You Who Stone The Prophets

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you”

Jesus said in Matthew 23:37, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing”.

In this day, there are established, well-known and sometimes indeed ‘celebrated’ (I don’t like to use that word for people but it’s valid here)  people of God who, after a lifetime of hearing God’s voice, are ‘coming out’ in various ways. They are saying things that the conservative people in the Church don’t like. Things like how they believe that LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people should be completely accepted into the Church. Things like saying that Muslims may be in Heaven. Things like going against the evangelically-accepted norm of believing that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and is the perfect manual for all life’s problems, decisions, morality etc.

These people are modern-day prophets. They are speaking God’s Heart to His Church, because He loves the Church and wants them to reflect Him, not horrible man-made doctrines like the religious-sponsored (and religious-approved) persecution of the minorities (like said LGBTQ people) and widows and orphans (divorced people and, by extension, their children). Doctrines like the inerrancy of Scripture, a doctrine that has done so, so, so much damage because it opens the door to manmade but supposedly Scripture-approved legalism. In this way the Yeast of the Pharisees makes its way through every new congregation until that church is just like all the others in its legalism.

Anyway, what happens is that many in the established church reject these people and their message. The prophets are stoned; that is, they are publicly vilified, rejected and persecuted by the very people who used to love going to hear those people speak, sing or whatever it was they did so well – and in the Spirit, too – that got them their reputations as great people of God. Stoning was a public execution, participated in by all who wanted to join in, done to those who went against the religious structures of the day, and this is no different.

Take, for example, the Christian gospel singer Don Francisco, a man who has ministered to millions in the Church over the past four decades, in power and healing, through his songs. He and his wife Wendy have recently expressed support for gay people, and have also expressed the thought that maybe we should remember that Jesus is the Word of God, and not the Bible itself. The response of modern-day Pharisees to that post on Facebook  was largely horrible; it was also the case for another of Don’s postings, when he put forward the idea that “Perhaps hope does extend beyond pat formulas” when he shared a Billy Graham quote; There was no Grace whatsoever in their attacks on him – although many people did support him too.

Another example is the great evangelist Dr. Billy Graham, whom Don quoted in the above link. Saying that he believes that truth seekers from all faiths might be in Heaven. Some people have ripped into what he said (example), but thankfully some have also supported him.

Or what about the Rev. Dave Tomlinson (one of the leaders at the forefront of the house-church movement in the UK in the eighties), who declared himself as “post-evangelical”, and has been hauled over the coals for it (‘heresy’ was of course mentioned!)

Or how about Dr. Tony Campolo, who earlier this year declared his support for welcoming gay people into the Church. Naturally, his change of heart and his resulting theology has been largely rejected by the conservative church, and he has of course been ‘stoned’ by the Pharisees in various places.

And there’s Rev. Steve Chalke, a British Baptist minister who has (fairly) recently declared his support of monogamous same-sex marriages. He’s also declared that he believes the Bible is not inerrant or infallible. And, oh guess what, been rejected by people for it. Not everyone, but still there’s been people who reject his message.

There’s Pastor Rob Bell, who, in declaring his wrestling with the concept of a loving God sending people to eternal damnation, has questioned the established doctrine of hell. He’s done it in his book, Love Wins – and the reaction against him was so extraordinary that the other day I heard one preacher using Rob’s name as a sort of byword for heresy. Something like, ‘This is the sort of thing that is said by the likes of Rob Bell‘. What an ignorant attitude….

Do I detect a pattern here? Men of God, who up until they declared either what they have been wrestling with for years, or what God has just shown them, have been ‘celebrated’, welcomed, had people flock to see them – these people suddenly become personae non gratae and are shunned by the Church – or at least that part of it that is deaf to what God is saying!

The thing is that because a speaker says something you don’t like, you suddenly turn on them like enemies, and everything they have said in the past that you have agreed with, that has blessed you, suddenly counts for absolutely nothing and vanishes like a soap bubble. You liked them well enough when they visited your church, didn’t you? They haven’t changed, you know!

Actually that’s a really a silly way of dealing with differences! It is the way that dysfunctional families deal with those who do not agree entirely with the family line – they get shunned and ostracised until they give in, fit in and agree.

Tell me: Is it better for a Christian leader to lie about how he really feels or thinks on a subject, and be accepted; or is it better for them to own up and risk rejection? What sort of leader would you prefer? I know which sort of leader I would rather work with!

