The True Faith

Philippians 1:29–“For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him.”

Why is life so hard?  Because we fail to grasp our identity in Christ.  To be fair, it is to be expected.  In order for life to be easy, truly easy, we must RADICALLY ACCEPT our identity in Jesus.  Anything short of an understanding and acceptance of the true Christian faith will lead to constant frustration, disappointment, confusion, and a lack of joy.  Because this message is so important, a concise outline is necessary so that the reader can understand.

What to expect:

  1. To be misunderstood…constantly…and to be OK with it.
    1. Isaiah 53:7a-He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter…
  2. To suffer…a lot.
    1. John 15:18-19If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of this world the world would love you as its own. 
  3. To have peace in spite of being hated, misunderstood, and unloved.
    1. Philippians 4:6-7–Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
  4. The Lord knows we are going to be hurt by people.
    1. Matthew 10:16a–Look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves…
  5. Christianity is a suicide mission…for our flesh!
    1. Matthew 16: 24-25–Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it.

So, what is there to do but embrace the persecution of the world and rest ONLY in the Lord who has commissioned each of us to die every day at the hands of those who will test us to see if we will walk by the flesh or walk by the Spirit!  The love of Jesus is enough to substitute the lack of love by every other human being on earth!

One Way In & One Way Out

Romans 5:12-21

When Adam sinned he caused death to be brought into the world.  He did not cause all men to be sinners, each person sins on their own–Adam introduced death and disobedience to the world.  Before Adam sinned, there was no wrongdoing, but after he disobeyed, the world was cursed with the plague of sin all around them.  Verse 12 says that “death spread to all men, because all sinned.”  This would imply that if a man could keep from sinning, he would not taste death. Of course we know that there is only one who has ever not sinned.

Ironically, a perfect man could not survive this world we live in even if he was to not die as a result of his moral perfection.  This world would kill him.  Death reins in this world.  Satan reins in this world.  That is why this world is an alien planet to those who actually are able to reach righteousness.  They are not of this world and are going to another one, but to get there, they must die first.  John 17:16 records Jesus saying “They are not of the world, as I am not of the world.” Also, he told Pilate at his crucifixtion trial “My kingdom is not of this world…” (Jn. 18″36).

It may seem unfair that because Adam sinned and introduced sin to us, that we should not be held accountable for what he did.  And we are not.  We are held accountable for our choice to sin.  You may say that “we wouldn’t have sinned had Adam not sinned though!”  Why would anyone think they would be stronger than Adam to resist temptation?  We are all human.  The point is not that Adam sinned, but that God fixed it.  Don’t get hung up on the what ifs.  Jesus Christ stepped in and took care of the sin issue IF WE ARE WILLING TO LET IT GO!  The issue is not that it is unfair because we may feel that we would never have sinned, it is that we are so selfish that we CAN’T STOP!  And because we can’t stop, some will choose to keep sinning instead of being forgiven through Jesus Christ.  These individuals will unfortunately never be at peace with God and will never be allowed to enter heaven.

Because Adam sinned and disobedience became the new way of life for all people, there would need to be something to stop it.  Punishment does not serve to effectively change any behavior–at least not at a fundamental level.  Though it is one valid reason not to engage in bad behavior, it is not the most effective tool to stop it. Psychology teaches us that.  Punishment is condemnation.  Punishment is a consequence for an action and nothing more.  So what would stop all of the bad behavior?  Nothing!  It can’t stop because sin is the default in this world!  Death is the consequence of all our bad things that we will never cease.  We would have to be reborn in a different dimension in order to escape the cycle of sin and death.  Enter Jesus.

This body of flesh and bones will die and become part of the earth.  There is no way to stop it.  Genesis 3:19 says, “for you are dust, and to dust you will return.”  The fountain of youth exists, but it cannot save this body.  We must let it die and accept that it will.  It is actually better that it does so that we can have an opportunity to embrace the salvation that comes with a fresh start.

