and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will
|GETTING IT BACKWARDS
By Edgar Jones
He was a good man and brilliant. We had shared a friendship for many years. We were both members of a small group of professed Christians who met routinely to pursue a deeper spiritual experience. He was speaking in his characteristic way during one of those meetings, declaring what the Lord had told him. I quote:
The Lord told me that I will live to be 100 years old.
He would have been about 60 at that time. One year later he was dead of cancer -- a malady that was, unknown to all, at work in his body on the very night of his statement. It was his characteristic way of speaking about what "the Lord told me" from day to day. I never questioned him, for who am I that I should question one who continually expressed himself thus? It was not for me to say that he was not on intimate speaking terms with God.
I. Other Examples
This friend was typical. I have known many others who testify to hearing voices, as of the Lord, speaking to them and telling them many things. Some are posting on The Voice of Jesus Forum. It is not for me to judge any individual case, but I have learned that this is almost always a self deception. The Lord does not speak directly to individuals in any but the rarest cases, and than only to encourage and strengthen. He does not reveal wonderful treasures of Truth in this way. He doesn't need to -- Jesus has already revealed all things.
 . . . everything that I heard from my father I made known to you.
27 Everything has been delivered to me by my father, and no one knows the son except the father, nor does anyone know the father except the son and [the one] to whom the son intends to reveal [him].
Most, if not all, of the founders of the existing religions and religious denominations have been professed hearers of voices, misunderstood to be the voice of the Lord or his messenger. This includes Saul of Tarsus, who professed to have heard the voice of the Lord speaking to him on the road to Damascus:
3 Now while going, it came to pass he drew near to Damascus, and suddenly light shined around [him] from heaven, 4 and having fallen upon the ground he heard [a] voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? 5 So he said: Who are you, Lord? So he [said]: I am Jesus whom you persecute. 6 But arise and go into the city, and it will be spoken to you what you must be doing.
There was Muhammad, to whom Allah spoke through the angel, Gabriel:
Muhammad was forty when, during his one of many retreats to Mount Hira for meditation during the month of Ramadan, he received the first revelation from the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel). On the night of 17 Ramadhan, corresponding with 6 August 610 CE, Gabriel visited him at one of his meditations at Hira'. On this first appearance, Gabriel said to Muhammad: "Iqraa", meaning Read or Recite. Muhammad replied, "I cannot read," as he had not received any formal education and did not know how to read or write. The Angel Gabriel then embraced him until he reached the limit of his endurance and after releasing said: "Iqraa." Muhammad’s answer was the same as before. Gabriel repeated the embrace for the third time, asked him to repeat after him and said:
"Recite in the name of your Lord who created! He created man from that which clings. Recite; and thy Lord is most Bountiful, He who has taught by the pen, taught man what he knew not."
Joseph Smith had his first vision at the age of fourteen while praying in a grove of trees in western New York. The appearance of the Lord to him, like that to Saul of Tarsus, was attended by a shining light from heaven (Acts 9:3). The Lord spoke face-to-face with Joseph and called him to service.
Saul, Muhammad and Smith were exceptional founders of new religions, unlike my deceased friend, yet they claimed the shared experience of having had the Lord speak to them directly. There are multitudes who daily profess that the Lord has spoken to them and told them many wonderful things. It must be very satisfying to the ego to believe that one is on such terms with God as to daily have personal conversations with HIm.
Do a Google search on "the Lord spoke to me" and you will find many people who give a similar testimony. It is as though they have their own personal connection with the Lord and all they need do to discover what he wants them to do or to believe or prophesy is to listen and He will tell them. These persons believe in the direct experience of God and think they can experience Him directly without intermediaries, and often without the Son of man. He may come to them in a word or a vision to respond to their need for such experience. They may hear an audible voice, or He may speak to them from within. One person posts this on the Voice of Jesus Forum:
This is why WE MUST EXPERIENCE GOD! Experiencing God is more important than the scriptures! You see if you experience HIM, then Bible revelation can be added to you. But if you don't experience HIM first then Bible knowledge is just a compilation of facts, they are true, but they don't have any place of reference, without HIM.
