Here in chapter 10, Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Good Shepherd” (v. 11) and in verse 4 He said:
“And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
As we follow Christ, by reading His Word and obeying His commandments, we grow in our ability to “know His voice” and to recognize the voice of a stranger (Satan, v. 5). We become more and more discerning about the truth and God’s wisdom and recognize the enemy’s lies.
Knowing the Bible isn’t enough though, we must also “follow” the truth that we know. Knowledge without doing doesn’t bring discernment, it brings delusion (Jas. 1.22).
James 1.22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
So How Can We Know if We Are Hearing from God?
Go to the Bible. What does God say about it in His Word? God will not lead us contrary to His written Word (Tit. 1.2).
If we are one of His, we can know His voice, but the more time we spend reading and meditating on His Truth, the more clearly we will know and the more we will recognize a voice that is not His.
God will sometimes speak truth to us through sermons and other teachings, through our consciences, through people, and even through circumstances. But if it is Him, it will not contradict His written Word.
In chapter 3, God appears to Solomon in a dream and gives him a blank check to request anything he wants. Instead of wealth, or fame, or any material blessing, Solomon asks for wisdom to rule the kingdom.
God says there is a time when we can truly be “dumb as an ox,” but it has nothing to do with intelligence. How can understanding what really happened at the Cross help us overcome our own tendency toward foolishness and stupidity and, instead, help us grow in wisdom?
“Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”
The word translated “stupid” comes from a word meaning “to graze.” One who hates to be corrected is unteachable like an ignorant animal, like the old saying goes, “dumb as an ox.” Not a very flattering picture.
Teaching and correction are part of God’s means of grace to help us grow and mature as believers. A refusal to accept correction reveals an attitude of pride.
However, those who “love instruction” and submit themselves to correction are co-operating with God’s means of grace. They are able to learn from the wisdom of others instead of suffering the consequences of foolishness and poor choices.
But criticism, especially when it seems unjustified, can be so difficult to receive.
Why, when we’re criticized, do we so quickly become defensive? Because we believe something much bigger is at stake, our reputation. We’re often so convinced of the need to prove ourselves right in the eyes of others that we’re willing to damage relationships to do so (Jas. 4.1-4).
Alfred Poirier in his little booklet Words that Cut from Peacemaker Ministries, says:
In short, our idolatrous desire to justify ourselves fuels our inability to take criticism, which, in turn, is the cause for much conflict. It is the reason that many marriages and family members split, factions form, and relationships grow cold. And it is the reason we so desperately need the direction provided in Scripture to begin forming a redemptive, godward view of criticism.
Proverbs repeatedly shows us the importance of being able to receive rebuke, correction and criticism.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Prov. 9.9).
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise (Prov. 12.15).
By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom (Prov. 13.10).
He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, But he who heeds rebuke gets understanding (Prov. 15.32).
Rebuke is more effective for a wise man Than a hundred blows on a fool (Prov. 17.10).
And in Psalm 141.5 David said:
Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it.
Is that how you respond to criticism? I know I don’t. I fight the tendency to respond like a stupid ox! And lately, God has given me some excellent opportunities to see just how much of that tendency I still have!
So how can I (and possible some of you) become more like David?
The answer is in understanding just what God said about us at the cross.
At the cross God criticized, in fact, judged us as sinners whose only just punishment was death (Rom. 3.10-18, 23, 6.23). Alfred Poirier says:
In light of these massive charges against us, any accusations launched at us are mere understatements about who we are and what we’ve done!
To claim to be a Christian is to claim to be a person who has understood criticism. The Christian is a person who has stood under the greatest criticism–God’s criticism–and agreed with it! As people who have been “crucified with Christ,” we acknowledge, agree, and approve of God’s judgments against us. We confess, “I am a Sinner! I am a Lawbreaker! I deserve death!” Do you see how radical a confession that is?
But the good news is that God has not only judged us, He has justified us. When we realize that it’s not about our righteousness. We don’t have to boast or defend our goodness or performance. Now we boast in Christ’s righteousness.
But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption,so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1.30-31).
And instead of becoming defensive when criticized, the wise realize there is value in it. Remember what David said, “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness.”
If we remember we’re sinners, we can accept the fact that we have blind spots and, even when criticism is unjust, we can look for what God might be teaching us or exposing in our hearts. All criticism, ultimately, comes from the hand of our Sovereign God.