We live in a world full of ideas. With the highway of information technology, we can access information at any given moment of any given day from most places in the world using something as small as a smart phone device. With all of this information, curious minds are being filled on a constant basis with both simple and complex ideas that are being delivered at light speed—often with conflicting world views and philosophies.
The TED Talk has become a very popular information bank—owned by a nonprofit nonpartisan foundation designed to deliver information to people. According to TED, information is built upon the most important thing in the world—ideas. So, how is preaching a sermon different than delivering a TED Talk? TED Talks are approximately 18 minutes in length while sermons are often longer. It’s more than the length of the talk that distinguishes a Christian sermon from a TED Talk.
Preaching a Sermon Involves More Than Delivering Creative Ideas By Gifted Thinkers
Giving a TED Talk may not follow a specific cookie cutter pattern, but it does center on the goal of delivering ideas. Often TED Talks center on the opinions of people and charged by emotions. Such opinions are delivered with clarity, precision, and a bit of persuasion in order to change people’s understanding of that particular idea at the center of the talk. According Chris Anderson, “Ideas are the most powerful force shaping human culture.”
While ideas are certainly powerful, we must understand that preaching a sermon is different than merely delivering ideas to an audience. Preaching involves delivering truth (Rom. 1:16; John 17:17). The source of the truth is God’s Word, and preaching is the delivery of God’s truth rather than ideas that originated with the one giving the talk (or another figure from history). The goal of the sermon is to unpack a given text of Scripture and deliver God’s truth to the gathered audience—which in most cases consists of the assembled church.
According to the TED website, they search hard to find the most gifted speakers for their events:
At TED, we search year-round for presenters who will inform and inspire, surprise and delight. Our presenters run the world’s most admired companies and design its best-loved products; they invent world-changing devices and create ground-breaking media. They are trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses.
The reality is, most pastors do not meet those standards. God has often chosen those who are not wise and genius level to deliver the truth of the gospel. Paul wrote the following to the church at Corinth:
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:27–29).
The sermon isn’t a carefully crafted talk emerging from the expertise of the speaker. The sermon is a carefully crafted talk that should emerge from God’s Word and has one main goal of delivering the truth of the passage of Scripture to people with great care and precision. Because sermons are truth centered and not idea centered—sermons are driving at something much bigger which is the worship of God.
TED Talks Are Not Designed for Worshippers of God
The talks delivered at a TED event are not designed for the worship of God. They are often designed to give credit to the one delivering the persuasive ideas in the talk itself. Preaching a sermon is far different. The overall goal of a sermon is to point people to God—not the one delivering the sermon. In fact, when people hear a pastor who presents himself as the hero of all of his sermon illustrations and stories, they are often turned off by that type of narcissistic communication.
While TED Talks may not be designed for the speaker to be the focus of the talk as much as the speaker’s idea—sermons are different. The preacher has the goal of making God the focus of the sermon rather than ideas or even truths about God. While preachers deliver the truth, that truth is not generic or disconnected from God. The truth itself points people to God and this is how people worship God while a man stands on a platform each week and delivers a sermon. TED events are designed for people to gather information, but sermons are designed for people to worship. People gather information and ideas during sermons, but something more happens when the one listening begins to praise and glorify God.
In short, we must remember that preaching is worship. Whatever happens during a sermon including the delivery of ideas, truth, and much more—the entire event is centered on the goal of worship. In his excellent book Expository Exultation, John Piper writes:
As Paul proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ, and announced the good news of great joy, and heralded the reconciling message of the all-authoritative King, he saw that this kind of proclaiming, announcing, and heralding could not be discarded when this extraordinary people, under this extraordinary God, revealed in this extraordinary Book, gathered for worship. The riches of glory, the goodness of the news, the weight of the truth, and the authority behind it all did not become less because it was being spoken among this gathered people. If anything, it became more. 
When audiences gather for TED events, they listen to different talks from a wide variety of speakers who are delivering ideas from various different backgrounds and philosophies. The idea is to gain knowledge and become a better human. When the church gathers for the sermon, the people listen to the speech coming from God’s Word and the idea is far more than gaining knowledge and using ideas to become a better “you”—it’s to see and savor the glorious triune God who not only created the entire universe but saves guilty sinners.
