Hand raised and voice booming, he closed his eyes and started shaking as he prayed. His words turned into an unintelligible repetition of syllables. He walked around pointing at random members of the congregation and spoke their future, using the emphatic claim: “thus says the Lord.” I sat, watching from afar, frustrated and angered over the whole situation, thinking, “Is this how the Bible teaches we are to be led by God? Is this what ‘real Christianity’ looks like?”
I grew up being taught that to truly be a Christian I must speak in unknown tongues and hear God’s still, small voice in my heart and soul. Believing this, I would pray for hours upon hours, only to still be left with the same paralyzing anxiety over the decisions I faced. I was always second guessing myself, “Am I right?”
Most of us have wrestled with what it means to be led by God and how to discern God’s will. Especially if you were (or currently are) in a church that emphasized God directly revealing his will, you likely have questions about how, and in what ways, God speaks to us today. In my search with these very questions, I have found two things: God has spoken and God has revealed his will.
God Has Spoken
God has already spoken to us. In our search for God’s voice, we can quickly assume that our lives are meant to be like the men of the Bible who heard God audibly speak to them. But, what if those men and women were not the normal examples of what it means to follow God? What if, instead, God was moving his grand story forward so that you and I would focus not on these small characters, but look to the whole point of the Bible: Jesus? In the book of Hebrews, the author says:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
The purpose of the prophets (and the whole Bible), according to the book of Hebrews, is to point us to Jesus. Every word in the Old and New Testament is pointing to Jesus. Therefore, God has spoken to us, and is speaking to us every day about his will – look to Jesus.
God’s Will is Revealed
Since God has already spoken to each of us in a clear way, then what does it mean to be led by God and therefore in God’s will? Instead of looking to potentially faulty means outside of the Bible, like tongues or prophecy, we must first and foremost look to what God has clearly revealed in his unfailing Word. One of the clearest helps for me to understand what it means to be led by God is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Being led by God is not confirmed by the exercise of the gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy. Rather, to be led by God is to “walk by the Spirit,” which is to deliberately not walk in things like sexual immorality, drunkenness (etc.). To walk in the Spirit is to bear the fruit of the Spirit. This being the case, here are three things that I want to help us remember about being Spirit-filled and following God’s voice.
- Listen to God in His Word.
God is speaking to each of us in creation and the Bible. I used to think that we had to search for these extra-biblical, anti-traditional views of God in order to be mature in my faith. my search for these came to a halt when I realized that God does not ask us to seek these things out. Rather, he asks us to follow him by loving God and neighbor, killing sin, and making disciples of all nations. It is that simple to comprehend yet difficult to live out.
- Pray for Help.
My prayer life has significantly changed when I realized this truth. Instead of always wondering if I am hearing God, I now turn to Him and ask God for help to live out the life I was called to live: a disciple-making Christian. Instead of praying for God’s divine revelation for what I am supposed to do, I now pray “God, help me believe that Jesus is the divine revelation we all need.” Instead of primarily asking and pleading with God to give me the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing – I ask God for help to walk in obedience to His voice in the Scriptures and to see and believe that Jesus is worth it.
- God is Sovereign.
In my desire to be led by God thru his Word, he has moved in ways that I did not expect. I have seen God give words of wisdom and divine insight into situations. The common ground in these people is that they look to Jesus and seek his kingdom advancement thru living a life centered around Jesus. They did not look for extra-biblical revelation (or what a lot us call “the deep things of God”), instead they realized that God has revealed to us the greatest and most magnificent revelation: Himself. This is a revelation that we will be learning about for all eternity.
May we always be amazed by Jesus.
[Photo Credit: Ivan Rigamonti]