There is a second death–a spiritual death–that waits for those who have not been cleaned of the sins that they have committed.  While the body must die, the spirit does not have to.  This is what Jesus came to save–our spirits.  He promised nothing of saving our bodies, they are nothing to us anymore but vehicles of sin and death.  However, the world seeks to preserve these rotting bags of decaying flesh as long as possible because it is the only hope they have.  Know that there is only ONE WAY OUT!  That is through the spirit saving work of Jesus Christ who eliminated eternal spiritual death.  Only Him.  No other religion, no other idealogy.  Just Jesus.  Nothing else can reverse the effects of sin.  It is just as impossible to fix it as it was to not sin in the first place.

 

Anyone Can Go To Hell

Romans 3:10-12  “As it is written: ”There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away; all alike have become useless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one.'”

Unfortunately, the idea that people are generally good, is faulty.  Even if people are actively trying to help those in need, they are still, by nature, disobedient to God at their very core and continually seek their own way rather than His.  We can do many good things for ourselves and others, but not be doing God’s will.

Jesus’ claim to fame was that He always did exactly what God the Father wanted Him to do (Jn. 8:28-29).  He never acted out of his own will (Jn. 5:30).  But whatever He did was done perfectly.  Jesus was “good” because of His obedience to the will of God which was preceded by His faith in God.  Our goodness is not measured by the accumulation of good things done for others–at least God does not measure goodness in this way.  Jesus’ own goodness was not measured in this way.  He obeyed the voice of God, but that does not always mean doing the tasks of “goodness” that we consider good.  Sometimes what is good may actually be very hurtful to us, or even to others (as they perceive it).

We are able to be considered good only because Jesus was considered good.  Without Jesus we would be left holding our sin, even if we did believe in God.  But because Jesus becomes our substitution, we are able to both be bought back to God and live in faith, which gets us to heaven.  When we are hidden IN Christ, God only sees Christ.  Which is a good thing that He does not see us!  If He saw us, He would see our evil nature.  But not everyone is hidden in Christ.  Those who try to be good enough by being kind and loving will never attain the level of righteousness of Christ–which is the standard for entering heaven.

Therefore, if Mother Teresa was not hidden in Christ, she did not make it to heaven.  If Hitler was not hidden in Christ, He did not make it to heaven.  Everyone is judged on one standard–faith in Jesus Christ.  Since Mother Teresa Jesus as her Lord, then one can assume she is hidden in Him.  But the concept is that even if someone spent their every waking moment doing great things for humanity, but were not living by faith in Christ–they will not be good enough to get into heaven.  Their hidden thoughts of rebellion will be exposed, although their outward works may be very good.  The Bible talks a lot about wicked people going to hell and righteous people going to heaven.  You can’t be righteous without being hidden in Christ and you can’t be hidden in Christ without believing He is God Almighty–the One and only–with a conviction that produces a submission to His will.  Your faith is proven to be real when you demonstrate faith in Him by rejecting the compulsion to follow your own will.  This therefore produces works of repentance!!

If we belong to Him we are slaves to Him and any good deed we do is expected, not extra.  The demand is that we obey and follow Him.  Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14-15)  That is a unique type of friendship.  It is not like our friends in our human lives.  With God, He is our master and we are His slave, but He allows the slave to be His friend.  How kind of Him!  But we dare think of him as just another “bro” that is on the same level as us.  This is God Almighty who has created everything in existence and breathed life into humanity.  He is not our equal–we are His subjects.  But He is gracious enough to treat us with such love and compassion.  Not as we would treat slaves and those beneath us.  But instead, He would die for us.

Consider this excerpt from one writer:

  • For the redeemed, obedience is not an option. Christ’s commandments are not suggestions. Our actions, attitudes and desires must be submitted to Christ’s Lordship. We obey because we are His blood-bought servants. This perspective is foundational for obedience and our walk with Christ, but it is not the whole picture. We have to know who we are before we can know what to do or why we do it. That’s why the first foundation of obedience is our identity as a [slave] of Christ. Remembering who you are in Christ is essential to growth in obedience. Do you realize that you are a slave of Christ? (Hauffe and HackSlaves of Christ, 2016).

