HOW TO DISCERN THE VOICE OF JESUS AND FOLLOW HIM.
"THE THIEF COMES ONLY TO STEAL AND KILL AND DESTROY; I HAVE COME THAT THEY MAY HAVE LIFE, AND HAVE IT TO THE FULL." — JOHN 10:10
“Jesus is calling me to do this.”
I’ve heard people say this before. And I’ve said it too. It’s because in small decisions and in really big ones, I try to listen for the call of Jesus and follow him wherever he leads. But how do I actually know I’m following Jesus? How do I discern his voice from all the other voices competing for my allegiance (including my own)? In fact, how do any of us discern Jesus’s voice? And how do we know we aren’t being misled by our own emotions or desires?
This is a tough one, but so practical and important.
The question of discerning Jesus’s call flows right out of our verse. It’s a verse that presents us with two contrasting lifestyles: one that is really no life at all and one of total abundance. Jesus promises to give us that full life. And he tells us in the context of our verse that we merely must know his voice and follow him in order to experience the abundant life (John 10:4, 27). That’s pretty simple, right? So, in order to follow him, we simply need to listen to his voice.
But how do we listen to the voice of Jesus?
We can only listen to him if we know his voice. I know that might sound silly, but the passage makes it clear that we follow Jesus’s voice because we know it (John 10:4). In other words, Jesus’s voice should be familiar and distinct. We should be able to single it out from the midst of all the other voices. Just like I can pick out my husband’s voice in a crowd, I should know Jesus’s voice so well that I can do the same with his. Therefore, we must know his voice in order to listen and follow it. And there are really three ways of hearing Jesus’s voice: in his Word, by his Spirit, and in his people. When we are listening to his voice regularly by these avenues, we can follow him wherever he calls.
Listen to Jesus’s voice in his Word.
When I’m trying to discern what Jesus is calling me to do, I always start by asking, “What does the Bible say?” The Bible is the primary place we can go to hear the voice of Jesus. This is why it’s so important for us to spend regular time reading and really knowing what the Bible says (not just spot checking when we have a question, but really knowing the Word of God). The Bible says about itself that it is “alive and active” and “it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13). So often, Jesus reveals our false motivations and selfishness when we read his Word. We hear his voice calling us to repent and follow him in grace. When we bring a situation before the Word of God, we often can see clearly which path aligns with the will of God and which path does not. We can be certain that Jesus would never call us to something that falls outside of his good plan for us in his Word. But here’s the tricky thing: often we’re choosing between two perfectly good and holy options. What then?
Listen to Jesus’s voice through his Spirit.
Jesus doesn’t only speak to us in his written Word, he also speaks to us through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. Did you hear that? This is a truly amazing reality for every follower of Jesus: God’s Spirit dwells in us! In fact, Jesus actually tells his disciples that it’s better for him to ascend to Heaven and not be with them physically because he will send the Holy Spirit to dwell in them (John 16:7). Here’s one reason why: Jesus says, the “Spirit of truth” will guide them into all truth (John 16:13). He’s our guide, leading us in the truth. He opens up the Word to us, helping us understand and apply it to our situations. For me, this looks like inviting the Spirit to guide and teach me as I read the Word. And when I make difficult decisions, I pray for his leading. We aren’t on our own trying to discern Jesus’s leading, he gives us his Word and his Spirit to guide us.
Listen to Jesus’s voice in his people.
Jesus also uses his people to speak truth and help us discern his leading in our lives. How many times have I been at a crossroads and asked my friends to help me discern God’s calling? Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” In my limited perspective, I can only do what seems right to me, and this so often ends up being a foolish endeavor. But when I take my situation before my godly friends and mentors who know and love me, I get wise advice. So many times, they’ve cautioned me by giving me insights I wouldn’t have considered. They’ve encouraged me where I was fearful to step out in faith. They’re the people who know me best and love Jesus just like I do. They help me apply the truth of Scripture and discern the voice of Jesus. So, when my spirit is aligned with God’s people and at peace with the Holy Spirit and, over all of this, the Word of God reigns, I know that I am hearing and following the voice of Jesus. He is the Good Shepherd and he has not left his sheep without clear ways to hear and follow him.
How are you doing at listening to the voice of Jesus in his Word?
Do you make a practice of inviting the Spirit to guide you in your Bible reading each time?
Who could you invite into your big decisions to give you a bigger biblical perspective?
Thanks for reading,
Meet Natalie,Dwell co-founder
Hi there, I'm Natalie. I'm so glad you're here. I'd love to connect with you and hear more about what God is doing in your life!
ON THE PODCAST
His Word Does Not Return Void // Vera Schmitz
You won’t want to miss today’s episode where Dwell Differently Co-founder, Vera Schmitz, shares how this month’s verse, John 10:10, was pivotal in her own spiritual journey as well as in her husband’s. She fills us in on why she put her now-husband in the “friend zone” for a couple of years, how she’s seen the way that the Word of God never returns void but always accomplishes what he has planned, and encourages all of us to share the truth and hope of God’s Word with those around us.