Skip to comments.Hearing God's Voice: Should you be trying to find out how God may be speaking to you?
Posted on 08/18/2013 8:45:55 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Should you be trying to find out how God may be speaking to you so you can make sure you do the right thing? Maybe not.
I get a lot of unusual and interesting things in the mail. I received a fax with eight sheets. The cover sheet says, "This fax is for Greg K.- eight pages - who does not believe that God communicates with people today outside the pages of the Bible. Please read this paper, Greg. Thanks." It's signed Clem, and Clem, thank you for this communique.
As I have skimmed through this and read some of the examples there are eight pages typed of illustrations that apparently come from Clem's life about God communicating with him. He's got two cases. He's got a case here: "audible in the outer ear, audible in the inner ear; dreams; strong impressions or thought; testimonies of others; the Bible; answered prayer and other ways." Some of these are very interesting. It would be kind of fun to read some of them, but I'm not going to because we don't have time.
I've actually heard some really remarkable stories where it's absolutely obvious to me that God is speaking to somebody, He's doing something supernatural in directing. I had a friend once that told me about how she really felt God wanted her to go and talk to a friend of hers who was a non-Christian that she worked with and tell him that God loved him. After much consternation and fighting she said, "Okay, God, I give in." She got up out of bed in middle of the night, drove to his house, knocked on his door. He answered the door and she said, "Well, I just have to tell you that God loves you"--she felt pretty silly. The guy broke down and cried--he had been contemplating suicide. In kind of a last ditch effort at contacting God he said, "God, if you don't stop me I'm going to kill myself tonight." Then he gets a knock on the door; this woman says, "God sent me over here to tell you He loves you." Pretty remarkable! Gee, what do I say about that?
Frankly, that's the way that this conversation usually goes when I make my point about guidance and God speaking to you, which is different than what Clem says my point is and I'll get to that in just a moment. Usually someone says, "What about this?" and then someone tells me their story. I was talking to some friends after service last night at Hope Chapel and it was the same thing--"Well, what about this? How do you explain this other thing?"--and someone gives me their personal account.
I have two responses to this.
First of all, Clem, what you said that I believe is not what I believe. I do not believe that God only communicates with people today through the pages of the Bible and that any other communication is illegitimate. I do not believe that. I have never, ever said that. I'm not surprised that you think I said that because people consistently misunderstand me on this point. I'm a bit mystified by it, to be honest with you, because I have spoken about this so many times and I have taken such great pains to be clear about it. I have gone through such great efforts to be precise about my language. I suspect that maybe people just aren't listening to the words, the specifics. I'll give you some of those specifics in just a moment.
I don't believe that God won't or can't or does not speak to us outside of the scriptures--certainly He does. In fact, the Scriptures make that point very clear. Someone asked me the question, "Do you believe God speaks to us?" I said, "Well, it kind of depends on what you mean by that." If you mean that God convicts us of sin through the Holy Spirit, which is an experiential thing, then yes, in a way. I mean when we are convicted by sin we feel that kind of "zap" that gets us. We're walking into the liquor store, guys, and there's this rack of magazines (you know what I'm talking about) staring you in the face as you're trying to buy your soda or whatever it is and you feel this little something inside of you--call it a voice, call it whatever you want--saying, "No, don't do that." That's conviction of the Holy Spirit and we might say that "God spoke to us," although it wasn't a voice, but that's the way God communicates to us. I believe in that because that's in the Bible, it's very clear.
What about when we read the Bible, or anything for that matter, and we have this kind of quickening in our minds or in our souls of an awareness of a truth. We are zapped. We're punched. We're popped. It cuts to the quick of our hearts and we're aware of it. Clearly it's not something that we've conjured up, it's something that we are aware that God is doing in our heart. We sometimes say, "That's God speaking to me about this issue." I say, "Okay you can use that terminology." I agree with that kind of thing, whatever you want to call it, because the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit counseling us and the Holy Spirit teaching us. It also talks about the Holy Spirit comforting us, and there's a sense that's existential and experiential where we really sense God's particular comfort in our heart and we sense His nearness. We sometimes say that God showed me or told me how much He loved me and it's an experiential thing. Sure, I have no problem with any of that. All of that is taught clearly in the Scripture. But that's not usually the kind of thing that's in question when I have these kinds of discussions with people about God speaking and directing and leading and all of that.
