[My introductory thoughts followed by two great messages from the past. Excellent: written / preached 45 years ago. Well worth the read. “Be ye doers of the Word, not hearers only deceiving your own selves.” (James 1:22)]
Understand... prophets are not sinless. No one is sinless. We are all bound with the chains and stain of sin, but when Christ healed and forgave, He said “Go and sin no more.” If one repents—truly repents—he will turn from his sin by the Power of God, and not be like the natural (carnal, unconverted) man beholding himself in a mirror, and then go straight out and return to the old way of life (as Catholics after confessional, and as Baptists and other Protestants who seem to have skipped altogether the confessional part to God Himself, and after hearing a sermon, forget it entirely once they pass the church doors back into the “real” world, if they even listened to the sermon). Those who are truly converted don’t return like dogs to their own vomit, or pigs to wallow again in the mire. “Be ye doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” If a man hears the Word of God or the Word of God through a prophet, and is not moved, or is angered by the word (because they convict him of sin, but he does not want to repent), that person is not of God, he is spiritually dead and only God can bring Him back to life.
God may have “scheduled numerous appointments” with that individual, to call him to repentance, which appointments were all ignored by the “christian”... and at some point, God will stop calling. Then a person will be given over to a seared conscience (like cauterized flesh, the nerve endings having been destroyed, it is senseless, dead, a scab). This seems to be the general state of the majority of Christendom, bearing a vestigial resemblance to Christianity, like trying to look at a reflection in a pond on a cloudy, windy day.
Most Caucasians raised in Christendom consider themselves Christians, but like the old question goes, “If it was a crime to be a Christian, would there be any evidence to convict you?” Most “Christians” think of themselves in an overly favorable light. However, those who actually read the Word of God for what it is, not false interpretations, will react as Peter did in the presence of Christ’s Holiness, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” The flesh would have Christ depart from us, but that is the self-destructive nature of the flesh, recognizing its own sinfulness and unworthiness, but rejecting the cure. Yes, we are all unclean and all unworthy and all fail—and that is why Christ died: so that we would not remain in a perpetual state of unworthiness with judgment hanging over us, and to take upon Himself our guilt and judgment and free us from it.
[We later see the gradual transformation in Peter before the Passover, when Christ went to wash his feet and Peter said No, I am unworthy to have You wash my feet. Christ replied, He whose feet I do not wash has no part in Me. With his over-enthusiastic nature which sometimes caused Peter to be erratic, Peter replied, Then please wash not my feet alone, but also my hands and head. Christ expressed that He who is clean does not need an entire bath, but just to wash the dust off his feet from the dirt accumulated by wearing sandals on a dirt road frequented by barn animals. The feet represent our walk, where we go, and hence also what we do, though our hands also represent what we do, the hands could do little if the feet did not transport the hands somewhere to do it. The hands do at times need to be washed, as does the head, the mind, the thoughts.... however, at that moment (John 13), Christ explained all that needed to be cleaned was their feet. Later (John 15), Christ would tell them, now ye are clean through the Word that I have spoken unto you. Immediately Christ then said, Abide in Me and I in you, even as a branch cannot bear fruit except it abide in the vine or trunk. The purpose of the cleansing was to restore us to how God designed us to be: to bear fruit. Bearing fruit, walking in the Spirit, doing good works are all synonyms for keeping God’s Law: obedience. Doing good works / keeping the Law does not save us; we are saved unto the good works and keeping of the Law that we were fore-ordained that we should walk in them. Similarly, Psalm 119 reveals:
“9Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy Word. 10With my whole heart have I sought Thee: O let me not wander from Thy Commandments. 11Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.]