This is what I mean by the title of this paper, "Getting it Backwards." First Experience God, then you can receive the Truth in the scriptures?
This is not the way it works -- it is getting it backwards.
II. The Correct Order of Things
Now, let us go to Jesus and ask him what comes first. The question is,
Must one experience God first to understand the scriptures?
Here are some relevant utterances of the Lord (Note that this is from the scriptures):
31 So Jesus was saying to the Jews having believed in him: If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. 32 And you will know the truth, and the will set you free.
23 Jesus answered and said to him: If anyone agape-loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will agape-love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our dwelling-place with him. 24 The [one] not agape-loving me does not keep to my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but of the father having sent me.
You see? Go first to the Word of Jesus (in the scriptures -- the gospels) and continue there to know the Truth.
First keep his Word . . . then enter into an experience with God, for it is by this means that God comes to us and speaks to us, and will make his dwelling-place with us. First things first!
Yes, they have it backwards who think they experience God before understanding His Word from the scriptures. We must first go to the Word and continue there -- abide in the Word -- and the promise is that we will know the Truth and the Lord will come and dwell with each one; it is by this that we experience God.
The Word comes before the experience of God. They have it backwards. If one wants to experience God, here is the sequence:
First go to the Words of Jesus (in the scriptures), receive, believe and keep them and the result:
We will come to him, and we will make our dwelling-place with him.
What is the status of one who does not go first to the Word?
The [one] not agape-loving me does not keep to my words.
He stated the promise to those loving Jesus and manifesting that love by going to his Words clearly:
And you will know the truth, and the will set you free.
But those who do not do this do not love God, do not receive the Truth, do not have the freedom, and do not experience God. The promise is wholly contingent on first going to the Word, which we find in the scriptures of the gospels.
One more time, just so you don't forget: First go to the Word, then experience God. Yes, they have it backwards. And, as Jesus clearly stated:
We will come to him, and we will make our dwelling-place with him.
And the word that you hear is not mine but of the father having sent me.
III. The Last Man to Whom God Spoke Directly
God once spoke to selected individuals directly. He spoke thus to the prophets and patriarchs. Finally, he also spoke directly to Jesus of Nazareth.
What Jesus said, he received from God, therefore God his Father did speak to him directly. Here is his statement -- one of several that can be cited to establish that Jesus was among those to whom God speaks.
49 Because I have not spoken from myself, but the [one] having sent me, [the] father himself has given to me commandment what I should say and what I should speak.
Can Jesus be just another example, like Saul or Muhammad or Joseph Smith (or my old friend, now deceased), who thought God spoke directly to him but who was, perhaps, mistaken? Why is he different?
This is a question that everyone should ask who thinks that God -- the Lord, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Father -- speaks to them on a personal basis. It is also one that each person must answer to his or her own satisfaction. I cannot answer it for you, but can only speak for myself and say that, having continued in his Word for a very long time, I have come to believe that what he says is true, and that God did truly speak to and through Jesus of Nazareth.
You can receive this same assurance. If you have not done so, I urge you to claim another of his promises:
17 If anyone wants to be doing his will, he will know concerning the teaching, whether it is from God or whether I speak from myself.
He has kept this promise to me, for I am one who wants to do his will, and I am persuaded that he did not speak from himself, but spoke as God gave him utterance. That he was the last one to whom God speaks directly he indicates by this utterance:
6 I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the father except through me.
You can sort that out, can't you? If God speaks to anyone directly, they must have come to the Father -- but one cannot come to the Father except through Jesus. It follows, as does the night the day, one must go to Jesus first, and then one can experience God, for not apart from him can one come to the Father. It also follows that God now speaks to human beings, revealing his mysteries, only through Jesus, and not directly.
