Hearing The Voice of God – Part Two

26 01 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – May 2008 Vol. 13  Issue 4 – Hearing The Voice of God Part Two – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Hearing The Voice of God Part Two

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Last month I began to lay the axe to the root of a common error, one that is held dearly in the minds of many Christians both sign-gift folks and evangelicals alike and that is the belief that God speaks to them personally.

For well over twenty years I most assuredly believed that God did speak to His people (especially the “great” ones who led the charismatic movement) and that all I had to do was the necessary work in order to get myself in the correct spiritual position to tune-in to His frequency. It was commonly taught among us that God was always speaking to us, but most of us simply were not listening to His voice due to a myriad of things in our lives. Because of our low level of spiritual maturity God out of His Fatherly kindness restored prophets back to the Church so we could go to them and hear the present day truth (2 Pet. 1:12) and hear the word of the Lord until such time as we could mature and discern His voice ourselves.

I realize that you are probably shaking your head wondering how I (and millions more) could be misled into believing such nonsense. It really is not difficult to understand if you begin with the premise that God is speaking to all His children personally and individually and this premise is taught by very charismatic (in the personality sense of the term) individuals who regale the audience with their own experiences in “hearing” God on a daily basis. When this type of message is reinforced by every teacher you see on television, in conferences, and in your local church then you believe what they are saying.

The problem with what was taught to me and is currently being taught to multitudes of people is that it was not validated with any contextual scriptural evidence. Almost all the accounts we heard were anecdotal accounts passed on as gospel truth to us sign-seeking power mongers. That message is very appealing to most Christians, after all, who does not want to have such a close fellowship with Almighty God where He converses with one throughout the day! When you as a mere low-wattage believer hear that type of fellowship is available to you (if you pay the price, which varies according to the teacher) naturally you will strive to obtain it.

What we learned in last month’s Truth Matters is that throughout the entire Bible very few individuals ever actually held conversations with God. Those who did actually “hear” from the Lord were people whom God used to change the course of either the people of Israel or His Church. The Ancient of Days is never seen merely chatting with His children about mundane affairs, who to marry, what job to take, which local church to attend. It simply is not in the Bible.

When I first began to come to the biblical understanding my initial reaction was to reject it on the grounds that it seemed to make Christian Spirituality “dry” and certainly not dynamic. I also had to struggle with the reality that all the years I thought I was hearing God “speaking” to me personally was not the case. Once again I had been misled by a myriad of teachers, many of whom were no doubt will intentioned, but just as deceived as I was. This was (and sadly still is) a classic case of the blind leading the blind and all of us sign-seekers falling into the ditch of deception (see Mat. 15:14) Yet thanks be to God who sent Jesus to open the eyes of the blind (see Luke 4:18) and I certainly qualified.

It is not just the sign-seekers who have been misled, although they are more numerous but also many “Baptistic” evangelicals as well. Charismatic believers have their teachers and so do the evangelicals. The primarily disseminator of this error is Henry Blackaby:

For thousands of Baptist churches in America today, as well as churches of many other denominations [including Roman Catholic churches], the answer has been that they accept and embrace this teaching, as found in the best-selling workbook Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God, by Henry T. Blackaby (co-authored by Claude V. King and published by Lifeway Press of Nashville, Tennessee)…

Blackaby clearly states that God is giving revelation to us in the same way. He did to Moses and Jesus, only now through the Holy Spirit versus direct communication with God the Father. It certainly appears as if Blackaby is teaching that God’s revelation is continuing today just as when the Old and New Testaments were written. Obtained from Adapted from two articles by Thomas Williamson (Assistant Pastor of Tabemaculo Bautista Metropolitaro, Chicago, Illinois).

Blackaby goes as far as to say that if a Christian is not personally hearing from God then there is something seriously wrong with them. Naturally Blackaby was a “darling” on the speaker’s circuit of the Promise Keepers and his 12 week course materials have been adopted by not only Protestant congregations, but Roman Catholic groups as well as the charismatic extremist Vineyard movement. I mentioned Blackaby in conjunction with the charismatic teachers to illustrate how widespread this specific error is.

