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Getting a revelation from God

Yesterday I wrote a blog describing how a year and a half ago, God spoke to me about his heart for the orphans and my responsibility to help care for them. It was deeply personal and convicting. Seven people responded to the blog and together, maybe we can help a few orphans. For those who re…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Yesterday I wrote a blog
describing how a year and a half ago, God spoke to me about his heart for the
orphans and my responsibility to help care for them. It was deeply personal and convicting. Seven people responded to the blog and together, maybe we can help a few orphans. For those who responded, let me tell you how much it meant to me – thank you.

There is a big difference between
reading James 1:27, which declares that true religion is “to look after orphans and
widows in their distress” and being told that you need to invite them onto your
front porch and into your kitchen. It’s the difference between words written on paper and something convicting and powerful written on one’s heart.

One of the primary differences
between the Christian faith and other faiths is that we believe in a personal
God who speaks to us. Jesus repeatedly
tells us that his sheep “listen to his voice.”
The book of Hebrews begins by saying, “In the past God spoke to our
forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.”

God has always been interested in
talking to us and us listening to him.
He uses a lot of different means – at various times, he has creatively used a chicken, a donkey, and a bush to convey his words to people. And he speaks universally to us thru his Son. The book of Hebrews goes on to reiterate multiple times that we should
listen to his voice. The question is not if he is continuing to speak to us in a variety of ways today, but whether we will listen to his revelation.

There is a group of Christians
who don’t believe this. They are called “cessationists.” They say that God only speaks thru the Bible, using 1 Corinthians 13 to justify this.
They say that revelation ceased around 100 A.D. when the last book of the Bible was written. They would have me look at
James 1:27 and realize that I need to do something about orphans. The fact is – I didn’t. I needed a personal revelation about how he
feels and about my responsibility in order to get my butt in gear.

I was brought up as a cessationist. I had never heard God speak to me in a personal way, and although my mom had been miraculously healed of cancer, I didn’t get it.

I didn’t realize it, but my stance made reading the Bible an abstract
exercise that left my Daytimer and my checkbook intact. If God
no longer spoke, I didn’t have a responsibility to listen to his voice.

Maybe this blog is coming across stronger than I intend – if so, it’s because cessationism gave me a milquetoast faith – I never really had to risk anything since God couldn’t personally challenge me about the way I was applying Scripture. Jesus dealt with
people who believed that sort of thing harshly in his day, but I couldn’t see that he needed to do the same with me. My life was marked by an absence of power. I was generally unaware of the powerful way that God is moving around the world to use miracles to grow his church.

Since then, God took the blinders off and my life is so different! If somebody could have taken me to Mozambique, I’d have gone from being a doubting Thomas to being a believer. If I could only have met those who’ve been raised from the dead or had their blind eyes opened. Instead, he spoke intimately and tenderly about his love for me, a hard-headed knucklehead. And at that point my theology had to change.

If you struggle as I did, maybe your path to hearing his voice will be different. This much I know, if you get involved in missions and see the gospel advance, you can’t help but acknowledge that God is still in the miracle-working business. Doubters have been discounting Jesus’ power ever since he walked the earth. Jesus addressed people who are heavy on doctrine but have no power in Mark 12:24, saying: “Are you
not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?”

For most of my life, I couldn’t hear from God, knew nothing experientially of his power, and misinterpreted the Scriptures. Maybe others of you have had that experience.

More of us need to listen for God’s
voice and learn about his power. His
general revelation thru the Bible stands intact – nothing needs to be added to it. But we need a lot of help in applying it. How sad for us if we fail to listen
to his voice. He wants to speak to us
about his heart – his heart for the widow and the orphan, and his heart for us.

*If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, a book that really helped me was Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere. If you want to learn to listen for God’s voice, check out my book, The Art of Listening Prayer.

Comments (13)

  • You are so right on. Praying that the Lord will use my weakness in mighty ways for the kid in Him kingdom. Hearing His voice always requires movement…

  • yes, yes, yes! nothing added, just hearing his word in a new way…a way that truly impacts us at a heart level. i love this blog seth. thanks for always pushing us to hear and know him.

  • Thanks Goddard for your veneration for God’s Holy Word. I agree with your respect for the Bible. I think the point of the above blog is this statement: “More of us need to listen for God’s voice and learn about his power. His general revelation thru the Bible stands intact – nothing needs to be added to it. But we need a lot of help in applying it.” I mean, what do you do with “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”? The Bible needs to be applied, not necessarily interpreted or dissected, but God’s word isn’t dead. It’s living and active, so how I apply it isn’t necessarily how you apply it. What’s important about God’s word is that when we hear the voice of the Lord, it is our measuring stick. God won’t tell us to do something that is un-biblical (i.e. “The Lord called me to leave my wife.”) But come on, the Bible isn’t God. It’s words about God. And given the choice between the two, I’d pick God.

