I recently heard a sermon titled “Does God Speak Today?” I must say I didn’t agree with everything that was said, but, some of it did in fact make me do some thinking in some areas. The premise of the sermon was whether or not God speaks today, outside of the Bible. I’ll post another blog soon to discuss that more in detail, define the ‘terms’ and so on, and see what you all think. In this process, I’ve read nearly 40 pages of notes and articles related to this. Below are two that I read, and it really made me think.
I’m curious, what are your thoughts about these articles? Do you agree? Does it spark any thoughts or concerns?
For myself, I wonder if in fact I’ve been misguided at times, lost hope at times, and asked the wrong questions in what to do in areas of my life at times. I’m forced to rethink certain areas of my life, and take a good hard look and see what it is I really feel that God is leading me to, what it is I really want, and what areas of that are areas that God is in fact giving me the choice. It makes you think. Where do you stand?
Greg Gilbert’s Review of Two books:
Jensen, Philip and Tony Payne, Guidance and the Voice of God. (Matthias Media: 1997)
Greg Gilbert: “Most of us spend at least some part of every day wondering what is God’s will for our life, and the tendency is to treat that question like some sort of cosmic game—God sending us the clues and we trying to figure out what they all mean and piece them together into a recognizable pattern. Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne, in their book Guidance and the Voice of God, set out to show us that to approach life and decisions in that way is a most confusing way to live our lives, and in fact not at all worthy of a people who claim to serve a God who speaks clearly and forcefully into the world.
Even if a person believes absolutely in God’s sovereign guidance of our lives, this is the point where we most often find ourselves confused. This is the point where we begin looking for signs and wonders and writing in the sky and talking donkeys to tell us what God’s will is. Jensen lists five propositions about how God guides us (64):
1. God, in his sovereignty, uses everything to guide us ‘behind the scenes.’
2. In many and varied ways, God can speak to his people, and guide them with their conscious cooperation.
3. In these last days, God has spoken to us by his Son.
4. God speaks today by his Son through his Spirit in the Scriptures.
5. Apart from his Spirit working through Scripture, God does not promise to use any other means to guide us, nor should we expect him to.
The questions of who we should marry, which church we should attend, or where we should live and work are ones that occupy our minds almost every day. Those are the questions we are interested in, so doesn’t that mean they are also the right questions? Jensen and Payne say that in fact they aren’t.
The point is this: if we ask the wrong question, we either get the wrong answer or no answer at all. And if we get no answer, we are tempted to turn elsewhere to find an answer. Many of our problems with guidance stem from precisely this: we ask the wrong questions, and then wonder why we cannot find answers. (85)
Then, of course, we turn away from the Bible thinking that it isn’t helping us much, and look to other sources of guidance—signs, “fleeces,” “a sense of peace,” inner promptings, etc. If we were asking the right questions, though, we would find that the Bible has all we need to know.
We are terribly concerned about choosing between Druscilla and Mary-Lou. We think the success of our whole married life will depend on the right choice, and we agonize over it. However, God’s priority is for us to be godly, whether we are single or married, and whether we marry Druscilla or Mary-Lou. (85-86)
Looking to the Bible, we would find that God wants us to marry someone who is a Christian, who is not already married, and who is of the opposite sex. And he wants us to love that person as Christ loved the church. Within those parameters, we may choose to marry anyone we please. Of course, God has a sovereign plan for who you are to marry, if at all. But that does not mean that He will reveal that plan to you in advance. He may simply give you the guidelines in His word, call on you to conform to them and make a decision, and then have you look back in a few years to realize that all the while He was guiding you “behind the scenes” to the right person. If your life and decision is conformed to the guidelines laid out in the Scriptures, you cannot make a sinful or wrong decision. Anything within those guidelines is good and right.
One of the best parts of this book is Jensen’s description of the three basic categories of decisions that we make in everyday life. First, there are matters of righteousness, which are decisions clearly addressed by the word of God (i.e., do not commit adultery). When we come against one of these decisions, we should simply obey. Second, there are matters of good judgment, which is where wisdom is so absolutely necessary. There are many times when more than one option seems right. Good judgment and wisdom help us to know that some decisions simply work out better in this world. In the third category are matters of triviality. When we finally stand before the throne of God and see our lives from his perspective, I wonder if we will be shocked to find out how many of the decisions we agonize over in this life actually fall into this category.
The whole discussion of these categories falls into a great section on wisdom, which Jensen defines as “the art of living successfully in God’s world,” (88). Because so many of our decisions in life fall into the “good judgment” category, any Christian should eagerly desire to have wisdom, to be able to look at a situation and be so instructed by the Word of God that the best course of action seems clear. One of the best ways to so train your mind and heart is to read the book of Proverbs. Each of those verses that you hide in your heart is one more principle you can apply to any given situation in order to come to a sound and wise decision. But what if we make a decision that is unwise? What happens then?
Will I have to suffer the consequences? Most likely, yes. God wants us to learn wisdom, and very few people learn wisdom if their folly is continually rewarded. However, God does protect his people—we do not need to be anxious about it. He won’t allow us to be lost because of our own folly or to be tempted beyond our strength. He will pick up the pieces and make sure that we survive and grow through the experience. If it is in our best interests to suffer the consequences of our folly, then God will bring them to us, but if it isn’t, then God will spare us. We can trust his generosity and power to do so. (95-96)
Willard, Dallas, Hearing God. (Intervarsity Press: 1999).
“As with all close personal relationships, we can surely count on God to speak to each of us when and as it is appropriate,” (10).
“Still small voice” Elijah 1 Kings
In determining whether he has heard from God he writes, “Often by the end of the hour or so there has stood forth within my consciousness an idea or thought with that peculiar quality, spirit and content that I have come to associate with God’s voice. If so, I may write it down for further study . . . Or I may decide to reconsider the matter by repeating the same process after a short period of time,” (200).
“It is a similar situation when we are given a word from God and are sure of it, but the events indicated do not come to pass. Others may be involved, and they may not know or may not do the will of God. And God may not override them,” (209). Let me get this straight—God tells me He is going to bring something to pass, but because all the ducks don’t fall into line, His plans are thwarted and the still, small voice ends up crawling back to me with an embarrassed “Oops” and a blushing shrug of the shoulders. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say that perhaps Willard is simply mistaken in thinking that what was “given” to him as a “word from God” really wasn’t in fact a word from God? It seems like it would make more sense to question his own interpretation of the firings of his mind than it would to question the power of God to bring His purposes to effect.