We are into our fifth week of an exhaustive study on the subject of how God still speaks to us today. We have thus far shown why it is absolutely Biblically sound to still expect God's guidance and voice in our personal lives. And we have studied a number of Biblical ways God uses as He guides, speaks to, and Influences His people. If you have missed any of the previous lessons in the series, we will briefly pull them all together at the end of this study and you can go back on Facebook or YouTube for more. This week we will draw the study to a close with one of the most controversial, often rejected and abused ways in which God Speaks: Dreams and Visions (how the Muslim and Mormon religions started).
No Bible believing Christian ever doubts that God has used visions and dreams to speak in times past. After all, dreams and visions are one main avenue in which God revealed much of the written Word we hold today. But there are a number of Christians who again feel this method of communication ceased after the Word was complete. So our first goal must be to give you assurance Biblically that God can and does still use this incredible method. Otherwise, some may think they have tuned into a fanatical cult. Nowhere do the Scriptures ever say that God does not still speak in these ways even today. If anyone has ever tried to tell you otherwise, they have most probably quoted just a couple of misused verses for this argument: Hebrews 1:1-2. Please note the context and purpose of this verse. It is simply expressing the awesomeness that Jesus has finally arrived. The One whom these prophets of old told spoke. Nowhere did the verse say God ever purposed to stop talking to His people after Jesus came. As a matter of fact, if this verse were taken to mean what some try to imply, then the very Book of Hebrews in which it is included would not exist because God Spoke to Paul (?) after Jesus came and left again. And remember, a vast number of times and ways in which God had spoken to His people had to do with guiding and growing them individually and personally, having nothing to do with the Laws or Prophecies about Christ. Here is the only other verse ever usually used in attempting to say prophecies have ceased, which in actuality proves the opposite: 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. This does sound convincing if you stop there—until you continue reading the whole passage in context and see the explanation for why and when that time of ceasing will occur (Not at all about the Word). Please answer these questions: have you seen God face-to-face yet? Do you know God as perfectly as He knows you yet? Has knowledge passed away? And when will both of these occasions take place? At His return when we are with Him in New Jerusalem—when "that which is perfect has come!" Actually, this verse is clearly specifying these gifts will continue until that day when He returns. And when Peter is delivering his first powerful sermon after being filled with the Spirit of God for the first time—listen to his quote from the Book of Joel concerning this very subject: Acts 2:15-21. Some may again try to say this was "In the Last Days" during Peter and Paul's time of Scripture writing, but again, the Verse powerfully explains what is meant by the "Last Days". These "Last Days" described are the literal Last Days on earth when we see Jesus returning to take us Home. Can you not clearly see the solid Scriptural declaration in these verses that God will continue to speak, even in visions and dreams until the day He returns? We are told not to add or take away from His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32 and Revelation 22:18-19). Both are equally as wrong in God's eyes, yet well-meaning Christians are doing this regularly by not properly dividing and believing God at His Word; taking away much of the power and intimacy God still gives to His people in this Way.
