Dr. Jim Wilder frequently receives questions about The Life Model.
Michael Sullivant, a pastor and proponent of the Life Model, has collaborated with Dr. Wilder to answer some of these frequently asked questions which we now present to you in this new Blog series.
F.A.Q. #2 – How can we attribute “God’s words” to human thought, since the cannon of Scripture closed?
- We should be eternally grateful for the written word of God that he inspired various holy servants of old to receive and record. It is the authoritative and historically settled measuring rod (canon) against which all other claims of divine revelation or inspiration are to be evaluated. It is the rule by which we measure all claims of divine communication, but this doesn’t rule out, the possibility of genuine extra-biblical … in contrast to unbiblical … experiences of people receiving something directly from God. In his genius, God chose to superintend the writing and preservation of a book to most clearly and accurately communicate his transformative word and message to humanity across the generations. The Bible is truly amazing on many fronts when compared to all other books in the earth.
2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness….
2 Peter 1:19-21 – And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
- People sometimes assume that our believing and receiving the word of God through scripture guarantees that we are grasping God’s truth objectively. But though we can certainly come to know objective truths of God through the Bible by his power and grace, this does not negate the subjective nature of properly handling, interpreting and applying God’s inspired written word. A true and valid divine revelation can yet be distorted on the human, or even demonic, side. After all, even the devil misused and distorted the holy scripture in his temptation of Jesus Christ in the wilderness. (See Luke 4:9-11) So … properly interpreting and applying divine revelation always involves a necessary subjective human side. Receiving revelation from God through the Bible is not as objective and merely rational as many people like to imagine. There is a sublime and energetic attachment love between God and us that is at the heart of engaging relationally in this vitally important and transformational spiritual art and science. We are invited to hear the voice of God’s Spirit impart his word to our listening hearts as we ponder those words written on the pages of scripture. “We live by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
2 Peter 3:15-16 – And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
- Since the Holy Spirit is the one who originally inspired the authors of the Bible, it makes sense that the influence of the Holy Spirit upon and within us is essential for its proper interpretation and application. The word of God and the Spirit (breath or wind in both Hebrew and Greek) of God go together like our speech and our breath. They are never separated. I like to compare the written word of God to a flagpole and the experiential work of the Holy Spirit to a flag. The former is solid, grounded, immovable and the latter is colorful, fluid and responsive to the wind. They are quite different, but they make a great, and essential, combo. It is ultimately the Holy Spirit who wields the word of God as a sword of truth among us needy people upon the earth.
Ephesians 6:17b – …the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God
- We must know both the scriptures and the power of God to rightly comprehend God’s truths. The Sadducees were mistaken about correct doctrine because they didn’t discern this blend of God’s word and God’s power – Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God?” (Mark 12:44) We also will be confounded by truths of God if we do not embrace both aspects of the way he works with humanity. Even as we take in the plain meanings and forthright truths of scripture, we must yet rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire and illuminate our hearts, souls and minds in the process of digesting, understanding, interpreting and applying it to our lives and to the lives of others, if we are teachers and preachers. If we will ask him to, the Spirit will be our supreme teacher. One of the essential aspects of the promise of the New Covenant is that every child of God will be directly taught by God himself.
Hebrews 8:10-11 – For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
1 John 2:27 – But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
- The Holy Spirit of God is communicative by nature. God wants his voice of truth to be heard among the nations. He is the one who communicates the truth of the good news of Jesus to the unbelieving heart, bringing life-altering new convictions. (See John 16:8) He is the one indwelling the believer who has made the experiential attachment love to the Father and the Son possible. And … he will not always be silent. We cannot, and must not try to, contain the very wind of God that blows where it wishes. As we soak ourselves in the written word, he will be present with us to illuminate and inspire us to drink in the truths that our Father wants us to build our lives upon. Ordinary believers across the ages, the cultures, and the various church traditions have testified to knowing the evident communicative presence of the Holy Spirit as they prayerfully meditate on the words of scripture with open hearts that are eager to learn, believe and obey.
