Sep

18

2013

Nancy Guthrie|12:01 AM CT

Why Do We Say, 'God Told Me'?

When someone begins a sentence with "God told me . . ." I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I'm not so sure. And it's not because I think God is incapable of or uninterested in speaking to his people today. In fact I resist this language precisely because God is speaking to his people today. He speaks to us through the Scriptures.

When we read the Scriptures we are not just reading a record of what God has said in the past. God actively speaks to us in the here and now through the words of this amazing book. The writer of Hebrews makes this point clear when he quotes Old Testament passages and presents them not as something God said to his people sometime in the past, but as something God is currently saying to his people (Hebrews 1:6,7,8, 2:12, 3:7, 4:7). He writes that "the word of God is living and active" (4:12). It is exposing our shallow beliefs and hidden motives. This word is personal.  You and I hear the voice of God speaking to us—unmistakably, authoritatively, and personally—when we read, hear, study, and meditate on the Scriptures.

Something More, Something Different

But many of us want something more, something different. We read the Scriptures and witness God speaking to individuals in amazing ways throughout the history of redemption. Job heard God speaking from the whirlwind. Moses heard him calling from the fiery bush. Samuel heard him calling in the dark. David heard him speak through the prophet Nathan. Isaiah felt the burning coal and heard assurance that his guilt was taken away and sin atoned for. Saul and those traveling with him on the road to Damascus heard Jesus asking why Saul was persecuting him. Prophets and teachers at Antioch heard the Holy Spirit tell them to set apart Barnabas and to send out Saul. John felt the glorified Jesus touch him and heard his assurance that he didn't have to be afraid.

Many of us read these accounts and assume that the Bible is presenting the normal experience of all who follow God. But is it? Graeme Goldsworthy speaks to this question in his book Gospel and Wisdom. He writes, "Every case of special guidance given to individuals in the Bible has to do with that person's place in the outworking of God's saving purposes." He adds, "There are no instances in the Bible in which God gives special and specific guidance to the ordinary believing Israelite or Christian in the details of their personal existence."

Are there instances in the Scriptures in which people describe a sense of God speaking to them through an inner voice? We read accounts of God speaking in an audible voice, through a supernatural dream or vision, a human hand writing on a wall, a blinding light, or a thunderous voice from heaven. This is quite different from the way most people who say that God has told them something describe hearing his voice—as a thought that came into their mind that they "know" was God speaking. One prominent teacher who trains people on how to hear the voice of God writes, "God's voice in your heart often sounds like a flow of spontaneous thoughts." But where in the Bible are we instructed to seek after or expect to hear God speak to us in this way?

Some who suggest that a conversational relationship with God is not only possible but even normative point to John 10 in which Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd, saying, "My sheep hear my voice." However, in this passage Jesus is not prescribing a method of ongoing divine communication. He is speaking to the Jews of his day using a metaphor they understand—a shepherd and his sheep. His point is that the elect among the Jews will recognize him as the shepherd the prophets wrote about and will respond to his call to repent and believe, as will the elect among the Gentiles so that they will become one flock, one church, with him at the head.

Longing for God's Guidance

So why do we speak about hearing God in this way? We grew up being told that we must have a "personal relationship with God," and what is more personal than hearing him speak to us about our individual issues and needs? Sometimes if we dig deep we realize we speak this way because we want to impresses others with our close connection to God and make sure they know we've consulted with him on the matter at hand. Another reason may be that to say, "God told me . . ." can prove useful to us. If you've asked me to teach children's Sunday school this fall, it sounds far more spiritual and makes it far more difficult for you to challenge me if I say that God told me I need to sit in adult Sunday school with my husband than if I simply say that I don't want to or have decided not to teach.

But I think there is something more at work here than simply our desire to sound spiritual or to make it difficult for someone to challenge our preferences or decisions. We genuinely long for God to guide us. We genuinely long for a personal word from God, a supernatural experience with God. Yet we fail to grasp that as we read and study and hear the Word of God taught and preached, it is a personal word from God. Because the Scriptures are "living and active," God's speaking to us through them is a personal, supernatural experience.

God has spoken and is, in fact, still speaking to us through the Scriptures. We don't need any more special revelation. What we need is illumination, and this is exactly what Jesus has promised the Holy Spirit will give to us as his word abides in us. The Holy Spirit of God works through the Word of God to counsel and comfort and convict (John 16:7-15). Through the Scriptures we hear God teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Word of God transforms us by renewing our minds so that we think more like him and less like the world. Instead of needing God to dictate to us what to do, we become increasingly able to "discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

I appreciate the way John Piper described his experience in hearing God speak through the Scriptures in his message "How Important is the Bible?" given at Lausanne 2010:

God talks to me no other way, but don't get this wrong, he talks to me very personally. I open my Bible in the morning to meet my friend, my Savior, my Creator, my Sustainer. I meet him and he talks to me. . . . I'm not denying providence, not denying circumstances, not denying people, I'm just saying that the only authoritative communion I have with God with any certainty comes through the words of this book.

And if we want to go back a little further, Jonathan Edwards warned:

I . . . know by experience that impressions being made with great power, and upon the minds of true saints, yea, eminent saints; and presently after, yea, in the midst of, extraordinary exercises of grace and sweet communion with God, and attended with texts of Scripture strongly impressed on the mind, are no sure signs of their being revelations from heaven: for I have known such impressions [to] fail, and prove vain.

What Difference Does It Really Make?

Does it really make a difference when we expect God to speak to us through the Scriptures rather than waiting to hear a divine voice in our heads? I think it does.

When we know that God speaks personally and powerfully through his Word, we don't have to feel that our relationship to Christ is sub-par, or that we are experiencing a less-than Christian life if we don't sense God giving us extra-biblical words of instruction or promise. When we know God speaks through his Word we are not obligated to accept—indeed, we can be appropriately skeptical toward—claims by any book, teacher, preacher, or even friend when they write or say, "God told me . .  ." We don't have to wait until we hear God give us the go-ahead before we say "yes" or "no" to a request or make a decision. We can consult the Scriptures and rest in the wisdom and insight the Holy Spirit is developing in us and feel free to make a decision.

As we delight ourselves in the law of the Lord day and night, we can expect his Word to be living and active in our inmost parts. As that Word transforms us by the renewal of our minds, we will find that our thoughts and feelings, dreams and desires, are being shaped more by his Word than by our flesh. We will find that we are more drawn to obey his commands than to follow the culture. We will ask him for wisdom and receive it out of his generosity.

Nancy Guthrie and her husband, David, and son, Matt, make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. She and David are the co-hosts of the GriefShare video series used in more than 8,500 churches around the country and host Respite Retreats for couples who have experienced the death of a child. In May 2014 they will be offering a Respite Retreat in the UK for the first time. Nancy is the author of numerous books, including Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow and is currently working on the five-book Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament Bible study series.

Categories: Christian Living
  • http://bibliablogger.wordpress.com/ Bereket

    I agree with the main point of the article but I had one quibble. It sounds like you're inadvertently ruling out our interaction with the Holy Spirit but I am sure that is not what you believe. Our dialogue with God does not end when we close our Bibles. So, I guess I want to suggest a refinement, if I can impose myself, and say that every aspect of our spiritual lives should rest on solid scriptural support. We should check every experience and emotion against the Bible to verify that we are walking in God's will.

    • Chris

      I agree with Bereket. If we were never spoken to by God's Spirit, the warning to test the spirits in 1 John 4 would have read, "Brothers do not believe any spirit who speaks to you."

      • Michele

        The context of 1 John 4 is false teachers, not inner impressions. We're to test the message of prophets by what they say about Christ.

        • Bill

          I was gonna say the exact same thing, Michele, great job!

        • Dwight Gingrich

          Good point, Michelle, but doesn't this understanding of 1 John 4 still mean that God does speak to us--if not directly, then through prophets that he gifts to his church?

          • Brenda

            (Hebrews 1:1-2) "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." The days of the prophets are over.

            • Bill Williams

              A couple of points on that text. First, it disproves one of the main assertions of this article, namely, that God speaks solely through Scripture and nothing else. Here, the author of Paul declares that the primary way that God speaks to his people "in these last days" is not through Scripture, but through his son Jesus Christ himself. That same Christ who now lives in me, now that I have been crucified with him. Now of course, Jesus will never reveal anything to us that contradicts the clear teachings of His word; and if it does, that is a sign that such a revelation is false and does not come from God. However, the idea that God continues to speak to us "by his Son," using the Scripture as our standard for discernment, is not unbiblical at all.

              My second point: I don't believe this text teaches that the days of the prophets are over. At least not if you place it into the overall Biblical context. First of all, such an interpretation does not take into account Paul's assertion that "prophets," among other gifts which include pastors and teachers, would remain in the church "until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:12-14). I think most would agree that that time has not yet come.

              Nor does it take into account Paul's instructions to the Corinthian Christians that when they would gather together, some would have "a revelation" and that prophets would be allowed to speak (1 Corinthians 14:26-33). Not to mention his expressed desire at the beginning of the chapter "that you may prophesy." Now, again, no genuine revelation from God will contradict the clear teachings of Scripture. But that should not deny the whole concept of direct revelation from God to his people.

