Hearing God's voice- about confirming signs. A Bible Study.
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27).
"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says (Psalm 95:7-11), "Today, when you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as happened in the bitterness of the day of temptation in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers tried and tested me, yet had seen my works 10 forty years."" (Hebrews 3:7 ff)
" But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom my Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (Jn 14:26)
"But this also the Holy Spirit testifies to us. " (Hebrews 10:15a)
"But about the gifts of the Spirit I will not leave you, brothers and sisters, in ignorance. 2 You know that when you were Gentiles, you were powerfully drawn to dumb idols. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one who speaks by the Spirit of God can say, Cursed be Jesus. And no one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:1 ff)
"Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is none else, a God like unto nothing,Who declareth beforehand things that are to come afterward, and before times things that are not yet come to pass, saying, What I have determined shall come to pass, and all that I have purposed to do I will do. (Isaiah 46:9 ff)
"I am like one who is deaf and does not hear, and like a mute who does not open his mouth. 15 I must be like one who does not hear and has no backtalk in his mouth. 16 But I wait, O LORD, for you; you, O LORD my God, will answer." (Ps.38:14)
"Jesus said that even stupid sheep hear his voice clearly and follow it. You are more than stupid sheep!" (David Pierce)
My dear friends,
Is it hard to hear Jesus' voice? Does he speak only through the Bible these days? Is all we perceive hearing his voice? And then why does listening work so poorly?
It is the dream, the heart's desire of every Christian to hear Jesus' voice clearly. How much easier would it be with a flat rate to the best King of Kings? But how does one recognize his voice, and why do so many claim to hear his voice and abuse it endlessly? Why, when it is so simple, are there so many false prophecies-and why do we have such a hard time separating the spirits?
Recently I had a conversation with someone about these very questions, and I said, "It's actually quite easy to talk to him.
Many years ago, I was at a seminar that was about hearing God's voice. There were 40 participants at a Christian festival, listening intently to the speaker. He opened the seminar with a clear statement: "If you want to hear God's voice reliably, you must make time for Him. You cannot expect an almighty God and King to answer you between door and door if you do not give him time, if you do not want to know him, but only demand that he arrange your things for you. God's voice is quiet. And he wants space to talk to you. " ("Sprat," Freakstock 2005)
After this announcement, out of 40 Christians who had just been highly motivated (unforgettable!), 25 left the seminar and trolled away disappointed because they had hoped for an instant solution.
God is a God who seeks community. Additionally, it is impossible for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to differ in their basic tenor. Why? Because they form a holy unity. Jesus says that whoever has seen Him has seen the Father:
" Jesus saith unto him, So long am I with you, and thou knowest me not, Philip? He who sees me sees the Father. How then sayest thou, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9). About the Holy Spirit it says that he "reminds us of all that Jesus said" (John 14:26). They do not contradict each other. Ever.
But what does one learn about God?
Well, God has always been a God who spoke to those whose "heart belongs to him undivided" (2 Chronicles 16:9). When I read the Old Testament, I encounter God as distinctly interactive and engaging. The prophets did not wonder if God had spoken; his directives were clear. With Moses, David, Daniel, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Noah- he spoke clearly (and in complete sentences!), neither coded nor particularly mysterious. Yes, even more: He confirmed his speaking with actual signs: "And this be the sign to you: You will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." (Luke 2. 12)
"And it shall come to pass, if they believe not even these two signs, and hearken not unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the waters of the Nile, and pour them upon the dry ⟨land⟩! Then the water that you will take from the Nile will become blood on the dry land." (Exodus 4:9)
I have thought a long time about why it has become so complicated, why signs are almost frowned upon nowadays, prayed a lot and - got an answer.
There are some Bible passages that discourage Christians from believing in the work and actual intervention of God:
It is the statement that blessed are those who do not see and yet believe.
It is the statement that we do not see, and yet love Jesus, and believe even though we cannot see- and it is the statement found in 1 Corinthians 12 that only the one who has the Holy Spirit can say "Jesus is Lord!".
But first of all, it is the passage in which Jesus calls those who call for signs and wonders unbelievers. Well, he does this- standing before them. Anyone could talk to him, and anyone could touch him. Anyone could read in his eyes who he was. And still, and still they doubted and wanted "proof."
Let's go once into the passages I mentioned. Maybe this is a bit of Bible work today, but it is the basis for the practical part I want to write about in the next few weeks - and without a biblical basis, that goes nowhere for me.
