God communicates with his people. In Scripture this communication is depicted as the voice of God, meaning, he speaks to us. To know and hear his voice is critical to living a kingdom focused life. Even more, spiritual leadership is impossible without the certainty and clarity of his guidance. In our multiphasic world, fast and loud as it is, keeping this connection is essential. We cannot function apart from his voice.
Scripture affirms that God has spoken to his people in various ways. The writer of Hebrews opened his argument about the new covenant with a reminder of the many ways God had spoken in the past and the way he speaks to us "...in these last days...", meaning from the New Testament and Apostolic era until the coming of the Kingdom.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the
prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...
Hebrews 1:1-2, ESV
It's a big topic, how God speaks to his people. In this context I cannot cover the many Bible references necessary for a exhaustive account of such an important subject. There are hundreds of web sites and teaching pages that provide detailed analysis of the ways God has spoken in history. In my opinion, the most useful concise study is found in Units 5 and 6 of Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God authored by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King (B & H Books, revised 2008). This important work has stood the test of time and provides keen analysis of the many texts that define the voice of God.
In short, God speaks to all humans in general revelation, "The heavens declare the glory of God..." (Psalm 19:1), a central theme of this Psalm. Once again in summary, God speaks to his people through Jesus Christ is several specific ways---
1. Through the Holy Spirit, the counselor Jesus sent to guide us.
2. Through the church, his body and presence in these days, including the way he
speaks through the other people in our faith lives.
3. His word, which is eternal and is about him from cover to cover.
4. Through our personal communion with him, especially in prayer.
5. Through our daily circumstances, since he lives in us and guides us.
There are many variations of these five ways and we could launch in many directions to amplify them and bring clarity to so many of the parallel Scripture passages. But, that's not my aim today. Let's just agree that God speaks in many ways. Jesus Christ is the central theme of them all.
Knowing that God speaks, how can we understand the dysfunction and disunity of Christendom worldwide? Is God sending mixed messages? Is he telling one segment of the Body of Christ one thing and providing a totally different communication to another?
Of course the answer is "no". If his word is what we affirm in our theological statements then we know there's no error in it and we can't lay any transmission breakdowns on him. One of the things I love about the Blackaby/King study is the Scriptural annotation of two important truths of his speaking to his people---
1. When God spoke in history, they always knew it was him.
2. When God spoke in history they always knew what he said.
These two qualifiers translate into something important: if there is a communication problem with hearing and discerning God's voice, it is with us. In some ways the connection between God and his people has been hindered. What is happening here?
Several thoughts come to mind---
1. Our traditions encourage us to discount what he is saying.
2. Preoccupation and busyness distracts us from hearing what he is saying.
3. Pleasing the voices of the culture is more important than listening to him.
4. Attachment and affiliation with Christ's body is trending downward.
5. Devotional communion with Christ is crowded out by poor priorities.
The other day I was talking to a pastor about conflict in the church he was leading. As we labored through all the details of their trouble I asked, "What is God saying to you about it?" He said he didn't know, that they were so occupied with putting out fires there hadn't been an exploration of his voice in the process. They had gotten opinions from the church leadership, had consulted a mediator, had conducted surveys of the congregation, held numerous meetings, and sought the advice of several others, including me. In the heat of the hour they had not taken the time to find out what God was saying to them. No wonder they were stymied and frustrated!
Of course, God is not obligated to tell us anything. That he in fact does speak to us doesn't mean that he will. That is his prerogative. But, God made a promise to Jeremiah that provides the condition to his speaking to us.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:13, ESV
Multiphasic believers, churches, and spiritual leaders must come to him with whole and contrite hearts. To do so means stepping aside regularly for his guidance.
Jesus is central. He said,
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
John 10:27, ESV
He's the connection.