I’ve written before, here and here and here, about the importance of private revelation, about keeping to yourself what God tells you in confidence or speaking out loud what God tells you to share. Sometimes he’ll tell you to keep it quiet for a while before revealing it to others, and sometimes he’ll tell you not to say anything at all about it, ever, that it’s a secret just between you and him. I like those secrets best, the ones that stay quiet. I like having secrets with God.
I remember, in the weeks after I was first born-again, God would tell me secret after secret, and again and again what he told me would come to pass. He was showing me how he works. He was teaching me that I could trust him. I learned to trust him in part because everything he told me came to pass just as he predicted.
It still does.
When God confides in us, tells us a secret that we’re to keep to ourselves or share later with others, we are in the same position with God as Jesus was during his time on Earth. God also shared secrets with Jesus, more than we can imagine. We know this because Jesus said to his disciples that there were many things they needed to know, but he couldn’t tell them yet because they couldn’t bear it. Several times he even told them to keep quiet the revelation that he was the Christ. Several times he told them “I tell you this now, so that when the time comes, you will know that I am he who was to come.” But after his resurrection, Jesus commanded his followers to tell the world everything he’d told them, most importantly that he is the Christ.
Being a follower of Jesus necessarily requires you to hold tight some secrets and reveal others, to always be in communication with God: to hear from him as well as to speak to him. To the world, a born-again believer bears a striking resemblance to a nutcase. Jesus was considered crazy not just by the powers-that-be in general, but also by those closest to him in blood. Even though his mother and siblings knew he could do things that defied natural laws (the water-into-wine trick must have been a big hit at family gatherings long before the wedding at Cana, since his mother seemed to be intimately aware of just how it worked), they were still afraid he’d lost his mind when he made the very public leap from being a prophet to being The Prophet foretold by Moses.
And there’s the rub: the difference between keeping it between you and God, and going public.
Jesus went public already when he was 12 years old, or at least he tried. He didn’t get very far, as it wasn’t his time yet to go public. God had to send his mother and father to reel him back in. That passionate part of Jesus that breaks through every so often even when he was an adult was difficult for the boy Jesus to restrain. It’s that same passionate part of Jesus that the Holy Spirit had a field day with during Jesus’ ministry years, particularly when Jesus was dealing with the religious hypocrites and with those who were sincerely penitent. God, through his Holy Spirit, could reach out through Jesus’ passion and actually touch people the way they needed to be touched – either as a well-timed and perfectly worded reprimand, or as a perfect healing. Those words were God’s words coming directly out of Jesus’ mouth, just as the healings were God’s healings coming directly out of Jesus’ hands.
Read through the Old and New testaments and you’ll find example after example of believers who spoke to and heard from God. We wouldn’t have a Bible if those people hadn’t spoken to and heard from God. Most of them were initially thought crazy or continued to be thought so by unbelievers, but when God told them to go public with his revelations, they did. Their revelations form the lion’s share of scripture.
We born-again believers by very definition speak to and hear from God on a daily basis. That is what it means to be born-again – to have God’s Holy Spirit constantly with us, so that we don’t need to perform a ritual or seek the services of an intermediary to get God’s attention. He’s always with us through his Spirit, the way he was with Jesus. This is an unfathomable privilege that even the Old Testament prophets did not have. They were visited only occasionally by God’s Spirit; they didn’t have the Spirit 24/7, as we do.
Most of what God tells me I keep to myself. Some of it I write in this blog, and some I tell specific people, as God guides me. This is no different from what Jesus did – keep some revelations to himself, reveal some to certain individuals, and go public with others, all in God’s time. What Jesus did, we’re to do. He was our example during his time on Earth. He told us: If they think I’m crazy, they’re going to think you’re crazy, too. And so “they” do. That’s in part why God tells us to keep some secrets to ourselves and to reveal others only at a certain time and place. Elsewise, the dogs might tear us to pieces, and the swine might steal our pearls.