THE VOICE OF THE SHEPHERD VS THE VOICE OF THE STRANGER: Parts 5 & 6 - The Voice for Us & The Voice Against Us / Like a Roaring Lion
So, what we are attempting to do through this series of teachings is discern the difference between the voice of our Good Shepherd and the voice of the stranger that would attempt to lead us astray. And I hope you understand just how important of a message this is for us, church, because there are far too many Christians who never learn to discern God’s voice or the enemy’s voice. Because of this, I’ve seen so many led around by the wrong voice, which has robbed them of the life God has for them. Therefore, I am convinced that if we can just learn the Shepherd’s voice and heed what He is saying to us, our lives would be led on those green pastures and beside those still waters.
So, we started out talking about the primary ways both the Lord and the devil speak to us. And we learned that the most common way they both speak is internally and not externally. So, the most regular way we will hear their voices is on the inside of us, in very subtle ways—the Lord speaking to our spirits in that still small voice and the devil speaking to our minds in a cunning, crafty way.
However, like I’ve made the point of, it’s not always so easy to discern between what we hear in our spirit and what we hear in our minds. I believe we can all grow to where can tell the difference, but what I have found is that one of the easiest ways to be able to tell what comes from God and what comes from the enemy is by the nature of the things we hear.
You see, the Lord was good enough to clearly show us in His Word what both His voice and the voice of the enemy tend towards. Yes, He gave us example after example in the Scriptures that show us what their nature is and, therefore, how they both speak to us and what the effects of their words will be.
So, we started off looking at these things by looking at our first example of both God and the devil speaking to mankind in the Bible. I made the point that we need to understand that whatever we see first mentioned in the Scriptures is something we will see regularly repeated in the world today. Therefore, what the Lord said and what the devil said in this instance are certainly going to be the same thing that we will hear them say to us on a regular basis.
Then two weeks ago, we started looking specifically at how we can tell when it is God speaking to us. In other words, what is the fruit of God’s voice.
You see, God has given us a very simple and easy way to be able to discern God’s voice. Yes, I have found that the best way for us to identify the effect of God’s voice is by the fruit of the Spirit. Why? Because the fruit of the Spirit is the “produce” of God.
So, what we did last week was we looked at most of these fruit that are listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and how they help us in identifying the witness of the Holy Spirit and our own spirit:
On the contrary, when any of these nine fruits are coming up in our hearts, we can trust that this is direction from the Lord because God is not going to lead you contrary to any of these. In other words, these nine fruit of the Spirit are the fruits that let us know we have heard God’s voice. We can trust them. They are reliable.
What the Stranger Produces
So now that we covered the fruit of the Shepherd’s voice, let’s look at some of the fruit of the stranger’s voice over the course of these next two weeks:
Now when I say “fruit” of the voice of the enemy, don’t misunderstand me. His words definitely don’t produce anything good in us like the Holy Spirit’s fruit do. The stranger’s voice actually produces the polar opposite of what the Shepherd’s voice produces. This is what we are going to touch on today.
You see, just like we can look at the things we hear in our hearts and tell whether they were from the Lord by how consistent they are with the fruit of the Spirit, we can also tell when it is the enemy speaking to us by the effects of his words. So, let’s spend this week looking at one major thing that the devil loves to produce in us through his words.
Now in our list of things that the devil uses when he speaks to us, we see how the devil likes to do various things like push & pressure us, discourage & depress us, trouble & confuse us, but one passage of Scripture that I believe best encapsulates some of the enemy’s devices is found in First Peter 5:8.
The Stranger’s Most Popular Weapons
First Peter 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
Now it is important to note that the apostle Peter added “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” right before this verse on spiritual warfare (see verse 7). So why do you reckon he added this statement? It is because when we allow worry and doubt to dominate our minds, we are opening up the door to our adversary to devour us. In other words, not casting our cares upon Him will lead us a little closer to the cage of that roaring lion, making us more susceptible to being devoured.
So, before Peter ever even mentions the devil, he mentions one of the things that can cause us to disqualify ourselves—worry. But that was just an introductory commercial to the verse I want us to look at. Now, let’s look at First Peter 5:8 in detail …
Notice that first, he says, “be sober”: The Greek word for “sober” is nepho and means “to be mentally self-controlled, clear-headed, well-balanced, alert, and stabilized.” In other words, you could say that this word means “to think straight.” And why is being “mentally self-controlled” and “thinking straight” so important in dealing with the devil? It is because (as we’ve learned) the mind is the avenue he speaks to us on. As I briefly mentioned already, if he can get your thought life all out of whack, then he may devour you.
Then Peter says, “be vigilant.” This term means “to be awake, watchful, and standing guard.”
You see, as soldiers of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of a battle we need to be alert and watchful. If we were in a physical war and were walking through the enemy’s territory, do you reckon we might be a little sober and alert? Of course, we would! And why? It is because if you’re not watchful and clear-headed you could lose your life. Likewise, this world is the enemy’s camp, and we are his targets to steal, kill and destroy from. Therefore, we need to be fully sober and vigilant because the enemy has his wicked snipers targeting us at all times, waiting for an open shot. So, we must have this militant mentality at all times!
Then, after our “to do” list is mentioned, Peter tells us why we need to be so mentally prepared by saying, “for your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” So, in this passage of Scripture, we have two of the primary weapons that he uses against us.
The Prosecuting Attorney
First, notice that he is called our “adversary.” In this word lies a key to understanding one of his weapons that he loves to use against us. The word “adversary” is the Greek word antidikos and literally describes “an opponent in a court of justice.” In other words, the devil is “the prosecuting attorney.” This word antidikos comes from the word anti meaning “against” and the word dikos where the word “righteousness” is derived from. Therefore, this title of “adversary” describes Satan as being the one who is “against righteousness.”