The tremendous spiritual danger inherent in such teaching is that it usually leads to spiritual abuse by the leaders. On page 166 of Experiencing God. Knowing and Doing the Will of God we read the following:

“When God wants to reveal His will to a church, He will begin by speaking to one or more individuals. Because of the nature of his call and assignment from God, this is often the pastor, although it may be another member of the body. The pastor’s job is to bear witness to the church about what he senses God is saying.”

In other words God will speak to the pastor and the role of the people is to “swallow-and-follow” the direction coming to the pastor from “on high”. I know from personal experience how much harm and abuse occurs when any leader is given this much authority. Also Blackaby endorses the false belief that there is only one correct way to go in every situation of life. This places an ungodly and unbiblical burden on people who must then struggle and worry if whatever they decide to do is in fact God’s will for their lives. This bondage often leads people to relying heavily on their pastor or spiritual overseer to tell them which way to go and what to do in life, again this leads to spiritual abuse most times.

Another problem which is never adequately addressed by those who teach this error is how does one determine if it is “God” or Satan who is speaking to their minds? Usually the pat answer is that whatever God tells you will line up with the Scriptures. Yet didn’t Satan cite Scriptures when he tempted our Lord (Matthew 4:5)? Yes, Satan took the verses out of context, yet how many Christians are skilled in hermeneutics to really know the difference? Also, the voice of God nine times out of ten will guide us in the direction we had already determined to go, i.e. God usually agrees with us!

These are just a few of the problems associated with the belief that God is personally speaking to all His children. I am sorry if what I am writing offends some of you; it was somewhat offensive to me when I first encountered it too. Yet DMI has a mandate to “teach truth and expose error,” regardless of how cherished the error may be. This much I can assure you, if you will humble your hearts and stick to the truth of God’s Word you will be set free indeed (see John 8:32). Sometimes spiritual surgery can be painful, but Jesus is the Great Physician, the Balm of Gilead and the One who rose with healing in His wings (Mal. 4:2) as we continue to submit ourselves to the absolute authority of His Word we will be healed. Additionally, we shall also experience more and more of the glorious liberty and inexpressible joy (1 Peter 1:8) that belongs to us as the children of God.

How Does God Speak to Us Today ?

I believe the Holy Spirit says it best in the first Chapter of the book of Hebrews:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many time and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. Hebrews 1:1-2

He begins by saying that in the past God did speak to the patriarchs at many times and in various ways (dreams, visions, angels, etc). Yet now in these last days God has spoken to us personally through no less than God the Son. It is no mistake that Jesus is called “The Word of God” in the book of the Revelation (Rev. 19:13) and that phrase is used 48 times in both the old and New testaments always referring to what God is saying.

This is one of the beautiful things about having the Holy Scriptures. Every child of God can know exactly and with certainty what God is saying. There is no guesswork, no subjective sensing or feeling led to go one direction or another. No need to strive to achieve some mystical level or work to obtain some hidden gnosis. It is all in front of us in black and white!

Today, now that Christ has set me free from my former charismania, I am amazed and grieved at the thousands of people flocking to the various so-called restored prophets to get a “word” from the Lord when they have in their hands the Bible which is completely trustworthy and accurate which is far more than can be said of any of today’s crop of pathetic prophet$. Again this is indicative of a serious problem within the Church at large. There are multitudes of people whether charismatic or evangelical who are placing more trust in their own ability to subjectively hear from God, while ignoring His written God.

The Bible is the voice of God to His people. It is all sufficient and within its pages is contained all we will ever need to know about living a life of godliness that is fully pleasing to our God. In a few lines the sweet psalmist of Israel speaks of the vast storehouse of wealth between the covers of our Holy Bible:

1. The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.

2. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

3. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.

4. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.

5. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.

6. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.

7. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;

8. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11

King David seems to be in a musical rapture in this psalm, he begins by extolling the awe inspiring wonders of God’s creation and then into ecstasy as he uses one superlative after another in describing the value and inherent power contained in the Word of God.

1. It is perfect (complete, sound — 1. Complete, whole, entire, healthful, of men).

In a time when many of God’s children grow weary, we can turn to God’s Word for true revival.

2. It is trustworthy (confirm, support –1. Pillars. Supporters of the door, made firm, sure, lasting, verified, faithful,) In a time when many things are in flux we can know that heaven and earth will pass away before even a “jot” of the Bible fails (Matthew 5:18). If we lack wisdom, all we need do is ask of God who gives us wisdom via His Word liberally (James 1:5).

