Does God still speak? Does He still speak to us personally? Does He speak in ways other than through the Bible? The short answer to that question is "yes." So, the real question is: how does God speak to us today?
All scholars agree God speaks through His word. Many believe God speaks to us through promptings or feelings, through other believers, and through circumstances. Some believe God also speaks through dreams, visions, and prophetic messages.
Special words, dreams and visions
When someone says God spoke to them through a direct word, dream, or vision, what should we make of that, and how should we respond? Many believers report this experience. If this is really happening, how can we know it's God speaking? The truth is, we can't be completely certain. We should maintain humility -- don't immediately assume it's God. Likewise, don't quench the Holy Spirit and immediately assume that it's not God. Instead, we should consider the experience in the context of God's word.
We can interpret circumstances in many ways. Is a closed opportunity a sign from God to give up or to try harder? When things work out our way, do we assume that both the means and the ends were from God? As with dreams or visions, can't judge circumstances on their own. Circumstances occur within larger frameworks, and we must humbly consider multiple sides of the situation through prayer and reading the Bible.
God sometimes speaks through people, particularly through other questions. But, again, we cannot be sure that what they say is from God. Sometimes God puts people in our lives to counsel us and give us perspective. Often in those situations, people counsel us through God's scripture, creating a good way for us to know that those words are from God.
Intuitive promptings or impressions can be from God. They can also be from ourselves. Once again,we just can't be sure unless we read it in scripture. But there are some kinds of promptings that we can trust enough to act on regardless of their origin. The Holy Spirit can often prompt us to pray for others or in specific ways. He may also lead us to serve or help by placing specific burdens on our hearts. If you sense that God is asking you to pray or to serve -- chances are good that you should do those things.
Above all: test what you think you hear according to God's word. He has already revealed himself to us in his word, and through Christ, the Word. The prophets and apostles received special revelations from God that have been recorded for all time in Scripture. Everything we need to know is in God's word. God speaks through His word, and he helps us understand it through the Holy Spirit. The word of God is living and active, and if we spend time in His word, we will experience that life as the Holy Spirit reveals different things over time. The Spirit guides us into all truth, and he only speaks what the Father wants him to speak. The Spirit illuminates spiritual truths in the Bible, and he reminds us of those truths at other times. He also convicts us -- again, through the Bible. Bottom line: if we are spending time immersed in God's word, we will hear from Him as He teaches us through the Holy Spirit.
Questions to consider:
- Do I approach revelation from God with humility? Am I too quick to assume it either is or is not God, when I ought to remain humble and open?
- When I sense God speaking in some way, do I weigh that sense with His word and with the other ways He may be speaking in order to get a well-rounded sense of His will?
- Am I spending time in the word? Is my relationship with God grounded in an ongoing discovery of the Scriptures?