If you have spent any amount of time watching my videos or reading my blog, then you know that I have a burden regarding Christians hearing the voice of God. It is a burning passion that I have had for many years. In fact, it spawned two books on the subject and I am in the process of writing the third one now. So it should be clear to anyone reading that this is one of my passions in life.
What most people don’t realize is that the burden was birthed out of a fear of being deceived. One day as I was sharing some strange thing I heard in the spirit with a more mature prophet, he turned to me and sharply rebuked me regarding hearing God’s voice. That day changed my life. Whether intentional or unintentional he had opened a door in my life to the spirit of doubt. Yes, doubt is a spirit. Usually, it travels with the spirit of fear. In an instant, I went from comfortably hearing the voice of God to being double-minded. That problem would last for YEARS!!! But, it made me press harder into gaining an understanding of how God speaks to us. Initially, I did this by doing what most people in my position would have done, I bought a bunch of books on the subject of hearing God’s voice. What I discovered was that there were many people who could hear His voice but could not articulate how they heard it from a biblical standpoint. It was all very surface level information and a lot of it was based on their personal experiences. Not only that, the opinions regarding how and what was experienced varied widely. There were some who seemed restricted to hearing God only via the Bible. There were others who seemed a bit too far beyond the Bible. Yet, there were others who taught that we could hear God’s voice in different ways but discouraged people from receiving in voices, dreams, and visions. For me, that was a big problem because that was the primary way I heard from God. Well, this was very unhelpful, to say the least. I was under a serious attack and I craved the clarity of the truth regarding hearing God’s voice.
The way I saw it I had one option left. In my mind, I thought, “Who else would understand the subject of God’s voice better than God.” So I went to Him and asked Him to teach me His voice. That started a process of revelation in my life that would resemble a see-saw. God started teaching me by allowing doubt to attack me then He would teaching me a principle; So every time I was confident in my ability to hear God’s voice doubt would come out of nowhere and I would find my self in a cycle of questions that said, “God, is that You, me, or the devil? Now you how I came up with the title of my book. It was not something that came out of thin air. It was a real question that I often asked (within) myself. Likewise, many of you have asked that very same question; many of you are also overwhelmed by the thought of being deceived.
Well, if this is you, this article should help give you some semblance of peace.
The Most Important Thing To Know
In John 10 Jesus makes a declaration that we often glance over. He said, “My sheep hear My voice and I call to them and they follow Me. They will by no means follow the voice of a stranger for they do not know the voice of strangers.” What a bold statement. But what is Jesus really saying? Most times this passage is used to justify the argument that God is talking today and that His sheep can hear His voice. I, however, would like to point out to you that Jesus is not merely saying that we can hear His voice. What He is actually saying is that His sheep “only hear” His voice. Now we must also be clear as to what “hear” means in the original language. Let me begin by saying that it does not mean that we “only” hear, by way of sound, Jesus’ voice. The word “hear” in the passage, in the original Greek means to “heed”. Heed means to give attention to or respond to. So Jesus was saying that His sheep will only “respond to” or “listen to” the sound of His voice.
Now, as for the obvious question; do we need to concern ourselves with discernment? Well of course we do. One thing Jesus is clear to say is that the stranger’s voice is a voice that His sheep won’t respond to. That means that Jesus is clear that the stranger’s voice is a voice that His sheep are going to be exposed to. “A stranger’s voice they will not follow” That tiny statement lets us know that we hear the stranger’s voice. One of the hardest things to get Christians to accept is the reality of Satan’s involvement in our lives. His demons are more present that we seem to really know. As such, we should expect that they will speak to us in an attempt to influence our direction in life and our decisions.
What I also appreciate about Jesus’ statement regarding the stranger is the fact that it lets us know that Jesus’ sheep are discerning. The fact that they don’t respond to a particular voice means that they have made a conscious effort to rule out any voice that is not their shepherds’ voice.
