If God is Speaking to You, Don't Listen...
As God’s people, we must allow God to speak into our lives. However, there is a subtle and subversive danger to listening for the voice of God. You see, God has already spoken to us in the Bible. God spoke with soul-piercing clarity and inerrant purity. Every word of Scripture reflects the pure glory of God through its utter perfection and, at the same time, exposes the hidden recesses of man’s heart. The pristine efficacy of God’s Word is a precious gift from God to His people. As the Psalmist lauds, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them” (Psalm 139:17, ESV). We do not need another word from God, we need to heed the Word we already have from Him.
Think about it. Where in the Bible are we commanded to follow the private and personal leading of God that comes through subjective impressions? The answer, of course, is that we are never compelled to order our lives around anything other than the objective Word of God found in the 66 books of the canon. The Bible doesn't command us to look for anything more than what we have in Scripture. The fact of the matter is that we don’t need to! We can trust that when God speaks, He does so sufficiently. The Bible may not specifically address every situation, but it does provide the principles by which we can faithfully follow God in every situation. When we search for extra-biblical “leading” and “new words,” we are denying the sufficiency of Scripture.
As serious as it is to deny the sufficiency of Scripture, there is an even bigger danger lurking behind all those supposed words from the Lord. If you are listening to God apart from the direct teaching of Scripture, you are probably listening to yourself not God. Daniel Doriani explains,
Uncontrolled meditation has few safeguards. Those who meditate hear many voices, not all of them divine. Recent readings and events weigh heavily. Worse, our hearts deceive us. Sinful desires and petty grudges contaminate our meditations. We are too blind to our ego, too ignorant of others’ needs, too prone to legalism, too dedicated to our own agendas to justify trusting our subjective impulses. The prowling mind can find evidence in almost every passage that what it wants, God ordains. (Daniel Doriani, The Nature of Application, 28)
In other words, your sinful inclinations make it impossible to decipher whether that leading you received originated from the Lord or from your lusts. If God is speaking to you apart from the Bible, stop listening because it is probably just your own desires formulating the message anyway.
So how can we determine when God is speaking to us? How can we discern between our desires and God’s wisdom? The answer is that we need to stop listening for a new word and start reading the revealed Word. If you want God to speak into your life you need to meditate on His objective word found in the Bible. Don’t listen to voices in your head or impressions in your heart. In fact, stop looking for private messages all together and join the Psalmist in saying, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps 119:97).
Paul Shirley is a graduate of The Expositors Seminary and has served as the pastor of Grace Community Church in Wilmington, Delaware since 2011.