Remember, start with submitting to Jesus’ Lordship in your life which is giving him authority over your will.  This means that He may demand that you stop watching sports, or going running, or doing a certain ministry, or being friends with a certain individual, or working a certain job.  But it also means that he may not.  The key is that as His slave, we are driven everyday by the exciting opportunity to do what God wants us to do.

Free will?  Sure, if you want to be disobedient! 🙂

How Are You Furthering the Gospel and with Whom?

Philippians 1:3-5  “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer,  because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” (HCSB)

When I read these verses it made me consider whether or not Paul would pray “with joy” about my partnership with him, in the the gospel.  Obviously Paul is not here today, but is there another Christian in my life that I am seeking to further the gospel with, who would say he joyously prays in thankfulness about my commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Thankfully I say “yes”, but it has not always been so.

It is easy to get complacent as Christians when we are not partnering with someone else to make disciples, share the gospel, and engage in sanctification…which every Christian knows, are all mandates and expectations of our faith.

There is one person in my circle who has been a genuine encouragement to me in the faith–his name is Joel Matchett.  That is not to say there are not others, but he stands alone as being someone who has significantly labored with me for Christ in our community. This man considers his relationship with God to be of the utmost importance.  Moreover, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, he is committed to sharing the good news with other people that Jesus Christ is indeed the one true God and that through repentance of sin and allegiance to Jesus, one can be saved from God’s wrath that is to come.  Joel’s ways are not always perfect, as mine are not.  We are all on the journey of sanctification together–that is, those who are His sheep.  However, his allegiance to the Lord of hosts is unquestionable.  And I truly would say that I thank God for Joel and his zeal because I see him as partnering with me in my quest to further the gospel.  I have actually prayed these prayers.  The verses at the top of the page convict me and admonish me to be praying more like this and more often.  My hope is that he would say the same about me.

Whenever I have been engaged on a mission of any kind I have always felt gratefulness, camaraderie, and a personal connection with those who are on that mission with me.  In the church, if I do not feel this way about those I am alongside, then there is a problem.  It seems that there are some fellowships where this camaraderie is present and others where it is not.

Personally, this partnership for the gospel has not always been the case.  Even as a believer there have been times that I have strayed back into sin and been useless for the Kingdom of God because I isolated myself and became beaten down by my circumstances.  I know many Christians fit this category and I am not one to condemn them because I too have been there–though I will assert the truth and seek to bring others up to the place that God desires them to be in.  Much like I counted on others to hold the line of holiness so that I could see it when I was falling back into sin.  Living in isolation and in sin as a Christian is wrong, and is counter to what the Lord wants.  Jesus wants us to partner with one another to reach others with the good news of salvation.  We should be actively engaged with one another, taking intentional steps towards personal holiness, towards outreach to the lost, and in service of those who have needs that we can meet.

Unfortunately, I know that in the United States, it has become culturally acceptable to go to church and not actually partner with the body of Christ in that fellowship.  Simply put, this is not the will of God.  God wants us to be engaging one another in this battle for souls and in this race towards heaven.

The question today is:  Who are you partnering with in the faith to further the gospel?

 

Think your “Saved”?

Ezekiel 18:31-32 Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!  Why will you die…? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”

Rebellion against God does not originate from God.  However, He has predetermined what the end of those shall be who rebel against Him–it is death.  No one knows how long they will have to “turn” and stop rebelling against God.  This is why it is so important to recognize right now where you stand before the Lord.  Tomorrow may not come and if it does, perhaps you will not have any fear of the Lord left and will find yourself with no ability to believe.

Salvation begins and ends with God.  He has determined what it takes for you to be saved, how you are saved, and what happens after you are saved.  Our responsibility is to “turn”.   He then cancels His judgment based on your decision.  If we thought it was possible to “lose our salvation”, would we act differently?  Of course we would.  But there are so many people who are banking so heavily on the grace of God that they fall right back into lives of sin and idolatry, only honoring God with their lips, and expect no judgment for what they are doing.

The burning question is:  Did these people REALLY turn from their sin?

