What is the difference between a Prophet who foretells according to the Holy Spirit and a person that is merely a fortune-teller who claims to be practicing Christian Prophecy? There are many differences, and the distance in holiness between the real-thing and its fake model is unfathomably large. While we know that the holiness of God is only present among those who practice true Christian prophecy, the difference between what truly looks like true prophecy and true prophecy is more subtle. Why is this? Because mankind is fallible but God is not. God knows what true prophecy is, the church needs the assistance of God in knowing the difference.
One major difference is a prophet is touched and truly motivated by the Holy Spirit. We especially know where the Holy Spirit is by knowing what it is not. An example of motives not touched by the Holy Spirit: money, fame, power. Let us see how these three influences are not of the Lord:
Money: The New Testament has several unkind words on greed. The love of money has absolutely nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. The two are completely opposed.
Fame: God does not care about the amount of fame that a prophet has. Fame for its own sake is as bad as the other bad influence on a prophet:
Power: This is similar to fame. Power manifests itself in fame as one way, money as another. Another might even be high status in the family or status in the church due to an ostensibly prophetic gift. If the reason why this church member practices Christian prophecy is that they want more power in the church or any other group of people, this is not prophecy!
These are the ways to tell what Christian prophecy is not. Another way to find out if someone practices Christian prophecy is to ask …
What is Christian prophecy motivated by?
A true prophet is motivated by bringing glory and honor to Jesus. The central question to ask when wondering if a person is really practicing Christian Prophecy: what is the motivation? If they sound like the famous Jerry McGuire line show me the money! they do not have the power of Christian prophecy. In a nutshell: if a prophet benefits from anything except the glory of the Lord, it is not prophecy.
What makes for authentic Christian prophecy is not always dependent on the content of the message of the prophet but also the focus that the prophet puts on his prophecy inside of the church; the context that the prophet speaks under. The emphasis on prophecy is actually not to predict the future; the focus is communicating Godly principals to Christians. This is one of the most misunderstood elements of Christian prophecy. Christian prophecy might predict the future but it might not. The message of God has much more to do with the purpose of your life and the way that the church can reflect its glory than it has to do with simply anticipating the future.
Basically this criterion boils down to this truth on Christian prophecy: if a church trips prophecy like a parlor trick: the prophecy is a parlor trick.