When true preaching happens it leads to joyful worship. When the church worships God through his Word—it results in changed lives. Each week when the church gathers the people should be anxious to hear Christian preaching rather than an idea dump in form of a talk.
- John Piper, Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship, (Wheaton: Desiring God Foundation, 2018), 70.
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In recent days, the cultural climate within evangelicalism has been chaotic. It seems that we are moving at break-neck speed with complex ideas being tossed at us like bombs. In recent days—many pastors have felt as if the racist card was being thrown at all white people—suggesting that those of us who are white need to apologize for our positions of privilege and our deficient gospel. This ideology has caused great division and confusion. The climate in evangelicalism is filled with chaos rather than peace.
It has been stated that evangelicals (especially those within the Southern Baptist Convention) once slugged it out over the inerrancy of Scripture, but they soon turned their backs on the sufficiency of Scripture. This has given way to a longtime commitment, by many people within evangelicalism, to the god of pragmatism. Once a group of people bow to this false god, suddenly whatever is necessary to gain numbers receives the mark of orthodoxy. The direction is set by the cultural winds rather than God’s Word. This is the story of modern evangelicalism. Therefore, it should not be a surprise that when the cultural winds of systemic racism, white privilege, intersectionality, police brutality, and the oppression of women blow through our culture that such winds find their way into the Christian community. After all, if it’s in vogue in the culture it should be in vogue in the Church—right? Actually, no—that’s not correct at all on the basis of several key truths found in God’s Word.
The First Mark of an Authentic Church Is Not Woke Theology
You may or may not have been following the #wokechurch or #woke hashtag floating around social media in recent days, but the fact is—the movement is rolling through evangelicalism with a sense of entitlement and arrogance. For many, the idea of “woke” theology is synonymous with what it means to be a healthy church. Before we move on to address this assumption, it would do us well to define “woke church” in order to fully evaluate the claim.
Eric Mason, lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia, has defined woke as, “an urban colloquialism used by black nationalists and those in the black consciousness movement of being woke, in the sense of the systemic, sociological, economic, and comprehensive disenfranchisement of African-Americans.” Thabiti Anyabwile defined “Woke Church” by stating:
What we call “woke” today is pretty close to the Afrocentricism of the 1980s. Afrocentricism, a word coined by Dr. Molefi Asante, professor of African-American studies at Temple University at the time, was about centering Africa and Africa-descended peoples in their worldview much the way Europe has always been at the center of the worldview of European peoples. Afrocentrism taught that Black people should see the world as Black people.
He went on to write:
This has massive implications for local church ministries in communities of color. Churches must understand the need to reconstitute the whole person with biblical teaching responsive to the lived realities of those communities. In simpler words, our approach to discipleship must simultaneously repair the psychic and social destruction done to the identities/personhood of Black people while recognizing and equipping them to counter the social and political realities that contribute to that destruction in the first place. We have to teach people how to be their ethnic selves in a way that’s consistent with the Bible and how to live fruitfully in contexts that don’t affirm their ethnic selves. Hence, we need a “woke church.”
What if we don’t have a woke church—do we have a church at all? As the terms are defined—is woke church necessary to have Jesus’ church? Historically, the first mark of an authentic church was the right preaching of the Word. Interestingly enough, theologians of church history didn’t evaluate a the validity of a church or the health of a church based on cultural trends or political activism. The way a church has been evaluated historically speaking has been based upon, by order of importance, the preaching of the church. Is the gospel being preached?
Albert Mohler—the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—preached the spring convocation chapel service on January 31st 2006. In his sermon, he said, “Preaching is the first mark of the authentic church, the essential mark, the mark without which the other marks do not matter,” he said. “… Where this mark is not found, there is no church.” What type of preaching is necessary to constitute a true church? It’s authentic preaching, biblical preaching—and as the Reformers taught it is the right preaching of God’s Word. Therefore, it’s not woke preaching or woke theology that constitutes a true church. We should find a biblical church and identify with those people (regardless of shades of skin color) under the banner of the gospel and the right preaching of God’s sufficient and inerrant Word.
