Q: “It is confusing to me why nowadays people hear less [than the Old Testament prophets] even though they have the Holy Spirit inside of them! My thought is that we should hear BETTER now…but what factors may be causing us to hear less today?”
A: Your observation is correct. With the Holy Spirit in believers, we as Christians should be hearing His voice. After all, Jesus said of those who have ears, they need to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying. However, the way that Jesus poses the statement implies that even though people may have the Holy Spirit in them, it does not mean they will hear what He is saying.
According to 2 Corinthians 2:9-14, the matters of the Spirit must be properly discerned by comparing the spiritual with the spiritual. In other words, believers must be able to recognize the voice of the Spirit before they can properly discern it. The problem with some Christians is they approach the things of God from a fleshly perspective rather than a spiritual one. We are also instructed to test the spirits in 1 John 4:1.
Let us first begin with what we know the voice of the Spirit sounds like. His first and foremost voice is the Word of God. He inspired it for our spiritual growth (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). This is hard for some to accept. They want to literally hear a “voice” from heaven. Sadly, there are many voices out there that we can assume or presume belong to the Holy Spirit, but they are not His voice. The main reason people are led astray by other voices such as logic, pride, the world, and Satan is because they do not know the Word of God.
God is still very much speaking today through His Spirit, but many people think that they should constantly be hearing His voice like the Old Testament prophets. However such a conclusion is incorrect. God did not continually speak to His prophets in the Old Testament. There were days, months, and years between God’s speaking to His servants, such as in the case of Abraham.
This brings us to the main reason why people do not hear the voice of the Spirit. It is because they have failed to assimilate His written Word into their lives through faith and obedience. The Holy Spirit will never speak contrary to the inspired Word of God, nor will He change the intent of it, for it is through the Word the Holy Spirit sanctifies God’s people to be made fit for His use (John 17:17; 2 Timothy 2:19-21; 1 Peter 1:2, 22-23).
It is for this reason that all voices must be discerned in light of the full counsel of God’s Word to see if the voice is the Holy Spirit as a means to determine a proper response. However, it is not unusual to see people being casual toward God’s Word, while seeking to hear the “physical” voice of God. They do not want to take the necessary measure in becoming familiar with the voice of God through His Word, and as a result they are not able to discern what God might be saying through His Spirit today.
When I hear people say to me, “If only God would speak to me, I would know what to do” I find that upon questioning them, many fall into the category of unbelief or disobedience towards the written Word of God. If they will not believe and obey the Word of God, what makes them think they would believe and obey His voice if they actually heard it? It is a lot like the rich man in hell in Luke 16. He suddenly became an evangelist who wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about hell. This is what was said, “Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he (Abraham) said unto him, If they hear not Moses and his prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Parenthesis added.)
Another reason people do not hear the voice of the Holy Spirit is because they are seeking some type of sensationalism, religious hype, or miracles. Jesus said of such people that they belong to the wicked generation (Matthew 12:39). Such people are more caught up with experiences and entertainment than with truth. The Holy Spirit is not flashy, and He was not given to entertain or ensure goosebumps experiences so Christians can fly high on some sensational ether wave, making them appear ridiculous and insane. He came to empower believers to effectively live the Christian life in order to be witnesses in this dark world (Acts 1:8). If He speaks, it is in a still small voice as brought out in the case of Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-12). His voice will manifest itself in gentle impressions, nudging, and promptings, but such leadings will always be in line with the person of God and His Word.
The Holy Spirit’s main responsibility is to lead a person into all truth about the person, character, and work of Jesus Christ to ensure salvation and spiritual well-being (John 16:13). For example, He instills the wisdom from above to discern matters, brings revelation to the written Word so saints can behold the Son in greater measure and fall more in love with Him. He also brings insight into the intent and principles behind the Lord’s teachings so a person will be edified in his or her life and grow in truth (Ephesians 1:17-20). If a person is not interested in knowing God and doing His will by following Jesus into the life He has for him or her, the Holy Spirit will not only be silent but absent in any affairs.
The final reason people do not hear the Spirit is because they are not prepared to hear Him. According to Luke 24:47-49 and Acts 2 the people in the upper room tarried before the Holy Spirit came down in power. Clearly, the ground of their hearts and lives were being prepared in their time of waiting to respond and obey their commission. The Holy Spirit will not land or manifest Himself if the ground of people’s hearts is not properly prepared. After all, He is holy and will not land on the unholy or manifest Himself through the profane.
Today the work of the Holy Spirit is either being ignored, shut down, or exploited. He is either misunderstood, feared, or being presented as a sensational entertainer. As a result, He is being grieved because of unbelief, quenched because many succumb to a wrong spirit, and vexed because rebellious people will never bring glory to the One who deserves all glory. In certain cases, some of these individuals may even be coming close to blaspheming Him, because in ignorance, they either accredit His work to Satan or the devil’s work to God. (Isaiah 63:10; Mathew 12:24-32; Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Once again it comes down to discerning the Holy Spirit’s voice. Christians must be able to hear His voice in spite of the many other voices, and they must be prepared to hear Him with a sincere heart, a desire for the truth, and an active faith.
I hope this answers your question.