Too many people are satisfied with what they learn for an hour or so a couple of Sundays each month from their church pulpit. They celebrate and rejoice about how much they “grow” from what they get from the preacher. But what they are hearing (while it’s certainly legitimate and no doubt important teaching from the pastor) is secondhand revelation. Rather than having the desire to invest the time to get in position to hear God for themselves, these people go to church every now and then and let somebody else tell them what God says.
Too many Christians also go to self-proclaimed “prophets” because they want a shortcut. They’d rather pay a soothsayer to tell them what they think God has to say. Why do people do that? I believe that it’s not necessarily that they don’t want to know what God has to say. It may be that they’re simply not willing to pay the price to get His word for themselves. If the only word you get from God is the word you are spoon-fed the pulpit once a week or less, then you will never quite be the person who God wants you to be. You won’t be as spiritually strong as He wants you to be. You won’t gain the level of wisdom He wants for you. You may not be as emotionally mature as He wants you to be. You will never be as victorious as He wants you to be.
God does not speak only through a preacher and only for one hour out of the 168 hours each week. Many times, God has something He wants to tell each of us individually, and He doesn’t always want it transferred by somebody else. We must each learn how to also get His word for ourselves. Your spiritual growth will be stunted if you tried to thrive off secondhand revelation. You will remain a spiritual pygmy if you only look for somebody else to speak God’s word to you. You cannot thumb through the pages of the Word of God, browse the internet and surf TV channels, hearing what God told somebody else and claiming it for yourself. You can’t build a life on a word God may not have meant for you. You can’t celebrate somebody else’s testimony without having lived the test that they took to get their testimony.
If we don’t learn to hear from God for ourselves, we also set ourselves up to fall prey to charlatans who build huge ministries telling people that unless they come to their church, hear their “spin” on God’s word, listen to their interpretation of Scripture, then we aren’t really hearing from God. There are preachers in pulpits who insinuate that unless God’s word comes from their mouth, it might not really be a word from God. Following people like this is one of the best ways to create a stunted, spiritually anemic people.
One of the motivations of Martin Luther was to bring down the wall of separation between the clergy and the laity. Before the reformation of the 1500s, laymen had no direct access to the Word of God. Only the priests were allowed to handle, teach and preach the Word. Luther stood on the principle of the priesthood of believers and was driven by the concept of Christian liberty. One of the liberties God has given the believer is personal access to the Word. In his book The Church in History, B.K. Kuiper notes that although the average person did not have access to the Scriptures, “both people and priests were almost unbelievably ignorant of religious truth. Most priests were totally unable to preach.” Luther’s position was that every believer could – and should – hear the voice of God through Scripture.
God has something He wants to tell you directly. That’s why you’ve got to learn how to hear from Him for yourself. It is valid to come to church to receive a word from the Lord, but always understand that what you will hear is a corporate word for that church (hopefully, that’s what you’ll hear). Often, however, that corporate word will have personal application. But it is the will of God that you also spend one-on-one time with Him, allowing Him to speak to you through His Word.
From Knowing God’s Voice © 2011 by Kenneth C. Ulmer. Published by Regal Books, www.regalbooks.com. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Watch LIFE TODAY this Monday as Dr. Ulmer joins James and Betty Robison to talk about hearing the voice of God.