However, with freedom comes responsibility. Christ did not free us “from” the Law. He freed us from the Judgment, the Curse, the Penalty of the Law (which He Himelf bare for us). The only reaction of one who has truly been converted is to “go and sin no more”. Being imperfect, we will sin and fall. But if Christ is truly in us, we will not be content to remain in the stench and quagmire, but cry out for forgiveness and turn from sin and return to the true paths. Christ said if you love Me keep My Commandments. He had no commandments of His own; He fully kept all the Commandments of the Father, none of which were abolished; Christ said that not even the slightest, least significant pen stroke would pass from the Law (not the merest mechanical motion of recording it); so certainly the Law itself would not pass even though heaven and earth may pass. Christ said that not even a jot or tittle pass until all be fulfilled—and that does not mean that the Law will pass after all is fulfilled. The intention is continual. God’s Standard of Morality never changes. Christ said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
Not only did Christ not abolish the Law, but He seemed to expand its interpretation to a higher level, declaring that sin committed in the heart / mind, even though never acted upon and committed in the flesh, is equally as sinful. However, if reality, Christ did not expand the interpretation of the Law, He merely reminded us what the meaning of the 10th Commandment is. The Tenth Commandment forbids lust of anything. Lust is an activity of the heart / mind and results in the violation of Commandments 1 through 9. Similarly, the First Commandment, if obeyed, will prevent the violation of Commandments 2 through 10.
A prophet who proclaims the Word of God calls others to repentance (as opposed to the other type of prophet who predicts the future when God reveals it to him). This does not mean that the prophet himself is sinless, but that he has recognized the ugliness and morbidity of sin in himself and others and is calling all his kinsfolk to choose life and live, to divert judgment. If a bridge is out and ones kinsmen are travelling merrily along their way to destruction, the person who cries out to them to stop is not claiming that he is a better person. That is never in the picture. It is never a thought in his mind. The only issue is preventing destruction. Nehemiah, one of the godliest men in Scripture, confessed to God the sins of the nation, and confessed that he himself was not without sin and that he and his father's house had contributed to the national offense... and He prayed for God’s mercy upon them all. We are in the final days of this age, in the death throes of Christendom, squandering away the final days of freedom and civilization. The bridge is out. It does not matter if the person driving toward the bridge is the most righteous man on earth, or the greatest sinner. The bridge is out!
Even the most righteous person is guilty of sinfulness. We all are. Daily repentance and daily reading God’s Word to see what He requires—and asking the Holy Spirit to work that Truth and Holiness into us—is the only solution for any of us. As I have long written. It is not an issue of “who’s right and who’s wrong”: the only issue is each of us learning what is right and getting right.
“Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
“1Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2But his delight is in the Law of the LORD; and in His Law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalm 1)
Unless one is in God’s Word and Law day and night, he cannot walk in the Spirit. How can he walk in the Spirit if he does not know in which direction the Spirit is going? The Law teaches us in which direction to walk or not walk and the Holy Spirit guides and empowers us to actually walk it. Therefore, if one does not know where God commanded that we walk and not walk he cannot not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The lusts of the flesh are doing what God said not to do and not doing what He commanded us to do. If God’s people think that His Law was abolished, then they are in perpetual sin and have no clue as to why God is not answering their prayers. If you call for help on the radio or telephone and no one ever answers, how long does it take for an intelligent person to check to see if it is even plugged into the wall? Sin unplugs us from God so that God will not hear (grant) our prayers; not even for deliverance—that is what the Judgment is sent for: to get us to plug back in to God.
When the Godly King Josiah had read to him the Law of the Lord that during a renovation was found hidden in the Temple, he rent his royal garments when he heard what God required, realizing how far they had departed from what God commanded, in but a few decades. The copy of the Law had probably been hid there during the first and wicked half of his grandfather Manasseh’s reign, to prevent Manasseh from destroying every last copy. However, the average modern Christian rends neither his heart nor his garment, but goes on care free with the attitude, “so what?” Judgment will come upon such a person—as sudden destruction upon a fool. If within a few decades Judah had departed so blatantly from what God had commanded, then how far do you think we have wandered from it in the 2,600 years since then?
