Is the Voice of God being Heard?
There are ultimately only two voices in the world – the voice of truth and the voice of the lie. We can trace the origin of the great divide back to the Garden of Eden. God is the God of truth and communicated Himself through His Word. The Word created all things, including man in the divine image. Man lived by the Word that proceeds from God (Deut. 8:4). The Voice of God was heard in His command to man (Gen. 2:16). The voice of the lie was introduced by Satan: “Yea, hath God said?” and, “Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:1,4). It was the serpent’s word against God’s, and our first parents believed the lie of Satan. The divine image was lost and when the Voice came to them after the Fall they hid themselves, for their foolish acceptance of the lie was exposed (Gen. 3:8).
And so began the age-long battle between the truth and the lie. God made known his truth throughout the period of the Old Testament. The Word, who spoke through the prophets (Heb. 1:1), became incarnate. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The incarnate Son of God was tested in His confrontation with Satan, the originator of the lie: “he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44). This battle took place not in a garden but in a wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11). The lie was spoken three times and was countered each time by the written Word and especially by the truth that “man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”. What was true for Christ in his human nature is true for the life of everyone who is united to Christ.
1) The voice of God must be heard in our Christian life
Scripture is the living Word of the living God. We are reminded by John Calvin that, “the Scriptures obtain full authority among believers only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven, as if there the living words of God were heard” (Institutes I:vii:1). The Word of God radiates with the glory of God. Abraham Kuyper shows what happens in the the experience of the Christian: “The veil is gradually pushed aside. The eye turns to the divine light that radiates from the Scripture, and now our inner ego sees the imposing superiority. We see it as one born blind, who being healed, sees the beauty of colours, or as one deaf, whose hearing being restored, catches the melodies from the world of sounds and with his whole soul delights in them.” (Quoted in From the Mouth of God by Sinclair Ferguson, Banner of Truth, 2014, p.52).
The Christian has the complete and final revelation of God in the Bible. This is what conveys the knowledge of God to us and also what conforms us to the image of God (2 Cor. 3:18). It is what counters the lie of Satan in our experience. Scripture is “the Spirit’s sword” (Eph. 6:17), a weapon put into the hand of the Christian. We have the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Sinclair Ferguson writes: “The Spirit uses the Bible to retake what has been enemy occupied territory in our lives, and then to sow the seeds of new fruits in our character. Through it he cuts down offending characteristics in his people and puts to the sword any remaining remnants of opposition to God’s kingdom.” (From the Mouth of God, p.153).
2) The voice of God must be heard in our churches
The New Testament Epistles were addressed mainly to churches. The infallible message was conveyed to them through the chosen apostles. The words came directly from God. Further words were addressed to the Seven Churches of Asia in the book of Revelation, chapters 2 & 3, with an application for all time: “He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches”. Are we hearing that voice in the Church today? There are factors that appear to mute it.
i. We are losing the Biblical concept of the ministry. The minister is a man called and anointed by God, with an authoritative message. He is “God’s trumpeter”. His primary responsibility is faithfulness to God’s Word. Many denominations are obsessed with gender balance and appoint women ministers. In other churches we are seeing a proliferation of ministries – associate ministers, mission directors, church plant officers, community workers, youth organisers, etc. Where is the New Testament order in all this? A common view today is that you need special training and techniques to speak to different age groups, especially the young. Sermons tend to be topical and the connecting point with the audience could well be a movie, a pop song or a sportsman. The man proclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord”, seems to be disappearing.
ii. There is too much time given to trying to defend the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Do we need to answer every critic that expresses a view about Scripture? There is too much emphasis on the Word being defended instead of letting it loose. Spurgeon said that we might as well think of defending a roaring lion. “The Bible”, he said, “has passed through the fire of persecution, literary criticism, philosophical doubt, scientific discovery and has lost nothing.” John Calvin put it like this: “Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as white and black things do of their colour, or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.” (Institutes I:vii:2)
iii. We have almost lost sight of the concept of truth carrying with it confrontation. When the Church is backslidden and worldly and plagued with error, the man of God is called to expose the falsehood. Satan is bent on silencing such voices. At this time there is an urgent need “to root out, and to pull down and to destroy” (Jer. 1:10). Where are the ministries today that are grappling with the real ills of the Church? How can the voice of God be heard when error goes unchallenged and abominable practices are condoned? In regular ministry pastors who do not preach for conviction of sin are fighting against the Holy Spirit, who has come to convict the world of sin (John 16:8-9). We can talk about and pray for revival, but what about the ongoing disobedience to the Word of God?
3) The voice of God must be heard in our nation
If there is one thing that Satan hates it is the Word of God, because it is the revelation of the Truth. In propagating the lie, his strategy is to cast doubt upon the Scriptures. Through the subtlety of Satan working inside the Church, created to be “the pillar and ground of the truth”, our country has lost its hold of the Bible. (See I H Murray, ‘How Scotland Lost Its Hold of the Bible,’ Banner of Truth Magazine, Aug-Sept 2015). In evidence of divine judgment there is the prospect of the withdrawal of that blessing, which has been despised. A similar thing happened to Israel in the days of Amos: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord and shall not find it.” (Amos 8:11-12)
In such an event the vacuum does not remain unfilled. The cults press in eagerly to fill it, as we see from the references in verse 14 of chapter 8 to Samaria, Dan and Beersheba. The truth of God is our only fence against error. We are warned of what happens when the fence comes down (Isa. 5:5; Psalm 80:12-13) The people who would not hear the Word of God are left to taste the poor fare of man-made religion. We see the aimless helplessness of man without the revealed truth of God to hold him steady and still: “they shall wander from sea to sea”. Man lives by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. If this food is withdrawn, there is no other way of satisfaction or security. “In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst” (Amos 8:13). In the famine of the Word of God Amos saw the young as being the sufferers. They are fainting for spiritual food but it was the earlier generation that deprived them of the possibility of finding it. What a thought!
What are we doing with the inspired, infallible, and all-sufficient Word of God?