The reason the emphasis is placed on the right preaching of the Word is because when the Bible is proclaimed and explained properly through a proper hermeneutic—the Spirit of God brings dead sinners to life, drives God’s people toward sanctification and a pursuit of holiness, and it creates unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Such a gospel centered people will be moved to care for one another, pray for one another, and serve alongside one another for the glory of God. That type of gospel centered life under the preaching of the Word will produce genuine discipleship and passionate evangelism in the local community. Therefore, the question is not whether or not the church is woke that matters. A better question is—does the church have the right preaching of the Word? Cultural trends come and go with the winds of time like flowers of the field—but God’s Word will stand forever.
The Church Does Not Need Political Methods and Ideas—We Have the Bible
James Montgomery Boice once wrote, “Inerrancy is not the most critical issue facing the church today. The most serious issue, I believe, is the Bible’s sufficiency.”  If he said that back in 2001, what would he think of today’s evangelical climate? On an average Sunday, in our culture today, one almost has to strain to hear God’s Word coming from the pulpit. In some circles, the Bible has been so contextualized that you can hear more of culture than Christ coming from the pulpit. If the Bible is truly inerrant, and you embrace this reality, it should only follow that you would likewise cling to the absolute sufficiency of God’s Word. To suggest that the Bible is inerrant but not really sufficient for all of life and worship—is a contradiction of ideas.
When Jesus was questioned or tempted, where did he turn? He often quoted from the Old Testament to prove his point and to establish his position (Matt. 4:4; 5:27; 12:38-45; Mark 7:10). When Jesus called out the self-righteous Pharisees, he did so by asking a simple question, “Have you not read the Scriptures?” Remember what Paul said to the Jews in the city of Rome? He told them that they had been entrusted with the oracles of God to bring people out of darkness into the marvelous light of Christ (Rom. 2:17-29 and Rom. 3:1-8). To deny the sufficiency of the Bible is to become a slave to the culture. That culture may cling to the radical leftist arguments in one neighborhood while leaning radical right in another neighborhood. At the end of the day—under this way of thinking—culture drives the ship rather than God’s Word.
Before we set sail on this trajectory—it would be wise to ask honest questions about God’s Word. Does the Bible talk about personal racism and human depravity? Does the Bible explain how the church is to be organized and the distinct roles of men and women in the life of the church? Does the Bible talk about homosexuality as a sin? If the Bible addresses these cultural agendas—why do we need to look to the culture for the definitions?
It’s the Bible that teaches us how to treat all people—including different ethnicities. It’s the Bible that provides us with the best way to uphold the dignity of women and to lead them to flourish for the glory of God. It’s the Bible that teaches us how to submit to the governing authorities and to honor and pray for those in public office. It’s the Bible that provides for us the definition of Christianity and allows us to see our identification in Jesus rather than a sin category. It’s the Bible that provides for us the qualifications for the office of elder. This is true of all cultural categories—because the Bible is sufficient.
J.C. Ryle once wrote, “Whenever a man takes upon him to make additions to the Scriptures, he is likely to end with valuing his own additions above Scripture itself.”  How true those words are in our present culture. If you import your own ideas of black liberation theology, white supremacy, political left, political right, systemic racism, critical race theory, intersectionality, or any other cultural trend into the white spaces between the verses of the Bible—soon enough you will have a whole new Bible.
The more we read the Bible and aim to submit ourselves to the God of Scripture, we don’t become more woke, we become more conformed to the image of Christ. When we strive to setup the structure of the church according to God’s Word—we will no longer need to debate the role of women preaching and teaching to a mixed audience. Within our modern evangelical social justice movement, we need to ask an honest question—are we trying to make Jesus look like our culture or call our culture to bow to Jesus? The culture runs to politics, sociology, and psychology for the answers of life—and they remain miserable. The Church has been entrusted with the Word of God—so why should we run to the same empty wells and broken cisterns of the world? Yet, that seems to be the pattern of our modern evangelical culture and that’s what leads to a culture of chaos within evangelical organizations and denominations.
- James Montgomery Boice, Whatever Happened to the Gospel of Grace? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001) 72.
- J.C. Ryle, Matthew Commentary, Chapter 15.
Music is medicinal for the the troubled soul. When King Saul was troubled, he would have David play the harp as a means of soothing his weary soul. When we find ourselves going through trials and seasons of terror—the people of God should turn to the songs of Scripture to be reminded of the greatness and majesty of God. The purpose of the Psalms is to exalt and magnify God. Through the different Psalms, we may encounter:
- People Worshiping
- People Crying
However, in all that we encounter in these beautiful poetic songs, we must turn our attention to the God who is ruling and reigning over his creation at all times. Martin Luther, commenting on the Psalms, once said that the Psalms are “The Bible in miniature.”