Rejection of the prophets is what religious people do. It is in fact what happened to Jesus. And in the Scripture that introduces this blog post, Jesus was speaking to the religious authorities of His time, and part of their problem was that of resistance to change. People who were so entrenched in their religious position – some, partly because of their graven image of God – that they could not recognise the true move of God’s Spirit that was happening right in front of their eyes. And so they crucified Him.

In the opposite way to how these people did, we need to be careful to discern the Voice of the Spirit in our time; we have an advantage nowadays that people before Jesus came didn’t have: we have the Spirit. Remember it is the natural human tendency to drift towards a settled religious complacency where acceptance by God is felt to be achieved somehow by our actions, rather than through Jesus. This is simply not what God intends at all!

And always the same ‘proof-texts’ are trotted out. Things about people ‘following the desires of their own hearts’, how the heart is ‘deceitful above all things’, about people with ‘itching ears’. To be honest, it’s samey and boring, and these critics would make terrible chess players because of their predictability. Always these people forget the New Creation, the new heart, the Mind of Christ, that these prophetic believers are and have. Do they really think that these prophets just suddenly changed their minds from their previously firmly-held positions just on a whim?

No. These modern-day prophets have spent a lifetime listening to God, which, remember, is what got them their reputation in the first place. To set at naught the sayings of these people, just on the basis of it being different from what platitudes you might expect to hear, is not a sensible course of action. These people know the Voice of the Shepherd (John 10:27). Sure, disagree with them if you like; that is your right and your prerogative. But do not stone them. These people are not the enemy. To ignore them completely is folly. To reject them could well be to close your ears to what God is saying.

Resistance to change that is of the flesh or even the enemy is only right. Resistance to change that is of God, however, is futile and ultimately counterproductive (Acts 5:38-39, where Gamaliel says, “…if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”).

So, the take-home message is that it’s time Christians stopped shunning great Christian leaders like these just because they say something we don’t like. So, for example, let’s say we loved this guy when he came to our church to speak – well, he hasn’t changed; maybe his message has, but isn’t that all the more reason to listen to him? These men do not simply change their minds overnight; if they have changed their belief system, there must be a pretty good reason, and that reason – based on their previous reputation – will be worth listening to.

Listen up, Church!!

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6 thoughts on “You Who Stone The Prophets