I will start with 1 Corinthians 12:3 ff:
"Therefore I make known to you that no one who speaks by the Spirit of God can say, Cursed be Jesus. And no one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit."
When Paul wrote this, the statement: "Jesus is Lord!" implied a statement that we find today in pure culture only in countries where Christians are persecuted and following Jesus is punishable by death (Afghanistan is a current example under the rule of the Taliban): whoever said in the times of the early church: "Jesus is Lord!" said at the same time that he would not bow to the Roman emperor's claim to God. This statement had such a real consequence that only the one who actually loved Jesus would meet it- because the consequence was torture, stoning- the death penalty.
The Jews on the one hand, to which Paul as Saul belonged first of all, persecuted the early Christians and dragged them before the high court of the Pharisees for blasphemy. The Romans demanded that they renounce and pay homage to the emperor and the Roman gods. This is also how the first part of the statement is to be understood: "Therefore I make known to you that no one who speaks in the Spirit of God says, 'Curse Jesus! " (1 Corinthians 12:3). This statement was required when someone wanted to save his life. Paul says that no one who truly has the Holy Spirit, who is truly born again, can make this statement because he (or she) has known Jesus as absolute truth. (cf.: Kenneth E. Bailey: Paul through mediterrean eyes. See references at the end)
What this passage does not say, however, is that false prophets, pretending Christians
( wolves in "sheep's clothing") cannot bring this statement slimly over the lips. Anyone can say this sentence, especially if there is no danger for one or the other confession. We all live in the western world in religious freedom, and do not have to face persecution. For us this statement has no other consequence than the personal confession to our God. And even Paul talks about false teachers leaving the church they thought belonged to them. You can pretend to be something or someone you are not.
A dear brother once said that he had been to Bible school when he had long since lost his faith in God. He related that he was so familiar with all the rules of conduct and pious language that no one would have bought that he didn't have the faith. He could pretend to be a Christian while deep down he deeply doubted the existence of God.
How does that work?
Oh, it's pious parenting. It is the code of conduct that we impose on ourselves, but which reveals nothing about the true attitude of heart. And so it is also possible for false teachers to seduce thousands with pious phrases. Whether they themselves only deeply doubt or misuse Christianity for profiteering - that is a matter between God and them. But the statement alone that they profess Jesus is as reliable as that of Jehovah's Witnesses, for whom Jesus is the incarnated Archangel Michael. So it is not a sign of unreliability to hear God's voice clearly, but unreliability of heart attitude that enables false prophecies. Because..his sheep hear- HIS voice, and can distinguish it from all false voices. Moreover- what he says will never contradict the Bible. No, the test of authenticity is so complicated- not.
The second passage is the passage where Jesus says that those "blessed are they who see not, and yet believe" Often this passage is understood to mean that Jesus thinks it is better if we believe into the blue, preferably without ever seeing results, that is, real change. But what is forgotten is that he granted Thomas the request for this sign of assurance without hesitation. He granted him to touch his hands. He granted him to see in a situation where he was truly before him. When he then says that he believes because he sees, he does so in a face to face situation. Thomas was already confirmed that Jesus had risen - by credible friends. Others had seen him, really seen him - not in a vision, but earthly after his resurrection. And yet he still did not believe. This situation is not comparable with ours - because we basically believe without seeing him - because he is with the Father until he comes back. (May that be soon).
That this is so, we find in the 1st letter of Peter:
When Peter writes there (1 Peter 8-9) that we love Jesus without seeing him, and that we believe in him without ever having seen him, he actually means it exactly that way.
We are talking about a time of writing when there were still eyewitness accounts, Peter himself is historically attested, he knew Jesus. He addresses those who "never saw him." In respect, in love. "You believe in him, although you have never met him, have not seen his miracles, cannot hear his appearance and his voice only in the spirit".
What is not meant in all the passages is that we must not ask for signs when we are uncertain, when we need confirmation. That is not "seeing", that is biblical faith.
Because we believe in it even though we don't see Jesus, don't we? We believe in God changing something in this world, we confess His omnipotence with it. We believe that he has not changed. We believe that he can send signs that underline his statement. Or, to put it briefly, we believe in his authenticity and reality. We confess that although we do not see him, we believe in the effectiveness of our prayer, we believe that he hears us. We believe that he has heard our request for confirmation and we emphasize it by looking for this sign and accepting it instead of dismissing it as a coincidence.
