainty that a claim is true. How can we know what God is really like? Is judgment part of who He is, or not?
So, how do we proceed from here? How can we best discover the truth? One way is through rationalism. We become like Rodin’s Thinker and meditate on God until we have come up with some conclusion. The problem with this method is that we are limited by our own understanding, and if our understanding is insufficient or faulty, we’ll never reach an accurate conclusion. This approach has led mankind down some bizarre paths.
Let’s say that we were engaged in a discussion about what the surface of the moon is really like. We could speculate all we want, but why not ask someone who has been there? Neil Armstrong made the guesswork irrelevant. He was there. He answered our questions. He revealed the truth to us.
While rationalism has serious limitations, revelation has none. It is the absolute best way to reach the truth on any matter. This is especially true when discussing topics like God or heaven. God revealed Himself through the Scriptures and preeminently through His Son. It doesn’t matter what we or anyone else thinks. We simply need to see what God has said in the Bible and through His Son, Jesus Christ.
AS I SEE IT
Much if what the apostle Paul teaches us in the New Testament came from a revelation from God. For example, in Ephesians 3, he states that God revealed to him the “mystery” that Gentiles were fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel (Eph. 3:3, 6). He didn’t figure this out on his own. God revealed it to him.
My point in this article is to apply this principle to our ministries or our churches. As we consider our next steps, we need a word from God. After all, His plans are not our plans, and His ways are not our ways. We should have learned that God is always planning His work (the ways of God) and working His plan (see John 5:17-19). He knows what He is about to do and how He intends on doing it. He doesn’t need our help our suggestions. He wants us to join Him in what He is already doing.
We can interfere with His plans when we get caught up in our visions for our future. If we have received a revelation from God regarding the future He has planned for our ministry or church, vision castingcan be a good thing. It gives us a clear goal, which can get people excited. If, however, the vision is ours, we can be certain that God will not be in it. It doesn’t matter how great the idea seems. If it’s not God’s idea, the results will be limited to the best man can do.
It doesn’t matter how much sense our plans make to us or to those to whom we have explained them. It’s not about what makes sense. Marching around Jericho seven times made no sense, but look what happened (see Joshua 6). Nor does it matter that we can point to a need that we will be meeting. A need doesn’t constitute a call, and to go where we are not called is a futile endeavor. Since God’s plans always succeed, why would we trust our own? After all,
Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose (Ps. 25:12).
To choose our plans above God’s demonstrates that we really don’t fear God. The Bible says that when people prefer their own vision to God’s revelation, they “cast off restraint.” Yet, usually those who have convinced themselves that God will bless their plans feel certain that they are in the center of God’s will.
Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction (Pv. 29:18).
God is not impressed with our grandiose plans or all the work we do for Him. Unless God works through us, it will amount to nothing. Paul compared his greatest achievements to rubbish. We must be willing to set aside our own agendas, dreams and visions, regardless of how wonderful they seem.
Receiving a revelation from God doesn’t mean that God must speak audibly to us or give us a mystical vision. God speaks through the Holy Spirit in a multitude of ways—through the church, through our circumstances, through prayer, or through the Bible. He wants us to know what He’s about to do. Our job is to listen for His voice. The best confirmation that we have heard from God is that He has spoken to other members of our church or ministry as He has spoken to us. For example, if a pastor has to convince his church to get on board with a vision he has, most likely God has not spoken.
Let’s be careful not to confuse a personal vision with a revelation from God. There’s a lot at stake.
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