              I think Ms. Guthrie makes many valid points. I understand her concerns, and I agree with her caution against the abuses of claiming direct revelation from Christ. But I think that, in arguing her concerns, she has overstated her case more than warranted. I think Bereket's comment is much more accurate and biblical.

            • Bill Williams

              Corrections: Where I wrote "the author of Paul," I meant to write "the author of Hebrews" (whom I happen to believe was Paul; but I know that is disputed by many scholars, and I have no problems if it wasn't Paul seeing as how it doesn't affect the interpretation of the book). Also, the citation from Ephesians should've begun in verse 11.

            • Dwight Gingrich

              Thanks, Bill Williams. I agree fully with your post--both the affirmation of prophetic gifts in the NT church (though I still have much to learn about what that means!) and your assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the original article.

              I wrestled my way through an important book a while ago: Decision Making and the Will of God, by Garry Friesen. He rightly, as does Guthrie, dismantles the expectation that we should be demanding a continual inner voice from God telling us what to do in every decision of life. He presents strong evidence that that was not the norm even for such spiritual giants as Paul. Rather, we learn to grow in wisdom as we walk in obedience.

              However, God can and sometimes does give more direct guidance. This must always be tested against the written Word, but sometimes it is more specific than that Word. Paul wasn't usually very quick to publicize such additional revelations (there are exceptions, such as when he told all on board the ship to Rome that an angel had told him no lives would be lost)--this is a lesson that many "super-spiritual" people today should take to heart. However, I see no reason to doubt that God still gives special guidance today.

              I think it is very important to distinguish between the idea of God speaking through inner nudgings and God speaking through more concrete, external means. (That is a great strength of Guthrie's article.) The latter seems, I think, to have more Scriptural evidence: angels, visions, repeated announcements of prophetically-gifted individuals. That said, the latter example (prophetically-gifted individuals) may indeed receive small-"r" revelation more directly in their own minds.

              Anyway, Bill Williams, thanks for the comments!

            • Dwight Gingrich

              Bill Williams, despite my earlier endorsement, there is one statement in your comment that I would understand differently. When Hebrews 1 says that God has spoken to us by his Son, I would not understand that to be referring to an ongoing speaking of Christ to us today. Rather, I would note that it is written in past tense ("has spoken") and understand it to be referring to the incarnation and teaching ministry of Christ while he was bodily on earth.

              But I have no doubt that he still speaks--in another sense--to us today through the Spirit that he sent!

              Blessings,
              Dwight

            • Bill Williams

              @Dwight, I appreciate your contribution. I agree that it is unreasonable to demand "a continual inner voice from God telling us what to do in every decision of life." God has no intention of micro-managing our life, and for him to do so would actually be a detriment to our spiritual growth. I realize that this is the issue that Ms. Guthrie is speaking against primarily. Nevertheless, I still think that in speaking against this valid concern, she does overstate her case and leaves no room (or at the most, very little room) for the reality that, as you wrote, "God can and sometimes does give more direct guidance."

              Regarding Hebrews 1, you are likely correct in that the immediate context is referring specifically to Christ's bodily ministry on earth. However, when we look at the fuller context of the NT as a whole, we see that Christ continues that ministry today. John 5 records Jesus' words that the Father loved the Son and showed him everything he was doing. In the next chapter, Jesus says that just as he lived by the Father, likewise all of those who "eat" him will live by him. There's many more texts that we could look at, but the idea is that Christ expected that the relationship he had with the Father would be normative of the relationship we would have with him, at least in principle if not in details. This relationship is one where Christ reveals his purposes to us and invites us to participate. Of course, he reveals his overall purpose through Scripture. But he also reveals his purposes on a more context-specific way in our individual lives.

            • Dwight Gingrich

              Thanks, Bill W. You make good observations about the life of Christ and about the normative aspect of his relationship (by the power of the Spirit) with the Father. We have much to learn!

    • http://markblock.wordpress.com Mark B.

      I'm in agreement with Bereket. We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are so many examples in the old and new testament of God speaking to people, The Book of Acts is full of the Holy Spirit leading men and women to do things. Everything we "hear" or "sense" should be tested by God's Word.

    • TB

      I also agree with Bereket. Although I am suspicious of some who constantly tout "God told me this" and "God said that".It is scriptural to test the spirits. And of course one must always consider the source of the claim. But I know for certain that God has indeed spoken to my spirit with a voice, inaudible to my physical ears, but heard in my mind as if dropped there by God. *You cant keep God in a box. The article quotes many instances where God spoke directly to his people, yet denies that he still does this today. It is a shame to miss God.

  • http://www.thinktheology.co.uk/blog Andrew Wilson

    Thanks for this interesting piece. So: do you think God still speaks to people prophetically about his saving purposes, Acts-style (as the Goldsworthy quotation implies), or that this has gone now that we have the Bible (as most of the article implies)? Is this basically a cessationist argument, to the effect that the Holy Spirit does not give special guidance at all, and we should not expect prophecy today, or is the idea that God still gives special guidance and prophetic revelation about his saving purposes, but not about the mundanities of life? I wasn't quite sure ...

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    "We walk by faith, not by sight."

    It's so odd that the areas where God has given us freedom to choose, we wait for Him to tell us something...and then the area where we are NOT free to choose...we ascribe to ourselves our "free-will".

    It's bass ackwards.

    • Jim

      Exactly!

  • leslie

    I agree with this message in part. I do believe that the Holy Spirit can direct and guide us through any means He desires...regardless of how things were documented in scripture. All of scripture is God, but not all of God is in the Bible. Meaning, that God is much bigger than His book. Let us remember that the early church didn't even have all of the Bible as we know it and were receiving the New Testament information through the inspired Paul. However, I do believe that everything we feel that we hear from the Holy Spirit should be measured against scripture and the truth that Jesus presents to us. For example, we can look to scripture to understand what type of person God wishes us to marry, but what if we are wrestling with two people who meet full criteria? How will I know which one to choose? Will I open my Bible and see "thou shalt marry Johnny or Bobby"? I'm not going to find this there...if someone has, please let me in on the secret password. The only way I'm going to know this is through prayer and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit about the matter. If I hear that I should rob a bank, I can assume that is not from God because it contradicts his Word. I don't think we should overcomplicate the manner of hearing God's voice or tell people that God cannot speak to them unless they have their heads stuck in a Bible all day. We should be armed with an understanding of scripture to filter through all of the stuff that is circulating through our minds on a daily basis. However, some things are not going to be that "cut and dry." There are decisions I've had to make that I can find no scripture for such as taking a job, going back to school, etc. During these times, the only thing that I have to rely on is whether or not I have a peace about the situation. If I'm staying in close fellowship with Jesus and His truth revealed through scripture, then I can rest assured that His peace regarding a matter (whichever way) will not lead me astray. Even if I do hear it wrong, He will put me back on the right path again because of His grace and mercy.

    • TB

      Great points, Leslie.

    • http://awildernesslife.wordpress.com LG

      I think most of the decisions that people think they need some kind of special word/sensation of "peace" from the Lord about are things we can figure out, according to biblical principles, using the minds God is renewing and the wisdom we're supposed to be cultivating.

      So with regard to whom you should marry: Which is the wiser choice? Also, do you like Johnny better than Bobby or vice versa (given that it would be foolish to marry someone you don't like)? Who do you find more attractive (given that you're commanded to be intimate with that person, cf. Prov. 5:20-22, 1 Cor. 7:5)? Who's been a better man during the process (given that it would be foolish to marry a dishonorable man)? What do your friends and family say (Prov. 15:22)? That seems to me like a lot of Scripture related to that decision.

      If a man has a family to provide for and Job A pays more than Job B, he should probably take Job A, all else being equal (1 Tim. 5:8). He doesn't need to wait around until he feels a sensation wash over him that's supposed to tell him which job to take. If you have an opportunity to go back to school, figure out if that's a wise use of your time and resources (Luke 14:28), and if it's something you want to do and could do well (Col. 3:23, Eccl. 9:10). God wants us to use our intelligence and common sense -- he wants us to be wise, yes? So doesn't it seem like the question to ask is whether or not X action is wise according to Scripture, rather than waiting for a feeling to guide us?

      I think it's problematic to overspiritualize decisions like this. What if you have to choose between a career on the mission field or a career as a marketing director for an insurance company, and never "feel a peace" about it, but don't think to sit down with a pros and cons list to help you figure out the smartest choice?

      • Phil

        LG: I would have to disagree with your Job A and Job B scenario. Just because a job pays more does not mean that it is the right job to take, even if they do appear to be equal. Job A with its higher pay may require more time away from the family via longer work hours, traveling, etc. Several years ago my wife had two potential jobs and we prayed about which to take as one paid more than the other. God showed us what to do in a dream he gave my wife. As a result, she took the lower paying job which opened more doors for her professionally and a greater opportunity to minister to co-workers. Because of taking this job the door eventually opened for her to step into her dream job. Secondly, I think the church needs to redefine it definition of missionary. As Christians we are all missionaries, whether it be in our home, our neighborhood, our community, our workplace, etc. Additionally, it is not about making the smartest choice, but the right choice, God's choice. I have made several decisions because I felt a "peace" about the decision I was making.