  1. (AM SIGHT-IMPAIRED, AND USE CAPS, AM NOT SHOUTING, THOUGH SOMETIMES I WUD LIKE TO) THE VILIFICATION OF DON AND WENDY AND OTHERS, HAS SHOCKED ME. ROB BELL AND TONY CAMPOLO, IN THEIR CHANGE OF VIEWS, HAS TAKEN ME BY SURPRISE. I LOVE THESE PEOPLE. I MAY NOT AGREE WITH ALL THEY SAY, BUT, THEY ARE SAYING SOMETHING WE ARE NOT HEARING CLEARLY. IT IS ALRIGHT TO ACCEPT PEOPLE FOR WHO AND WHAT THEY ARE, WITHOUTJUDGING/CONDEMNING THEM. HEAVENS AVOVE! I REMEMBER THE JESUS MOVEMENT DAYS… WE WUD STILL BE LOST OUT THERE IF CHUCK SMITH, JACK HAYFORD, ARTHUR BLESSITT, AND SO MANY MORE DID NOT OPEN THE DOORS!! I BELIEVE, AND I SEE THE HOMOSEXUAL LIFESTYLE LEADS TO DESTRUCTION. BUT BATTERING THE PERSON WILL IN NO WAY BRING THEM TO ANY FAITH IN JESUS. A THEIF IS EXACTLY THE SAME…. JUDGING/CONDEMNING THEM WILL NOT LEAD THEM TO FATHER’S HEART. I WUD BE WRONG TO SAY TO ONE CLEAN YOURSELF UP, THEN GOD WILL ACCEPT YOU, YET WHEN I CAME TO CHRIST, I WAS A ROTTEN SELFISH BITTER DRUNKEN TEENAGER, WITH DEEPER PROBLEMS THAN ANY HOMOSEXUAL PRACTICES!! AS TO THE BIBLE; LET ME POINT OUT THE N I V , PUBLISHED BY COLLINS, IS MISSING BITS THAT WERE IN IT UNDER PREVIOUS PUBLISHERS. THERES SO MANY IDEAS AND THOUGHTS ABOUT SO MUCH, I AM IN TROUBLE GRASPING SOME OF IT NOW. JOHN 1;1 IN THE BEGINNING, BEFORE ALL TIME WAS THE WORD (CHRIST), AND THE WORD WAS WITH GOD,AND THE wORD WAS GOD HIMSELF (see Isa 9;6) Amp. THAT IS ONE CLEAR SCRIPTURE. BLACK BOOKS, WITHOUT THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD OF LUKE 4;18 IS JUST THAT! BUT THE WORD HIMSELF INDWELLS OUR HEARTS ROM 5.IN TAKING INTO ACOUNT THE CULTURES, PRACTICES AND INTENTS OF THE WRITERS, WHO WROTE UNDER THE UNCTION OF THE SPIRIT, WE SEE TRUTH IN THE BIBLE. JUDAS HANGED HIMSELF; THATS TRUTH… IT IS NOT AN INVITATION TO GO DO THOU LIKEWISE!!! PAUL LOST HIS PATIENCE, AND TEMPER OVER JOHN MARK, AND OTHERS; HE LATER RECANTED HIS JUDGMENT, AND BY INFERENCE, WE SEE HE PUT IT RIGHT WITH JOHN MARK. JESUS, PETER, PAUL, AND COUNTLESS OTHERS HAVE FLOWN IN THE FACE OF CULTURE, RELIGIOUS PRACTICES AND SHEER STUPIDITY THEY ENCOUNTERED, AND RIGHTLY SO. JESUS AND THE WOMAN AT THE WELL; jN 4.TREATED HER WITH DIGNITY AND RESPECT, MINISTERED TO HER NEED, HAD A BIT OF A PLAY ON HER OWN WORDS IF YOU HAVE A HUMOUROUS BONE IN YOUR BODY, EVEN TO HER SHOCK AND AMAZEMENT. READ WHAT SHE DID!!! A MAN TOLD ME ALL I EVER DID!! EVANGELASIC STATEMENT FOR, ‘I HAVE JUST MET THE MOST INCREDIBLE LOVING MAN… AND HE DIDN’T EVEN TRY IT ON!!! THAT IS THE LIVING WORD HIMSELF. NOW WE CAN SPLIT HAIRS WITH AN AXE ALL DAY LONG OVER DOCTRINES. YOU WILL NEVER FIND THE HAIRS WE SPLIT, BUT MY LORD YOU WILL SEE WHERE THE AXE STRUCK! I STILL STRUGGLE IN AREAS, AM STILL AT ODDS WITH ‘STUFF’BUT PLEASE, JESUS, KEEP ME OPEN TO HEAR WHEN, AND WHO TO MINISTER YOUR LOVE, MERCY , AND GRACE. NOW I DON’T THINK I WUD LAST TOO LONG IN A ARGUMENT WITH WENDY FRANCISCO OVER ‘STUFF’,(i WUD RATHER DRINK HER COFFEE, AND SAMPLE SOME BAKING AT THEIR HOUSE, AND MAYBE LEARN MORE OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.) BUT WHO SAYS I HAVE TO ARGUE, OR AGREE???ONE VALUABLE LESSON I LEARNT EARLY FROM PASTOR KEN WRIGHT HERE IN NEW ZEALAND; IF MY OPINION CAUSES YOU TO FALL, I NEED TO PUT THAT OPINION ASIDE, AND LIFT YOU UP. AND IF WE ALL OBSERVE THAT,WE MIGHT JUST FIND THERE IS REALLY NOTHING STRONGER THAN HIS LOVE! OPINIONS ARE LIKE NOSES, WE ALL HAVE ONE, WITH AT LEAST A COUPLE OF HOLES, SO NOBODY IS FULL ON RIGHT, NOT EVEN ME. THATS ME DONE FOR THE NIGHT. THANK YOU JESUS!

  2. “YOU WILL NEVER FIND THE HAIRS WE SPLIT, BUT MY LORD YOU WILL SEE WHERE THE AXE STRUCK!”

    Love this! I might just pinch that myself!

    And love this too:

    “IF MY OPINION CAUSES YOU TO FALL, I NEED TO PUT THAT OPINION ASIDE, AND LIFT YOU UP”

    Thanks for your refreshing contributions Harry, they are a breath of fresh air!

  3. Oh, *heretics* – you want to watch out for *those*! Actually, these days, I tend to self-identify with the label “Heretic”. All it means in its purest form is somebody who disagrees with established doctrine (though some believers have different ideas about this, as I have come to discover), with which in mind it couldn’t describe me better! As much as I have a churchgoing history, I think these days I would find it easier to list the things I agree with the general church doctrine on, than to exhaustively list all the areas where dogma and I don’t see eye-to-eye. That’s something of a handicap when it comes to “participation” within a church, but I can’t help but feel that if I can’t be myself in church without getting shunned – or worse – then there is little point in going anyway.

