Speaking of the Lord as one's Shepherd, Psalm 23:2 says, "He leadeth me beside still waters." When we follow Jesus Christ through His Word in the Bible, He is leading us. Then in Romans 8:14, the Apostle Paul writes, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." He also writes in Galatians 5:18, "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law." The idea of being led by God, by Jesus, and by the Spirit is true. Believers are led by God, by Jesus, and by the Spirit.
Last week I was sitting with another pastor and he told me the story of how he came to his church. Someone asked him to come to pastor where he was, and this man said he would pray about it. When the one asking called back later, this pastor said that he had silence from the Holy Spirit, that is, the Holy Spirit had not told him anything. When the Holy Spirit did begin to talk to him, He told him to go someplace else. I never asked him follow-up questions, but is this an experience we should expect, and if the Holy Spirit is talking to people, how is this occurring today?
From conversations I have had with other independent Baptists, it isn't unusual that some, perhaps many, believe that the Holy Spirit talks to them directly and in a very specific way. Very often, if you question one of them, he will react like a Charismatic does when challenged about his experience. On many various occasions, a young lady has said to me that a young man had informed her that the Holy Spirit had told him to marry her. A young lady doesn't agree, but how could she question God? He apparently told the young man to marry the girl.
Parallel to the "leading of the Spirit" is also "the Spirit teaching." 1 John 2:27 says, "But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things," and 1 Corinthians 2:13, "Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth." What I've heard here is that when someone looks at a passage in sermon preparation, he prays and the Holy Spirit "gives him a message" or "tells him what to say." A never before heard teaching very often emerges from this tack. Ordinary means of word usage, grammar, and syntax give way to what the Holy Spirit reveals someone.
What is the basis for believing a voice in your head is the Holy Spirit talking to you, telling you something, or teaching you? As you look at the above few passages, that's not what they are saying. That goes beyond what they are saying. We have a scriptural basis for not believing that is how God works. That teaching from those verses contradicts other scripture, so that can't be what they are saying.
The Holy Spirit is a Person, so He can speak, but He is not continuing to reveal a message directly to anyone since the completion of the canon of scripture (Jude 1:3, Heb 2:3-4). The man in the office of the prophet and then the apostle was given direct revelation on par with scripture. Scripture itself is that to which 1 Corinthians 2:13 refers. That did occur at one time, but only before AD96 -- not since then. 1 John 2:27 says that you can understand the Bible on your own and in a technical, doctrinal way, this has been called illumination. Illumination does not function apart from the ordinary means of study. However, believers filled with the Holy Spirit are not closed off from comprehending what the Bible teaches.
To what should one attribute a voice in one's head? No one should assume that the voice given credit as the Holy Spirit speaking is in fact the Holy Spirit speaking. We don't have any basis for either knowing or not knowing whether the voice we hear is the Holy Spirit. We do know that the "sword of the Spirit is the Word of God" (Eph 6:17). We know that in verbal gifts, that it is the Holy Spirit when someone speaks as the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:10-11). If it is what the passage from scripture says, then we know it is the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is not going to tell you who to marry. He isn't going to inform you of the brand of toilet paper you should buy. He won't tell you whether you should build a new auditorium or not. He won't counsel you on when to buy a new car.
The voices in your head are either your conscience or your talking to yourself. If it is your conscience, the message will still be whatever is your highest perceived standard, which might be teaching you've heard in the past, whether scriptural or unscriptural. The voice can tell you that you're doing something wrong when you aren't doing something wrong. The conscience functions as a warning device that operates according to a regulation already plugged into your brain. It won't feed you something that isn't already there.
If the voice is your talking to yourself, then it can be a lie. It is especially lying if it is telling you that it is the Holy Spirit talking. That is yourself believing something that isn't true. The voice might be telling you the truth, but it isn't the truth that the Holy Spirit is saying this directly to you. If you are controlled by the Holy Spirit, you are controlled by the Word of God, which is content that has already been written for two thousand years (Eph 5:18, Col 3:16).
When someone decides to build an auditorium, he wanted to build the auditorium. It wasn't the Holy Spirit telling him to build it. He wants to build it, but he's telling people that the Holy Spirit told him. The Holy Spirit will not tell you who to marry. You marry who you want to marry. Can you know if the marriage is scriptural? If it is scriptural, then it is scriptural. You have to look at scripture to see if something is scriptural.
Someone might ask, "What about the conviction of sin?" Again, the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to do that. He does not skirt around scripture to convict anyone. It all comes right from the Bible. There is no basis for your knowing whether it is your conscience, you talking to yourself, or the Holy Spirit helping you remember and then apply scripture. What matters in the end is if it was biblical.
What if someone wants to go to Thailand and he really shouldn't go? We have many different checks and balances against doing something that God doesn't want us to do. Pastoral leadership might have scriptural reasons for not going. We don't have the right to disobey church authority. The rest of the church may know of character deficiencies. Someone may not fulfill the qualifications. Others may have good reason to say that it is an unwise decision, using biblical principles. Perhaps someone else preaching the gospel lives just down the street in Thailand, to where we think we should go. God isn't telling anyone to go to Thailand today.
What about the Apostle Paul? Didn't God send him places? Didn't God send Jonah to Nineveh? I've said this before, but God doesn't function in an identical way through all history. God is the same, but He does things differently depending on the era in which we live. God spoke directly to prophets and apostles. Now we base what we do on the completed Word of God. God has told us that He is finished revealing new things, so when we say that we are getting something new like Paul did, then we are not trusting what Paul wrote.
Some of what people say the Holy Spirit told them is actually good. What it is that "God told them to do" is actually the right thing to do. They say God told them to pastor. God already said that the desire to pastor is a good desire. Someone might desire that, but God didn't tell the person to do it. We read the Bible and it talks about the necessity of pastors. People can read that and desire it. They know that there is a reward for faithful pastors. They still might not be one, because other people have to see that they could be one, that they fulfill the qualifications.
This claim that God speaks to you directly is wrong and it is dangerous. It adds or takes away from scripture and from the sufficiency of the Bible. It is a lie, not necessarily on purpose, but we won't really know what the motive is. God either causes or allows everything, but that doesn't mean that He approves of what we want to do, the thing that we are saying He told us to do.
If you need a new building, don't pray that God will direct you to a new building. Make a good decision based upon what God already said. Getting a new building might just be what you want to do. The feeling you get, that you are saying is Him, might just be your own feeling.
Many unscriptural ideas revolve around these revelations people say they get from God. You can get a new building, for instance, but it might be a waste of money. It might make things more convenient for people, but Christianity itself isn't convenient. If someone won't come, because he needs his church to be more comfortable or a larger choice of seating, that's not a good reason. He should be dealt with for his disobedience or wrong attitude.
While talking to a man from a new-evangelical church, he testified that God gave them new property for a huge new auditorium right next to the highway. He was convinced of it. Shortly thereafter the city built a highway exit right by their property to make it more convenient than ever. Was this God sending everyone a message about their legitimacy? This man testified that it did.
It is my opinion that many professing Christians trust this mystical voice more than they do the Bible. They would rather consider what they think Jesus would do than what the Bible says He did do. They like the concept that God is telling them things. They feel more important from that and, of course, more spiritual too.
From listening to many pastors through the years, I know they don't know how to prepare a sermon. They don't know how to study the Bible. They are flawed in many different ways, but they still keep preaching unscriptural ideas, because they think they got them from the Holy Spirit. A lot of false worship is justified because of how it makes them feel, a feeling they attribute to the Holy Spirit. What I'm contending is that this doctrine of continued direct revelations from the Spirit has led to many false beliefs and either damaging or destructive practices in churches.