We will not go into the details of the many examples of dreams and visions in Scriptures today for lack of time, but I would like to list a few occurrences in the OT and the NT just to clarify this was a frequent/ expected way of Speaking. Some Old Testament Examples: Abraham - Genesis 15: Vision of Flaming Pot and Torches: Revealed future descendants! (Promise of love & importance). Jacob - Genesis 28: Jacob's Ladder: Revealed the Land would be given to his descendants! (Love and importance- future actions). Joseph - Genesis 37-50: Many dreams given to him and to others he interpreted revealed God's personal will of the future for all involved (Warning to act /Prove God’s reality to others). Solomon - 1 Kings 3:5 Vision of God: When offered gift of Wisdom (Show love and give choice). Daniel - Told how God would work in King's life and in all of history (Warning / Show God to world). Some New Testament Examples: Joseph - Matthew 1:20, 2:13: Told to take Mary as wife (Command to act); told to flee to Egypt to avoid King Herod (Protect). Zacharias - Luke 1:5-23: Told he would have an important son to prepare the way for Christ (Significance of future event). Pilate's wife - Matthew 27:19: Warned of Jesus' Innocence and that Pilate should stay uninvolved (Warn/Testify of Christ to unbelievers). Ananias - Acts 9:10 (Christian in Damascus): told to visit Paul the Persecutor of Christians / restore his sight (Command/Promise of action). Cornelius - Acts 10:1-6 (Roman Centurion): Told where to find Peter and to ask him to come and speak (Revealed how to know Jesus better). Then you have Peter, Paul, John, and many other NT disciples—all of these people saw visions or dreams in their personal ministries. Every one of these examples of visions and dreams were used by God for the following reasons: to encourage them in how they are loved and to be used to reveal their present needs for action; to show God's existence and sovereignty to others (even unbelievers); to warn them of actions they were about to take or not take in the future; to point them in the right direction to find out more about Him. Again, I ask you—is there not just as much need for every one of these things in the life of believers today? Isn't He just as loving and involved? Are there not even greater things in store for us and the world in the approaching days ahead? There are those who will never have a chance to even know Christ other than if He directly reveals Himself to them. The Gospel Coalition is a grounded and committed group of well-known and trustworthy pastors and churches, joined to protect the integrity of the Scriptures in troublesome times and use multimedia, events, training, and global resourcing to communicate Christ to the world. It was founded by Tim Keller and includes such mature and trusted Pastors as John Piper and others in its support. In 2018, the Gospel Coalition printed an article about the masses of Muslims who are now converting to Christianity unheard of in the past. Studies from multiple, unrelated sources all reveal (Some including numbers of 750/600) that a very high number of them—as any as 1 in 4—were brought to Christ through a dream or vision. Even when they knew nothing about Christ or the Scriptures. One of the field workers gave this testimony of a Persian migrant who came to a refugee center early one morning very emotional. During the night he saw someone dressed in white raise his hand and say, “Stand up and follow me.” The Persian man said, “Who are you?” The man in white replied, “I am the Alpha and the Omega. I’m the way to heaven. No one can go to the Father, except through me.” He began to ask the Persian pastor: “Who is he? What am I going to do? Why did he ask me to follow him? How shall I go? Tell me.”
In response, the pastor held out his Bible and asked, “Have you seen this before?” “No,” he replied. “Do you know what it is?” “No.” The pastor then opened to the Book of Revelation: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” The man started crying and said, “How can I accept him? How can I follow him?” So the pastor led him in prayer and peace came over him. The pastor then gave the man a Bible and told him to hide it, since the Muslims in the camps could cause him trouble. But the man replied, “The Jesus that I met today, he’s more powerful than the Muslims in the camp.” He left and an hour later returned with 10 more Persians and told the pastor, “These people want a Bible.”
You try to tell me Jesus isn't still in the business of visions and dreams. Try and tell me Jesus isn't real and bigger than this world. Again, without taking too much time, there have been several occasions where God spoke clearly to me in this way. Never had I asked for this experience; never had I personally ever believed it would happen to me. Example #1: When contemplating where to start a church, I dreamed about a location in an upper room, with a long hall stairway which later came true to the detail in the location used. I dreamed of one of the starting members turning and dividing the beginning church, which happened months into opening. I dreamed of taking a different, long, hard, unorthodox way rather than the easier, quick, comfortable way. Example #2: When in Cleveland Transplant House, I dreamt of an angel leading me out of my house and to a new location. I asked would I trust when the time came, and was told it would get better when shared with Brenda. Several weeks back to work, I wrote a note and that day Brenda received call for our house (we were not looking). In each of these circumstances, I was not expecting the dream, but I was actively trying to live and work for Christ. And the dreams revealed a course of action to take before it happened. Events that would greatly affect the ministry before they happened; to prepare for a different and difficult ministry before it happened. In Scriptures and in reality, we can see proof that God is speaking intimately and supernaturally—just as He did all through Scriptures.
