Thursday, February 12, 2009

From Whence Comes His Voice?

In the comments of the last post, Greg names perhaps the largest concern people have on the topic of the "inner" leading of the spirit: Scripture must trump inner voices, otherwise we'll end up with more Jim Joneses and David Koreshes.

This is a fair and needed guideline to be sure, but it begs the question of how does one know the inner voice is the voice of God?

One of the exciting things that initially drew me into my charismatic experience was all these people telling stories where God said this or that, and it had dramatic consequences for good in their lives. This witness of God actively speaking direction to others appealed to me. I wanted that experience, as well.

I clearly remember the Jonestown Massacre being reported by Walter Cronkite. This event pre-dated my Christian conversion by only one year. I had no concern the group I was in was cultic, nor did I make any connection that a perspective of being able to actively hear the leading of a living God might be construed with following a false teacher.

However, I understand those concerns now. I came to realize I had adopted the use of the term "God said to me..." in recounting how I made decisions. Likewise did many people in our group. I also began to know within my heart, that sometimes I used those words too loosely. I determined that I and probably many of those in our group used the terminology because it was accepted, even expected, but the usage was not necessarily reality. Sometimes it was, I guess. God knows for sure. The "voice of God" I heard was usually nothing more than my own inclinations, desires, or needs; and I had learned hearing some of my own thoughts with a deep resonance and power. Imagine hearing some of your particular thoughts with a ring akin to the voice of James Earl Jones.

The marker verifying such was truly the Father usually included an elevated pulse rate or just a compelling sense of I must obey this. Think about how you physically relate to some act of worship that is particularly moving for you. Communion maybe, when you find yourself physically feeling a deep peace or deep regrets for sin as you seek forgiveness. Think of anytime an intellectual understanding of anything from the Bible's witness results in you being emotionally moved. This is so powerful your physical body reacts some way. That marked for me at the time that I was "in the spirit" and "hearing God."

Now, I rarely feel such things and I only hear James Earl Jones if I am watching a movie in which he is an actor or the voice over. (I really enjoy The Hunt for Red October, but that is another topic.)

First, I don't hear voices in the plural. I hear my thoughts. Thoughts may take on varied tones or levels of importance, but that is inconsequential in listening for God's direction, as it reflects my personality, the culture around me, etc. I have learned to strip away the mystery of is this thought from God or not? That was a conundrum I didn't enjoy one bit when I began to distrust my learned behavior of accounting for the direction of God as being one of my thoughts making my heart rush. So what is "listening to God" or being "in the spirit?"

I have determined His voice is my functioning conscience. I am rarely confused by and never disappointed answering the urges and inhibitions of that which I know is from God when my conscience speaks. Lining up these morally directive thoughts with Scripture is relatively easy. More than that, however, is the amazing results seeing God's hand move when I obey my conscience. What's more, as I have learned to trust my conscience as the voice of God, it has become ever more sensitive. And learning more is simply exciting, like those first days when I wanted the experience of actively hearing the Father in the now!

The Wild Wood, its many voices of wind and doctrine and its storms of hate and lust, is little trouble to navigate now that the inner light of God is alive and well within me.


Josiah said...

When I was in Alaska I remember an experience of feeling I had found wisdom. The conclusion I recorded in my journal was that wisdom was humble obedience to God's word. I had been clipping my fingernails that day and thus associated this wisdom with my mothers admonition not to bite my nails.
Since then I have journeyed and still journey to know discern and obey the voice of the Lord.
My conscience shaped by my upbringing continues to be an important part, so also do inner prompts toward various disciplines. I live up to these aspects of God's voice in part.
But his grace also is made known to my soul. Then there is the silence where I am trusting that He who made my being and my ears can make his words and ways known to me. His thoughts so abundant I can take them in only as He makes me able. Yes I find my thoughts are times flowing in His Spirit or hear him in the deep emotions of worship. The verse describing his voice as the sound of many waters has been very informative in my understanding. In my experience the conscience is among these flowing waters.

Carey said...

To Josiah:
Those are the living waters we have sought all these years.
To ded:
a.) I think what you have written is a good assessment of our collective experience.
b.) Thanks for the Wild Wood explanation at the end. It clarifies for us your purpose in this endeavor.

ded said...

Josiah, your response is almost lyrical. His thoughts are abundant, and I can take them in only as He makes me able.
So true!!

Carey, for better or worse, I always attempt to strum a chord that resonates with that which we all hold in common.

El Goyito said...

HI David,

Coming late to this post - somehow I must've missed it! Your assessment is very well-written - esp. the closing line:

«The Wild Wood, its many voices of wind and doctrine and its storms of hate and lust, is little trouble to navigate now that the inner light of God is alive and well within me.»

Do you ever read Thomas Merton? That last line sounds like something he'd say!

What I would also add to the topic of "inner voices" is that, on the other side of the coin, perhaps we should say that the lack of individuals hearing their own "inner voices of God" was a factor in their willfully following the deceptive guiles of the likes of Jim Jones & Koresh. We desperately need God's inner guiding and this guiding should be protected by the guardrails Holy Scripture. Amen!