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There are two things that will try to imitate God's voice to us. We talked about the first one in our previous lesson: the devil will sometimes try to pretend He is God speaking to us.
But the other things that imitates God's voice strikes much loser to home: our own heart and desires and issues and fallen nature. And we all have fallen natures, don't we? Even when we love God with all of our hearts, we still have a carnal fallen nature to deal with. And it can definitely get in the way of us hearing God speak to us.
Even the Apostle Paul struggled with his fallen nature. Many consider Paul to be one of the greatest New Testament believers, a hero of the faith, a very mature and godly man. But look what he says about it in Romans 7:14-20 (NLT):
14The law is good, then. The trouble is not with the law but with me, because I am sold into slavery, with sin as my master. 15I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. 16I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. 17But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things.
18I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. 19When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. 20But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
The sad fact is that we were born with a sinful nature, and that nature will continue to effect us until the day that we are perfected in Christ. Yes, the Holy Spirit is at work in us, transforming us to be more like Jesus as per 2 Cor 3:18, "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 by the Spirit of the Lord."
Unfortunately, the transformation process will not be completed until we are with Jesus in glory and have been given our new eternal bodies that no longer carry the sinful nature. In the meanwhile, we continue to struggle with our fallen nature. The sad fact is that we have wants and desires that don't always conform to the perfect will of God.
And at times, we can want something so bad that our own heart/desires will try and convince us that God is going this to us. Jeremiah17:9-10 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind..." In other words, our own hearts can deceive us, but they can't deceive God. And when our heart tries to imitate God's voice to us, that imitation won't stand up to the scrutiny of God's truth.
And the heart can get "selective hearing" at times, where it only hears what it really wants to hear and it ignores everything else that the Lord and the bible have to say. I would like to illustrate this point from the life of one of my dearest friends, who has since gone home to be with the Lord.
I first met Faye when I was in high school. She was about 20 years older than me, but we became very close friends. One day her husband of almost 20 years announced that he was leaving her for another woman. Faye was a believer but her husband was not. He had been unfaithful before, but she had always forgiven him and taken him back. This time, however, he did not want to come back. And Faye could not believe it. He conceived a child with the other woman. Faye felt hurt and betrayed (what woman wouldn't?) but she was not willing to let go of the marriage without a fight.
As the divorce proceeded, Faye cried, she prayed and she called out to the Lord in her pain. Faye became convinced that God told her that her husband would come back to her and she clung to that promise. However, after the divorce was final, he married the other woman so they could raise the child together. Faye was convinced that God was going to separate her ex-husband from his new wife and return him to her. In fact, she thought that she would get to raise this child for her husband. Her youngest son was almost full grown, he was in high school. She loved the idea of raising another child, so her heart began to imitate God's voice. And she truly believed that God had promised her that her husband would return to her and bring the child with them, and the two of them would raise this baby together.
And she claimed that God had confirmed what He promised her from Scripture, quoting 1 Cor 7:10-11, which said, "10Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife."
The part about being reconciled really jumped out at her. She felt that his second marriage was unlawful in God's eyes because he was still married to her even though they had been legally divorced. She saw this verse as promising her that they would be reconciled and that her ex-husband was not allowed to divorce her. Faye wanted the marriage to be restored so badly that she "heard" God promise that to her ... only God never made that promise.
What happened was that Faye applied selective hearing to the Bible, quoting 1 Cor 7:10-11, which was written to address two believers. Her ex-husband was not a believer. Yet she held on to this promise for all those years. And she never saw the three verses immediately below that passage. And those three verses she never saw were the ones that were written to address her specific situation. 1 Cor 7:12-15 says,
12But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her. 13And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
15But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.
God said clearly in verse 15 that if a unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, then the believer is to let them go. Faye was not willing to let her unsaved ex-husband go. She selectively held on to verse 11 (a husband is not to divorce his wife) but ignored verse 15. Her own desire for the marriage to be restored convinced her that God had promised this to her. She wanted it so badly that no matter how many times she read 1 Cor 7, she never saw verse 15.
This went on for many years, and the child she hoped to raise grew up with her ex-husband and the real mother. Faye was never reconciled to her husband. She eventually died and her ex did not even come to the funeral.
Faye's story is the example of a very intense desire of the heart. And in general the more intensely that we want something, the greater the level of deception our heart will apply in imitating God's voice. Most of the time when our own heart imitates God, it will not be at that strong of a level of intensity as what I shared in this teaching. Let me give you an example of a less intense desire.
There was a time when I was suffering from hypoglycemia. The Lord told me that I was not eat anything with sugar at that time. But I was visiting some friends in Canada and they took me out to eat at a very nice restaurant. When the dessert menus were passed out, I really wanted some dessert. The pictures looked SO good, and everyone else was going to have some. I knew God had instructed me not to eat any sweets. But I really wanted some. So I asked God if I could have a dessert. I thought I heard the Lord say to me "Sure, Teresa go ahead with My blessings. I promise you that you can eat dessert and not get sick."
Now, who do you think told me that? Was it God or my own desires? I was immediately reminded of the way the Lord had instructed me not to eat sweets because it was bad for my health (because of the hypoglycemia). Some Scripture came to mind. I remembered John 14:15 (about obeying Jesus because we love Him). Could that have been the Holy Spirit speaking to me to correct my "mishearing?" I choose to ignore it. Then another passage came to mind, the passage about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit and not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19). I choose to ignore that as well, holding on to what I heard that I could have dessert. So I had dessert and it tasted good. But about an hour after I ate it, I had a hypoglycemia attack and was sick for the rest of the night.
In my case, the Lord used Scripture to try and show me that I'd heard the desires of my own heart instead of His voice. He is faithful that way, when we hear wrong, He will usually try to speak His truth to us. But often times we choose not to listen because we heard something we really wanted to hear, so we give in those desires. As Jeremiah 17:9 says, our hearts are desperately wicked. At times they will imitate God's voice to tell us what we really want to hear. We need to make sure we apply God's truth to the situation instead of immediately giving in to our desires. If I had listened to Him just before ordering dessert, then I would not have gotten sick that night. God was faithful to speak to me and let me know that He hadn't really said that. I was just unwilling to listen because I wanted to hear that it was ok to have dessert.
The sad fact is that, at times, our hearts do imitate God's voice to us. We need to be willing to bounce what we hear against God's truth and verify that it really is God speaking to us.