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
Here are the notes for this episode:
Do you have to learn to "discern" God's voice?
- Why this is an important question.
- 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:
- “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)
- 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.
- Scriptural Precedent
- (1 Samuel 3:1-10)
- “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)
- It is very important to consider some things from this passage:
- 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)
- Samuel heard God the very first time so clearly that he thought
it was Eli in the other room calling him.
- There was no “discerning” some subjective inner voice. This was
the very first time God ever spoke to Samuel.
- God spoke to Samuel clearly and normally.
- What did NOT happen?
- Samuel was not seeking an experience.
- He did not pray a mantra or use vain repetitions like Christ
told believers not to do. (Matt. 6:7)
- He didn’t enter into the “silence”, or “center” himself.
- What can we learn from this passage?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- He never tells them to blindly repeat phrases until their mind
empties and then they can hear Him.
- He never once tells them that they have to “quiet their own
minds” before they can hear Him.
- He never once tells them to practice eastern-style
- You never see a single prophet intentionally seeking to put
themselves into an altered state of conscious in order to hear from
- 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
- You never see a prophet of God trying to “figure out” what God
had said, or if something was God or not.
- Some people try to teach that it takes “time” to learn to
“discern” God’s voice.
- A Message from Charles Finney
- 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:
- “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
- What are we specifically told in Scripture?
- 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:
- We are specifically told to test the spirits. Cf. (1 John
- “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)
- 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
- 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.
- “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
- Any spirit or prophet that tells you contrary to God’s Word in
the scriptures was not sent by God.
- “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)
- 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.
- 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.
- “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.”
- If what is said is always positive, and always encouraging, and
always emphasizes love: it is almost certainly not the Spirit of
- 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.
- 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
- In the NT, the Spirit is working to reprove the world of sin,
of righteousness, and judgment to come. Cf. (John 16:8)
- If someone says that God spoke to them they are to be examined.
- 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:
- “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other
- 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
- 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
- “And the spirit of the prophets are subject to the
- 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
- What about the “still small voice”?
- Most think about a specific instance when the Lord spoke to
Elijah in a certain place. It says:
- “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
- 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:
- “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
- 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.
- (Personal testimony of hearing from the Lord.)
- All manifestations of the Spirit of God, whether corporately or
individually, begin with obeying God’s Word, and just seeking to
live for Him.
- 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)
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.