Prophets - Revisited
How Do I Recognize and Die to Culture Prophecy?
In response to my recent article on Culture Prophets, a number of earnest readers wrote with questions wanting more clarification on this important issue. Here are some sample questions that came in:
Could you please explain in simple terms what you mean by culture prophets? I am interested in understanding your message but it was unclear to me what aspect of culture you were referring to:(be it the ways of culture) or the inherited gifts and beauty within each people group. Do you believe these are one and the same or different? I am artistic by nature....does culture include the arts. Do we remove those? Please explain what culture means to you and how this affects the prophetic.
Can you give me an example of a cultural prophecy? I have never heard of this before. I am willing to die but don't know how.
article I will step back and take a larger look at John's
exhortation to "love not the world" of culture, and how
this love affects prophecy. We will steer our hearts toward
five key questions:
1. What is culture (ie, "the world" as I Jn 2:15-16 calls it)?
2. What does "love for culture" mean?
3. How do I lose my love for the culture?
4. Why is this necessary?
5. How is prophecy affected by love for culture, with real examples?
Reading this article will be like eating cheesecake. It will put a lot of content into a small space. Especially if you are new to the concept of the crucified life, you will need to digest this slowly. Please bear with me as I try balancing between simplicity and thoroughness in my answers. (You can find more detailed notes at the end regarding some points. If the shorter answer still leaves you with questions, try the additional notes.)
I. What Is Culture (ie, "the world" as I Jn 2:15-16 calls it)?
"Neither love the world nor the things in the world... because everything in the world—the passions of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the proud display of life—have their origin not from the Father but from the world."
According to John, "the world" of culture is anything which:
the fleshly body may desire,
- the eyes may desire, or
- the natural soul may take pride in (ie, find its source of identity and self-worth in)
—especially with regard to society. The words "culture" and "world" are particularly oriented to the way people think and feel in a group. The emphasis is on experience in a corporate setting.
So—if: 1) your body can feel it, 2) your eyes can see it or 3) it can make your blood pump with a feeling that says "this defines who I am"—especially with respect to others—then it is culture.
The first two parts of this definition target tangible things like food, drink, clothing and just plain things. Just think of nouns: "persons, places or things." If it is an earthly noun, it is part of the culture.
The third part targets intangibles. These are harder to identify. But we know them because they are things that make us feel about ourselves a certain way. Intangibles include
giftings, talents and abilities;
- the way things are done as habits, customs, traditions, and rituals;
- perceptions and judgments of what is good, fair, right, excellent or beautiful. It includes the arts.
Intangibles also include the reasoned systems of procedures and processes by which people do what they do. And they include that indefinable social fragrance and energy that pervades people as a corporate gathering.
In sum, the Bible simply refers to human culture or the world as "all the glory of man" (I Pt. 1:24 KJV)
II. What does "love for culture" mean?
If culture is all we can naturally experience as mankind, then our love for the culture is simply our natural attraction to and esteem of that experience. Using John's words "desire" and "pride," love for culture is 1) my natural desire for all the physical, visible things among men and 2) my natural pride in the social intangibles from which I derive my sense of self-worth and belonging.
While attraction to tangible things seems obvious, love of the intangibles needs more clarity. This includes our appreciation of abilities, our tastes for art and beauty, and our valuing the rightness of people's ways. It includes that inner pull to a corporate scent by which we feel wanted and accepted by others—leading to our esteem of those we call "our" people—whether our family, our community, our country or our church. It also includes those elusive aromas of the soul that draw on our imaginations and memories—what we call romance and nostalgia.
It's important to see that, in talking about love for culture, John is not just talking about evil attraction and esteems. He's not just talking about covetous "lust" for things or what we would consider evil sources of "proud" self-worth. He's talking about all that we can naturally experience among humanity, the good and the bad. He is including desires for and identity in good things. Our difficulty understanding the need to lose natural attraction for the good (especially for those wonderful social "aromas") as well as for the bad; gives us difficulty in relating to John's warning to not love the world, and in seeing that loving it has any effect on our prophesying.
