Discerning Thought Voices
- Recognition of God’s Voice
- Distinguish Nefarious Thought Suggestions
- Better Self-control
Tell a psychiatrist here in the western world that you’re hearing voices in your head and there’s a high probability you’ll be assessed for some type of mental disorder, like schizophrenia. According to the Mental Health Foundation, staticians estimate that from 5 to 28% of the population hear voices others do not, or are not able to hear. (1)
But doctors are now aware of a small percentage of people who simply have an amplified version of what all of us experience in our minds.
On the other side of the globe, in India, the concept of silent inner voices is well accepted. They refer to these as angles, with good angles being the conscience, and bad angles are that which encourage us to ignore it. The bad keeps our minds zeroed in on materialism, and includes things like lust for power and wealth. A high level of awareness in this regard is referred to as a type of inner sight, or an inner eye. We’re familiar with the symbol of the all-seeing eye in the forehead. Mankind is capable of coming up with all sorts of creative imaginings to explain away things in the spiritual realm using anything but the truth.
It is my assertion that we all have various silent voices that sound from within us, and while it’s certainly interesting to hear the beliefs of those who love to mystify the spiritual, those are simply manifestations of human pride. It’s very similar to the Gnostics of Apostle Paul’s day. They loved to set themselves up as gurus—mystics who possessed some secret knowledge to impart to their disciples. And some tried to mix this with Christianity, giving rise to the gnostic heresies. Today Gnosticism is alive and well, yet has taken on many different faces; that’s a topic for another time.
After reading medical journal articles about people who do not have a mental disorder, yet still hear voices in their heads, I was intrigued. Later the same day while studying the bible, I connected some stuff God had already taught me with what the psychiatrists, psychologists and other researchers have avowed. Thank the Lord! He’s helped me sift through the falsehoods espoused by those in psychiatric feilds who do not hold with a Christian view. That’s not to say they don’t get many things right.
I’d heard it often: Christians who say, “God told me such and such…” I remember dismissing them without a second thought, but I was wrong to do that. Allowing God to educate me on how to be more gracious, I now understand what those believers meant. God does speak to His own. The bible often refers to heeding the voice of the Lord. It is in the way God goes about speaking to us that we sometimes get confused.
The fact is, all of us hear voices inside our heads, we simply don’t hear them with our ears. We think in words, and technically we can hear ourselves think. As we read this sentence right now, we can hear ourselves reading in our minds. Everyone has hearing of the mind, or what most theologians refer to as the soul. To each of us it sounds a lot like ourselves, because it’s our own inner voice. Yet, we hear these thought voices at various levels of amplification. If these were external sounds we could measure the volume in decibels. About now, some might hear the voice of their thoughts asking, Where the heck is this guy going with this?
Let’s just say that I am convinced—some of us are able to distinguish voices from within, which are not our own, in the same manner that you hear your own thoughts. How distinct and loud these thought voices sound to us, is in proportion to each person’s level of awareness, combined with practice—learning the requisite discipline. Yes, this ability can be developed. Again, it’s louder and more pronounced for some folks than for others. In fact, before we’re through I hope we’ll note the benefit of fine tuning our capacity for distinction in this type of inner hearing. It’s my prayer that if we haven’t already, each of us will learn to differentiate between inner voices, but especially to recognize the voice of the Lord. And yes, I am connoting that we all hear silent voices in our minds, some that are our own thoughts, and some that are not, but sound like they are.
The importance, then, of knowing whose voice said what becomes vital. Aware of it or not, we have bad thought influencers that sound from inside us, which often come as suggestions, yet they masquerade as having come from ourselves. And then we have the voice of the Lord. If you’re keeping track that’s three sources, or voices, contributing to our thoughts: our own, the forces of darkness, and God. The Holy Spirit will often prick our consciences, which then actually does become our own inner voice, influenced by God’s goodness.
With my interest peaked, I sought whatever secular resources I could dig up on the subject of inner voices. Then I went to the bible in hopes of discovering if there were any scriptures which might pertain to the same. After all, if I’m being deceived into believing every single thought in my mind originated from myself, when in fact it did not, I need to know about it. It’s my mind and I don’t need some nefarious influence deceiving my thought processes. I’m quite capable of thinking wrong thoughts all by myself. If someone, or something is suggesting corrupt thoughts and fooling me into thinking they are from my own mind, that could prove to be catastrophic.
My substantiation for this post is God’s word. I believe the entire bible to be the infallible word of Almighty God, inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. That’s why I’m citing the bible as my corroboration of these things, for the purpose of validating the existence of various inner voices that speak to our minds. And the necessity of recognizing whose voice said what.
Do we pray? Do we expect an answer to our prayers? More precisely, do we expect to hear an audible voice in response to our prayer? No? Then why did we ask a question in prayer, if we did not expect an audible answer? That’s right, God utilizes many different means of communicating with us. We hear mentally audible answers far less than we’d like. Nothing worthwhile ever seems to be easy. But then, thousands of believers testify that they sometimes hear God’s voice, usually in the mind. There are also some who believe they’ve heard God’s voice with their external ears. I believe it just happened to be louder than usual in their minds, and so they thought they heard it with their ears.
Pandemic difficulties arise when we do not distinguish God speaking through our thoughts, speaking to our hearts.
Many true Believers are not aware of ever having heard the voice of God inside them at all. But the fact is, they have! They’ve heard it, and not realized it. More often than not, they attributed what they heard to their own thoughts.
