It’s alarming to me how many spiritual leaders insist that the only way God speaks today is through Scripture. I heard that again this past weekend, and I can’t stop thinking about it. So I was trying to put some thoughts down about it because I think it’s critical to our relationship with God. But because I don’t like bringing up subjects that are sure to stir up controversy, the words were hard in coming.
Then this morning I saw that a Facebook friend of mine, author Chris Tiegreen, had just blogged about the same subject. He’s as concerned about it as I am. In his words,
Some Christians are “deeply concerned” when they come across someone who says they get “direct revelation” from God. To the contrary, I’m deeply concerned when Christians say they can’t.
That’s how I feel, too. So, encouraged by Chris’s words, here goes.
What Are They Worried About?
I understand, I think, why some people worry about the idea of God speaking personally to people. Inevitably, whenever the subject comes up, they mention the person who said he “heard” God tell him to leave his wife and marry his secretary. That proverbial man is the warning to us all: If we open ourselves up to personal guidance from God we are bound to wind up in gross sin.
But that’s not at all what I’m talking about! That man did not need specific personal guidance. If he wanted to know whether he should remain married or not all he had to do was look in the Bible. The Bible speaks very specifically to the subjects of divorce and adultery. God gave general revelation on that topic, and He hasn’t changed.
But the Bible does not speak about which Compassion child I should sponsor or what treatment I should pursue for my messed-up foot.
In fact, a lot of the things I need to His help with aren’t specifically addressed by Scripture. Things like
- Which home group should I join at church? Or should I volunteer in a ministry instead?
- My heart is stirred by a couple of major crises going on in the world right now. I’d like to help financially. What organization should I give to?
- I expect to have some free time this weekend. Should I spend it working on projects or hanging out with people?
- A friend is going through a hard time. How can I encourage her?
- I have several projects I’m juggling at work. Which one should I tackle next? And how should I go about it?
- An important conversation is coming up later this week. What should I say? Not say?
The Bible has general guidelines for some of these issues, obviously. For example, in an important conversation I should speak truth and I should be gracious. But exactly what should I say? The Bible doesn’t tell me that.
Put the “Personal” Back In “Relationship”
But the Bible does tell me I shouldn’t lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). If the Bible is the only means I have of hearing from God and it doesn’t address the specific situation I am dealing with, what other choice do I have? I can lean on my own understanding or I can lean on someone else’s, but if I’m not getting it from God, that scares me!
There’s another part this that may be even more important, however. Not being able to hear God speak personally to me takes the “personal” right out of “Personal Relationship with God.” How can it be personal if God doesn’t address the specific cries of my heart? Or if He can’t interject something specific that I need to hear? Chris says it well:
If we depend on [general revelation] to the exclusion of a personal conversation with God, we’re cultivating a relationship with principles rather than a relationship with him.
I used to live that way—I felt like I had a personal relationship with my Bible, but not with its Author. Since I’ve taken God at His word—that His sheep do hear His voice (John 10:27), that the Spirit helps me to pray (Romans 8:26-27), that the God gives wisdom when I ask (James 1:5-6), that the Spirit teaches me everything I need to know (1 John 2:27)—my life with God has become much more intimate and personal. I spend far less time trying to figure out what His will for me is and far more time simply enjoying His company as we do life together.
And that is what I wish for everyone. In fact, I believe it is every Christian’s birthright. What do you think?