All of us have heard spectacular stories of people who had a spiritual experience that totally changed their life. The story of Virginia Lively is a good example: Virginia had an experience where she wept uncontrollably for four days and nights. Then she saw a white light, and in the light was a face with eyes that looked deep within her and loved her and forgave her. She understood this to be Jesus. This went on for three months. Then the face began to fade, but told her that he would always be with her. She asked how, and she was told she would be able to see him. Several years later while speaking to a group, Virginia saw the eyes of Jesus looking at her again, only this time it was through a woman in the second row. Then, as she was trying to process this, she suddenly saw his eyes looking into hers from everyone in the room.
That’s an incredible story. Did it really happen that way? I have no idea, but that is a question we always need to ask when we hear about the supernatural, because Satan likes to dress as an angel of light. On the other hand, the reason Satan disguises himself like that is because God has shown himself that way to people in the past. The Bible mentions several ways God has communicated with people throughout history:
- One way God has spoken to humankind is through angels. There are many examples, including the bookends of Jesus’s life. We find angels proclaiming God’s message at both the manger and the tomb. The Book of Hebrews suggests that some of us have personally talked with angels, though unaware of it.
- Another way God has communicated with us is through dreams and visions. Jacob dreamed a stairway to heaven and Paul had a vision of a Macedonian inviting him to come minister in Greece. Perhaps the most well known are those recorded in the Book of Revelation, a wonderful and terrifying series of visions describing the end of the old world and the creation of a new earth.
- Still another way God has spoken to us is by means of an audible voice. God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the afternoons, and He spoke to Moses from a burning bush, to Jesus at his baptism, and to Saul while on the road to Damascus.
An audible voice, dreams, visions, and angels–God has used these forms of communication throughout history. Yet I have never once heard even one word from God by any of those means! What is wrong with me? Well, we don’t have time to answer that question here, but I know I’m not alone in this. Most of us have never been aware of God sending us messages via angels or visions or talking bushes or voices from heaven.
So are we deprived of God’s voice speaking to us today? No, thank God. Otherwise millions would never hear about Christ Jesus. The good news is that while few of us visit with angels or hear from God via bushes or visions, we all get to hear God in two ways that are much better: He speaks to us through other people, and He speaks directly to our spirit with his Spirit.
The first way is, by far, God’s favorite way to communicate with us: he loves to speak to us is through one another. The Holy Spirit uses the personality, vocabulary, passion, etc. of whomever He indwells to share the message of Christ. This is how we got the Bible. In the first chapter of 2 Peter we learn that “holy men spoke as they were carried along by the Spirit.”
Why is this God’s favorite way to communicate with us? Well, think about what God wants to see happen–He wants us to join him as friends and co-laborers in the kingdom of heaven. Given His goal is an ever deepening relationship with us, it makes perfect sense that His primary form of communication with us would be intimate and personal.
God’s favorite way of speaking externally to us is through others, but he is also fond of communicating internally with us in what 1 Kings 19 describes as “a still small voice.” What is this still small voice? It is our own human spirit reflecting the Spirit of God. We read in Proverbs 20:27 that, “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being.”
The word translated “spirit” in this verse is the Hebrew word, neshamah, which literally means “breath.” The neshamah is that inner spiritual part of human life that makes us into spiritual beings with moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities. This spiritual nature includes the capacity to know and please God. It serves as the functioning conscience (the metaphor of the lamp). The point is further developed in the second part of the verse: this searching makes it possible for people to come to know themselves. God’s lamp will reveal everything about us–the innermost parts of our being.
As we grow in grace, God’s laws increasingly form the foundation of our lives; His loves become our loves, his faith our faith, and we get what the Apostle Paul called “the mind of Christ” (prayerfully read 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 for God’s perspective on this).
Through the Holy Spirit, believers can begin to know God’s thoughts about things, talk with Him, and expect answers to their prayers! What is that still small voice telling you to do these days?