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By Dr. Richard Ing

February 18, 2006




As we move closer to tribulation, the testing of our character and heart will become increasingly intense.  What is in the heart is far more important to God than all the gifts of the Spirit and the good works a Christian has performed in the past.  We have said many times that the gifts of the Spirit are free, but fruit of the Spirit will cost you everything.  The fruit of the Spirit represent God’s very heart and mind and cannot be possessed without giving up your own carnal thoughts, words and bad heart attitudes.


Young Christians can get away with many character faults and still continue to serve God and remain in the race for the crown of righteousness that God has laid up for the overcomers of the end times.  However, as we get closer to the end, character faults, wrong thoughts and words, and attitudes of the heart will be tested and possibly disqualify us from attaining the crown.  Only the spiritually mature in Jesus Christ will make it through, and maturity refers to the fruit of the Spirit and not the gifts.


It is for this very reason that God must test us.  No one with a spirit of Jezebel, Ahab, Pride, Rebellion and the like will make it to the end.  These spirits will see to it that you will fall away.  They will keep you in deception.  That is why an open mind and heart is necessary.




In a real sense, the gifts of the Spirit are like a double-edged sword.  You can use it to fight against the enemy and help others or you can use it to glorify yourself.  One edge of the sword can strike the enemy; the other edge can cut and destroy you.  The abundance of gifts of the Spirit in the life of a saint is no indication of his or her spiritual maturity in Christ.  One can prophesy, have wonderful visions and dreams, cast out devils, heal the sick, do wonderful works in the name of Jesus, and be completely immature in Christ.  Mt. 7:21-23.  Yet, many Christians idolize those with power to prophesy, cast out devils, heal the sick and do wonderful works in the name of Jesus.


Worse, many think that because they have special gifts of the Spirit, they are close to God and more mature than those without the same gifts.  In over twenty years of observing the gifts in action, we have found that many with the gifts of prophecy, healing, and so forth, have fallen away from the faith because of character flaws and pride.  Many a powerful prophet that had wonderful visions, dreams and spiritual experiences have fallen and no longer minister or go to church any more, in some cases.


Therefore, it is vital that you fully realize that the gifts of the Spirit, especially the power gifts that minister to the public do not indicate the state of spiritual maturity in a person.  They can bring you fame, riches and position, but they will never change your heart.




Whether you make it through the trying times ahead will depend on what is in your heart.  In other words, your willingness to change and your desire to be like Jesus will be critical.  The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) is the very character and nature of God.  Anyone who is after the heart of God will pay much attention to love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.  The lack of these characteristics in the heart will lead to a falling away in the end.


A few weeks ago, God spoke to me about our untrained thoughts, words and attitudes.  Our hearts and minds are far from God.  As Jesus said, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”  Mt. 15:7-9. 


Many Christians can say wonderful things about God in church and quote scriptures day and night, attend many meetings and participate in many projects; but their thoughts, words and attitudes have never changed.  It is only false appearances.   It is the heart that God looks into, not the gifts of the Spirit, and not the reputation among men.  Jeremiah, the prophet, said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?  I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”  Jer. 17:9-10.  God will search and test the heart until the very end.  In Revelation 2:23b, He says, “I am He which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” 


What is God searching for?  Is He looking for how many visions and dreams you have, how many prophecies, how many demons you cast out, how many people you healed or how many you raised from the dead?  No - He is looking for the fruit of the Spirit in your heart.  Your doings will reveal what fruit of the Spirit are in your heart.




One of the things God hates most is rebellion.  A few weeks ago, God spoke to me and said something like this, “The problem is obedience to spiritual authority.”  The spirit of Jezebel is running wild in the body of Christ today.  Rebellious hearts abound.  Christians have no intention of obeying their pastor or changing their lives.  They will find every excuse and reason to not obey the pastor or leaders.  One of the favorite tactics of the heart is to claim that they hear from God and will obey only God.  Since what is in their heart and mind opposes the pastor’s or leader’s instructions, they will conclude that the pastor is not hearing from God and therefore, they need not obey.  This is gross deception.  In my years of ministering, I have seen many leave the church claiming that God told them that it was time to move on.  Later, I discover that they had some disagreement with another member or were unhappy about something in the church.


The carnal mind will always find a way to disobey and the easiest way out is to claim that God told them to do it.




It is true that when the high priest, Caiaphas and other rulers of Israel commanded Peter and John “not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus, … Peter and John answered and said to them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.  For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”   Ac. 4:18-20. 


