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How to be Led by the Spirit IV
What does Godís Voice Sound Like?
by Tom Brown

There is a great scripture that has meant a lot me when it comes to hearing from God, especially when it comes to recognizing the voice of the Holy Spirit. Itís 1 Kings 19:11-12:

The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

This story contains a powerful truth. Many times we are looking for some spectacular sign from God to show us the way, yet God speaks in a gentle whisper. This is the same voice Isaiah describes that is behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it." This is the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Donít look for a loud, booming voice. God doesnít speak in stereo surround. His voice is discernable, however, it requires sensitivity to hear and recognize it.

Inward Witness of the Holy Spirit

One way to recognize the voice of the Spirit is to see how the Apostle Paul describes His voice. Let us go back to our original text in this series of messages.

because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are Godís children. (Rom 8:14-16)

One way to find out what the voice of the Spirit sounds like is to know what it does not sound like. It is not a frightening voice. As Paul says, "For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear." Unlike the voice which God spoke from Mount Sinai, which made the people tremble, the voice of the Spirit does not make us tremble, nor does it produce fear. This is important to know.

If you are listening to fear and being moved to act because of fear, you can be sure to know God is not speaking to you. The Spirit does not make you a slave to fear, but He makes you a servant to faith. Faith must guide you, not fear.

Another thing I get out of these scriptures is the fact that the Spirit speaks and testifies to our spirit. The result is, we cry out, "Abba, Father." According to Galatians 4:6:

Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father."

This passage says that the SpiritÖcalls out, "Abba, Father." Yet the passage in Romans says we cry, "Abba, Father." Who is it that cries out "Abba, Father"? Obviously both cry out Abba, Father. The Spirit cries out inside of our spirits, and then we echo what we hear in our spirits. The reason you call God, Abba, Father is because the Spirit told you to do so.

At first you may think, I donít remember hearing the Spirit cry this out in my spirit, but you really did; you just did not know it was His voice.

So what did this voice sound like, which made you believe God was your Father? This voice was an inner conviction. Conviction is another word for faith. When God speaks to you it produces faithónot fear, not doubt, and not confusion. "For God is not (a God) of confusion, but of peace" (1 Cor 14:33, ASV).

The opposite of confusion is peace. You have an inner peace that God is your Abba, Father. You received this peace when the Spirit testified and witnessed to your spirit that you were a child of God. The voice of the Spirit sounds like peace!

It Seemed Good

There are some examples of the inner conviction leading and guiding the apostles. The first case is found in Acts 15:28:

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: (Acts 15:28)

The Apostles were discussing the role of the Law for the new gentile believers. There were scriptures which seemed to imply that the gentiles were under the Law of circumcision, yet as the same time there were other scriptures implying the opposite. How did they settle this issue? They wrote, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to usÖ" I love this language: It seemed good. Nothing is mentioned that sounds definitive.

As much as we would like God to make things definitively clear, He normally makes things seemingly clearónothing absolutely definitive or conclusive, just clear. This sounds like a whisper, doesnít it? Hereís another example:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. (Acts 16:6-7)

Does this seem strange? Why doesnít God just tell them where to go? Instead, He keeps them from preaching the word in the province of Asia. Next, the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to enter Bithynia. What does it mean when it says, "Having been kept by the Holy Spirit" or "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them"?

Notice it does not say the guards at the border kept them from preaching or someone got sick so they were not allowed to enter the provinces. There was nothing in the natural, physical world that told them not to enter those provinces. The Spirit told them.

Sometimes a door flings open, so we assume God wants us to enter through the door, when sometimes, it was Satan who opened a trap door to destroy us. Donít look at circumstances as a sign of Godís direction. Listen to the Spirit on the inside of you.

Iíve had doors open for me, yet the Spirit would not allow me to find peace to go through the door. So I refused to enter a door that God has not opened. Donít misunderstand me, God does open some doors, but God does not open all the doors. Some open doors are traps of Satan. Letís keep reading:

So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16:8-10)

It took a vision to persuade them to take a trip to Macedonia. There was nothing in Macedonia, which made it attractive for evangelism. Paul normally entered areas where there were at least a few synagogues he could use as platforms to share the gospel. In Macedonia there werenít any synagogues, only pagan temples. Yet, they chose Macedonia because of a night vision (maybe a dream).