        • LG

          Phil, I said "all else being equal," which I'm pretty sure covers things like "longer work hours, traveling, etc." ;) I have no reason to doubt that your wife had a dream about which job to take, and I rejoice that her work is enriching and full of opportunities. But I'd like to challenge you about whether it's really good counsel to advise that others wait for something that is clearly an unusual, supernatural event. Unless you think that God normally

          And I seriously am shaking my head at the idea that a "wise choice" (wisdom being constantly commended, taught, and commanded in the Scriptures) is somehow in opposition to "God's choice." God uses means to accomplish his will, brother. And the Christian life is inherently Spiritual. We are being guided by the Spirit because God has already planned our steps. We must pray and ask God to guide us in our lives, but we can do so without worrying that the choice we make, using the resources God has given us (including common sense, pros and cons, wise counsel, biblical principles, our skills and gifts, etc.), will somehow be outside God's will for us, or that if we "miss" God's choice we'll be miserable or outside God's protection. What if your wife had taken that job and it had led to a period of intense suffering for her? Would that bring less glory to God? There's a little bit of Joel Osteen-ish prosperity gospel in what you say, as though success, results, the fact that your wife is now working her "dream job" are somehow proof that God was leading her.

          God's will is not a mystery, and from our finite perspective, there are thousands of ways for us to pattern our lives in a godly way, not just one ultimate way that will guarantee our perfect happiness.

    • G

      i think this is dangerous..... the bible absolutely speaks on the decisions you are talking about..... for instance, going back to school...."knowledge begins with the fear of the lord." money, time, talents are loaned to you. is school a good usage of God's money? well, if knowledge begins with the fear of the lord and your going to school for knowledge from people who don't fear God....perhaps not. or perhaps. depends on the circumstances. debt. were you creating debt? the bible has spoken on this, no matter how bad you do or don't like it....so you can look for impressions....but instead you should look for an open door. scripture has already spoken. that debt you took on from school....scripture talked about that. if God had wanted you to Go, he could have provided without violating you going into debt. after all if he provides for the sparrows, how much more for you? ....im sorry....but your "impressions" are a license to do what you want, and ignore scriptures that arents there. it takes your focus of the bible. THEY ARE THERE. you need to look for them. and when they dont seem to be there. you have the practical morality there to make the decision. you are free to marry either. your prayer shouldnt be for a name.... your prayer should be for discernment. that your heart doesnt get in the way of your spirit discerning which one of them lines up with a biblical man....so that you can choose the name, of the husband that God has already spoken the guidelines for in scripture: namely, equally yoked believer. you need to have faith in God's word. not your deceitful heart.

      • Ryan

        Does someone else want to field this? I'm having a really difficult time trying to give a response that isn't snarky or demeaning, and I'd rather see this conversation remain constructive.

  • James

    She is not saying that the Holy Spirit does not act rather she is correcting the pandemic of people prescribing their own thoughts and motives to God. They hear something in their "heart" and believe it to be from God. But their is one the Bible teaches for sure, our hearts are deceitful above all things. It is far better to trust God's Word than my intuition.

    • Brad

      But as Christians, don't we have new hearts, hearts that have God's Word written in them?

      • Phil

        Brad: Yes, we have new heart, and as you mention, His *Word* is written on our heart. But what we're talking about is the increasingly common neo-gnostic idea that the Word is both insufficient and incomplete as God's Word to us, and must be supplemented with regular personal prophesy of God (supposedly) speaking extra-Biblically directly to Christians as *the* normative component of Christian prayer and living.

        • Brad

          Phil,

          Thanks for your response! However, I am not sure I understand what you are saying. Would you be able to say it again in a simple way, without the big words?

          Thanks!

          • Alex

            Hi Brad,

            If I can attempt to rephrase Phil, I think what he means to say is that this article was written in response to the popular, but erroneous thought that God's Word isn't enough. And because of that, there are droves of well-intentioned people seeking to experience some sort of prophetic voice or revelation outside the Bible, to the neglect of the sufficient, active Word of God we already possess. Hope this helps!

      • a.

        Brad, I believe we have new hearts, yet which are tested and tried; and a remnant old heart which must be put off. 1 Tim 1:5; Matt 5:8; John 14:23

        • a.

          and Brad too, when it seems discouraging and wearying to keep putting off the exact same old heart things over and over, that’s when He reminds me of His truth… But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Cor 3:18

          from glory to glory

          beholding the glory of the Lord

      • James

        Brad:

        Yes we do have a new heart! But Paul speaks of our continuing struggle to put off our old self and put on the new man found in Christ. We still struggle with sin and self-deception this all to evident today. That is why we are called to test the spirits according to Scripture, why? because Satan portrays himself as an angel of light. He knows our weakness, our old man. We are in battle with these forces and if we listen to our old heart, as we do when sin, and ascribe that inward voice to God and we are wrong we just ascribed sin to God. God speaks through his Word, this we are sure of.

  • Josh

    I don't think its an argument for or against cessationism, she is just trying to point out and gently correct a big problem. She isn't looking to tell us how the Holy Spirit chooses to work and not work, as if she alone had some special insight. She is making the very good and helpful point that ascribing our own desires to God, or trying to look super spiritual, is a dangerous practice. If someone says "God told me we should get married" to someone who most definitely does not want to marry that person, then one can claim a spiritually superior position over the other. How could you go against what God said, right? Obviously, thats an extreme case. Her example of using God as an excuse to get out of teaching Sunday school is probably a more typical one. But it is still dangerous behavior. We don't have to look selfish if we just say God told us to do something! We need to examine all claims of God speaking to someone against scripture, and recognize that God speaking to specific people personally in the Bible was the exception, and not the norm.

  • Adam Desmond

    There are certainly dangers inherent in learning how to communicate with God. Many horrible atrocities have been committed in God's name, but I think it's important to understand that any form of communication can be twisted and distorted to evil ends. People regularly use the Scriptures to defend their positions. That doesn't make them less wrong.

    So many Christians are missing out on a personal and intimate relationship with God because they don't understand and develop the skill of communicating with Him. God did not set out to write the Scriptures and then leave them as His final message to creation. The Bible is our guide, a light on our path, but God Himself is who we commune with through the Scriptures. He can and does communicate through other means. Now, one of the skills in learning to communicate with God comes through understanding the Scriptures and recognizing that nothing God tells us will disagree with or negate what the Bible says. It is a very powerful skill, and like any form of power, it can be misused and abused. But prayer, when effectively practiced as two-way communication with God, is absolutely critical to a living, active relationship with Him.

    • Jay Risner

      Adam's got skillzzz.

      Guthrie's words are important because immature Christians hear mature Christians talk this way (about hearing from God), and think the experience is part of the Christian life. Now, to be led by the Spirit and in communion with God through His Word is normative to the Christian life. But those who claim to "hear from God" apart from his Word damage those believers with less maturity.

      Those that hear from God hear from him because they are in His Word...they have memorized it and are calling on it as they live their lives. They hear God's Word because they know God's Word.

      Young Christians need to know this instead of thinking there's some spiritual higher plain where God speaks audibly or through guttural impressions.

      • Adam Desmond

        Jay, not to be disrespectful, but from my perspective you're saying that an inexperienced mountain climber, when hearing an experienced climber discuss some of the ascents he's made, would be damaged because he might try something beyond his abilities.

        Yes, that's absolutely a danger, which is why discipleship is so important. But again, seeing it as dangerous is not the same as seeing it as unnecessary.

    • Rachael Starke

      Adam, the issue of hermeneutics is always an important one, but it is secondary to the issue Nancy is raising here. Your comment, to be honest, is a prime example of what Nancy is arguing against, and directly from Scripture at that. Please reread the post carefully, as it appears you may have missed her argument.

      • Adam Desmond

        Hi, Rachael. I'm not sure what you mean. Could you explain to me what you think I've missed? My understanding is that the author believes God only speaks through Scripture. I've read it several times. I disagree.

        • Jay Risner

          Adam, what do you believe about the sufficiency of Scripture? I suspect you would tip your hat to sufficiency, yet but affirm the need for an un-authoritative, subjective experience to fill in the gaps.

          • Adam Desmond

            Hi, Jay! Perhaps this quote from A.W. Tozer will help illuminate my position:

            "Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church in any strict meaning of that term. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts."

            The Bible is A means, not THE means. Certainly the prime means, the one by which all other means are to be judged, but not the only one.

            • Jay Risner

              I love that quote, Adam!

              Now if I could get it to square with what you wrote in your original comment.

          • Ryan

            "but affirm the need for an un-authoritative, subjective experience to fill in the gaps."

            Would you deny this? The Bible leaves millions of gaps for un-authoritative, subjective experience to fill in. This is self-evident. Nowhere in Scripture will you find out what the capital of France is; nor will you be given any wisdom as to whether it's worth it to put snow tires on your car, nor will you discover whether which bank offers the best mortgages.

            Of course, I am being deliberately obvious, however this same statement applies to many spiritual matters as well. Which translation should we use? How often should a church meet? How much time ought we spend in prayer and Scripture? How frequently should communion be celebrated? Then, of course, there are the major life questions that everyone wants to know - again, which Scripture does not speak to. What school should I go to? Who should I marry? What sort of career should I have? Where should I live? What school should my children go to? And so on and so forth.

