Sunday, November 09, 2008

How Does God Speak?

One of the unfortunate results of our present postmodern cultural shift toward idealistic uncertainty is a new skepticism regarding the ability for a Christian to hear God speak to them in real time.  Even more frequently questioned - and rejected - is the notion that we might actually understand his words with any measure of certainty.

Consequently, when I ask people what God's been saying to them, they generally respond in several predictable ways.  First, they frequently begin by explaining they don't hear an "audible voice" - a way of casting the notion of definitive real-time communication from God as something inaccessible and even a little silly.  Second, they often cite their circumstances as the primary way through which God leads and confirms their course of action.  Third, they generally infuse their response with a healthy dose of what they personally want and the rational reasons for it.

Now hear this... Divine audible voices, circumstantial leading, and the desires of our hearts are all good and fine; but God has gone to great lengths to put in us his very personal, constantly speaking Holy Spirit.  If we do not have two-way communication with the Spirit of God inside us, then we ought to recognize the great opportunity before us to deepen our relationship with him - which, at present, we must confess would be lacking communication (a fundamental element of any healthy relationship).

Here are a few things Scripture says on the topic and what our expectation of two-way communication with God's Spirit should be:
  • Romans 8:14 - God's kids hear and follow the Spirit's leading
  • Romans 8:16 - God's Spirit and ours speaks to remind us we're born again
  • Galatians 4:6 - God's Spirit is in our hearts calling out, "Abba!"
  • John 14:26 - Jesus promised the Spirit would be in his followers, teaching us Christ's words.
  • John 16:13 - Jesus promises that the Spirit will teach us what he, himself, was unable to teach us in person.
  • 1 John 2:27 - The Spirit, living in those who have received him, teaches us directly
  •  Revelation 3:20 - Jesus waits for us to hear his voice
  • James 1:5 - If we lack wisdom (i.e. God's insight or instruction for us) we're instructed to ask expectantly, since God is eager to give it.
  • 1 John 4:1 - As we hear internal speaking, we are to "test the spirits" to see if it's God we're hearing or a deceiving voice.
  • Hebrews 5:14 - Discerning internal voices is the result of practice and training, a product of spiritual maturity
Additionally, the frequent audible communication of God to his people in the Old Testament indicates that he desires to speak and be heard.  Now that his Spirit, once an external reality, lives inside those who have received him, it makes sense that his continued communication would also be more internal than external.  

What I am beginning to hear among my "emergent" Christ-following friends is a discontentment with the apparent lack of the visibly supernatural in their midst, and yet, simultaneously, a refusal to pursue or receive God's immediate communication that lies at the heart of such miraculous events.

There is such an overwhelming treasure God has laid before us in this.  He is eager to speak, if only we will learn to listen.  Can you imagine living each day, hearing God's voice in your heart and mind?  Hearing him lead you, encourage you, correct you, and give you insight into people and circumstances you interact with?  This is part of living daily in the kingdom!  I'm interested in hearing if any might be willing to seek such a gift God so eagerly desires for us.


duncanmcf said...

Good post John, thanks for this. To me the testing is key also. I think there's a responsibility to make space to listen also - like in any kind of relationship, and more so in this. There does seem more interest now in learning from experience and circumstance than scripture now in my experience, which is obviously not overly helpful. I think the point you make about being expectant is very helpful - how often do I read the bible and am actually expectant that God will speak?

John Lynch said...

Right on, Duncan. Thanks for your voice, brother. It's always welcome.

Anonymous said...

Until further notice God will be communicating primarily through this website:

Anonymous said...

I have recently faced a trial that has turned my world up side down. I immediately began to pray and fast asking God for help and direction. I prayed constantly, while working, driving, I prayed until I fell asleep at night. After reading a book by Dr. Adrian Rogers I stopped praying so much and started listening more. One day while hunting, things were really quiet and I asked God to please speak to me. Well once again; nothing! After a while I went home and got busy working around the house. Then out of the blue I was overwhelmed with this feeling of peace and joy. I suddenly knew everything was going to be ok. As a matter of fact I knew God had taken care of everything. It was done! There was no need to pray about this problem anymore. It be silly to pray about something that had already been done. It was just that certain! I have never experienced anything like that before. I consulted with goddly friends and they all agreed that it was God speaking to me. As Dr. Adrian Rogers put it, I got the answer in my heart and I am waiting for God to put it in my hand. I praise and thank God everyday for the answered prayer and will continue to do so until I have the answer literally in my hand!