One of the hardest habits for some of us to break is saying, "God told me this" or "Here is what the Lord showed me." Is this truly a bad habit? Yes. In fact, I believe it's one of the worst claims perpetrated in churches today, despite being a clear violation of the third commandment: "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain" (Ex. 20:7).
How do we misuse God's name when we claim He told us something? With our intent. Most often we mention Him for one reason: to elevate our own credibility. It is not His name we are thinking of, it is our reputation. Adding the weight of God's name to our words gives us authority and respectability. But the truth is, we're not thinking of God's name and glory when we do this—we're thinking of our own.
Most of us have made this mistake at one time or another, yet it happens frequently among those who have a prophetic gift or aspire to intimacy with God. I am disappointed when respected prophetic figures say, "The Lord told me ..." because it cheapens their stature. When they say this, we have no choice but to listen. After all, if God is speaking through them, we'd better give heed! Who among us doesn't want to hear God's voice?
Yet consider this: If I am in a postcanonical age and God has really told me something, why, then, must I bring His name into it? Would it not be just as true if I left His name out? My reason for claiming His authority is to elevate my own—in your eyes. Otherwise, I fear you would not listen to me.
There is no sign in northwest Arizona that says, "You are now looking at the Grand Canyon." Such a sign would be silly. It would cheapen the entire aura. When you see this remarkable formation, you know what it is. There are no substitutes or counterfeits when it comes to the Grand Canyon.
Likewise, if I truly have a word from the Lord, I can say it without mentioning His holy name. It will speak for itself. And if people don't recognize my authenticity because I don't include God's name, that is not my problem.
As for the accuracy of those who claim, "The Lord told me this," that's another story. Millions of people have made this allegation through the ages, yet I imagine the angels' reaction is often the same: "Really?" How many times have they heard God's name included in "words" that never originated from Him in the first place?
We quote people when we speak to give our own words a higher standing, a greater level of underlying truthfulness. That is certainly why I quote Scripture. In the same way, if I quote St. Augustine or John Wesley, it is to make you feel that I have a greater measure of reliability on my side. But no one likes a name-dropper. They're not a popular type. If I told you I know Oral Roberts or Billy Graham or the pope, who would I be trying to make look good? Not them.
It's no different with God. When we drop His name in our conversations, writings or sermons, we have in that moment violated a trust that must make the angels blush. In our fear that no one will believe us, we name-drop God.
So what if I said God told me to write this article? Did He? You tell me.
R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including his latest release, Controlling the Tongue (Charisma House). For more information, visit his Web site at rtkendallministries.com.
Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.
Order Life in the Spirit to actively grow your ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Your congregation will stay saturated in God's Word, learn to hear His voice, understand their purpose and calling and move into an active role in your ministry.