Much of the modern-day church is missing one of the most important pieces of the Christian life. This missing piece has led to luke-warm christianity, pharisee behavior, false teachings, and acceptance of many things from the kingdom of darkness. It has led to a generation of Christians gripped by fear, suffering from anxiety and depression, who can be even more divisive than unbelievers.
I was a Christian for over 30 years before I realized that God was trying to talk to me all the time. I thought He only spoke occasionally—like, for really big things—and that I would perhaps hear Him maybe 10 times in my life. Well, actually, I thought He was often speaking to me, but only through scripture. So anything scripture didn’t cover, God wasn’t able to speak to me about. As a side note, I now realize that there were times I thought God was the one speaking to me through scripture, but plenty of times it was actually the enemy speaking to me about scripture.
The most life changing thing I’ve ever learned is how to “hear” God’s voice. I put the hear in quotation marks because it isn’t always hearing. I use the word hear to cover pretty much any way I receive a message/concept/understanding from the Lord.
I understand why the church was hesitant to teach people they could hear God for themselves. They were afraid of what people would do with that kind of freedom. Many churches say God only speaks through His Word today, and that makes everyone feel very safe. If God only speaks through the Bible, people are less likely to accidentally start a cult or lead people astray with false teachings. But God values our freedom and our relationship with Himself way more than most modern day churches lead on.
In my book Pharisee Set Free, I wrote a chapter about how God speaks today. But I’ve learned and grown so much over the year since publishing my book in my ability to hear and discern. And I look back at the empty life I lived before I knew I could hear God and wish I could share this amazing truth with my younger self.
I saw a post the other day that shared Psalm 34:4: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” A question was asked about what we do when we’ve sought the Lord but we are still afraid. The answer talked about how seeking God doesn’t remove our fear but the more we put God first, the more we drown out fear.
While there isn’t anything absolutely wrong with this answer, it is seriously lacking in areas of power and authority. First, they completely skipped the part about the Lord answering. When you seek the Lord, He answers. Whether you can recognize it, what volume level you’ve placed Him at, whether you believe He speaks at all—all that can make it seem like God is silent.
I feel God laughing and disparaging over the idea that He is silent. He’s anything but silent! But when you’ve learned for so long that He doesn’t speak, you have to begin training yourself to recognize His voice. He speaks in your mind, in your heart, in your spirit, in pictures, in dreams, in smells and sensations, and so many other ways.
He’s like a passionate lover who isn’t content to talk to you just in one way. In a way, it is as if He is emailing, and leaving handwritten notes, and calling, and talking with you in person. He’s sending flowers and gifts as images of His love. He’s picking songs and gifs and memes to share with you. Having multiple ways of communicating expands the richness of the relationship.
But there’s also an enemy in this spiritual world. The enemy is always speaking, too. And for some reason, we tend to turn his voice up louder. God’s voice sounds too good to be true, while the enemy’s voice speaks what seems to us as partly logical. The enemy even uses scripture, but in a twisted way—just like when He tempted Jesus in the desert.
Before I learned to recognize God’s voice, I needed to recognize the enemy’s voice, because until I did, I didn’t know to turn the volume down on that voice. I have a chapter in my book about how to recognize the lies of the enemy, but for today, I want to share a really simple cheat sheet that is overarching and almost always a clear indication of who is talking to you. When the enemy talks to you, it produces a certain kind of fruit. When God talks to you, it produces a different kind of fruit.
Here is something really important to understand. Sometimes the Lord and the enemy say the same thing to you. Some of the things God says to me, the enemy comes in and repeats. When God says it, it brings the fruit of peace, joy, kindness, and gentleness (Galatians 5:22-23). When the enemy says it, it is filled with fear, anxiety, panic, condemnation, or lethargy.
For example, let’s take a simple phrase like “put on your mask.” If this pops into my head, it could be filled with love, compassion, and respect for those around me. Or, it could be filled with fear, anxiety, or anger. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.
So, beyond the safety net of scripture, which is the baseline for if something sounds like God, the fruit that it produces is a very good indicator of what spirit it is from.
Back to Psalm 34:4, where it talks about God delivering us from our fears, it is true that we have to put God back in the right place, but also, we need to recognize that fear is from the enemy. In a bad situation where we feel like fear is a reasonable response, God wants to speak a better word. He wants to guide us to a better place, and He wants to give us peace in the process.
Whose voice have you been listening to today?