God is calling those who are His Temple to a renovation, wherein, if they actually look, and clean out the filth and purify the temple, will discover anew God’s Law preserved there, and God is calling us all to repentance. Will we listen? If not, it will be testimony against us. There is a chance that if God’s people nationwide, worldwide, in all of Christendom repent, that God will spare the entire nation and all of Christendom and postpone judgment for a later age, if we truly repent.
Regardless, beyond that, if God’s people individually repent, God may shelter them from the Wrath to come even as He sheltered the Israelites in the Land of Goshen while the plagues fell on Egypt all around them. Revelation tells us that those of the elect who survive will only be those who have the Faith / Testimony of Christ Jesus and who also keep the Commandments / Law of God (Revelation 12:17; 14:12). If one is not bearing testimony, if that Faith, that Testimony is not evident in his life, then he does not have the Testimony or Faith of Christ Jesus. Faith without works is dead. If one walks in sinfulness, oblivious and ill-concerned about God’s Law and how He commanded us to live, that person does not have the Faith of Christ Jesus. We were made in God’s Image. He is our Father. Christ died to restore that Image and our place of honor in the family. If our lives do not reflect God’s Image, then He is not our Father, but we are bastards. That’s what Hebrews 12:8 tells us: “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” Fathers discipline their own sons to chasten them to repentence; they do not discipline someone else’s children.
God is calling His people to repentance. Who will listen? Those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. Who are those? —those whose ears and eyes God has opened and whose hearts have been softened to be drawn to God and those who desire to do what is right to please their Father; those who forsake their own desires and obey Him to be honorable sons, and those who do not trample under foot the Sacrifice and Grace of Christ as if it was meaningless, by continuing in the old life of sin, and not heeding the remonstration: “Go and and sin no more”. Sin no more does not suggest that we will never sin; but it means that when we do slip and sin, that we actually repent and return to the paths of life; not pretend that nothing happened and sweep it under the rug and go on and forget about it as if it doesn’t matter. If God has not opened your eyes and ears and softened your hearts and called you to Himself, then that should scare you, and it should cause you to cry out and ask Him to so do.
“Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” (Psalm 107:2)
“How can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3)
“19Again I say unto you, ‘That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father Who is in Heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’.” (Matthew 18)
Where Are The Elijahs Of God?
by Leonard Ravenhill (1907–1994) English Evangelist and author.
To the question, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” we answer, “Where He has always been — on the throne!” But where are the Elijahs of God? We know Elijah was “a man of like passions as we are,” but alas! we are not men of like prayer as he was. One praying man stands as a majority with God! Today God is bypassing men — not because they are too ignorant, but because they are too self-sufficient.
Our abilities are our handicaps, and our talents our stumbling blocks! Out of obscurity, Elijah came on to the Old Testament stage, a full-grown man. Queen Jezebel, that daughter of hell, had routed the priests of God and replaced them with groves to false deities. Darkness covered the land and gross darkness the people, and they were drinking iniquity like water. Every day the land, fouled with heathen temples and idolatrous rites, saw smoke curling from a thousand cruel altars.
Elijah lived with God. He thought about the nation’s sin like God; he grieved over sin like God; he spoke against sin like God. He was all passion in his prayers and passionate in his denunciation of evil in the land. He had no smooth preaching. Passion fired his preaching, and his words were on the hearts of men as molten metal on their flesh. If we will do God’s work in God’s way, at God’s time, with God’s power, we shall have God’s blessing and the devil’s curses. When God opens the windows of heaven to bless us, the devil will open the doors of hell to blast us. God’s smile means the devil’s frown!
Mere preachers may help anybody and hurt nobody; but prophets will stir everybody and madden somebody. The preacher may go with the crowd; the prophet goes against it. A man freed, fired, and filled with God will be branded unpatriotic because he speaks against his nation’s sins; unkind because his tongue is a two-edged sword; unbalanced because the weight of preaching opinion is against him.
