Today, we are continuing our new series on discerning between the voice of our Good Shepherd and the voice of the stranger.
Now as I mentioned last week, I would venture to say that we all believe God still speaks to us today. I also think that most of us believe that the devil is real and can also speak to us as well. 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. And this is why we are doing this study—it is to teach us how to tell the difference so that we know what voice we are to submit to and what voice we are to resist & reject. Yes, if we do not realize where those words are coming from and embrace them as if they are our own, then we are going to have a very difficult time living a victorious life.
So, what we started out doing last week was looking at the primary & predominant ways in which the Lord our Shepherd speaks to us.
You see, if you were to ask most believers how they think that God speaks to His people, they immediately gravitate towards the spectacular. What I mean is that 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 way God speaks to us on a consistent & regular basis. Yes, on a day-to-day basis, God more commonly leads His children today by less mystical means, and we learned what that less spectacular but no less supernatural kind of guidance is last week.
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.
So, what we learned last week was that the Lord mainly speaks to us on the inside of us, in our spirit. In other words, His primary mode of communication is not externally, but it’s internally. 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. And the reason for this is because the part of the Godhead that dwells with us today is the Holy Spirit, and where does the Holy Spirit reside? Inside us—that is, in our spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit communicates with us, spirit to spirit. This is why the apostle Paul said that the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit (See Romans 8:16).
Now like we said, the way that the Holy Spirit does this might be recognized differently in each of us.
Some might describe it as a knowing. Others might describe it as a peace. Still others might say it is something simply seeming good or not, a “check” in their spirit, or even 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.
We also looked at Jesus’ parable of the True Shepherd in John chapter 10 and saw how the Shepherd entered through the door to approach His sheep and lead them in & out. In other words, the way that the Lord “gets through to us” is through the door, which is the Lord Jesus Himself. So, what we learned from that is that Jesus will be the avenue by which we are going to hear from God and be led by the Spirit.
First of all, this means that the Lord Jesus Himself, who is the litmus test to all truth, will be the door that God is going to speak to me through and lead me in & out through. 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.
You see, 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.
Church, 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 learned that Jesus is also the Word. So, we saw 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 explained how 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.
So having both the Word of God and the Spirit of God, we ought to have no problem consistently hearing the Lord speak to us. Therefore, what the Lord also taught in John chapter 10 is absolutely true—we do hear & know His voice and ought to live with the utmost confidence in that.
So again, what we learned is that these are the primary ways of God speaking to us while they are not the most flashy and spectacular. So, we have to learn how to hear from God on His terms and not in the way that tickles our ears or satisfies that emotional part of us.
Hearing & Knowing the Voice of the Stranger
However, like it is with God’s voice, the enemy is also not going to present himself to us in a spectacular way. No, he is not going to come to us in red pajamas and 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. Which is exactly what we are going to do this week: I want us to look at how the stranger speaks to us because, like I said, it is critical that you and I learn how the enemy is communicating to us as well, lest we be deceived and travel down that road of him stealing, killing, and destroying in our lives.
First of all, I want you to notice how in John chapter 10 Jesus not only makes a strong point in how the Shepherd communicates with His sheep, but He also refers to the voice of the stranger. Yes, in John 10:5, Jesus said, “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
So, first of all, what we can take away from this is that, just as we can be sure that the Lord, our Shepherd, speaks to us, we can also be certain that the devil speaks to us as well. Therefore, whether we have realized it or not, if we are of the Lord’s sheepfold, the stranger has spoken to us and tried to lead us away from the path God has for you.
Now most of us might question that because we might not have necessarily known it was the enemy, but I can assure you that if you are a child of God, the devil has spoken to you—just about every day of your life.
But again, the reason a lot of Christians might not believe this is true is because they did not know it was him. This is what I’m seeking to remedy in this teaching—that we would know when it is him every single, solitary time.
