The Encounter: The Voice of God by John Burke

We began a new series at Gateway Church in Austin.

This week, John Burke shared at Gateway North, Kenny Green shared at Gateway Central, and I shared at Gateway South on “The Voice.”

Listen to my message here:

Discuss ways to apply the message here:

Next Steps for your life group or family dinner.

Notes from our message are here:

We’ve been challenged to do a 60 day, all-out, holding nothing back experiment to encounter the Living God in a new way. We are forming a new habit of being aware of God’s presence to stay connected and willing to do what He says.

More on the 60 60 Experiment (Soul Revolution App) here.

We’re not after perfection but progress.

Jesus promises that if we will simply stay connected, listening and responding more and more, He will produce a quality of Life in us that fulfills our deepest longings for purpose, love, adventure, joy, Life and Freedom. It’s how we love God.

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” –  John 15:9-12

It’s the One Thing, the Only Thing we have to do Jesus said. Stay connected to His love, loving Him by obeying what he says. But we forget.

A Warning:

It’s dangerous when people declare with absolute certainty, “God told me.” That rarely happens. That can get very sketchy. After all, there are lots of voices we hear in our heads all the time.

Some voices come from a dark place. An extreme example would be the terrorists who claim god sent them to destroy the lives of others. Some voices are our own selfish thoughts. An example could be the husband who leaves his wife for another woman claiming god gave him the green light.

Our thoughts have tremendous creative power in our lives – when our thoughts are negative they can create something negative. When they’re positively aligned with God’s will and ways, they lead us into a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, self-control.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

So how do we know what God is saying?

God Speaks Through Scripture:

[Jesus said,] I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
– Matthew 5:17-19

Jesus claims that God has been speaking through the prophets of old who recorded the Scriptures. God has revealed a lot about His will, and He will never contradict what He’s revealed in the Scriptures.

If you think God’s telling you to lie, cheat, steal or break a command of Scripture—that’s not from God. This is extremely important because we can all be deceived. Sometimes we hear only what we want to hear, so the Scriptures help correct us. We can tend to be pretty self-centered in our listening.

True Love doesn’t act self-centeredly, it receives from God so it has something to give.


David Ferguson laid out a good mental image of this. Imagine a very wide ski slope with yellow tape on either side marking the out of bounds where there lurked unseen, hidden dangers.

On the left out of bounds are false ideas about God: God is out to get us, or thinks we’re hopeless, or God wants to ruin our lives. That’s not reality according to Scripture.

On the right side, the Scriptures mark the moral out of bounds—if we think lying, stealing, adultery, getting high, dishonest business practices are okay for us because we’re not hurting anyone, we’re living out of bounds morally and eventually it does hurt us and others.

The Scriptures mark the out of bounds areas as a means of protecting us. That leaves a very wide trail on the path of right living. There’s a lot of freedom—so God guides more specifically.

God Speaks Through People

But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.
-2 Corinthians 7:6

Paul indicates that God spoke words of comfort to him at a critical time, through his student, Titus.

God uses us to encourage each other. When someone comes to mind to encourage, go for it! That could be God sending you as His messenger!

As you’re learning to listen, it’s important to find wise people who know the Scriptures and have walked with God longer than you to check out promptings.

God can speak through us to each other.

God Speaks In a Quiet Thought

There’s a story in Scripture of Elijah, a great prophet—whose life gets threatened, and he runs and hides in mountain cave—crying out to God to speak to him. God does something to teach us all. It says:

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart…but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper…Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

God’s ordinary, preferred way of communicating is the quiet whisper.

God doesn’t primarily speak through the thunderous storm or showy fire, but speaking directly to the thoughts of the quiet mind that is wanting and willing to listen. God does not need a voice or soundwaves to put his thoughts in your mind. He can quietly, unobtrusively put his thoughts directly in your mind anytime—it’s actually a more personal, direct way of communicating than an audible voice.

However, just like you can hear my voice, but not listen to me, you can ignore God’s whisper in your thoughts. You can be distracted by noise or other thoughts or be unwilling to respond. If you’re plugging your spiritual ears, you won’t have ears to hear anything. He won’t force you to hear. If you are willing to listen and respond, as soon as you are willing to take your fingers out of your ears and respond, you’ll find you start to hear again.

All throughout the scriptures from Moses to Jesus it says, “He has ears to hear, let him or her hear.” There’s a spiritual kind of hearing we must develop. In the old testament, Moses said: 

Love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. – Deuteronomy 30:20

God communicates to ordinary people, but again, if we’re not listening, we don’t recognize it.

The prophet Jeremiah says:

This is what the LORD Almighty says…To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it. – Jeremiah 6:9-10

In other words, the key to developing ears that hear is to develop a willing heart. Willingness to respond and trust is the key to developing ears that hear, and how we love God.

It’s what Jesus promised his last night on earth:

When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” – John 14:20-21

God only reveals himself to those who are willing to commit and trust him. God wants loving and receptive children. He is humble and unobtrusive, kind, patient and merciful, but He doesn’t bow down to our demands that He prove Himself to us before we will seek Him. He says he reveals Himself to those who demonstrate love toward him by trusting. We don’t get to see until we trust. We don’t really know until we go. We don’t get the thrill of the ride, until we take the risk. 

God Speaks Through Dreams

Sometimes the Lord uses dreams to communicate to us. Job said:

14But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in bed. He whispers in their ear. – Job 33:14-16

Sometimes God uses dreams, or a quiet whisper in our spiritual ears. Once again, we need to have open hands and a humble heart along with a willingness to submit to the guidance of the Scriptures in order to apply what God may be saying.

Final Thought

So this week, listen, and take a RISK!


What we’re experimenting with is going all out, responding in faith, and seeing if God doesn’t reveal himself.

The more we trust, the more we get to see God guiding us on the most exciting adventure we can ever go on!


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