Today, we are beginning a journey—a journey towards discerning between the voice of God & the voice of the enemy.
I would venture to say that we all believe God still speaks to us today. I also believe that most of us also believe that the devil is real and can also speak to us. However, what I feel many Christians are ignorant of is how they both speak to us and how to tell the difference between what is of God, what is of the enemy, and what is simply of us. Therein lies the problem for most believers.
For example, when it comes to how the Lord speaks to us, if you were to ask most believers who actually believe God still communicates with us today how they think that He speaks to His people, they immediately gravitate towards the spectacular. What I mean is they only expect Him to speak in the more supernatural ways such as through an audible voice, visions, dreams, angelic visitations, etc. And while these forms of guidance do indeed occur today, they are the exception and not the norm. In other words, while these experiences most certainly are supposed to be a part of the life of a Christian, they are not the consistent way that God speaks to us on a regular basis. Yes, on a day-to-day basis, God more commonly leads His children today by less mystical means, and today we will learn what this less spectacular but no less supernatural kind of guidance is.
A highly respected and fruitful minister once said, “Many Christians are looking for the spectacular and, all the while, missing the supernatural.” You see, God’s predominant ways of speaking to us will probably not give you any goose bumps and you will probably not be awe-struck by the things you hear, but that does not mean that these other things are any less supernatural. God leading us by putting an idea in our heart of how to show someone His love is no less supernatural than an audible voice telling us to do the same. They are both equally supernatural! The only difference is one is a more spectacular experience while the other is a more common experience.
Thank God for these spectacular and miraculous forms of His communication, but if we want to have God communicate to us on a daily basis, we need to learn these other supernatural ways that He speaks to us. And that is where most miss it – they are looking for God’s voice in the wrong place.
The truth is that the Lord mainly speaks to us on the inside of us, in our spirit. Therefore, learning to hear the voice of the Master is not going to come from looking out here somewhere, but by looking in our heart. This is a point we will revisit shortly.
So, what we will do throughout this series is learn how to detect it when it is Him speaking in our hearts. But we are not just going to learn how God speaks to us; we will also compare it to how the devil speaks to us because, whether you realize it or not, the enemy is constantly bombarding our minds with thoughts that are aimed at your demise. And if you do not realize where those words are coming from and embrace them as if they are your own, then you are going to have a difficult time living a victorious life.
You see, like it is with God’s voice, the enemy is not going to present himself to you in red pajamas with a pitchfork, saying, “Hey, I am satan, and here is what I want to say to you …” No! He is a deceiver, so he will offer you ideas and suggestions that will seem like they are just you thinking them. He will even present himself, as the apostle Paul said, as an angel of light, trying to make you think what he is saying is the Lord speaking to you. So no, the devil doesn’t predominantly speak to us in an overt & obvious way any more than the Lord does.
Therefore, it is imperative that we learn both what he tends to speak and how he speaks it. Likewise, we also must learn what the Lord will generally speak to us and how He communicates with us. Once we learn these things, we are in position to know exactly what voice we need to be heeding and what voice we need to be rejecting.
The Parable of the True Shepherd
Now I want us to begin in John chapter 10 where we have an interesting parable given to us by the Lord Jesus that I believe beautifully describes the difference between how the Lord speaks to us versus how the devil speaks to us:
In this teaching, Jesus describes how we are the sheep of His pasture and how He is the Good Shepherd. However, the emphasis He makes is on how His sheep hear & know His voice. He also emphasizes how there are strangers & thieves whom His sheep do not know, entering in for the intent of stealing, killing, and destroying the Lord’s flock.
So, while there are a lot of important truths contained in this parable, one that stands out to me is how the Lord makes clear the difference between the Shepherd of the sheep and the strangers who are attempting to steal His sheep. In this, we see much of the differences between the nature of God versus the nature of the devil.
And church, you will see this throughout this series, but understanding the core differences between the Lord and satan are so incredibly important to the Christian life—particularly as it pertains to their mode of communicating with us. Yes, knowing what God’s tendencies are versus the devil’s tendencies can be the fundamental difference between believing a lie or the truth. And what I have observed over my years in the church is that there are more Christians who fail to understand this than there are those who know the truth. Therefore, many Christians live under the delusion that things that the thief is actually responsible for are the Lord’s doing.
So church, know this today – that anything that comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10) is of the thief and is the core nature of the devil. However, everything that comes to add life and life more abundantly is of the Lord. In fact, if you want a further description of what our Good Shepherd’s nature is, just look at the 23rd Psalm where we see what the Lord our Shepherd does for us. In short, it’s the good life—that we would see the goodness of the Lord right here in the land of the living (See Psalm 27:13). Once we understand this, it will make a tremendous difference in how we respond to the things life throws at us. We will then know what to submit to and what to resist (James 4:7).
