Friday, August 7, 2009

Is it God Speaking to Me . . . or is it Idigestion? Part II

So I'm leading a Bible study at church and last night we met. I have to be the Evangelical-Mike, out of politeness. Bob, a visitor who drops in now an then from across the big pond, did say a couple of things that caused jaws to drop . . . like he believes in evolution and an old earth (implied). I avoid those topics at all costs. But I know Bob, and he is a delight as he and I are the only two on the same page (I don't happen believe in evolution . . . single cell to human evolution but I still respect those who do).

Okay, my point. To play Devil's advocate a bit, I did decide to bring up this topic of hearing God's voice. It did relate to a verse we were reading.

I put the question in the context of "How do we know that it is God who is speaking?" I also mentioned the points; 1) our hearts are deceitful and 2) my roommate in college, Barry, was totally convinced that God had told him to marry the prettiest girl on campus . . . and that God was calling him to be the "greatest prophet since Jesus."

The immediate response was one I would agree with (after I loaded the question with those after thoughts), "We only know God's real voice through scripture."

But then, to continue playing the devil's advocate, I sat in silence. Then, in somewhat of a dichotomy, one by one people started to share stories of how "God had spoken clearly to them." It boiled down to emotional feelings, a sign from a stoplight etc. Those who did not share a story, certainly shared in a supporting "Wow," "hmmm" (that's a positive hmmm) to those who did share.

I was tempted to share that I was 100% confident that God has spoken to me to only wear red underwear for the rest of my life . . . just to see what people would say . . . but I dropped it. It would serve no purpose in that setting to show the contradiction between saying that we can only trust scripture . . . but then say out the other side of our mouths, "You know when God is speaking to you . . . you just know it!"

But, Barry "knew" God was speaking to him (as about a million other wackos). But I could tell that if I pushed it, that I was quickly falling out of favor of the whole group . . . save Bob.

So how do we know it is really the voice of God? Personally, I don't trust any "voice" because I am deeply fallen. I don't trust myself. I don't trust others and most of all, I never, ever trust anyone who is considered "godly."


pennyyak said...

I suppose these makes you a profoundly distrustful man, in red underwear. Although seriously, this is one of the questions that I often answer partially to myself, but am ultimately stumped when it comes to some very plain and easily interpreted answer. Then we get the mystical sort of answers, and I don't understand those either.

On the other hand, I do not know how to be a Christian, and not consider that God may be speaking to me, somehow.

It's a good thing I don't lead Bible studies.

Hippimama said...

I think we all so much want to believe that God is leading and guiding us that we manage to convince ourselves that our "feelings" are reasonable guides to hearing God's voice. I've been there and claimed that. Having said that, and being one of those people who now does roll her eyes at the many "God-told-mes" that I hear, I do believe that God does lead and guide us -- but that we usually see the evidence of this in retrospect. I look back on my life and see God's hand, often working through the most wretched of circumstances, but I no longer claim that I hear Him speaking to me through my feelings. I may wonder if He is doing so, but I am very cautious of laying too much store on my own fallen perceptions.

Steve Martin said...

God certainly may be "speaking" to us in circumstance, or in a feeling, or whatever.

In hindsight (mostly) we can believe that might have happened. maybe it was God.

But we can never be sure, We never want to trust in those things. The devil may do things also to get us to trust in what we see, and not in God's Word...alone.

I know I can trust absolutely, in His Word and Sacraments...alone.

Johan said...

Good question.
I often tended to interpret my feelings of guilt or condemnation as the voice of God. Thus trying frantically to better my life and feeling more guilty when that failed.
In these 'discussions with myself', I would think the accusing, discussing voice to be God's.
A very helpful book for me has been 'hearing God' by Dallas Willard. He's not in the happy clappy evangelical camp, is based on a thorough education in philosophy and scripture, but also in the belief in a God who can and does speak.
One of the things helpful to me was his statement that God does not discuss with us. God states in a convincing way, and then leaves us in freedom to respond.
I must say there were some occasions where I heard the affirming voice of God, somethings that I wouldn't have made up in my depressed mind and with a 'force' that made me accept it as the voice of God.
Often these were bible verses.
And almost never did these contain guidance as to precise choices I had to made. One of the clearest instances of God speaking to me in the past three years, was when I heard: 'God is not an oracle. He will guide you in the process.' I try to hold to that ...

