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Matters Of The Heart

Joel's prophecies are being fulfilled in our time now. He foretold of the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon men and women, both young and old. You know the text well, I'm sure:

I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams. Your young men shall see visions. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days (Joel 2:28,29).

However, despite this scripture being well known throughout the Church, not all the people who know it so well are experiencing what it foretold. Why is that?

There are a number of reasons, but every one has its root in one place the heart.

Jeremiah offended many when he wrote:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked... (Jer 17:9).

Do you think he was overstating it? Many do Christians, I mean. They wouldn't tell you openly. After all, a Christian worth his salt is not going to criticise the Word of God and say it's an exaggeration. But, in his heart, he doesn't think his motives are really that suspect. 'Aren't we supposed to think well of ourselves?' We are told by psychologists that we need a healthy self image, or we can't function normally.

Well, they don't get their doctrine from the Word of God, and I prefer to rely on what God says than what they say about human nature the heart of man.

It's a hard one to accept, what Jeremiah wrote. But it 'grows on you' throughout your spiritual life. As you mature in the faith, you realise more deeply how much hidden truth it contains, like all God's Word.

When you read about spiritual things for the first time, your appreciation is shallow, based on a physical appraisal. But as the Spirit enters and transforms your life bit by bit, your grasp of spiritual things deepens as you adopt more of God's viewpoint.

You see that the human heart is deceitful even to itself. You and I don't want to own up to the way we are. The way God sees us in our 'raw' state is not pretty, and it takes the process of time as we live out our lives, to bring us closer to God's realisation.

Most Christians are not willing to believe or see what God believes or sees. God has to bring us to see it. That is the process of repentance.

Contrition or brokenness doesn't happen over- night. It can begin suddenly. Indeed, it does begin like that, after we see how awfully we have behaved. But you can't press a button and, hey presto, in one split second, come to a complete realisation of the depth of evil that God sees that needs changing within.

That's why He's merciful and patient. As Psalm 103 relates, He is slow to anger and very merciful (v 8). He does not punish us as our sins deserve (103:10).

Think about that. Do you remember the title to the first chapter of our booklet The Controversy Concerning Law and Grace? It is:


But I bet you don't think so. No one likes to think of himself or herself like that. It's not a nice thought. But it's true from God's perspective, when you realise how evil God considers the wrong motives of the human heart.

You may not be a murderer, but you have hated someone, and that is just as evil.

You may not be a rapist, but you have lusted after someone in a wrong way, and God makes no distinction between the act and the thought.

You may not be a cheat and a swindler, but you have coveted money or something else that someone else has got, desiring it for yourself and not too happy that he had what you wanted for yourself.

It's sins of the heart like these that hold people in their grip: attitudes and desires that God says are illicit. But the human mind doesn't think so, and even when it is told of wrongdoing, it plays down how evil it really is and justifies it.

I remember being told off as a child. My retort was always "I can't help it." And that's how adults excuse their own behaviour. They don't want to know what God thinks. They just want to think they are pretty good people, so they deceive themselves. The heart IS deceitful above all things!

So, what's all this got to do with the outpouring of the Spirit that Joel prophesied? Lots!         

When the Holy Spirit flooded the beings of the disciples gathered in that upper room, God was able to come because of what they had gone through before. They were all mortified by having forsaken Jesus when He needed their support most. Peter, especially, was crushed by his realisation of inner inadequacy that he had totally failed in the time of crisis. He was broken!

Jesus had said:

Whoever falls on this Stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder (Matt 21:44).

They had all fallen. But, except for Judas, they had fallen in contrition on the Rock who died for them. And they knew His forgiveness. It was humbling.

Now He could fall on them with His Spirit. Their hearts were in the right state to receive Him.

Holy Spirit Gifts

So, the prophecy of Joel found its fulfilment in those men because they were ready. They had been prepared. And it wasn't a preparation at a theological seminary, where trainees are pumped full of head knowledge and its associated pride.

Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies (1 Cor 8:1).

It had been a training in the school of humbling and rebukes. But, because they were now in a frame of mind to accept that, instead of carrying on their banter about who was to be the greatest, the Spirit came.

