As believers, we must be very careful when someone claims to speak on behalf of Jesus Christ. We are called to “test everything” and “hold fast to what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21). The “everything” about which Paul is writing includes every form of Bible study and preaching you hear or read.
A theme has swept across Christianity in recent years. It has taken hold of pulpits, books, Bible studies, and conversations between Christians. It is the theme that Jesus or the Spirit has spoken a special word to certain authors or pastors or conference speakers. I am not attempting to disagree with special revelation from God, if it agrees with Scripture, and is held under the authority of Scripture. However, many of the leaders of this movement hold a low view of Scripture, in that they would rather meditate on what they have heard from a still, small voice than the written Word of God.
We are depraved sinners, obviously. And we tend to mess things up. So who’s to say that we won’t mess up an interpretation of a direct revelation of God? If we, who are unfaithful, attempt to hold a subconscious thought at the same level of Scripture, declaring it to be from God, misinterpret this message, we are in sin. God has given us all the revelation we need from His inerrant and authoritative Word. We must neither add to nor take away from the Scriptures. When someone claims they have a “word from the Lord,” or claims to write from the first-person voice of Jesus, we must be very careful. We must examine these words. Again, I am not saying that God does not speak to people. I wholeheartedly believe that He is actively moving in His people and speaks to us. But His words are never to be contradictory with what He has already revealed through Scripture.
Very popular books that have been published by very popular publishers and carried by very popular Christian bookstores do this very thing. One book in particular claims the author began listening for the voice of God directly rather than the voice of God in the Bible. This author was claiming, indirectly, that the Word of God in Scripture is insufficient for study and personal devotion, and we must, instead, rely on personal revelation. These “revelations,” or “messages from God,” are often short and vague, and extremely positive in nature.
Why do these types of books and studies and sermons exist?
We have made ourselves immune to the very content of the Word of God. We are not prepared to hear the very Words of God, so we must fabricate thoughts in our heads into the Words of God. We are not fully ready to accept the hard things that Scripture has to say. We would rather hear a fabricated kernel of positivity rather than the inspired Word of God. And this is rampant.
Rather than read the actual words of Jesus and ask the Holy Spirit to cut our hearts in order to apply his TRUE words to our lives, we depend on well-known authors and pastors to meditate with their journals open and wait for God to move their pens, so that we may hear their revelations.
You must now see the problem with this…
During his life, Jesus said and taught and did enough. In his letters, Paul wrote enough. Through the mouths of the prophets, God spoke enough. Scripture is enough.
We do not have to sit and listen for more. We have enough in the Word of God. If you want to hear from God, open the Bible and read His words. They are accessible to you. You don’t have to go through some other person who has a strange meditative experience. Meditate on His words, rather than theirs. You yourself can hear the word of God everyday. You can read of his saving power and his work throughout history all the time. You can read sermons preached by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Stephen in the Word of God. You can learn the great truths of Scripture that God wants you to know. How will you learn and interpret all of this through a person claiming to hear other things from God?
We have all that we need in terms of “words from the Lord” in the canonized Scripture. And when we claim to hear the real words of God, they better be Scripture. To imply that God can add to his words or give a certain someone a “special word” is sin. When we claim to hear truths from God, and they can be found nowhere in the Scripture, we are making God a liar. And that is not possible. We have made a mockery of Christianity and the revealed Word of God. In those instances, we must repent, and go back to the Bible. Any teaching, writing, or studying you do must be tested in the Word of God. If cannot pass the test of the Word of God, it should be thrown out and repented of.
In all times, we must turn to the Bible. There really is no excuse to withdraw from it. The Bible is our source of the overflowing well of teaching and exhortation from the founder of the faith. Stay faithful to the Word. Test others in the Word. It may not be popular. We may hurt sometimes when we read the Bible. We may come away challenged and seeing our true sinful selves. And we don’t like that. But it is necessary. If we pick and choose what the Bible says, then we are picking and choosing how much we believe about God anyway.
So stay careful. Stay in the Word. Don’t leave it. It has all you need for study and reading.