But what I wanted us to specifically look at in this new series of teachings is not what the Lord does versus what the devil does; I wanted us to look at how their core nature is reflected in what & how they communicate to us.
The Door of the Shepherd
So, let’s begin this week by looking at how our Good Shepherd is described in this parable in order to first learn how He operates:
First of all, in verses 1-2, Jesus begins by saying, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.”
Notice that Jesus makes the point here that He, the shepherd of the sheep (vs. 11), enters through the door, but the thief and the robber climb up some other way. This teaches me that, contrary to popular belief, the Lord has a specific & primary way of approaching us and speaking to us. Yes, there is a specific & appropriate avenue that the Lord enters by. Likewise, there’s a specific way that He speaks to us and leads us in our life.
On the same note, the devil doesn’t come through that same “door,” but attempts to get to us some other way. And what we will learn in this series of teachings is what is that way that the Good Shepherd will speak to us and how the thief will always violate it.
Well, Jesus goes on to describe how He Himself is also that door, doesn’t He (See John 10:7)? So, what does that teach us? It teaches us that the Lord Jesus is going to be the Way of “getting through to us.” In other words, He will be the avenue by which we are going to hear from God and be led by the Spirit. Amen? Yes, He is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
You see, the Lord Jesus is litmus test to all truth. So, the door that God is going to speak to me through and lead me in & out through is JESUS Himself. Therefore, my coming to know Him, heeding His truth conveyed to me through the Gospels, and having a heart to honor & glorify Him in all I do is a big part of hearing from God.
I’ve seen far too many Christians who believe the Lord spoke something to them, but it was contrary to Jesus’ teachings, His character, and to the overall truth that He represented. These will swear up and down that they heard from God, but what they fail to understand is that the Lord does not “come up some other way.” No, He will consistently approach us through His Son and never violate that.
Friends, it is all about Jesus. So, if we are going to be on the right frequency to hear what the Lord is communicating to us, we must have our hearts set on the “Door” Himself—for this is how we approach the Lord and He approaches us. Amen?
Along these same lines, we know that Jesus is the Word too, right? So then, we can see how one of Jesus’ ways of approaching us is through the Scriptures. And I’ll tell you, church, this is one of the main avenues God has used to speak to me throughout my Christian walk—through the Word of God. I’ve found that as I had given my time to studying the Scriptures, the Lord would speak to me through the Bible. And, no, not necessarily as I was reading & studying it, but when I would be doing my daily activities, a verse would pop up in my heart when I needed it, conveying some truth to me that I needed to know at the moment. I would know that this wasn’t just simply me remembering a Bible verse, but it was the Lord specifically communicating to me through that Word He had already spoken. Amen!
Church, I believe that when it comes to hearing from God, the most fundamental way in which God speaks to us is through His Written Word. You might say that the Scriptures are the way to hear from God on demand.
You see, the Bible is said to be living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, it should not be read like a history book or some other manual of facts. It is a living Book, not a dead book—a Book that actually contains God’s Word to us.
Hebrews 4:12 also teaches us how His Word is sharper than any two-edged sword—which is a common description of God’s Word. In fact, Ephesians 6:17 talks about how our lone piece of offensive weaponry is called “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” And the reason it is called “the sword of the Spirit” is because the Holy Spirit takes those truths that were aforementioned and communicates them to our heart. In other words, our sword of the Spirit is those “rhema” words that He speaks to us either while we are reading the Bible and a specific Scripture just jumps off the page to us, or a Scripture that comes up in our heart while we are doing our day in and day out activities.
But one thing that I believe is so powerful about Hebrews 4:12 is how it actually teaches us how we can better discern the voice of God: Notice how the writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “… piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.”
You see, probably the most common problem people have when it comes to hearing from God is they do not know when those leadings, promptings, and ideas are them and when they are the Lord. How do we know? Well, this verse tells us that this is how we know! His Word is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword piercing even to the division of soul and spirit. In other words, it can cut between and divide what is just coming from our soul—our own thoughts, our emotions, etc.—and what is coming from our spirit—the part of us that knows all things and that the Holy Spirit is communicating directly with.