Peppered throughout Scripture we find references to heeding, hearing, listening, obeying, and following God. We have Jesus the Son, God the Father and His Holy Spirit—AKA: Spirit of Christ. When a believer is walking in the Spirit, they are fully capable of hearing an actual voice from within: the voice of the Spirit.
In John 10, Jesus reveals Himself as the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep.
Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…” John 10:27. If we follow Jesus then we are His sheep. He said we hear His voice. I want to make certain I always recognize the voice of the Spirit of Christ. That’s why I practice and exercise this ability, and every believer can do the same.
Was Jesus talking only metaphorically about hearing (in modern translations it’s listening), or did He mean it in a more literal sense? I believe it to be literal as to Him speaking in our minds. But yes, He also means paying attention to Him — obeying Him.
God’s voice has a primary means of speaking—it’s called the bible. It saddens me to hear Christians say they’ve never heard God’s voice, when they’ve never read the bible all the way through, even once.
A little earlier in John 10:4, Jesus had said, “And when he (the Good Shepherd) puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” Jesus says that we who follow Him will recognize His voice leading us. He leads us both from within, and from without. This connotes God’s word (the bible) and an audible inner, or “thought” voice from His Spirit. Both are paramount.
Verse 5 says, “But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will flee from him because they do not recognize his voice.”
Anyone pretending to be Christ is an anti-Christ, a false shepherd and is of the evil one. The bible warns us about our powerful adversary, the devil. He is quite capable of suggesting thoughts to us, often about another person. He employs our weaknesses of the flesh against us, especially our pride, or lust, or greed, or self-centeredness. He offers thoughts that fit right into our flesh’s view of things—and makes it feel good. But because something feels good does not make it right.
Recognizing Christ’s voice, here in John ten, I believe indicates both determinates. We gauge the source of each thought by what was said, and by the actual sound of the voice. Optimal results are gained by using both measures concomitantly.
“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21
The primary way we distinguish the Lord’s voice requires knowing Him through His word. The Spirit speaks to us as we read and study the bible to help our understanding of what we’re reading. But we can benefit from this ONLY when our minds are yielded to Him. Everyone has preconceived ideas of what the bible means before they open it the first time. Some preachers may tell us to leave those notions outside the door. Yet what we really need to leave outside the door is our pride—what we think we know. One must diligently guard against confirmation bias!—truly allow God to lead our thinking. I’ve found that often the Lord will use the false notions we had, and show us how ludicrous they are. As He straightens out our false beliefs we can say, “But Lord I thought such and such was true.” He can then show us how what we had thought was wrong, and the light of His truth will bring the greatest clarity, with joy, to our hearts and minds.
Once we understand theological truth better—when we know what God says in His word, about Himself and about mankind, and we know the accurate meaning of His words (hermeneutically), the Spirit can then bring those truths to our remembrance when we need it. I recall a time when I was all set to give in to a particular temptation, which I’d done periodically (a sin in my thoughts accompanied by a physical action). I knew it was wrong, but just couldn’t seem to overcome it. Well, I was getting ready to do it again.
I heard the Lord very loud in my thoughts, speaking a bible verse that I had known well. But I hadn’t read it in several years. It sounded a bit like my own thoughts, but was different. Trust me when I say, at that moment my thoughts were as far away from the bible as they could be, and from God. It rang like an ultimatum: “Choose you this day whom you will serve!” (Joshua 24:15)
I was terrified, trembling like a leaf in the wind, and almost soiled myself. It was suddenly a whole lot easier to resist that temptation! What I heard that day was definitely NOT my own thoughts. It was so loud that, at first, I believed I’d heard it externally.
Knowing the Lord and understanding His word will insulate us in the truth.
Knowing God intimately also empowers us to instantly detect false teaching or preaching. And can set off alarm signals when the evil one suggests wrong thoughts to our minds. When a demon suggests a thought that goes against what we know God has said, we automatically know it is not the voice of our Lord. Remember the devil is an imitator and he’s extremely good at it. He does thought-voice impersonations—both our own, and God’s. We do not heed, or listen to that voice. Instead, we resist that thought/voice, and the evil influence will flee at the mention of Jesus’ name (if we are in fact in Christ).
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26
The enemy, Satan, is also capable of making suggestions to our minds. He’s very good at imitating the sound of our own inner voices, and every so often, he tries to imitate the voice of the Lord. But to the astute listener, subtle, yet distinct differences are detectable between the actual sound of a demon’s voice, their own thoughts, and the voice of Christ. The difference in the sound, however, is the secondary manner in which to distinguish who said what. The best and primary determining factor of whether or not to heed the voices inside our heads (thoughts) is comparing what’s said with what God’s word says.
The Spirit and the Bible will always be in perfect harmony.
The Spirit will NEVER contradict, or go against what the bible says, but the enemy, of course, will. Ideally, God’s word and His Holy Spirit, should have complete rule over both: our words and actions. After spending much time being obedient, our thoughts are also trained in righteousness, and when that’s the case, we are extremely difficult to fool! Allow me to restate this—The Spirit and the bible will always be in perfect harmony. They are the double check, to be certain we are doing and saying the right things in the right way. It is learning to discern the Lord’s voice and comparing what we hear with God’s word, these are the two fail safes that victorious Christians employ.
There is a ton of information I want to share here, but this post is too long already, so I’ll drive in a peg right here until next time.
The following is a link to great post to edify and further prep our minds. https://www.allaboutprayer.org/hearing-gods-voice.htm