            Scripture is sufficient to communicate the means of our salvation and our sanctification, but that's it - in no way, shape or form is it the final word on all aspects of the Christian walk. It is the firm foundation upon which we seek to construct all our other beliefs, but it is not the only source of Godly wisdom. Ultimately, Scripture is God's partial revelation of Himself and ought to be read as such, not as an "instruction manual for life," or somesuch.

            • Jay Risner

              Ryan, I actually agree with you. We all make those kind of choices. We use wisdom. We bow to preference. We do what we want.

              What some do, however, is say "I just felt God was telling me to go with the Firestones over the Good-Years."

    • TB

      Amen! Well stated. I'm sure there ARE folks who overuse the claim that God spoke to them; as in the example of getting out of teaching, etc. But that does not mean that everyone who claims that God spoke to them is just trying to sound spiritual, or look like they have a righteous excuse not to serve. We do have a personal, give and take, communion with God through the Spirit that dwells within us, and according to his Word. Let us not forget that the Bible is the WRITTEN word; And JESUS, who we know, is the WORD MADE FLESH.

    • Libby

      "If God wants to communicate, He succeeds.
      You cannot fail to hear Him even if you are deaf— remember, even the dead will hear His voice Jn. 5:25— because God always accomplishes what He intends. No skill needs to be learned to hear Him. Nowhere does Scripture suggest such a thing." Greg koukl

      http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/DigitalSG_0511_New-1.pdf

      http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/DigitalSG_0711_New-1.pdf
      http://www.str.org/Media/Default/Publications/DigitalSG_1111_New-1.pdf

      These articles are so incredibly helpful to understand the " Jesus told me" or "Holy Spirit said" going around today. Genuine believers believing it is up to them hear God speak to them - to get quiet, or try harder or trust more or have more faith or better skills. I use to be in this camp and learned that God's voice reslly sounds a lot like mine. People are not making decisions, waiting for God to tell them what to do, he is not our personal fortune teller. Thie is really what we are seeking, for God to tell us the future in a specific situation.
      His Word iswritten and I know that I know it is him speaking through his Word.
      Please read these articles prayerfully looking through the scripture for yourself. I encapurage you to be a "Berean" regarding this subject and line it up to the Word of God, his "voice" to his people.

      • http://whiterosereview.blogspot.com/ Richard

        Libby,

        You might be interested to see Timothy Bayless' responses to Koukl's arguments. Bayless writes over at J. P. Moreland's blog.
        http://www.jpmoreland.com/2011/11/03/on-hearing-from-god-some-objections-part-one/

        • Libby

          Richard -
          thanks. I remember seeing it in my research on the topic, but must have read through it quickly. I'll look over it again.

      • TB

        Libby,
        Thanks. I will read the articles. But let me respond initially that I am not talking about using God as my Fortune Teller; or waiting to decide whether to buy the red shoes or the blue shoes until I "hear from God". I'm talking about situations where I am going about my daily business, and I am suddenly stopped in my tracks by the Spirit of God "telling" me to speak something specific to a specific person. And when I obey, they are edified in some way, and immediately give glory to God - stating that only God could have revealed that to me. I believe this is a spiritual gift, described in the Bible as being given "words of knowledge". Can this be abused? Faked? Of course. That doesnt mean it is never legit.

        • Libby

          TB -

          He addresses this very thing in the articles.

      • Phil

        Libby... Thanks for posting the Stand To Reason material. I read those before and found them very helpful!

  • jack

    I agree that it can be unnerving when someone says "God told me", it can give someone's own thoughts an extra level of authority which it shouldn't have.

    However I disagree strongly with the view God doesn't speak to us, for the past year I've been working for a youth church where are entire existence focusses on listening to God, and asking Him to reveal what he thinks of, and what he has planned in people's lives- people who aren't Christians. God speaks (in a small quiet voice) in amazing ways, revealing things to us that we could never have guessed.

    And a couple of friends, in their 60s, have a ministry in Christian counselling where they encourage people to listen to God and his direction, including in repentance using the 4Rs.

    I believe God cares about our lives and wants to guide us, as he guided those in the new testament -Paul constantly talked about the difference between his and Gods plans, and there's lots more in there. In the Old testament, God spoke in specific ways to specific people at specific times; but now we have the Holy Spirit with us, He is able to be with us and speak to us throughout our lives.

    • Josh

      I would tend to agree--I can agree with the author's intent, but we must not stifle the Holy Spirit from speaking to us (probably not what the author was meaning). It's easy to think that God doesn't speak to us any more because we have the entire Bible with our so to speak "closed canon."

      However, it is clear that we are to share the gospel and learn how to clearly communicate to our culture in a variety of ways. We are called to destroy every argument against the knowledge of God and defend our faith. God may grant them repentance. Yes we should appeal to scripture as our authority, but does that mean that every time we share the good news of King Jesus and the Kingdom that we have to quote the bible directly? That alone would get muddled as there are a variety of translations and expressions of the Greek/Hebrew words.

      Same as understanding Scripture itself--Scripture does not tell you how to read, nor does it tell you how to understand it and think through it. We have the Spirit--the mind of Christ--for all who believe and love Jesus. Historical context and culture studies can be hugely illuminating into understanding why and what the original biblical author was saying.

      We shouldn't be scared if someone believes that God has communicated something to them outside of directly reading Scripture--however it should never be in conflict with it obviously.

    • Phil

      Jack: Show us where it's taught in Scripture that this type of practice should be the normative experience for all Christians. I see you're long on words and explanations, but short on Scripture and justification. I came out of the movement you're describing, and I recognize all the lingo and and mis-appropriated buzz-phrases (like "still small voice" etc.).

      Speaking of leading the church.... if hearing personal prophesy is*so* critical and *so* normative, how come hearing Jesus outside the Scripture isn't listed among the qualification for deacons or elders? I mean, my God, if personal prophesy is necessary for a normal healthy walk, how much more so for those leading the Church?! Yeah, it's not there, Jack.

      • Paul Steele

        Well, the first thing to point out is that the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3 don't mention the ability to hear from God in the scriptures either.

        Secondly, the scriptures have many examples of prophesy being useful in the NT. The most direct example of prophesy being helpful in the personal life of a church leader is 1 Timothy 1:18 where Timothy is told to wage the good warfare according to the prophesies previously made about him. Other examples include:

        1 Corinthians 14:1-5, prophesy edifies the church. Acts 18:9-10, Paul receives direction for ministry through a dream. Acts 11:28-29, prophesy is used as a means to direct charitable giving in the church in Antioch.

        There are others. This doesn't justify all the ways that "hearing God's voice" is done in the church today, but it does refute the "Yeah, it's not there" statement in your comment. It really is there.

      • TB

        Phil,
        Please read Romans 12:3-8. It explains that God gives different gifts to different members. We are all members of one body, but each has its different function. Some are gifted and called to be "Leaders", while some are gifted and called to "prophesy".

    • Cranios

      "the 4Rs"
      Where's THAT in the Bible?
      If it's in there, then maybe it is God's Word they are hearing, not a "still small voice."
      If it's not in there, then... well, I think you know what the implications of that are, already.

    • Libby

      If I'm not mistaken the 4 R's of repentance is taken from the Latter Day Saints, unless there is something new out there.

      Listening to God is very popular these days with the help of Jesus Calling, Sarah Young. She developed her "listening skills" from the Two Listeners who wrote God Calling.
      They sit and listen to what God tells them and then decide between the group if indeed it truly was God. They came out of the Oxford Group that was led by Frank Buchman out of the the Keswick movement which promote the "higher life" and "hearing God speak." It (Oxford Gruop) was a group that claimed to be Christian, but this is not true of them today.

  • Rachael Starke

    Nancy,

    The timing of this post was so providential. Thank you for it. As for the many commenters who seem to be ever hearing but not understanding, it breaks my heart.

  • http://threeguysoneblog.com Colin Lindley

    Thank you so much for this article! I have been thinking about this a lot lately after hearing Greg Koukl speak on this very topic. As I am seeking out whether or not to go overseas for two years with the IMB, this is an extremely helpful article.

  • Brad

    I have two questions:
    1) Most scholars I have read indicate that Hebrews 4:12 is not referring to the Bible. Is this true?

    2) I was confused by this quote: "There are no instances in the Bible in which God gives special and specific guidance to the ordinary believing Israelite or Christian in the details of their personal existence."

    This quote seems to indicate to me that I must look somewhere else besides the Bible for direction and guidance in the details of my life and existence. So, where do we look for that guidance?

    • Ryan

      "Most scholars I have read indicate that Hebrews 4:12 is not referring to the Bible. Is this true?"

      Indeed. I believe that with one exception, the references in the New Testament to "the Word of God" are to Christ Himself, not the Scriptures. This would certainly seem to be the case with Hebrews 4:12, as it would be quite odd for an inanimate object, regardless of how inspired it might be, to be "able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Verse 13 (referring to the Word of God as "He") and especially 14 seem to also indicate that this is the case.

      "This quote seems to indicate to me that I must look somewhere else besides the Bible for direction and guidance in the details of my life and existence. So, where do we look for that guidance?"

