Many Americans Claim ‘God Told Me’
And if God allegedly has told one person one thing and another person a contradicting thing, how is one to know who has the true word? All reason and truth becomes relative to each individual’s experience and the only truth that can be known and trusted—God’s Word—is placed back onto the bookshelf or coffee table to collect dust while the more vivid and emotional experiences rock the professing believer to and fro.
Out of the 76% of Americans who said that they personally believe in the existence of a God, half say that they have at least once before done something because God told them to. Including non-believers, this makes up 38% of the entire country.
The group most likely to have acted on God’s command are ‘born-again’ or evangelical Christians, who make up about a third of Americans. Almost two-thirds (65%) of born-again Christians say God has told them to do something at least once before. Only a quarter (25%) of the remaining population have ever had the same experience.1
In fairness, this article does not specify the means by which ‘God’ instructed these individuals. Perhaps some of them meant that ‘Gold told them’ to do something through His Word. Those who have been saved by God do, of course, seek to obey the One who was gracious enough to redeem them.
You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:14–16)
Yet a cursory glance at the so-called evangelical landscape of American Christianity steals away a bit of the hope that those who are making these claims of direct instruction from God are referring to the infallible Word. The study at YouGov goes on to state:
In broader religious terms, Protestants (56%) are much more likely than Catholics (39%) to say that they have done things under the instruction of God.2
This is not surprising when one considers the great amount of people who are actively engaged in the charismatic movement.
The reader may remember a post from August 2013 entitled “God Speaks, but How?” wherein Pastor Rob Reimer of South Shore Community Church in Brockton, Massachusetts was mentioned. In his book Pathways to the King, Reimer states:
The gift of the Spirit is about a direct experience with God. We will hear God’s voice—through dreams, visions, and prophecy—and that will authenticate the presence of God and draw people to direct experiences with Him. This is for all God’s people: men, women, and children.3
Reimer is not the only pastor or leader who makes such claims. In his book Dreaming with God: Co-Laboring with God for Cultural Transformation, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, Bill Johnson offers his “practical suggestions for those wanting to grow in revelation from God.” States Johnson:
God loves to visit us in the night and give us instruction that we would have a hard time receiving during the day (see Job 33:15–16). The desire to give God our night season flows naturally from the child’s heart that knows revelation cannot be earned. Ask Him specifically to minister to you in the night through visions and dreams. Once you have a dream or vision, write it out, and ask Him for understanding.4
Johnson further declares:
But be accustomed to hearing more than you can share with others. Listen as He speaks, but speak only what He gives you freedom to speak about. Some things are revealed only because we’re friends, and are not to be shared with others.5
Of course, there are few who are unfamiliar with popular pastor Mark Driscoll’s so-called ‘gift of discernment,’ wherein he claims that God shares lewd and inappropriate visions on a television screen in his head. Video of Driscoll’s claims can be viewed here.
Even popular Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore has claimed to receive direct revelation from God:
Beloved, I am convinced one of our severest needs is pure rest. Not only sleep, but refreshment and recreation. Recently God spoke to me about capturing what He and I are calling “Sabbath moments.” Like many of yours, my schedule right now is particularly tough, and I see no time in the near future for a number of days off. God spoke to my heart one Saturday morning while I was preparing for Sunday school: “My child, in between more intense rests, I want to teach you to take Sabbath moments.” I wasn’t certain what He meant. Just that morning God confirmed His desire for me to drive all the way to the other side of Houston to the medical center to visit a patient with brain cancer. I was very thankful for the privilege of visiting this patient, but I knew in advance it would be tough emotionally and far from restful.
I fought the traffic across Houston, then visited with my new friend and her husband while choking back the tears. They have two young sons, and unless God performs a miracle, their mother will go home to be with the Lord before they are grown. I got in my car and prayed. I pulled out of the parking garage, fighting the tears. A few blocks later as if on autopilot, I turned my steering wheel straight into the parking lot of the Houston Zoo!
Christ seemed to say, “Let’s go play.” And that we did. I hadn’t been to the zoo in years. I heard about all the improvements, but I never expected the ultimate: Starbucks coffee! (OK, so I don’t have all my health issues down pat.) Can you imagine watching a baby koala take a nap in a tree on a rare cold day in Houston with a Starbucks grande cappuccino in your hand? Now that’s a Sabbath moment! God and I had a blast.6
With all of these claims of private and personal revelation, those who are not ‘hearing from God’ may begin to feel inadequate, unworthy or less spiritual. The Christian who is not hearing voices or receiving alleged visions can take heart, however, because the Lord has spoken and does continue to speak, not through these subjective, untested private messages, but through His Word. And, contrary to Bill Johnson’s claims above, the entirety of that Word is available to all people everywhere anytime a person opens the Bible and reads and proclaims the truth contained therein.
This Word is not dead simply because it is contained in a book. Rather, it is more alive than any false claim made by those who would deceive others by teaching their own private prophecies.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)
For, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you. (1 Pet 1:24–25)
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is [breathed out] by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim 3:14–17)
Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. (John 17:17)
Indeed, the Word of God is pure and undefiled truth. And contained within the pages of Scripture is the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the living Word (John 1:1), the only Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6) and who is the only Savior of sinners (Acts 4:12).
In answer to the aforementioned YouGov study, then, is God speaking to 38% of Americans? Yes, though not in the way likely meant by those who participated in this research. In fact, God is speaking to all men everywhere through His Word, which is full, final and complete.
And so through the Scriptures God has given us a body of teaching that is final and complete. Our Christian faith rests on historical, objective revelation. That rules out all prophecies, seers, and other forms of new revelation until God speaks again at the return of Christ (cf. Acts 2:16–21; Rev 11:1–13). . . .
Ultimately, Scripture is the test of everything; it is the Christian’s standard. In fact, the word ‘canon’ means ‘a rule, standard, or measuring rod.’ The canon of Scripture is the measuring rod of the Christian faith, and it is complete.7
If you, dear reader, fear that you are lacking because you have not ‘heard from God,’ then you need only do this: find a Bible, open it and read it. It is God’s own Word, breathed out by Him. It contains perfect truth and the words of life. Do not neglect His Word.
1. “God told me to, say 38% of Americans,” accessed 28 October 2013.
2. “God told me to, say 38% of Americans,” accessed 28 October 2013.
3. Rob Reimer, Pathways to the King, (Carpenter’s Son Publishing: 2013), 68.
4. Bill Johnson, Dreaming with God: Co-Laboring with God for Cultural Transformation, (Destiny Image Publishers: 2006), 144.
5. Bill Johnson, Dreaming with God: Co-Laboring with God for Cultural Transformation, (Destiny Image Publishers: 2006), 144–5.
6. Beth Moore, The Beloved Disciple, (B&H Publishing: 2003), 220.
7. John MacArthur, “Does God Still Give Revelation?” The Masters Seminary Journal 14, vol 2, Fall 2003.