Review - Guidance and the Voice of God
Guidance and the Voice of God is one of several books I have read that discusses the way God speaks to and guides His children. I initially turned to these books in response to the words I hear all around me in modern Christianity. People continually ask God to speak to us in circumstances and situations. Likewise, I am often asked how God spoke to me during a period of time or perhaps during a specific event. The terms people use would seem to indicate that many of them hear audibly from God on an ongoing basis and that such revelation from God is normative for the Christian life. Yet I have been a Christian for many years and have never knowingly received a “word from the Lord” and have never had a vision, dream or whispering that I can conclusively attribute to God. Is this a matter of theology or a matter of simply not listening?
Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne, authors of Guidance and the Voice of God believe that God has spoken to us fully and finally through the Bible and that this is the only way we should expect for Him to speak to us. They make five propositions about how God guides us:
- God, in His sovereignty, uses everything to guide us "behind the scenes."
- In many and varied ways, God can speak to his people, and guide them with their conscious cooperation.
- In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son.
- God speaks to us today by His Son through His Spirit in the Scriptures.
- Apart from His Spirit working through Scripture, God does not promise to use any other means to guide us, nor should we expect Him to.
While God has often used many supernatural means to speak to His people in former times, these are relegated to the past now that He has given us the Scriptures. While He is still capable of revealing Himself however He wishes, the way He has chosen to do so is by the Spirit working through the Scriptures. This argument is based primarily in the writings of Hebrews which provides ample support.
A good part of the book is dedicated to decision making, and the authors propose a three-fold means of determining what to do when “matters matter.” First, they speak of matters of righteousness. If the Scripture tells us explicitly what to do or what not to do, we should instantly and joyfully obey. This is a simple matter of obedience and we must realize that God will never ask us to disobey Him, for He is not the author of confusion. Second, there are matters of good judgment. When we have already determined that an action is not expressly forbidden, we may have to choose between two “right” options. The example they use is marriage - we are told that celibacy is honorable and that marriage is also part of God’s plan. So when it comes to the choice of whether or not to marry, we must evaluate ourselves, our sexual appetites and determine what the Bible tells us. These decisions rely on Biblical wisdom which can be gained only through diligently studying the Word. Finally, there are matters of triviality, which are minor matters that are not worth worrying about. Either do them or don’t, but do not concern yourself with them. Where some people become obsessed with trivialities, the authors encourage us to focus instead on the greater matters.
One important aspect of the authors’ argument involves the idea of God’s will for our lives. While many Christians today seem to believe that God has a specific plan for us that we may well miss out on if we make poor decisions, the authors show that this is not the case. God has mapped out our lives so that all our decisions will lead to the ultimate goal, which is becoming increasingly conformed to the image of Christ. We do not need to fear that one wrong decision will relegate us to a life of second best - to God’s backup plan for those who do not obey. In this view they teach that the Scripture is not to be treated like a map that will tell us when to turn left and when to turn right, but as a compass which will continually guide us in the direction of godliness.
The book concludes with three case studies which take the theory the authors have taught and seek to put it into practice. This is quite helpful as it makes the theoretical practical in at least a fictional setting.
I have a couple of concerns with the book. While the authors clearly state that other means of revelation, such as dreams, feelings, desires and external affirmations are not God's way of guiding us, they do not take a stance on what they might be. Are these Satan's ways of trying to lead us astray, or merely circumstances? I would have liked to have some teaching on what I have often heard referred to as “spiritual impressions.” Are we to interpret desires as coming from our own hearts, or does the Spirit begin to change our goals and desires as part of His guidance.
Guidance and the Voice of God is well-written and easy to understand, even for a young believer. The authors provide godly wisdom and what they share will surely allow many Christians to escape the snares inherent in thinking that we can miss out on God's will simply by laboring over decisions, but making wrong ones. I highly recommend this book which can be purchased through Matthias Media. In the same vein, I also recommend Decisions, Decisions by Dave Swavely.