The consolations of God - Ninth in a series
The entire word of God is consoling. Even its rebukes are life-giving to the one who has ears. In addition, at times the Lord imparts a special word to a believer.
The special word I refer to is not a "rhema" as some Christian teachers have suggested. In the New Testament, God's word is sometimes defined as "logos" and others times as "rhema." Some examples in Scripture of each are:
- In the beginning was the Word [logos], and the Word [logos] was with God, and the Word [logos] was God. (John 1:1)
- Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word [logos] of truth.(II Timothy 2:15)
- And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word [rhema] of God (Ephesians 6:17)
- If ye abide in me, and my words [rhema] abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)
By definition, "rhema" is God's speech or discourse and "logos" denotes doctrine or divine reason or plan.
God often speaks through the Bible to us by causing certain passages to stand out that have specific application to our lives. Some say this is God's special word or "rhema" to us. So, perhaps at times the logos becomes the rhema?
The special word to comfort or guide us that I refer to may echo a Bible passage, or may not. My dad told me that after he had learned of mom's terminal illness and was in deep distress, God spoke his name and then said, "Everything will be all right." Dad was driving, and not expecting any revelation. He was extremely practical. This private word did not mean that mom would get well, but it was such a definite counsel, expression and impression that, after hearing it, Dad gained strength and peace to cope. And he continued to love and serve God after mom's death.
Some would say, "Well, couldn't he have known that simply by reading the Word of God?" Yes, certainly, but that would not have worked the same result.
Anyone who faithfully reads the Bible will hear the voice of God and be guided to apply his wisdom to their circumstances, and anyone may also receive a special word. Yet, to make a point of seeking that personal word can be a devastating practice.
Seeking a word from God apart from his canon, the Bible, is a dangerous pursuit and ought not to be encouraged. For that reason, in this post I will also warn against certain charismatic practices that may engender counterfeits of the special, personal word.
An excellent book, War on the Saints, by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, published in 1912, and now online, free, addresses this topic.
Here is a somewhat difficult-to-read excerpt from the foreword in my print copy of the book, that addresses how saints become susceptible to Satan's counterfeits of God's special words and why the book was written:
The adventists of Thessalonica, who refused their normal obligations in the interest of a complete self-preparation for the Lord's Coming, have had their representatives in many strange sects in Europe and America, who have been carried into amazing extravagancies of creed and conduct. St. Paul's brusque judgment, 'If a man will not work, neither let him eat' (2 Th 3:10) applies to them all. The ascetics of Colossæ whose punctilious rigorism co-existed with a perilous moral laxity, have had their successors in every Christian generation. Medieval monks and modern sectaries come together here. Both illustrate, in varying ways, the same spiritual malady. Such total prostration of the individual before the mandates of the Divine Spirit seems to argue a genuine humility, but the implied assumption of plenary and direct personal inspiration discloses and fosters a spiritual arrogance none the less morally disintegrating because it is unsuspected. Experience has ever endorsed the great Apostle's verdict. Over the whole woeful pageant of self-willed pietism with its eccentric, arbitrary, even monstrous demands on its victims, the words may be written: 'which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.' (Col 2:23)
An aftermath of the Welsh Revival at the dawn of the present [20th] century was the rise of a number of extreme cults, often stressing a return to "pentecostal" practices. Mrs. Penn-Lewis, who had witnessed much of the Revival as the representative of The Life of Faith, saw clearly the peril of these fanatical teachings, and in collaboration with Mr. Evan Roberts, who played so prominent a part in the Revival, wrote a book, War on the Saints. In this book these extreme and overbalanced beliefs and practices are categorically branded as the work of an invading host of evil spirits. The word "deception" might be said to be the key word of the book…”
War on the Saints made a great impression on me when I read it many years ago. I wrote down a number of its insights, and here are three that teach us, yes, honest souls CAN BE DECEIVED (the point of the book):
- Deception has to do with the mind, and it means a wrong thought admitted to the mind, under the deception that it is truth.
- The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a Deception because it throws a person off guard, and ignores that there are conditions on the part of the believer which must be fulfilled for God's working.
- Heresies in the Church often have begun with a great crisis in which a man is brought to give himself up in full abandonment to the Holy Spirit, thus opening himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.
Beware of any personal word from the Lord that follows from a meditative state, irrational exuberance or other upset. Nevertheless, the Lord may impart a special word. As well, he is not limited to consolation in this practice.