    Now, this is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, not really minding what others think of my beliefs is liberating in the sense that it allows me to follow God, even when to do so puts me at odds with the Church. On the other hand, the scornful comments and thoughts about one’s beliefs from fellow “people of Christ” can bring about an ingrained indifference which can make ignoring other things easier too, such as the gentler promptings of the Spirit. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages: if I were to “toe the line” for the sake of avoiding Church-based nastiness, I would not be able to be myself to those people anyway (and so any deeper interaction would be based on flawed premises), and furthermore I would be damaging the honesty of my relationship with God.

    In essence, I think that these “prophets” of our time are right to speak of what the Spirit has laid on their hearts and let that reach those who have ears to hear: after all, the messages laid on the hearts of these prophets are for such people anyway, and not the wolves who would jump at their throats for speaking the Spirit’s word in love.

    1. Thanks for your contribution. All good stuff. I would say that your struggles with these things reflect quite closely those suffered by others in the same boat. The pattern is boringly predictable: You fit in, or we shun you. Ooh, I’m terrified…. We’ve had this discussion many times!

      The saddest thing for me is when real, warm, existing friendships are sundered by these things. When that happens, we need to look closely at what is more important. This requires a lot of wisdom, which I know you have.

      But then I also know of churches where different opinions are not only permitted (as if someone has to give you permission for having an opinion!) but in fact are seen as healthy. This is a sign of a healthy congregation. As you know, my Church has a lot of different types of people in it, with probably as many different views as there are people. And this is fine, because we see the relationships as being more important than the doctrines. Again, healthy stuff 🙂

  4. “These modern-day prophets have spent a lifetime listening to God, which, remember, is what got them their reputation in the first place. To set at naught the sayings of these people, just on the basis of it being different from what platitudes you might expect to hear, is not a sensible course of action. These people know the Voice of the Shepherd (John 10:27). Sure, disagree with them if you like; that is your right and your prerogative. But do not stone them. These people are not the enemy. To ignore them completely is folly. To reject them could well be to close your ears to what God is saying.”

    That’s another thing that has bothered me lately– I have read the books of several modern theologians like Darin Hufford and Steve McVey, and at one time, tried to share with my sister Marilyn what Steve said in one of his books that would possibly help me in my walk. She turned on me point-blank and said, “Steve McVey is a false teacher.” That took me very aback! After all, did I say to her, “Steve McVey’s words are to be obeyed as if they came direct from God, and if you don’t, you’re not a Christian and you may go to hell?” I did not! All I was trying to do was to share some of the things I learned from him that might enrich my walk. But when she said that to me, it felt like it was being bound on me that the words of the people who she and my mother have listened to (Ralph Sexton, Jr., Adrian Rogers and Perry Duggar) were the true words of the Lord, direct from God, and that if I didn’t listen to them, I was to be considered wrong! Worse, I had a feeling that she might have thought I was trying to stone her and my mother’s favorite theologians simply by disagreeing with them (especially Ralph Sexton, Jr., which, as I said in one comment of mine to you, is all about the end times, something I have often disagreed with lately).

  5. I think the bottom line is to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead. We can listen to all the humans we like, but none of them will have it all right; equally most of them will not have it all wrong either. You can tell false teachers by their fruits, usually. But the main thing is to remember that Jesus is our Teacher, through Holy Spirit. Anyone who would claim to be able to disagree with what you know Jesus is saying to you is not to be trusted; I would even go as far as to say that. Sure, they might ask if you have heard Him correctly, but the hallmark of a true Christian teacher is that he understands that Jesus has the last word in your life. Anyone who would say something He has said is ‘dangerous’ or ‘not to be trusted’, or goes on about the ‘human heart [being] deceitful above all things, is wanting to control you. If they don’t trust God to speak His word to you without using themselves as an intermediary, then they have serious control issues. It’s one thing to be in a loving, real relationship with a person who can *then* *just maybe* suggest a ‘correction’ for your life. It’s another thing entirely for someone to not only tell you you’re doing something ‘wrong’ but then insist that your response must comply with their wishes. Also I am always wary of anyone who labels someone else as a ‘false prophet’. It’s a tired old cliche that doesn’t wash with me any more! Thanks for your comment, Ben 🙂

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