That leads me to the next point. The first thing is that that isn't what I believe. Secondly, what's interesting to me is look at the way people try to prove this idea that God is talking to us. They tell me their experience. Now their experience may be wonderful, but do you see how such a thing is circular reasoning? For me to say the Bible doesn't teach this and then someone to say, "Well, here's what happened to me." All they are telling me is what happened to them. They are not proving to me that God was involved with it just because it happened to them. That's precisely what's in question. I'm not questioning the experience, I'm questioning the source and the validity of the experience. Experience is not authoritative to me. Do you see that, ladies and gentlemen? I don't know why this doesn't sink in deeper with folks and they think that I'm denying the obvious.
I'm just simply saying if the question is "does God speak to us today," then for you to say "God spoke to me" is not a compelling argument because you are assuming what you are trying to prove--that God is speaking.
What is compelling to me is to go to the Scriptures and to show in the Scriptures where such a thing is a discipline.
Keep in mind now that I have agreed that there is a way in which we can say that God speaks to us and those ways are clearly outlined in the Scripture. He convicts us of sin. He comforts us. He teaches us through the Holy Spirit. He also answers prayer, which is one of the things that was mentioned in Clem's fax. He mentions a time when God used a verse to teach him something. I don't take exception with this. It doesn't count as evidence against my view because my view doesn't conflict with that particular point.
Here is my view. Does the Bible teach that we must learn to discern the voice of the Lord individually for ourselves to live optimal Christian lives? Does the Bible teach we must learn to discern the voice of the Lord individually for ourselves in order to live optimally as Christians? The answer is no it does not teach that. So when someone teaches that you hear the voice of the Lord individually for yourself for optimal Christian living as a Christian discipline, this is not a Biblical discipline, ladies and gentlemen. It is not in there. Are there incidents of God speaking? Yes, but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the discipline of learning to discern the voice of the Lord for myself to live optimally as a Christian. It's not there. Does the Bible teach that we are to seek this kind of guidance? The answer is no. It does not teach that we are seek this kind of guidance. Does the Bible teach that we are to expect this kind of guidance? Again the answer is no. And since the Bible doesn't teach that we have to learn this skill, since it doesn't teach that we are to seek this kind of guidance, since it doesn't teach that we are to expect this kind of guidance, then I don't know what all the folderol is about. Well, yes I do.
LAST PART OF THE ARTICLE:
This teaching that God will whisper in your ear all kind of particulars that pertain to you and His will for your life is very appealing to Christians. Even though when you look at the Scriptures, the specialized directions are rare. They are unusual. They are usually unsought. And they are always crystal clear. None of this “I think the Lord is telling me” business. People are still gravitating to the suggestion that we can develop a sixth sense that can tie us into a hotline to God so that we can have certitude about the things of life and the decisions we ought to make. Why is this appealing? Because it’s easy. It’s easy. You know Americans are given to quick fixes and this is the American Christian quick fix. We are also given to individualism and this is the American individualistic view of Christianity—guidance decision making. It fits the American mentality, not the Biblical mentality, not the Christian mentality, the American mentality. And that’s why this point of view is distinctly American. It’s a quick fix. It’s an easy way out. It’s kind of like Cliff Notes, only worse.
What happens here is that people don’t do the hard work of learning. Part of my conversation last evening with a friend who is a very gracious person dealt with the issue of anointing and filling and I made the comment that I’d never been anointed by the Holy Spirit in my life, nor was any Christian ever anointed by the Holy Spirit. When I said that, jaws dropped. When I said that it was like I had said Jesus is a demon or something. “How could you possibly say this, Koukl? Haven’t you ever felt the Holy Spirit well up inside of you?” I said, “Yes, I have.” And they said, “Well, there you go. That’s an anointing.” I said, “That’s not an anointing. That’s a filling of the Holy Spirit.” There has not been any anointing since Pentecost because the Holy Spirit is not on the outside, He’s on the inside. There is a distinct difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and that of the Old. The New being the fulfillment of the promise of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 37 and following in Joel and a number of other places of the giving of the New Covenant.