Not only that, but when Jesus first said in this verse, “yet they will by no means follow a stranger”, this shows us that just as we as the Lord’s sheep, will hear the voice of satan, we will not follow it either. In other words, just as we can be confident in the fact that we hear & know the Lord’s voice, we can also have faith in the fact that we will not follow the voice of the stranger too because we can decipher when it’s him.
Now it’s certainly not that we want to hear what the devil is saying to us but what I believe is so important to understand about this is that if we can recognize when it is him speaking to us, then we know what to reject, right? That’s why Jesus went on to say that we by no means will follow the voice of the stranger, but will “flee” from him.
Fleeing From Temptation
Church, learning to “flee” from the enemy’s temptations is an important part of Christian living. No, this is not us running from him, but simply us getting as far away from his devices that we can. We will learn why this is important momentarily.
This reminds me of the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (See Genesis 39:7-18): Do you remember how she lusted after him and how the Bible teaches us that she made passes at him day after day?
Now don’t make the mistake of just looking at this biblical story from a natural perspective. Sure, the temptations for things like adultery are out there. But what I want you to see here is how this is an illustration of how the tempter tries to lure us away into sin.
You see, doesn’t the Book of Proverbs teach us that sin is like a harlot, crying out after us on the street corners? It sure does, and the way Solomon describes these temptations is as that harlot speaking to us, attempting to allure us from the path God has us on and into her bedchamber. He oftentimes refers to her in the original King James version as the “strange woman.”
In fact, take a look sometime at the Book of Proverbs at how many times Solomon refers to this “strange woman.” Here are just a few of them:
Proverbs 2:16 says, “To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words”
Proverbs 5:3 says, “For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil”
Proverbs 6:24 says, “To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.”
Proverbs 7:5 says, “That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.”
Saints, this is exactly what is transpiring all of the time in our lives! We are just out & about, living life, and “day by day” and “on every corner” the strange woman is speaking to us, trying to get us to take detours away from holiness & righteousness. And sin’s words are indeed sweet, smooth, and flattering.
Well, what did Joseph do? The Bible says that he did not “heed” her (See Genesis 39:10). That means he did not listen to her.
I wonder what the church would be like if none of us ever listened to the enemy? I wonder what our own personal lives would be like if we never gave “heed” to the stranger? I can guarantee you, saints, our church services, and our own personal lives would be ultra-blessed.
Then there came the time when Joseph entered Potiphar’s house and no one else was in there but he and Potiphar’s wife, that she caught him by his garment. And I’ll tell you, saints, there come times in our lives when the strange woman will just grab you—that is, the enemy will go from the place of just speaking to you to trying to grab your emotions too. In other words, he will make you feel things along with those words that he speaks to you.
Well, what Joseph did was what we all must learn to do: Genesis 39:12 says that he left his garment in her hand and “fled’ from her. Sounds a lot like what Jesus told us that his sheep would do when the stranger came to steal them away—they will “flee” from him.
You know, saints, I think one of the biggest mistakes that we make when resisting temptation is that while we try not to act on it, we don’t “flee” from it. In other words, we hang too close to the sin instead of “abhorring what is evil” (Romans 12:9). In fact, we cling to that which is evil and abhor that which is good—which is the exact opposite from what we are told to do here.
The apostle Peter taught us to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (First Peter 2:11). That means to get as far away from the things your flesh lusts after as possible. And why? Because it wars against your soul—meaning, it messes with your inward man and creates a conflict inside of you.
So, the solution to the messes we find ourselves falling back into is to stay as far away from the mess as you can. That way, if you fall, you don’t fall in it. Kind of like a mud-puddle: If I don’t get too close to it, then even a stumble I might have will not result in me falling in it. Amen?
Recognizing the Strange Voice
Now notice how Jesus went on to say that His sheep will flee from the stranger “for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Jesus did not mean that we are not going to know when it is the devil speaking to us. No, what He was saying was that His sheep do not “recognize” and are not “intimately acquainted” with a stranger’s voice—meaning, we can tell it’s the voice we shouldn’t be following because it’s a “strange” voice when compared to the voice of our Good Shepherd. This reminds me of that wise principle of how being so familiar with the genuine article is the best way to detect a counterfeit.
