Following God in life is an incredible adventure. Christianity is not so much a religion as it is a personal relationship with the unseen God. No doubt, it is a faith-building process that begins with an instant of surrender and then plays itself out over time as we learn the One to whom we bowed in trust. He leads us by His voice and, most often, that voice is discerned through His written word. But what do you do when a decision is being required of you…and there is no clear guidance from the Scriptures? All of us face situations – usually daily ones – that don’t require writing in the sky from God. Yet, as His children, all of us want our pathways to be honorable unto the Lord. Many times we are graced to have clear counsel from the Bible which comes in the form of promise, prohibition or principle. While promises and prohibitions are very clear, there are varying levels of clarity when it comes to biblical principles, and how we might apply them to our lives. When you don’t have a promise or a prohibition, and must apply a principle, it helps to have in your arsenal a God-sensitive conscience.
God speaks to us. Purposefully, proactively and powerfully God communicates His desires to His children. Please believe this, because it is equally true that other voices compete for our confidence and willingness to be led. Every day, you are listening to someone, and nobody talks to you more than you.
A couple of years ago, I received a very kind, albeit very long, email from a dear lady who was convinced that I only have a head knowledge of Christ which will come up short of salvation in the end. She detailed to me why she believed this and encouraged me to explore more in depth the love of God and what that love really means. Without ever crossing the line of kindness into abrasiveness, she let me know what was wrong with my ministry unto the Lord, my style of preaching and what was lacking in the church where I serve after her one visit with us. As a younger pastor, I would have one of the following negative impulse responses to her input:
A scathing email rebuttal written in dynamic word-thrusts with the hopes of silencing her for good.
Two scathing email rebuttals written in doubly-dynamic word thrusts with twice the hope of 200% more likelihood of silencing her for good.
Insecure fear that she was correct in her assessment of me, and therefore I would have entered into a prolonged time of self-loathing, guilt, fear and morbid introspection, only to prove to myself that she was absolutely correct in her critique of the core of my being. In short, I would have agreed with her because, back then, I assumed I was worthy of much criticism, and probably worse than most people could discern. Yet God, in His precise grace given lavishly at the points of my heightened weakness, has taken great care to minister to me over the years in this very area. Through His word implanted in my heart, through His people who instruct me and exemplify to me His ways, and through His recognizable voice in my conscience, I am constantly receiving counsel for my soul. He has sensitized my conscience and I am realizing lately how precious a gift this is. There are many voices I must sift through in my life, but I have learned His over the years and, these days, it is the loudest voice I hear.
What are you hearing today? To whom do you listen about the most important things? Learning to discern truth from error is not always as simple as declaring what is black or what is white. Sometimes we have to comprehend the fluctuating shades of gray that seek to color or thoughts. Someone tells you that you are great and gifted – can you receive this encouragement properly? A voice from your childhood declares that you are ugly – will you allow this insult to permeate you, as does the defenseless child? The enemy reminds you of your horrible sins – do you allow your God-sensitized conscious to speak more powerfully of His grace to you? Friends, that inner voice speaks either truth or lies to you every day. The one you listen to the most greatly impacts the quality of your life and the degree of the glory for God which proceeds from your life. This is an important issue that I hope you will ponder. Slow down. Listen. Discern what type of voice is training you about God, about life and about your own self. You do not have to equally listen to everybody as they seek to define you. Your mind comes with a mute button and there are certainly some voices that you need not pay attention to at all. Your identity is in Jesus Christ and He will unfold it accurately each day in the context of His grace to you. Learning His voice is not only precious, it is powerful. You owe Him an allegiance which necessarily means that you will need to learn to disregard anyone and anything that defies or competes with what He speaks over you. For me, it was a matter of life and death as it regarded my marriage, my fatherhood and my ministry. I simply needed to learn how to believe what Jesus said of me and then exercise courage to let all other competing voices be wrong.
In case you are curious about how I responded to the woman who believed she had me summed-up, I promised her that I would read her email again multiple times, and I did. She went to a great effort to write it for me and I assume her motivation was as pure as she said. I don’t know her at all outside of a quick conversation in the lobby of the church many years ago, so I can only assume she believed she could help me. Maybe she did. Maybe God used her to teach me that sincere people will sometimes get it completely wrong. The one thing I know is that whether what she wrote was true or not, it would not be allowed to become louder than my God-sensitized conscience. God alone owns that part of me. It cost Him much to procure it. We cannot hazard allowing another voice to replace it.
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