“Inner Promptings”

I’ve recently read a most excellent book about how to determine the will of God, titled Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.

Available here  http://shop.churchandfamilyreformation.org/Just-Do-Something-BKJDSKD.htm and at Amazon and other places.

About which, this observation by the publisher:

Hyper-spiritual approaches to finding God’s will don’t work. It’s time to try something new: Give up.

Pastor and author Kevin DeYoung counsels Christians to settle down, make choices, and do the hard work of seeing those choices through. Too often, he writes, God’s people tinker around with churches, jobs, and relationships, worrying that they haven’t found God’s perfect will for their lives. Or—even worse—they do absolutely nothing, stuck in a frustrated state of paralyzed indecision, waiting . . . waiting . . . waiting for clear, direct, unmistakable direction.

But God doesn’t need to tell us what to do at each fork in the road. He’s already revealed his plan for our lives: to love him with our whole hearts, to obey His Word, and after that, to do what we like.

No need for hocus-pocus. No reason to be directionally challenged. Just do something.

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough – as I’ve seen people wreck their lives following mystic and gnostic methods of trying to determine who to marry, divorce, etc.

With that current backdrop, here’s a look back at the Great Revival and how George Whitefield learned the hard way what Kevin DeYoung would have us learn the easy way.

The following is from http://www.oldtruth.com/blog.cfm/id.2.pid.234

“Inner Promptings” From The Great Awakening


Anyone who is truly convinced that God is speaking fresh words of revelation will inevitably view the later prophecies as somehow more relevant and more personal than the message of Scripture, which is more than two thousand years old. Inevitably, wherever personal prophecy has been stressed, Scripture has been deemphasized. Two thousand years of church history confirms that this is true. This same issue was hotly debated during the Great Awakening. It was one area where Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield did not (in the beginning) see eye to eye.

Based on John MacArthur’s
book – Reckless Faith

Clearly on this question Edwards would not have been the least bit sympathetic with modern charismatics. Edwards believed prophecy had ceased along with the rest of the charismatic gifts. Whitefield was far more willing than Edwards to treat subjective impulses as if they could reliably reveal the Holy Spirit’s leading. In 1740 Edwards confronted Whitefield on the issue. He later wrote to a friend,

I indeed have told several persons that I once purposely took an opportunity to talk with Mr. Whitefield alone about [subjective] impulses: and have mentioned many particulars of our conference together on that [matter]: That I told him some reasons I had to think he gave too great heed to such things: and have told what manner of replies he made; and what reasons I offered against such things. And I also said that Mr. Whitefield did not seem to be offended with me: but yet did not seem to be inclined to have a great deal of discourse about it: And that in the time of it he did not appear to be convinced by any thing I said.

At the height of the Great Awakening, this issue became, in as Iain Murray said in his Edwards biography, “the talking-point of the whole country.” Edwards clearly warned his congregation not to place much stock in subjective impressions. He saw this as a particular danger in a time of revival, when religious affections are heightened and the imagination more active than usual. Murray writes,

The “impressions” or “impulses” which [Edwards] criticized were varied in character. Sometimes they involved an element of the visionary. Sometimes they appeared to provide foreknowledge of future events. And sometimes they were accompanied and supported by random texts of Scripture. Against this belief Edwards argued that a Christian might indeed have a “holy frame and sense from the Spirit of God” but the “imaginations that attend it are but accidental” and not directly attributable to the Spirit.

Edwards had carefully studied this issue. He was convinced that the tendency to follow subjective impulses was a dangerous path down which to travel: “[An] erroneous principle, than which scarce any has proved more mischievous to the present glorious work of God, is a notion that it is God’s manner in these days to guide His saints – by inspiration, or immediate revelation.” He saw several dangers in the practice, not the least of which was its hardening effect on the person supposedly receiving the revelation. “As long as a person has a notion that he is guided by immediate direction from heaven, it makes him incorrigible and impregnable in all his misconduct.” Edwards also knew from both church history and personal experience that:

Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do.

Edwards’ advice was straightforward:

I would therefore entreat the people of God to be very cautious how they give heed to such things. I have seen them fail in very many instances, and know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true, yea eminent, saints – are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven. I have known such impressions fail, in some instances, attended with all these circumstances.