Preachers make pulpits famous; prophets make prisons famous. The preacher will be heralded; the prophet hounded. We love the old saints, missionaries, martyrs, reformers: our Luthers, Bunyans, Wesleys, Asburys, etc. We will write their biographies, reverence their memories, frame their epitaphs, and build their monuments. We will do anything except imitate them. We cherish the last drop of their blood, but watch carefully the first drop of our own!
Much of our praying is but giving God advice. Our praying is discolored with ambition, either for ourselves or for our denomination. Perish the thought! Our goal must be God alone. It is His honor that is defiled, His blessed Son who is ignored, His laws broken, His name profaned, His book forgotten, His house made a circus of social efforts.
Does God ever need more patience with His people than when they are “praying”? We tell Him what to do and then how to do it. We pass judgments and make appreciations in our prayers. In short, we do everything except pray! No Bible school can teach us this art. What Bible school has “prayer” on its curriculum? The most important thing a man can study is the prayer part of the book. But where is this taught? Let us strip off the last bandage and declare that many of our presidents and teachers do not pray, shed no tears, know no travail. Can they teach what they do not know? The man who can get believers to praying would, under God, usher in the greatest revival that the world has ever known.
There is no fault in God. He is able. God “is able to do according to the power that worketh in us.” God’s problem today is not communism, nor yet Romanism, nor liberalism, nor modernism. God’s problem is — dead fundamentalism! “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth.” — Rev. 3:16
Sin today is both glamorized and popularized, thrown into the ear by radio, thrown into the eye by television, and splashed on popular magazine covers. Churchgoers, sermon-sick and teaching-tired, leave the meeting as they entered it — visionless and passionless!
Oh God, give this perishing generation ten thousand John the Baptists! Just as Moses could not mistake the sight of the burning bush, so a nation could not mistake the sight of a burning man!
God meets fire with fire. John the Baptist was a new man with a new message. As a man accused of murder hears the dread cry of the judge, “Guilty!” and pales at it, so the crowd heard John’s cry, “Repent!” until it rang down the corridors of their minds, stirred memory, bowed the conscience and brought them terror-stricken to repentance and baptism!
After Pentecost, the onslaught of Peter, fresh from his fiery baptism of the Spirit, shook the crowd until as one man they cried out: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Imagine someone telling these sin-stricken men, “Just sign a card! Attend church regularly! Pay your tithes!” No! A thousand times no!
“O Lord, I have heard Thy Speech, and was afraid: O Lord, revive Thy Work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in Wrath remember Mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)
America Needs a Prophet
by Dr. Vance Houston Havner (1901-1986) American pastor, evangelist, and author.
America needs a prophet today. Pastors, teachers, and evangelists abound, but prophets have always been rare and are now almost extinct.
The prophet does not fit into any of the neat little categories of the clergy. He defies regimentation and cannot be catalogued. Barclay says: “The settled ministry began to resent the intrusion of these wandering prophets who often disturbed their congregations.” They still do. The prophet is anathema to the Establishment in any day or generation.
An Elijah on Carmel, an Amos in Bethel, a Savonarola in Florence upsets the status quo. He is not welcome to the councils of the powers-that-be in state or church. He is not a guest in Herod’s palace but a prisoner in Herod’s jail. He is not photographed with dignitaries nor invited to address the Sons and Daughters of I Will Arise. He is smilingly dismissed as “controversial” by the smooth diplomats of the ecclesiastical machine who rest at ease in Zion.
The prophet is usually a gaunt specimen, a man of the wilderness, given to solitude rather than to sociability. He is not a back-slapping politician, regaling the brethren with jokes late at night in a restaurant after church. He is too grieved for the affliction of Joseph to hobnob with the false prophets of Amaziah’s school of Bethel. He is not at home in this world; he is completely out of step with progress and somewhat angry at the age in which he lives. He is called a calamity howler because he discerns the designs of the devil going about as a mock angel and is not ignorant of the subtle trickery of the advance agents of Antichrist. He distinguishes the Rider of the White horse in Revelation 6 from the Rider of the White Horse in Revelation 19. He is the bitter foe of all who are trying to legislate a counterfeit millennium under religious auspices by making political projects look like moral issues.