      Well, that depends on the question. There are a great many questions in our lives that Scripture does not and cannot answer. Who should you marry? What sort of job should you have? Should you go into university right after you graduate high school, or work a year or two first? When should you and your spouse have kids? How many should you have? How many times should you switch careers? What age is an appropriate age to retire at? And so on and so forth. Indeed, even the deepest existential questions in our lives often go unanswered by Scripture. Who am I? What is my purpose? Questions such as these are answered by the Bible in a general sense (a child of God; to be conformed into the image of Christ while sharing the Good News), they are not answered in a specific sense.

      As to where we ought to look for that guidance, there are generally two perspectives.

      The first perspective says that God gave us brains for a reason and that we ought to figure it out for ourselves, through whatever means are at our disposal. Philosophical treatises, scientific discoveries, the sharing of ideas, personal reflection and meditation, mentorship, methodical reasoning, empirical evidence - all of these can help provide insight into ourselves and the world around us, thereby helping us to make proper decisions. Some object to this because it involves bowing to the "Wisdom of the World" rather than Scripture, but given the liberty many NT authours took, for example, in quoting from pagan philosophers and poets of the time to make their point; or the sheer amount of Proverbs that were appropriated from surrounding cultures rather than originating from the authour(s), the notion that "Christians should reject wisdom that is not of the people of God" is, ironically, incredibly unBiblical.

      The second perspective, and one that Guthrie seems to be arguing against here, is that through "quieting ourselves before God," we can hear Him tell us the answers to these questions. While I do not believe that this is impossible, I react against it for two reasons. First, because there is no verifiable way to establish that what you're hearing really is the voice of God. When you hear God "tell" you something, there is no possible way to reliably ascertain whether it is actually from God or whether it is wishful thinking on your part, a subconscious idea that's come floating to the forefront, or something else entirely. Parenthetically, this is dealing with issues that have no clear answer in Scripture. Obviously when the matter is something that Scripture speaks to, we do have a way of establishing whether this "voice" is of God or not. It reminds me of a story I once heard of a middle-aged man who came before a pastor friend of mine and said to him "Listen, things have been going pretty badly at home and my wife and I barely talk, and there's this woman at work who is beautiful and I get along with her really well, and I spent some time praying about it and taking it before God and I think He's telling me to divorce my wife and pursue this other woman."

      The second objection I have is that if we accept something as being God's voice, it often then corresponds that we accept it as being unquestionably true. We *know* that it's a good idea, because God told us to do it. I remember once speaking to a Christian publisher, who shared that she received thousands of manuscripts a week from people telling her that God had told them to publish this book. Of course, most of those manuscripts get rejected, but unfortunately rather than taking constructive criticism and improving their work, or accepting that this writing gig just wasn't for them, many of them said "Well, no, God told me to do this, so there must be nothing wrong with the manuscript. If people aren't publishing it, that's just Satan working against the Kingdom."

      I don't think that it's impossible for God to speak to people, but I think we need to be extremely cautious about it. Unfortunately, some of this may stem from the castration of the third commandment. According to the commandment, claiming that God told you something when He actually didn't is a grievous and horrible sin, but for some reason we've rendered it instead as the largely impotent "Don't use the word "God" as a swear word."

      • Brad

        Ryan,

        Thanks for your response! Your answer to my first question was very helpful and clear, but I am not sure I understand your answer to my second question. Are you basically saying that neither the Bible nor our feelings should guide our lives. Instead, we should use our brains and experiences to figure it out.

        • Ryan

          "Are you basically saying that neither the Bible nor our feelings should guide our lives. Instead, we should use our brains and experiences to figure it out."

          Not quite. I'm saying that the Bible should guide our lives where applicable, but that in the many instances where it is not applicable, our brains are usually a more reliable method of figuring out what to do than our emotions.

          • James

            that is one of the most dangerous things I have seen written here. "Our brains are usually more reliable method of figuring our what to do than our emotions" while I agree that emotions are not a wise guide, neither is our brain! Our mind is just as corrupted as our heart. "lean not on your own understanding..." The Bible is sufficient, while some may argue about Hebrews 4:12, 2 Tim 3;16-17 clearly says, "All Scripture..." is sufficient to equip the man of God for "every good work" that is right, not some or most, but "every good work..." We don't need anything else.

            • Ryan

              James, I provided a wealth of examples above of situations in which the Bible does not speak to, nor was it intended to speak for. If you can elucidate for me how the Bible does, in fact, equip us with specific knowledge as to what our career should be or what city we ought to live in, then by all means I shall recant my statement.

              However, since I am assuming you will not be able to do this, it follows logically that we are then required to figure these things out on our own. In this circumstance, while our brains our fallible, yes, thinking through these decisions is still a much better option than determining them through emotion.

              A great deal of this comes from the utter mutilation of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, which has somehow morphed from its original form of "Scripture alone is sufficient to provide the knowledge required for salvation and sanctification" into an incredibly bizarre and completely untenable doctrine that states "Scripture alone is sufficient to provide all knowledge that a Christian could ever possibly need."

            • TB

              James,

              The NIV uses the word "useful" instead of "sufficient" in 2Tim3:16-17. Either way, it seems you are inadvertently taking this verse out of context. If you read the entire letter to Timothy here, you see that the focus is on the doctrine of salvation. Paul encourages Timothy to stand on what the scriptures have already spoken about salvation. I agree with Ryan above.

            • Adrian Hernandez

              Well, to add to the discussion, I do agree that our brains, although imperfect, and still having sinful thoughts, are sufficient to help us in many decisions in our lifes. Scripture provides a guidance, but, doesn't provide all the details. Scripture itself tells us to renovate our minds, and it speaks mostly to our minds (not to our spirit or heart as some suggest). Why, because the mind is what makes us move, analyze, think, and ultimately act. By reading and memorizing the scriptures, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, then, our brain can be guided to make better decisions. For example, to change from one job to another, being the new job apparently better (and the Bible might not tell you so), you can use the scripture to analyze if the new job can for example use more of your time, keep you away longer from your family, and so forth. You then arrive at the conclusion that it may not be the best decision.

              To state that the mind cannot be trusted is a dangerous argument, same one used by many who state that we can never understan GOD because our mind is to small compared to GOD, or that it is to imperfect and sinful, so, you cannot no GOD with any reasonable certainty. In centuries ago, this philosophy was used to make people doubt if GOD was real, or how to relate to him. Clearly, this is a work of satan, using human logic and philosophy to cast doubt upon humans.

              Finally, I use my brain every day to do my job, to learn new things, etc. It is my brain who examines everything, and decides to keep what is from GOD and discard what is not (as the scripture says). I believe GOD can audibly, or internally speak to people, I have never had this experience, but have met others who have. As always, everything must be filtered thru the scriptures, if it's GOD speaking, then it won't contradict the Bible. May the LORD bless all of us and may he continue go guide us. Amen.

      • Jeff

        Ryan (and company),
        I must register some concern at this point in the conversation. I'm not interested in launching into the discussion of the merits of Nancy Guthrie's article at this, for reasons which will become clear shortly. I am interested, however, in providing a corrective to so much of what I see occurring in these comment type interchanges.

        1. I afraid that the argument about whether Guthrie is correct or not has become overly reductionistic. There's more at play here than simply does the Holy Spirit speak only or primarily through the Word or does He communicate directly with us in our inner being as well. To deal with this issue well requires a through-going process of defining categories and also addressing a host of significant issues. For example, what do we mean when we say that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Word? Does this mean only that we find verses that relate to circumstances of our lives or biblical principles that we can generalize to guide our decision-making, or does it mean that by reading Scripture we have our hearts reshaped with the values of God so that when we encounter a circumstance that is in no way directly addressed in Scripture we still have a profound sense of a "biblical" or "scriptural" approach to the situation, or does it mean yet something else? Again, what do we mean when we say that we "hear God" in our inner person? Do we hear Him audibly? Do we sense that a thought was prompted by the Holy Spirit? Or do we mean something else? To complicate the issue more, how does the emphasis in Scripture on our life together as Christians impact the issue of "hearing the Spirit" in our inner being (a strong case has been made by some that these impression need to be submitted to the larger community for confirmation)? There are a series of very significant questions and issue wrapped with this subject that cannot be glossed over without diminished the full teaching of Scripture - no matter what your position regarding Guthrie's conclusions.

        2. I am also concerned about the nature of the generalizations being made about Scripture itself in this comment chain. There are some general assertions that need to be sourced appropriately. Two in particular, Ryan, stand out to me. First, the assertion that most scholars read Hebrews 4:12 as referring to Jesus as Logos rather than to the Scriptures. I have no doubt that some scholars do this, but to claim some form of scholarly consensus or majority opinion - really? I haven't read what most scholars have written on Hebrews 4:12, but I have read plenty of credible scholars, in both New Testament and Systematic Theology, that do in fact argue that Hebrews 4:12 refers to the written word, not Jesus as the Logos (e.g. George Guthrie, William Lane, Paul Rainbow - in the IVP Dictionary of the Latter New Testament, Millard Erickson, Wayne Grudem). We must be exceedingly careful about overstating a claim to make a point. It is certainly possible that the majority of scholars think Hebrews 4:12 is a personal reference to Jesus, but I haven't done a survey, and you haven't claimed to either. Please be careful here. Nor is accurate to assume that a mere majority of scholars makes that particular meaning the correct one. Second, your comment regarding the New Testament use of the phrase "Word of God" raises a similar question. Did you check your NT before you made the comment, because even with your qualification, the you have now published an idea. I think that there are several uses of the phrase "Word of God" in the New Testament that transparently refer to the Scriptures (e.g. Ephesians 6:17; 1 Thess. 2:13; 1 Timothy 4:5). More to the point, it seems that the author certainly uses the phrase itself with this meaning in Hebrews 13:7. Again, I am pleading that when we engage in debate, particularly in written form, we are careful and disciplined about our facts and use of language.

