“To discern is to make a distinction between
the voice of Jesus and those competing voices that invariably speak in our hearts and minds. Sometimes these voices are noting more than our own inner emotional turmoil; sometimes the voices we hear are the spoken and unspoken expectations of others; and there is no doubt that sometimes we come fact to face with the subtleties of the evil one.” p. 12 The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer and the Witness of the Spirit by Gordon T. Smith
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. ~ HEBREWS 1:1-4
Every true Christian has a desire to hear the voice of Jesus direct and instruct them through the mess that we live in, and lead us to the rest we are promised. Jesus’ sheep hear his voice, but they also hear other voices and often listen to the wrong one.
One of the great needs of Christians today is to cultivate and exercise the spiritual discipline of discernment. We need to hear the inner witness of the Spirit in our souls, but again there are competing voices crying out to us to go this way and that.
Smith argues that we need to be a community that intentionally responds to the inner witness of the Spirit and I couldn’t agree more. But how can we become more attentive to the Holy Spirit?
In order to hear the voice of Jesus we must hear the inner witness of the Spirit. In order to hear his voice and distinguish it from the competing voices we must exercise discernment.
I appreciate Smith’s definition of life: “This is life: an intentional response to the voice of Jesus, a voice that comes through the presence of the Spirit. Discernment is the discipline of attending to this presence and responding to this leading.
Smith notes that discernment is only possible if we pay attention to at least four dynamic tensions.
- Divine initiative and human response.
- The context of our lives and the particularity of the voice of Jesus.
- The voice of Jesus in prayer and in the world.
- The individual and the community.
I also appreciated Smith’s continual pointing to the authority of the Scripture in listening to and discerning the inner witness of the Spirit.
“Further, we cannot develop our intuitive capacity to recognize the inner witness unless we are women and men who are immersed in Scripture so that the contours of our hearts and minds are ordered and enabled by the Word.
The inner witness of the Spirit is the personalization or application of the written witness to our lives. It is the ancient Word that now takes form in our lives, in this time and place, in this set of circumstances. The inner witness of the Spirit is the necessary complement to the Scriptures, without which the Bible is but an ancient book.” p.31
The same Spirit who inspired the Scriptures will bring them to light and life within us. The Spirit will give us all that we need to apply the truth of the Scriptures in each and every situation. This will lead us down an adventurous road of sanctification. When you take Jesus seriously and truly start to hear his voice amazing things will unfold in your life. People around you may think you are fanatical, but I can not think of anything better to be fanatical about than Jesus.
to be continued…