One of the most common frustrations I hear people express about hearing God’s voice is this:
“How am I supposed to know if this is God’s voice or just me?”
Admit it, you’re hearing many voices, aren’t you? All the time, probably.
Some are loud.
Some are demanding.
Some are familiar.
Some tell us things we like to hear.
Some bring peace.
Some bring comfort.
Some promise peace or comfort, but they are lying.
Wow! How in the world do we sort through the millions of thoughts going through our minds during the day to figure out which ones are God and which ones are something else?
This is a good place to underscore the fact that the very best way to recognize what ISN’T God is to learn first what IS God…that is, His word: The Bible. By renewing your mind in God’s word, you will eventually learn what God sounds like, and it won’t really matter what other voices are talking to you. You’ll just know, “THAT’S NOT GOD.”
But the Bible does identify two other very loud voices, so it will serve us well to look at them. The Bible calls them
The Flesh, or the Sinful Nature (which we will discuss today)
The Devil, or Evil Spirits (which we will talk about next time)
With practice, you can learn to discern the other voices and deal with them in a Biblical manner. This will help you clear out the “noise” and “distortion” so that you can hear the voice of God with greater clarity.
As we move into this next series, remember: God does not want His voice to be a mystery to you. He’s not holding out on you. He’s not playing games. The Bible says that discerning good from evil is a byproduct of spiritual maturity:
“But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.” (Hebrews 5:14 Amplified Bible)
With that as a foundation, let’s take a look at the first voice:
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:16-21 NIV)
The flesh is your sinful nature. We all have one, and we will fight against it until the day we die. Here are a few things to know about it when it speaks.
A. It is always contrary to the Spirit.
B. It is very selfish.
C. It always wants something, it is never happy and it is never satisfied.
D. It is stubborn and unteachable. It can become dogmatic and legalistic. “the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” (Romans 8:7)
E. It is full of pride.
F. It constantly seeks to justify itself.
G. It will often urge you to take the most comfortable way.
H. It lacks self-control. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18)
I. It is deceptive. It doesn’t know what is best for it, and therefore, cannot be trusted. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
“For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)
Since we are all uniquely made, the voice we hear inside may sound different in each person. In me, the flesh often sounds like this:
What about me?
When am I going to get some time to myself?
Why am I always the last one to have my needs met?
Why are my plans always the ones that have to be changed?
I have every right to feel this way.
Leave me alone.
I’m right, you’re wrong.
When I give into the voice of the sinful nature, it manifests itself in me in these ways:
Sleeping when I should be awake.
Becoming angry at my husband or my kids for inconveniencing me.
Over-analyzing and over-complicating situations.
Being critical or judgmental of others, especially other moms and other Christians.
Justifying for weeks or months on end why I cannot fast even one meal.
Becoming overly confident in my ability to handle a situation instead of relying on God.
So, how do we handle the flesh? What do we do when we discover the voice we are hearing is actually the flesh or the sinful nature? Here are some Do’s and Don’ts.
1. Don’t ignore it. It only gets louder.
2. Don’t rebuke it. Yeah, that definitely doesn’t work.
3. Don’t give in to it. It may feel right/good/like God for a little while, but the feeling will only last a short time, and the voice will come back, stronger and louder next time.
4. Do take care of your physical needs. The reality is, we do have to contend with our physical bodies while we live on this earth. That means we need to eat healthy food, get proper rest, stay warm, dry and clothed. God does not expect us to deny ourselves those things which bring physical health…because, quite honestly, we are worthless to do the work He has called us to if we are sick and tired all the time.
“After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church” (Ephesians 5:29)
2. Do starve the sinful desires of the flesh. As you know, anything that is not fed will eventually die. The same goes for the sinful nature. Practically speaking, that means…
When the voice inside you tells you to roll over and go back to sleep instead of getting up to pray, get up anyway. Ugghhhhhhh….
When the voice inside you tells you to explode in anger, tap into the fruit of the Spirit dwelling in you and exercise self-control. Ugghhhhhhh…..
When the voice inside you asks, “What about me?” Remind yourself that, NEWS FLASH!, it isn’t about you…it’s about God and serving others. Ugghhhhh…….
I like to actually picture myself crucifying the sinful nature. Crucifixion isn’t pretty. Or easy. And it’s very morbid. I often picture myself choking the life out of my sinful desires. Denying them food. Wrestling them to the ground. Maybe that sounds a little creepy, but I know that every time I say no to the voice of the flesh, it becomes weaker and weaker.
God did not call us to be slaves to anything, including our own flesh. He called us to be free. His word clearly states that when we have God’s Spirit dwelling in us, we are no longer controlled by our sinful nature. That’s great news, isn’t it?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:1-14)
I would love to hear your thoughts, comments or questions about this or any other aspect of hearing God’s voice. I see the blog is getting a large number of visitors from all over the country and even some from other countries!!!
I cannot tell you how much that thrills and humbles me.
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Thanks for reading, and see you next time for “The Other Voices: Part Two“
Same Bat Time, Same Bat Station.