        Certainly continue to debate this issue, learn and grow through the conversation, continue to honor Christ in your tone (which I think you are doing quite well), but also be careful in drawing conclusions about the text without pausing to double check the facts - we also honor Christ in this way.

        Blessings

        • Ryan

          Jeff,

          Your second criticism is fair and warranted, and I withdraw my earlier claim as an unsubstantiated generalization. However, I would like to point out that this was offered as a corollary - I did provide textual reasons as to why Hebrews 4 should be seen as a reference to Christ and not Scripture.

          Your first criticism is also valid. I suppose that in presenting two positions, I was in reality presenting two extremes. A more nuanced view would be highly helpful - though I suspect perhaps a bit outside the scope of Guthrie's article.

  • Hayden

    Nancy,

    Thank you for the post, but I couldn't help but wonder whether the two types of hearing from God you describe are really that different. I agree with all of what you say regarding the danger of basing our Christian walks on hearing from God through "an inner voice". If I understood you right, I heard you to be saying that sometimes people take their thoughts and reflections that come during prayer or just while thinking about God to come directly from God.

    Now, if I get up in the morning, open my Bible, and find God speaking to me there as I read, is this not very similar? Surely the notion of God "speaking to me" will not just include my reading the passage, but will include how I apply the passage. Furthermore, my sense of God speaking to me through the passage will probably be stronger if I find the passage to apply more directly to a particular situation I find myself in. Is my interpretation and application then not just as subject to error by surely including my own thoughts, even if my mind is being conformed to Christ's mind? For this seemed to be the main problem you had with hearing from God through an inner voice. I agree with you that the "Word of God" is living and active, but first and foremost the "Word" is the one who became flesh and dwelt among us, died, rose again, and is seated at the right hand of the Father (Hallelujah!! :)). So while I do take Scripture to be authoritative, perhaps even inherent, will we not always do better to interpret and apply Scripture in community, and more particularly with members of the Church, the Body of Christ, where the Word of God is preached with the help of the Holy Spirit by someone acting with the very authority of Christ? I agree with you that God can speak to us however God wants, but I disagree that reading the Bible alone and referring only to the words of the text gives us any more license to say God spoke to us than if we sense an inner voice. I never have sensed an inner voice, but it's also not clear to me the extent to which God has spoken to me, by myself, through Scripture. I go back and forth on it.

  • jason

    I like Henry Blackaby's work book titled "Experiencing God". He uses the bible to show you that God speaks through the bible but not just the bible.

    • http://bibchr.blogspot.com Dan Phillips

      Very different perspective, starting here: http://bit.ly/Jcz1Z2.

      • Jason

        I also like Wayne Grudem's book on Prophecy And his systematic Theology segment on gifts. I will read your post though. Thanks for caring enough to share it with me. I share all the concerns mentioned in several of the posts.

  • lisa

    Leslie, you are free to marry Johnny or Bobby and we don't always need to have "a peace" about something unless you mean peace that you choices align with God's will REVEALED IN SCRIPTURE.

    • leslie

      Hi Lisa and other Commentators,
      I don't necessarily believe that I need to have a peace about every decision that I make...for example "Should I eat at the Waffle House or IHOP." Taking everyday life decision to this level would seem silly. However, there are tons of decisions that I make where I do need to sense God's peace and direction. Many of these decisions I will not find an answer to in scripture. Am I free to marry Johnny or Bobby, or go back to school if I wish, of course! I have freedom in Christ so as long as my freedom is not leading me astray from scripture. However, I believe that the Holy Spirit wishes to commune with us on a deeper level. I believe that God delights in our desire to bring a decision to him that we don't necessarily have to but can freely choose on our own. Why? Because it's about the relationship. So when I'm struggling with a BIG decision and have already consulted scriptures but am still torn on what to do, I pray about it. After a period of time, I usually have a gut feeling nudging me in a particular direction, and I attribute this as the Holy Spirit. I guess the bottom line for me and the real question that is begging to be asked on this particular topic is "How do each of us define God's Word?" Is it merely limited to scripture or can the Holy Spirit speak to us through a variety of ways? I believe that He can and does. However, as stated in my first post everything we hear should be measured against scripture first as that is are primary source. However, I believe that it was Paul who said that even those who have not heard God's Word through scripture are without excuse as they can look at his creation. What this tells me, is that God is bigger than what we have through scripture and that He can communicate with us in any form or fashion that He wishes. We have no excuse. I think the root of all of the discussions on both ends is rooted in fear. So many Christians are fearful of being led astray and doing the wrong thing. Yes! We should put on our armor and be strengthened in the scriptures as we live in dark times, but sometimes what we feel is virtue is actually fear which is not a fruit of the spirit. God is big enough to hold us. If we are reading scripture, praying,spending time in his presence, and communing with him, we can trust Him to hold us.

      • Adam Desmond

        Leslie, you are exactly right. It's all about the relationship. Can we make decisions without consulting our Father? Of course! His plan will be accomplished regardless. But He deeply desires to not only transform us into new creatures, but experience that transformation with us. There is so much that our Father wants to tell us about His heart for us and what we're going through. I've had many conversations with God in which I was looking for an answer but instead received His heart for me and what impact each decision could have. God gives us freedom to make these decisions, but He wants to walk the road with us. And that's what communicating with God is truly about.

  • Nate

    "Are there instances in the Scriptures in which people describe a sense of God speaking to them through an inner voice?"

    Yes. Quite a few actually. Here are a couple

    "Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy..." (Nehemiah 7:5)

    "Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking." (Acts 14:8-10) - How does a person "see faith" if it's not an impression the Holy Spirit placed in his heart.

    Also see Matthew 2:6-7 when Jesus immediately knows what the Pharisees are thinking about his comment regarding the forgiveness of the lame man's sins.

    As a person, who would place himself in both the reformed and charismatic camps, I thought this was a pretty weak argument. I agree that the main way God speaks is through His revealed word; however, we are also told not to despise prophecies but to test them and hold onto the good (1 Thess 5:20-21).

    • TB

      Amen. And there are many other scriptural examples of God speaking to his people in this way.

    • Gabriel Tan

      Hi guys, that seems to be the main rationale for saying God speaks to us in a still small voice.

      1. God spoke to people in the Bible in an audible voice
      2. Therefore he must speak to me in an audible voice.

      But that is flawed thinking. By that logic, I should also be able to say since God asked Hosea to marry a promiscuous unfaithful woman (Homer), I should be able to go out to marry a promiscuous unfaithful woman as well.

      Just because something is described in the Bible, does not mean it is prescribed.

      I think the key to knowing whether we should do something described in the Bible is ask ourselves what is the author's purpose in writing this?

      Using Hosea as an example, the reason why God asked Hosea to marry Gomer was because God wanted to give a picture of his faithfulness to his idolatrous people.

      In the same way, Acts was meant to show how the Spirit worked in the hearts of cowardly men in Luke to change them to be bold proclaimers of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. To use Acts as a prescription of the normal Christian experience is to miss the point of Luke the author.

  • Jamie

    we need to let God be God and not be extremely cautious. if Christians are not rooted in scripture then yes, they should be very careful. But Romans 8 says that we are his children and I see no reason why Gods children should not expect to hear from God. I trust that God will not give me a scorpion, so if he wants to speak to me I'm not gonna live in fear of the supernatural. Sorry but I don't find this article helpful. I tire of this because I belive the church quenches the work of the holy spirit and this stuff plays a part.

    • Ryan

      It's not that we should expect to never hear from God, but rather that there is no reliable way of determining whether what we hear is of God or not, unless it is something already touched on by the Scriptures. There has, quite obviously, been enough instances of "God told me to marry you" and the like that we can say with a fair degree of certainty that there isn't all that much overlap between instances where people think God is speaking to them and instances where God is actually speaking to them.

      Test the spirits - yes indeed, but how? Have you cultivated a litmus test that allows you to definitely identify the origins of these "messages?" How do you distinguish between God's message to you and your subconscious desires, or unbidden thoughts, or the like? If you feel an overwhelming sense of discomfort about something, is that a sign that God's telling you not to do it, or is it a sign that Taco Bell wasn't the best choice for lunch?

    • TB

      Amen. People try to control everything and everyone, including God,

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  • http://www.graceforlife.com Terry Rayburn

    Two key words bridge the gap between cold Bible Study that even a natural man can do, and God "speaking" to a born again believer:

    1)"Illumination", which can happen right while reading the Word, or later in "the garden alone", or in Manhattan traffic; and

    2) "Wisdom", which can be imparted right while reading the Word, or later, ditto #1.