God spoke to the prophets who came before Jesus, but only to prepare a people for his coming and direct them to Jesus. What he gave the prophets was neither Light nor Life, but a revelation of him who was to come. They wrote 'scriptures' and when Jesus came he found men searching those scriptures for Life. He rebuked them:
37 And the father having sent me, that [one] has witnessed concerning me. Neither his voice have you ever heard nor his visible-form have you ever seen, 38 and his word you do not have abiding in you, because he whom that [one] has sent, in this [one] do you not believe. 39 You search the Scriptures, because you suppose in them to be having eternal life, and these are those witnessing concerning me. 40 And you do not want to come to me in order that you have life.
It is due to the fact that Jesus is the last of the prophets, of those to whom God spoke directly, that the situation was reversed. When Jesus came speaking to men and saying, "The Father spoke to me and said . . . .," it was of supreme importance that men listen and believe because the Father did, and does, speak to and through Jesus. But now I am urging you, through the Word of Jesus, not to believe or take seriously anyone who says the Lord has spoken directly to her or to him. He does not do that except on the rarest of occasions and then not to reveal new Truth.
It seems that all who makes this claim -- that God, the Lord, the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit, an angel of God, or anyone from heaven has spoken directly to them, is a deceiver. They may truly believe that God has spoken directly to them, because they first deceive themselves and then they deceive anyone else who listens and takes them seriously. Such was the case with Saul of Tarsus, with Muhammad, with Joseph Smith, with my deceased friend from years ago, and with all who come to us now saying, "The Lord spoke to me."
The Lord does not speak revelations to anyone other than through Jesus, and that speech consists solely of the Word as spoken by Jesus, which he heard from God. Jesus of Nazareth was the last man to whom God spoke directly. God has since spoken to us only through Jesus, who reveals all things to those who can hear him. We hear him only by going first to the scriptures - that is, to the gospels of the New Testament.
IV. The Sorry Consequences
Getting it backwards is not a recent phenomena. We have seen that it goes back at least as far as Saul of Tarsus, and probably further. Since it is an evil long active we should be able to examine it and see its consequences.
Let us first call to mind this word, spoken by Jesus as he engaged in an intercessory prayer to the Father.
20 But not concerning these [ones] only do I ask, but also concerning those believing in me through their word, 21 in order that they all be one [thing], just as you, father, [are] in me and I in you, in order that they also be in us, in order that the world believe that you sent me.
This is a revelation of his deepest desire, that all his disciples -- the first ones and all others who have believed though his word spoken to them and through them to us -- his deepest desire I say, which is that we all be united in one. This precious unity is essential to the purpose of the Father, and it is necessary to convince the world, as Jesus uttered it, that you sent me.
We find a similar utterance here:
34 [A] new commandment I give to you, that you be agape-loving one another; just as I agape-loved you be loving one another. 35 By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have agape-love for one another.
That agape-love is the bond that holds disciples into the oneness that is so very important to our Lord. It is through this oneness that the world is to believe that the Father sent Jesus as the Son into the world, and it is the manifestation of that love for one another that convinces all men that you are my disciples.
Now examine the Word and see how this oneness arises through an inness that, in turn, results from hearing Jesus and receiving his Word. He has just told us,
in order that they all be one [thing], just as you, father, [are] in me and I in you, in order that they also be in us, . . ..
Refer back to this Word yet again and see how we all come together, not only with each other, but with the Son and the Father through the Holy Spirit:
19 Yet [a] little [while] and the world no longer beholds me, but you behold me, because I live and you will live. 20 In that day you will know that I [am] in my father and you in me and I in you.
23If anyone agape-loves me, he will keep my word, and my father will agape-love him, and we will come to him, and we will make our dwelling-place with him.
Keep his Word! First, hear and keep that Word spoken by Jesus of Nazareth and preserved for us in the gospels of the New Testament. Then, the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father comes to us and dwells in us and we in them, and all are one in him.
The first to enter the individual is the Word, and than only if one is willing to receive it and keep it; then one finds the inness that results in the oneness that convinces the world.
