Many in the church wonder why or how the gift of prophecy works among God’s people. Jack Deere here offers four things God reveals to this children, chief of which is the revelatory beauty and glory of Jesus Christ.
God Reveals His Beauty to His Children
According to Jesus, the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the beauty of Jesus (John 15:26). It begins at our conversion and lasts for the rest of our lives. Once the Holy Spirit showed me the beauty of Jesus’ love for me, life without him was no longer a possibility for me. The Holy Spirit delights to reveal the excellencies of God, and then we have the privilege of telling the stories of our experience of the beauty of God to others (1 Peter 2:9). Heaven is not a static enjoyment of God; it is a never-ending journey into the perfections of an infinite Person. The revelation of God’s beauty will continue for all eternity, for his beauty is infinite. The joy of heaven is seeing the beauty of God and then praising him for that revelation. It is like being in love forever with an ever-increasing ecstasy.
The Holy Spirit Guides Us in All the Details of Our Lives
In the upper room, Jesus promised his eleven disciples that the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Three of the Eleven would go on to write Scripture, and this promise guarantees the veracity of Scripture, but it should not be restricted to the writing of Scripture or to the lives of the Eleven. The Holy Spirit was sent to lead the lives of all the children of God (Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18).
The Holy Spirit shows us what our gifts and ministries are (Acts 13:2), and then he gives specific directions in our ministries (Acts 16:6–10; Galatians 2:1–2). Sometimes he will give us warnings to save us from traps (Job 33:13–17; Acts 22:17–21). Sometimes the Spirit will speak to us when we are afraid and give us the encouragement we need to finish a task to which he has called us (Acts 18:9–11).
The Holy Spirit Shows Us How to Apply Scripture
When I was a seminary student, I fell in love with the Servant Songs of Isaiah (42:1–9; 49:1–7; 50:4–9; 52:13–53:12). They progressively reveal the beauty, sufferings, and victory of the Messiah, who is portrayed as an anonymous suffering servant of Yahweh. The first song describes the humility and gentleness of the Messiah when he comes: “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (42:3). This magnificent metaphor shows how Jesus would love the downtrodden who despaired of life.
Many years later, on a Sunday morning, I stood at the front of the sanctuary at John Wimber’s church. I was the leader of the prayer teams. About a hundred people had come to the front for prayer. I overheard a woman on our prayer team being a little too forceful with the woman she was praying for. I walked over to her to correct her, waiting until she finished praying for the woman. Before I could correct her, the verse that had lain hidden in my heart for a quarter century—“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out”—entered my mind as I looked at the overbearing woman. God was telling me she was a bruised reed and that on this Sunday morning, all it would take to crush her was a corrective word from a pastor she esteemed. I smiled at her and moved on. The Spirit not only gives us understanding of Scripture (Psalm 119:18); he also shows us how to apply Scripture so that we heal instead of bruise his people.
The Holy Spirit Reveals Our Sins
One of the most frequent ways the Holy Spirit leads me to experience the love of God is by showing me my sin. I need God to reveal my sins to me because they are so characteristic, so ingrained within me, that sometimes I can’t even see the worst of them. The great saints always asked God to reveal their sins. David prayed, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24).
The great saints not only pray for God to reveal their sin; they also claim to be the greatest sinners. Psalm 119 is the greatest psalm ever written on the power and beauty of the Scripture. It was written by an incomparable but anonymous poet. It is 176 verses long. Throughout the hymn, the psalmist displays his love for God:
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. (vv. 10–11)
My eyes stay open through the watches of the night,
that I may meditate on your promises. (v. 148)
Throughout the psalm, it is clear that the psalmist is suffering and that God has not answered his prayer to save him from his pain. Instead of complaining about God’s indifference, he celebrates the wisdom of God:
It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees. (v. 71)
The psalmist, who is a model of godliness in every way, ends his hymn with this verse:
I have strayed like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant,
for I have not forgotten your commands. (v. 176)
This confession can’t be attributed to modesty or, worse, to false humility. The poet is writing Scripture under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He can only write what is true.
The other day, I prayed, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be my name.” That little slip of the tongue demonstrated how deeply embedded in me is the desire for human praise. Instead of beating myself up—as if that would do any good—I smiled and said, “Thank you, Lord.” More and more these days, the Lord is showing me how much I desire my glory, not to push me away, but to draw me in and heal me with his love. Right now, I think this is my biggest sin, but I wouldn’t know it was there if God weren’t speaking to me about it. He is speaking to me about it because he wants to have bragging rights over me when I finally come before the judgment seat of Christ. He wants to have the pleasure of saying to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21).
I don’t know if I’ll ever have the pleasure and honor of hearing Jesus say, “Well done.” But I know for certain that if all I had were my knowledge of Scripture and my discipline, I would never have a chance to hear those great words. Although Scripture can tell me that it’s wrong to desire self-glory, it can never show me that I’m desiring self-glory. Only the voice can show me that. Scripture can tell me that God loves his children, but only the voice can let me feel his love. God speaks to us regularly because we need his guidance, but also because it gives him pleasure to wrap our hearts in his love.
Are you interested in learning how to hear the voice of God in your life? This is an excerpt from Jack Deere’s new book, Why I Am Still Surprised by the Voice of God. This is the story of how Jack Deere learned to hear the voice of God and, in doing so, became a friend of Jesus. Now a modern classic, Jack wrote Surprised by the Voice of God over twenty-five years ago. Based on that first book, Why I Am Still Surprised by the Voice of God has been entirely rewritten and includes additional thoughts and insights from a lifetime of hearing God speak. Deere guides you through the Bible to discover the variety of creative, deeply personal ways God still communicates with us today. You’ll learn how God speaks with people apart from the Bible, though never in contradiction to it.
- Groups desiring to learn more about how prophecies, dreams, and visions function
- Individuals wanting to study the biblical foundations for hearing the voice of God
- Churches ready to embrace and experience God speaking in community
In these pages you will:
- Learn through Bible study, compelling first-hand stories, and sound arguments
- Witness the way God carries forth the biblical pattern for speaking to us in contemporary ways
- Be trained to hear and recognize the voice of God in your life