While many Christians were in their local church hearing God speak in the reading, singing, and preaching of his Word, Katy Perry was preparing for the half-time performance of Super Bowl XLIX. I suppose for any artist this is a once in a life time chance and is probably the biggest venue they will ever play. According to recent ratings, Katy’s performance was the most-watched halftime show in history, with 118.5 million viewers. To whom does she attribute the success? Well, in her own words, to God. “It’s funny, I was praying and I got a word from God and He says, ‘You got this and I got you.'”
Not surprisingly her comment caused a flurry of responses. Some people find it impossible that God would speak to her. Though raised in a Pentecostal home Katy no longer identifies herself as a Christian, she publicly promotes movements that are contrary to the Bible, and one would need to do gymnastics to find redemptive quality in her music. Others are suggesting this as her “burning bush” or “Damascus road” experience–God confirming his wayward daughter that he hasn’t let her go.
There’s probably been enough commentary on all of this to make most people go bonkers. After all, does it really matter if a super-star celebrity claimed God spoke to her? Many will brush it off, “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t, but does it matter?” Well, I would think that for any Christian who loves the Word of God it would matter a lot. Not because Katy Perry has a bigger platform than others, but because anytime someone–a pop-star, televangelist, or six year old boy back from heaven–says, “God said to me…” we’re forced to decide yea or nay.
Of course this language isn’t restricted to a few isolated people. It’s become an almost ubiquitous Christian phrase. I remember when I was studying at a Christian college there was a running joke that if you wanted a girl to date you, you would say, “The Lord told me we were meant to be together.” Who can argue with that? The smart girl would respond, “Funny, he didn’t tell me.” Triviality aside, it’s a very serious claim to say “God said to me…” The Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The word there for “test” means examine, prove, or to discern. So when someone claims to be speaking the words of God we’re not simply to nod our heads in charity and say, “Well, who am I to question?” We’re called to be discerning. Even the Bereans heard Paul and “[examined] the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Unfortunately, and I write this without hyperbole, one of the greatest weaknesses in the American Church is our inability to be discerning.
Let me put it this way. Whenever someone claims “God said to me…” we have one of two options. Either God did speak, or he did not–that’s not a false dichotomy! If he did speak we need to receive and accept that word not as the word of men, but as it is the Word of God. If we don’t we’ll be guilty of not listening to the word of the Lord, like those whom God charges when he said “you cast my words behind you” (Psalm 50:17). And the Apostle Paul reminds us of the seriousness of this, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20). If, however, God didn’t speak that word, then the one who did is lying in God’s name since he didn’t speak it (see Jeremiah 14:14). That’s something the Lord takes seriously, “The LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). And if we receive it as his word–when it’s not–we put ourselves in the greatest danger (2 John 1:8-11). As Christians we must be sure that we neither add to or take away the Word of God (see Revelation 22:18-19).
Did God speak to Katy Perry? Does he tell the televangelist to raise money? Did a little boy have a transcendent experience of heaven? If so, we’re compelled to listen. I, however, am compelled by biblical conviction to say, “Absolutely not!” But to my evangelical friends who may not agree with me, I would simply encourage you to consider these things and weigh them carefully. Remember, it’s no little thing to say, “God said to me…”