To sum, love for the culture is just our natural attraction to and esteem of the good in life. [For further thoughts on loving culture as applies to our spiritual gatherings, please see Note A at the end of this article.] 1
III. How do I lose my love for the culture?
Next to losing natural attraction for life's nobler things, our greatest misunderstanding concerns what it means to lose our love for the world. How do we do it? And why is it necessary? Let's try for a succinct explanation.
To understand how we lose cultural love, we must understand how such love resides and works in us. Our natural desire for the world is part of the natural life that we are born with from Adam—the life that Lev. 17:11 tells us courses throughout our bloodstream. (As we say, "It runs in my blood.") The Greek word for this natural life is also the word for soul. So we can call it "soul-life."
Jesus says that to follow Him, we must "lose our soul-life" (Lk. 9:23-24). He is referring to this same blood life force with its natural attractions to humanity and human enterprises. John's word that we must not love the world is rooted in Jesus' call to lose our soul-life. They are essentially the same call.
But how do we lose soul-life? How is it taken out of us?
The book of Romans gives us our best understanding here. Using the picture of animal sacrifices, Paul says we must offer up ourselves on the altar of "living sacrifice" (12:1). He states in 6:13,19 that we must come to an unconditional soul surrender to God's will.
Once we do this, God's Spirit is released to kill or "crucify" this life force in us, which Paul calls the "putting to death the deeds of the body" (8:13). This crucifixion is literal, though it does not usually involve actual bloodshed. Nevertheless it inescapably involves suffering (Rom. 8:17; also Heb.12:1-11), which Paul reiterates in other places when He says, "I am crucified with Christ," "I die daily," "those who have crucified the flesh with the affections thereof," and "all day long we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." Paramount in this process is the keeping of our eyes on Jesus, not on our sufferings. (Heb 12:2).
From a starting point of total unconditional surrender to
God's will, the Holy Spirit effects in us after Christ's image
a crucifixion in which, through serious testings and trials of
soul, He literally drains us of our natural life force
with its affections and sense of identity in human culture.
[The process does not stop here. For discussion on the rest of this process including false extremes, please see study Note B at the end of this article.] 2
IV. Why is it necessary to lose my cultural love?
"OK. I think I understand the spiritual mechanics, though I'm not sure this has happened to me. But why must this be? Why must I lose my natural love for this life?"
Let me offer two biblical reasons why we must lose our cultural love. First, our native soul energy with its loves is contrary to the Spirit life God planted in us at new birth (see Gal 5:17). Even though good seems good to us, our good is not "good" to God. He transcends what we call good. Our good is inseparably linked to our evil. They are of the same energy, one that is ultimately inherited from satan (Eph 2:2) through Adam, and so is alien to Him. Therefore God is grieved to share space in us with a life force inherited from His enemy, no matter how good that life seems to us now.
Second, only by draining out natural soul love can God fill us full with His true abiding experiential love, and our new identity in Christ can mature into His full image (Phil 3:10; Eph 3:16-19). We just can't truly know Him in the depths of His lasting soul-satisfying intimacy without losing this other natural love of life. Nor can we receive the transcendence of His mind into ours—the mind of Christ (Rom 12:1-2). True, encounters with God's Presence through an uncleansed soul are possible and may be sweet, but they are transient and fleeting, leaving us still prone to fall away when He is not manifestly present. [See Note C for an important extension of this point.] 3
Ultimately, our surrender to losing cultural love is the greatest act and testimony of our love for Him. "We love Him because He first loved us." His love was to give up His perfect life for us. In return, the first expression of our love is to endure the sacrifice of our soulish life, our cultural love, for Him. This is the love of covenantal commitment—the foundation of our devotion, the fountainhead of our ability to lastingly experience His inward soul-fulfilling passion toward us under all circumstances.