So many people are fascinated and obsessed with this way of communication from God. It is often misinterpreted, misused and even manipulated. If we gave a sermon on the interpretation of symbolism in God's dreams or the 5-point system to understand any dream you may experience, I guarantee it would be popular. But listen closely to a couple of very important facts concerning dreams from God and their interpretations. 1) Did the many recipients of dreams in Scriptures have classes or "symbol recognition aids" to assist them with dreams? Many dreams, no matter how amazing, real or emotional they may seem, are just that: dreams. Just because it was intense does not mean it was from God. Your mind works to decompress and sort thoughts and emotions. If God ever uses a dream or vision in your life, you will know it was Him and He will be sure you know what it means. Don’t obsess or create a word from God. Whether it is clear at the moment or whether He reveals it through time and events, write it down (date), share it with another and watch God work. 2) Do not give a "Word from God" to another person until you re 100% convinced it is God. You could change the course of another life with information that will mislead them, and very potentially ruin their faith with false information. And God will hold you accountable as surely as if you had changed His written Word because you are misrepresenting Him.
Still think God doesn't speak, influence and reveal Himself anymore? Then how do you think you were drawn to Christ and repentant of your sins? John 6:44. How do you think you can understand Scriptures and see Christ in its pages? John 14:16; Ephesians 1:17-18. God's guidance and voice should be expected and sought after in any true Christian's life. Some will say that, "Pursuing such things will just lead to complications and mistakes and leave you open to Satan's deceptions," but that is a totally invalid argument because the exact same thing can be and often is done every time the written Word of God is studied as It is changed, misrepresented, and twisted as well. Yet, we strive to understand and follow Scriptures, and to ignore or disbelieve you can hear God's will is breaking the very Commands of Scriptures to listen to His voice and is taking away your ability to be used by Him in powerful ways, and is removing any chance of intimacy and fellowship in life.
Do you want to hear Him? Are you ready? Here is the summary of how to begin the adventure: 1) Surrender your life to Him and His work sincerely (ship). Seek Him—let drawing near to Him be paramount. Leave your sins and plans for His with passion. Be about His business in life: die to self. Burn your ship and get aboard His. 2) Get into, learn and obey His known, written Word (rudder). Learn about Him, know His will and character. Show you are ready to follow in obedience by doing what you already know. I've seen people sleeping/living with an unmarried mate, asking for wisdom and direction from God. Why would He have any reason to believe you are ready to follow if He speaks? Why would He have any reason to believe you are interested for His sake or others? Trust and hunger for what you already have and let that be your guide in everything you do first. Then be about the King's business. He will be much more likely to speak to you when you share common thoughts and goals. 3) Honor God by making your own choices (crow's nest), where Scriptures and common sense will clearly show His character or will in a situation. 4) Be aware that He is literally with you always and open your sails to hear Him (sails). Accept His acceptance. Know He is there in the present, and listen for what He wants you to do today—not just in a situation or problem you have—be His servant and stop wanting Him to be yours. 5) Listen for God's assurance or warning through other people whether through counsel, accident or a word spoken. Weigh their message against Scriptures and what the Spirit is saying in your heart. 6) Recognize when God is using circumstances in your life (storm) to stop you, wake you, change direction or validate it is Him. Look for His Personal "God Wink's" to show He is there working. And don’t let circumstances dictate your feelings of how He views you at the moment; don’t force circumstances on God as an answer for prayer: "If this happens, I'll assume you mean this..." 7) Know that God can and does still speak (stars), even in amazing ways such as visions and dreams to warn, encourage, prepare or prove Himself. Trust that He will interpret what He has shown you in time. Don’t turn this avenue into an obsession or created word.
You don’t have to learn how to hear God or worry that you'll miss Him. You simply have to get serious about wanting to know him, about wanting to serve Him. Have expectation that a loving, intimate God wants to speak, realizing He died to make you a suitable vessel for Him to indwell and speak with, then God will make His will known in His time, place and way. it all comes down to this: are you His disciple? Truly? Because: John 10:27; Romans 8:9. It is far too late in the night to continue being fair-weather, weak Christians. It is time to become His disciples and live real Christian lives. The world is waiting—so is He.
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