This is an absolutely biblical principle, friends, and not something that offends God. On the contrary, we find a story in 1 Samuel where the prophet is annoyed by this bigotry of rejecting a sign from God:
"Further the LORD spake unto Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it in the deep, or above in the high places. 12 Then Ahaz answered: I will not ask for anything, lest I tempt the LORD. 13 Then said [Isaiah], Hear now, house of David. Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and will give him the name Immanuel. 15 He will eat soured milk and wild honey until he understands to reject evil and choose good. 16 For before the boy understands how to reject evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted." (Isaiah 7:10)
Does this work?
Yes, flawlessly. Of course it works. But it presupposes that we have taken another step beforehand: We must seek Jesus with all our heart, we must reach out to His way instead of ours, and be willing to let His reality break into ours. It is shocking when it really happens, it makes the ground under our feet suddenly not so earthly anymore.
And: we must pray. And actually expect a response. If we only pray, ask for clarity, but then look for the solution ourselves, we deprive God of the opportunity to answer us clearly. No, those who ask should expect an answer that is unambiguous and has real, earthly consequences.
There are some Christians who try desperately to communicate how to come into heart relationship with God, and many try sharing, witnessing and appealing.
My experience is that the more clearly I assume that God is real and unchanging in control, the more clearly He acts in my life. The less "hullu" I make about his existence, the more real he becomes. It works when I seek him and expect him to answer me as he always has; As a quiet voice, as an extended gaze, with real signs and with real, inner and outer change. With allegories and by turning my gaze, my whole being to situations and certain people. It is like a call to be involved, to pause, but sometimes also a call to turn away and leave. Whether I do that then or not is my free decision. But always answer. When I am unsure, I ask for signs: "Lord, I believe you said such and such. If you want us to....take this job.... me to stay on this thing...if you really want this contact...then: ...someone else will call today and confirm the interview--find a cloud heart when I go out...then that's exactly what will be confirmed to me again from the outside." It always works. And where the answer is absent, I assume that he ..just doesn't want it.
Maybe this sounds too practical, too simple to many.
I want to give you something to consider:
Those whom God chose were never especially learned, especially great, or especially holy. They were like us. And they never acted on their own power or authority, but followed God obediently, no matter how absurd his indications were. Is it permissible to say so? But of course! I think Jeremiah groaned inwardly when he was ordered to buy a loincloth, wear it in public for weeks until it was covered with dirt, and then put it in a rock crack. It was the beginning of a prophecy.
And he himself became the witness of the message, he became involved in the message. He lived it - he didn't just think it.
We have a living, real, speaking God, we confess. We have the Holy Spirit through whom we can talk to him, because he is our teacher. We are born again in Jesus.
The first step to hearing God's voice clearly is to want to understand His nature. The second is to pray and to understand prayer not as soliloquy but dialogue. The third step is to really expect answers, and then to do what God says, even if it interrupts our daily life.
What doesn't work, however, is "a little bit of God" If we keep Him at a distance because His intervention in our lives might lead to consequences that disrupt our personal plans, we are acting like Bilbo, who was supposed to be sent on an adventure by Gandalf and then complained when dwarves tore up his cozy cave.
And so I conclude today with the following statement:
I believe that every Christian hears Jesus' voice. The question is whether we recognize it as his and give it space. Why do I believe that? Well, because Jesus said so. Plain and simple. And while many argue about word meanings and literal application of laws- I just think it's a good idea to simply take Jesus at His word. To find him credible. And to do what so many have done before us: To follow the ways God has always chosen to lead His people.
To do this, we must learn one thing:
It is not we who determine, but he who leads. Not we rule, but he rules. And we follow him, not running ahead, not speculating, not interpreting what he tells us: we recognize him as King, Friend, Savior and Son of God. And we believe- that we are truly saved, loved and wanted.
With that I conclude, and will write in the next chapters about ways in which I experience His speaking.
Please realize one thing: I am keeping fragments. But as far as Jesus' guidance is concerned, I join Paul smiling a little and say: After all, I too have the Spirit. So test everything, and keep the good. I hope it helps some of you.
With love and blessings,
Bible passages: The Holy Scriptures: Luther Translation. Quoted from www.bibleserver.com
Kenneth E. Bailey (ed.) Paul through mediterrean eyes. Cultural studies in 1 Corinthians. InterVarsity Press 2011.
Quoted from David Pierce: In Person teaching, Radical Evangelism Leadership School New Zealand, Waikanae, 2005.
Song: "Who can compare" Mary Kat Ehrenzeller.