Hearing God is Dangerous

A friend, whom I’ve known off and on since childhood, recently met with me to discuss my book, Hearing God in Conversation. She said, “Frankly, any kind of hearing God apart from Scripture is dangerous. I’m open, but suspicious.”

She recounted numerous abuses of people “hearing” God:

  • During college, two different women told her future husband that God said that he should marry them. My friend observed, “People too often ‘hear’ from God only what they want to hear.”
  • She recently attended a conference that included a session on hearing God. The speaker promised they would hear God’s voice if they followed his three steps: (a) Turn off your critical mind, (b) Pick up and pen and paper, and (c) Write down whatever intuitive thoughts come to you. She said, “I don’t believe God follows our formulas.”
  • A member of her church once told its board of elders that they should delay the start time of their service so that more young people would attend, and that “God said this in a prayer time of mine.” My friend pointed out the common misuse of “hearing God” to manipulate people into adopting our agendas.

What do we say? I completely agree that thousands of believers—probably hundreds of thousands—frequently abuse “senses” from God. Hearing God is dangerous.

But so is not hearing God.

Because the Nature of Christianity Is Danger

Every significant truth of Christianity is pregnant with peril:

  • Grace itself is so startlingly hazardous that Paul must caution us lest grace encourage sin: “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1)
  • Righteous living is so self-esteem building, it can lead us to pride: “I thank you God that I am not like other men, sinners.” (Luke 18:11)
  • Christian ministry is so fulfilling it can lead us away from God: “Many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not do many mighty works in your name?’ I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me.’” (Matt. 7:22-23)
  • Generosity can fool us into thinking we have the love of God in us: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:3)
  • Studying the Bible can be a substitute for knowing the real God: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have life; but they are about me, and you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40)

Are you scared yet? We should be. Everything about Christianity is perilous.

But should the inherent hazard of gospel truths keep us from submitting to grace, obeying the Ten Commandments, pouring out our lives in service, impoverishing ourselves to enrich the poor, or reading Scripture?

Let’s not refuse God’s gifts simply because some people abuse God’s gifts. It is much riskier to ignore grace and morals than to practice them, just as it is far more dangerous to disregard hearing God than to learn how.

Live on the Edge

Hearing God is dangerous, but so is faith in that God: Abram followed God’s call, “not knowing where he was going;” Gideon battled an army of tens of thousands with his weaponless three hundred; and Esther risked her neck with her frightening declaration, “If I perish, I perish.”

From Abram to Gideon to Esther, God calls his people to live without safety nets. Not to mention Jesus himself, who said, “When I perish, I perish.” Are we willing to enter the heart of Christianity, a life of risk, peril, threat, and adventure?

What dangerous call are you hearing from God?

Sam

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What do YOU think?

17 thoughts on “Hearing God is Dangerous

  1. Sam, this is a great post. I love your angle on the risks of other aspects of Christianity, how all aspects of our faith–grace, ministry, giving, and so on–carry inherent concerns. It’s something I never considered, and as usual, you’ve put it most aptly. Keep your insights coming! They, and you, are unique and a blessing.

    • Hi Bob,

      Thanks! I find the “danger” of Christianity inspiring. God calls us on a wild ride, empowered by the very life of God in us, his promised (and given) Holy Spirit.

      What an adventure. When we miss that part, we’re cutting the heart (the “courage”) out of Christianity.

  2. Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

    We are supposed to test everything. Of course we should veto all actions/thoughts that are not in accordance with the Word. But faith itself is something we have to exercise before we see, taste and touch. Lest we all become like Thomas….

    John 4:48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
    John 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

  3. So true. Why is the Bible “safer”? Those written about in the Bible did not have anything on paper to assure them they were hearing God. Did Noah? Did Abraham? Did Esther? Did Jeremiah? They all acted “outside of scripture” as there was no scripture per se for them to follow. Were they special people who heard God more clearly than we do now? Was it audible? Maybe really loud? That sure would help! Did God stop talking audibly and loudly to people after the Council of Nicea? Was that council appointed by God to stop people from ever listening to anything but what was deemed scripture? If so, how do we know? Those in the council were flawed men too. Why do we trust them? All of it is subjective and subject to error.