Now we see in the Book of Job (Job 1:6-12) that Satan comes to present himself before God regularly to bring accusations against us because he is the accuser of the brethren. But we also need to understand that not only does he accuse us before God, day and night, but he also will accuse us directly both day and night. In other words, one of his primary devices that he uses against us is condemnation!
Yes, the devil is constantly trying to make us feel guilty and worthy of punishment. The word “condemn” in the dictionary is defined as “to deem unfit for use” in reference to a building being condemned. And this is what the enemy desires to accomplish—to convince us that we are unfit to be used by God.
But the reality is that we have an advocate (i.e., a defense attorney) with the Father—Jesus Christ the righteous (First John 2:1) and if He be for us who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) In other words, if He, being the greatest defense attorney ever, is on our side then who can successfully win a case against us!?! Romans 8:32 implies that if God gave His only begotten Son for us then how could we believe that He wouldn’t forgive us of individual sins after we have been saved. If God was merciful to us when we were His enemies, how much more will He show us mercy now that we are His children? (Romans 5:9-10) Romans 8:33 asks the question— “Who shall bring a charge (or, accusation) against God’s elect (i.e., favorite, picked out, the one God voted for)?” He answers his own question by saying, “It is God who justifies!” In other words, “It isn’t God! He’s the One busy making people right before Him!”
You see, God is the One who declares people innocent and righteous! Then, in Romans 8:34 Paul asks another question— “Who is he who condemns?” And again, He answers his own question by saying, “It is Christ who died…” That simply means that Christ took all of our condemnation and died in our place! Praise God! But, thank God, He didn’t stay in the tomb! Paul went on to explain— “…and furthermore is also risen.” Romans 4:25 says that He was raised for our justification. You see, it would not have been good enough for Jesus to just die for our sins. He also needed to be raised so that we could be justified with Him. So, Paul told us that He was not only raised from the dead, but He was also raised to the right hand of God, which is the ultimate place of power and authority.
I think the next phrase is so awesome! Not only did Jesus die for us, not only was He raised from the dead for us, and not only was He raised up to the right hand of God for us. On top of all that, “who also makes intercession for us!” You see, Jesus is not the one bringing accusations and condemning us! He is the one standing between us and the Father, defending us as our Advocate and Intercessor! The devil is the condemner! He is the prosecuting attorney!
You see, church, Jesus says to all of us what He said to the women caught in adultery— “Where are those accusers of yours?... Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). So, if Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8), then He is saying that to all of us today— “Neither do I condemn you!” Yes, the only time He will ever cast judgment on anyone is on that Great Judgment Day, but until then, He says “Neither do I condemn you” yesterday, today and forever. Amen!
What the Devil Walks About Like
Now let’s move on to another very popular weapon that the enemy uses when he speaks to us. It is also referred to in First Peter 5:8 where the apostle Peter goes on to say how our adversary (i.e., prosecuting attorney) “walks about like a roaring lion …”
First of all, notice how Peter did not specifically say the devil is a roaring lion, but that he is like a roaring lion.
You see, this means that he is only likened to a roaring lion, and not actually a big, bad roaring lion himself. In other words, he just carries some of the same characteristics of a roaring lion, but is not to be viewed as something to be feared and terrifying. Why? Because our Lord has already disarmed, dethroned, and defeated him (see Colossians 2:15 & Hebrews 2:14). Yes, there is only one king of the jungle and that ain’t satan! Jesus is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and he alone is LORD.
But that doesn’t change the fact that the devil operates a lot like a lion does. So, let’s delve into how the devil walks about like a roaring lion and what the Holy Spirit is trying to communicate to us by describing him this way …
Notice how he’s described as “walking about.” This reminds me of how the devil is described as walking to and fro (i.e., back and forth) on the earth (See Job 1:7). The imagery we get from this is how a lion paces back and forth in his cage at the zoo when he would love to be outside of that cage “devouring” all those spectators. This is what the devil does with those created in God’s likeness & image – specifically the children of God who are negatively impacting his kingdom. And when he finds them, he seeks every opportunity to pounce on and devour them.
But the good news is – He can’t! No, he is seeking those he may devour, and that is those who make themselves “devourable.” Let me explain …
Like a Roaring Lion
You see, it is very significant that Peter likens satan to “a roaring lion” here because the roar of a lion is one of a lion’s hunting tools & tactics. Yes, this description of him as a “roaring lion” describes one of his hunting techniques:
You see, one of the hunting techniques of a lion is that when it is seeking its prey, it will roar with its incredibly loud roar—a roar that is so loud that it is said that one can hear it up to five miles away. Now it does this for a couple of reasons:
Number one, it is to scatter the pack …
You see, a lot of the animals that a lion likes to hunt travel in packs, and they do this because it’s in their nature to know that if they can stick together, the larger, more dangerous animals won’t be as inclined to go after them. So, the lion’s roar is used to scatter the pack, which makes that one lone “sheep” easy pickings for him.
Church, this is one of the things that you can expect to hear from the stranger—words that promote disunity and separation amongst the body of Christ. Anytime there is a thought that enters our mind that is “leading” us away from unity, love, and faithfulness, that’s a red flag. These thoughts often manifest themselves in things like us getting in strife with one another, leaving a local body of believers, and isolating ourselves.
Please know that this is one of the devices of the devil – that roaring lion – to disjoin the body of Christ and separate us from one another both in our physical presence and in our hearts.
