Can you trust the Spirit?

“Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by eating ceremonial foods, which is of no benefit to those who do so” (Hebrews 13:9).

I have not had much time to write now that I am in the school season and I am studying to be a web designer, however, I have seen many of my friends sink into confusion and depression because they don’t have confidence in the voice of their Teacher.

What can happen, is that a message will become popular. A preacher will say something boldly and carelessly without examination and his listeners end up repeating that to others. If we hear that message from our pastor and the people around us often enough, we come to accept it as unquestionable truth. So I see students giving up on their convictions, convictions that are good and healthy, and falling deeper into unhealthy religion that is causing all kinds of problems even general anxiety disorder and OCD.

We have not been taught to regard the personal voice of God in our daily lives and the wisdom that comes from the Spirit. God has given us his Spirit so that we may hear his voice and know his will in our lives. I am not saying simply through reading the Bible only, I mean in your own heart and mind with inspired thoughts and revelations directly from the Spirit. However, we are taught that hearing God in this way is dangerous for individuals and not recommended. This is an extension of the same belief that plagued the people in the time of Martin Luther. The church leaders of that time believed that the Bible could only be correctly interpreted by the priests and that it would be dangerous if the average person could interpret the Bible for themselves. Today, we allow everyone to read and interpret the Bible but some of that mentality remains. Sometimes we think that only the “super-christians,” that is the ideal christians or church leaders, are gifted with the ability to hear God’s voice and know His will, but that God doesn’t speak to the average person. “Can you imagine how dangerous it would be if everyone could hear God’s voice for themselves?” So we warn people against trusting in the voice of God because we cannot control it or always prove if we heard him correctly. We point people back to the Bible, but we do so exclusively, saying, “God has said all he needs to say in his book.” However, what we don’t realize is that we are just as insecure at interpreting the Bible correctly. The Bible is indeed the infallible word of God and contains complete truth, but the Bible was written to a different people, at a different time, in a different culture, with different concerns, with a different language. No wonder we have so many denominations and professionals who have argued over correct interpretation for centuries! What this tells us is that although we cannot always prove if we truly hear God’s voice, neither can we always say that we perfectly understand the Bible. Error can come both ways.

However, the Author of the Bible understands his word perfectly and only he can perfectly interpret the whole Bible. That is why it is important to learn to hear His voice and let the Spirit guide us in how to read the scriptures. Why do we trust the works of the Author but not the Author himself? Why do we trust in our understanding of the Bible but we do not trust in the wisdom that comes from the Spirit. Does not the Author know his work the best? When we fear a living relationship with God and say the Bible is all we need, we have cut out the core of the Christian faith.

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).

So then, when we read the word it must bring us into deeper relationship with Christ and not further removed from him. This means learning to hear from Him and trust the words he says, not just the ones written in the Bible, but the ones he gives us in our daily lives through the Spirit.

However, my concern is that people have not been taught how to have confidence in the things they feel like God is telling them. They have been warned over and over of all the horror stories of people who claimed they heard God and were completely wrong. They are taught that hearing God is a dangerous thing and can get you into trouble. The result is most people are uncomfortable with the idea of “hearing from God” and they are slow to believe they have heard from Him.

There is however some validity to this warning. People in history have misheard God intentionally and unintentionally. And God’s word must be backed up in the Bible because God will never contradict himself. Not only that, but anything that comes from God must line up with his character and produce good fruit in our lives. If it is not Biblical, not in line with God’s character, and it doesn’t produce good fruit, then it is not of God even if someone says it is.

But there is something to be said for when we have heard God correctly yet dismiss it because we are afraid to trust Him for fear of being wrong. Sometimes if I feel like God has told me something that I am not sure is true, then I will ask him for a scripture to back it up. If he gives me a scripture that fulfills what He said in context, then I believe Him. If I do not get a scripture I usually throw out what I heard or wait until more proof is given. There will be times when we hear Him right and times where we mishear him. However, God’s grace will continually cover our mistakes as we honestly try to discern what’s he’s saying.

So what happens is, in someone’s personal time with God, they will hear wonderfully encouraging things from Him but then later, when they listen to their pastor or friend, they will hear some discouraging things that conflict with what God had told them earlier. And because that individual does not have confidence in what God has said, he forgets that word of encouragement and falls back into bondage. No one has told them that God is actually more reliable than the pastor or popular opinion.

