Summary: Discerning the voice of God
Is That You?
We are in the third week of our Holy Spirit series, “The Forgotten God.” We’ve been challenged and reminded of both our desperate need and quite often our neglect of the Holy Spirit. The truth is we cannot do anything of eternal value without the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew this so before He went to the cross, He promised the disciples that he would not leave them alone. He was going to send his Holy Spirit to be with them. And it is that Spirit which speaks to us, leads us and guides us as we seek to follow Jesus. Jesus says that the Holy Spirit will actually teach and inform us of the things of God. “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all Truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16:13 In fact, Paul says in I Corinthians 2:10-16 the Spirit searches the deep things of God and reveals God’s thoughts to us.
The challenge for us is to recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit. If we’re going to move closer to the Holy Spirit, it is important for us to understand the Holy Spirit is not a thing. The Holy Spirit isn’t some impersonal force or power that we are supposed to learn how to control for our own purposes, like Luke Skywalker and the force from Star Wars. The Holy Spirit is a personal being with whom we enter into a relationship. The foundation of any relationship is communication; the ability to relate. And yet, it is also the most difficult part of relationships, especially when the other person is very different from you. Take, for instance, the communication between men and women. Quite often, it seems men and women speak two entirely different languages. John Gray put it this way, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” It’s hard enough for men and women but the challenge of communication is greatly amplified when it comes to communicating with someone like the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t just someone different from us, the Holy Spirit is divine! Couple that with the fact that you can’t exactly see or touch the Holy Spirit and you get a sense of how challenging it can be.
What makes it even more challenging is that our Scripture today tells us there are other spirits or voices communicating to us besides the Holy Spirit. We live in a world where we are bombarded with voices telling us what is true, how to live and what to believe, like the talk show hosts Steve Harvey, Dr. OZ or Oprah, or Madison Avenue and the 3000 ads we’re exposed to every week or even the Internet where anyone with a blog or website can call themselves an expert. All promote their own worldview and path to happiness through consumeristic, materialistic, quasi-spiritual values. In a world filled with so many voices, how do we learn to recognize and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit?
One way the Holy Spirit deals with this is to bring us into communion with God. Jesus prayed in John 17:22-23, “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to bring us into deep communion with God. I love what Paul says in Colossians 1:27, “This is the great mystery…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Jesus isn’t out THERE somewhere. It is Christ who dwells in us. It’s that proximity to God that begins to rub off on us. We start to want what God wants and to care about what God cares about. Our heart begins to beat in time with God’s heart. Why? Because we become like those we spend time with. The proverbs writer puts it this way: “Iron sharpens iron.” And the deeper communion we have with God, the more natural it will be for us to recognize voice of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, “I know my sheep and my sheep know me…they listen to my voice and they follow me.” John 10:14-27 It’s kind of like when a good friend calls you on the phone, you instantly recognize their voice. It is close communion with God that enables us to recognize his voice.
Even so, there are times when we aren’t quite sure if it’s the Holy Spirit leading us. So how can you know? Test it! 1 John 4:1 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” How do we test the spirits? First is scripture. God has already said an awful lot about what we are supposed to do, and how we are supposed to live in the Word. How familiar are you with what God has already said? A lot of us want to hear the voice of God, but we never break open the Word of God. But know this: God is never going to contradict what he has already said in his Word. Ever! That’s why it’s so important to read His Word daily which explains God’s will and expectations for following Jesus and to know it. So test what you hear with God’s Word.