3. It is right (ethical sense, straightforward, upright, Pi. 1. make smooth, straight, make smooth or straight, i.e. free from obstacles, successful; in ethical sense). In a world that only leads people astray from God, His Word gives us joy by leading us to the Shepherd of our souls.

4. It is radiant (light, light is closely related to life and happiness, which may account for the frequent comparisons between God and light. In line with this usage Dahood argues that “to see light” is often really to see the light of God’s face in immortality (Psa 36:9 [H 10]; and contra Psa 49:19 [H 20]). In a spiritually blind world, groping around for answers, we can turn to God’s Word and receive illumination to direct our daily path.

5. It is pure (adj. clean, pure –ethically pure, clean; of heart; hands; eyes (of God); words of men; words of God; law of y as object of reverential fear.) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Those who rightly fear the Lord have obtained this wisdom and knowledge through His Word and they shall endure forever!

6. It is sure (firmness, faithfulness, truth (contr. For fr.) reliability, sureness, stability, continuance. An attribute of God. Truth (a) as spoken. (b) of testimony and judgment. of divine instruction. (d) truth as a body of ethical or religious knowledge. In a time of uncertainty we can trust that God is watching over His Word to perform it (Jer. 1:12).

7. It is more precious than gold and anyone with half-sense should know that the eternal riches of God cannot compare with the best of the best in this fallen sinful world.

8. It warns us (teach, warn, admonish. The meaning “teach” is probably basic to the root. The most frequent meaning is “warn,” which is used fourteen times in two chapters alone, Ezek 3 and 33, the classic portions dealing with the responsibility of watchmen to warn people under their care (Ezek 3:17-21; Ezek 33:3-9). Not only does the Word of God warn us from what is dangerous to our spiritual and physical wellbeing we are also told that by being a doer of the Word we will be blessed (James 1:25).

Just from these few verses from one psalm we can see the richness of abiding in the Word of God and hearing God speak to us through His Word. How can we keep our way morally pure and upright in God’s sight, simple — Psalm 119:9. How can we know about Jesus and His ministry, again we look to the Word of God (see Luke 24:32) as Jesus revealed His ministry. Do we need to run to a so-called prophet? NO!! We have a more sure word of prophecy (2 Peter 1:19).

God is indeed speaking to us, as He has to all His people throughout the Church age, by speaking to us through His infallible Word. Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord, how is he or she to know the Lord? Simply according to what He has revealed as His will in the Scriptures.

For anyone to seek any additional information than what God has given to us in the Bible is to in effect accuse God of not giving us all we need. Yet the Apostle Peter says:

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 2 Peter 1:2-4

Our gracious heavenly Father has given to us everything we need to know in order to live a life that is fully pleasing to Him. Seeking additional information through dreams, visions, or going on long fasts in hopes of achieving some mystical insight is to denigrate the value of the Scriptures and is an evidence of a lack of genuine faith in God’s provision.

It is my hope that all of you reading these two articles will begin to rely fully on God’s written Word and cast aside any dependence upon “voices” or “leadings” that are subjective at best and have no grounding in the Bible. God’s Word is more than enough and I encourage all of us to dig into the “Book” like never before in order to draw truly closer to our God and thus walk in His will for our lives.

Psalm 100:5

For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

2 Samuel 22:31

As for God his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

A good book you might enjoy reading on this topic is written by a fellow pastor and apologist named Gary E. Gilley.  His latest book is a well presented argument for the sufficiency of Scripture and a solid refutation for those who have been misled into thinking that God is indeed speaking directly to them and giving them daily guidance.

It would be a good addition to anyone’s library, especially if you know of family members or friends who are being misled by this specific false teaching.

DMI does not receive anything from the sale of our brother’s book, but as is our custom we gladly promote other ministries which are teaching truth and exposing error and brother Gilley surely does this in his book entitled “Is that You Lord?”  It is published by Evangelical Press and is available on Amazon.com.  I am not sure of the retail price because DMI’s copy was given to us by some dear friends in S. Lake Tahoe. 