The 46th Psalm is a wonderful song that puts on display God’s robust sovereignty and reminds us of the fact that God is with his people and upholds them by his divine strength. When Martin Luther would go through intense struggles and trials in life, he would often gather his friends together and sing this theologically rich song to comfort his soul.
God Is Our Refuge in Times of Natural Disasters
Even if the earth shakes and the mountains are moved—according to the Psalmist—God is our refuge. Some of the most terrifying times in life are in the midst of a natural disaster. From the high winds of a tornado or a relentless hurricane to mudslides and forest fires—people find themselves at the breaking point emotionally as they endure through such calamities.
In recent days, we have watched hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, smash into the coast of Texas on August 25th 2017. It caused over 180 billion dollars in damage and took more than 70 lives in the process. Not long after Harvey came Irma, a category 5 storm that ran up the coast of Florida causing more than $100 million dollars in damage and claiming more than 75 lives.
Where can we turn during the midst of such powerful storms? According to the Psalmist—we can turn to God. Not long after the hurricanes hit, the earthquake in Mexico City caused massive buildings to crash and it claimed more than 350 lives in an instant. Where can we turn in the wake of such tragedies? We can turn to our God.
God Is Our Fortress When Nations Rage and Clash
Certainly God’s people understood what it was like to experience the horrible pressures of war, famine, and threats of national enemies. According to the Psalmist, God had saved his people. According to Psalm 46:6-7, “he nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” We are not told what the exact situation was, but in some way, God devoured the enemies and saved his people. This gave birth to this Psalm where the people of God would sing and remember the great work of God.
When nations flex their military muscle and clash in war—what power do they display that can compare to the power of God. The Psalmist writes, “he utters his voice, the earth melts” (vs. 6). When enemies of our nation flex their nuclear muscle—we can trust in our God. When terrorists plot against God’s Church—we can trust in our God. He is with us!
God Is Our Fortress—Be Still and Know
Whatever the circumstances were that the Psalmist seems to be alluding to in this psalm, we are not sure. However, what we are sure of is the fact that God has delivered his people. That has been the case all throughout the history of God’s people!
- God delivered Moses and Israel from Pharaoh
- God delivered David from Goliath
- God delivered David from Saul
All throughout the OT – we see that God is constantly delivering his people from their enemies. Just do a quick word search regarding “enemies” in the Psalms and you will see that there are 56 occurrences of this word. God will be exalted among the nations. Everyone is to know that He is God. We are called – as God’s children – to be still and know that he is God.
We are to consider the great works of God. We are to be still and consider these things. We are to know that he is God—and by direct contrast—there is no other. In the days of Martin Luther, in the wake of his bold stand before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and the translation of the German Bible—the Black Death hit Europe. While approximately 33% of all of the population of Europe was taken by the plague, in some local areas, the numbers extended as high as 50-70%. Luther opened his home as a hospital to care for people. With the looming pressures of the Roman Catholic Church and the stench of the Black Plague surrounding him, he would turn to Psalm 46 in song. It would be during this time that he would pen the words to his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
For Luther, he understood that God was bigger and more valuable than anything this world had to offer him. God was bigger than his enemies. God was stronger than the Wartburg Castle. God was more powerful than the Black Plague.
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His Kingdom is forever.
Some of the greatest Christian examples in my life are (and were) uneducated. They gave themselves to the study of God through the pages of the Scriptures. What a tremendous example it is for the uneducated factory worker to set before his family the importance of learning the Bible. It’s encouraging to witness the uneducated evangelist who travels to various churches preaching the gospel with no seminary degree but if you pricked him he would bleed Bibline.
Have you ever heard someone say, “Doctrine is not for me, I’m a blue collar kind of guy” as an excuse for not giving himself to study the Bible? The fact is, most of the people to whom the Bible was originally written and addressed were very uneducated. It might shock you to know that most of the people who received the letter to the Ephesian church (likely a circular letter that went to Ephesus and surrounding cities) were not seminary trained apologists. They were not ivory tower theologians. They didn’t find the deep wells of election and the doctrine of regeneration in Ephesians 1-2 as complicated truths cloaked in mystery and only useful for the seminary classroom or moderated debates.