A generation before Edwards, the illustrious Boston pastor Cotton Mather had experimented with this very tendency, believing that God would grant him “particular faiths” for specific prayers to be answered. Convinced God had promised to grant certain prayer requests, Mather prophesied that his wife would recover from a serious illness, that his father would return to England to serve the Lord, and that his wayward son would return to the Lord. Only after those and several other expectations went unfulfilled did Mather begin to question his doctrine of “particular faiths.”

George Whitefield also learned the hard way that subjective impulses can be tragically fallible. When Whitefield’s wife was expecting her first child, he prophesied that she would have a son who would become a preacher of the Gospel. The child was indeed a boy, but he died at the age of four months. He was Whitefield’s only child. Murray writes,

Whitefield at once recognized his mistake saying: “I misapplied several texts of Scripture. Upon these grounds, I made no scruple of declaring ‘that I should have a son, and that his name was to be John.'” When back in New England, in 1745, he could say feelingly of what had happened there, “Many good souls, both among clergy and laity, for a while, mistook fancy for faith, and imagination for revelation.”

Many good souls still fall into that same error [today]. As mentioned earlier, many (perhaps most) Christians believe God uses subjective promptings to guide believers in making major decisions. A thorough search of church history would undoubtedly confirm that most believers who lean heavily on immediate “revelations” or subjective impressions ostensibly from God end up embarrassed, confused, disappointed, and frustrated. …

Scripture never commands us to tune into any inner voice. We’re commanded to study and meditate on Scripture (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1:1-2). We’re instructed to cultivate wisdom and discernment (Prov. 4:5-8). We’re told to walk wisely and make the most of our time (Eph. 5:15-16). We’re ordered to be obedient to God’s commands (Deut. 28:1-2; John 15:14). But we are never encouraged to listen for inner promptings.

8 thoughts on ““Inner Promptings”

  1. Oooh! That made my liver quiver. Great post and thanks for the sources. I have recently recovered from an over dose of fresh revelations and fresh anointings that had little or nothing to do with the bible. So you can understand my excitement when i begin to come across teaching that points back to God and the sufficiency of scripture.


  2. Funny, I just stumbled on this site. I’m reading this book right now. I’m facing a possible change in career path and I’m praying and studying to keep my head straight.

    Anyway, thank you for the discussion on Edwards. I randomly heard this on a radio program a while back and my ears perked up, but I couldn’t go back and find it.

    I think the Spirit is telling me to sign off. 🙂


  3. Thankyou for recommending ‘Just Do Something’. I immediately downloaded the audio version and am halfway through it already – and loving it. I may even buy a hardcopy as I know quite a few people who may also benefit from reading it. I’m always up for reading a Macarthur book too, so Reckless Faith is now on my wishlist.
    Thanks again 🙂


  4. Anne (that was my mother’s name, same spelling),

    Chapter 4 contains a laugh-out-loud illustration about the danger in blaming God for decisions we make: the poor man who had a girl tell him God told her to dump him. I love DeYoung’s description – priceless!


  5. There are many believers in the world that, for many reasons, do not have Bibles. I had believed that God was able to “speak” to them anyway, to comfort and reassure them. I now see by this post that He does not. I didn’t know that the only way God is able to communicate with us is through the Bible. I pray to God that the day never comes that, for some unforseen reason, I no longer have access to to my Bible.


  6. Marilyn,
    God “speaks” to all men everywhere through general revelation – His creation testifies of His existence and sovereignty. The Bible in physical form is not required, though it is MOST beneficial – the biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ IS required; this is God’s special revelation. Christians, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and obedience to read the Bible, hide His Word in our hearts (souls) and are comforted by Him in all circumstances.

    By the Word of God, we know that all we need for righteous living is in the Bible and that the Bible is THE authoritative Word of God. Hebrews 1:1 & 2 tell us that old ways of revealing Himself to us were done away with upon the coming of Christ – this was a transition through the age of the beginning of the New Testament church.

    “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”

    Have faith in God.


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