Many people experience the sensation of a spiritual force speaking to them outside the normal senses of man. Many religious people have had the experience of being in communication with God. The challenge facing those who think they may have heard God speaking is the uncertainty of rightly interpreting the source of those influences. The ability to distinguish between the voice of God and one’s own sinful longings. How does one separate the voice of God from the urgings of one’s own flesh and from evil temptations?
I am a strict cessationist, stricter even than many of my fellow cessationists. A cessationist is one that believes, among other things, God is no longer giving new revelation to man. God stopped talking directly to men when the Bible was completed and now speaks exclusively through His Word. He does not guide men through dreams, visions or voices. He guides men through the Bible. This does not deny the work of the Holy Spirit to give a person understanding of the meaning of the Bible nor the work of the Spirit to convict of sin and apply the Bible to the individual’s life. The Holy Spirit’s work takes place through a renovation of the heart and mind not through promptings or inner impressions.
God is speaking when you read and rightly understand His Word. His voice is clear and unmistakable. All other voices are ambiguous and leave the individual attempting to navigate a maze of pitfalls in the attempt to determine whether or not a voice is of God. Our own senses are very easily deceived. Mr. Scrooge was right on target when he argued with Marley’s ghost about the gullibility of the senses. “A little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” The unreliability of our senses, especially the internal impressions, makes it paramount that Christian’s have an accurate scale by which to measure out the true value of our sensations.
When reading the Bible there is no doubt about its source. The will of God is clear in the Bible. You know God is speaking when you read His Word. When you obey what He says in His Word you will know His power, His care and His guidance over your life. This will never fail. Though there may be times when you do not perceive the Lord to be as close as at other times, He will remain true to His promises. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Let me offer some closing thoughts for those who are now mad because I have seemingly denied the working of the Holy Spirit and the miraculous guidance of the Father in your life. Though you may believe God speaks in ways outside His Word, never imagine that He speaks without His Word. One cannot neglect the Word for a sensation of a conversation. One cannot let inner promptings guide him down a path that contradicts the plain commands of the Bible. God never speaks without His Word. Do not allow an experience or the desire for an experience to be more important than God’s Word. Remember the words of Peter, “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well that ye take heed; as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.” (2 Peter 1:19)