If God indeed told you to do something contrary to what the pastor or leader instructed you to do, then indeed you need to obey God.  There is no problem there.  But, there are two things you need to know:  (1)  Jezebel or some other spirit can sound just like God and can whisper in your ear too; and (2) there is a way to obey God and obey the pastor or leader at the same time. 


If God truly spoke to you, you will see the good fruit of what He instructed you to do.  If the fruit is not there or if what you think God told you to do brings disunity or conflict, you need to stop and pray that God will confirm.  Maybe it is not God.  Very often, it is Jezebel bringing spiritual death.  If it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.  In the past, many prophetesses in our church turned out to be hearing from Jezebel.


God will often test you to see what you are going to do with what He told you.  Are you going to challenge spiritual authority?  Or are you going to pray for the leader and ask God to change his mind or to show him the error of his ways or attitudes?  Even a prophet knows that sometimes revelation is not to be uttered in public or even right away.  Wisdom dictates that what God has revealed should be prayed over, meditated on and pondered.  It is not a simple or easy thing to cause disunity and disobedience.


Mature prophets know that the devil can sound like God at times.  That is why the apostle Paul gave instructions to avoid deception.  In 1 Corinthians 14:29, 32, Paul said, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge … and the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”  In other words, before you conclude that you are hearing from the Holy Spirit, you need to test it with two or three other prophets.  The devil is sneaky.




In almost every situation, there are many points of view.  If there are a hundred people, there will be a hundred viewpoints.  Some may be similar but none exactly the same.  Anyone can give free counsel and the leader should consider the different viewpoints, but in the end, the leader must make the decision as to what path he should take.  After all, if he makes the wrong decision, God will hold him responsible.  Advice comes cheap and plentiful; but taking responsibility for the results is a different matter. 


In ancient Aztec culture, there was an annual game in which the team that threw a feathered ball through a stone loop carved out of a high wall more often than the other team would be awarded the spoils of victory.  For an entire year, they would live like kings.  They would be given every comfort, food, drink, entertainment, women, slaves and so forth.  On the other hand, the losing team members would be killed on the spot, including every coach and advisor.


If your viewpoint is taken and adopted by the leader and he fails because it was the wrong advice, would you be willing to take the responsibility and consequences?  That’s why God says, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”  Heb. 13:17.  It is pride to think that your way is the only way and that only you can hear from God. 


I’ve experienced more than a few people leave the church because the pastor did not want to give them a position as elder or assistant pastor or did not want to listen to his or her advice. 




God has a habit of testing followers by causing their leader to make mistakes.  Leaders can make mistakes too.  But those who use the opportunity to gossip, murmur and complain are judged too.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, “the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”   David commanded Joab the captain of the host (army) to conduct a census of all the people.  David insisted although Joab and all the captains of the host disagreed.      “David’s heart smote him after that he had numbered the people.”  2 Sa. 24:10.  He prayed and asked for forgiveness, saying unto the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in that I have done.”   The Bible doesn’t say what the sin was; after all, it was God that put it in David’s heart.  God offered David three things as punishment.  Each one of those three things would result in something bad happening to the people.  God brought a pestilence upon Israel and 70,000 men died.


Note that the Lord was angry against Israel before the whole thing started and it was God who put it in David’s heart to number the people.  Perhaps David’s sin was not listening to his advisors and then not praying for confirmation from God.  At any rate, God allowed David to commit a sin so that God could bring judgment against Israel.


The point is - God will allow His leaders to make mistakes and even to sin, just to test your attitude towards spiritual authority.  If your leader committed adultery, what would you do?  Don’t be too sure that just because your leader is wrong and has clearly sinned, that your heart attitude towards God’s delegated authority is not being tested.




Jonathan loved David and knew that David was chosen by God to be the next king of Israel, over Jonathan.  Imagine Jonathan’s heart.  He was supposed to be the next king of Israel, but he loved David more than himself.  He could have openly backed David, betray his own father, go to David’s side and become the second highest in command after David became king.  After all, he knew that God was against his father and on the side of David.  But, Jonathan’s love and loyalty to his father and leader did not allow him to betray or rebel against Saul, right or wrong.  Jonathan chose to die in battle with his father, even though he knew that Saul was wrong.  It didn’t mean he had to agree with his father; but whatever the consequences, he was going to stay at his father’s side until the end.  Jonathan may have died in battle with his father, but I believe that he had a heart for God and is in heaven today on a level higher than most.  His heart was pure.


What would you do if your leader was wrong, even in God’s eyes?  Would you be quick to betray, desert, rebel and abandon him?  What’s in your heart?  God already knows; He wants you to know.

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