The Bible says, "We got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us toÖthem." They still had to interpret the vision. Finally, they concluded. You will have to interpret the leading of the Spirit. The leading of the Spirit is not so obvious at times. You must consider carefully the message God has given you before concluding the direction of the Spirit.

The mistakes Iíve seen charismatics make in this area stems from pride. They tell someone, "God told me", then when it appears they misinterpreted the direction of the Lord, they donít want to admit to it. They simply continue to hold to the supposed voice of the Lord.

When you learn that Godís voice is a whisper and not a shout, you will tread carefully when following the voice of the Spirit. You wonít be so arrogant to assume His voice is loud and clear. You wonít say, arrogantly, "God has spoken, and Iím going to do what He told me to do, even if they whole world thinks Iím wrong!"

Peace as an Umpire

And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your heartsódeciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your mindsÖ(Col 3:15, Amp)

Peace is your umpire. Years ago, I was an umpire for little league baseball. I had a great time doing it. One thing I learned first hand is there are a lot of voices, screams, and shouts from parents and coaches all giving me their opinions.

"Heís safe!"

"What, are you blind, that was a ball!"

"Put your glasses on Ump, he never tagged him!"

Everyone had an opinion. But in the end, only one opinion mattered: mine! I was the umpire.

The same is true for us. We hear a lot of voices telling us what to do:

"Heís a nice guy, you should marry him."

"Take the deal, this is an opportunity of a lifetime."

"This carís a beauty, if I were you, Iíd buy it before someone else does."

Everyone has advice, but the only voice that counts, is the Spiritsí. And His voice sounds like peace. Peace is the umpire. The umpire decides and settles with finality all questions that arise in your minds. When you have questions concerning Godís will for you, let peace be the only arbitrator.

Path of Peace

Let me give some more scriptures, which backs up my claim that peace should guide you.

to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace." (Luke 1:79)

God guides our feet into the path of peace. A path is a passage. It is a route or course by which a person passes or travels. The course should always be paved with peace. If peace does not pave the road, then it is not the road you should take.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isa 55:12)

You will be led forth in peace. If there is no peace, then you are not led by God. Peace is the fruit of the Spirit meant to guide you. Every fruit of the Spirit has a benefit attached to it. For example, the benefit of love is the fact you get along with people. The benefit of joy is it removes depression. The fruit patience is it enables you to inherit the promises of God when they are delayed. Every fruit of the Spirit has a purpose God designed for it. The purpose of peace was to guide and lead you.

who led them through the depths? Like a horse in open country, they did not stumble; like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name. (Isa 63:13-14)

Isaiah clearly tells us how you [God] guided your people. How did He guide them? He guided them when they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. Rest is another word for peace. This is the method God used to guide His people. God uses this method for today.

Have you ever needed to make a decision, and you feel pressured in a certain direction, yet deep down in your heart you donít have peace? Kenneth Hagin calls it taking a shower with your socks on. You know something is wrong, but it is not obvious. I like to call it a "red light" inside of me. No one else can see the red light but me. I just donít feel good about doing this. All the mistakes I have ever made were a result of me not listening and obeying the red light.

At the same time, you may simply feel good about going a certain direction when nobody else agrees. I call it the "green light." You have the green light when nobody thinks you should go that direction. You need to follow the signal God gives you. The signal is peace or, sometimes, the lack of it. No matter what decision you need to make, let peace make the decision for you. Peace is the voice of the Holy Spirit.

We use another word to describe this peaceówe sometimes call it intuition. Intuition is the gut feeling that something is right or wrong. Intuition has to do with a premonition about the future. Remember Jesus said the Holy Spirit would tell you what is yet to come. When He tells you what is yet to come, you interpret it as intuition. Intuition has nothing to do with the mind. The mind makes decision based on "fact", not on "feelings." The feelings we are describing are the not physical feelings but deep spiritual feelings.

Iím sure you have felt this. You just know-that-you-know something is true or false. This is often the Holy Spirit.

Like in any matter related to God, Satan will bring the counterfeit. Intuition can also be the voice of your emotions. As James Dobson has said, "You canít trust your emotions." Right after he had graduated with a Doctorís degree in Psychology, during a state of euphoria, he heard a clear voice: "Your father is going to die." He was sure God was speaking to him. Later, after many years, he learned this voice was his emotions. His father died all rightóten years later!

Not every premonition you get is the voice of the Spirit. It could be your emotions.

In the next lesson we will talk about how Satan will try to use your emotions to confuse you concerning Godís will.

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