First, warm thanks to Mark Hootman for the great photo from the GKB set at this year’s AudioFeed Festival 🙂
If you’re a rock guitarist or simply a loud music lover you likely know what “feedback” means.
I have long loved hearing feedback from live and sometimes studio recordings of great bands playing cookin’ songs. There is something about that electric guitar through a cranked amp moving the speakers in that way that adds to a performance something like Scotch Bonnet peppers do to a bowl of chili.
But not everyone likes heat (or perhaps some other spice) in their meal.
There is great feedback and what we call “uncontrolled” feedback. There is a chaos that really ends up being noise of a not-good nature. It ain’t right, don’t fit, no singing or song, just an off-key noise.
In what is often called “the circumcision dispute” among the new Christ-followers written about in Acts chapter 15 and elsewhere there was another sort of feedback issue. You might even say there was feedback responding to feedback.
Paul and the apostles in Jerusalem met to discuss whether all new Gentile Christian men needed to be ritually circumcised as was Jewish custom for believers.
Some people had begun teaching that this must happen for the new converts to truly be saved.
Meeting over this question, they discussed what God had been doing among these Gentile converts. Various of the leaders spoke, quoted scripture on the issue(s), deliberated for a time and then wrote what was for me, a super eye-opening letter that I believe gives great insight on dealing with various teachings, disputes, discord and issues of strife among believers.
One of these lines is the sort I’d personally never be comfortable writing (“It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit”) but I’m glad they did. Of course they meant “we think God is saying thus and such” but translated into English it comes over pretty bold.
So they made sure this letter was copied and passed around to local churches all over. Here it is:
“The apostles, the elders, and the brothers, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: greetings. 24 Because we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law,’ to whom we gave no commandment; 25 it seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose out men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who themselves will also tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden on you than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality, from which if you keep yourselves, it will be well with you. Farewell.” -Acts 15.23-29
In many years of traveling the world I’ve met plenty of amazing people and heard lots of amazing (!) things, some of which seemed quite out-to-lunch in terms of truth from the Bible, and/or historical reality. Sometimes it seemed I was hearing nonsense that someone or a group of someones had latched onto as “revelation from God” they were compelled to pass along to myself and/or others.. I could tell you stories and with no embellishment, you’d get how crazy things can be via words at times!
Having said this, it’s also true I’ve heard and received powerful, accurate and edifying words from people. Sometimes what they bring is absolutely solid, genuine and truth, convicting (me personally) of sin I must repent of, an important direction I need to take, etc.. Sometimes a teaching rings biblical and true, sometimes not. Paying careful attention to feedback is a good thing!
I’ve had people prophesy Spirit-led truth (both kind and hard-to-hear corrective stuff) that I had to act on… as well as nonsense, blathering foolishness at times proclaimed in faith that the Spirit was giving them The Message for me.
I have always tried to really listen, pray, ask God honestly “Is this for me? Is there any truth in it? What do YOU want me to do with this Lord?”
As a Christ-follower I learned early on to go back to the Book, prayer, accountability to those I know are the real deal, know Jesus, His Word and really know me- to those who have the love and guts to confront me if I need to accept and deal with something I’d rather avoid.
This is one of several examples highlighting the importance of linking with honest, genuine Christ-followers and not merely fans, friends or “yes-people” slack in following Jesus, those who rarely consult the Bible on the issues or simply don’t love you enough to tell you hard truth. Some don’t care enough to get at the truth, either from the Word nor in life.
TOOOOO many believers either don’t seek out or will not accept input (FEEDBACK) from truly good-hearted peeps, be they leaders or not, or due to the difficulty of finding and maintaining close relationships of love and trust with godly, loving people, well… “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” as it says. Not good.
Many traveling musicians have told me crazy stories of what folks said to them and had little input on what to do with the feedback. So check this out:
v. 24 “Because we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law,’ TO WHOM WE GAVE NO COMMANDMENT” (My caps for accent).
In essence, they said “Hey, WE didn’t send these guys out to lay these law-trips on you. These people may have been part of the assembly in Jerusalem but we don’t agree with their position regarding circumcision and Jewish law-keeping as essential to salvation, period. So here are four areas we -do- think are important to the Lord. Don’t let these folks and their teaching mess up your walk with God.”
So many times I’ve taken someone’s “word for me/us” back to The Word, to those I trust in leadership in the church, of course to God in prayer, and even when needed, to church history for reflection and guidance. We want to truly hear His voice through others, but we also want to dismiss error or foolishness.
THIS is how I’ve lived my spiritual life with a fair sense of peace, security and yet openness over the years.
God’s Word is clear: we are to not despise prophecy but we are also called to test all things and not merely accept just any bit of feedback as sound.
Things to consider! As always, thanks for stopping by.