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"Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:6-7)


Feb 25, 2017

We hear a lot today from certain people and ministries about having to "learn to discern" God's voice. But is that true? Is it Biblical? What does the Bible tell us about hearing from God in a special revelation?

Here are the notes for this episode:


Do you have to learn to "discern" God's voice?

  1. Introduction
    1. Why this is an important question.
    2. Warren B. Smith in his book Another Jesus Calling points out this commonly taught idea as it is portrayed in Sarah Young’s channeled New Age book Jesus Calling. Listen to what he points out:
      1. “To the contrary, when Sarah Young’s ‘Jesus’ is quoted in Jesus Calling as saying, ‘You must learn to discern what is My voice and what is not,’ he gives her some very dangerous counsel. With no mention of 1 Timothy 4:1’s warning about ‘seducing spirits,’ he says, ‘Ask My Spirit to give you this discernment.’ But if the ‘Jesus’ that Sarah Young is listening to is not the true Jesus Christ, then this false ‘Christ’ is instructing her to ask his spirit to tell her what is true and what is not. Consequently, instead of testing the spirit, she is asking and trusting the spirit that she should be testing.” (Warren B. Smith, Another Jesus Calling, pp. 57-8)
    3. You see how easily someone can be deceived into following a seducing spirit, and not God’s, in seeking to really understand how to truly know God’s leading.
  2. Scriptural Precedent
    1. (1 Samuel 3:1-10)
      1. “And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision. And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; That the LORD called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I. And he ran unto Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down again. And he went and lay down. And the LORD called yet again, Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him. And the LORD called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I; for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the LORD had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, LORD; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place. And the LORD came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.” (1 Samuel 3:1-10)
    2. It is very important to consider some things from this passage:
      1. Samuel was very young at this time, and he had never received any kind of personal revelation from God before. (i.e. “…neither was the word of the LORD yet revealed unto him.” v. 7)
      2. Samuel heard God the very first time so clearly that he thought it was Eli in the other room calling him.
        1. There was no “discerning” some subjective inner voice. This was the very first time God ever spoke to Samuel.
      3. God spoke to Samuel clearly and normally.
  3. What did NOT happen?
    1. Samuel was not seeking an experience.
    2. He did not pray a mantra or use vain repetitions like Christ told believers not to do. (Matt. 6:7)
    3. He didn’t enter into the “silence”, or “center” himself.
  4. What can we learn from this passage?
    1. This certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all passage. The Lord was specifically calling Samuel as a prophet here. Most of the time Christians today want God to answer a specific request for wisdom or something like that. It’s not unbiblical to do so. Let’s look at some other things first though before we consider that.
    2. Some people try to say that this particular instance can’t shed light on hearing from God in general because it is an instance where God deals with a prophet. There is some truth in that, but they are forgetting one thing. It is because it is where God is dealing with a prophet that we can learn some things very clearly for all believers.
    3. Think about it, God deals with His prophets in a way that is different from believers who are not prophets. They received revelation directly from God in a special way even moreso than a Christian who is not a prophet. The question then to consider is to question why God would do some strange thing for normal believers that He never does for any of His prophets, NT or OT?
    4. He never tells them to blindly repeat phrases until their mind empties and then they can hear Him.
    5. He never once tells them that they have to “quiet their own minds” before they can hear Him.
    6. He never once tells them to practice eastern-style meditation.
    7. You never see a single prophet intentionally seeking to put themselves into an altered state of conscious in order to hear from God.
      1. Peter and others only entered into a trance during normal prayer times, and such things were wholly at the discretion of the Lord as to when they happened. Even then such things were rare even to the prophets when you look at the length of years between such things.
    8. You never see a prophet of God trying to “figure out” what God had said, or if something was God or not.
      1. Some people try to teach that it takes “time” to learn to “discern” God’s voice.
  5. A Message from Charles Finney
    1. Charles Finney is a name that is almost synonymous with revival from a time when revival meant something. A man certainly acquainted with spiritual manifestation and being led of the Spirit of God, he had this warning to say:
      1. “There is a class of minds, that in seasons of deep excitement, and especially when there is a good deal of preaching on the necessity and reality of divine influences, the spirit of prayer, being led by the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit &c., who are extremely apt to give themselves up to be led by impulses. Mistaking the true manner in which the Spirit of God influences the mind, and not realizing that he enlightens the intelligence, and leads the Christian who is under his influence to be eminently reasonable, and rational in all his views and movements, they are looking for the Spirit to make direct impressions on their feelings, and to lead them through the influence of their feelings and not through the intelligence. Hence they are very full of impressions. One has an impression that he ought to do such a thing, or say such a thing, to go to such a place, to visit a tavern for instance, and converse with the inmates of a bar-room, or to go and rebuke a minister, or to tell the elders or deacons of the church, that God has revealed it to him that they are right in the way of the revival--in short, there is no end to the forms in which these delusions appear. Sometimes they are impressed with the conviction that they ought to get up and interrupt the speaker, during public preaching, or that they ought to break forth in prayer under circumstances that would manifestly introduce disorder,--and many such like things are very liable to occur in seasons of deep excitement in revivals of religion. Sometimes they will have particular views presented to their imaginations--that such a minister is right in the way, and leading all the souls under his influence down to hell--that terrible judgments are coming on the place--that the revival is about to cease--or that some other terrible thing is about to take place. Now if this spirit is watched, it is remarkable to see how uniformly it will take on a severe, denunciatory and turbulent type. It is remarkable to see how often it will manifest its principal hostility and opposition towards the leading and most efficient influences that are at work in promoting a genuine revival of religion. If this spirit be narrowly watched, it will soon be seen, that it is really opposition to all that is truly good in the work; and that often-times its opposition to the highest and best influences employed by the Spirit in the promotion of the revival, is truly shocking. Probably few persons who have seen powerful revivals of religion, have not witnessed with pain and astonishment, things similar to those I have described.” (Charles Finney, Letter on Revival, #12)
