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?
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