I recently watched a video of a shepherd that allowed three different people to call to his sheep. He was certain that they would only respond to his voice. So, up went contestant number one. She made her sounds and calls and no response from the sheep. Then contestants two and three followed in her footsteps. Both had the same results, no response from the sheep. Not only did the sheep not come to the strangers, but they didn’t even look up from grazing. Then it was the farmer’s turn. So he stepped up to the sheep pen and made his sounds and calls to the sheep. Then just off in the distance, you see one or two sheep starting to look up. After about the third call they were all looking up. After the final call, they were heading in his direction. It was an amazing thing to see. It brought tears to my eyes as I was reminded that something in us only responds to the sound to Jesus’ voice. Here is a link to that video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e45dVgWgV64&list=PLmIkiF6bc5-ytc4F6InT3ZKM7ouNaQz-3
There is also a great illustration of this in John 10. It was a great reveal by the Holy Spirit. It is always amazing to me how God is able to hide things in plain sight. John 10:20 reads, “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. Many of them said, ‘He has a demon and is insane; why listen to Him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the word of one demon-possessed. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind.?”‘
This is what I want you to see. It says that there was a division among the Jews. It further lets us know that there are two groups; those who believed in Him (Jesus) and “LISTENED” to Him, and those who didn’t “LISTEN” to Him. Then it goes on to tell us that sometime later in the day that Jesus was at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem. When He arrived in a particular place the Bible says that the Jews gathered around Him. This time it appears that only one group is present according to the text; that group is the group that could not hear His voice… the doubters. The doubters then began to question Jesus’ identity again, asking Him to clearly state who He is. Jesus then makes it absolutely clear what He meant by His earlier statement, “My sheep hear My voice.” He says in John 10:25-27, “…I told you but you don’t believe Me. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe me BECAUSE YOU ARE NOT OF MY FLOCK.” He then repeats for them these words, “My sheep hear (respond to) MY VOICE, and I know them and they follow Me (respond to me).”
Here is the really important part of this last statement; Jesus says that the reason you don’t believe me (have the confidence to embrace My words as truth) is that you are not Mine. He is again re-emphasizing that everyone that is His is moved to respond to His voice.
The Apostle Paul also reaffirms this idea. Look at what he writes in 2 Timothy 2:16-19, with a focus on verse 19.
16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
This whole chapter is interesting. It begins with an exhortation to Timothy, Paul’s spiritual son. He tells him to commit the teachings he has received from him (Paul) to faithful men who can transmit “the truth” as he received it directly from Jesus (see 2 Tim. 2:2). During his exhortation, Paul decides to pick out the name of two fellas that are teaching false doctrines. Their names were Hymenaeus and Philetus (verse 17). Paul says that these two fellas have departed from the faith and were teaching people that the resurrection had passed. This apparently overthrew the faith of many and those who believed the lie turned to living sinful lifestyles. But with all of this happening Paul lets us know that those who belong to Jesus are somehow shielded from this deception. He says,“The Lord knows those who are his,” Notice that he equates their safety to how they hear! So they did not fall into the deception of the false teachers because they are Jesus’ (His) sheep, who only hear (respond to) Jesus’s voice.
We can again see this in Jesus’ life. In John 6:43-70, Jesus makes one of the most outrageous requests to His followers, one that they could not seem to bear. He told them they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood. After hearing such, the Bible says many of them turned back from following Him(verse 66). When Jesus saw how many of the people left His side He turned to His disciples and said, “Do you want to leave as well.” (verse 67) Look at how they responded. They said, “Where can we go. For in your mouth are the words of life.” (verse 68) Then Jesus said to them, “Did not I choose you?” (verse 70). In other words, you hear Me because you are My sheep.
Again, you will notice that there is a security in knowing that we, who are His, hear His voice and the stranger’s voice we will not follow. They all heard the same word, but only those that were His were able to hear it (respond to it).
So How Can You Be Confident Knowing this Information?
One, you need to know that if you are His, then you WILL NOT have something in you that responds to the stranger’s voice; the keyword being something “in you”. You will, however, hear it. Just like the sheep in the video, you will hear the enemy’s voice. You will hear the call to adultery; the call to pornography; the call to idol worship; the call to slander; the call to witchcraft and such. You will hear the voice of the stranger. That is just a fact of life. Therefore, you should know that the stranger’s voice can even be a religious one. Remember, Paul constantly fought doctrines that imposed religious bondage, while encouraging believers to walk in the freedom of grace without compromising the standard of holiness. Also, it should be noted that it was the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious voice of the day, that killed Jesus and persecuted the early church. So the stranger’s voice is not always the call to sin. Sometimes it is the call to religious bondage.
Either way, regardless of how the stranger presents himself, something in you or should I say “Someone” in you will empower you to know that the stranger’s voice is not the voice of Jesus. Is there something in you responding to the voice you are hearing? Jesus is clear that there is only one voice powerful enough to solicit a response from the believer. Jesus says His sheep follow Him.
