So, a few weeks ago, we began a journey towards discerning between the voice of God & the voice of the enemy.
We are basing this series of teachings on Jesus’ parable in John chapter 10 of the Good Shepherd, the stranger, and the Lord’s sheep. In this teaching, Jesus had a lot to say about how the Lord’s sheep both hear & know His voice and how they also will by no means follow the voice of the stranger. Therefore, Jesus spoke very definitively that we can know the difference between God’s voice and the voice of the enemy.
Church, this is something that I believe so many Christians are grossly ignorant of, and because of that, we are seeing the enemy rob us of much of the life that God has promised us. But I wholeheartedly believe that if we can truly learn to differentiate between what God is speaking to us and what the enemy is speaking to us, we will not be deceived and led astray from God’s plan for our lives.
So, we have started off talking about the primary ways both the Lord and the devil speak to us. And we learned that when it comes to the most common way we hear from them, we don’t need to be looking for the spectacular. 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.
This means that while God certainly can speak to us with an audible voice or through some other spectacular fashion like a prophecy, a dream, etc., He prefers to speak to us in that still small voice and by bearing witness with our spirit. Yes, this will be the most regular way we will hear from God.
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 are aimed at our demise.
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. So no, the devil doesn’t predominantly speak to us in an overt & obvious way any more than the Lord does.
And we learned how he sows thought after thought in an attempt to lead us away from those paths of righteousness our Good Shepherd has for us. So, it’s not the physical problems we go through that the devil uses to speak to us; it’s the thoughts that come as a result of the trials & tribulations that communicate his deception. That’s where the battle really is!
So, while the Lord speaks to our spirits, the enemy speaks to our minds. Once we understand these things, we are in position to know where we need to be listening to hear God’s voice and how to be cautious against the thoughts that enter our minds.
However, 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, starting this week, I want us to begin looking 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. We will do so by looking at some obvious characteristics of these things that will help us to easily identify their origin.
So, let’s begin in the Beginning – in the Book of Genesis where the enemy showed up on the scene – and look 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.
Freedom Before Law
But before we look at the temptation described in Genesis chapter 3, the first thing we need to consider is what the Lord did indeed say to Adam before the serpent ever opened his mouth.
Genesis 2:15-17 tells us – “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ ”
So, what did God say? 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 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.
This is why the apostle Paul told us in Second Corinthians 3:17 that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. It’s because when the Holy Spirit is involved in it, freedom is what will accompany it. So, if the Holy Spirit is speaking to us, what will His words tend towards? You guessed it – freedom!
Yes, the Lord tends to invite us to freely eat all the trees He planted in our garden. He says to us— “Come freely eat of My peace. Freely partake of the joy of the Lord. Yes, delight yourself in the abundance of every tree I’ve placed in your garden.”
Yes, what we saw the Lord saying in Isaiah 55:1-2 is what He says to us today— “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.”
Church, this is one of the most missed things that the Lord says to us—a grand invitation to delight ourselves in the abundance of trees planted in our gardens! And to do so “freely” because in His grace, He has provided them free of charge.
A great example of not having ears to hear what the Lord has freely given us is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, just the title of this story shows how easily we can miss what the Lord is trying to say to us—for this Parable is not just about the younger, prodigal son; it is actually the story of two sons.
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.
But what have we heard concerning this story? We’ve heard far more about the prodigal than about the second half of the parable, haven’t we? But again, that was not the main point the Lord was attempting to communicate.
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.
Always With Grace & Seasoned With Salt
But then, of course, the Lord did make 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.
In fact, the apostle Paul made it clear that half of what God’s Word will do is provide “reproof & correction” (Second Timothy 3:16)—meaning, part of what God will speak to us will be those “don’t do this” or “quit doing that’s.”
But what I have come to understand is that 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.
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.” What this means is that we can expect that when God is speaking to us, everything He says will be “with grace”—that is, it will be accompanied with graciousness. You see, God’s Words will always add to us and not subtract from us. Yes, His Words give and impart!
Not only that, but the Lord knows exactly how to speak to each of us. In other words, He knows how to season those words to our taste. Now that doesn’t mean He is going to tell us what we want to hear all the time, but it means that even with the things that might be difficult to “swallow,” He knows how to season them to make the medicine go down.
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.
Did God Really Say?
But let’s now look at what the devil said in lieu of God’s commandment: In Genesis 3:1-2, we are told— “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’
WHEN THE DEVIL SPEAKS, HE …
Pushes, Pressures, & Rushes
Frightens & Worries
Accuses & Condemns
Discourages & Depresses
Troubles & Confuses
THE EFFECTS OF THE DEVIL’S VOICE
So, the first words we see out of satan’s mouth in the Scriptures “Has God indeed said.” Another way of translating that is— Did God really say …?”
