Try the Spirits

Evil spirits are constantly trying to deceive us by imitating His Spirit, seducing us through thoughts and impressions which appeal to our carnality. (1Ti 4:1) Those who heed such spirits bring much harm to themselves and others (vs 2), so God tells us to try the spirits, to test spiritual influences to see if He has sent them. (1Jn 4:1)

This testing isn’t about whether God is speaking to us or not, but about whether He’s speaking to others. When we hear the voice of God we know Who’s speaking (Jn 10:27); any test would be disrespectful.

But when someone else claims to have a “word from the Lord,” we must be very careful. Satan comes as an angel of light (2Co 11:14), and many in his service appear righteous, which is no surprise. (vs 15) False prophets seek to be revered by presuming God is speaking to them, but without solid evidence such claims are empty. What should we look for?

Firstly, is the supposed prophet benefiting temporally from his calling? God’s prophets typically proclaim a very unpopular message and are persecuted for it (Ac 7:52); they aren’t exalting themselves, seeking prestige. (1Co 4:9) If any ulterior motive is apparent, this should be carefully searched out.

Secondly, is there sufficient detail in the prophetic word to verify its accuracy? Clearly, when sufficient detail is present and the claim is false, we have our answer. Yet prophetic words which lack sufficient detail to be verifiable should also be dismissed, or at the very least regarded with grave suspicion. God’s test of a prophet’s legitimacy requires verifying the prophecy happens exactly as predicted. (De 18:22) When a prophet fails this test, God’s law prescribes the death penalty. (vs 20) Getting this wrong is serious: no one should ever be encouraged to take up a prophetic mantle lightly or presumptuously, or let off the hook when they do.

Lastly, is there anything unscriptural or unwise inherent in the claim? Does it align with God’s character and glorify Him? Any revelation that doesn’t square with the plumb line of scripture is darkness. (Is 8:20)

We’re in a spiritual battle; we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness. (Ep 6:12) Be sober; be vigilant: our adversary is real and dangerous.  (1Pe 5:8) We must resist him steadfastly in order to overcome. (9)

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The Voice of Strangers

God’s people hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:27), but do we also hear other voices which are not of God? If so, how do we tell the difference?

Horse Head Nebula, Hubble

To be clear, we aren’t necessarily referring to an audible voice, but this might be an inner sense or witness in our spirit that God’s trying to guide us or teach us something. Thinking the enemy can’t try to imitate God like this underestimates him, and implies any kind of impression or leading we receive must be from God.

But God tells us that other spiritual beings, seducing spirits, will also be speaking to us, trying to get us to follow them (1Ti 4:1), and that believers know the difference instinctively. (Jn 10:5b) Yet when we’re desperate to hear a “word from God,” we might override our instincts and fall pray to the enemy’s leading.

So, how do we know?

Simple: if we don’t instinctively know God is speaking with us, then He isn’t, at least not supernaturally, such that we should implicitly obey. If we’re able to wonder if it might not be God, or ask, “Who are you?” then we don’t know it’s God. If the impression is supernatural, clearly external to us … flee (Jn 10:5a); this one’s out to harm us.

When an impression might be God but we aren’t absolutely sure, rather than blindly and passively obeying, or even testing the spirit, we engage our minds and wills. (1Pe 1:13) Does the path before us seem wise? As we examine ourselves, discovering our own will in the matter … does it align with us in all wholesomeness, holiness and righteousness? If so, we should own this way and follow God as well as we can in it, not as being passively lead, but actively in the good fight of faith. (1Ti 6:12) Otherwise, it is not the path for us.

When we need clear direction from God we should ask in faith for wisdom (Ja 1:5) and guidance. (1Sa 23:2) Until God answers unmistakably we should be seeking counsel from others and the Word, and walking it out using all the wisdom we have, trusting He’s working out His will in and through our wills. (Php 2:13)

If we need direct, supernatural revelation, God will speak to us clearly, and there will be no doubt about it. Satan comes as an angel of light to deceive (2Co 11:14), kill and destroy. (Jn 10:10) The voice of God is unmistakable, let’s not settle for a counterfeit.

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