Two, you need to know that Jesus gives us a clue regarding the stranger’s voice. He says it comes from a stranger; meaning the voice is strange. Are you hearing strange voices? I am not concerned with the call of temptation. As I stated earlier, you will hear the stranger’s voice. I am more concerned about people who don’t think it is strange that the voice they hear is giving them a license towards sinful behavior, hurtful behavior, selfish behavior, or self-deprecating behavior, such as suicide, depression, low self-esteem, or even religious behavior. These, my friends, are voices of the stranger. It should sound strange to you when you hear a voice telling you that you are worthless, ugly, a dirty old sinner that will never amount to a real Christian, and the like. It should also seem strange to you to hear that something like going to the movies is a sin. While I do not advocate loose living and watching anything we want to watch. I do, however, recognize that we have the freedom to do it. For that reason, Paul says all things are lawful but not all things are helpful (1 Cor. 10:23). Less I sway you, I am going to leave that subject alone. The goal of this article is not to tell you how to hear, but to empower to you know who you are hearing. So the question remains; Is what you hear “strange” to you? Does it make you feel strange?
One other thing I need to address is the word “know” in that passage. When Jesus says that His sheep know His voice; the word know means to know by experience; through closeness or intimacy. This is important to note because in our “casual friends” society we say that we “know” a person even though we have spent zero time with them. For example, once I started rapping in high school I gained a little popularity. So much so, that years after graduating there were people from my graduating class that I encountered who knew my name, though I had never had a conversation with them in high school. It was embarrassing sometimes to admit that I did not remember the person at all. If asked by someone else whether or not they knew me, the person might respond yes. What they really mean is “I know about him.”
Well, Jesus was not referring to His sheep as people who “know about” Him. In fact, the people who knew the law (the book about Him), the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were among those who did not know Him. They teach us that it is possible to know about Him and not know Him. You see, the principle of “the stranger’s voice” goes both ways. A stranger is simply a person you are not familiar with. You may know about them. You may know of them. But they are a stranger to you because you don’t really intimately know them. For the religious leaders of that day, Jesus’ voice was the voice of the stranger. Likewise, they did not respond to His leadership. Jesus said that their father was Satan and the desire of their father is what they want to do (John 8:44). By using the term “father” in reference to Satan and the religious community, Jesus is establishing the idea of “relationship.” In other words, Jesus was saying that Satan was their shepherd and they only responded to the voice of their master. It is the same principle of the sheep following their shepherd’s voice, but in reverse. Which voice stirs you to action? The voice of Jesus or the voice of the stranger? Which one is strange to you?
Last, there is one other thing to look out for— delivery! How is the word is delivered to you. Most people miss God because of delivery. I want you to see that Jesus comes to the door and calls to the sheep. This means that He gives the sheep the “choice” to follow Him. One of the contrasting characters in the passage, the wolf, is aggressively driving the sheep to no determined end. His aggressive nature removes the sense of choice and instead comes across as dictatorial and uncompromising. I am always cautious of prideful preachers, especially prophets who think that Christ is resting the Church on their shoulders. They usually feel that it is necessary to address anything that they perceive as an error and in their minds, they have “the only word of the Lord” for the situation. They are using the idea that “God is speaking” to manipulate the decisions of the people. I usually dismiss these people. Why is the delivery important to consider? Number one, because only Jesus can protect the sheep from the wolf. Number two, Jesus is clear that the sheep can “only” hear His voice. So if what the preacher or prophet says came from God, did not come from God, then his words will fall flat to the ground. The genuine voice of the Lord shares ideas and allows the Holy Spirit to do the job of bringing a conviction of the truth. This is true even in hearing God in dreams, visions, and voices. He will only make the call. If you are His you will feel the call to obedience, and by choice respond to it. He will not force or even shame you into following Him. The wolf, on the other hand, will always hate the idea that you are taking the time to discern who you are listening to.
How Does This Work Practically?
Knowing that I hear Jesus’ voice and that I am designed in Christ to only respond to His voice, helps me to relax. That also means that I am no longer paralyzed by the idea that I am going to hear the wrong voice. Having this knowledge allows me to dialog with God freely, giving Him my full attention; freely allowing His ideas to fill my mind. So when I have dreams or visions from the enemy, and I do sometimes and so will you, I know they are from him because I am not inclined to follow them. If I have to chase down the voice, vision, dream, then something is wrong. God’s voice calls to us and leads us out.
