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Direct Revelation

This is an attempt to gather together a collection of thoughts on the subject of direct revelation. It is a subject which is widely misunderstood.

Staying open, in order to keep receiving

In Eight Ways to Know God's Will we listed direct revelation as second in importance only to the teachings of Jesus. Primarily, direct revelation has to do with focusing us on which of the teachings of Jesus we are most likely to need to remember in the battles that we are facing at any particular time.

Most abuses of direct revelation come when people assume they have received something which is unique, infallible, universal, or eternal. The antidote for this form of delusion is usually not to do less listening to God, but rather to do more. That is because truly listening to God requires us to even lay aside previous revelations, in order to hear what God is saying for today. Perhaps yesterday God was spurring us into action, whereas today he may want us to slow down and rest. Yesterday he may have been telling us to trust someone, but today he may caution us not to be too open. To discover his will for the moment, we must be prepared to let go of what was his will for the past.

To a certain extent we must also do the same with our understanding of the teachings of Jesus. Obviously, if direct revelation starts clearly contradicting the teachings of Jesus, then we must seriously question its source. But often direct revelation has challenged myths we had about the teachings of Jesus, and in so doing, it sharpens our commitment to what Jesus really taught.

In Hearing What We Don't WANT to Hear we learned that what it takes to receive direct revelations is total openness to the voice of God. We must be prepared to hear things that shock and challenge us. Expect the unexpected! This trait is fundamental; it cannot be over-emphasised. Jesus said that we must be as little children if we want to inherit his kingdom. (Mark 10:15) For Nicodemus that meant letting go of all his supposed knowledge, and, like a little child, letting God say things to him that his religious nature had prejudiced him against. (John 3:3, and John 3:10-11)

This openness to something new must be an on-going trait. How often we receive something from God and then run off to preach it for the rest of our lives, without thinking to return to God for updates and improvements. (See The Pizza Parable.) Most denominations are formed in that way. They get one tiny truth, and set up camp around it for the rest of eternity. Being like little children should be a constant state for us as Christians.

It's not that knowledge and experience play no part at all; but rather that we must never assume that we have learned it all. (See Lest You Fall.) Childlike faith is not an action, which can be fully expressed in a single moment of time. It is an on-going trait. Often we rise from a moment of humble faith, only to become proud and self-righteous about our humility. But true humility is like an elusive butterfly, never fully captured.

Processing the revelation

Once we have a revelation, whether it be a dream, a vision, the words to a song or to a Bible passage, or some other words, then we must interpret what we have received. Occasionally we may receive a prophecy which is complete in itself; but more often an interpretation is needed. To do that we must honestly analyse what we have received, paying special attention to feelings. Did something seem particularly right or particularly wrong in the dream or vision? Was something a threat, or a source of comfort? What were the relationships between various people, incidents, or words in the revelation? Did objects, people or actions have any symbolic meaning (e.g. a cat representing curiosity)? Did some parts of a dream or vision stand out as being most important?

From this we can work on interpreting the various ingredients of the revelation. Do key words, characters, or symbols represent or form natural links with something or someone else? In "The Bin Raiders", for example, there is a dream about two children on a tram. The person having the dream feels that it is right to protect one child, but in doing so, the other falls off. The story takes place in Sydney where trams are associated with Bondi Beach. The two boys seem to represent the needs of two different people, and the characters are being braced to count the cost of accepting a threat to one in order to save the other. All of these seem to hinge around an event which takes place at Bondi Beach. That is the interpretation.

Once you have had a revelation and found an interpretation, then it becomes necessary to make an application of the lesson you learned from it. This is where the tyre meets the road. If you don't apply it, then all that went before is wasted.

Bear in mind that the reason God gave you the revelation in the first place was because he knew that, left to your own devices, this was the very thing you were most likely to make a wrong decision on. So if you forget about the lesson you received in your revelation, you will most likely make the wrong decision. If the lesson, for example, was to work harder, then you probably will slack off and get sidetracked from an important job that needed doing. If the lesson was to slow down, you will probably become so enthused about something you are doing that you will waste time on it and miss out on something much more important.

I am surprised at how many times people will go straight from a listening time into doing something which totally contradicts the lesson they have just received. Along with hearing what we don't want to hear, there must be a willingness to apply a lesson where we don't want to apply it. And to do that, we must review the lesson throughout the day. Sometimes the application will become obvious at the time we get the interpretation (especially when we are listening as a group). But at other times, we will only discover the application as a situation arises during the day. Of course, we must be watching for the application, or we will almost certainly miss it.

In conclusion:

Remember that the whole idea of direct revelation stems from our faith in a personal God, who wishes to communicate with his children. It is not a game to entertain and amuse, but a serious part of our faith and of our relationship with our Creator. Treat these revelations and this relationship with the respect that they deserve, and you will soon see your life changing in significant ways.

Postscript: If you find revelations confusing you and apparently leading you around in circles, then you probably need to back off and work on the other seven ways to know God's will. Direct revelations are not the ONLY way to know God's will, and they will work best when they are used in conjunction with the other seven ways.

(See also Lest You Fall.)

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