Number two, the lion’s roar is used to paralyze its prey. Yes, the other result of that lion’s roar is that it can essentially paralyze its prey with fear and make it an easy target to devour.
You see, because a lion’s roar is so loud and deep, it is extremely intimidating to the other animals, and it can cause them to freeze right where they are at. So not only does his roar “scatter the pack,” it can cause some of the herd to freeze in their tracks.
Church, all of this describes another weapon that our enemy likes to use on us—FEAR! Yes, the fear that keeps us from moving forward, the fear of connecting with other people, the fear of obeying God, etc. etc. etc. Yes, if he, through his intimidating and paralyzing words can get us into any of these various forms of fear, then the result will be us allowing that fear to paralyze us. The result of this will be for us to basically just stop following the Shepherd’s words, to where we are just opening up the opportunity for the devil to pounce on us and devour us. It can also cause us to allow that fear to separate us from the rest of Christ’s body and other healthy relationships we have in our lives.
The Giant of Fear
One of the best examples we have in Scripture of this is found in the account of David and Goliath in First Samuel 17.
In this story, we are told that Goliath came to present himself before the armies of Israel for 40 days and verbally taunted them twice a day. So not only was Goliath’s appearance intimidating, but his words made Israel “dismayed and greatly afraid” (vs.11). Then David came on the scene and there were several things that he did in this event that we can do as well to counter that giant called “fear.”
The first thing he did was realize that Goliath was not just defying the army of Israel, but he was defying the armies of the living God. David realized Israel had a covenant with God and that meant that God was bound to give them the victory over these Philistines. You see, in a covenant, when one of the parties went into battle the other fought with them. Therefore, David knew that because of Israel’s covenant with God, that this “uncircumcised Philistine” (i.e., this Gentile who did not have a covenant with God) was no match for him.
Church, it doesn’t matter what it looks like in the natural if you have a covenant with the Lord of hosts. Then those words that Elijah told his servant in 2 Kings 6:16 are true for us— “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them!”
The second thing David did was recall to his memory his past victories. He recounted how he was used by God to kill a lion and a bear who, in the natural, seemed to be impossible victories. So, remember: recalling our past victories will spark faith in us for the current giant in our life. We need to build memorials in our lives that call to remembrance all the things God has brought us through.
So, after David got the Ok from his authority to face Goliath, he went down to the brook and gathered five smooth stones and then drew near to the Philistine.
Then we are told that Goliath looked at David and “disdained him.” This resulted in him beginning to roar like a lion, trying to put fear in David’s heart. And Goliath said something that the enemy still says today— “Come to me and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field” (vs.44) In other words, “Come on! Try and take me on! Try and believe for your healing! Try and take this city for Jesus! Try it and I’ll take your family, friends, health, etc. away from you and leave you with nothing!”
So, what was the enemy trying to do to David? He was trying to put a picture in David’s head of what would happen to him if he confronted this giant. This illustrates to us how the enemy will try and use our imagination against us. If he can get us to ponder those pictures of defeat in our minds, then our faith will grow weaker.
You see, it has been well-said that the word F.E.A.R stands for “false expectations appearing real.” And the way that these false expectations appear real is in our mind and our imagination. On the other hand, if God can get us to ponder images of victory in our minds, then we will grow in faith and, therefore, will receive what God has for us. You see, we have to see it in here (i.e., in our heart and mind) in order to see it out here (i.e., in the natural)!
So, what did David do when Goliath was trying to paint that picture of defeat in him? Did he just stand back and do nothing? No, David verbally responded to those fear-filled images by creating faith-filled images in himself! We are told that he saw Goliath dead in this valley with birds and wild beasts eating his carcass.
Saints, it would do us good to sometimes just close our eyes and imagine ourselves going to the mailbox and opening up that envelope with an anonymous check in it. It would do us good to picture our kids, hands raised, worshipping the Lord. When we start seeing it through the eyes of faith then we will start seeing it with the eyes of our head! And we see that as David got this positive imagery in his head and spoke it out of his mouth, he also began to speak many concrete, faith-filled words. In verse 46 alone he used the word “will” three times- “the Lord will deliver you into my hand,” “I will strike you and take your head from you,” “I will give your carcass…” David had tremendous confidence and boldly confessed what would happen before he ever saw it happen. Likewise, we must also learn to do these things David did as we face the giants in our lives that try and paralyze us through fear.
But if you are going to take anything away from this story of David vs. Goliath, know this: The best way to counter fear-filled thoughts is to speak faith-filled words! Why do I say this? It is because before David ever tried to take on Goliath, he first spoke faith-filled words. I just love a quote I heard from Mark Hankins! He said, “Never run at your giant with your mouth shut!”—to which I give a hearty ‘Amen!”
Bold Like Lions
Now there is another passage of Scripture that uses this exact same terminology that we see in First Peter 5:8, and it is found in Proverbs 28:15. In this verse, Solomon says, “Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people.”
Now we know how this biblical principle works, don’t we? If we get the wrong person in a position of authority, whether that be in the government or in the church, it can be dangerous “like a roaring lion” and a charging bear.
But do you know what else is dangerous? It is when we allow the devil to rule over us like the tyrant he is. And this occurs when we see ourselves as poor & powerless. Yes, it is the helpless that allows the ruler of the darkness of this world to be dangerous like a roaring lion and a charging bear.
But we are not helpless, saints, and (again) he is not the king of the jungle either. We need to understand that the enemy cannot just come into our life and devour everything he wants to. We have authority over him, and we can be confident in this.