The prophet is a lonely character in this world, sponsored by no foundation, paid from the coffers of no main office. He reports to no headquarters but heaven, has no retirement benefits. “Priests retire but prophets never.” He appears on no boards or committees, and if he shows up on a “program” he is usually shunted very cleverly into a minor spot, perhaps a “devotional,” where he has little chance of creating much disturbance. He is usually smart enough, however, to decline such invitations because he abhors being a puppet on anybody’s string. He has no ax to grind and craves no man’s bishopric. He has long since laid reputation and future on the altar of dedication to a prophetic ministry and is immune to both praise or blame. He knows that no prophet can ever be popular in his own day, and that he will be without honor in his own country and in his own house. The next generation may build a monument to him, and all medals will be awarded posthumously.
He will be on better terms with heaven than with earth, like Elijah who stood first before God and therefore needed not to bow and scrape before Ahab. The prophet pays a price, but it is worth it to walk into any pulpit beholden to no man. He owes no political debts to anyone for pulling wires to get him to a top seat in the synagogue. While other speakers worry about making good and putting it over, the prophet is concerned only with delivering God’s message regardless of consequences.
Of course the prophet has his temptations and perils. He may glory in his uniqueness and take pride in his peculiarities. His bold manner may be a defense mechanism to hide real cowardice within, and his austerity may be rationalized into a virtue when under the juniper with Elijah and fancy himself to be the Surviving Saint when seven thousand others have not bowed to Baal. The devil may use these possibilities to keep a conscientious, true prophet silent for fear he will succumb to these evils, thus committing the greater sin of quenching the Spirit within him.
The prophet must needs have the heart of a child and the hid of a rhinoceros. His problem is how to toughen his hide without hardening his heart. That combination can be achieved only by the grace of God. He is beset by loneliness and threatened by self-pity, that distemper that struck even the rugged Elijah. He is hated by all descendants of Herod, Jezebel, and the Pharisees. The place that should appreciate him most often criticizes him “for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).
There are those who think that there is no place for a prophet in this dispensation. Naturally Ahab wants no Elijah troubling. Of course Amaziah in his posh chaplaincy at the royal court does not relish an uncouth Amos in town. Who would expect Herods living in adultery to appreciate a John the Baptist? What Queen Mary wouldn’t fear the prayers of a John Knox? The prophet is essentially a soloist, not an accompanist, and in this day of the Organization Man an individual is resented if he is unwilling to get lost in the mob. It is quite natural, therefore, that those who today are trying to level all the mountains into one plain and reduce humanity into one faceless mass in preparation for Antichrist, should hate prophets who refuse to lie down before the steam roller. Nothing is so irritating to the prevailing order as an odd number who cannot be bribed or bullied into conformity.
The prophet is the product of no school. The gift is conferred by no presbytery, and no synod of church dignitaries can unfrock him. His credentials come from a higher court and bear no stamp or seal of mortal man. To God he stands or falls. If he disobeys orders, as one of his kind did long ago to eat bread with a lying prophet after declining the invitation of a king, there awaits him a lion in the way of the sad epitaph, “Alas, my brother!” He must beware of the peril of weariness; three prophets of Scripture were at their worst resting in the shade after a tiresome ordeal. Elijah, that unnamed prophet of Jeroboam’s day, and poor Jonah have set us a sad example. One under a juniper, another under an oak, and the third under a gourd vine warn us that Shady Rest is a bad place for exhausted prophets. Nathanael fared better under his fig tree and Zaccheus up a sycamore!