Have you considered the life and ministry of John Bunyan? An uneducated man in Bedford England with a grade school education who worked as a tinker (metal worker) was once raised up by God to be a mighty preacher. Not only was he a man who proclaimed the Word, but he was likewise a pastor-theologian. He didn’t stand up in the pulpit and after reading a deep theological truth say, ‘I don’t know that this means.” Instead, he labored in the Bible and studied to rightly proclaim the gospel.
John Owen was a learned man and a great scholar of his day. He was also a contemporary of John Bunyan. When Bunyan would travel to England, if any notice was given at all, upwards of 1,000-1,200 people would gather at 7:00am before work to hear the uneducated metal worker preach the gospel. Owen would often travel 20 or more miles to hear the man himself. When King Charles heard of Owen attending the tinker’s sermons, he asked why he as an educated man would give himself to listening to an uneducated tinker preach? Owen replied, “I would willingly exchange my learning for the tinker’s power of touching men’s hearts.”
Men can learn to remember statistics of every major sporting event, athlete, and race car driver. Uneducated men can learn to excel in their trade or occupation in life. Uneducated men and women alike can excel at whatever they so desire, but it’s the Bible that is often neglected. We need an army of uneducated blue collar men and women to once again give themselves to the study of the Bible. Another generation is watching and waiting. When we are gone, will our legacy be a building of wood, hay, and stubble or will it be something of eternal value?
I will never forget pastoring a small country church in Kentucky while I was in seminary. The congregation was made up of all blue collar workers and farmers. Not one single professional or highly educated person attended the church. After I issued a challenge to memorize large portions of the Bible, an 80 year old retired farmer approached me. He wanted to accept the challenge. He gave himself to study and read and commit to memory the third chapter of John’s Gospel. After completing it, he stood in the front of the church and recited it in full. I was amazed, humbled, and grateful all at the same time.
Anyone can learn Bible doctrine. In fact, that’s what God intends for all of us—educated and uneducated alike.
Mark 12:30 — And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
It happened again recently. I was listening to a sermon online and the preacher said, “God told me.” Apparently everyone in the congregation enjoyed it from the response I heard, but I immediately turned it off. This type of communication is becoming more prevalent in Christian circles. It’s showing up in conversations because people are hearing it from the pulpit and reading it in books they purchased from the local Christian bookstore. Perhaps it sounds spiritual or is emotionally stirring to the congregation.
Although the “God told me” method of communicating makes for interesting, suspenseful, and entertaining stories, what people need most is to hear from God. I would like to make a simple request. Please stop saying “God told me” unless the phrase is immediately followed up with a text of Scripture. Have you considered the connection between the “God told me” language and the sufficiency of Scripture? What connection does the “God told me” phrase have with the third of the Ten Commandments?
The “God Told Me” Language Violates the Sufficiency of Scripture
If God spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Ex. 3:4-6), to Samuel in the dark of night (1 Sam. 3:1-9), to Elijah in a cave (1 Kings 19:9), to John the Baptist and others at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11), and to Saul (subsequently Paul) and his traveling companions on the road leading to Damascus (Acts 9:4-7)—why would God not speak to us today? That’s a fair question, but it might surprise you to know that God does still speak to us today. He does so through His sufficient and authoritative Word.
In chapter 1 and paragraph 6 of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), we find these words:
The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.
During the days of the Old Testament, God was communicating to prophets in order to write Holy Scripture and to prepare the way for Jesus’ birth. All of the audible communication of God has direct connection to the redemptive plan of God to save sinners. God’s direct communication with His people was not centered on what to eat for breakfast, the need to give money to a random person at a bus stop, or to go join a group of college students at a morning workout.
During the days of the New Testament, and the early church period, God’s audible voice, although rare, was connected to the redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ. Once the Bible was completed, there was no longer any need for God to speak to people audibly or to provide direct (divine) communication. God has communicated everything necessary for faith and life, worship and service, in His sufficient Word. To use the “God told me” language violates the sufficiency of Scripture. Simply put, it needs to stop.
It’s strange that many churches that once stood courageously for the inerrancy of Scripture in the past frequently employ the “God told me” language in their pulpit today. We don’t allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to play the “God told me” divine revelation card, and we shouldn’t allow Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or mainstream evangelicals to have a free pass on this crucial issue.