You see, regarding this confidence & boldness, Proverbs 28:1 says that the wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Isn’t that interesting that the wicked person is said to flee when no one is pursuing them?
Church, we need to understand that we are not wicked anymore. If we are a born again, child of God, our nature has been changed and we are not sinners any longer. Sure, we can still sin after we have been saved, and likely we will. But that does not change our nature.
But think on this: How many of you believe that before you became a follower of Christ that there was no amount of good deeds/works that you could have done to be made righteous? We all believe that, right? Why? It is because we are born a sinner and our works cannot change our nature. So how can we believe that after we are born again and made the righteousness of God in Christ that there is any amount of bad deeds/works that we can do to be made a sinner? No, when you were born again, your nature changed from being a sinner to being righteous in Christ. Therefore, there is nothing you can do to be considered wicked now that you are born again, just like there was nothing you could do to be considered righteous when you were born the first time. It is simply a result of the nature you are born with. Your “do” does not affect your “who.” No, you have been made righteous in Christ! That means that you have been made fit to be used by God. You do not make yourself usable; you were made usable by Jesus! Therefore, when you pray for someone in the name of Jesus, you should see it, not as you praying for them, but as it is in truth, Jesus praying for them!
Friends, as a general rule, we are too self-conscious in the church. We look at ourselves far more than we ought to. The truth is that we are dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God (see Colossians 3:3). The truth is that, as the body of Christ, it is no longer we who live, but Christ living through us (Galatians 2:20). For to live is Christ (see Philippians 1:21)! So, we need to quit seeing ourselves praying for people because in essence it is Christ praying for people! We are operating in His place (i.e., in His name). So, forget getting “self-esteem”! That is a worldly philosophy! The Christian philosophy is that we should be striving to get more “Christ-esteem.”
But notice it is the wicked who flees when no one pursues. And this is exactly what sin consciousness will do in our lives: When we see ourselves as “wicked”—that is, when we are conscious of all of our faults, weaknesses, mistakes and shortcomings—we will flee when no pursues. That means that we will run from God when He is not out to get us. This happened in the Garden after the first sin of man, and it is still happening today when God’s children sin. We sin, and instead of running to God (like we should), we run from Him thinking He is pursuing us to punish us. But the truth is that God is pursuing you when you sin, but not to punish you; He is pursuing you to restore, redeem, and reconcile you!
So, the wicked—or, the one who thinks he or she is wicked—will flee when no one pursues. This describes far too many Christians. They are running from the righteousness of God because they have an incorrect view of God and of themselves. But, again, God is not pursuing to punish; He is pursuing to pour out His protection and provision. They are even running from the devil because they have an incorrect view of him and also because they have an incorrect view of themselves. But we are not to be fleeing from him; he is supposed to be fleeing from us!
Do you see the perverted thinking much of the church has adopted? We think we are being pursued! We think God is out to get us and we think the devil is going to get us. Both of these beliefs are so far from the truth! God is for us, so who can be against us! This is what we should be believing!
But notice the second half of this verse … “But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
This is the truth we need to displace that lie with! The devil is said to walk about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, yet we see him as the big, bad lion. But we are the righteousness of God in Christ, and we need to see ourselves as that big, bad lion! Why? Because we are in the Lion of Judah! We are the ones who are hid in the King of the Jungle! Therefore, we should be the bold, confident ones! We should be the ones that are walking about boldly like lions, seeking which works of darkness that we can devour—not the reverse! Hallelujah!
Friends, understanding our righteous position in Christ will produce boldness and confidence! Having our state of justification revealed to us will produce the full assurance of faith in our hearts! Hallelujah! We are to be playing the part of the lion; not the devil! We are to be the ones on the hunt; not him! We are the ones with the authority! We are the ones with the position! We are the ones with the name above all names! We ARE the righteousness of God in Christ!
So, stop fleeing like the wicked and start pursuing like the righteous! Be bold and be confident! Know that his works have no legal grounds and that you have the authority to cast out the works of darkness by the power of the blood and His anointing! You are the one to be feared, not satan!
So, these are just a couple of the ways the stranger –the devil – speaks to us. Of course, there are many other things he speaks to us to try and sabotage our lives. But these are just a couple of things that I consider his “heavy artillery.”
Church, these truths are so important to understand. Once we start recognizing his devices, we can truly bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. This will most certainly lead us into a life of victory. Amen and amen.
So last month, we began a new series on discerning between the voice of the Shepherd and the voice of the stranger. And church, this is such an important message for us to learn because I’ve seen far too many Christians led by the wrong voice when if they would have simply followed a simple criteria given to us in the Word, they would have known that the enemy was attempting to lead them astray.
Yes, we have learned in Jesus’ parable in John chapter 10 that the Lord’s sheep are promised that they can both hear & know the voice of the Good Shepherd and also recognize the voice of the stranger. Therefore, Jesus spoke very definitively that we can and should know the difference between God’s voice and the voice of the enemy.
So, we started out talking about the primary ways both the Lord and the devil speak to us. And we learned that the most common way they both speak to us is internally and not externally. No, the main & regular way we will hear their voices is on the inside of us, in very subtle ways.
As for the Lord, we saw how He mainly speaks to us in our spirit and by His Spirit. Therefore, learning to hear the voice of the Shepherd is not going to come from looking out here somewhere, but by looking in our heart where the Holy Spirit resides—for the Lord primarily communicates to us spirit to spirit.
On the other hand, while the stranger is also mainly speaking to us on the inside, he is not communicating with us in our spirit. No, he speaks to us in our minds—constantly bombarding us with thoughts that seek to steal, kill, and destroy us.
