Sunday, March 12, 2017

How Does God Speak? 4 Ways God Reveals Himself

I was recently asked the question How does God speak? I believe that a better question is How does God reveal Himself? God introduces Himself through creation, reveals Himself personally through Scripture and unveils Himself relationally through the Holy Spirit. Here are 4 ways that God does speak and a word of caution about how He doesn't.

1. God Reveals Himself Through Creation
God reveals Himself through nature, His creation. We call this General Revelation. It shows us how creative and powerful He is. Nature shows the amount of love and beauty God poured into creation. The wonder and awe He has created, the intricate design of our bodies and the detail and craftsmanship He put into designing this world for us showcase many of His qualities. Creation also shows his goodness and His providential care. There are also many object lessons from nature such as comparing God's protection of His people underneath the shadow of His wings to that of a bird protecting her offspring.

Human beings, created in God's image are inherently inquisitive and nature is meant to cause us to ask questions. Satan tries to manipulate us into satisfying this curiosity in unhealthy and inappropriate ways. God does not reveal future events through nature, or general revelation. Horoscopes, astrology, trying to predict human behavior or future events based on the observance of the moon and stars or by consulting any other element of creation is specifically forbidden in Scripture and Christians today still struggle with this trap.

2. God Reveals Himself Through His Word
The primary way that God speaks to people is through His Word, the Bible. The Bible reveals God's justice and his righteousness. It also reveals his merciful love, kindness and grace. Most importantly, it shows his plan of salvation. All we need to know for life and godliness, all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom are found in God's word. Faith comes through hearing the Word of God. This type of revelation is called Special Revelation.

Jesus is the central focus of the Bible. Sinful mankind tends to cherry pick tiny fragments of Scripture and misuse them for their own purposes. Satan, himself, misquoted and misused Scripture when he tempted Jesus. To understand what God is saying through His Word, we must read it in context, compare and harmonize it with the whole counsel of Scripture and determine what God is saying.

3. God Reveals Himself Through His Spirit
God speaks to us through His Spirit, this is also a form of Special Revelation. It is the Holy Spirit that calls us to repentance. He convicts the world concerning sin and righteousness, right and wrong. He draws us to God when the Word is read. He helps us understand Scripture. He reminds us of what we have learned in the moments we need it. He is our teacher, helping us to understand the Bible. He is our guide, leading us as we walk through this life according to God's word. The Holy Spirit also speaks through us by words of knowledge and words of wisdom. Prophetic words are given for comfort, encouragement and building each other up. He allows us to give wise counsel and advice to guide other believers through difficult life situations. The Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible and we should use the Bible to discern whether something comes from the Holy Spirit or not.

4. God Communicates Through Dreams and Visions
The rarest way that God communicates is through visions and dreams. These were used to reveal all that we need to know about God's future plans in the Bible. With the conclusion of John's vision in Revelation, there will be no more dreams or visions about events relating to God's plan for the end times. The canon of Scripture is closed and absolutely no words will be added to it. God does use dreams to warn of danger, as He warned Joseph and the Wise Men concerning Herod's nefarious plans. Throughout the New Testament, when a dream or vision occurred, it was always Gospel-centered and required work and sacrifice. Peter had a vision that led him to minister to Cornelius' household and revealed God's ministry toward the Gentiles. Paul had a dream of a man in Macedonia asking him to come share the Gospel. These dreams and visions led people to go share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and minister to others. Dreams and visions are a way for the Holy Spirit to warn, protect and guide people into the work of God and to prayer. Anyone who believes they have had a dream or a vision should use those truths as guidelines for how to react.

Outside of the book of Revelation, a future event was prophesied in the New Testament, in Acts 11:27-30. In this instance, the people of Antioch sacrificed, taking up a collection to provide for the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. No one wrote a book or went on a speaking tour to get rich. The prophecy required financial sacrifice and selfless giving.

A Word Of Caution
There is much confusion today, with prophets for profit feigning divine revelation, claiming to predict the future through observing the times, reading the moon, the interpretation of signs, omens and so-called wonders. These practices are forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:10-11. In the Old Testament, God revealed His power through signs and wonders performed through nature. He was demonstrating his power and control over creation. In the New Testament, Jesus and the disciples only performed miracles in ways that healed and helped people and when the Bible talks about them performing signs and wonders it is referring to such miracles. In Matthew 24:24, Jesus warns us against false prophets performing signs and wonders to mislead people. In the day we live in, the fake prophets refer to various natural occurrences as signs and wonders and then use them to sell their worthless books, claiming to have received revelation from God. Don't be na├»ve. Don't be taken in. Any sign or wonder that is real will never be self-serving or naturally occurring in creation. If there is a real sign or wonder, it will be beyond the natural, in service to others and it will not foretell the future. This is not a method God uses to communicate future events. A sign might BE a future event, but it won't predict one. To put it a different way: The Bible might predict a certain sign or event, but signs themselves do not predict future events.

If you are looking for a word from God go directly to Him for it. Consider this: When Gideon asked God for a sign, he did not have the Holy Spirit as we now do. If you need to hear from God, read the Bible, worship, be in relationship with other believers and pray. Prayer, worship and reading the Bible are ways that we have direct access to God. Just don't forget to listen for that still, small voice leading and guiding you.

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