You see, the Scriptures teach us that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. So, this shows us the primary way in which the Holy Spirit communicates to us—from Spirit to spirit! So, our spirit is the part of us that gets directives from the Lord. Therefore, the way that we can more accurately tell the difference between what is of the soul and what is of the spirit is by the Word—hiding God’s Word in, and giving it entrance into, our heart.
The 119th Psalm teaches us that when we hide God’s Word in our heart, we can keep ourselves from missing the mark (i.e., sinning). It also teaches us that the entrance of His Word brings light and understanding to the simple. Brethren, do not be unwise (or, simple) but understand what the will of the Lord is! How? By planting God’s Word in our hearts!
But how does this work? Well, by putting God’s Words in us, we are, number one, giving the Holy Spirit more to work with. In other words, we are giving Him Scriptures to remind us of and fulfill His ministry in our lives. Number two, we are filling ourselves with the genuine article—the pure and unadulterated words of God—and this will help us to better detect the counterfeit directives that we hear on the inside of us. Glory!
I’ll tell you, saints, God’s Word is an awesome thing, and it is the plum line for hearing from God. So don’t get the cart before the horse. Put God’s written Word in its proper place of priority in your life, and if He wants to speak something additional to you, He will. Amen.
God’s Voice on the Earth
Now the next and very important thing we need to understand is how Jesus makes a strong point in this parable that we, as His sheep, both hear & know the voice of our Good Shepherd. So, if we are His sheep and are a part of His flock, then we do in fact hear & know His voice. No, not “we can” or “we should;” we do!
Now I know that a lot of believers out there believe that they don’t hear the voice of God very well. They stress how they really struggle to recognize the voice of God, but what Jesus said here is either true or it is not. So, if it is indeed true that one does not hear God’s voice then it is because they “ain’t” His sheep.
Now I don’t believe that is the case with most believers. Sure, there are some who are not legitimately born again and that’s where the problem lies, but I believe that with most Christians, the reason they do not believe they hear the voice of God very well is because they have not truly come to realize how He speaks to them.
So, let’s now look at what is that most predominant way that God does speak to us outside of His Word …
You see, like I made the point of earlier, I see more Christians looking for God to speak to them from the outside-in. In other words, they are looking for Him to either speak audibly to them or for him to write it in the clouds or on the wall. Even others are only looking for His voice through various gifts of the Spirit like prophecies, interpretation of tongues, etc.
And let me make one thing very clear once again – God absolutely does speak to His people through these more spectacular methods, but they are the exception and not the rule. What I mean by that is a person might hear the audible voice of God a couple of times in their life. They might have the Lord speak to them through those proverbial “billboards” a couple of dozen times in their lifetime. And they might hear the Lord legitimately talking to them close to a hundred times through others being used in these various gifts of the Spirit.
But here’s my point – if this person only learns to hear the Lord talk to them in these ways, then that’s a little over 125 times over many years? Do you think the Lord only wants to speak to this man or woman that infrequently? I doubt that. In fact, I believe the Lord wants to speak to us every day, but I also don’t think He will do this through all the ways I just described.
No, I believe there is another much more predominant and less spectacular way that the Lord speaks to His people and this is what we, as His sheep, desperately need to learn so that we can hear from God on the frequency He is communicating on—and that way is this: The Lord speaks to us internally much more than He does externally. And He does this through His precious Holy Spirit whom He sent to indwell us.
You see, this is technically who is speaking to us from the Godhead. But the vast majority of Christians do not understand this because they do not realize that the Holy Spirit is the One who is present here on the earth today. They see everything from God’s manifest presence to His speaking to us as directly from the Father or from Jesus, but in reality, it is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit that we experience here on the earth.
Yes, God the Father is not the One who technically “shows up” in a church service because He is seated on His throne in heaven. Even Jesus is not the One who technically speaks to us here on the earth anymore because He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. No, it is the Holy Spirit Who literally is present here on the earth. It is the Holy Spirit Who manifests Himself in glory and directly communicates to us. He is the One who is here now! Therefore, He is the One who we experience in these different ways here on the earth today!
Why is this so important to understand, you might ask? It is because, if the Holy Spirit is the One Person of the Godhead who is technically present with us today and when we truly understand that, we can know where to look for God to speak to us.
Now I believe Romans chapter 8 teaches us just how the Holy Spirit communicates with us: Romans 8:14 says, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God”—which is saying the same thing as we saw in John chapter 10—that if we are the Lord’s sheep, we do hear & know His voice. In this case, the apostle Paul is saying that if we are sons of God, then we are led by God’s Spirit.
