..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Have You Heard the Voice of God?

I just read John Piper's post
The Morning I Heard the
Voice of God
at Adrian Warnock's blog.

I love John Piper. But this post kind
of bothered me. I've been thinking
about it for two days and it still
is bothering me. It is the same feeling
I had as an undergraduate when a
well known speaker was going to lead
a retreat for the faculty of the large
Christian university (then college)
I attended.

I managed to get myself invited to
the retreat despite the fact that
I was a student, an undergrad to boot.
I loved the retreat but was absolutely
discouraged by the behind the scenes
glimpse I had at where the faculty was
spiritually. I guess what was lacking was
robust encounter with the Living God.
People did not seem to know how
to listen for God or expect Him
to speak to them personally.

I kind of felt this way reading Piper's
article. I thought that Piper's encounter
with God was wonderful, but I also thought,
"Why does he seem surprised that somehow
God speaking to him in this way was out
of the ordinary?"

Then I felt another twinge of discouragement
when he referenced the article
in Christianity Today about
the Christian college professor who
felt that he had actually heard God speak
to Him personally for the first time. Piper
said he felt "sad" when he read it. I
felt sad too, but for this reason:
How could this Christian college
professor live so long and not feel
God had spoken to Him personally
until this event?

Now I don't think that its just college
professors who are having this hard time
hearing God. It just made me think again
that in our endeavor to keep within God's
guidelines for hearing Him, the very
guidelines themselves may cause us to
miss hearing Him by being unnecessarily

Perhaps we become so afraid that
we will be deceived that we reject the
simple willingness of God to speak to
us as His children.

Jesus seems to reiterate this idea when
He is dealing with the religious leaders
of His day. Somehow the very things
that were meant to lead us to God end up
being a barrier to real encounter with God.
When He tells Nicodemus he must be born
again, and Nicodemus is clueless, Jesus
says, "Are you a teacher of Israel and
yet do not understand?" (John 3:10).

Now, granted, there are some people who
think that God is always conversing with
them, 24/7, and others who think that God only
speaks through the Bible. If we put them
on a continuum, we would have our well
worn picture: cessationists on one side (we
won't say the right side :)), and those
who think that God speaks through His Word
but also by personal means at various
points along the line, and I suppose
at the far end would be people who
don't see any difference between
God's Written Word and prophetic or
inspired words from God outside of the

Let me say that I am not a cessationist
and I do think that God continues to
speak to us personally but that the
written Word of God is our defining
rule and all words that we think we
receive from God must be measured
against what God has already revealed
to us in the Bible. But we should
not throw out the proverbial baby
with the bath water, this baby being
the very real idea that God continues
to teach and communicate with us by
means of the Holy Spirit, and this
process is not always through the
Bible alone.

That being said, It is difficult for
me to comprehend that God, as a Living
Person, would want to only communicate
through the Bible. If a human author
wrote a book explaining, perhaps, his
life, and then I were to call up this
author and want to talk further with
him about what he wrote, I would think
it very bizarre if the author only
answered me with quotes from his book,
never saying anything else, but finding
little snippets to reply to me from the
published work. It would be very awkward
and not very personal. I would wonder
about the author and how much he really
wanted to interact with me.

I don't believe that God is only wanting
to reply to us, to speak with us,
using this "closed" book, meaning that
what is contained in the Bible is all
that God has to or is willing
to say.

I remember when some Russian
believers emigrated to our neighborhood
from the old Soviet Union where they
were persecuted. We "adopted" them but
when we first met we had no means of
communicating with each other. The only
way we figured out to communicate was
to use each other's bibles (theirs in
Russian and ours in English) to point
out our general intents and feelings.
It was well-meaning, but limited. (We
put a scripture citation on their
birthday cake and they read it and

I can see how our ability to communicate
with God is much like that and that
is why He gave us something to check
ourselves against. Paul tells us that
we see "through a glass, darkly" so
thank God for the Bible, but it is
through those same dark glasses that
we INTERPRET the bible (another whole
can of worms, I know!)