Unfortunately, God does not honor meaningless commitments, and the concept of cheap grace is a faulty view of Scripture.  According to Ezekiel, “the soul that sins shall die”.  In the context, this of course applies to a single sin, but is most accurately understood as a mindset towards God.  Conversely, the soul that turns shall live.  Does this mean that this soul will never sin again?  No.  But there were ceremonial laws that they were to follow in the Old Testament period if one had sinned which indicated their heart for God and desire for repentance.

*Today things are different in one key way–the need to sacrifice for one’s sin.  Note that repentance remains the same.

After the death and resurrection of Christ, there was no longer a need for sacrificing animals for sin, but the need for repentance remained.  The lamb of God was sacrificed once and for all, doing away with the sacrificial system He had previously implemented.  The grace of God has been consistent throughout all of history, but it completed the law whenever Christ died on the cross.  Grace covers the old sacrificial system.  Grace is His and he gives to us.  It is not ours to wield as we see fit.  We benefit from it, but it changes nothing in how we are to respond to God in light of our sinfulness.  We must constantly repent for wrongs we commit, or else, be in danger of death.  If you thought that your lack of repentance would result in your soul actually dying and going to hell, would you as a Christian start repenting more?  I would hope so.  At minimum, what this concept tells us that even if your eternal destiny is not in danger, your life on this earth is.  In other words, as a Christian, you should expect no quarter from the laws of this world because you belong to Jesus.  You should expect the same judgment as everyone else.

But this concept is something to be very mindful of.  In fact, it is of the utmost importance.  The heart that is for Jesus will not want to sin.  Does that characterize you?  Do you despise sin and eagerly seek to repent and turn from it?  If not, you better do it now or should feel as if you are in danger of death.  Does that mean that every time you sin you are in danger of going to hell, even if you have believed in Jesus?  No.  But this is so important…the one who truly believes in Jesus will want to repent when they do sin!  If you don’t want to repent, you should ask yourself if you really believe in Jesus!  If you find yourself not wanting to repent, ask God for a new heart and a new spirit, and to save you from your unbelief!  What else can you do?

Are You a Fake Christian?

Romans 2:25-29 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”

The act of circumcision was a symbol of submission to God.  But performing a symbolic act does not prove that one has actually identified with the act that he/she is symbolicly performing. In other words, I can be baptized in a pool of water at the church and declare that I have repented of my sins and submitted to the Lord Jesus Christ.  But if I remain unchanged, unaffected by the gospel, then the symbolic act was a sham.  It meant nothing.  It was as if I never was baptized.  The true Christian demonstrates submission both privately and publicly, while the fake Christian only submits publicly.  The fake Christian will guard their private life dearly because it is this pool of sin that they draw from rather than Christ.  No one can be allowed to discover their secret source of joy, for then they would have to lie, distort, and hide even more.

The true Christian follows the Lord out of a changed heart which is only changed by the Spirit of God.  Following the rules cannot change a heart.  It is this reversal that confounds billions.  It matters where we start from.  If we do not start from a place of brokenness and submission before God, at the foot of the cross of Jesus, then we have already derailed.  No matter what we do, it will never be good enough, because every good thing we do will not be out of a changed heart–it will be out of a heart that is attempting to simultaneously be good enough and also preserve control of his/her own life.

Jesus was killed because of who He said He was.  His entire ministry was about demonstrating to the world that He was God and that what He was going to do on the cross would save them from eternal damnation.  But, people thought that they already knew God and Jesus definitely did not fit their understanding of who God was.  Why?  Because God was who they wanted Him to be.  Not who He really was.  The same is true today.  People die in their sins everyday and go to eternal damnation because they refuse to submit to the true God–JESUS.

Start with Jesus today, worship Him as God, deny yourself, and embrace the life that He will present to you.  In doing so, count the cost of this relationship.  His will means everything, your will means nothing.  He has a plan for you, your plan is kaput.  He has a way for you to live life, your way is over.  Being born again is that radical.  It is a rebirth.  You are no longer walking in darkness–THE LIGHT COMES ON!

