“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Years ago I broke down and bought a GPS navigation device for our cars. We figured that given all the driving we do in places we’ve never been, it might be a great help. Also, for other kinds of searches (restaurants, places of interest, etc.) it has great information. In some ways this GPS has been wonderful, but in other ways very frustrating. It’s been sort of a love/hate relationship.
Early on, I decided I needed to name the female voice coming out of this device … the voice that told me—so smoothly—where I should go and when I had to turn. I decided upon the name “Wanda” for some reason. But when we decided to take Wanda on our trip to the East Coast, I decided to pronounce her name with an East Coast accent. “Wander” is how it came out.
“Wander.” How disturbingly appropriate—because that’s what kept happening under her driving instructions. Have you ever argued with a machine? Well now I can say that I have. “Wander” and I would go back and forth on numerous specifics. When it was obvious she was wrong, she was entirely unyielding—even when it was clear that she was adding an additional ½ hour to our trip.
Fortunately, we had a map in front of us, and in some cases, some local knowledge. My wife had lived on the East Coast for a number of years, so she was savvy re: many routes we needed to take. Combining map knowledge with local knowledge, we were able to defeat the occasional unwise counsel of Wander.
In my own spiritual life, I can recall a number of instances where the counsel of “Wander” came my way. If I listened, my journey would be waylaid. If I discerned and went the way of God’s map—the Bible—and the way of my knowledge of His ways in Christ that I’d learned over the years… then I’d be fine and I’d not lose my way.
Let me give you some examples of Wander’s counsel:
- (From almost 35 years ago), the teaching that all sickness was due to personal sin… therefore all I need to do is pray against the sin, and physical healing is guaranteed.
Refuted by John 9:1-3.
- In a class at school, being taught that in order to receive God’s anointing, we must fast for a prescribed time before each sermon, avoid relations with our wives, and keep ourselves from some of the things in the OT law pertaining to the ideas of ceremonial uncleanness.
Refuted by the absolute absence of such instruction in the NT, and by passages like 2 Corinthians 3:3-18, Hebrews 7:21-22; 8:6-9.
- Church growth is best accomplished by basing the church’s operating philosophy on the exercise of spiritual gifts, especially signs and wonders.
Refuted by the fact that Jesus commands pastors to feed the flock of God with the Word of God. Spiritual growth and equipping for ministry take place only through the Spirit’s application of the Bible to the heart of the hungry believer (2 Timothy 3:16-17). People are saved through the gospel, not through signs and wonders (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
- When the church grows, we need to adopt wise management structures (i.e., organizational charts and lines of corporate reporting) to ensure ministry effectiveness.
Refuted by the fact that the church is an organism, not an organization. We are the living, breathing Body of Christ, and church structure needs to be relational, not structural. There is no NT evidence that the NT church organized itself using worldly methods of organization.
I could go on and on … suffice it to say that the only wise course of action—ever—is that which results from the Spirit’s direction through the Word of God. We need to hear God’s voice. When other voices cry out to us for our attention and obedience, we must always measure them against what the Bible teaches, and what our relationship with God in Christ has taught us through the years about the character and ways of God.
When I’ve listened to Wander without Biblical or spiritual discernment, I’ve fallen into a temporary ditch of some sort or another. When I’ve tested Wander and followed Jesus’ voice, which He promised that we would hear in John 10:27, then I’ve avoided the traps of unwise counsel which divert me from my spiritual journey.
In the flesh, we’re all prone to Wander. In the Spirit, we do very, very well.O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. (Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Words by Robert Robinson, 1758; Music: Nettleton, Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second, by John Wyeth, 1813)