"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God..." 1 john 4:1-6
Have you ever thought that you heard from God… and then you clearly missed the mark?
If you've tripped up a time or two like I have, then you know that when you do, it feels like you’ve walked forward in faith only to walk right off a cliff.
I hate those falls… they are long and painful.
When I hit the ground I usually lay there for a few days and wallow in self-pity. Each time I trip and fall it feels like it’s the most epic fail of all time.
My entire body hurts and I lay there in shock as I feel each broken bone throb while I cough up a mouthful of dirt.
Lying there, I sink deeper into the mud and I ask myself, “Was that God? Clearly, that wasn’t God…ugh, why did I even ask? What the heck just happened? What was I thinking? If that wasn’t God’s voice, then whose was it? Was it just my imagination?”
It’s a predicament we all face at some point or another because it's a little thing called sin.
If you’ve walked off cliffs like I have, know that you are not alone.
The struggle is real.
Sometimes God speaks to us incredibly clearly and other times He can feel incredibly distant…
So distant I find myself screaming, “PLEASE LORD! Send me a sign! Send me anything! Slap me in the face with a rubber chicken, run me over with a Wal-Mart truck, or strike me with lightning!”
JUST. SEND. ME. SOMETHING!
When we aren’t sure what He is saying it’s easy to feel lost, confused, and anxious about what we are supposed to do.
Since all of us face this challenge, how can we know when it IS God’s voice? How can we know the difference between the Holy Spirit and the sneaky voice of the enemy?
Over the years, He has taught me three solid ways to discern His voice from all the other voices around me.
Before I share these three things, I’d like to share a story He used in my life to teach me these things.
Two years before I met Jesus, I met my husband Jeff. When we first met we were “spiritual” (meaning we didn’t follow any particular god…except maybe ourselves...ok, I admit it, we were our own gods, self-idolatry anyone?).
During the first year of getting to know each other, I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a painful autoimmune disease that causes infertility.
I was devastated after hearing this news because I’ve always wanted kids.
After digesting this information, I finally decided that given my condition, having kids was more important than getting married.
Yep…I made the super *wise* decision to start trying to have children without being married.
In fact, during this time, I even believed that “God” (the god in my head because I didn’t know Jesus yet) was asking me to do this (head hits desk).
With this belief in mind, Jeff and I were reckless and nine months into dating I got pregnant.
Fortunately, Jeff is a wonderful man and within a few days of telling him the news, we were engaged.
We were married about a year and a half later and this little gift from God graced my hip on my wedding day.
Now, fast forward to a year into our marriage. It’s the moment I am standing in our kitchen, pregnant with our second child, and I meet Jesus for the first time (if you haven’t read my testimony check out my blog post "how I met Jesus").
The first thought I had after encountering Him was, “This is weird…why is Jesus talking to ME?
I mean seriously, I had a baby on my hip on my wedding day. Don’t all of my imperfections and mistakes disqualify me from joining the seemingly perfect Christian club?
Now before I continue let me be clear that ALL CHILDREN are GIFTS FROM GOD. My actions were sinful but choosing life for my daughter was not.
Anyway, walking down the aisle with a baby on my hip was like having flashing arrows floating above my head that read, “ she's a sinner!”
After meeting Jesus, I simmered on these thoughts for a few days and I eventually came to the conclusion that I could follow Jesus and “be a Christian” as long as I hid my sin from other Christians.
I reckoned that I could be a super sneaky 007 Christian and that as long as no one ever found out about my baggage, I would fit right in.
Honestly, I have kept this a secret among all my Christian peeps until recently because the shame, guilt, and condemnation I felt about it made me believe that I needed to keep it a secret.
From the outside looking in, I always thought I had to be perfect to have a relationship with Christ. I thought that being “perfect” was what Christianity was all about.
When people would ask me how long we’ve been married, I would fib and tell them the number of years we’ve been together instead of the number of years we’ve actually been married. That way they wouldn’t figure out that we had a baby before our wedding.
Fortunately, God in all of His amazingness started to free me from this shame, guilt, and condemnation about a year ago. (Yep, I totally just made up that word. Why? Because there are no words to describe Jesus).
The path to freedom started when our youth pastor gave a sermon about how we all have baggage and that if we had to carry it around in a backpack so that everyone could see it, we’d all walk around with our backs against the wall in an attempt to hide it
I chewed on this sermon for about a year and I thought about that visual frequently. When I first heard his sermon I fully agreed with him. After all, that’s exactly what I was doing. I was hiding my sin (my baggage) from everyone in an attempt to look perfect.
I was hiding my baggage because I was afraid of being judged and rejected by the same people I wanted to call my friends.
