Many well-meaning Christians think that any possibility that God speaks to His people today is dangerous—and it certainly can be! But the failure to hear God, if God is in fact attempting to communicate with us, can also be dangerous.This raises two questions.
First, we have the Bible, so why should God still speak to us?
God has given us His written Word, the Bible. Most Christians believe (correctly, I’m sure) the Bible to be inspired by God, and recorded or written without error—in the original languages. This means that we can absolutely rely on it; what it says is absolutely so. And it says everything necessary to allow anyone who desires a relationship with God to enter into that relationship. Sometimes this is called being “saved” or “born again” or “redeemed.” When we have come to know the Lord, we learn that the Bible also gives authoritative statements about how we are to live and act.
But having the Bible is somewhat like reading the pre-marriage love letters from your spouse. (It is certainly deeper and much more complex than that, and I am not suggesting that God’s Word is inadequate in any way.) Those love letters from before your marriage are true and encouraging. But a marriage of many years thrives on ongoing communication; there’s more to be said. The major issues are well settled, but the day-to-day life demands a close, conversational relationship.
But this ongoing communication comes with risks, which leads to the second question. How can anyone be sure they are hearing God?
The danger comes when someone professes to hear from God, but what they think they heard conflicts with the principles and instructions given in the Bible.
Perhaps an example will help.
Anyone who has reared teenagers can appreciate the willingness of our offspring to hear what they want to hear even when our intent is clearly to communicate something very different. “Don’t go,” might be taken to mean “Go only when you finish the chores.” And “Clean your room,” certainly doesn’t mean now!
We have probably all known people who justify questionable acts because they “have prayed about it” and believe “God has led” them to take the action—notwithstanding clear warnings and instruction against the action in the Bible.
Just like children, we often approach God with our minds already made up! When we think we are hearing God, we may simply be putting our own desires in spiritual language, trying to convince others—or ourselves—that God has spoken. This can happen even when we really want to do the right thing; even when our genuine desire is to be pleasing to God.
How can we be sure that God is speaking? How can we safeguard ourselves from following our own delusions while thinking that it is God who is leading and directing us? There are several safeguards that can protect us and, in fact, help us learn to identify our Father’s voice. We will examine some of these protections next week as we continue learning about hearing God.