“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)
This is arguably the most significant announcement ever made by God to man. For thousands of years God’s people had been looking and waiting for the promised Messiah. The religious elite had pored over the ancient manuscripts and studied every word uttered by the prophets in hopes of ascertaining some clue, some key that might give them more specific insight as to when, where, and how this “Promised One” might appear.
It’s hard to imagine the surprise and even contempt that the religious leaders must have felt towards a group of shepherds out on a nighttime hillside, tending their flocks and now suddenly proclaiming that an angel of the Lord appeared to them and said, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Then, as if this wasn’t enough, there was yet the, “But wait, there’s more” moment! Not only an angel (singular) of the Lord had visited the shepherds but an entire heavenly host lit up the sky over their campfire and shone, proclaimed, and perhaps sang the glory of God! We know from scripture that the shepherds talked among themselves and decided they must go and see and go and tell.
“Let us go straight to Bethlehem then and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. And they came in haste and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in a manger. And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” (Luke 2:15-17)
It must have been an amazingly difficult thing for most, especially the religious leaders, to accept the fact that God had spoken, announced, decreed to anyone, let alone lowly shepherds, the arrival of the Messiah, the hope of Israel and the Savior of the World! Surely God wouldn’t speak to and through such as these. But He did!
This brings us to the question of the day. Does God still speak?
I believe the answer is yes, but let me carefully unpack my beliefs concerning this.
Have you ever had someone say to you, “God told me this or God told me that?” Or how about, “God told me to tell you…?”
Now, at the risk of offending some who use such terminology, oft times out of habit, not careful consideration, let me say this. Personally, I’ve never said, “God told me this or that.” I’ve also never said to someone, “God told me to tell you…”
I think this can be most presumptuous and oftentimes detrimental, if not hurtful to someone who may take to heart someone saying, “God told me…” When in fact, it was a personal opinion, a misguided attempt at being prophetic, or worst of all, a means to control or manipulate.
I have upon occasion asked those who say, “God told me,” if they actually heard an audible voice. Usually, the reply is something like this: “Well no, I didn’t actually hear an audible voice; it was more a prompting or a sensing.”
How we use words and phrases to communicate with others is so important. It can literally mean the difference between being helpful or harmful.
I’ve concluded that if everything people told me through the years was from God, as they said it was, then He is surely the most confused being in the universe!
Here’s what I believe: God speaks most clearly, specifically, and completely through His Word. God will never, and I mean NEVER speak a word that is contrary to or cannot be backed up, by the Word of God.
Having said that, let us consider some other ways His Word says that He speaks. “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) I am reminded of a line from Ralph Carmichael’s wonderful 1964 contemporary song, He’s Everything to Me: “In the stars His handiwork I see.”
On a side note: I have recently thought of trying to contact Ralph Carmichael to tell him what a huge contribution he made to Contemporary Christian music and how much I honor and respect him and his contributions musically. As I just referenced the previous lyrics from his song, I decided to look up information on him so I might contact him. I was surprised and saddened to see he had just passed on October 18th of this year. (When and if you feel a prompting to reach out to someone, do it! God speaks by His Holy Spirit in such ways.)
The Apostle Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (the unrighteous) are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)
That reminds me of a story told to me by a missionary to China, some years ago. The missionary said he was sitting on the deck of a boat cruising down a river in China, bible in hand and having a time of prayer and study. Next to him sat an elderly Chinese gentleman who at one point asked, “What is the book you read?” The missionary responded, “The Bible.” The Chinese gentleman asked, “What is Bible?” The missionary said, “The Bible is a book that tells us about God, His creation, His Son, and His love.” The Chinese gentleman replied, “So there is a God?” The missionary said, “Yes!” The Chinese gentleman replied, “I thought so!”
The man from China had never been to church, never heard a sermon about God, and didn’t even know what a Bible was. Yet…he believed there was a God. How?
“The heavens declare His glory!”
“In the stars His handiwork I see.”
To be sure, this is not salvation but it is God speaking, drawing, and perhaps convicting so that a hunger is created to know God and I believe such hunger will always be fed by one whom God appoints to share the gospel.
We know from the many reports of missionaries to Muslim countries, that so many who are coming to Christ have first been quickened in their spirits by a dream revealing Christ to them. That dream causes them to search out someone who can share the gospel. I had the privilege of talking to a young couple from Iran who attended a concert of mine a few years back. They videoed the entire concert so they could take it back to their family and friends so they might hear the gospel. When I asked how they came to faith in Christ, the young man replied in broken English, “Jesus appeared to me in a dream and from there I learned of the gospel.”
A dream. Do dreams have biblical support and precedent? One should not live their life on the basis of dreams and visions but God does use dreams and visions occasionally to speak.
There is so much to write on this topic but let me say this; the Holy Spirit who took up residence within us when we surrendered our lives to Christ and trusted by faith in His atoning sacrifice is neither dormant nor silent within us.
My pastor preaches wonderful, rich, biblically sound sermons but it is the Holy Spirit that gives life, power, meaning, and application to those anointed messages.
I’ve written many songs through the years that have blessed, enriched, and even led to the salvation of lives. Is that because I have a way with words and notes? Is it on the basis of talent? No, and may it never be! In fact, we know from scripture it’s not by might, power, talent, intellect, or any other thing of which we may boast. Scripture is emphatic. “It is by My Spirit, thus saith the Lord!” His Spirit is neither dormant nor silent.
So yes, God speaks.
God speaks through His Word. He speaks through that which He has created. He speaks by the prompting of His Spirit within us. He speaks through preachers, teachers, circumstances both difficult and uplifting and in many other ways perhaps too numerous to list.
But in any and every way He may choose to speak, the Word of God must always be the foundation, the compass, and the clear point of reference for any such communication of God to man.
I think God is always speaking. The question is, are we always listening?
I pray that you would seek to spend more time in His Word this coming year and desire to develop a greater sensitivity to the ways and means by which He might speak to us.
May we never wonder: “Does God Still Speak?”