Question: Dr. Dobson, are you saying that God does not speak directly to the heart–that all impressions are false and unreliable?
Answer: Certainly not. It is the expressed purpose of the Holy Spirit to deal with human beings in a most personal and intimate way, convicting and directing and influencing. However, some people seem to find it very difficult to distinguish the voice of God from other sounds within.
Do some of the "other sounds" represent the influence of Satan?We are told in 2 Corinthians 11:14 that the devil comes to us as "an angel of light," which means he counterfeits the work of the Holy Spirit. This is why he is described in profoundly evil terms in the Bible, leaving little room for doubt as to his motives or nature. His character is presented as wicked, malignant, subtle, deceitful, fierce and cruel. He is depicted as a wolf, roaring lion and a serpent. Among the titles ascribed to Satan are these: "Murderer," "Dragon," "Old Serpent," "Wicked One," "Liar," "Prince of Devils," and more than 20 other names which describe a malicious and incomparably evil nature.
These scriptural descriptions of Satan are written for a purpose: we should recognize that the "Father of Lies" has earned his reputation at the expense of those he has damned! And there is no doubt in my mind that he often uses destructive impressions to implement his evil purposes.
You said your premonition of impending death occurred while you were praying. Is it really possible for Satan to speak in the midst of an earnest prayer?Was not Jesus tempted by Satan while He was on a 40-day prayer and fasting journey in the wilderness?
Yes, the devil can speak at any time. Let me go a step further: harmful impressions can bear other earmarks of divine revelation. They can occur and recur for months at a time. They can be as intense as any other emotion in life. They can be verified by Christian friends and can even seemingly be validated by striking passages of Scripture.
Would you give an example of how Satan uses a false notion to cause spiritual damage?
A man with six children became a Christian and, in his spiritual immaturity, felt he was "called" to the ministry. He quit his job the next week, even though he had no financial reserves and had hardly been able to provide necessities for his wife and children. By scraping together every available penny, the family moved across the state to allow the father to attend a Christian college. From the beginning, one disaster followed another. Sick children, work layoffs, academic troubles, physical exhaustion and marital discord accumulated day by day until life became utterly intolerable. Finally, the father quit school and admitted that he had made an enormous mistake. More importantly, his spiritual enthusiasm had been extinguished in the process–an object lesson that was carefully observed by his six children. (I should emphasize that the "call" of this man to the ministry could have been genuine, and the troubles he faced do not necessarily disprove its validity. But from a strictly human point of view, it appears that he responded impulsively and unwisely to his inner feelings and impressions.)
The Christian who accepts his own impressions at face value–uncritically–is extremely vulnerable to satanic mischief. He is obligated to implement every obsession, regardless of how ridiculous or demanding it seems. He is compelled by a little voice from within which warns, "Do this or else," stripping him of judgment and reason.