But there is yet another reason why we must lose our natural love for this world. It is because of what happens to our prophetic gift and calling if we do not.
V. How is prophecy affected by love for culture, with real examples?
To understand how prophecy is affected by culture love, we really must understand a larger issue: How is any manifestation of the Holy Spirit affected by our submission or resistance to the inward death process? This is a massive topic! Let's see how simple we can keep it.
- Transformation vs. Anointing
The Holy Spirit works on two levels in our lives. First is the inward level of soul-transformation we have been discussing—executed through the Spirit's process of soul-life crucifixion. The other is a more external visible level of spiritual manifestations and anointings that supports the first. Such manifestations include prophecy.
The two levels are not the same. Nor is the presence of one a substitute for or a guarantee that the other is at work in us. In particular: no exposure to or participation in spiritual manifestations, anointings or giftings can replace the inward soul-death process, can render it unnecessary, or can be used to judge whether we have submitted to this process.
The Scriptures show it is quite possible to live and function under the cloud of the Spirit's manifestation (or "manifest presence"), even as a whole nation, without ever submitting to the soul-purging process of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told us many many will appear before Him offering their anointings as proof that they should be accepted by Him, when they never offered their soul-life as a living sacrifice or failed to endure in it. Jesus does not dispute their anointing. Yet He still denies knowing them, and calls them workers of iniquity instead.
Iniquity? How can this be? Is Jesus saying that the manifest gift and anointing of the Holy Spirit can be used to work iniquity? Here is the critical point: if we operate in the anointing, but never come into or fail to stay in covenantal submission to the Spirit's inner soul work, our anointing will eventually become corrupted into a work of iniquity.
The essence of anointing corruption is this: the anointing becomes intermingled with the remaining adamic life force in us where it is subdued by it, and thus manipulated by the false spirits that drive our soul life. The anointing essentially becomes "hijacked" to serve our soul life, and in turn the devil. Under this state, we are unable to tell the difference between the Spirit and the world, between God's will and the culture's agendas, between the Lord's love and humanistic love for mankind.
- Defining "Culture Prophecy"
Now to the prophetic application. As a Spirit manifestation only (i.e., as an anointing), the prophetic is not the same as the Spirit's inner work in the heart. As an anointing, the prophetic's purpose is in fact to submit to and serve the Spirit's greater internal soul-purging ministry.
But this may not happen. It may not be so submitted (See I Cor. 14:32). And if the prophetic gift is not rooted in total soul surrender to the Spirit within, then the competing soul life in our blood will corrupt the prophetic gifting. The essence of that corruption is an intermingled hybrid of Spirit-energized soul-centered prophecy whose end is to strengthen our soul's ties to this world contrary to the will of God. Such prophesying is what I have termed Culture Prophecy.
Culture prophecy is a hybrid prophecy energized by a mixture of Holy Spirit anointing and natural soul life force whose net effect is to:
1. reinforce our natural love ("desires") for human culture and natural life preservation, and/or
2. reaffirm our natural sense of identity ("pride") and belonging in the human race
[For an expanded discussion of the major traits of culture prophecy, please study Note E at the end of this article.] 5
- Recognizing Culture Prophecy
Culture prophecy may show itself in its words, but not always. It often must be recognized "between the words," by its context and its effects. It is sometimes proven by what it does not say. The best way to appreciate any of this is to contrast culture prophecy against the prophetic ministry of Jesus.
The Voice of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy (Rev. 19:10). In His days on earth, Jesus spoke to many temporal issues. But He always spoke from an underlying eternal context. Whether He spoke a word of temporal blessing, or promise, or healing or warning, Jesus maintained an ulterior view to the eternal destiny of people. He sought for and expected a trade-off evidence of eternal impact in them through soul life surrender. And in this, His Voice has never changed.
