I went to Oklahoma Baptist University. It’s a great school, but the level of religious fervor as it relates to dating is often over the top. Guys and girls alike were prone to approach one another and say, “I just know we’re gonna get married. God told me!” It was weird, and a bit disturbing, that the girls who said things like this to me always seem to have some kind of growth spawning out from their forehead or an unusual lack of skill with basic personal hygiene. It’s an experience that makes me naturally distrustful of people who say, “God told me.”
History is filled with stories of really ugly things done in God’s name. King Henry VIII, in the name of God, would often decapitate both Catholics and Protestants on the same day because, “God told him.” Islamic extremists will strap bombs on their chest and detonate them in public places because, “God told them.” People who would never think to throw out God’s name as a cuss word and who would be offended by those who swear using the name of God are often as likely to take His name in vain by trying to strengthen their argument using God’s name as justification.
We need to be careful when we say, “God told me.”
However, the fact that I’m distrustful of the phrase itself or that I’ve seen some ugly things done in His name doesn’t mean it never happens. Sometimes, God speaks. Sometimes He moves so clearly that His direction is undeniable. How do we know the difference? How can we tell when the difference between God speaking in our lives and a bad bowl of pea soup?
Galatians 1:11-24 gives us the answer. It’s the story of Paul. He starts by telling us, “God told him…” He says this gospel He preaches comes directly from God himself. Paul experienced a moment of inspiration when God spoke truth into his life. But he didn’t live on inspiration alone. Paul spent three years on his own. He was in Damascus. There was another Believer there, Ananias. We don’t know if they spent much time together or not, but we know Ananias was there when Paul came to faith in Christ. We know Paul was a master of the Old Testament. He knew the Old Testament Scriptures like the back of his hand. It would appear Paul spent three years scouring the Old Testament to understand more clearly how it might be possible that Jesus could be the Messiah. From Paul’s other writings it’s clear he found the evidence he sought. Paul knew that whatever the inspiration may be, God is consistent, He would not contradict something already revealed in His Scriptures.
For Paul, “God told me…” started with inspiration. The inspiration gave way to Scriptural confirmation. Next Paul went to see mature Believers, established in their faith. He went to Jerusalem to see Peter and James, the half brother of Jesus. He spent 15 days with them. They could clearly see God’s call in Paul’s life. Inspiration led to Scriptural confirmation and then validation by wise, spiritually mature, godly counsel.
Finally, Paul’s story became this unstoppable history changing force. Verses 23 – 24 are beautiful, “And they were hearing only, ‘He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith he once tried to destroy. And they glorified God in me.’” If ‘God told you’, the outcome is unstoppable and the evidence is clear. It won’t be your story. It will be the story of God in you. Like Paul, people will glorify God in you.
How do you know when God told you? Inspiration leads to Scriptural confirmation then validation by spiritually mature mentors which results in an unstoppable movement of God – His glorification.
Today, what has God told you? Be careful not to use His name in vain.