The power of an idea is strong in some of God’s servants. When an idea that appeals to their predispositions and personality comes into their mind, they are likely to want to embrace it for the kingdom of God. To take the idea captive, as the Apostle says. They will want to implement it immediately. But are all their ideas from the Lord?
Years ago, a former Archbishop of Canterbury told me a story. His dear wife said to him once: “You have a hundred good ideas every day, but only God knows if any of them came from him.” She clearly implied that her husband thought all of them were from God, and she did not. It was a humbling moment for a man entrusted with great national and global responsibility in submission to the Lord of the Church.
How do we know when an idea has come from the Lord? Several things will always be true, in my experience and conviction.
First, the idea will never conflict with the clear Word of God written, as that is supported by many evidences of Scripture. An idea from God will build on the truth revealed in his Son. Nothing the Holy Spirit wants done will lead in a way that is contrary to Jesus’ clear teaching.
Second, the idea will not conflict with the clear teaching of the apostles of Jesus, as that is revealed to us in the New Testament. The authority that the Risen Lord gave to them is now available for us in the writings of the New Testament. The Gospels and Epistles are, for a believer, the Word of God through his chosen servants. They convey Divine Authority.
Third, the idea will commend itself to the deepest wisdom that the Lord has given to his church. The tradition of men must never be allowed to overturn or to crush the clear Word of God written, that is true, but the holy people of God have been through many of the trials and temptations we are still prone to. Their guidance can usually be trusted to alert us to any grievous error or distortion of God’s revealed truth. We must not be ignorant of the church’s history.
Fourth, God has put all of his people in relationship with those who are over them in the Lord, that they may be rightly led in the ways of grace and truth. It is a rare when a thing is to be done without their support. It will happen in seasons of extraordinary reform, perhaps, but generally the concurrence of the local leadership of the church is to be expected if a thing is from the Lord. It is fundamental to the pastoral office that those so called help those committed to their charge rightly to discern the will of God.
Finally, I believe from a lifetime of walking with the Lord Jesus, that God has given husbands to wives, and wives to their husbands, so that they may walk together in unity of heart and spirit. If a thing is from God, the one closest to you in the Lord will know it too. Maybe not immediately, but certainly.