Consider Matthew 3:5-10, where John the Baptist rebukes the hypocritical people who only wanted to do their religious duty by being baptized, but not truly submit to God:

People came to John from Jerusalem and the rest of Judea and from all the areas along the Jordan River. They confessed the bad things they had done, and John baptized them in the Jordan. Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to where John was baptizing people. When John saw them, he said, “You are all snakes! Who warned you to run from God’s judgment that is coming?  Change your hearts! And show by the way you live that you have changed. I know what you are thinking. You want to say, ‘but Abraham is our father!’ That means nothing. I tell you, God could make children for Abraham from these rocks. The ax is now ready to cut down the trees. Every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

In the church today we often lack the courage to turn people away who only want to be religious without a changed heart.  We do this because in our society it is insensitive to not accept everyone.  But the Lord has an immovable measuring stick which He uses to determine who is allowed to be in His body–that measuring stick is whether or not they have submitted to Jesus Christ.  If they have not submitted to Christ then they must be told so and given the opportunity to repent.  Not doing so is a great evil to them, even though we think it is “loving them” by accepting them as they are.

Do you think you are GOOD ENOUGH?

Romans 2:17-24 But if you…rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?  You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.  For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

2 Types of Religious People

  1. Better Than You

This person is described in the passage above.  These religious individuals believe they have it all figured out and claim that God is on the same page as them.  What the Scripture above states is that these people are actually hypocrites who think that they are good because they “know” what is right and are able to teach others.  However, what is lacking is action.  Instead of action that stems from truly having the Spirit of the Lord which compels them to love others, these people are content to actually put other people down who do not believe what they believe and judge them for doing the bad things that thy do.  They do not have any desire to help them.  Actually, it is better for them if people remain outwardly doing bad things so that they can continue to put them down and make themselves look better. Ironically, the individuals that they judge may be acting out of a form of ignorance, having not been taught the truth, when these religious people are dishonoring God by knowing the truth and not even following their beliefs themselves.  See, the key here is that these people look down on others and condemn others instead of reaching down and having compassion on them.  What these people need is to repent of their pride and realize that if they indeed know the truth, that the only thing they should be prideful about is God’s forgiveness for such a vile and persistent sinner as them.  The boast would be in Jesus’ sacrifice, not in their knowledge.

(*Interestingly, you may know people who do not believe in God but possess this same pridefulness.  The concept is the same, but the platform is different.  They consider themselves to be their own god, but they ignore the standard of goodness established by God in nature which allows them to even begin to put others down.)

The delusion here is that they believe that by obeying the standard of goodness laid out in the Bible, they are considered good.  But they forget about all of their failures to meet that standard which turns and condemns them.  Yet they never condemn themselves.  They always cover up these shortcomings.  Why?  Because if they did not they would need to be held accountable and their image cannot afford any blemishes.  Thankfully there is another way–THE RIGHT WAY!

  1. Love You

Here it is.  These religious people are known by their humility.  They are gentle and they seem to care more for you and others than you would think they should.  When wrong, these people do not have a problem admitting their faults because they understand the truth–which is that they are just as guilty as everyone else in the world.  They do not need to pretend that they are perfect because they rely on Jesus’ forgiveness to be accepted and not the appearance of their own sinlessness.  Namely because they know it is impossible to be sinless. Their lives focus on gratefulness for the Lord’s righteousness and humility because of their own bad behavior.  If they have any knowledge of the truth they are content to teach others while simultaneously being aware of their own need to repent from mistakes that they make.  There is no delusion in them about their tendency to walk in darkness and the reliance on God to lead them by His Spirit.

Saved Through Belief (Faith)

Romans 4

God does not think highly of us because of the good things we do; namely because any good we do is overwhelmingly overshadowed by our rebellion against Him and the evil, selfish, and prideful nature that we have had since we were children.  It is not goodness that impresses Him–it is belief (faith).  Our faith makes us good in His sight.  Our lack of faith demonstrates our bend towards evil. This evil nature and stack of wrongs, which are against God Himself, stands in contrast to His complete perfect holiness.  God is so far above us, so much greater than us, so many times more humble than us, that if we were to stand in His presence without a buffer, it would seem that we would die simply out of pure guilt and shame–out of the recognition that we truly are disgusting individuals who deserve judgment.

This is where our salvation begins.