But, Jesus, became and now is, the Word
of God--God's best and truest Word,
not abolishing the written Word, but
fulfilling it and fleshing it out because
God is a personal God and living persons
communicate through diverse means.
He wants to communicate with us.

When Jesus told His disciples in that
wonderful farewell discourse in John,
"I have many things to tell you now, but
you cannot bear them. When the Holy Spirit
comes He will teach you all things" (John
16: 12-14).

Do we think that our cluelessness to
understand God's mind and ways went away at
the close of the apostolic age? Me thinks
we need Him more than ever, especially
the farther away we get from the days
that Jesus walked on earth. Things get
garbled. Doctrines mutate.

I remember that old Star Trek episode
where the crew lands on some far planet
and finds the inhabitants with an
American flag intoning garbled words
reverentially. The garbled words turn
out to be the words of the pledge of
allegiance. We need the Holy Spirit to
keep the garbled out of our pledge of
allegiance to God, can somebody say, amen?

So, all that to say, that I am glad
that John Piper feels strong reassurance
that God speaks personally, but still
basically through the Bible, but I
would ask if that is playing things
a bit safer then what God is expecting
and offering to us?

The Book of Acts does not find the
newly filled-with-the-Holy-Spirit
disciples finding their way only by
the Bible. They expected God to speak
to them personally because they knew
Him as a Person, and not as an infallible
system. Well, He is infallible, but
definitely not a system.

I am inspired, however, by this article
to keep saturating myself in the Scriptures,
memorizing them, poring over them, so that
I can feel more and more relaxed that when
God does speak to me, the testimony of
the Scriptures is so strongly embedded
in my inner man that anything false will
show itself right away. We have to strike
a healthy balance, built on faith, that
we can hear from God and not be deceived.

God is speaking more than we know.
We just need to make our ability to
discern His Voice as sharp as possible.
Read the Word. Listen for God to speak.


Anonymous said...

piper's article bothered me, too. i was fine with him expressing his experience of God speaking, but i was disheartened that he would be so critical of another christian's experience. i wrote about it on my blog, too, and invite you to read & comment there, too, if you wish.

The Pen of The Wayfarer said...

thanks, elizabeth, i went to check out your blog but the link did not get me there :) feel free to respond with your url. I'll be sure to check it out. --Rose-Marie

Randy Hurst said...

I read your post with warm sympatico brother of the pen. I would appreciate you allowing me to link to this on my similar posting. Randy

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that Christians should be careful about either criticizing or predicting another believer's experience. God works uniquely and specifically in every individual life, and is doing what only He knows is required to make us more like Him. I think we should be careful in saying what another "should" experience. I speak from a personal experience of God's silence, (http://theviewfromher.com/index.php?/
archives/430-adventure-update-6.html) which was very painful, and only exacerbated by well-meaning Christians who unintentionally implied it was my own fault. I now am utterly stunned and humbled by communication with God. I don't yet understand why silence was a necessary part of my journey, but that's part of trusting Him. I'm not sure why Christians are so uncomfortable with the idea of God being silent. It can clearly be an enourmously effective part of our faith development.

The Pen of The Wayfarer said...

Randy,(togetherone.net) yes, please feel free to link. Thanks!

The Pen of The Wayfarer said...

Jan, thank you, I liked your comment that christians should be careful about predicting or judging another's experience. We stand and fall to God and ultimately answer to Him. I think it is God's heart that we be as compassionate as possible with our fellow believers. Perhaps that is what we begin to learn in silence:
the REAL lesson behind the apparent one.

Brad Huebert said...

I appreciated your response to Piper as well. My passion as a pastor and Christian is to help people learn to tune in to God's voice for themselves. I've launched a website recently that is dedicated to doing exactly that! I'm so pumped at the potential, thinking how many people I can help through the web. One of my resources is a free article called "How To Hear the Voice of God: Ditching the 7 Deadly Myths that Plug Your SPiritual Ears." I just sent a copy to a guy in Johannesburg! God is SO good.

You can check out my site at www.howtoheargodspeaking.com.

Thanks so much for your post!

Brad Huebert