However, like I made the point of last week, it’s not always so easy to be able to discern between what we hear in our spirit and what we hear in our minds. I believe we can all grow to where can tell the difference, but what I have found is that one of the easiest ways to be able to tell what comes from God and what comes from the enemy is by the nature of the things we hear.
You see, the Lord was good enough to clearly show us in His Word what both His voice and the voice of the enemy tend towards. Yes, He gave us example after example in the Scriptures that show us what their nature is and, therefore, how they both speak to us and what the effects of their words will be.
So, we began in the Beginning – in the Book of Genesis where the enemy showed up on the scene – and looked at the initial way that he attempted to deceive Adam & Eve. I believe this one example gives us great insight into how the stranger attempts to lead us out of the fold and on to the path that leads to destruction.
But the first thing we did was we looked at what the Lord said to Adam before the serpent ever opened his mouth:
So, what did God say in Genesis 2:15-17? What were the words of the Good Shepherd? If you were to ask most people what the Lord told Adam in this passage, most would only recognize how the Lord was commanding Adam to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And while that was certainly part of what He commanded, that was not the only thing. In fact, it wasn’t even the first thing He commanded. No, the Lord actually “commanded” him first to freely eat from every tree of the garden.
Church, this is much more significant than most realize because it teaches us how the Lord was not just being a “Law-giver” but had actually first given Adam an invitation to “freely” eat from any other tree of the Garden.
So, the Lord essentially gave Adam “freedom” before He gave him a “law.” And did you know that is how God always is? Most see Him as the Law and as this Being who basically just wants us to follow His rules, but that’s not His heart. Sure, He has rules, but they are given out of love—because He wants His best for us and following His ways is the way of blessing.
But in a perfect world, the Lord freely gives us all trees to eat. That, my friends, is abundant prosperity. It is the Land of Blessing! God’s will is always to give us heaven! Amen! And the fact is, just as the Lord offered “freedom” first, we need to be listening for His voice that tells us what we can have & can do.
So, if we are hearing from the Shepherd correctly, what are we going to hear? A bunch of don’t do this or don’t do that? No, you will first hear do this and do that? In other words, the Lord primarily likes to speak to us all the things we can have and can do before giving us the things that are off limits.
We looked at how easy it is for us to misinterpret the things God is saying to us by looking at His Parable of the Prodigal Son.
You see, when you consider the context of this parable, you’ll learn that Jesus was not just trying to teach about this younger, wasteful son, but He was actually trying to correct the ones that the elder son in this parable represented. Yes, it was the religious that Jesus was admonishing and so this parable was aimed more at teaching the error of the elder son than the error of the younger son.
You see, this parable begins by Jesus saying that “a certain man had two sons” (Luke 15:11). Then in verse 12 we are told – “And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood.” Notice that! The father divided not just to him but to “them” his livelihood. Have you ever seen that?
So that means that at this point the father went ahead and divided to both of his sons their inheritance. Now we will go on to see later in this parable how the elder son got upset because of all the things his father did for his good for nothing younger brother. And how did the father respond to him? He reminded his son that he was always with him and all that He had was his. In fact, there are no indications in the story that the elder son knew this. Perhaps he was unaware that the father had divided to both of them his livelihood. And I believe that’s exactly what happened because that is what religion tends to do—miss all that the Lord has freely given and base its relationship with Him on all that it does for Him.
Church, these truths of this parable illustrate to us how easy it is for us to miss what the Lord is saying to us. Yes, as the Lord Jesus said, God’s Word can be made of non-effect through our traditions. Likewise, what God is saying to us can fall on deaf ears through a wrong belief system and the traditions we might have erroneously adopted.
And I believe the same thing happened to Adam & Eve: I believe they lost sight of every tree that the Lord had freely given to him in the Garden and got “tunnel vision” on the one tree that God forbade. Which is exactly what the enemy will attempt to do to us.
But then we saw how the Lord also made sure to tell Adam that there was one tree that was forbidden. So, one thing we have to make sure we have ears to hear are those words of the Shepherd that do indeed tell us what is not for us.
But like we saw, even in those things where the Lord tells us don’t do this or don’t do that, He speaks these things in such a gentle & gracious way. In other words, God’s heart is not to speak to us in that old Cecil B. DeMille “Ten Commandments” tone that booms from heaven saying, “Thou Shalt Not …!” No, His words are always with grace, seasoned with salt like we are commanded to speak to others in Colossians 4:6.
I asked the question – Do you think the Lord is going to tell us to talk to one another like that if He Himself isn’t willing to do so? No, even God’s commandments are spoken “with grace” and are “seasoned with salt.”
Do you know why this is so important to understand? It’s because the stranger loves to masquerade as an angel of light. So, he will try and deceive us into thinking God is speaking to us by speaking words to us that don’t add to us and come across in a fashion that doesn’t taste right. So just know that if the words we are hearing are not “with grace” and haven’t been “seasoned with salt,” then they likely are not from our Good Shepherd.
But we saw that after God had given them these commands, the first words we see out of satan’s mouth in the Scriptures was “Has God indeed said.” Another way of translating that is— Did God really say …?”
So, if I start having thoughts that contradict something that I know God has said like “I wonder if that’s really true” or “Is this really what this verse means?”
So, the first thing we saw come out of the devil’s mouth in the Bible is him questioning what God says. And that is what we can expect in our lives as well – steady doses of him trying to get us to question what God has said.
So be on the lookout for the reasoning that comes after God has already spoken to us. God’s truth is usually pretty simple. But the devil likes to complicate it.