When we understand ourselves in light of who God is, we will not attempt to make things better by being less evil, which is all we are capable of.  We are not capable of being good–not in its truest sense.  We are capable of being less evil than we were.  But this does nothing for the judgment we stand deserving of due to all our past, present, and future sins that we have committed, are committing today, and will commit tomorrow.

Therefore, our only recourse is this–give glory to God through faith in Jesus.  Faith in Jesus means that we believe that God is Jesus and Jesus is God.  That what Jesus accomplished on earth is what God accomplished on earth.  And finally, that our entire hope is wrapped up in gratefulness, submission, and love for Him.  This is belief.  This belief will save you.  When you have this belief, you will “work” out of love and will glorify Him with the acts that He wants you to do.  You will not “work” in order to justify yourself because you have already been justified by your belief.

Believe today.  Quit trying to be good enough for Him, because you never will be.  But He will accept the person who admits their dependency on Him for goodness.  On the other hand, He will reject the one who strives to do good works, and relies on their own goodness to make it to heaven.  Any good work you do after believing Jesus is just a privelege of being His son or daughter.  The credit you receive is for believing in Him when your situation seems hopeless.  Not for trying your hardest to overcome it.  God will rescue you when the time is right.  In the meantime, maintain the joy that comes with believing in Jesus.  Believe in His timing. Have the courage to let go of every insecurity, every pain and every guilt.  Wrap yourself in the blanket of Jesus’ righteousness and live for His love and in His love; abandoning all else.  This is eternity.

Back to the Basics

1 Timothy 1:5-7 “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”

You need 3 things in order to begin teaching others about Christ effectively:

  1. Pure Heart–See God not what the World offers (Matt. 5:8)
  2. Good conscience–Knowing that you are repentant of sin in your life daily.
  3. Sincere Faith–Truly submitted to the leadership of Jesus and loving the Lord with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Without these three things, Paul tells his spiritual son in the faith (Timothy), that people are teaching things that they think makes sense and are important, but are not neither accurate nor meaningful. Paul said that they distract people from the purpose of being a Christian–which is love.  Being a teacher of Jesus is not about showing how smart you are about information, it is about how to instruct others in walking in purity and love. We become Christians so that we can love God with all of our hearts and love others as we love ourselves.  If you nail the 3 points above, you can begin considering being a teacher of the Christian faith.

If these 3 attributes are not characteristic in your life, put them above doing ministry outward to others, until they become evident.

 

Desire to Prophesy

The gift of prophesy is to be desired above all other spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1-5) and it is something that the Apostle Paul wanted for ALL of the Christians he was writing to (vs. 1).   So, pray that you would have the gift of prophecy.  That is Paul’s guidance and it is sound.

What is prophecy?  In this short blog post I am only going to use 1 Corinthians 14 to describe the gift, but it is enough for now.  When chapter 14 is broken down, here is how prophecy can be explained:

  1. It convicts others of sin
  2. It holds people accountable for their actions
  3. It reveals the secret sins of the individual heart
  4. Speaks to individuals about their sin
  5. The prophecy should be examined by the hearers to determine if it is from God.  God’s true sheep know if they hear His voice.  If the prophecy is true, God’s true sheep will be touched by it.  The prophet is fallible but the true prophecy from God is infallible.  Therefore, a prophet may speak a word that is coming from his humanity and not from God which is why the passage goes on to say that the spirit of the prophets are subject to one another.
  6. Prompts people to fall on their face and acknowledge God
  7. Builds up others
  8. Should be desired by all
  9. Is the greatest spiritual gift
  10. Being a gift, it is not natural–meaning it will be recognized as from God alone.

Ultimately, it appears that the reason that prophecy is the greatest gift is because it unifies those who believe in Christ and calls them to live in such a way that demonstrates who Jesus really is.  Prophecies will be rejected by those who do not want to submit to God because they want to hold on to sinful ways.  Those who desire to live a Christlike life should always seek to be in the presence of a prophet’s words and to always desire to prophecy so that unity and love will be present.  In time, God will grant the gift of prophecy to the one He desires.  Until then, the individual remains subjected to the prophet who speaks for God.