So, what we can see through the law of first mention is that one of the most predominant things that will come out of the devil’s mouth is questioning God’s Word. This would include everything that God has verbally communicated to us and all that He has said to us through the Scriptures.
So, for example, 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?”
Now again, don’t look for this on the outside somewhere. Where does this devil predominately speak to us? In our minds! So, this “Did God really say?” is going to mainly occur in our thought life. Likewise, don’t look for this exact terminology either, but rather look for the spirit of this questioning of God that occurs in our hearts & minds.
Let me give you a couple of examples:
Say you have dealt with some sort of sickness in your body and have been believing God for your healing. But the manifestation of God’s promise of healing hasn’t come as quickly as you would like. As a result, you go through weeks, months, and even years of physical issues while standing on God’s Word. Then one day when we are feeling weary, the thought comes— “I wonder if by His stripes we were healed is really talking about physical healing.” Perhaps we had never given any consideration to this before, but that idea just pops into our minds one day out of nowhere. Well, what should be going off on the inside of you if this happens? All kinds of red flags should be going off! Why? Because this is essentially another— “Has God indeed said.”
How about if you and your spouse are having a spat, and in the midst of the fight, the thought enters your mind, “Divorce is so common in the world today. I wonder if what God’s Word says about it is really relevant in the world we live in.”
What’s going on here? Thoughts are being planted with the intent of getting us to being open to something we might not have ever been open to considering before. And that’s where the enemy gets us, saints. He will plant those thoughts and if we start considering them, we are doing the same thing that Eve did when he approached her—she started conversing with him which never winds up well.
So, the first thing we see 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.
The Simplicity of Christ
The apostle Paul gives us some interesting insight into what was happening in Genesis chapter 3: In Second Corinthians 11:2-3, he said, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!”
So, Paul reveals to us that what satan was ultimately doing was complicating the things of God. He compares here how the serpent craftily deceived Eve to how he continues today trying to corrupt our minds from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Now again, notice where it is he is trying to deceive us? In ourminds. So, this is where his deception is aimed at. But what is it that he is attempting to lead us away from? The simplicity that is in Christ.
You see, the devil likes to complicate the things of God, but God really does things in a simplistic manner. It’s black & white. It’s not rocket science. You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out what God has said and understand it. All you need is the Holy Spirit to remove the veil, and then the life & light of the truth will be revealed to you.
But what the devil likes to do is send conflicting and complicated messages. Like here – he sends someone preaching “another” Jesus than the one the apostles preached. He sends someone trying to give “another” Spirit than the one we have received. He sends a “different” gospel than the one we already accepted.
So that is something to be on the lookout for: Like it was with Eve after God had already given the gospel to Adam, satan will come after the fact with those “Has God really said?” questions, trying to add or alter the truth that we have heard.
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 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 other 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.
Faith Vs. Fear
What does all this boil down too? What can we conclude from all this? It is that the devil seeks to pervert & complicate what God has said. Yes, he will try to instill doubt in God’s Word and His words. Yes, he is constantly seeking to get us to question Him.
So, the nature & characteristics of satan’s words are fear & unbelief. Therefore, if we begin to sense fear regarding things we are thinking, that’s a good indication that the roaring lion has been speaking to us. If unbelief is being fostered, then there is a good chance the devil has been planting the thoughts that have produced this harvest. And God forbid, if we are starting to lose hope, then the devil is likely the author of that feeling of hopelessness.
You see, we serve the God of faith & hope. So, He will lead & guide us into the things that produce faith & hope. Yes, the Shepherd seeks to instill faith in us. Yes, God’s voice will challenge us to believe what we cannot see, to trust when we do not understand, and to have hope when all seems hopeless.
I remember one very distinct example I have of this: When Shannon and I were faced with a financial challenge, the Lord spoke to me & through me— “Is there anything too difficult for Me? You need to begin to believe bigger and see further and stop limiting Me.” Now this was not something I was used to hearing from God, but from what I’ve learned since, this is one of the main things God will communicate with us. It will always be to believe Him more!
However, the devil will attempt to do the opposite; He will do everything in his power to try and get us NOT to believe God. So, he will constantly attempt to instill doubt, fear, and unbelief in us.
Church, God’s desire is to be loved & believed, and the devil knows that. So, he will do everything in his power to get us to doubt what God has said. In fact, the majority of the things he speaks to us is aimed at this unbelief. So be on the lookout for those temptations and only entertain words that inspire faith & hope.