And notice how he complicated it here with Eve: After saying, “Has God indeed said” he adds— “… You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
So, what we saw that he was doing was getting her to look more at the fact God didn’t allow them to eat of all the trees of the Garden, but had made the one off limits. In other words, he got her focused on how the Lord was supposedly withholding something from them rather than how He had allowed them to freely eat of every other tree.
That’s a scheme of the enemy – to get us questioning God’s intentions instead of believing that He has our best interest in mind. This is why He winds up telling her that God knows that they would become like Him, knowing good & evil. So, he wanted her to believe that God was withholding something from them – trying to keep them from something.
So, we spent last week essentially looking at the first things God & the devil spoke to mankind, understanding that whatever we see first mentioned in the Scriptures is something we will see regularly repeated in the world today.
But again, the issue seems to be a confidence of whether what we are hearing in our hearts is the Lord, the enemy, or just our own selves. And the reason for this lack of confidence is because our hearts can so easily deceive us into thinking what we are hearing is the Lord when it was just us or it was us when it was really the enemy.
Did you know that even the great apostle Paul didn’t totally trust the things he “thought”?
Notice in Romans 9:1 where he said, “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit …”
So how was Paul so certain that what he was saying was the truth in Christ and he was not lying? Most would think a person would just automatically know that because, wouldn’t one know if what they were saying was true or not? Not necessarily. The Bible teaches us in other places that a person can “deceive themselves” in thinking they are spiritual when they are not. So evidently, we can think something is true and be completely deceived.
So how did Paul prove to himself that what he was saying was the truth? Because his conscience also was bearing him witness in the Holy Spirit. In other words, his conscience was confirming that this was not a lie by the Holy Spirit bearing witness that it was true.
Here, the same Greek word is being used to translate the three words “also bearing…witness” as in Romans 8:16 and it is obvious that Paul is saying that his conscience was bearing witness along with the Holy Spirit. So evidently, we have a co-witness on the inside of us that will testify concerning what the Lord is saying to us—our own spirit & the Holy Spirit. This is how we can know what is true and what is a lie.
Now we made the point of a couple of weeks ago, First John 2:20, says, “we know all things.” So, what part of us is it that knows all things? Our spirit! You see, our spirit is eternal and, therefore, has characteristics that supersede things here in the natural. Therefore, our spirit man knows everything. So, when it bears witness to something, it knows what is true and what is a lie.
But then we have the Holy Spirit living in us as well to also bear witness to things, and we know he knows everything as the omniscience of God Himself.
So, with these two things bearing witness with us, how could we ever be led astray? Saints, this is a fail proof method for hearing from God because if you have two witnesses that know all things speaking up on the inside of you, you have a certain conviction. Doesn’t the Bible say that in the mouth of two or three witnesses let every word be established? And doesn’t it also say to not receive an accusation against an elder without two or three witnesses? The Bible is obviously big on having multiple witnesses. So why would hearing from God be any different? Yes, both our born again recreated spirit that is full of the life of God and the mighty Holy Spirit Himself living in our hearts know everything and will keep us from following a lie.
But here is my point: If your spirit is also bearing witness along with the Holy Spirit, then how do you identify the witness of your own spirit? In other words, how can you tell when it is your spirit or when it is your soul and your flesh?
Well, I believe there are some very clear and distinct ways of being able to tell where what we are hearing is coming from. Yes, the Lord showed me the most practical way to identify the witness of both our spirit and the Holy Spirit. And, saints, this will keep you out of a bunch of error, so listen well …
I have found that the best way for us to identify the witness of our own spirit is by the fruit of the Spirit. Why? Because the fruit of the Spirit is the “produce” of your recreated spirit because it is the spiritual makeup of this hidden man of the heart. As the Lord said to me before, the fruit of the Spirit are the muscles of your spirit.
So, what I want us to look at this week are these fruit that are listed in Galatians 5:22-23 and how they help us in identifying the witness of the Holy Spirit and our own spirit. So, let’s turn over there and look at this list …
Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
So, these are the fruit of both the Holy Spirit and our newly recreated spirit. Therefore, when any of these nine fruits are coming up in our hearts, we can trust that this is direction from the Lord because God is not going to lead you contrary to any of these. Likewise, if anything contrary to these nine fruits of the Spirit are dominating our heart, then we can be certain that this is not direction from the Lord.
So, at what point in any of our lives is the Holy Spirit going to speak to us, or is our own spirit going to lead us in anything outside of these nine fruit of the Spirit? The answer is simple – NEVER! Yes, the Lord will always speak to us things that will provoke and lead us into love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Now the first fruit that we see listed here is a big one, in that it is God Himself. LOVE! Yes, everything I hear from God will be laced with love, right? Yes, if this is His core nature, then everything He communicates to me will tend towards love and will certainly not be contrary to that.
You see, in First John 4:19 we are told that “God is love.” This little powerful phrase holds such a wonderful revelation! God does not just have love; God is love! He is the embodiment of agape—unconditional and unfailing love! If you’ve seen pure love, you’ve seen God clearly! If you’ve experienced unconditional love, you’ve experienced a piece of God! Now here is my point: If you’ve felt love, you’ve felt God!
You see, the problem that many Christians face is that when a thought or idea comes into their heart, they do not feel like they know if it is God. In other words, they have a thought to go pray for someone, but they do not know if it is God leading them to do that or if it was just them thinking this up on their own.
Well, let me give you one major indicator if it’s God or not: If its love; It’s God! If it is not pure, genuine love then you better think twice about it. You see, since God is love, then it stands that when we have compassion just well up in our hearts for someone or for something that it is God “moving us with compassion.” And you can bet that if we follow that compassion that there is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the other side of obedience!
