God is a communicating God. Throughout Scripture, we discover that God speaks. By the power of His word He speaks creation into existence (Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 24, 26). He takes the initiative to reveal Himself (Exodus 34:5-7). God calls people to fresh steps of faith and obedience, in line with His mission (Genesis 12:1-3; Acts 13:2). He encourages and offers hope (Acts 18:9-10). God is a communicating God.
Besides saying THAT God speaks, it's also important to note HOW God speaks. He is certainly able to speak directly, as seen in so many of the above Scripture passages. He speaks through human prophets in the Old Testament. These prophets calls God's people back to God's relationship with them, and how they ought to live in light of that. God has given us His Son. In the words of Jesus we hear God speaking to us, showing us how to follow Him and receive life to the fullest – life the way we were designed to live.
God has given us His Word, the Bible. In the pages of this true, authoritative, divinely-inspired book we meet the God who speaks. In the pages of this living-and-active book we encounter truth that transforms our minds and equips us for every good work (cf. Romans 12:2; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12).
In all of this, we see again and again the God is a communicating God. The question is, are we listening?
As we seek to listen well, I find it helpful to keep four things in mind:
Keep Our Eyes on the Bible
I put this first for a reason, because I firmly believe that the Bible is God's Word and - as such - contains communication that God wants us to hear, understand, and apply. Too often, I fear that people are looking for some sensational word from God and ignoring the "living and active" Word that God has already given us (Hebrews 4:12). This written Word is "completely reliable" (2 Peter 1:19-21) and can equip us for every good work (2 Tim 3:16-17). For those who want to hear God's voice, the first and best place to point them is Scripture.
I also believe that familiarity with and immersion in the Bible will "tune our ears" to recognize God's voice, and give us the discernment we so desperately need to evaluate any other impressions we think may be from the Lord.
Keep Your Ears Open
By this I mean that I want to assume a posture of "active" and "continual" listening. While God's Word is always primary and our final authority (see the first point above), I believe God can and does guide individuals at times as well and impress biblical truths in a special way on their particular situations (though I believe this is much less frequent and can't be forced). Even though the heading to this section is "keep your ears open," the guidance God gives won't necessarily be an audible voice. Instead, God can communicate to us through circumstances, impressions, and the counsel of others. Keep your ears open and your antenna up. This impressions or circumstances will never contradict God's Word, and should be evaluated against the Bible.
Keep Your Hands Clean
Sin obstructs our relationship with God. Sinful deeds and the cultivation of sinful desires will create static keeping us from hearing from God - both through His Word and in any other ways He may decide to speak. The proper response to sin is confession (1 John 1:9), repentance, and renewed steps of faith-full obedience.
Keep Your Shoes On
God's Word should do something to us and/or in us. We shouldn't ignore God's Word or reject it, but we should be ready to receive it and act on it as appropriate. In the book of Genesis, Abram had to start walking before God's word came to him in more specific ways. I wonder if the same is true for us.
What else am I missing? What do we need to keep in mind as we seek to hear from God? What practices do we cultivate and what cautions do we avoid?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.