    Both are sourced from the Scriptures itself, not from individual direct revelation.

    I might add one other word, "authority". You will hardly ever run across even a Blackaby protege who will stand with the courage of, say, an Apostle, and say, "God told me this!", and under even moderate cross-examination not back down in the least.

    On the contrary, they may very well say something like, "God told me this. What do YOU think?" Sad.

    (Of course, there are exceptions, usually sociopathic self-proclaimed "apostles" who are really into "power", and can't let their disciples see any sign of weakness)

    • http://awildernesslife.wordpress.com LG

      This is goooooood.

  • Cranios

    Perhaps I am a LOT more suspicious than you are, but I think much of the time when people say "God told me", they are trying to raise their own status. If God told me something, then I must be special or have some special relationship with Him, be holier or more obedient, etc., and possibly am even worthy of being followed by others because of my special communications with the Almighty.
    I know: I'm being judgmental and uncharitable - perhaps so, but that is what I think is going on, truth be told.

    • Ryan

      I'm with you on that. Even if I were to feel that God has "told me" something or "laid it on my heart" or "grieved my spirit" or whatever other Christianese nonsense is being used today, I would never actually SAY that. It demonstrates a complete lack of intellectual integrity. I'm sure that if God desires to do something, He's quite capable of bringing it about without me using His name as a blunt instrument.

      "God told me" is in the same vein as words/phrases like "The Biblical perspective," "True Christianity," "True man/woman of God," etc, in that it adds nothing to the conversation and instead only serves as a way of coercing people to agree with you, intentional or not. "Oh, God said it? It's the Biblical perspective? This is what True Christians should do, and if I don't then I'm not a True Man/Woman of God? Wow, I'd better do it!"

  • http://worshipingasovereignlord.blogspot.com Adam

    This is absolutely fantastic. Thank you.

  • Peter

    What a great article and interesting discussion.
    John Newton (author of Amazing Grace) wrote a letter dealing with the subject of guidance which is brilliant. He discusses the various routes that Christians take and then explains what I think is the Biblical norm. You can find it here: http://www.puritansermons.com/newton/newton1.htm
    (Get a copy of his letters if you can - they are are real treasures!)

  • http://steadyonband.com Jeff S

    The short answer is, the reason we think we can directly communicate with God is because we have the Holy Spirit and because the scripture uses "family" and "adoption" as a metaphor for our relationship with God. It's not natural to think of God as "Father" or "Daddy" and the most intimate we actually get with him is through a book that everyone has the same access to written years before we were ever born. We believe we have a special, intimate and personal relationship with God.

  • Susan C.

    Very interesting discussion.

    Some of the above posts are too long or technical for me, but, speaking off of 30-odd years' experience: Scripture gives me specific commands and principles; God expects me to use my brain and heart to put them into practice. He impresses particular verses on me at some times, and fairly frequently, they have some bearing on what's going on right then. Once in a while, he may move me to do or say something specific, but I have to run a quick check before doing it, to see whether it goes along with what he's said in print, and whether it seems to be appropriate at that time.

    As far as saying "God told me" something, I tend to be very cautious. I know I can be misled. I think the most I have claimed during the past 20 years (and that rather reluctantly) was "God seemed to be saying..." When I was younger, I may have claimed more, but I don't remember.

    I'm not trying to negate others' experience, but this is my experience.

  • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com Steve Cornelll

    It sounds very spiritual for someone to say, “God led me,” or “God told me,” but I am a bit suspicious of a person who implies that she has a line of direct communication from God.

    I am even more cautious when no one else affirms what the person offers as the voice of God. God has been blamed for far too many foolish and irresponsible things by people who confuse their inverted pride with God’s will.

    It's relatively futile to debate another person’s claims to God speaking or inner impressions, but we can evaluate those experiences based on objective considerations. What should we believe about God giving inner impressions to prompt us toward His will? http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2011/09/09/do-inner-promptings-reveal-gods-will-3/

  • http://kerdos.wordpress.com Drew Hunter

    Hi, Nancy.

    Just a quick comment here to thank you for this post. Very clear, very helpful, and much needed in our time.

    - Drew

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  • Vaughn Wassink

    Another voice to add to the mix:

    Charles Spurgeon
    http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols31-33/vols31-33.htm

    [But what is the Truth? There is the point. Is the truth that which I imagine to be revealed to me by some private communication? Am I to fancy that I enjoy some special Revelation and am I to order my life by voices, dreams and impressions? Brothers and Sisters, fall not into this common delusion! God’s Word to us is in Holy Scripture. All the Truth that sanctifies men is in God’s Word! Do not listen to those who cry, “Lo here!” and, “Lo there!” I am plucked by the sleeve almost every day by crazy persons and pretenders who think that they have Revelations from God. One man tells me that God has sent a message to me by him—and I reply, “No, Sir, the Lord knows where I dwell and He is so near to me that He would not need to send to me by you.” Another man announces, in God’s name, a dogma which, on the face of it, is a lie against the Holy Spirit. He says the Spirit of God told him so-and-so, but we know that the Holy Spirit never contradicts Himself. If your imaginary Revelation is not according to this Word of God, it has no weight with us! And if it is according to this Word, it is no new thing!

    Brothers and Sisters, this Bible is enough if the Lord does but use it and quicken it by His Spirit in our hearts. Truth is neither your opinion, nor mine—your message, nor mine! Jesus says, “Your Word is truth.” That which sanctifies men is not only truth, but it is the particular Truth of God which is revealed in God’s Word—“Your Word is truth.” What a blessing it is that all the Truth that is necessary to sanctify us is revealed in the Word of God, so that we have not to expend our energies upon discovering the Truth of God, but may, to our far greater profit, use Revealed Truth for its Divine ends and purposes! There will be no more Revelations—no more are needed! The Canon is fixed and complete—and he that adds to it shall have added to him the plagues that are written in this Book! What need of more when here is enough for every practical purpose? “Sanctify them through Your truth: Your Word is truth.]

  • Grace Drake

    Ms. Guthrie, I agree with you to a point. I believe everything that you said about God speaking to us through the Holy Scriptures. This is where we learn God's voice. We should always, ALWAYS, take God's word over man's word. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."(Isaiah 55:8-11) But limiting Him to that is contrary to the scriptures themselves! Either you believe the scripture is God's word or you don't. It is not a buffet from which to pick and chose. Jesus Himself (the WORD of God who became flesh and dwelt among us, according to John 1) said "I and the Father are one" in John 10:30. And Hebrews 13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." If this is true (and it is, because it is scripture) then God works the same as He did in ages past. Jesus also said in John 14:12, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." These scriptures are very clear...these things will continue. But when someone chooses not to believe what the scriptures clearly say, it is the belief system of that person, not the truth of the scripture that should be questioned.

    As far as your quote from Graeme Goldsworthy, every person that God used in dramatic ways in the Bible for the salvation of mankind is simply an ordinary person, like you and me, who chose to listen and obey. When God has a willing vessel, He can perform mighty works through them. That is still true today. As far as God giving "special and specific guidance" in the ordinary circumstances of life, what about Naaman being healed from leprosy in 2 Kings 5, the waters purified in 2 Kings 2, the widow paying off her husband's debts in 2 Kings 4, the missing axhead in 2 Kings 6?... to name a few. Elisha was a man of God, a prophet, and God spoke through him. But before you begin to think that he was something special, read in Numbers 22:30 where God spoke through a donkey! As far as God speaking to individuals because of "that person's place in the outworking of God's saving purposes," Jeremiah 29:11 says that God has an awesome plan for each one of us, and the "Great Commission" of Matthew 28:19-20 tells all of us to be about the salvation and discipling of the whole world (or did you think that was just for the 11 disciples that He was speaking to at that moment?).

    God speaks to us in our spirit according to Romans 8:16 ("The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit") and John 14:26 ("But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."), not in our mind ("There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" Proverbs 14:12) or heart ("The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?" Jeremiah 17:9).

    Concerning "digging deep" and realizing that you are trying to "impress" someone...those who have truly heard God's voice, felt His touch, been in His presence, are so overwhelmingly humbled that the God of the universe, in His awesome majesty, would take notice, would pursuit us with an everlasting love, and never, never, never give up on us...even in our filthy self-righteousness.

    So do not be so presumptuous as to use "we" and "us" when you are stating YOUR opinion, like including some unknown multitude of people will make you more correct in your thinking and theorizing. "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

    • Dan C

      Grace,

      You said,

      “And Hebrews 13:8 says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." If this is true (and it is, because it is scripture) then God works the same as He did in ages past. Jesus also said in John 14:12, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." “

      Then you said:

      “These scriptures are very clear...these things will continue. But when someone chooses not to believe what the scriptures clearly say, it is the belief system of that person, not the truth of the scripture that should be questioned.”

      Is either of those passages a “prescription” for a form of continuationism? If we are to define what ‘sameness’ about Christ is spoken of in the Hebrews passage, we need to look at the context of Hebrews 13 and the overall context of all of Hebrews. Whatever it is, it’s not about God whispering in our ears.

      The John passage speaks of ‘greater things’, NOT necessarily bigger and grander miracles of the same sort performed by the apostles to validate their ministry as being from God (and Christ), unless it’s talking about the miracle of salvation through the preaching of the gospel and the gift of faith given to the hearers.