  6. What are we specifically told in Scripture?
    1. If we consider what God has specifically said regarding prophesy in general we can shed some light on how God speaks to believers in general—at least to exclude some things:
      1. We are specifically told to test the spirits. Cf. (1 John 4:1-3)
        1. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3)
        2. This is specifically dealing with people speaking by a “spirit”. That is, people who are “prophesying” and there is truly something spiritual going on. It’s not talking about someone testifying or speaking from themselves. It’s clear from the context that this is the case because John says, “…every SPIRIT that confesseth...,” this shows that it’s not talking about a person speaking.
      2. The Spirit of God will never tell you something that contradicts, or that tells you to go against, the already revealed word of God in the scriptures.
        1. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isaiah 8:20)
          1. Any spirit or prophet that tells you contrary to God’s Word in the scriptures was not sent by God.
        2. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
          1. The scriptures are given that the servant of the Lord may be perfect and complete in their obedience to God. Therefore, God’s Spirit will never lead you to violate it…ever.
      3. Even if there are miraculous signs and wonders, it is not definitive that it is from God if what is said to you is meant to lead you away from what God has already revealed.
        1. “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3)
      4. If what is said is always positive, and always encouraging, and always emphasizes love: it is almost certainly not the Spirit of God.
        1. Read the book of Jeremiah, or the book of Ezekiel, and see how many times the Lord specifically tells the prophets to rebuke the nation of Israel for not obeying Him.
        2. The Lord told Jeremiah, “The prophet which prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the LORD hath truly sent him.” (Jeremiah 28:9)
        3. In the NT, the Spirit is working to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and judgment to come. Cf. (John 16:8)
      5. If someone says that God spoke to them they are to be examined.
        1. Never once has a person been instructed to believe a person claiming to hear from God without sufficient reason. In 1 Corinthians 14:29 we are commanded:
          1. “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.”
        2. Things are never to be left up to some person’s subjective inner voice. They are to be examined by what God has already said. You serve God, not men. No prophet is to be without examination.
      6. A person truly hearing from the Lord, or “speaking by the Spirit of God” is never out of their right mind. They are always in control of themselves. They are never “overcome” by the Spirit. We are told:
        1. “And the spirit of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”
        2. God does not “overcome” a believer. A person who says so is either doing something in the flesh, or under the influence of another spirit that is not God. This is very common in some churches.
  7. What about the “still small voice”?
    1. Most think about a specific instance when the Lord spoke to Elijah in a certain place. It says:
      1. “And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12-13)
    2. This is a passage commonly cited to teach that it is an “inner voice” that is to lead Christians. Logically, to use this passage to teach that every believer will experience this is absurd. This is a specific instance where God deals specifically with Elijah, the chief prophet of the entire history of the kingdom of Israel. To teach that this is for every believer to seek is just as out of place as to teach the same from John 12 where Christ hears God the Father speak from heaven:
      1. “Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.” (John 12:28-30)
      2. Where do we reconcile people attributing the likeness of thunder to the Lord’s voice speaking from heaven and the still small voice? People can make excuses, and use a rescuing device, but the plain teaching of scripture does not teach believers that such things are common, or even to be sought after.
  8. Conclusion
    1. (Personal testimony of hearing from the Lord.)
    2. All manifestations of the Spirit of God, whether corporately or individually, begin with obeying God’s Word, and just seeking to live for Him.
      1. Peter testifying to the Sanhedrin said, “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” (Acts 5:30-32)
      2. Christ told the Apostles, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:21-23)
    3. The sum of the matter is be faithful in that which is simple, the written Word of God, and then AS you obey Him and walk according to His written Word you can seek the Lord in prayer and expect answers. But such things will never contradict what he has said already. You don’t have to pray, “Lord, should I lie to this person?” Why? Because He has commanded you already not to lie, and that all liars shall have their part in the Lake of Fire.
    4. Everything in the Christian life begins with obeying God’s Word. He says, “Turn ye at my reproof and I will pour my spirit upon you.” He didn’t say, “Wait for an experience or a feeling before you begin listening to what I commanded you.” It’s not some subjective leading. You are going to be judged by the Word of God someday Christ said. You’re not going to be judged by subjective leadings you think you had. God does lead His children by His Spirit, absolutely. But His children are those who obey His commandments. Start there.
    5. If you’re seeking an experience, or some spiritual manifestation, in order to strengthen your faith then you’re in trouble. Faith precedes God’s working. God does not bless unbelief. God has given His Word. Read it, receive it, believe it, and obey it. Then, and only then, will God reveal Himself to you. Why do it that way? Because then you won’t be led astray by some false spirit telling you contrary to His Word, or by some ecstatic feeling. Feelings are very dangerous. Experiences are very seductive. David Spangler, a well-known Luciferian author said, “Lucifer, is literally, the angel of experience.” Whereas in the scriptures we are told that “faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.”
    6. For a longer discussion of this topic please listen to our episode, “How to Know God’s Will.” If you have any questions, you can email me, or send me a message on our Facebook page: Remnant Bible Fellowship Podcast.