Now, here is what is interesting to me. I was having a conversation with a friend who was espousing this other point of view, at least in some measure, asking questions about it, and challenging me on it. She believes that this is an appropriate thing for Christians, yet at the same time this person didn’t have a clear understanding of the difference between the old covenant and the new with regards to the working of the Holy Spirit, which is fundamental in understanding how to look at Christian life.
This is my fear, ladies and gentlemen, and I’ll end with this point. This skill is being offered, and what it ultimately involves, what it ultimately ends up being is a short cut to the real McCoy of knowledge and spiritual growth. Instead of investing our time learning the truth and working at making it a part of us so that we have a good understanding of the truth from the front to the back, from the beginning to the end, from Genesis to Revelation, we opt out for an easy way out, which is to let God just tell us and therefore we are not equipped.
Not only that, but a lot of times when God tells us, what He tells us is false because it’s not God telling us. So we’ve got a lot of screwy things going on with people who believe this kind of thing, and instead of being devoted to developing spiritual maturity and attaining Scriptural knowledge we want the quick fix, and then we call the quick fix spiritual maturity and knowledge. That’s what is ironic about it. Instead of devoting ourselves to developing real maturity and attaining genuine Scriptural knowledge we go for the quick fix, and instead of developing mastery we want the Master to be sitting next to us during the tests of life whispering His answers in our ears. Do you know what that’s called, ladies and gentlemen? That’s called cheating. And there is no guarantee and no teaching and no instruction in the New Testament or Old that this is the way that we are to live our lives on a day to day basis. The only Word of God that we are ever enjoined to listen to is not the word that comes into our spiritual ears, as it were, from the spiritual ozone, but the Word that comes from the Scriptures. That’s the one that we are told to learn, listen, heed, abide and hide in our heart.
GOD DID NOT CREATE HIS UNIVERSE and Place Us In It to IGNORE his presence therein!
The “natural” world we live in speaks of his being”
Our interactions ...if we focus our attention on his sovereignty.. can easily speak to us.
The Holy Spirit is given to each of us in a special way. That is for the good of all. 8 To some people the Spirit gives the message of wisdom. To others the same Spirit gives the message of knowledge. 9 To others the same Spirit gives faith. To others that one Spirit gives gifts of healing. 10 To others he gives the power to do miracles. To others he gives the ability to prophesy. To others he gives the ability to tell the spirits apart. To others he gives the ability to speak in different kinds of languages they had not known before. And to still others he gives the ability to explain what was said in those languages.
The author tries to make the HS work in an either/or way. Clearly, scripture portrays a multifaceted Spirit.
So, when someone speaks and tells us that he is speaking because the Holy Spirit gave him a message, how does one discern if it is God’s message of wisdom , knowledge, etc?
The first safeguard is the Church. A bible believing Church knowledgeable in scripture and the ways of the HS is vital for every Christian. The second safeguard are the persons Christian family. God places us among others so that we can encourage and support each others growth in Christ. The third safeguard is the individual’s understanding of scripture and God’s ways.
Christian growth is designed to be done in community and is dependent on the whole body and all the gifts. Knowledge of scripture is one gift, wisdom another, interpretation another.
RE: A bible believing Church knowledgeable in scripture and the ways of the HS is vital for every Christian.
I don’t think the author is disagreeing with you. That’s EXACTLY what he is saying.
He seems to be teaching it is an either/or answer. He also seems to discount the process of maturity. One of the reasons other Christians seek my counsel is because I have been through many trials as a Christian.
My personal model for discerning whether its God talking or me talking is applying the issue to heart, authority, tools and gifts, closer to God, holiness.
Has God given me a heart of Jesus toward it.
Has God given me the authority
Has God given me the gifts and tools
Will this bring me closer to God
Will this bring sanctification to my life.
I call it HATCH
"Teaching them [new disciples] to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
My personal experience demonstrates this is not only true but profoundly true.
He is in CONTINUAL, unbroken (unless we break it) dialogue with us.
But He speaks softly because He wants us to act according to His will out of love and faith...not because he is yelling.;-)
I was just discussing this phenomenon this week with a prayer partner, so what a great balm this article is to me today! Just what I needed to hear! Thank you for today’s sermon, SeekAndFind!