You see, if I become so familiar with the Lord by spending time with Him & giving heed to His Word, it’s less likely it will be that I will be deceived by a counterfeit. And that’s what Jesus was implying here—that because of the sheep’s familiarity with the Shepherd, they were able to know when another voice was indeed “strange.”
So, again, this means that just as we can expect to hear & know the voice of the Shepherd, we can also expect to hear & know the voice of the stranger. No, not because we want to hear the enemy, but because he will be speaking to us, and we need to know when it is him.
I wonder how many times in our lives that the enemy has been speaking to us, but we were ignorant of the fact it was him and we just swallowed his lies “hook, line, and sinker.” I can guarantee you we’ve all done this, and probably this week.
On a related note, the apostle Paul said in Second Corinthians 2:11 that we are not to let the devil gain the advantage over us, for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Well, it sure seems like most believers are ignorant of the devices of the enemy, doesn’t it? Like I said earlier, this is from believing that bad circumstances that occur in our lives are from God, to believing that a certain thought that pops in our minds is just us thinking it. We see far too much of this ignorance in the body of Christ and this a big reason why, as Hosea prophesied, God’s people are destroyed—for a lack of knowledge.
No, all Paul meant here when he said that we are not ignorant of the devil’s devices is that we, as God’s sheep, have the ability & responsibility to know the devices that the devil uses against us. It doesn’t mean that we are all walking in this light, but it simply means that all the tools have been given to us to know what his devices are.
In fact, the word used for “devices” here comes from the Greek word noema which comes from the root for the word describing our mind or thoughts. One expositor translates this word as the “mind games” of the devil, and oh how he plays these mind games with us. Amen? But if I can come to recognize both how & what the Lord is speaking to me versus how & what the stranger is speaking to me, I have the advantage! Amen?
So, we have now a couple of verses that clearly teach us that we have the ability to know when the stranger—the devil—is speaking in an attempt to steal, kill, and destroy from us. But what this verse we have just looked at does, is it establishes how he speaks to us. Let me explain …
Where the Stranger Communicates
Now, again, it is important to understand that the way the Shepherd and the stranger speak to us is not predominantly in that outward, overt way. Sure, they both can try to communicate to us through, say, other people, but most of our “hearing” from them occurs inside of us instead of outside of us.
But the difference is that the enemy does not communicate with our spirit like the Holy Spirit does. That’s because he does not operate there. However, he certainly engages our soul, and that’s where the battle is. So, those thoughts that pass through our minds and those feelings/emotions that we experience do not always originate from us. Sometimes that “idea” that pops into our mind was planted by the enemy. This is why it is so critical that we learn how to tell when it is him.
So, just like we saw in Second Corinthians 2:11, the devil uses “noemas” to speak to us—that is, he uses those mind games to communicate his lie, temptations, etc. to us. These are those “wiles” spoken of by the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:11. His schemes, tricks, and methods are all aimed at our minds.
Now I will say that it’s not a huge deal whether we can tell the difference between our own thoughts and the ones the enemy sows, because if it isn’t according to the way God teaches us to think, then it needs to be brought into captivity, whether it was from the stranger or ourselves, right?
The bottom line is we need to know that the soul is the realm that the enemy operates in. So, becoming aware of any and all thoughts that are contrary to the knowledge of God and bringing them into captivity is how we ought to respond.
So in the weeks ahead, we will look at how to tell when these things we hear on the inside of us are from the stranger and when they are from the Shepherd. Yes, there are some obvious characteristics of these things that will help us to easily identify their origin.
But what I wanted you to learn today is that, just as we can be confident that the Lord our Shepherd is speaking to us and how He does it, we can also know that the stranger has a voice as well—one that we can both expect and identify.