NOTAL said...

If God were going to speak to supernaturally why wouldn't he do so in such a way that there would be no possibility of mistaking it. It seems like a weak God who cannot speak any louder than a whisper that can be mistaken for indigestion or a "natural" emotional response. Why would an all powerful God mess around with such quiet and easily misunderstood murmurings?

That is why I generally do not believe that God currently speaks supernaturally to people (or if He does, it is extremely rare). But I will almost always smile and nod when I am being told that "God told me _______."

Anonymous said...

I used to go to church periodically. Around 10 years ago, I stopped going because over time I had become more and more convinced that everyone was deluding themselves regarding God and religion. I had even been actively telling people that they were wasting there time because it was all b.s.

On February 24th 2009, God revealed himself to me. I did not see him. He actually spoke directly to me and I to him. We had a conversation. It was the most amazing, beautiful and humbling thing I have ever experienced in 46 years of life. He gave me the greatest gift any human could ever receive. He gave me the 100% knowledge that he is real.

There was no one physically present in the room besides myself. I didn’t hear his words like you would when someone is physically present speaking to you. To my great surprise he entered into me in a way similar to when one recalls a conversation or reading a book because in those instances there is direct input which is not the same as talking to yourself. Really more like reading a book because when you read a book, the words you read are not yours, but the voice you hear reading those words is your own. In this case, it was somewhat different from reading a book in that I was able to respond to him likewise.

Most of our conversation was about my life’s past, present and future.
There are just a few things that I care to share with you here because they most likely apply to all of us.
He told me that EVERYTHING that has happened in my life has happened for a reason and that every person in my life has been put into my life for a reason.

Some of the things God told me in this conversation were very surprising and contrary to my understanding and belief of reality. God also told me several things about people whom I love in my life. I was deeply saddened in one instance and completely shocked in another. Some of these have subsequently been confirmed through personal and third party verification.

At one point in our conversation, I asked God a question which I have had for most of my life: Is Jesus for real?
God responded with kind of a sigh, “YES”.
I then asked “well is the bible for real, I mean is it right? God responded “Yes, but you do not need to understand all of that right now. What you do need to understand right now is that what is happening right now is real” He then added “I will show you”.

I must say that it has been challenging for me to alter my thinking based on the reality of 2/24/09 and to allow His TRUTH to penetrate my reality.

God has kept his promise to me by showing me and teaching me.
I feel happier now than any other time in my life and the emptiness inside is being filled.

Gary said...

My experience with Baptist/evangelical theology can best be described as a wild Roller Coaster ride: a lot of great psychological, emotional, and spiritual highs and a lot of deep psychological, emotional, and spiritual lows. Why?

In Baptist theology, your Justification and your Sanctification---your essence as a follower of Christ...if you boil it all really dependent on you and your feelings.

Do I feel saved? Do I feel I really repented in my born again experience? Do I feel that I truly had faith when I made a decision for Christ; when I prayed a version of the Sinner's Prayer? If I am really saved, why do I feel at times that my faith is so weak? Maybe I need to do the born again experience again; maybe I need to pray the Sinner's Prayer again, just to be 100% sure that I am saved. I want to know without any doubt that I am saved, and if I do not feel saved, I begin to doubt my salvation.

Baptist/evangelical theology tells me that I will always feel Christ's presence and strength inside me, if I am a true believer. But what if I don't feel him there sometimes? If it is true that I should always be able to hear God speak to me, in an inner voice or feel his inner presence move me/lead me to do his will, what is going on when I don't hear anything or feel anything? Have I committed some unknown sin and he is refusing to hear me? Or is the reason that I don't hear or feel him present within me... is because I'm not really saved!

I was so incredibly happy to find orthodox (confessional) Lutheranism and find out that my feelings have nothing to do with my Justification, my salvation, nor with my Sanctification, my walk with my Savior and Lord! My salvation was accomplished 100% by God.