Oct 052013

Hello again, internet. It’s been a while since my last post, so sorry if that’s disappointed anyone. It has been a rather busy summer, and this is one thing that slipped a little. But I’m back.

What do we mean when we say God speaks today? It’s something I hear quite often. Or I hear people say “God said to me…” and I want to interrupt and ask “How?” or even sometimes “How are you sure it was Him?” It’s been on my mind recently, and here are a few thoughts I thought worth sharing.

God does speak today

I want to start by saying this: I believe strongly that God does speak, and He still speaks. The God I follow is not one who spoke many years ago, and then retreated from the world, never to step into human history again. Jesus ascended to heaven, He’s still there, and He’s Lord of history now in a very real sense not just in a ‘That’s what I say I believe on Sunday, but on a Monday who cares?’ kind of way.

And part of the way He is directing human history, directing His church (He isn’t just ‘the Lord’ but ‘OUR Lord’), is by speaking to His people, His friends.

I also believe that the fullest revelation He has given us is in His Son, Jesus. In Hebrews 1:1-2 we see that while God has spoken in a variety of ways and contexts, His fullest revelation is Jesus Christ, His Son. He is not the final revelation, but the full one, and if God speaks in any other way – through the Bible, through His Spirit, through other people – then that revelation must sit under, be understood through and be weighed against the person of Jesus.

Our job is to listen

So that all said, how do we hear God. Well, we need to listen. I had a friend recently who, when I asked what I should do with my life (results here!), told me to become great at listening to God. And he was absolutely right. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realised something: God is speaking to us in so many ways, and we need to tune ourselves in.

It’s very easy to listen to someone if they’ve shouted our name, grabbed our attention and then look us directly in the eye as they speak. God does that. I believe God can speak to us in an audible voice, and that sometimes He does. He can write in the sky, whisper in our ear or rearrange those little alphabet fridge magnets on so they say something directly to us. He can do this stuff.  He does do this stuff. Those times, hearing isn’t too difficult because it’s so direct.

The problem, I think, is that we can sometimes expect God to do that for us all the time. We are so busy waiting for our big ‘Thus says the Lord’ moment that we miss out on what the Lord says. Sometimes, listening is harder work than that. Abraham is one of the people in the Bible who walked closest with God (he’s called ‘God’s friend’!), and he had a direct voice from God approximately once every 25 years. Was God not speaking the rest of the time? (I actually find that statistic very comforting.)

What listening looks like

God has spoken to us far more than we often realise, and that is because too often we want the voice to be specific to us. What do I mean? We want God to tell us what He wants us to do. Us, here and now in our own situation. We forget, though, that through His word He has already told us. Make disciples, pour ourselves out on behalf of the poor, seek justice, proclaim God’s truth boldly, seek holiness. Isn’t there enough to be going on with there?! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I mean sure, we have to figure out what that means for us right now. Making disciples in 21st Century Britain is very different from making disciples in 1st Century Israel, but then Jesus didn’t really tell them how to do it. He told them what to do, and then He remained with them by His Spirit while they figured it out and got on with it. We need to figure some of this stuff out too, instead of expecting all of it to be given straight to us.

This post is getting longish now, so I’m going to wrap it up. It may sound like I’m saying God speaks to us only through the Bible, but I’m not. I believe the Bible is God’s primary way of speaking to us, but not His only one. I’ll do a post soon on some of the other weird and wonderful ways we should be listening to God’s voice.

But however God speaks, directly or indirectly, we need to decide to be people who are attentive, who listen – even if it means some hard work.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on different ways God speaks to us, so if you have any please comment!

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  • James Goldspink

    I enjoyed this and found it helpful. 5/5, would recommend for further blog awards.

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  • http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/ Gary

    Growing up fundamentalist/evangelical, I was told that as a born-again Christian God would “speak to me”, “move me”, and “lead me” so that I would know and could follow his will. I listened to others talk about how God spoke to them, moved them, and led them to do this and to do that…but He never did the same for me. I finally came to the conclusion that there must be something wrong with me because God had decided he didn’t want to talk to me. So I left the Church.

    Many years later I became an orthodox Lutheran and was told that God doesn’t work like that. The evangelicals are wrong. The voice they are listening to is their own. According to “true” Christianity, God speaks to Christians in only one manner: through his Word, the Bible.

    That gave me a lot of peace…until I found out that the “Word” is full of discrepancies, errors, and scribe alterations.

    I was very sad (and angry) to find out—it is ALL nonsense.

    So what about my problem of not hearing the “voice” that other evangelicals were hearing speak, move, and lead them? After deconverting completely from Christianity, I came to realize that it was THEM, not me, that had the problem. They were hearing voices. I was the sane one…who did not.