BUFF SCOTT, JR.
[Differentiating between our own inner urgings
and the voice of God]
In conversation with another believer the other day, he informed me that he had been receiving messages from God. When I inquired about the form of those messages, he said God had spoken to him audibly, as well as “laid strong words upon my heart.” What part of his “encounters” can be ascribed to human emotions?”
Far be it from me to even attempt to “prove” that God is not conversing audibly with someone who claims He is. Since the very genesis of the human family, God has communicated directly with various ones at different times. In this age, however, “he has spoken to us by His son” [Heb. 1:2]
. Furthermore, during the formative years of the redeemed community, the Lord spoke to some of the early believers directly and through visions, such as Peter and Paul, or “moved” them in supernatural ways, such as Philip in Acts 8:39.
Supernatural gifts were abundant during the growing and shaping stages of the grace community. I think the question we should consider here is how often do we equate human emotions with God’s direct intervention. In my experiences with fellow believers, it is frequent.
When a believer permits human emotions to overwhelm him to the point he feels God is leading him in extraordinary ways, emotions have possibly become his master. A believer who has allowed his emotions to take control has, to a large measure, lost touch with areas of reality. God communicates with him on a personal level. He receives “revelations” that no one else has received. He treads his own personal path to God’s glory and to God’s storehouse of knowledge. Many of his “spiritual” decisions and verbalizations are extraordinarily unique. An “inner voice” seems to direct many if not most of his steps. That “inner voice” is interpreted as the “voice of God” or the “voice of the Holy Spirit.”
Such encounters places the recipient on a spiritual level higher than most of the prophets of old—even higher than the Twelve apostles, for his “revelations” are frequent and fresh. The emotion called “sensationalism” usually becomes part of his character.
Are emotions dependable? Emotions can be deceptive and misleading, and that is because they are part of our humanity. The issue is not whether God communicates with His children. He does. He always has—directly and verbally, often by His Spirit, other times in diverse ways. The real questions seem to be: Is God issuing new revelations to His children in this current era? Does He have prophets today who receive divine messages that are to be delivered to their intended recipients?
If “yes” to the above, what about the so-called “Twelve Apostles”
of the Mormon Church who claim a continuation of divine revelations from God? Or popes who claim to have personal access to divine intervention? Centuries ago, a pope decreed—as though from God—that Catholic priests were to remain celibate. And this in spite of what the Holy Spirit says, “For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” [1 Cor. 7:9]
. Are these “revelations” valid? No, the reason being they collide with or contradict heaven’s testimony.
Today, in this spiritually enlightened age, God continues to reveal Himself. He has not shut Himself off from His creation. I see God revealing Himself in at least three ways: 1] Through His Son and the written testimony [Heb. 1:2].
2] Through the Holy Spirit who personally indwells each of His children [John 14:17].
3] Through the things He has made [Rom. 1:20].
Those who sincerely rely upon emotions for guidance, and who claim to be personally contacted by God or by His Holy Spirit are, in all probability, being swayed by their own “inner voice”—a voice that denotes some deep need and is crying out for gratification.
Let it be understood that emotions play a role in everything we do in life. Without them we would be mere robots. Emotions alone must not be considered reliable evidence of divine revelations or celestial interventions, however. Heaven’s testimony—particularly the Son’s teachings and the Spirit’s “nudges”—must rank first and foremost. If there’s a clash between them, heaven’s testimony and the Spirit’s urgings must be permitted to outweigh emotions.
While emotions do play a role in one’s conversion and in one’s walk with the Lord, it would be unwise to rely more upon the arousal of emotions than faith. I believe the message of salvation should appeal basically to one’s intellect or perception, although emotions do play a role.
Perhaps I can explain this in a brighter light by giving you an example. A few years ago, a friend of mine was overwhelmed with emotions after listening to a professional orator speak on the merits of salvation. Following the message, he wept uncontrollably. Those around him were convinced he had experienced genuine conversion. As it turned out, his experience was superficial. It had no root. His emotions outweighed his faith.
If this fellow’s “conversion” had been rooted in authentic faith, he might have developed a strong, viable walk with the Lord. But his “conversion” was short-lived. Once he got over being emotionally charged, he was right back in his old lifestyle. And as far as I know, the gap between him and the Lord is as wide today as it was back then.
Let me put it another way. Outward appearances in the form of emotions do not guarantee conversion. Faith that is grounded in strong conviction or persuasion can be a surety of conversion
. A person whose faith is rooted in Jesus has God in his heart. A person whose “faith” is based only on the way he feels does not necessarily have God in his heart. Real faith finds its source in heaven’s testimony and consistent logic. It is not altogether based upon the way one feels. Emotions can be deceptive, and often are. They are not always reliable.
I marvel at and am discouraged with some of the TV “evangelists” who work their audiences up emotionally. They prod them into shouting, weeping, and crying out in despair for the Lord to operate upon their hearts in some special way. In conjunction with this, think of God’s plea, “Be still, and know that I am God” [Ps. 46:10]
God seems to be inviting us to quiet down and reflect upon who and what He is. Only then are we able to make rational decisions. Irrational decisions usually stem from emotions and whimsical impulses. So let us be still and meditate upon the Lord! This is equally and especially true of the unregenerate who are seeking His face.