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Sermon Overview & Prayer: "Discern, Don't Despise"

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1 Thessalonians 5:19-22  – PRAYER POINTS
Discern, Don’t Despise By CJ Mahaney
These written prayers are intended to fuel your meditation on this passage and your enjoyment of God in prayer.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thess. 5:19-22)

“For Paul, the Spirit, as an experienced and living reality, was the absolutely crucial matter for the Christian life, from beginning to end…the health of the contemporary church necessitates that its theology of the Spirit and its experience of the Spirit correspond more closely.” Gordon Fee

PRAYER: Father, in Jesus Name, prompt me to regularly ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Thank you that all you have willed for me, and that Christ has secured for me, has been made known and applied to me through the ministry of the Spirit. May this reality stir an eager, faith-filled desire and dependence on his presence and power in all that I do!

“[Prophecy] consisted of spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible messages, orally delivered in the gathered assembly intended for the edification or encouragement of the people by men or women who remained in control of the activity.” Gary Shogren

PRAYER: Lord, may we embrace and obey your Word that prohibits us from despising prophecy, that directs us to pursue love and earnestly desire prophecy and that declares that the church is built up through prophecy. May we fervently pray for this gift for our upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, in light of the blessings of the gift of prophecy, lead me to further instruction, understanding, and desire for this gift. Stir in my heart a love for others that prompts me to take, even small steps of faith, trusting that if I ask for bread, you will not give me a stone.

The testing of prophecy doesn’t quench the Spirit but ensures the genuineness and effectiveness of the Spirit’s work through prophecy. Test it with these Scripturally-informed standards.

  • Biblical: We are never to assign more authority to a prophecy than we assign to the written word of God.

“Impressions need to be suspected before they are sanctioned; tested before they are trusted. J.I. Packer

  • Christological: Deny any claimed experience of the Spirit that detracts from the dignity of Christ as truly God and truly human and from the integrity of his saving work.
  • Godly character: Matthew 7:15
  • Does it edify, build up, encourage and comfort the church? (I Cor. 14.3)

PRAYER: Father, as I am growing in my knowledge of the person and work of your Spirit, help me to grow in my faith and discernment of what is, and what isn’t born of the Spirit. Deepen my love for the Savior and your Word, so that in knowing and treasuring the true, I will more quickly recognize and reject the false.

God kindly makes his presence known and felt through this gift, and that is why we value this gift. Through the church, the gift of prophecy is a way God draws near to His people and comforts His people.

PRAYER: Father, help me to perceive, and embrace, those moments in our gatherings when the Holy Spirit is bringing a greater glimpse of the glory of Christ, a greater joy in the gospel, and a greater comfort in your nearness. May such moments build faith and anticipation, and prompt our sense of awe and worship, that we are in the very presence of God!

PRAYER: Father, as you help me to grow in the fear of the Lord, loving righteousness and hating iniquity, may my love for you and others abound with wisdom and discernment, compassion and courage, faithfulness and faith. Help our church to not quench the Spirit by despising prophecy, because the purpose of the Spirit in and through prophecy is that we might know, love and obey our glorious and gracious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

OVERVIEW OF THE SERMON:

Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to avoid extremism when pursuing prophecy. Paul encourages them not to despise prophecy or quench the Spirit. Then, he exhorts them to test prophecies, holding fast to what is good and abstaining from evil. We can test a prophecy by applying four criteria. First, prophecy should always be under Scripture’s authority. Second, prophecy should be centered on glorifying Christ who gave us the Holy Spirit. Third, those who prophesy should have godly character. Fourth, prophecy exists to build up the church.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. CJ quoted Jeff Purswell’s definition of prophecy: “A verbal report in human words of something God has spontaneously revealed, shared for the purpose of edification, encouragement, or comfort.” How did this definition enlarge your view of what prophecy is? 
  2. Paul also exhorts the Thessalonians to test prophecy. Which of CJ’s four criteria to test prophecy did you find most helpful?
  3. CJ said that the Spirit’s work is Christ-centered—the Spirit exists to glorify Christ and shine a light on Him. How does a Christ-centered view of the Spirit’s work protect us from error?
  4. How have you been personally encouraged by prophecy in our church? As CJ mentioned, prophecy is broad and includes prophetic words shared at the microphone, the Spirit’s work in preaching, and prophetic songs.
  5. How can CJ’s four criteria help us prepare for the Spirit’s work in all areas of our lives including evangelism and discipleship?