by Pastor Tim Burt
The first girlfriend I ever had, was an identical twin. In the beginning, she and her sister would try to fool me as to which was which—and they succeeded! But after about six months, there was no fooling me anymore. The majority of people struggled to tell them apart, but I didn’t because we had become close caring friends and the differences between them became obvious to me.
For some Christians, it would be almost as if God and the devil were twins. Why would I say that? Over the years, I’ve been told countless times that they have trouble discerning the voice they hear within. They would describe thoughts they have and ask, Is this God or the devil that I’m hearing? I know that almost sounds sacrilegious but I understand why they say it. We don’t physically see God or audibly hear His voice. And then the inner voice that we hear—it sounds like our own voice. So, as you are learning to discern the voice of God, you aren’t sure if it’s your own imagination, or the devil lying to you, or the Lord’s voice. The voice within that you hear sounds like you, so, which is it? A key to learning to discern the voice of God is paying attention to what is said and how it’s said to you.
The reason I could eventually tell the difference between my girlfriend and her identical twin sister was because of intimacy. No, I don’t mean sexually. It was because we became the best of friends and we cared for each other. This is the place where you truly come to know someone—their thinking, their heart, their attitude and compassion, their likes and their dislikes. It’s in that place, you come to know who they are. You come to know their voice.
Have you ever heard gossip about someone you know well and think, I know he/she—they would never say that—they would never do that! You would say that because you know them. That is what it means to know their voice! The same is true with the Lord as you get to know Him through His Word!
When Jesus was teaching His disciples about Himself, He called Himself the good shepherd. John 10:4-5 NLT says, “After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from the stranger because they don’t recognize his voice.”
Please understand that when Jesus is talking about His sheep recognizing His voice, He isn’t just talking about the audible sound of a voice or voice patterns. He is talking about His sheep intimately knowing Him—His purpose, His character, His will and what He wants His sheep to know and believe. His sheep come to know His manner—how He thinks and conducts Himself and how He wants them to conduct their lives. Only a loving caring relationship produces this. And that is what helps us as Jesus’ sheep, to know His voice which is really more His will and His manner.
We live in the day of tabloids and celebrity mania. People seem to crave hearing and reading about movie stars, singers, and famous people. After a while, they begin to think they know some of these people, even talking about them like they were friends. You can read all day every day about someone but you will not truly know them. That only happens through true personal intimacy between two people.
Many Christians are casual at best in reading their Bible. Reading your Bible is a critical step toward the development of intimacy with God and learning His voice. But, even if you do read your Bible all the time, that alone won’t produce the ability to distinguish between God and the devil’s voice. Why? Because again, reading about someone—even Jesus, does not produce intimacy. The theological halls of seminaries are filled with those that have studied Jesus but don’t intimately know Him.
Jesus disciples followed, learned from, and did what Jesus asked them to do. They knew what His voice sounded like, but more importantly, they eventually knew His heart, His character, and His mission. They knew Him! The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and religious leaders of Jesus day also followed Him around but very few came to know Him. They were continually trying to catch Him violating the law to prove He was a false Christ. They knew His voice but they surely didn’t know Him. They confused Him with the devil and accused Him of being Satan’s aide. It turned into a divisive issue amongst them. Why? Because some knew the true signs of God and knew the devil and God don’t mix. The rest were blinded by their own bias and jealousy. John 10:19-21 NIV validates this saying, “At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” “But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus has given those that would draw close to Him the most phenomenal gift—the ability to have an intimate relationship with Him and to learn His voice—meaning His heart, His character, His mission, and to follow Him.
The starting place of discernment for anyone in learning to distinguish or discern between the voices you hear from within, is first receiving Jesus as personal Savior. From there, obey James 4:8 that instructs us, “Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you…” Be committed to drawing close to God and reading His Word. Each time you do, pray that He reveal more and more of Himself to you. You will begin to establish and intimate relationship with Him and His voice will become more and more clear to you over time!
Proverbs 8:17 (NIV) “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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