How do we hear from God?

How does God talk to us? If you think that God has revealed something to you, how does He do it? And how do you know it was Him?

If someone came to you and said, “God told me to tell you that you need to begin teaching a Sunday School class,” would you immediately believe that they have heard from God or would you question their words? If you questioned whether they had really heard from God, on what basis would you do so?

For a Christian, these questions are very important. So, let me attempt an abbreviated answer because a complete answer would take a month of Sundays to write. Here are some quick thoughts:

1). God spoke to and through men and women in the Old Testament (beginning with Adam and Eve – see Genesis 3). Simply put, the Old Testament as we know it was being compiled (it wasn’t complete until 400 BC) and the New Testament hadn’t even been started. So, they didn’t have Bibles like we do. So, if God didn’t speak to them individually or through their prophets, there would be no word from the Lord.

2). God spoke clearly (sometimes audibly) to New Testament folks as well. I read this morning in Acts where God spoke so loud to the Apostle Paul that those who were near him heard it, too (Acts 9:3-16). The New Testament was being written and wouldn’t be completed until about 60 years after Jesus ascended into Heaven. So, God needed to speak to His people through special revelation in the first century.

3). But, (and this is important), as frequently as we read of God speaking to the characters in the Bible, we may assume that God did it often. But, that conclusion would be wrong. When we realize that the time frame of human history covered in the Bible includes 6,000 – 10,000 years, we come to see that, relatively speaking, God didn’t speak nearly as often to His people as we may suppose.

4). God still speaks to us today. We are told in Romans 1:20 that God uses the created order to “speak” to unbelievers (Romans 1:20). He may speak to us through circumstances such as “open doors of opportunity” (1 Corinthians 16:8-9) although seemingly positive circumstances / “open doors” aren’t always from God (see 2 Corinthians 2:12-13). In that last reference, we also realize that sometimes God speaks to us in very subjective ways such as a restlessness in our spirit (2 Corinthians 2:13). Etc., etc., etc. On and on we could go as we talk about how God may speak to His children in our day.

5). So, how do we KNOW when it’s God talking to us though a friend, or circumstances, or a restlessness in our spirit, or any number of other ways? We go to the ultimate authority – God’s Word. That is the one Word from Him that we know for certain is truth (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We must prayerfully approach God’s Word with what we suspect may be God’s voice / leading with questions like these: Does God’s Word specifically address the issue at hand? Does what I believe God is saying to me violate any of God’s precepts? Does the sort of thing that I believe God is saying to me align with the sort of things God led the people of the Bible to do? Does what I believe God is saying to me align with the clear priorities and values that are evidenced in Scripture? Etc., etc., etc. A growing knowledge of God’s Word (that comes from reading and studying it) will provide us with a mindset and worldview that is transformed and able to more readily assess what God is saying (or not saying). After all, this is essentially what is stated in the following verse…

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

The Bible isn’t going to tell you whether to purchase a new car or the used one. It’s not going to tell you whether you should keep your present job or take the one being offered to you. But, it will provide you with the frame of reference to understand whether what you think God is saying to you is actually what God is saying. Because, ultimately, the only thing we KNOW God has said is the Bible. Everything else is suspect.

I cannot overstate how vitally important it is for Christians to be people of the Word. Jesus, at 12 years of age, had such a working knowledge of Scripture that he confounded the religious leaders of His day (Luke 2:46-47). As He entered ministry, He fought off the temptations of Satan with His incredible knowledge of Scripture (see Matthew 4:1-11). Even as he lived each day, He did so with a clear desire to conform each of His thoughts, attitudes, actions, and words to Scripture even to the point of quoting Psalm 22:1 as He neared His death. Everything Jesus did aligned with Scripture.

While Jesus is God, He was also fully man. As fully man, He demonstrated for us how much we need to know God’s Word and strive to live in conformity to it. It is the perfect standard by which we measure everything else – including what we think God may be saying to us.

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I have an incredible wife that God gave to me on May 10, 1997. Since then, the Lord has blessed us with three wonderful boys. I am also the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Polk City, Florida.

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