We see that Jesus was compelled by love, only saying what He heard His Father saying and only doing what He saw His Father doing. Yes, Jesus was moved with compassion. He followed after love (First Corinthians 14:1).
To me, this love of God is one of the most common fruits that the Lord uses to help us identify the inward witness within us, and the reason I believe this is because this is the predominant way that our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was led to do things.
Actually, we have at least five specific miracles that Jesus performed as a direct result of being moved with compassion (the feeding of the four thousand, the feeding of the five thousand, the two blind men, the leper, and the widow’s son being raised from the dead) …
So, these three words— “moved with compassion”- are one of the most important lessons we can learn from the life of Jesus! Why? Because whenever He was moved with this compassion (i.e., deep love) the gifts of the Spirit followed, and He did great things. So, another way of saying this is that Jesus was “led by love.”
On the contrary, the devil will not compel us towards love. In fact, the stranger will do everything he can to lead us away from the love of God. Yes, he will lead us away from the fold and away from our Shepherd. He will do this by filling our minds with unlovely thoughts towards others and if he is not successful in getting us to become hateful, angry, and bitter towards the brethren, he will simply distract us from actually loving others.
Did you know that one name given to satan in the Scriptures is the accuser of the brethren? Yes, in Revelation 12:10 tells us, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.’ ”
So, this reveals to us that the devil’s core nature is to accuse the brethren before God day and night. In other words, this is not an occasional thing, but what the devil is constantly doing, accusing God’s people day and night.
So, if this is what he is constantly doing before God, don’t you think this will be something we will also get a steady dose of in our minds? You can bet on it!
No, God is not in the accusing business; He’s in the excusing business! So, if I am hearing from God, I will be led into love and certainly will not be led to accuse the brethren. Someone will say— But don’t we all do stupid, wrong things? Sure we do! But love covers a multitude of sins! It doesn’t seek to expose them! No, Love will always lead us to look at the best in others and not nitpick all their flaws and faults. Amen?
Now let’s look at the next fruit of the Spirit and see another fruit of God speaking to/leading us—joy!
Yes, when joy manifests in your heart at the prospect of doing something, that’s the Lord! When you just sense the joy of the Lord on the inside of you when you hear something, that’s the Lord! Have you ever had that happen to you?
Do you remember the instance where when Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice and the baby she was carrying (i.e., John the Baptist) began leaping in her? It says in Luke 1:44 (This is Elizabeth talking)-- “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”
Now I understand that the baby (i.e., John the Baptist) was who leaped within her womb, but this is a good illustration of how the Lord confirms things with us…
You see, what happened here was Mary went to visit Elizabeth and right when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit. But in verse 44, Elizabeth said that as soon as she heard this greeting, something happened on the inside of her. Her baby leaped within her for joy. And this is exactly what happens with us sometimes when the inward witness is manifested within us. Our new man will start doing back-flips on the inside of us. Our spirit will start jumping, leaping, and praising God. Amen!
You see, this event with Elizabeth was the Holy Spirit witnessing with her that Mary was carrying the Messiah. There were no indications that Mary had told her anything. She just had a witness within her when she heard Mary’s voice. Amen! And that is what He will do for us who are already filled with the Holy Spirit! There will be an excitement that wells over within us when the Spirit is bearing witness with our spirit. Glory to God! And we can trust that joy within us to be the fruit of the inward witness!
Saints, this is certainly a good way to distinguish between truth and error… Is there an inner excitement within us regarding what we are hearing? Friends, if you leave a church meeting, Bible study or any other thing, not feeling excited and joyful in your heart, then there is a good chance that the Holy Spirit and your spirit are not bearing witness to the message you heard. Therefore, God wasn’t in it.
And we can easily see how the third fruit of the Spirit is a wonderful way of identifying the leading of the Lord …
You see, the fruit of peace is considered to be one of the primary ways that believers can know when the Lord is directing us into something. We use terminology like “I had a peace to do it” or “I didn’t have any peace about that.” That’s because we learn that this fruit of peace is usually a good barometer of if the Lord is in it.
We see this in Colossians 3:15 where the apostle Paul exhorted us to let the peace of God rule in our hearts: This verse begins by saying, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts…”
Listen to what it says in the Amplified Bible— “And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as an umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state]…”
Notice, first of all, how the Amplified Bible translates peace as “soul harmony”… This answers the question of how do we detect the peace of God in our hearts. It’s like a harmony in our soul. There might be a lot of noise on the inside of us. There might be a lot of clanging cymbals and off-key notes in our souls, but look for the harmony.
The word “harmony” is defined as “the combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce chords and chord progressions having a pleasing effect.” So, this goes back to what I said earlier – The peace of God within us is the fruit of our spirit harmonizing together with His Spirit, creating a co-witness that is manifested in peace. Let me say it again this way… When the Holy Spirit is bearing witness along with our spirit- the fruit of both of those witnesses within us is peace.
Therefore, you can trust the peace of God within you to, what? “Rule in your hearts”
As evidenced by the Amplified Bible’s translation, the word “rule” that Paul used here literally describes a referee or umpire that is officiating something. Paul was saying that we are to let the fruit of peace be the umpire of our hearts, which means that it should call the shots in all of the decisions of our life. In other words, if there is not any peace in a decision we are going to make, then the Holy Spirit is not in it nor is our spirit in it.
Someone might ask, “What does peace feel like?” Again, it is like a harmony in your heart. I would say it makes you feel “clear” and “at ease” on the inside. When you are in peace about something, you will know it! You will just feel at ease about the decision. There will be an absence of confusion and frustration and you will just be at peace about it.
