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Judging Personal Prophecy
Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
- To help bring Christians into a place of maturity, God has set within the Church the ministry of the New Testament prophet with special anointing and authority. Through the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, He has also established the gift of prophecy to communicate in the local church. And as He inhabits the praises and prayer times of His people, He releases the spirit of prophecy to give testimony to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the earth today!
Dr. Bill Hamon defines prophecy as:
...simply God communicating His thoughts and intents to mankind. When a true prophecy is given, the Holy Spirit inspires someone to communicate God's pure and exact words to the individual or group for whom they are intended. It is delivered without any additions or subtractions by the one prophesying, including any applications or interpretations suggested by the one speaking. To be most effective, it must also be delivered in God's timing and with the proper spirit or attitude. (1)
The Bible makes it clear that prophecy is a most powerful gift, and it is encouraged throughout the Scriptures.
The apostle Paul spoke of the proper biblical response to personal prophecy in his letter to the Corinthians:
So, dear brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and don't forbid speaking in tongues. But be sure that everything is done properly and in order (1 Cor. 14:39-40).
The Bible provides us with general guidelines to help us properly respond to personal prophecy.
1. Does the word line up with Scripture?
Someone may say to you, "I've had a vision about your life," or "The Lord has given me this great word for you." God does lead supernaturally, there is no doubt about it. But whenever you are considering any form of special guidance, you need to judge it against the light of God's Word to see if it is true. The apostle Paul gave the litmus test for prophets in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good (1 Thes. 5:19-21).
In every prophetic word you should ask, does the prophecy line up with the Bible? The Holy Spirit will never act in contradiction to the written Word of God. He is the One who inspired the Bible in the first place.
Christians should know the Bible and memorize key portions of it. It is the Word of God that will protect us against false doctrine, deception, and spiritual manipulation. Always check a prophetic word against the other seven keys, beginning with the Bible. If the prophecy contradicts the Scriptures, you can obviously ignore it.
2. Is the prophecy given in love and grace, or in anger and judgment?
Prophecy in the New Testament flows from the Spirit of Christ, which is a spirit of grace and love. As we have already considered, the majority of personal prophecy should be given as edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3).
It is interesting that the portion of Scripture that has become known as the "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13, is sandwiched between the two chapters that deal with the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Through these gifts God shows His love to the world, and He expects His ministers to do the same.
3. What is the character and fruit of the person giving the word?
The personal character of a prophetic minister, or any minister for that matter, is the foundation of his or her ministry. Character is a primary guide for determining whether someone is a true or false prophet.
Dr. Hamon has given a list of what he calls the "10 M's" for maturing and maintaining ministry. These key character attributes are a good guide for determining the fruit of the person giving a prophetic word:
- Manhood - Are they the man or woman that God intends for them to be in Him?
- Ministry - Do they exhibit the mature fruit of a loving, grace-filled ministry?
- Message - Do they speak the truth in love, in a balanced, scriptural manner?
- Maturity - Do they display a right attitude and heavenly wisdom in every relationship?
- Marriage - Is their life biblically in order, with the right priorities (God first, spouse and family second, and then ministry)?
- Methods - Are they righteous, ethical, honest, and full of integrity, or are they manipulative or deceptive?
- Manners - Are they unselfish, polite, kind, and discreet? Are they a gentleman or a lady?
- Money - Do they have a love of money, or the proper perspective of stewardship in their finances?
- Morality - Are they virtuous and sexually pure? Do they display the right attitudes, thoughts, and actions in all situations?
- Motive - Is their motive to be seen or to serve?(2)
4. Is there some sort of religious bias in the attitude of the person giving the word?
Sometimes a person will bring what could be termed a doctrinal "hobby horse" into a prophetic situation that can twist a true prophecy and give it an unbalanced presentation. Be careful to judge the word against the Bible, and not against the positions of a certain denomination or religious group.
5. Do I sense a witness from the Holy Spirit?
When a guitarist tunes his guitar, he will play one note and then match the next string on the guitar to the note on the first string. A true musician can hear the dissonance when their instrument is out of tune, and they will tinker with the tuning key until there is resonance between the two strings.
Bruce Yocum writes of this principle regarding our spirit and the Holy Spirit's witness in our heart:
Objects have certain characteristic frequencies at which they vibrate. If you cause one object (for instance a bell) to vibrate near another object with the same characteristic frequency (another bell of the same size and weight and shape), the second object will begin to vibrate by itself. That is something like what happens when we hear the voice of the Lord - we resonate.(3)
When the Lord is speaking to us, no matter what method He chooses, our born-again spirits recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd. Jesus made it clear in John 10 that His sheep know His voice, and the voice of a stranger they will not follow. If a personal prophecy is not of God, the born-again Christian will get what is known as a "check" in their spirit - an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of the stomach telling them that something is not right.
6. Don't reject a directional word, but test it against the other keys.
If the word is something new that you have never heard before, it may be a directional word from the Lord, but don't act on it right away. Test it like you would any other guidance from the Lord.
Remember, personal prophecy is only one of the seven keys of God's guidance, and it alone should not be leaned on in making major decisions in our life. However, it is an important way that God guides the New Testament believer, and it should not be overlooked in seeking God's direction for our lives.
Share your thoughts: How has personal prophecy affected your life?
I go into much greater detail in how to receive and respond to personal prophecy in my book, Seven Keys to Hearing God's Voice. Order your copy from Shop CBN
Used with permission. © Hensley Publishing.
Other articles and
interviews by Craig von Buseck
Prophets and Personal Prophecy by Dr. Bill Hamon
Prophets, Pitfalls and Principles by Dr. Bill Hamon
When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson
The Voice of God by Cindy Jacobs
The Beginner's Guide to the Gift of Prophecy by Jack Deere
Growing in the Prophetic by Mike Bickle
Seven Keys to Hearing God's Voice by Craig von Buseck
Other Recommended Spiritual Gifts Resources on Shop CBN
Notes: 1. Dr. Bill Hamon, Prophets and Personal Prophecy (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1987), 29. 2. Hamon, 66 3. Bruce Yocum, Prophecy (Ann Arbor: Servant, 1976), 115.
I want to hear from you. Share your testimony of how you have grown to know
the voice of God. Send
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Craig von Buseck is Ministries Director
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