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

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THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

28 12 2009
Truth Matters Newsletters – October  2007   Vol. 12 Issue 10 – THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE – Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

As we studied last month all of the aberrant practices and false doctrine stem from an incorrect interpretation of the Scriptures. In fact, all errors in “Bible” based cults can be traced back to using a faulty hermeneutical system. Every Christian should understand and apply some basic hermeneutical principles when they study their Bible. Unfortunately most pastors do not equip their people with the skills necessary to become good Bereans. Sadly, many pastors across America have little or no theological training and thus they lack any real understanding of how to correctly teach the Bible of to their congregations (Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar are just two examples) and we end up with a case of the blind leading the blind.

Apart from incorrect biblical interpretations with all its attending problems there is another difficulty plaguing God’s people and that is the widespread practice of accepting personal spiritual experiences as authoritative. Millions of professing Christians readily accept the subjective “revelations” of various leaders, or their own private experiences as being as valid as the written Word of God.

The Word of God is seen as not being the only guide for many Christians. It is not viewed as complete and totally sufficient when it comes to faith and practice. Many people are augmenting the Bible with extra-biblical data that is proclaimed as “new” revelations from the Holy Spirit through a host of roving self-proclaimed Apostles, Prophets and revivalists. Admittedly this is not a new problem; in fact the Apostle Paul spoke of people who were misplacing their faith in alleged mystical experience:

Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not see, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind. And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Col. 2:18,19

It seems that people have a propensity to be drawn away from the objective truth of God’s Word into their own fallen subjective experiences.

 Today we see this enthusiasm for experience over God’s Word vividly in the Charismatic movement. For example the recently departed Kenneth E. Hagin built a great portion of his SINistry on his alleged face-to-face encounters with our risen Lord. Many of these he wrote about in great detail in his book I believe In Visions.

 

Another widely followed heretic, Jesse Duplantis expanded his influence tremendously after publishing his farcical tale about going to heaven in his book Heaven Close Encounters of the God Kind. Jesse regales his readers with not only a very detailed account of “heaven” but also shares about his visible experiences with angels, he and his car being teleported across the state of Louisiana and other bizarre experiences.

Mary K. Baxter wrote a book which plunged her into charismatic fame & fortune about her being taken to hell on forty (40!) consecutive evenings allegedly by Jesus Christ. The Divine Revelation of Hell has been reprinted several times and in over ten languages. The book is filled with graphic details of what awaits the damned soul and Baxter claims thousands of people have come to faith in Christ due to her book! If that was not enough she went on to write another spurious tome entitled The Divine Revelation of Heaven and then another book called The Divine Revelation of Glory.

Discernment Ministries International was among the first Apologetic ministry to expose the nonsense in Cho Thomas’ book Heaven Is So Real about her rapturous transport to heaven. Thomas reveals to us that there is death in heaven when Jesus takes her fishing and kills the fish and cooks it for her.

Every one of these books (and there are many more I could mention) has sold well over 100,000 copies each, and all of them are printed in foreign languages for wider consumption by the sign-seeking crowd (don’t forget there are videos, DVD’s, and cassettes of these accounts by authors for sale too). The authors go all over the world sharing their experiences with untold numbers of people.

These examples demonstrate my concern that people are leaving the sufficiency of the Scriptures to listen to someone’s latest experience. I can tell you that DMI receives a great deal of vitriolic email from devotees of these deluded heretics. Some of the gentler complainers say things like “don’t you believe God can take someone to heaven? Look at the Apostle Paul for example!”  Yes, let’s consider Paul for a moment:

I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 2 Cor. 12:3-4

Virtually all commentators agree that Paul is writing about an experience he had being caught up to heaven. What is interesting about his account is that he does not share any of what he saw or heard.  Why not?  Today when someone says they were taken to heaven they create an entire “ministry” out of their experience. Paul did not relate any of his experience precisely because it was just that…his own “experience” and as such would not benefit others.

Here is what the NIV Commentary says about this part of Paul’s life:

What Paul head (and saw?), human words were inadequate to relate (v.4b). Furthermore, he was not permitted to try to share the content of the revelation, perhaps because it had been designed for him alone, to fortify him for future service and sufferings (Ac 9:16; Ro 8:18). Glimpses the NT does give of the coming glory are intended to strengthen faith and promote holiness (cf. 2 Pe 3:10-14;p 1Jn 3:2-3) not satisfy curiosity.