Then Paul goes on to say in verse 16 how “the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
Now the original King James Version says, “the Spirit itself” but the Greek word used here is where we get our word “automatic” from—which means “self-operated.” So “Himself” is more appropriate here because the Holy Spirit is not an “it”, He is a Divine Person!
The phrase “bear witness with” literally means “co-witness” in the original Greek language. So, who is the Holy Spirit a co-witness with? This verse goes on to tell us— “our spirit”- that is, the real us. No, He does not bear witness with our head (our soul) or with our feelings (our flesh). He bears witness with our spirit that has been recreated in Christ Jesus. Our spirit, which has a witness in itself, will line up with the things of God, and when it and the Holy Spirit start “testifying” what they know to do, we will have the co-witness going off on the inside of us. When we are looking for direction from the Lord we are to look inside because He bears witness with our spirit, not our intellect, mind, or feelings. This is why it is so imperative that we walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. It is because if we are walking in the flesh—that is, our flesh is dictating our daily decisions and we are fulfilling its lusts—then we are not going to be in tune with the witness of our spirit. And if we are not on the frequency of the Spirit, then many of the things our own spirit is communicating to us and the Holy Spirit is communicating to us will come across like static. We will not be able to pick up on what God is leading us to do. Therefore, in order to be able to discern what our spirit is saying and what the Holy Spirit is saying, we need to be walking in the Spirit so that it is being broadcasted loud and clear in our hearts.
One of the ways that you can tell when the Holy Spirit is bearing witness with your spirit is found in the last part of this verse: It says that He “bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
Well, how do you know that you are a child of God? Someone would say, “I do not know how I know; I just know!” So, that is a Scriptural response because the witness of the Spirit is manifested as simply a “knowing.”
So, if the Holy Spirit can bear witness with your spirit that you are God’s child then do you think He could bear witness with your spirit to let you know what job to take or who you are to marry? Of course He can, and He will, if you will just invite Him to.
This is why I like to call this witness our “knower.” First John 2:20 says, “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” The anointing, the Holy Spirit, knows all things and communicates those things to our spirit. Therefore, when direction comes—you will know it!
If you are like, “Ehhh, I don’t know about that” or “Ehhh, I’m not sure why, but there is something not right about that.” Those “Ehhh’s” are oftentimes how the Holy Spirit is co-witnessing with our spirit to not do a certain thing. So, learn to obey those checks in your spirit promptly because oftentimes they are the Holy Spirit leading you not to do something.
However, those uneasy feelings can also just be your head trying to talk you out of what your heart is telling you to do. That is why we must first be honest with ourselves and humbly accept the correction and then practice being led through trial and error. We should do this on the small things like asking for direction on what route to take home from work or asking Him to help you find something that you misplaced. You ask the Holy Spirit things such as this and then wait till He bears witness with your spirit. Then when something just pops into your heart or you just “know” something, act on it! Sometimes you’ll miss it and sometimes you’ll hit it right on the head. Just learn from your mistakes and from your successes (even journaling everything down to the minutest detail like how you were feeling, the fears, etc. This would be wisdom) and you will grow in your ability to be led by your “knower.”
You see, we don’t have to know everything; We just need to know the One Who does know everything! And when we learn to detect the “knower” we will know everything we need to know.
So, this is how the Holy Spirit speaks to us—it’s a knowing. Others describe it as a peace, as something simply seeming good or not, a “check” in their spirit, or a still small voice. However you describe it is up to you, but what it really is, is the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit according to the Scriptures. And so, what we must learn to do is detect the Holy Spirit in our spirit so that we can hear what He is trying to communicate to us on a daily basis.
So, what we have learned this week is that the Lord our Shepherd has specific ways in which He communicates with us. He is not in the business of hopping the fence with surprise ways of approaching us but rather tends to enter through the door—that is, through the Way of Jesus and the Holy Scriptures. Then, we saw how important it is that we believe that we, as His sheep, hear & know His voice because if we don’t go into this whole thing with faith, we are not positioned to hear from Him the way we are promised here. Finally, we saw how the voice of God here on the earth today is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we must look for His voice, not externally, but internally. And we saw how the Holy Spirit speaks inside of us—in that still small voice that bears witness with our spirit. In other words, it is just a knowing, a peace, or a sensing that something is good or bad.
Church, once we start discerning how the Good Shepherd speaks to us, we will know where to look for His voice. And once that happens, we will more easily be able to tell the difference between what God is saying on the inside of us and what is just our own thoughts.
Now next week we will delve more into how the devil speaks, because he also fits into this equation. We also must learn to discern when it is him interjecting those thoughts and feelings in our heart. Get ready for some life-altering truth!