I grew up with this mentality, that I was permitted to hear from God as long as it didn’t conflict with anything my pastor said or what people in general thought. And there is a wisdom in this. It is a wordily wisdom, but wisdom none the less. There can be times when I believe I have heard God and defy the warnings from others and fall into trouble. This is why I never want to dogmatically claim I have perfectly heard from God or be arrogant with what I think I know. I know one day I will mishear Him and need people’s grace to cover me. It is also good to rely on the counsel of many at times. However, “the many” can be just as incorrect and unreliable as hearing personally from God. Throughout these years as I have been talking with God, He has been teaching and convicting me over and over with how little trust I actually place in his words. Actually, it’s not that I don’t trust his words, it’s that I don’t trust my ability to hear him clearly. However, this becomes my excuse for everything. God will tell me my salvation is secure, but the next day a pastor will warn us against loosing our salvation and I will lean more towards what my pastor says than what I feel the Lord is telling me. When I can, I depend on my conviction of the Bible, but there are times where I honestly don’t understand the Bible. I read and study and find myself in a mess because one scripture says one thing but another seems to say something opposing.

I was taught growing up that if enough people thought you were wrong then you had not heard God correctly. But this is also misguided. Public opinion can easily be swayed by a popular message. At one point people used to fear generational curses greatly and came out with many systems of how to remove generational curse. As a young man, the Lord had showed me not to worry about it, but the people around me and my leaders insisted that it was necessary to say the 7-step prayer and perform the removal ceremony to cleanse the curse. At that time, because I was taught not to trust in God’s words I believed the majority and lost my peace of mind. For a few years, I was concerned about some old curse haunting me because I hadn’t performed the ceremony correctly. Today, that message has lost a lot of popularity because people have realized it’s unscriptural.

Over and over the Lord would tell me things that would conflict with majority opinion and I would hesitate to take the risk of believing Him. However, as the years rolled out, public opinion would shift and suddenly they would favor the things the Lord had told me. Not only that, but over time the Lord would begin giving me scriptures that confirmed what he had said, and not flimsy scriptures taken out of context, but defined scriptures within their point. I learned to trust more in the voice of God than what the popular opinion around me said. And as I began trusting in God, my life became much more peaceful and joyful. I was no longer confused and tossed back and forth by every sermon I heard. I would continually be comforted and encouraged by the words of my Father that I believed in and trusted. The word of God within stabilized me and protected me from the whims of wordily wisdom. Church leaders don’t always have the ability to help us distinguish what is of God and what is not so some make over-arching rules to keep people in check. “Don’t listen to it if it sounds out of the box or out of conformity with our own expectations.” And of course we know that God would never say something out of the box.

Acts 11:1-18 “The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

Can you image what our faith would have been like if Peter had trusted in popular opinion and not relied on what God was saying? Yet, somehow we think it is wise that we disregard the words of God if they conflict with a popular belief.

I am not saying there is no wisdom in the counsel of many. On many matters dealing with wordily issues, wordily counsel is profitable. However, when it comes to your personal relationship with God, no one can teach you better than God himself.

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him” (1 John 2:27).

In the context of this verse, these Christians were facing oppression from popular opinion because of the teachings of the anti-christ. He was reminding them, that they were not being foolish or ignorant, but that God indeed had and was teaching them and they needed to have confidence in what God had said.

“No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17).

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

“All your children will be taught by the LORD, and great will be their peace” (Isaiah 54:13).

“All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you” (Philippines 3:15).

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father,and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:1-12).

We trust in what our pastor says and usually it is good too. We also trust in public opinion and sometimes there is wisdom in the majority. But we must trust the Lord more than we trust these people, even when there is a chance that we may have heard him incorrectly. It is wise to trust the Lord and not to lean on the wisdom of man.

“The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (John 4:1)

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).

“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly” (Proverbs 15:14).

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you —for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22).

“Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).

So take confidence in what you honestly feel the Lord is telling you. And do so in humility, not arrogantly, being open to correction if the need may arise. The Lord wants to teach us personally even if there is a danger of hearing Him wrong. We must be taught to regard the things God says and not shy away from his words in exchange for the words of man.

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