  • Forgive me for my crassness the other day Seth I was in a bad space read your blog and lashed out.its not hearing GOD thats hard its being obedient.Sometimes I just want a break.Does GOD know even silly puddy breaks if you stretch it to far.The word says my sheep know my voice not my sheep know the word.Im in Mexico like to talk to you when I get home.Following HIM,

  • Thanks, Hugh. You’re a good man.

    If you’re hearing God, that’s awesome. Look at the progress you’ve made!

    Call me when you’re back.

  • Even though I’m a cessationist (as defined by you), I’m glad we’re on the same team!

    My questions…Can I also be as spiritual and know God as intimately as a non-cessationist?

    If I believe Scripture teaches that God performs miracles rarely (if at all) today, does that prevent me from believing that He speaks to me personally (not in an audible voice, but in my spirit) or isn’t active in this world?

    I read Jack Deere’s book when it first came out and was surprised by his comment that in the years of his Christian walk (before the Vineyard days), he said he never saw God at work. I have seen God at work almost everyday in my Christian life – even if I haven’t experienced signs and wonders.

    I have never spoken in tongues, cast out a demon, raised the dead or healed the sick, and don’t feel spiritually cheated, or sense that I need to do these things. And I believe I’m quite sensitive to the prompting of the Spirit.

    At times, I sense an overwhelming fullness of the Spirit in my life. I enjoy an emotionally satisfying relationship with God. How can this be if what your proposing is normative for everyone?

    If I were to go by what you say, I might conclude that I am missing something essential that God has for me, or that I am not responding to the voice of God in my life, and can’t possibly be doing all of His will for me – Yet I sense that I AM doing exactly what He wants me to do and AM making a significant difference in the world for Him. I LOVE being connected to Him!

    All this without believing that the miraculous gifts should be used by Christians today.

    My thought is that it’s better to measure the depth of our spiritually by the presence of the Fruit of the Spirit rather than by the presence of the gifts of the Spirit.

    Only spiritual people can possess spiritual fruit; even unspiritual people can possess spiritual gifts.

    Anyway, those are my musings on today’s blog – thanks for your WONDERFUL work with the mission – it is desperately needed! I SO appreciate your time, efforts and passion for God.

  • Our answer doesn’t have to be “either/or” it can be “both/and”. Jesus said we have to worship in Spirit and Truth. The reality is we need not only be in the Word to see what God has said but we also need to have an ear to hear what God is saying.

    Jesus quoted Deuteronomy in Matthew 4:4 “man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. The word here is Rhema – what God is saying right now.

    I teach people they need to be in the scriptures (grapha) to read what God has said (logos) in order to hear what God is saying (rhema).

    I hate arguments of this source – guys there is a middle ground. Remember we all only know in part and prophecy in part.

  • God revealed Himself to us incredibly through our obedience to James 1:27 several years ago. And what an incredible blessing and adventure it has been, growing from a family of 4 to a family of 7. He continues to pull us and lead us that the field that still needs workers and that this first step was only the beginning. So hold on for what God has before you, when you take that step. Count it all as blessing, as you will never feel more blessed as you follow His leading in caring for these (orphans and widows). Rob’s last day at FOTF was last week, God has opened the doors at Compassion for him to be on the front lines of caring for these children, God’s precious ones. We are praying for how God is revealing Himself to you. Be still and know…

    Tresa (and Rob too!)

  • My belief is that if every believer only needed scripture to receive revelation, then God would not need to speak. However, He knows us and our limited understanding. Moreover, for those who rely solely upon God’s written word the prevalent thought pattern is to actually rely upon another’s interpretations of what the scripture says (pastor, theologian) and never allow the World of God to become personal. It is the combination of that personal, living relationship with a personable, loving God coupled with the written Word of God that allows His Holy Spirit to impart the wisdom and truth of the scripture through revelation of what we read and study.

    I do see how some interpreted your comment about “if God no longer speaks outside the Bible”. We absolutely do have in Scripture what God has instructed us to do. James 1:27 is a prime case in point. But I would ask those what they have personally done with that commandment. I would suspect that as one sits and ponders it, maybe writes a check to Feed the Children, and checks it off a list. But it hasn’t become personal and it hasn’t really cost them much of anything. If we are to follow Christ as He intended, it costs us everything, especially our settled view of God.

    His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.

  • The Bible is God’s word. The Spirit’s Sword; It is living and active. (Heb 4:12)It is not just words written on paper. It was written to produce faith. (John 20:30-31;Romans 10:17) Who “absolves themselves from a lot of responsibility for applying the Bible to their lives”; 1)the one who gets busy and is “diligent to present themselves approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth”(2 Tim 2:15), or 2) the one who must wait for a “personal revelation”, separate and apart from the word of truth, before they can faithfully obey what God already revealed 2000 yrs ago?
    If one can’t “hear” God or “feel” His power through the Bible, whose fault is that? “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”(Luke 16:31) Think about the following statement made in the blog above: “If God no longer speaks outside the Bible, we bear no responsibility to listen to his voice.” Could a more belittling statement be made of God’s holy book? Who can believe it?

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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