Nothing that Hagin, Duplantis, Cho or Baxter wrote about strengthens faith nor does it promote true holiness. What all those books do is to point to the human authors and imply that they are special vessels chosen for these last days to prepare the Church for the return of Christ. Nothing in their mythological writings do anything to encourage their readers to get into the Holy Bible and let God speak to them via its inerrant pages.

As I stated earlier this phenomenon of people promoting doctrines and practices that are based on their personal experiences is nothing new. During the Evangelical Reformation led by Martin Luther he constantly had arguments with various sects of what he termed “enthusiasts.”

Enthusiasm clings to Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world –fed and spread among them as poison by the old dragon. It is the source, power, and might of all the heresies, even that of the papacy and of Mohammed. Therefore, we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external word and sacrament. Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a word and sacrament is of the devil. (1)

The enthusiasts then as today looked within to feel something or to attempt to hear God speak to them directly and personally apart form the Holy Bible. This is exactly what is taking place on a massive scale within the charismatic movement. I’ve been involved in many meetings where the “Spirit” began to move in a mighty way so much so that the Word of God was never preached. These meetings were declared to be of the highest order! Various people “prophesied” the so-called word of the Lord, others were slain in the spirit, some danced in the aisles, others just sat and watched the show. 

One well accepted restored-prophet, Bill Hamon carries with him a 5 inch 3 ring binder filled with 100’s of “personal” prophecies that have been uttered over his life for the last 40 years. Obviously he takes these extemporaneous words to be true or why collect & carry them?

What does the Bible say?

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. Hebrews 1:1-3

Yes God did speak through the prophets in the past. Yes God spoke in various ways, by dreams, visions and at times angels or through Theophanous. However, in these last days God has spoken to us through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Peter knew of his impending death (2 Peter 1:13-15) so what he said was vitally important to him as a pastor. He reminds his readers that he was with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration and he actually heard the voice of God speak. Yet what does he then tell the Church?

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:19-21

Even though Peter was there in person to hear God’s voice he goes on to tell the Church that they have a more sure word of prophecy (the written Word) and they would do well to take heed to It a a light that shines in a dark place. Peter does not preach his experience but points to the Word of God and warns them to take heed of the Word.

Why this emphasis Peter, what is the big deal?

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 2:1-3

The problem today is that the “more sure word” is now deemed passé and there is a desire to seek what is termed “present day truth” (see 2 Peter 1:12) by the charismatic extremists. This is alleged truth that is arrived at through mystical or metaphysical means, i.e. subjective belief as opposed to the objective inerrant truth set out in the Bible.

One very popular charismatic heretic, Tommy Tenney, wrote a hugely popular book entitled The God Chasers. Tenney denigrates the written Word of God and expounds that people need to seek a direct encounter with God. Here are some of his comments regarding the Bible:

We just keep going through the motions, lighting the lamps and shuffling from dusty room to dusty room as God was still speaking to us. (2)

There’s no need for me to preach [the Word] if God shows up in His glory. (3)

They [the early disciples] walked and talked with Him in such a rich level of intimacy that it wasn’t necessary for them to pour over dusty love letters that were written long ago. (4)

Folks Tenney’s comments are the voice of millions enmeshed in charismatic extremism. Note the very low view of holy scripture—the books of the Bible are “dusty rooms” that we shuffle through with the mistaken belief that God is still speaking to us through these biblical letters! Tenney echo’s the statements of many of today’s revivalists by saying there is not even a need to preach the Word of God if “God” shows up, i.e. some paranormal manifestations or unchecked emotionalism breaks forth. Lastly, Tenney says that the early church members communed with God on an intimate one-on-one basis APART from pouring over the “dusty old love letters” that were written long ago. What does my book of dusty old love letters say in response to Mr. Tenney and the other heretics?

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore, many of them believed; also of honorable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. Acts 17:11-12

The people in Berea heard Paul preach and then they went immediately to those dusty old love letters to validate by objective truth what Paul was proclaiming. What was the end result? MANY of them believed the gospel that Paul preached!  ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

Endnotes:

1. Oswald Bayer, Theology The Lutheran Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007, p. 53

2. Tommy Tenney, The God Chasers, (Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 1998) p. 31.

3. Bid. p. 44 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis

4. Bid. p. 74 Underlining and bolding added for emphasis.