    Maybe God spoke to Noah, to Abraham, to Esther, to Jeremiah, the same way he speaks now: in a still, small voice, that is often hard to hear. Just maybe. There is no safe road to following God. We can only weigh what we hear against what God has done in the past, what we have read or heard of him doing, what we know of his character, and then act. It’s going out on a limb, surely. But until we see God face to face . . . or hear him speak really loudly! . . . that is how it will always be.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      The early “God-fearers” heard God in their lives, and made huge sacrifices to follow it.

      We have an advantage they didn’t have: We have the written Word of God that allows us to test the “Words we hear” against that word.

      And yet we still fear. As Lewis said of Aslan, he isn’t a tame lion (meaning, he’s dangerous), but he’s good!

      Sam

  4. I agree with your take on the dangers inherent in following Christ and not keeping our eyes on Him. I also agree with your friend that far too many people believe things and hear things that are not reasonably supported by precedents in scripture. Too many people base their faith on modern, man-made, myths that they give priority to over scripture. The latter often discourages me a lot and it’s hard to get out of the funk it puts me in. Makes me recall God’s words,”My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..” Hosea 4:6

    On the other hand, Jesus rejecting those who did works in His name does not apply to true Christians, since he says, “I never knew you” which would be untrue for any of His sheep.

    • Hi Stephen,

      I completely agree with your observation that we modern believers put way too much weight in modern myths, ideas, and man-made ideas. What is our problem?

      I think too many of us just haven’t learned how to read Scripture, to actually find day-to-day life in His Word.

      God, please open our eye, ears, and minds!

      Sam

  5. I can’t believe she had read your book when she made those observations! There was nothing crazy or weird about your explanation about hearing from God. The best book ever written on the subject–by far!

    • Donna,

      Wow! You just made my day (actually, my week, maybe my month!).

      This friend has been a good friend for years. I think she proved something I see in myself (but prefer to forget), and that is I too often just see what I want to see. She began the book with a bias (except that we are friends, but she was biased against the subject); and she couldn’t see beyond her bias.

      Father, please shake ME up and free me from the biases of this modern culture that blind me to all you say in your word!

      Sam

  6. I am sympathetic with your friend’s concern, but I am more so with your emphasis not to refuse God’s intimacy with us to live dangerously. Excellent rubber meets the road stuff!

  7. I love this one! Jesus has been marketed like a product of the Church and so many just want to feel good and not have to deal with any problems. But we were created to repair and restore in Jesus’ name and we were created to be dangerous! “Let’s go be dangerous then!”

  8. One thing I learned early in my walk with the Lord was that I was not to have a PASSIVE MIND! Anything and everything can float through an open mind! I don’t have time for something that doesn’t align itself with the Word of God! This is especially true in these days as times! Help me Father!

    • Hi Pam,

      You and me both. When my friend wend to that conference that had a session on hearing God, they asked all the participants to “turn off your mind.” Where the heck do you find that in Scripture? God WANTS us to use our minds (our Spiritually renewed minds) to discern truth from error. Messages from evil can come in guises of light. God wants us to think, to think with the aid of His Holy Spirit.

      Thanks for reminding us.

  9. Sam, I thank God for warriors like you, brothers in Christ who boldly share inspired words which cut through to the heart of Christianity. To follow Christ DOES takes courage. The journey is risky, it’s dangerous, and the cost is our lives. You point to Jesus as our Shield, our Strength, our Refuge, and your devotion to Him is contagious! I am your friend, not your Mother, but I am so proud of the man you’ve become in Christ. Please know that I, along with countless others, find strength for the journey because of your courage. And you can take that to the bank!