Ah, but look at the sorry mess that is Christendom! Is it all one? Does it have unity? Do they love one another?
Here is a statistics -- a fact that should make an impression on us, as it surely has made an impression on the world, and it is not the impression for which the Lord petitioned the Father. The World Christian Database lists 34,000 Christian denominations worldwide!
The number is growing. The January, 2001 issue of Time listed only 33,820 Christian denominations (only?).
Why are there so many? The whole of Christendom is shattered into these thousands upon thousands of separate denominations for one simple reason: self styled prophets and preachers have convinced multitudes to follow them rather than Jesus because of their claims that the Lord has spoken directly to them and revealed great things through them. It is a scandal to the world and to men, as well it should be.
The numbers constitute only a part of the scandal. The matter is greatly compounded by the record of history, which reveals the many wars and conflicts that have characterized Christendom and by which Christians have destroyed Christians. This includes WWII, in which German and Italian Christians fought British, French and American Christians to the death. This includes the American Civil and Revolutionary Wars. In addition, there have been brutal persecutions of Christians by Christians through the ages, in particular during the early Reformation period in Europe.
These are the sorry consequences of getting it backwards. There are so many Christian denominations, and so much antagonism between Christians in the various nations and denominations, because false prophets and false apostles have been and continue to be appearing who believe that the Lord has spoken to them and who are very effective in deceiving others. Each pretends to new revelations and human beings are so gullible as to believe them.
V. No Excuses
There are no excuses for getting it backwards, either for those who believe that the Lord speaks directly to them so that they can then go to the Word and understand it, or for those who allow these persons to persuade them and so to become their followers. There are no excuses because the Lord they profess to follow speaks so clearly:
The words one must give heed to are these my words. They are the very words uttered by Jesus of Nazareth to his first disciples and, through them and the Holy Spirit working in them, which are preserved forever in the New Testament Gospels. These are the words that anyone must first hear who would have an experience of God. These are the words to which his sheep listen, with the good consequence as stated by the Lord:
15 Be giving heed from the false-prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside are ravishing wolves. 16 From their fruits you will know them. They do not gather grapes from brambles or figs from [a] prickly plant, do [they]? 17 Thus every good tree bears good fruit, but the rotten tree bears bad fruit. 18 [A] good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor [a] rotten tree to bear good fruit. 19 Every tree not bearing good fruit will be cut down and thrown in [the] fire. 20 Therefore from their fruits you will know them. 21 Not everyone saying to me: Lord Lord will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the [one] doing the will of my father who [is] in the heavens. 22 Many will say to me in that day: Lord Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and in your name do many powerful [things]? 23 And then I will profess to them that I never knew them. Be departing from me you working lawlessness. 24 Therefore everyone who hears these my words and does them, he will be like a shrewd man, who built his house upon the rock.
16 And I have other sheep that are not of this sheep-pen, and I must lead [these], and they will hear my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.
How many? How many flocks are there?
1How can anyone misunderstand so simple a number? And what is the key that produces the one flock? Is it not this?
. . . they will hear my voice . . ..
They do not hear the voice of the Lord in the night, nor in the early morn, nor in the day, nor in the evening. They do not hear the Lord speaking to their inner selves during meditation, to their hearts or minds with new revelations never before told, or in their dreams. The only ones to hear his voice are those who listen to the Words of Jesus of Nazareth speaking to us through the gospels. Therefore all who hear other voices from other sources do not hear the voice of Jesus. Now, one more time, how many flocks (denominations, etc.) arise from the hearing of his voice?
There is only one productive procedure to follow in quest of God. There is only one way to experience God.
The other way is backwards!
First, go to the scriptures and listen to the voice of Jesus speaking in the gospels.
Second, claim the promise of Truth that comes to all that abide or continue in his Word as the Holy Spirit enters into you and teaches you.
Here is a message of confirmation that comes to us from the Old Testament, from one to whom the Lord did speak directly:
 The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd.
 My son, beware of anything beyond these.