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
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
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
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:
YOU DESERVE TO DIE!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
AFTERWARD God pours out His Spirit...
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
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
Malcolm B Heap