I was reading this week in chapter ten of the Gospel of John. Listen to the offer:I recall a time in college when a fellow student was sharing about hearing God's voice regularly. A small crowd of us surrounded him, asking him questions. Like John Eldredge mentioned above, we were Christians who believed that God simply didn't work that way anymore. Our questions were meant to show our friend that he was mistaken. Inside, I was chuckling and considered him to be a bit "out there."The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice (2-4).We are invited to become followers of Christ. Not just believers in Christ. Followers of Christ. There is a difference. Jesus leads, we follow, because we hear his voice. I know that many Christians have never been taught how to hear the voice of God. Some have even been taught that we can't hear the voice of God. But Jesus says we do.Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me (Rev. 3:20).Who is the offer for? "Anyone." That would include you. What does Jesus say will happen? "Hears my voice." As in, hear his voice. Now, I know, I know - the prevailing belief is that God only speaks to his people through the Bible. And let me make this clear: He does speak to us first and foremost through the Bible. That is the basis for our relationship. The Bible is the eternal and unchanging word of God to us. We know right off the bat that any other supposed revelation from God that contradicts the Bible is not to be trusted. So, I am not minimizing in any way the authority of the Scriptures or the fact that God speaks to us through the Bible.
But many Christians believe that God only speaks to us through the Bible. The irony of that belief is, that's not what the Bible says. Consider John 10 and Revelation 3.
The Bible is filled with stories of God talking to his people. Abraham. Moses. David. Gideon. Noah. And lesser characters like Hagar, and a disciple simply called Ananias who gets a few paragraphs in Acts 17. Now, if God doesn't also speak to us, why would he have given us hundreds of stories of him speaking to others? "Look - here are inspiring and hopeful stories how God spoke to his people. Isn't it amazing?! But he doesn't speak like that anymore." That makes no sense at all. The Bible is not a book of exceptions. It is a book of examples of what it looks like to walk with God.
If we will enter into a conversational intimacy with Christ, we will say with David, "You have made known to me the path of life" (Psalm 16:11). I can't tell you the number of times he's rescued me. Don't send that e-mail. Don't go to Dallas. Call your mother. After all, he is the Shepherd. We, the sheep. His is to lead, and ours is to follow. If you want to learn more about hearing God's voice, I think Dallas Willard's book Hearing God is really good...
So it was a little ironic when last summer, during a time of Bible reading and prayer, I asked a question out loud in prayer, and heard an answer. That was a first for me, and my mind went back to my fellow student about a dozen years before. What I experienced was similar to what he had described. Not a lightning bolt. Not a deep, loud voice like in the movies. No, it was a quiet, small voice. A voice that changed my perspective.
It's comforting to know that God didn't just create this world and then stand off to the side, detached. He's been involved from day one, pursuing us in the longest love story there is. He's already done what He needed to do in order to save the marriage, through Jesus Christ. I'm humbled to be a part of the church, the bride of Christ. What a leprous bride we are (to use a phrase from Rubel Shelley). Ugly, and often a horrible witness to the world. But pursued by God Himself, nonetheless. I pray that the world can look past us and our often ugly nature, to see Christ Himself, flawless at our side. He's the one making the marriage proposal, not us, thank goodness : )
Thank you, Father, for your plan to save us. Thank you for speaking to us then, and speaking to us now. Whatever you have to say, I pray that my ears will be open. I want to follow.