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How to Know Part II

Does My Church Family Confirm It?

Is It Consistent With How God  has SHAPEd Me?

We are in the middle of a three-part series of messages on the question, how can we know whether it is God’s voice that is heard?

Sometimes we hear things in our minds or our spirits. Sometimes others will tell us that what they say is from God. The question is, Whenever either of those things happen, how can we know that what we hear within ourselves or from others is really and truly from God? That is so very important so we can be confident we are doing God’s will and not our own will or someone else’s will or, even worse, the devil’s will.

In the last message, we considered two questions that must be asked - does what is heard or felt or said agree with the Bible and does what is heard or felt or said make me - and you - and us - more like Christ?

The point was made that if what is heard or felt or said does not agree with Bible and/or does not  make us more like Christ, what is heard or felt or said is false and must not be believed or followed or listened to. On the other hand, if it does agree with the Bible and it does make us more like Christ, it is from God and is therefore worthy of being listened to and followed.

In this message, two more questions. And remember this challenge from the last message. To be considered valid, as in truly God speaking, all six tests that will be presented have to be passed. It is not enough that what is heard or felt or said agrees with the Bible. It is not enough that it makes us more like Christ. As important as those two things are - as important as the tests in next week’s message are - the tests presented today also need to be passed. The tests? Does my church family confirm what is heard, felt, or said? Is it consistent with how has God SHAPEd me?

Does my church family confirm it?

That test has a few Bible passages at its base. One is in Hebrews 10, which teaches that our Christian lives are not to be experienced alone. Verse 25. “Do not neglect to meet together as is the habit of some.” Some people apparently were trying to live isolated Christian lives. Do not do that, said the writer of Hebrews. Instead meet together. Why? Still verse 25. To “encourage one another.” Verse 24. To “stir up one another to love and good works.”

It is of course acceptable for us to worship and pray and study on our own. That is one important way to grow spiritually. But that is not enough. We are instructed to also meet together. Meeting together is for our mutual benefit.

As I have said a few times over the years, I hope you get something from me when you come to this or any other church activity, but I know I get something from you when you come. Including encouragement and fellowship. And in Sunday School classes and Bible Studies, I learn from you.

Meeting together as Christians is important, including, related to today’s topic, when determining whether what is heard or felt or said is from God. Again the question, does my church family confirm it?

Here are two verses in Proverbs 11. The last part of verse 9. “By knowledge the righteous are delivered.” Another translation has it, the wisdom of the righteous can save you. That is a challenge to consult other righteous people to help you determine if what is heard or felt or said is from God rather than yourself or others or the devil. That of course requires you and me to associate with other righteous people.

Verse 14. “Where there is no guidance [where things are done rashly, with no consultation with others], a people falls.” What a warning that is. But “in the abundance of counselors [having more than just your heart and your mind and your eyes and your prayers involved], there is safety.” There is a greater chance of knowing and being confident that what is heard or felt or said is really and truly from God.

I think this is related as an example of needing advice from others who are like-minded. I remember when I learned that tennis great Bjorn Borg had a tennis coach. In his career from 1974 through 1981, Borg won the French Open six times and Wimbledon five consecutive years. Talk about being at the top of his game. I was shocked that he would need a coach, but he had one to monitor his practices and his techniques and his physical and mental stamina.

And golfer Tiger Woods. Even when he was in the midst of winning 79 PGA events, including 14 major tournaments, and 40 European tour events, he had a coach. During tournaments, he also listened to his caddie. You would think that if anyone could have, Tiger could have made it on his own, but he did not even try. He had his coach to help him between tournaments and, during his rounds of golf, his caddie to advise on shot distances and what clubs to use.

Borg and Woods were better because of other tennis or golf minds helping them. So we can be better in following God when we allow other God-followers to help us.

Thinking of myself, there have been a few times I have had absolutely great ideas that, when presented to the Board of Directors, were met with laughter, indicating they were the funniest sets of words the Board members had ever heard.

I know there are various styles of doing things and of leading. On doctrinal issues, I hope I have been and will be strong in defending how I feel the Lord leading. However, my reaction is usually that if those who hear my ideas laugh, maybe they are not as great as I thought. In those cases, backing off has no doubt been of benefit to myself and to the congregation.

Here is a bit of World War II history I found. Counselors could have saved Britain’s prime minister Chamberlain from Hitler’s lies, but apparently he neglected to ask for advice. If Hitler had trusted his military advisors, he would have been able to defeat the Soviets. There were some counselors in Japan who recommended avoiding war with the U.S., but they were rejected. And General Patton’s counsel to take out the Soviets perhaps should have been considered more seriously.

The point is that decisions should not be made in a vacuum. One protection against bad decisions is to identify at least some wise people to help make important decisions, including determining if what is heard, felt, or said is from God. Otherwise it is easy to let haste, pride, or whims lead to corruption and trouble.

Here is a warning. Not every counselor will do. For instance, do not check only with friends, who are more likely to  agree with you to keep your friendship and avoid debate. Check with others as well, making sure they are righteous. That they, too, are doing their best, with God’s help, to learn, know, and obey the Bible.

That can be a difficult thing to do because most of us dislike being criticized or corrected. I do not feel especially good when people laugh at my ideas. However, consulting wise spiritual counselors and listening to their advice can help make decisions the best possible, which should of course be our goal.

Does what is heard, felt, or said come from God? Ask. Does it agree with the Bible? Does it make us more like Christ? Does this, our church family, confirm it?

If not, it is false. Do not believe it. Do not follow it. Have nothing to do with it.

But if it does agree with the Bible and makes us more Christ-like and is confirmed by other righteous people, then do believe it. Do follow it. Do obey what is heard and felt and said.

