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LARGE PARTS OF THIS TEACHING SERIES ARE EXTRACTED FROM THE BOOK:
How To Hear The Voice Of God In A Noisy World, by Teresa Seputis ISBN 0-88419-7557,
published by Charisma House Publishers, 1-800-451-4598
God is a communicating God, so He finds many ways to speak to His children. Of course, the most important and most reliable of these is through His written word, the Bible. The Bible is the inspired word of God, and it must be our absolute standard by which we judge all else. When God speaks directly to us, we bounce it off of the written word of God. If we "hear" God say something directly to us that contradicts the Bible, then we must assume we have "heard wrong." Numbers 23:19 says, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind" (NIV). Also, the first part of Malachi 3:6 says, "I the Lord do not change" (NIV). So we see that it would be inconsistent with God's character to speak something to us in the Bible (which we hold as absolute truth) and then later to change His mind about it and say something contradictory. He simply would not do that!
God speaks to us through the Bible in many ways. The most obvious is by teaching us "His ways" -- e.g., how to please Him, how He desires us to behave, what He is like, etc.
Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. (Ps 25:4-5, NKJV)
The Bible makes it easy to discern His will in many situations. He has made it clear what His standards of holiness are. For instance, believers don't wake up each morning and look for divine guidance as to whether or not God wants them to steal from someone today. God has already made His opinion on this quite clear. The Bible says that we are to be honest and fair in our dealings with others, generous to the needy, etc.
Have you noticed that in a lot of cases, the "hard part" is not discerning how God wants us to behave. It is actually doing it once we understand what He wants! The Bible makes God's standards of behavior very clear. But sometimes it is not easy to actually walk out God's will once we understand it. Let me illustrate using the example of forgiveness. We know that God fully expects us to forgive those who wrong us, just as God has forgiven us. (See Matt 6:14-15, Matt 18:33-35, Mark 11:25 and many, many other verses along these lines.) Yet, when someone deeply hurts or betrays us, we find that it is not very easy to truly and completely forgive because our emotions are engaged. We make a conscious decision to forgive, but many of us struggle as we try to walk that out. We choose to forgive, because we know this is what God wants us to do. But the next day we struggle with it again. So we lay it on the altar and cry out to God for His help to forgive. And then a few days or a few weeks later we find ourselves going through it again. Even after the will is engaged, it is not easy to sincerely and completely forgive that person who has utterly devastated us. This is why we need the Holy Spirit in our hearts. He helps us to understand what God wants and then He transforms us and empowers us to do it.
God has revealed many of His characteristics to us through His written word. We know that He is loving (1 John 4:15) and forgiving (Eph 4:32) and good (Ex 34:5) and kind (Ps 63:3) and patient (2 Peter 3:9). We know that He loves us of us (John 3:16) and that He desires to give us good gifts (Matt 7:7-11). We also know that He hates sin (Jer 44:4) and that He expects us to obey Him (John 14:15). In fact, God has chosen to reveal quite a bit to us about His character and nature through His word. This gives us a framework to know Him experientially. Once we know what His characteristics are like, it gives us insight of how to behave or act in many situations.
Yet, despite all the depth and riches in the Bible, there are some situations that it simply does not deal with. For instance, the Bible may not help us understand which of two job offers God wants us to accept. There are many day-to-day life decisions where either choice lines up with the principles in Scripture and with the character and nature of God. So the Bible does not help us discern which choice is the one God wants. Let me share an example.
Not long ago, a young man came to me seeking help to determine God's will for his future. He was not sure whether to join the Army and pursue a military career or to go to college and study a professional secular vocation. He is a smart and capable young man, and could do well in either. He had dedicated his life wholly and completely to the Lord and he wanted to serve Him with every fiber of his being. He had poured over the Scriptures and could not find anything to help him discern which of these two career paths was the one God wanted for him. He knew the Bible very well, and he knew God's nature and character. But there was nothing in any of that knowledge that told him which of the two career paths God wanted him to take.
There are times when we as believers need to hear from God above and beyond what He has already revealed in His written word. We need to hear Him for our specific situations. Fortunately, God loves to talk to us, to answer our questions, to share His heart with us and to tell us things. He will frequently deal with things that are very personalized to our situation, but He will never contradict Scripture in doing so. The Holy Spirit is capable of quickening a scripture to us at just the right time, so that it serves as clear guidance for a present situation. Or He can meet us through Scripture to communicate clearly on a specific situation where we need to hear Him. We will look more at that in our next lesson.
There is so much that the Bible does deal with directly, that is practical for our everyday lives. When we need to "hear from God" in some situation, we should start by looking at our Bible and seeing what God has already said on that subject. If, for instance, we are wondering whether or not we should go to a wild party to drink and have sex, the Bible has already shared God's opinion on those subjects. We know God does not approve of sex outside of marriage and that He does not approve of drunkenness. Therefore, we know that He would not want us to go to that party and do those things. The Bible gives us guidelines on how to think and behave. An acquaintance of mine used to say, "You should not wake up in the morning wondering if whether or not it is OK to commit adultery today," because you already know God's opinion on this from the Bible. Conversely, if we want to know how to please or bless God, the Bible also makes that very clear. God desires that we do not worship or elevate anything above Him (Deut 6:13-15, Mt 4:10). He expects us to obey Him because we love Him (John 14:15). And we know that it blesses God when we put our trust in Him (Ps 37:3-5).
The Bible is the Word of God. It is true and reliable. The Bible is the standard by which we judge everything else that we think we hear God say to us. We need to pay attention to what God has already communicated to us through the Bible, because this is one of His most primary methods of communication.