Fortunately, God is way smarter than I am and He started to show me that He doesn’t want me to isolate myself and sneak around like Pierce Brosnan in James Bond.
Rather, He showed me that He wants to free me from those chains so that I can live a NEW life IN HIM.
SPOILER ALERT! JESUS IS FREEDOM!
For a long time, I avoided Jesus because I felt too ashamed to sit at His feet. I mean, let’s be honest, I was a hot mess. I had dirty clothes and scabs everywhere from all the times I had walked off cliffs and fallen on my face.
Fortunately, I’ve discovered that Jesus isn’t afraid of my rags and He doesn’t care how many times I have walked off of cliffs.
He doesn’t run away from my brokenness and forsake me when I lay a heap of filthy baggage at His feet.
Actually, much to my surprise, every time I set my brokenness before Him, He lovingly walks over to me and picks up all of the shattered pieces and transforms them into something beautiful!
So beautiful in fact, I cant’ help but share it with all of you because I’m SO excited to tell you about how wonderful He is!
You see, when I tell you what my life was like before I met Jesus, and then I tell you about how God has healed and redeemed my messes, it glorifies Him!
It glorifies His mercy, His grace, His love and His forgiveness! YAY GOD!!!!
However, if I hide my failures and I pretend to be perfect it's only because I am trying to glorify myself and that makes me a glory thief!
Friend, through all of this I’ve learned that Jesus doesn’t respond to our sins the way the world does. He doesn’t shame us, condemn us, and then reject us. No. He is WAY BETTER THAN THAT!
When we confess our sins and repent He actually walks over to us with open arms and lovingly welcomes us back into the Kingdom. In fact, He throws a party for the prodigals!
Yes, you heard me. A PARTY!
I can see it now (just work with me).
Angels disco dancing, Jesus doing the moon-walk, the Holy Spirit on the turntables, God the Father bobbing His head and tapping His foot to the beat…it’s the greatest party of all time! It’s unbelievable!
HE IS SO GOOD!
The proof is in the pudding. I just spilled my guts about my sin because JESUS has freed me from it!
*Drop the mic* GO JESUS!
The world can judge me for my sins, but now that I’ve laid it at the King’s feet, I know that He won’t because He nailed to the cross 2000 years ago.
Can you relate? Have you been hiding in darkness and in sin?
God hates sin because it separates us from Him but HE LOVES YOU!
Have you been struggling with shame, guilt, and condemnation?
If so, know that those things aren’t from the Kingdom of God and that there IS HOPE and REAL forgiveness in Jesus!
Maybe you’ve also had an epic-sized fail and you too have walked off a cliff? Maybe you also feel too ashamed to confess your fall? If so, I hope my story encourages you to walk over to Him and lay it at His feet.
I promise you, He is gentle and kind.
Maybe you’re scared that what you’ve done is too big, and too awful for Him to forgive? Friend, if that's the case, know that’s a lie! I am here to tell you that you are never too far away from the love of God.
When we confess our sins and whole-heartedly repent, our Father is quick to forgive us AND forget!
What does God want to free YOU from today?
I hope these three techniques will help you decipher what He is saying to you in this moment.
The Bible gives us multiple ways to discern God’s voice from the enemy’s but here are three biblical ways that God taught me through this specific story.
1. The Holy Spirit will never contradict the Bible.
That’s why it’s critical for us to know and study the Word. Since the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit here on earth, Gods Spirit will never tell us anything that goes against the Bible. Now that I know His Word, I can look back and see that the prompting I felt to have a child out-of-wedlock wasn’t God because that contradicts Gods Word.
2. The Holy Spirit always points to Jesus and Jesus always points to the Father.
Since the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three in one (the Trinity), God will only send His Spirit to point to His Son. In other words, if you think you hear God tell you that Buddha will save you or that all paths lead to heaven, that’s not God. I can now look back and see that the voice I heard in my kitchen (my testimony) was indeed the Holy Spirit because that Spirit pointed me only to Jesus.
3. Know the characteristics of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to convict us of our sin, not condemn us. In other words, when we are trapped in sin, the Holy Spirit points it out so that we can turn to Jesus and He can deliver us from it. Knowing this, I can look back and see that the years I spent suffering from guilt, shame and condemnation were NOT from God but from the enemy.
God doesn’t want 007 Christians!
If you are sneaking around and hiding your sin because you are drowning in shame, guilt, and condemnation, remember that those things are NOT from Jesus.
He wants to free you from ALL OF IT so that you can live a life of FREEDOM in Him!
Today, let JESUS FREE YOU FROM YOUR CHAINS!
I pray my story encourages you to trust in the power of the cross and I pray it helps you to understand how approachable and loving Jesus really is.