There has never been a dearth of candidates for lush pastorates and “strategic” spots in the Establishment; but there has never been a rush to wear the prophet’s mantle. The inducements are few, the hours are long, and the fringe benefits are not in line with the modern scale in the professions. But the eyes of the Lord still run to and fro throughout the whole earth looking for some Isaiah who has seen God in His holiness, himself in his uncleanness, and the land in its wickedness, and who with lips touched by a live coal from the altar is read to say, “Here am I; send me.”
There are several ways of silencing prophets. Some are stilled by persecution. John the Baptist’s head is not brought in on a platter these days, but the same result is achieved with more finesse. Promotion will also put a quietus on modern Elijahs. Some have been exalted to high seats in the synagogue and have never been heard from since. Some say they have changed their convictions because the “climate” has changed. Certainly the intellectual, moral, and theological climates have changed, but convictions should not be governed by climate but by conscience enlightened by Scripture and the Holy Spirit.
A. C. Dixon was a great preacher who pastured Moody Church and Spurgeon’s Tabernacle. He said:
“Every preacher is, or ought to be, a prophet of God who preaches as God bids him without regard to results. When he becomes conscious of the fact that he is a leader in his church or denomination, he has reached a crisis in his ministry. Shall he be a prophet of God or a leader of men? If he decides only to be a prophet insofar as he can without losing his leadership, he becomes a diplomat and ceases to be a prophet at all. If he decides to maintain his leadership at all costs he may easily fall to the level of a politician who pulls the wires to gain or hold a position.”
He who would prophesy or speak forth the message of God is careful of none of these things but only that he shall speak the message that God gives him, even though he be in a lonesome minority.
Diplomats and politicians abound in the world of religion. America needs a prophet today.
The prophet Ezekiel took a stand in his day against prophets, priests, princes, and people (22:23-31). The prophets had become profiteers. The priests had secularized their holy calling and made no distinction between right and wrong. The princes, the rulers, sought only personal gain. The corruption had sunk down among the people. God sought for a man to stand in the gap, but there was none. All of these conditions exist today. False prophets bid Ahab go up to Ramoth-gilead. The priests, the religious establishment, put no difference between the holy and the profane. The princes do not lead the people under the guidance of God. Government is ordained of God and its officials are His ministers, but today they savor more of politics than piety. The people are corrupt and their voice is not the voice of God. In a day of moral decadence through all strata of our society, God looks for a prophet to stand in the gap. Naturally, he will not be popular with any of these groups. It was so with our Lord. The religious system of His day was His worst enemy. He called Herod a fox. The people heard Him gladly at first but finally stood to cry “Crucify Him!” If He Who is Prophet, Priest, and Prince fared no better than that, what can we expect?
Evidently the prophet, the true prophet, is a “fifth wheel” in addition to the four wheels of the modern machine. He certainly is not a priest nor one of the regular clergy. He is not a politician and fills no office. Nor is he one of the common run of humanity. He is an Elijah lined up with neither priests nor prophets, with neither Ahab nor the multitude.
I do not anticipate a landslide of volunteers for the prophetic ministry. On occasion a pastor, teacher, or evangelist may give a prophetic message but a full-time prophet is another matter. He might start as a pastor, but what congregation would listen to a prophet Sunday by Sunday today? He might begin as a seminary professor, but he would soon be pressured out by a board that found him too angular to fit into the smooth design. He cannot call himself a prophet; that conjures up mental pictures of a long-haired ascetic with robe and sandals and staff. He may have to take his Bible to a cabin in the woods and venture forth to preach as God opens doors, and he may have to open the door and preach outdoors! He may have none of the “musts” required for pulpit success today, striking personality, formal education, and wide travel, but he will have what too few preachers do have today, hours upon hours in prayer and solitude with his Bible and a fresh word from God. He will be a voice in the wilderness. We have the wilderness; God give us a Voice! [from In Times Like These (1969)]
Compare Vance Havner’s message with this recent news article:
Billy Graham Named Among Gallup’s ‘Most Admired’ for 57th Time
By Kristy Etheridge — December 30, 2013