Someone claims to have received a personal message directly from God, either audibly or through his or her thoughts. How do you react to this?
Just such a scenario occurred for me last night, when a good friend of mine claimed to have received a prompting from God to avoid a certain entertainment title. I immediately asked him whether he often experiences such communications from the Divine. He replied, "Of course! Don't you?" I answered with an honest no. In fact, I have never received a message from God in this manner. But these days, everyone seems to be a prophet. I have met countless individuals who claim new revelations from the Ruler of the Universe on a daily and hourly basis.
In fact, this seems to have become something of a spiritual vogue among evangelicals. It has crept into our conversation and vocabulary to such a degree, that you commonly hear Christians repeat entire conversations with God which take place inside their heads. The phrases "I heard God say," "God told me," and worst of all, "God wants you to know," regularly crop up in exchanges between believers.
But I think the question deserves asking: Does God really speak to us like this?
Let me be clear that I believe in personal communications from God. In fact, I experience them every time I open the Scriptures. This makes sense to me, since the Bible is the means by which God thoroughly equips His servants for "every good work" (2 Timothy 3:17). In addition, God the Holy Spirit clearly speaks to His elect (both regenerate and unregenerate) alongside His inspired Scripture, opening our hearts and applying each passage to our lives. (See Acts 8).
But does God communicate to individual believers independently of Scripture? The weight of evidence and experience leads me to question deeply, and essentially reject this idea.
Later this week, I will offer a few of the many reasons why this conclusion seems sound.