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Is That You Lord?: Hearing the Voice of the Lord, a Biblical Perspective Paperback – April 1, 2007
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'Let the reader ponder the arguments of this research and weigh them with an open Bible. Those of us who have found complete satisfaction in God's revelation through the Holy Scriptures have long awaited a book like this.'
'Let the reader ponder the arguments of this research and weigh them with an open Bible. Those of us who have found complete satisfaction in God's revela- tion through the Holy Scriptures have long awaited a book like this.'--Dr John O. Hosler
About the Author
Dr Gary E. Gilley has been the pastor of Southern View Chapel since 1975. He is the author and editor of the monthly contemporary theological issues publication Think on These Things. He has also written two other EP titles, This little church went to market and This little church stayed home. He serves on the advisory board of the Brazil Gospel Fellowship Mission. He is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute and Cambridge Graduate School, both in the U.S.
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As Gilley notes, more and more Christians, regardless of denomination, etc are coming to believe that "the will of God can be ascertained through divinely prompted feelings, hunches, impressions or dreams. If these fail we can turn to fleeces, fastings, flipping coins or opening the Bible randomly and following the first verse that makes sense." (pp. 35-36) Is this how God says we are to discern His will? Are these biblical methods?
Gilley does an excellent job in addressing this question, especially in a book of only 92 pages. He begins with a short chapter the early Pietists (Arndt, Spener, Francke, and Zinzendorf), what they believed, and how their teachings paved the way for subjectivity and theological liberalism. Gilley maintains that although their goal was proper exegesis and a higher regard for the Bible, they slowly allowed subjectivity and experience to become more authoritative.
The author notes that a recent study shows that "one in three American adults say that God speaks to him directly." Gilley also sites the author Henry Blackaby, a proponent of extra-biblical revelation. Gilley notes that the Bible does not portray people hearing from God inside their heads and then have to go through the discernment of whether or not it was really God or even partially God. When people in the Bible heard from God it was loud, audible and there was no doubt about it. (With the single exception of young Samuel who didn't realize it was the Lord - nevertheless, the priest heard it, so it was not within Samuel's head.) "The evangelistic method of Jesus and the apostles was not to urge people to seek direct experiences with God; instead they went about preaching and teaching the Scriptures."(p. 27)
Gilley looks at how the term "the will of God" is used in three distinct ways. 1. The "sovereign will of God in which it is recognized that our Lord is in control of all things in the universe. Ephesians 1:11..." 2. The "revealed will of God which makes known to us how God expects us to live." For example 1 Thess 4:1-4, or His command to love Him and our neighbor. The Bible clearly teaches both of these. It's the third, the "specific or individual" will of God, by which some believe that God has an "ideal, detailed life-plan uniquely designed for each believer," (p.36) that we must discover, that Gilley is most concerned with in this book.
Throughout the rest of the book, Gilley puts forth an excellent argument through the study of scripture, why we have freedom to choose courses of action as long as they are made biblically. One great example is in 1 Corinthians 7 where the apostle Paul is "dealing with one of the most important decisions in life - marriage. What a perfect opportunity to lay out the steps for discernment of the specific will of God. Instead the Holy Spirit-inspired apostle, after some advice pertinent to the current situation, leaves the decision as to whether one should marry to the individual believer (v.8-9, 20-21)." (p.40-41) Examples from Paul's own decision making are also noted.
Pastor Gilley discusses some often quoted verses on this subject - Kings 19, Romans 8:14 & 16, Psalm 37:4, Phil 4:4-7 coupled with Col 3:15, Proverbs 3:5-6, John 16:12-14, among them. Chapter Six is a thoughtful list of common questions and answers. Chapter Seven surveys the instances in which God speaks to someone in the Bible, and Chapter Eight gives us further insight into God's revealed will and practical steps for biblical decision making.
In the end, Gilley tells us that we have the freedom to choose between biblically acceptable alternatives. Decision making should always begin with Scripture. We need to pray for wisdom (James 1:5-8), and seek wise counsel (Proverbs 12:15, 13:10, 15:22, 20:18). (pp.56-57) Let's not be taken captive through worldly philosophy and empty deception (Col 2:8-15). Pastor Gilley reminds us that 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that "He [God] has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him..." Life and godliness can only be obtained "through the true knowledge of Christ, which is found only in the Word. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)...Why search beyond the Scriptures for the things that God says the Scriptures alone supply?"(pp. 90-91).
A friend of mine thinks that Gary Gilley has gone too far in the opposite direction of mysticism, minimizing God's participation in our lives. I don't believe Gilley meant to handcuff God. He states in the introduction that he is not a deist. He believes God is alive and active in this world. He just doesn't think we should try to discern His will through hunches, feeling etc. For example, God may open a door (opportunity) for you to serve Him. God can do anything. On the other hand, just because a door opens up to do something, doesn't necessarily mean it is from God. Some open doors lead to elevator shafts! (My example, not Gilley's.) Buy the book. It's only 92 pages and it will give you a great framework with which you can think and discuss this important subject, whether you agree with the author or not.
Amazon is out of these books. But, they can be found here - [...] this is the church's website and they currently have all of his books. I appreciate the way that he carefully analyzes what many claim to experience with God apart from His Word and evaluates these claims in light of the Bible. Those who have been misled to believe that the mystical communication of God takes place and that God is speaking to us with feelings, goosebumps, vague impressions and the like will be disappointed. Those who think that the Bible isn't enough for life and godliness and "need" some extrabiblical revelation will not like the book as Gilley presents the Bible. He doesn't parrot people who claim this experience or the other and writes in an easy-to-understand manner that is highly accessible. I have been delighted to see several books come out in the last 15 years or so that debunk the popular folk theology of God speaking to all Christians all the time if only they are tuned in and can learn how to recognize when it is God and know when it is just their own thinking.
The book is brief and easy to read. As such, he does not spend pages going into deep details, so one must have some prior experience to appreciate this book fully. He presupposes salvation on the part of the reader and at least a cursory knowledge of Christianity, its verbiage, and practices.
While he deals devastating blows to the Charismatic/pentecostal view of revelation, his primary purpose is to expose the very same spirit in conservative circles. Read and heed this important book.