The “God told me” language majors on our stories rather than God’s story. We need more of God and less of us in our singing and preaching today. If people are genuinely hungry to hear from God, we must direct them to God’s Word. To raise children on “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” and to emphasize the authority of God’s Word is a good thing. But, when those same children arrive in the worship service on the Lord’s Day and hear a preacher waxing eloquent about how God talked directly to him in the early hours of the morning — that’s severely inconsistent. John MacArthur writes:
Preoccupied with mystical encounters and emotional ecstasies, [many] seek ongoing revelation from heaven – meaning that, for them, the Bible alone is simply not enough. [With them], biblical revelation must be supplemented with personal “words from God,” supposed impressions from the Holy Spirit, and other subjective religious experiences. That kind of thinking is an outright rejection of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16–17). It is a recipe for far-reaching theological disaster. 
The “God Told Me” Language Uses God’s Name in Vain
Although some people unintentionally use the “God told me” vocabulary without understanding the implications, in other cases, certain people and preachers use the phrase as a means of claiming that they actually heard directly from God. This intentional use of God’s name is a clear violation of the third commandment (Deut. 5:11).
For whatever the reason, some people feel compelled to us God’s name as a stamp of approval on their stories, their decision to move churches, their decision to go into the ministry, or their decision to take a job transfer. Either way, it’s not true. It’s intellectually dishonest. We as evangelicals must not allow people to continually get away with using this language. We certainly shouldn’t celebrate it. Hear the word of Charles Spurgeon from a sermon he preached titled, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872:
Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Holy Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons – I hope they were insane – who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages… Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the Word of God already – He adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at His door. 
It is through the Word of God that we hear God proclaim to us the reality of sin (Rom. 3). From the Scriptures, we hear God declare good news that makes us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15). God speaks from His Word to correct us and warn us of error (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As we continue to hear God speak through His Word, we grow into spiritual maturity and experience the ongoing renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). God speaks today, but we must not cling to extrabiblical revelations. Such words are empty and impotent sayings that are more closely associated with mysticism than Christianity.
Important questions to ask when someone uses the “God told me” language:
- If the “God told me” language is used in the context of a sermon preached by one of your pastors (or a guest preacher), rather than attacking him online, setup a private meeting to discuss the matter in person. Show respect and ask for specifics to be sure you are not misunderstanding.
- Is this direct communication from God necessary if we already have the completed canon of Scripture (all 66 books)?
- Is the person using the “God told me” language in order to manipulate you in some way?
- Is the person seeking to validate their poor life decision by attaching God’s name to it?
- Is the “God told me” language being employed in the context of asking for money?
- Is the person using the name of God to aspire to an office in the local church?
- Is the “God told me” language in direct contradiction to any doctrine or truth revealed in Scripture?
An appeal to those who preach and teach the Bible:
- Remember Paul’s words to Timothy—Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We should preach the Word and not our stories.
- According to Ecclesiastes 12:14, one day we will give an account of every secret thing and every careless word that proceeds from our mouths (Matt. 12:36).
- It is our duty to maximize God and minimize ourselves in the pulpit. If people leave church services remembering your riveting story about God talking to you instead of remembering God’s Word, you’ve done the people a great disservice.
- Your “God told me” language makes others who obviously don’t hear Him speak in an audible voice (everyone in the congregation) feel sub-par in their Christian life. It also serves as a means of puffing up your spiritual level to an elite status above the normal Christian. This shouldn’t be the goal in preaching.
- If God didn’t actually speak to you in audible voice, please stop using the phrase, “God told me” when you’re telling stories in your sermons.
- Brother pastor, if you have someone speak in your pulpit who uses that type of language, it’s your responsibility to correct it with your people. Their spiritual maturity and development depends upon you being faithful in this area.
Don’t immediately classify a friend as a lunatic or a heretic if they use the “God told me” language in their communication. However, when you hear people talking in this manner, it should serve as a big red flag. Exercise wisdom and gentleness when confronting this error among friends or church members, but in the case of calling out false teachers, mark them so that others will not be led astray.
- John MacArthur, Strange Fire, (Nashville, Nelson Books, 2013), 218.
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872 [Sermon].