The Spirit will always come when you are ready. The reason so many have not received gifts of the Spirit is that they are not ready. Either the processes of humbling have to continue further to crush out the pride that is in the human heart or the vessel is not able or willing to 'go' to others with the truths of God.

The gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). They are to profit all in the local assembly, as each recipient is humble and willing to use his or her gift to serve and edify others.

All too often, people seek the gifts because it's a power thing. A man who had the gift of prophecy came to our place and was eager to demonstrate 'his' gift. Because he was willing, God used him (at that point). He started prophesying to the ones gathered in our living room. I didn't mind. That's good. I like to see people have the boldness and eagerness to prophesy. Paul encouraged it (1 Cor 12:31; 14:1).

He was going to each person in turn and waiting for a 'word from God' for each one. And God honoured his expectation. Then he turned to Helena and me, to do likewise. Helena was first. As he searched for the Spirit to give him words for Helena, he started having difficulties, and what he began to say did not register well with Helena's spirit. Immediately she knew what was wrong and she stopped him in his tracks and challenged him on what he was trying to do.

He was trying to receive from the spirit realm to manipulate Helena into a position of spiritual subjection. He had pride. He was proud of his 'ability'. He used the gift God had given him to assert himself in a superior way to the one to whom he was talking. But when he got to Helena her greater gift of discerning of spirits kicked in. She knew instantly that he was no longer getting things from the Holy Spirit, but demons had jumped in to have their say. They didn't get many words out before he was silenced!

Prophesying is a matter of the heart as are all the Spirit's gifts. If you have a right heart, God will use you to prophesy. Notice I didn't just say 'can', but 'will'. God WILL use you to prophesy to others. However, there are conditions. There always are with God and receiving the promises of God. The conditions are: willingness to do what He says; a desire to help others; and being in the right place.

The last factor is one many don't understand. Some people think they can just 'turn on' God's gifts as and when they want. No you can't with the exception of the gift of tongues given as a prayer language.

You can't decide to prophesy. That comes from God when HE determines, for His purposes. Generally it's when others are present so they can benefit from what God says through you. I have received many 'little' prophetic statements while we are all praying in our prayer meetings. They're not for my benefit alone. They are for all present and for many others, too, after we write them down on paper.

For example, God gave me this prophetic statement after two or three had been praying together in tongues (it was probably an interpretation of what was spoken in tongues): God is yearning for us in His heart to have a greater zeal and greater fervency in spirit for Him, so that He can show Himself strong on our behalf.

The disciples had that desire and fervency for Him, after they had been through 'the mill'. That's when the Holy Spirit baptised them on that first NT Pentecost.

And the manifestations of the Spirit were there for all to see and learn from.

What Must Come First

Joel's prophecy is well-known, but what precedes it is not so widely appreciated. Yet it is the key to it occurring.

I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your young men shall see visions. Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maid- servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they SHALL prophesy (Acts 2:17,18).

Notice the last words. They are not included in Joel's prophecy. Peter added them by the inspiration of the Spirit. He was prophesying, even then.

People generally understand prophesying to be foretelling. But it is more than that. It is forth-telling too. Jesus prophesied most of the time. Whatever He said He said because it was an outflow of the Spirit within.

For a person to be used prophetically, they must be in tune with the Spirit. God's Spirit is humble, not self-assertive. So, the most successful prophets are those who have little self-esteem.

Amos demeaned himself. He said:

I was no prophet, nor was I a son of a prophet. But I was a sheepbreeder and a tender of scycamore fruit. Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said to me, "Go, prophesy to My people Israel." (Amos 7:14,15.)

Amos was just an ordinary person, a common man. He had no elevated opinion of himself. There was no pride, no seeking after elevation, acclaim, 'glory'. He just wanted to mind his own business and get on with his life, doing what he knew to do, providing for his family, and managing properly his responsibilities in life. Because he had no personal ambition in his heart, God used him. His ambitions centred around God.

Many a prophet has started out on the right track but ended up derailed because desire for personal ambition and self-aggrandisement entered. They are devastating traits of the human heart. Personal ambition and self-aggrandisement destroy you.

If you want God to use you prophetically I don't mean as a prophet, because you can't choose that, it is an office appointed from Above you must relinquish all pride and desire for self-elevation. If you are eager and zealous for God, for the things of God, and lay down your life for His purposes, He will speak through you to others. You will prophesy.