RE: He seems to be teaching it is an either/or answer
Can you elaborate? He seems to be teaching either what? or what else?
The choice is between scripture and individual revelation and not that both exist.
RE: The choice is between scripture and individual revelation and not that both exist.
OK, how do we know if someone who claims INDIVIDUAL REVELATION from God today ( emphasis ) is really speaking for Him?
You just went full circle. See my response above.
OK, let’s have more clarity. I know we know what scripture teaches... but how do yo define INDIVIDUAL REVELATION?
Let’s use vocation as an example. Scripture can tell us what not to do but it doesn’t address personal choices. God speaks to us constantly about our choices. Some he may reveal a path to minister as a pastor, some he may call to be truckers.
That is an application of WISDOM. I don’t think God is telling anybody ( the way we spoke to Moses, Abraham or Samuel ) that he has to be a pastor or a trucker.
If a person looks at his own capabilities, education and talents and decides to be one or the other, he is simply applying BIBLICAL WISDOM to his choice.
But let’s try something else more important, which has a direct bearing on America... you are an individual Christian citizen, you have a choice to vote for the following in the primary : Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry.
How does God speak to you individually as to who you should vote for? ( Or simply stay at home )?
“No, I will NOT build an ark.”
Wisdom and God speaking are not necessarily the same thing. It wasn’t wise for Abraham to take his son up on a mountain to sacrifice him.
I know for a fact that God DOES speak to some people and tell them they have to be a pastor or a trucker. I attended a Christian college. Early during my sophomore year, several friends received distinct calls from God for full time Christian service. On a Monday, I told God “Here’s your chance. I’m in a Christian college. I’m in the perfect place to prepare for a full-time ministry. God, are you calling me to a full-time career in a ministry?” I prayed hard during the week. On that Thursday, God clearly answered me that I was called to be a layman.
I can tell you of several distinct times in my life when God has spoken. A couple of them were pretty harsh and humbling.
“So, when someone speaks and tells us that he is speaking because the Holy Spirit gave him a message, how does one discern if it is Gods message of wisdom , knowledge, etc?”
Nothing is more dangerous than the folks who claim such things. I’ve had people claim that God had gifted them with such powers of discernment that they could just almost read the minds of other people. Others claimed divine revelations for certain doctrines.
But all this is silly because the scripture is the only source given as useful for “reproof, doctrine, instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
The obvious answer to these people is simple... try them with the scripture. No matter what they say, if it does not line up with the scripture, then it is worthless. And I think that we can be pretty sure that if God wants to say something to you, He isn’t going to do it in such a way that the message does not hit home or is ineffectual.
RE: I know for a fact that God DOES speak to some people and tell them they have to be a pastor or a trucker.
1) God SPOKE to Abraham in a manner that we do not know today. There was no scripture to guide Abraham back then.
2) I am interested in knowing HOW God spoke to these people you mentioned to tell them what vocation they must choose. How? by an audible voice? By a sign? (what sign), by a dream? HOW?
God doesn’t speak to some people. He speaks to everyone. It’s up to the individual on whether they want to listen and repsond or run in the other direction.
God can speak in any method He chooses. Audible voice, sermon, music, scripture, dreams (Job 32) nature (Romans 2).
Can you honestly say that you have never had an inner voice giving you direction, perhaps as minor as a road to take or on a more major topic?
RE: Can you honestly say that you have never had an inner voice giving you direction, perhaps as minor as a road to take or on a more major topic?
If by that, you mean an inner impression, a feeling or a hunch, yes of course.
But I try not to make important decisions based on these. I gather MORE DATA, ask questions, discuss with people for advise, and THEN, on that basis make my decision.
As for taking a turn on the road or say, having what food for breakfast or lunch, or any minor decisions, I follow (or at least try to follow, although I sometimes fail) these principles:
1. The Principle of OBEDIENCE: Where God commands, we must obey.
2. The Principle of FREEDOM: Where there is no command, God gives us freedom (and responsibility) to choose.
3. The Principle of WISDOM: Where there is no command, God gives us wisdom to choose.
4. The Principle of HUMBLE TRUST: When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust the sovereign God to work all the details together for good.