“It’s Me” – Hearing the Voice of God

When I call my wife, I usually say “It’s Me” when she answers.  I’m sure a lot of people do this, but when you really think about it, it’s kind of silly.  Usually when someone answers your call you want to identify yourself so they know who’s calling.  Saying “It’s me” doesn’t really help.  Yet my wife knows exactly who I am when I call because she knows me and knows my voice.  The truth is that I don’t even need to say “It’s Me” because she knows who I am the moment I speak.

So often we want to hear from God but we haven’t really taken the time to get to know Him.  We want to flop open Scripture and get some “word” from God for our immediate situation.  That would be like my wife listening in on part of my conversation with someone else and automatically thinking I’m talking to her.  We also want to take obscure feelings or ideas that come into our minds and declare that it is God speaking when we haven’t taken the time to weigh those things against how God has worked and revealed Himself in Scripture.

What if God is saying to us “It’s Me” but we don’t recognize His voice?  Or what if we are hearing something and assuming it is God when it really isn’t?  How can we know for sure that we are hearing from God?  We must know Him and the surest foundation for this is His Word.  I believe that God can and does speak to us today, but we must first know Him from His Word and then judge everything else against who we know Him to be from His Word.  There are no shortcuts, but I do believe that it is possible as we walk with God and grow to know Him through His Word that when we hear His voice we can truly know that it really is Him.

photo by Flickr user aepoc

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  1. Pastor Dave,
    What if an elder or pastor thinks that they hear the voice of God for some other person or persons in the congregation, and that person or persons check that voice against the Bible and conclude that, no, God was not speaking to them- is that person or persons guilty of disobedience to God? Are we not setting up yet another thing for the Christian to be obedient to other than the Bible?

  2. Other than apostles and prophets of New Testament times has anyone heard the voice of God? Does Christ’s Spirit not now lead purely and only through the Word? Are not elders and pastors to be expositors of the Word only, enabling the sheep to see Christ clearly through their exposition? Does not God the Holy Spirit lead now through prompting of hearts- pastors/elders are prompted to feed the sheep; givers to give, etc?

  3. Mark,
    I believe wholeheartedly that the Bible is the final authority in all matters and that it is the primary and usual way that God speaks to us. I am not very comfortable with a pastor or anyone else telling another believer that they know God’s will for their life unless it is something from God’s Word that is universally applicable. Any Christian can tell anyone else that they know it is God’s will for them to love their neighbor. I don’t believe we have the right to tell anyone that God has told us they should give their car to their neighbor. If someone is a believer then the Holy Spirit lives in them and He can direct them to do God’s will better than anyone else. An elder and a pastor’s primary role is not to tell people what God wants, but to help people draw close to God through His Word for themselves and to be led by Him. Pastors and leaders are under-shepherds to Christ. It is not our voice that people should hear and follow – it is His.

    I think there are two extremes on this issue. The first is that it is absolutely normal and to be expected that God will frequently speak directly to us about every issue in our lives. The danger of this extreme is that we will frequently mislabel our own sinful ideas as the “voice of God” and then press this upon those around us.

    The second extreme is to say that God cannot speak to us in any way other than through His Word. The danger of this extreme is that it makes God into a subject to be studied rather than someone with whom we can have a relationship. This is the extreme I tend to lean toward and I believe that of the two it is to some degree the “safer” extreme. But being safe does not equal being 100% correct. This is an important lesson I believe we need to learn from the Pharisees.

    I think your comments contain two distinct questions. One is about the nature of the authority of leaders in the church. I believe that leadership only has authority when they are teaching and applying God’s Word to situations and teaching others to do the same. In other words, it is God’s Word that has the authority, not the individual leaders. If church leaders are telling a church what they believe is God’s will and the church is unwilling to follow then there are several possible problems. One is that the leaders are wrong. Like everyone else, leaders are sinful and can misinterpret God’s will or even try to call something God’s will that is actually their own selfish preference. Another possibility is that they are right but have not adequately supported their position from God’s revealed Word. Leading in this way takes time and cannot be rushed. A third possibility is that if the leaders are correct and the people do not accept it, then the leaders may have failed in their task of being under-shepherds and teaching the people to know God’s Word and will. I have seen pastors get very frustrated when the church will not follow where they believe God is leading. Yet if this is true isn’t the pastor somewhat to blame? If the shepherd shows up at the sheepfold with no sheep, does he get to blame the sheep for not following? There will always be people, even within the church, who will not be obedient to God’s will, I am not talking about those few stray individuals, but if the majority of the people in the church will not follow then there are bigger issues at stake than just that particular issue.

    This is also why the Scriptures say that the church should be led by several godly leaders rather than just one individual. A plurality of godly leaders studying Scriptures to be led by God and seeking to apply God’s Word to the church’s situations is the greatest defense against any one person’s ideas (a leader or anyone in the church) misleading the church. This will come up in the sermon this Sunday as we look at Acts 15 and see how the church applies God’s Word specifically to a very difficult situation.

    The other issue I see you raising in your comments is about individually hearing God’s voice. I am certainly not trying to say that anyone’s personal interpretation of God’s speaking is authoritative to anyone else or is in any way of more or even equal authority to the Bible. The Bible is always the final standard. It sets the boundaries by revealing who God is and how He works. I do believe that as we get to know God through His Word He may (if He so chooses) guide us to a something specific within those boundaries. He may lead us to apply His Word in a more specific way to our situations.

    I think the main point I was trying to make in this blog post is that we need to spend more time getting to know God through His Word and leave the other ways that He may speak to Him. Without knowing Him through His Word we have no reference when a church leader or anyone else says that they know what God wants us to do.

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