By contrast, culture prophecy borrows from the Voice of Jesus to make earthly declarations—words that may indeed originate from the Holy Spirit's anointing. But the prophecy speaks outside of or contrarily to the context of the Spirit's inner eternally focused call to sacrifice natural attractions and lose identity in Adam. Without this context, the final effect of the prophecy is to reinforce the natural hopes, dreams, anxieties and prides of mortal life as their own end, contrary to God's eternal plan for us.
There is a saying concerning biblical interpretation that "a text without a context is a pretext." The same is true of prophecy. A faith-challenging earth-focused prophecy may be from the Lord. But if it is not clearly anchored in context of losing natural love and identity, then it is transformed into a "pretextual" culture prophecy. Because it is divorced from true inner context, culture prophecy presents God's mind concerning this life as a deceptively subtle half-truth. In the final analysis, God may have said it, but He is not IN what He said. (To appreciate this subtlety, study Elijah's discernment between God's voice and His manifestations in I Ki. 19:11-13. Also Review Note D.)
To sum: whether the culture is in the words or only in the [lack of] context, the ultimate proof of culture prophecy is in its fruit: the reinforcement of our love for this world.
[For discussion about the problem with using accuracy of predictions to test for culture prophecy, see Note F at the end of this article.] 6
- Can you give me examples?
the most obvious examples of a culture prophecy was given
October 28, 2001 by a nationally renowned prophet and forwarded
Nov. 18 by the Elijah List (see www.elijahlist.com). It was a lengthy
prophecy. The key paragraph, directly pasted from the Elijah
List, was as follows:
The United states of America shall see a Christmas like no other Christmas it has ever had. It will be a Christmas of great celebration. It will be a where every household in this nation, even if they've called themselves atheist, even if they've called themselves agnostic. It shall be the greatest Christmas. And there shall be more salvations and more deliverances this Christmas than has ever taken place in the history of Christmas as you know it today…. Why? Because this nation will rejoice because of the victory they have attained. And God says, I will make you wealthy because there will be a surrender of oil. There will be oil that will be given to you because agreements will take place, says the Lord. And I will cause there to be an economic revival that will begin next year and shall carry you through to the year 2005. NASDAQ, NASDAQ where are you? For God says, I shall raise you up. And you shall be victorious because this nation is mine says the Lord.
If we test this prophecy only for factual accuracy, we have a mixed bag with no clear determination (which is the case with most prophecy.) To an isolated family here or there, this prophecy's promise of the "greatest Christmas" may have proven true. From the perspective of the national consciousness to which this prophecy addresses itself, the first half of this prophecy appears quite false.
There is no evidence nationally that there was more salvation and deliverance this last Christmas than any other, or that any such salvation is traceable to American victories in Afghanistan, or that atheists en masse were impressed by the birth of Jesus because of this victory. Meanwhile, the part about the oil and the NASDAQ remains to be seen. (But are we to wait 3-4 more years before we can determine if this is a culture prophecy?)
But whether the NASDAQ still comes to pass or not, or that the "greatest Christmas" prediction seems false, is not the issue. In discerning culture prophecy, we have to look beneath apparent factual truth or error. It is not the accuracy, but the context and the way this prophecy is addressed leading to an effect that we must discern.
The clear contextual aroma of this prophecy is that 1) the Lord identifies Himself with the United States as an adamic people group, defining His people in adamic terms, 2) the Lord's sense of highest good for this adamic people is to bless them with more money, and 3) God is a fervent advocate of this people's cultural celebration called Christmas, a human celebration undeniably driven in the national consciousness by a combination of romantic nostalgia, mythical and pagan tradition, but most of all, the social compulsion to buy and sell.
The bottom line assessment of the effect is that this prophecy reinforces the desire for money and the natural pride in being American—and does so in people already bound for hell. It is a clear case of culture prophecy.
