Knowing God. Walking with God. Experiencing God. Phrases that seem to delight some believers and frighten others. Some just can't get past the subjective element of experiential Christianity. It seems to be a prescription for disaster. An opportunity for everyone to do what is right in their own eyes. They're right.
Christianity is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Therein lies the rub. The very subjective, spiritual aspect of this relationship leaves room for all kinds of nuttiness. People use "I heard from God' as an excuse or manipulative device all too often.
Nevertheless, man's infallibility doesn't change the truth of God's Word. The Bible testifies, from Genesis to Revelation, of a God who is living and active and working in His people. We find no place where the Bible says that this kind of supernatural interaction was to have stopped. The first calling for the believer is to know the Lord. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). In John 14:26, Jesus said, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." The voice of the Holy Spirit is a speaking, active voice. When we don't hear or hear amiss, the fault lies with us, never with the Lord or with the Word of God, for that matter.
We can, and should, test what we hear against the Word of God. That is the standard and the source of doctrine. I absolutely believe that every Christian can hear the voice of God but what we hear, or think we hear, will never establish doctrine.
Relationship is tougher than religion. Religion requires the keeping of some rules or duties that we can check off, somehow thinking we have done the will of God. Relationship, by its very nature, is nebulous. You have to pursue it. God is a spirit and those who worship him must worship in "spirit and in truth", as Jesus told the woman at the well in the 4th chapter of John. It might be easier to have a cut and dried belief system that revolves around church attendance and a few good deeds but that kind of Christianity will never be as transformative and rewarding as fellowship with the God of the universe.
Does God speak to us? The Bible says he does. My experience says he does too. Do I hear His voice with 100% accuracy? Absolutely not. Paul said that we know in part and prophecy in part. New Testament prophecy is simply sharing what God is saying -- hearing His voice and relating it to people. The fact that we don't hear perfectly should not discourage us from the fact that we can hear His voice.
The Lord really opens doors when we dare to listen and respond. I was praying for a young man who didn't want to tell me what his problem was, when the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, "Ask him about his alcohol problem." At that moment I had a choice -- do what I felt the Spirit was saying and risk looking foolish or ignore the Spirit and miss an opportunity. I stepped out and it led to an encounter that changed his life. Recently I was driving behind a building and the Holy Spirit said to stop as I neared the end of the building at a blind corner. I didn't have to -- there was a stop sign for people coming around the other side of the building. I had the right of way. Just as I stopped a car came flying through the stop sign at the corner of the building -- right where I would have been.
On the day after Thanksgiving my oldest son asked if he could borrow my car. As he did that same voice spoke to me and said, "He's going to have an accident." This time I ignored the voice. Two minutes later he came running back into the house to get me. I knew why. He hadn't gotten fifty yards from the house. He's usually a very careful driver but that morning he decided to press ahead with fogged windows right into the sun coming up over the road and right in his eyes. He was blinded, took the turn short and took out a minivan. I was kicking myself, not him.
I've actually learned to hear God's voice through the misses as well as the hits. My son's wreck was an aggravation and encouragement at the same time.
We serve a wonderful God who loves and cares for us. He is active and working and speaking to His people. Jesus died for so much more than to make us good or religious. We can know and walk with Him today in a real life love relationship. Don't miss the opportunity that each of us have in Christ. God is no respecter of persons. He'll speak to you if you will only begin to listen.