The same principles apply to listening to God speak through preachers. One thing I do not do is stress out over doctrinal differences. As those differences do not violate the core of our belief system, which centers around the deity of Jesus Christ, I am cool. I mean, we men of God are all human. And even though we would like to assume that we are so gifted in our study of the word or our revelatory abilities that we never miss God, we must also realize that we can be wrong. For that reason, Paul instructs Timothy to not give his attention to petty disputes warning him that it would only lead to more confusion. In today’s social media age, doctrinal disputes often play out in the public. That being the case, the sheep are left with multiple ideas to sort through and hearing God’s voice can be muddied by their careless arrogance. So the principles above are even more necessary in our Christian culture today.
Here is a recent example and an insight God gave me through the experience. Last week I was at a church service and the preacher got up to speak. At the time there was nothing suspicious; no warning of any type from the Holy Spirit. As he got into the body of his message I started to notice that something on the inside of me was starting to close up. I also noticed that it was becoming hard to concentrate on the message. What was strange is that it was not the whole message, just certain points. When he started speaking about certain points I began to become a bit uncomfortable. You may be wondering if he was saying something egregious. The answer is no! Nothing he said was misleading or malintent. He was preaching from his understanding of the selected passage. Even though I understood this, it did not stop how I felt in my spirit.
With all of this happening on the inside I decided to ask God what was going on. This is what He said to me, “To Him, the doorkeeper opens…” Immediately the lights came on in my mind and I instantly understood what He meant. The closing of my spiritual ears to the sermon was God protecting me from the voice of the stranger. Though I know that it was innocent, it was the stranger’s voice all the same. His interpretation of the subject was off, and God closed my ears to the parts that were not the truth.
What God was doing to me on that Sunday was interesting, to say the least. But what He said to me was really interesting. If you are wondering what He meant by the statement, “To Him the doorkeeper opens”, I have an answer. Let’s look at something else in the John 10 passage. Notice that there is a layer of protection between the sheep and the shepherd. That layer keeps out those who are not the shepherd of the sheep and keeps the sheep from following a stranger. In the passage, the person is called the “gatekeeper.” The gatekeeper must open the gate if the sheep are to follow the shepherd. So the doorkeepers must also recognize the voice of God for the shepherd to have access to the sheep. That means that the gatekeeper lets down his guard to allow the shepherd’s voice to access the sheep.
When you hear the voice of God something in you relaxes. While your mind may be caught between ideas, your inner man will be at peace. There have been many times when I have heard something that my mind did not accept, but my spirit reacted to by allowing me to be at peace within. I call it the gatekeeper making the way for the voice of God to lead me out.
On the other side, you may find that your mind is in agreement with what you are hearing, yet something in you seems to be tensing up. Again, this is the gatekeeper denying the voice access to the sheep. I believe that the gatekeeper is the Holy Spirit.
Let me show you something else. I believe that the gatekeeper is the Holy Spirit because Jesus said this, “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come..” (See John 16:13). So get the picture. Jesus speaks to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirits speaks to us. See, there is the layer I was talking about between the Shepherd and the sheep. The shepherd (Jesus) only has access to the sheep (you and I) via the gatekeeper (the Holy Spirit.) You see, we don’t need to worry ourselves sick trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong. The Bible is really clear, in fact, Jesus Himself said that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth (John 16:13).
Paul also says to a church in which there was erroneous teaching, which he said was “secretly brought in” through men of ill intent, that regardless of the deceptive teaching of these men, the Holy Spirit teaches us all things. This again fits into the central theme of this article that Jesus keeps His sheep and we “know” His voice; so much so that we “will not” follow a stranger.
So the next time you find yourself wondering “God, Is that You, me, or the Devil,” just pay attention to whether or not you feel stirred to action. Does the voice move you to follow Jesus? If you are asleep for the sermon, teaching, etc. or distracted during reading a book, just know that 9 times out of 10 it is not Satan. It generally means that God is not talking to you about that issue. It may also mean that the man/woman of God has missed it and the Gatekeeper (Holy Spirit) has not allowed that voice access to His sheep (you).
If I had to leave you with one thing to remember it would be this; allow yourself to grow in learning God’s voice. Growth is not about hearing the right voice all the time. It is about learning the Shepherd’s voice. Also, take confidence in knowing that God can and will protect you as you learn to hear Him clearly. The sheep hear His voice because they have been exposed to it over and over again. Constant exposure leads to the ability to confidently follow.
For those of you interested in more signs that help build confidence in our ability to hear from God, I invite you to purchase either of my books: You Can Hear the Voice of God Clearly or God, Is that You, Me, or the Devil?
Welcome to Doing Life On Fire!