      We also have in Hebrews, in the opening words:

      “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Heb 1:1-4

      Yes, God spoke directly to the prophets who relayed a lot of “Thus saith the Lord” kinds of things. Heb 1:1-2 we are told that that direct speaking was in ‘times past’, BUT now God has spoken through His Son. If that’s not a rather clear statement concerning how God spoke/still speaks, I don’t know what is.

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  • Dan C.

    I don't have time to read through all of the comments, but I have a question. How do we know the little voice in my head/heart IS God? I verify it with THE standard of truth, the written word. So why sit around and listen for little voices? During the period in my Christian life when I was part of the "God speaks to me." crowd I rarely actually said that. I thought it sounded rather pompous, if you know shat I mean. Why advertise it other than to appear more 'mature' and puffed up?

    • a.

      ...maybe one should say

      …and I think that I also have the Spirit of God. 1 Cor 7:40b

      • a.

        although, if the Lord chose to speak directly, one ought to say “the Lord said…”

  • Larry

    Nancy, excellent posting. Spot on. Seems to be a disconnect with those who may feel "God continues to talk." Whenever He is talking, He is talking out of His scriptures, whether it is 100 yrs ago or 100 days from now. The idea of "He still speaks" lends one to think, He says something "extra." In my experience, those who offer the "God told me" are usually after a non-negotiable exchange when it needs to benefit them, or, to appear intimately connected to God, (as you said) and very rarely does scripture pass through their teeth and lips.

    • Dan C

      Excellent Point, Larry

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  • Coby

    I can't really add much. Some of the comments were brilliant. But as a long-time Presbycostal, I really appreciate the author's exhortation to consider Scripture our primary source of wisdom.

    In a day when Reformed Christians have to compete on an equal footing with Evangelicals, Charismatics, and even a few Catholics and Orthodox, it is easy to feel like the experience of others on issues like the salvation experience, hearing God's voice, the value of the Church Fathers and of contemplative prayer trumps our own unique emphases. But the Spirit has given every church something to say. Our gift may seem small by comparison to the flashier contributions of others, or to what we hoped it would be (AKA "the former temple") but it's not nothin'.

    God gives us wisdom in many ways. Theology, good preaching, speaking in tongues, votes of Session, and the voices of little children. Who are we to criticize someone else's servant? And even though I want to see a genuine Reformed identity emerge and stand strong in this generation, I don't want to see us retreat into a Presbyterian ghetto, where we all wear black doctor's robes and embroidered stoles and sit demurely and quietly while the Teaching Elder declaims heatedly against Catholics, Free Will Baptists, and Seeker-Sensitive Churches. Ew. The sun is shining. Go outside and play.

    Doesn't it make sense that there are four main ways God speaks to us? We call them General and Special Revelation, Church Tradition and, for lack of a better word, "Hearing God's Voice." Loren Cunningham, in "Is That Really You, God?" makes the excellent point that anyone who has had saving faith has heard God's call in their heart. It's just a matter of having the faith to continue to hear him. There is objective revelation, and there is subjective revelation. Every time we ask the Lord for wisdom, we believe he will speak to us in some way.

    That's what I think Paul means by "the sword of the Spirit, the word of God." In that one instance, he uses the Greek "rhema" instead of "logos" for "word." I think what he is trying to capture is the Old Testament expression "the word of the Lord." In other words, the Bible is a dead letter unless we use it.

    I think Nancy Guthrie writes in a spirit very much like that of Gandalf, when he tells Theoden in "The Two Towers," "I think your hands would feel stronger if they grasped your old sword." I am very encouraged today by the admonition to act with strength and good courage, out of the core of steel built up from meditating on the Word. We need -- I need -- to have the confidence to act boldly, even without an obvious "check" or "leading." To speak boldly, too, "as if speaking the very words of God."

    Thanks, Nancy. Your words are very timely, and your point is well taken. I hope we can all receive it and put it to work.

  • Allie

    I really appreciate this!

    "Jesus told me" or "Holy Spirit told me" is around me daily. I just smile and listen or I may ask them how they know it was Jesus or Holy Spirit (they leave off "the" before Holy Spirit). I get a blank stare.
    I'm also surrounded by those who profess that God speaks to and through them with dreams and visions.

    I rely on the Word. I rely on answers to prayers for wisdom to makes decisions. I trust in the providence of The Lord to lead me throughout these decisions. I rely on the Spirit to illumine the truths of the Scripture.
    I no longer seek an "inner voice" to "feel" closer to God.

    I hear so many women express that they are struggling to "hear God" or wonder why "he is silent" in their lives. They firmly believe they are to hear his voice 24/7 and if they do not, they are doing something wrong or not having enough faith. They are big fans of Jesus Calling and mystic authors. I find out that they are not in the Word except for upbeat verses about how much they are loved by Jesus. They want to bypass the written Word for an "inner voice" or "inner nudging" or some feeling.
    Offering the Word to them seems dry and mechanical after such experiences, as if they are missing out on something that others have.
    Often times I find that I do not know how to advise them as they look for more feelings and more experiences and more deep times of worship outside of sound doctrine.

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  • Mo

    This is such an important article. Christians are so loose with language like, "God told me", "God led me" and yet some of those same people barely know their Bibles!

    • David W. Fong

      I learned years ago by a Christian lawyer that the Holy Spirit enlightens and speaks to us by our conscience noting our sins or by our intuition perhaps by that still small voice that directs or enlightens us based on Scripture that is for good. In the general world people receive all kinds of impulses good or bad ( Satanic??). Note the voices in the naval yard shooter's head and perhaps in all the other shooters.

  • http://norocksnogavel.com Trent

    So, God is incapable of direct speech since the resurrection? ;)
    That's like saying the only Bible is the 1611 KJV.
    This isn't complicated. God will speak in whatever way he chooses. If he can use the MSG version or the NIV or the HCSB he's certainly got the power to talk to someone directly. But yes, absolutely filter it through the written word.
    If I hear "Put it out, NOW!" booming in my head after I light another cigarette I know I'm not supposed to be smoking and the Spirit has been convicting me for days about smoking, I'd do well to put it out and never pick one back up again. And who could prove through scripture it wasn't God?

  • Jim

    If it is true that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, and the result is dreams, visions, prophesy, signs and wonders etc. (Acts 2:17ff), then the burden of proof is on those who say that God doesn't speak in these ways, that He speaks only through Scripture. If you are going to put such an emphasis on Scripture alone shouldn't you support your position with a direct statement of Scripture that God doesn't speak these ways any more. Instead you base your assertion largely on a quote from a book (Graeme Goldsworthy), not explicit statements from Scripture. This quote is a prescriptive inference from descriptive narrative texts, presuming to prescribe what God does and doesn't do. It ignores God's promise in Acts that in the last days ordinary people would hear from God in a wide variety of ways as a result of the outpouring of God's Spirit. If they were in the last days in Acts 2, surely 2000 years later we are still in the last days and His promise still stands.

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  • licond

    The Holy Spirit does lead Believers and that leading should be consistent with the Bible. Consider Romans 8:12-14ff.; The context suggests to live according to Spirit witnessing inside of you and so do the preceeding verses. In addtition, consider 1 Corinthians 2:12-13—the verses speaks for themselves. And another verse that is compelling is John 16:13. I think when people say, "God told me...", I think they are referring to the Spirits prompting in their life. There are those occasional times, though, where it's abused and wacked. I see what the author is attempting to communicate. It just feels incomplete, and a bit unsettling. For any person, my suggestion is to look up ever occurrence of of Spirit in your Bible and see how the Spirit relates to the Believer. My whole argument may seem like a circular argument,but I think my opening statement affirms what I am attempting to communicate.

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  • Erin

    This article limits the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives today, and discounts the gift of prophesy, and the office of the prophet. God will not violate His Word. He will lead, guide, and speak to His children through the Holy Spirit. It also makes an assumption that those who claim to hear from God are wrong or attempting to prove they are more spiritual. We do not know our own hearts, how can we know another? We test what we hear. We judge what others say or what we believe we are hearing from God. I don't believe we are called to silence other people or put God in a box. It's alienating and condemning to other people. As someone who's been on the mission fields of South America. I can say with great confidence God has spoken to people words that are not scripture, led people to go places to pray for people and they did not know anyone was there, and seen God do amazing things through His people. If we limit God to quoting scripture to us, we are missing out on deep, intimate fellowship. It's Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Word of God is so important, however, God can do whatever He wants. He can speak through a donkey if He wants to. The Word of God reveals Him, it does not contain Him. Reading a book is not the same as knowing the author. The Holy Spirit is vital to deepening our understanding and fellowship. He is not limited to quote only scripture to us. I can not find anywhere in the Bible where it says God speaks through a script. He had personal, unique relationships with every person. God is always speaking through His Word; He also longs to speak to us about other things as well. I do not have enough time to put up all the scriptrues to back this. I can only say, it saddens me when we judge other believers for their experiences with God. Only God knows a person's heart, motivations, and convictions. We do not. Yes there may be numerous people saying they are hearing from God and they are not. There are just as many using scripture in inappropriate ways.

    • Teresa

      Nicely put, Erin. It saddens me when people try to control God.

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