Luke 24:27,31-32,45 – And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself … And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” … Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures….
- Furthermore, nowhere in holy scripture is it taught that the Holy Spirit is limited to only communicate to people through the scriptures, though one might safely say it seems to be his favorite way. He also communicates through conscience, creation, a listening heart, a still small voice, anointed human vessels, a dream, a vision, an angel, an audible voice and the like. He is a free Spirit and able to speak and reveal the truth of God in any way that our Father and Son wish for him to do so. The Bible does not teach that we are to write more scripture. But it does teach us to expect to subjectively hear God’s word and God’s voice. And … just as the Holy Spirit helps us receive, interpret and apply the written word of God into our lives, he can and will do the same with any extra-biblical encounter with a possible divine communication. He will also help us to recognize and reject a counterfeit.
1 Corinthians 2:11-12,16 – For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God … “For who has understood the mind of the Lord to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
- The Spirit is a faithful witness to God’s truth and capable of communicating it to us in many ways. The Bible is a very selective book of reliable revelation, but it does not contain everything that God has ever done, said, will do and/or will yet say. Not every word from God through the prophets (Old Testament and New), apostles or of Jesus himself has been inscripturated. But those words were no less inspired by God.
Acts 15:32 – And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words.
John 20:30-31 – Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
- Everywhere in the New Testament, we are promised a conversational interactive love relationship with the Trinity in real time. The holy scriptures are there for us so we can compare any other possible divine communications to them. In a recent personal interchange, Dr. Wilder mused, “We expect God to speak to us through sermons, pastors, hymns, spiritual songs, and these are all human thoughts and words we expect will be shaped by God. The LM suggests that we examine our own thoughts as well to look for any that might be shaped by God and pay attention to what they might be. Like any sermon, they must be checked for truth but no one is saying that preaching is wrong because the cannon is closed.” He also expressed his concern that we neither elevate our thoughts too highly nor dismiss them too quickly as a possible way that God is speaking to our hearts in his desire to shape and direct our lives. I have found that the best safeguard against any spiritual deception on this front has been to immerse myself in scripture with a devotional motivation and attitude so that I come in close and personal touch with the nature of God … especially as revealed in Jesus and the New Covenant … to where I am marvelously affected by the tone, tenor, and texture of the authentic voice of our Heavenly Father and the themes of his grand Jesus-story in the earth. They say that currency inspectors study the real thing so thoroughly and well that it is rather easy for them to spot the counterfeit!
John 14:26 – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 16:13-14 – When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
Hebrews 5:14 – But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
- Throughout the centuries and across the planet, godly people from all church traditions testify to receiving direct divine communication that proves itself to be valid, transforming, very helpful and glorifying to Jesus Christ. In one of his seminars, Dr. Wilder inquired … and I paraphrase … “Why is it that many Bible-believing Christians have no problem with the idea that Satan can put thoughts of evil into people’s minds, but do not make room for the living God to share his thoughts with us?” And why is it that many who tout the importance of speaking to God in prayer, have no expectation that he might speak back to us … beyond maybe “leading” us somehow to a Bible passage? It seems that we have formulated a limiting doctrine. Maybe this has happened in over-reaction to horror stories of people who have abused and harmed others in the name of hearing something directly from God? But we would do ourselves and people everywhere a terrible disservice by trying to deal with the challenge of receiving and processing subjective divine revelation and illumination by forbidding its possibility.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 – Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.
- We must not allow a lack of experience or reactions to aberrant practices to determine sound doctrine and practice. The burden of proof that God cannot or does not speak directly into the hearts of his children by the Holy Spirit rests squarely on those who teach this view. To do so reduces our loving and living Father to a once upon a time retired author incapable of interacting personally and directly with us in the present moment. How far this is from the spirit of the deeply moving and robust hymn, I Serve A Risen Savior by Alfred Henry Ackley.
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living, Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.