Yes, saints, peace is the umpire of our heart, telling us if we are "safe" to follow what we are hearing in our heart or if we are "out" of the will of God.
So, if you are experiencing a war or conflict inside of yourself, then it is not the time to make a decision. Confusion and frustration are the exact opposite of God’s peace. And the enemy reigns in confusion & frustration. That’s why when that is the fruit we are feeling, we don’t need to make any major decisions.
The Rest of the Fruit
We really only have time to spend talking in depth about these big three—love, joy, and peace—but the Holy Spirit will certainly speak to and lead us through these others as well.
For example, if you and I are feeling impatient and are getting antsy, that’s usually not the Lord. Why? Because the next fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering (or patience depending on what translation you use). So, the Holy Spirit is certainly not going to lead you and I through impatience. Do you see that?
So I would counsel you that if you are ever making a decision and if it is in all honesty based on you being impatient with a particular situation or not long-suffering with a particular person, you should really reconsider if that’s the Lord. Why? Because God is not impatient, and the fruit of the Spirit is long-suffering. So, He will not lead you through impatience.
The next two fruits of the Spirit are goodness & kindness, so when thoughts of kindness or goodness come up in your heart to bless someone or do something for them, those can generally be trusted to be the Lord. The only exception would be how our heart could have a tendency to go this way because of the filter that we’ve developed. Therefore, it is sympathy and empathy operating, but not pure compassion from the Lord. This is when we need to pray like Paul did for the Philippians when he prayed that their love would abound still more and more in all knowledge and discernment. For what purpose? That they would be able to recognize what is best. You see, you can find plenty of things to love, but there are only so many things that you individually can pour into. This is when you need to be led by the Holy Spirit.
But, yes, the majority of the time when a thought or idea comes up in your heart to show someone kindness and do good to someone, that’s the Lord! You don’t have to over-spiritualize it and overthink it. As Nike says, “Just do it!” Even if it’s just you, what’s the worst that could happen? Just pray for the Lord to help you have His knowledge and discernment in your love towards others. He will take care of you!
You know what else He is not going to lead you through? Faithlessness. Why? Because one of the fruits of the Spirit is faithfulness.
How many people join something, begin something, etc. saying, “The Lord told me to do such and such” and then a month, two months, three months later say, “Well, the Lord is telling me to stop, leave, etc.”??? People do this all the time and I want to say, “Did God change His mind?”
You know, a lot of people claim to be led by the Lord when they quit something. People quit on their marriage, claiming that the Lord gave them the okay to leave their spouse. People quit their jobs feeling like their season there is done due to circumstances, etc.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are times where change must come. Certainly, seasons change. But what I am saying is that this is not as frequent as many Christians feel they have experienced. No, a good rule of thumb is, that if God put you somewhere or hooked you up to someone or something, you need to honestly evaluate why you are disconnecting. Why? Because feelings and emotions are very deceptive. The Bible tells us that the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things; who can know it?
You see, we can very easily misinterpret what is going on in our heart as to why we are wanting to leave the place, person, or thing that God has joined us to. And we are even more susceptible to being deceived because don’t you know the devil is going to try and separate you from the people and things God has joined you to? He sure is! He is all the time trying to stir up divorce, split churches, etc., etc., etc. because he knows how important unity is in the Body of Christ.
So, therefore, when we are feeling like quitting anything that there is a remote possibility God has joined us to, we should be slow to make a presumptuous decision. Amen?
Now the next to last fruit of the Spirit is translated “gentleness” but is most commonly known as “meekness.” This is humility, one of the most valuable yet underrated fruits of the Spirit.
So, guess what the Lord is not going to speak to me? Things that foster my pride. For example, the Lord is usually not going to speak to me things that feed the pride that’s in my flesh. No, He is not going to always jump on my side when there is contention between myself and another. He will lead me into meekness & humility, showing me how I can lower myself and serve others.
But if what I am hearing is “How this person never speaks to me?” or “How that person never does anything for me? Well, if that is not our own pride talking, it is the voice of the stranger trying to pull the strings of that pride.
But no, the voice of our Good Shepherd will not feed our pride but will always lead us into meekness & humility. This will be Him inspiring us to esteem others better than ourselves and to look out for other’s interests and not just our own.
Finally, regarding the fruit of self-control, we see how this “inward ruling power” is how the Lord operates as well. No, anytime we blow up and lose control of our emotions—venting all our feelings in outbursts of wrath, etc., that is the flesh, not the spirit. Verses 19-21 reveal that these things are works of the flesh, as opposed to fruit of the Spirit.
No, even when it comes to spiritual things like the Holy Spirit moving upon us, He is not going to take control of us and make us do things we don’t want to do. Now, He will put you on your back sometimes (falling out in the Spirit, not sickness) in an attempt to minister to you, but He will not make you obnoxious. No, the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets. Therefore, the Lord is not going to lead us into behaviors, as godly as they might seem, where we are not in control.
So, these nine fruit of the Spirit are the fruits that let us know we have heard God’s voice. We can trust them. They are reliable. And the Lord is never going to lead us in a way contrary to them. In fact, the stranger is the one who will lead us away from love, joy, peace, etc. You can bank on that!
So, when you believe you have heard from God, just ask yourself the question, was that along the lines of love, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, etc. or am I violating any of these fruit by what I am feeling “led” to do.
The Lord is consistent, saints! He will lead us in the way of these fruits of our righteousness and we can know when it is Him by how those words line up with His fruit. Amen.