God raised up a man in Africa. I won't mention names, but this happens to many, so he is not alone. He was eager to receive from God. And for a while, he did receive, like Saul did (1 Sam 10:10,11). God gave him dreams, visions, an out of body experience in the heavenlies where he saw some of the wondrous things of God. He received healings for people and he prophesied. God spoke through him.

But all this went to his head. This evangelist got lifted up and little by little the Spirit departed from him. He didn't recognise what had happened, but the devil had taken God's place in his life. Satan stole away the memory of what God had previously revealed to him.

Just like Saul, when he was little in his own eyes (1 Sam 15:17; 9:21), God was with him. But 'success' ruined him.

It happens to many. The desires of the heart are very deceitful. It's easy to be fooled. That's why you need to constantly be humbled and stay humble. God brings trials, opposition, difficulties, hardships or pain to humble us. That's the essence of the purpose of this physical life.

People like to be lifted up. They thrive on compliments, on getting the approbation of others. But when have you seen a prophet of God get an OBE from the Queen? The things of God are not usually recognised in this life, only the achievements of man.

People like to be impressed, to have a human idol to admire and look up to. And those with ambition for self-worship (they are many!) cater to this foible or weakness of the human heart. They make themselves look impressive, to gain acclaim.

The rich businessman struts his stuff in his suit. The clever entrepreneur displays his expertise. The skilful craftsman proudly displays his work. The pop idol and film star and many evangelists perform to others on stage.

With unspoken words, they all say "Look at me!" What is in their heart hurts God. It's what caused Satan to fall like lightning from heaven: pride!

Humans don't think like God. God's thoughts are not our thoughts (Is 55:8). Yet His ways and thoughts are vastly superior to ours (Is 55:9). You don't like humbling, but God does. It's His centrepiece.

The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance [what impresses], but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Sam 16:7).

Those whom God chose as prophets (and to be king in theocratic Israel) were those who were least esteemed in their own eyes. He has not changed.

The esteem of God is with those who fear Him, who obey from the heart His every word. Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Elisha, Daniel and many other prophets are our role models. Men who had no desire for self acclaim. Men who just wanted to be unnoticed and get on with the job, to serve God and fulfil their calling. Because of what was in their heart, God lifted them up in the right way.

God lifts up those of pure heart who are cast down by society. But He throws down those who lift up themselves or whom society lifts up through money and human power.

The place of honour before God is reserved for those whom He has humbled (Luke 15:22).

So, to return to Joel's prophecy. Humbling must come first. The prophecy of the outpouring of God's Spirit in Joel 2:28 is preceded by the essential call to repentance in 2:12-17. Do read it for yourself.

When The Spirit Comes

Now, therefore, says the Lord, Turn to Me with all your heart... (Joel 2:12).

When that occurs...

Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people (Joel 2:18).

He sends the former rain "teacher of righteousness" (margin) and the latter rain (Joel 2:23). And with the water of God from heaven, which brings truth to parched land and the washing of the hearts of His people (Eph 5:26), restoration can follow.

THEN... and only then...

Then you shall know that I am in the midst... I am the Lord your God... (Joel 2:27).

And Joel goes on:

And it shall come to pass AFTERWARD... (Joel 2:28a).

Do you see how God works? It's not the way most charismatics think, who have been yearning for God's outpouring from a wrong heart motive to glorify them and to bring them the personal acclaim they seek (they don't even know the motives of their own hearts).

AFTERWARD God pours out His Spirit...

After the humbling. After God does what they don't expect (Hab 1:5), so they are all caught napping (Matt 25:5,6). After God raises up one whom they don't acknowledge. After they reject him. After they 'crucify' him like they did Jesus and all the prophets. After they find out how wrong they have been, and are broken, then God can come.

Fear not, O land. Be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done marvellous things (Joel 2:21).

And God has! He has done some amazing things for those who humbly serve Him and obey His every word. Just one account follows. He will do so for you, too, when you are pure in heart. 

Malcolm B Heap

Copyright: Midnight Ministries, PO Box 29, Aylesbury, HP17 8TL, UK