Another test is this. Is it consistent with how God has SHAPEd me?

Shaped of course comes from the base word shape, which can be an acronym for various ways God has made each one of us.

S stands for spiritual gifts. 

There are at least a few spiritual gifts tests that can be taken. The tests refer to what the Bible identifies as spiritual gifts. The Bible also makes clear that while no one has all the gifts, each person has at least one gift to be used for both personal growth and the spiritual growth of others.

Spiritual gifts are listed by the apostle Paul in three of his letters - Romans, I Corinthians, and Ephesians. Among the gifts are exhortation and leadership, giving and mercy, service and teaching, faith and knowledge, helping and evangelism.

In case you are interested, on the last spiritual gifts test I took, a few months ago, I scored highest on service and teaching. Administration and wisdom were tied for third place. I did not score as well on evangelism. And hospitality, which is found elsewhere as a spiritual gift? That was by far my lowest score. So I guess I will help you, but do not expect me to be friendly about it.

Is what you hear from God or that you feel is His will for you consistent with whatever spiritual gift or gifts you have. If so, what you hear or feel is from God.

H stands for heart. 

Do you have a passion for what you are hearing or feeling? Of course, few of us like to be prodded out of our comfort zones, but what we hear or feel should not, if it does come from God, cause us to dread doing whatever it is. There should be enough interest in it to know that, with God’s help, whatever we hear or feel can be done.

A stands for abilities.

Do you have the ability to do what you hear or feel from God? Of course, God can help you develop an ability. And there may be nervousness, but do you have - can you develop - the ability to do what your hear or feel?

Using myself as an example, if what I hear has to do with building something, it might not be from God because I am among the most inept users of construction tools. I hope there are a few things I can do other than tool things, but for those things I cannot do, especially when there are many other people around who can, it seems God would give them those responsibilities.

P stands for personality.

As you know, over the past year, the Nebraska Church of God - our state church organization - has undergone rejuvenation. One part of that has been the establishment of a new board of directors called the Rejuvenation Team.

Handel Smith from the national office was instrumental in putting the Team together. I was an early choice. He and I then worked on assembling the rest of the Team. We used the SHAPE formula.

Each prospective member of the Team was given a spiritual gifts test to make sure what gifts they had were needed for the rejuvenation process .Handel and I talked about the heart of each prospective member. Did they show an interest, not only in their own spirituality, which is of course important, but also the spirituality of others? Abilities of prospective members were important. The personalities of prospective members were also considered, as in, did they have a history of working well with others because if any oversized egos were to be made part of the Team, the possibility of getting and listening to wise, spiritual counsel could be hindered.

Spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, and personality are all important things to consider also when determining if what is heard or felt or said is from God. Then E, which stands for experience. Have there been things in the past that have prepared you for what you interpret God is wanting you to do or say?

Listen to Ephesians 2:10. 

“For we are God’s workmanship.” As the spiritual gifts list points out, not everyone has every gift needed, which means God did not make each of us the same. We have different gifts and a heart for different things. We have different abilities. We are not all the same personality type. But who we are Christians were crafted by God. 

We are His workmanship, “created in Christ Jesus.” 

For what? For “good works.” Works “prepared by God” before He lets us know about them.

The challenge. We should walk in them, meaning we are to allow God to use how He has shaped us so we can do works that will help others in ways that He is seen by others.

Here is a devotional I found. I will share this before what is kind of a negative reminder.

God sees you as someone who is important. As we just discussed, the Bible proclaims, you are His handiwork. That means He cares about you and has an interest in you. He cares what you are up to, and He has created you to do something good.

God has a unique plan for your life. He wants to use you to touch other people and to make a difference in your world. There are people around you who need to know about Jesus. God wants to use you to touch them and show them Jesus.

God has so much in store for you to do, so do not give in to the lie that you are not important or that you are not as talented as others around you. Choose to believe what God says about you, that you are created to do good things.

Those are very positive words. The negative reminder is this. Mental illness has been discussed a lot the last few months, the discussions following so many mass shootings. Not all the time, but how many times have we heard the criminals say that voices had told them to do the violence they perpetrated.

I do not discount there are voices - even inner voices - that people hear that tell them to do horrible things, but those voices are not from God. No one, including us, is to listen to them. Instead, we are to listen to the voice of God.

And how can we know that what we hear is the voice of God? In addition to what we will discuss in the next message - the questions, is it convicting or condemning and do I sense peace about it? Mass killings most certainly do not bring peace, even to the perpetrators. In addition to what we did discuss in the last message - does it agree with the Bible and make us more like Christ? Doing evil most certainly does not promote life, nor is it  Christ-like. In addition to those questions, there are the two tests discussed in this message - does this, our church family, confirm it and is it consistent with how God has SHAPEd me?

If all those tests are passed, then what is heard and felt and said is from God. We can then, with confidence, believe it and follow it.

To be able to help one another spiritually and otherwise, we need to be bound together in love. Let’s sing about that. Blest Be the Tie that Binds.

Blest be the tie that binds

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds

Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne

We pour our ardent prayers;

Our fears, our hope, our aims are one,

Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,

Each other’s burdens bear;

And often for each other flows

Thew sympathizing tear.

From sorrow, toil, and pain,

And sin we shall be free;

And perfect love and joy shall reign

Through all eternity.

God, thank You for giving us Biblical tests by which we can know when it is Your voice we hear or feel. We know that what agrees with the Bible is from You, and what makes us more like Christ is from You, and that if other Christians confirm it, it is from You, and that if it is consistent with how You have shaped us it is from You.

Help us to listen. Help us to hear. Now and always. Amen.

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