[For a discussion of some
other recent prophecies and prophetic/intercessory lines of
teaching that bear the traits of culture prophecy, please study Note G
at the end of this article.] 7
[Note: By identifying specific evidences of culture prophecy, I have no intention here to publicly rebuke those I am quoting or to publicly judge them to be culture prophets. I do not have the authority to do this as these men are not within my sphere of personal influence. For this reason I have not directly named them. However, I do have the responsibility of all saints to "test all prophecy," to "judge it fairly," and to humbly and redemptively prosecute error (See I Th. 5:19-22; Jn 7:24; Rev. 2:2). Prophets who speak publicly must be prepared to have their words examined publicly. Ultimately, we all must be willing to be questioned by earnest truth seekers, and must entrust ourselves to the Spirit's witness concerning any of our words. (That includes this teaching.) More on all this in Note H.] 8
True prophecy is not just about the accuracy of temporal predictions (which are always subject to interpretations or Holy Spirit alterations). Nor is it about whether we are pronouncing blessing or judgment. It is about communicating God's words for the earth in full context of God's eternal mind and purposes.
The fact that God is speaking through vast multitudes doesn't mean His true mind has been conveyed or that we have truly heard Him. To know if we are receiving that mind, prophecy must be validated against a standard greater than itself. That standard is the loss of our natural relationship to this world. Depending whether it submits to this standard, the prophetic can either bless us or corrupt into a curse. Prophecy can work either to deliver us from mortality's grip as we press toward the eternal prize, or it just aggravates our entanglement with life's affairs under mortality's ceiling (see II Tim 2:4 KJV).
More largely said, God's worldwide prophetic dynamic either advances His kingdom in the earth, or it works to establish the counterfeit kingdom which springs up behind it. We have yet to grasp that the antichrist kingdom is fed directly off the corrupting of the anointing. This is the mystery of iniquity. And whether we end up appearing in His kingdom as true prophets, or else ushering in the kingdom of "peace and social security" as culture prophets, depends on whether our prophesying stays rooted in this covenantal commitment to lose our love for this present life.
As the Spirit's outpouring increases, the harder it is to discern between that which is truly spiritual and mere "spirit-baptized" flesh—the easier to be deceived into supporting the world under the Spirit's anointing—the more demanding that as a prophetic people we be fundamentally committed to the Spirit's inner separating process, anchored in eternity's immortal hope—and the more imperative that we test the prophetic dynamic for where it is leading us. [For those who are already confident in their faithfulness to truth and in the ability to spot culture prophecy in others, please see Note H.]
Much is made today of making ourselves all things to all nations. But before we try saving drowning men with the Spirit-inflated raft of prophetic ministry, we must first prove the air tightness of our own heart—that it is pumped free of the same soulish waters in which all men sink. And we must be diligent to help prove one another. For culture prophecy is a waterlogged raft—it's air chambers compromised with soul bilge. Bearing an "unseaworthy" projection of God's mind toward life, it can't support our weight, and only leads to our drowning together with the rest of humanity.
Our failure to grasp the Spirit's death call upon cultural love, our failure to understand the corruptibility of His anointing, and our failure to test for prophetic effect beneath the surface of factual accuracy—these weaknesses have kept us bound to this mystical hybrid force of culture prophecy. But the Lord is here to deliver any and all who will cry out to him for deliverance. We still have time to rethink what we're doing and to be delivered—but not much time.
Nothing said here today is new—just arranged and applied differently perhaps to speak to today's prophetic. The concepts are massive. But I have labored to distill them into a few readable paragraphs that make sense. My earnest hope through this article is that you may be released from the bonds of culture prophecy and overcome its alluring distractiveness. Through fully embracing the Spirit's inner work, may you indeed realize your true identity and satisfaction in Christ alone, finish your true course toward the eternal prize, remain true in your prophetic calling and may your relationship with the mortal prophetic community serve this goal, not compete with it.
Sharing the Eternal Pilgrimage With You,
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
[ Footnotes ]
Page created September 16, 2003