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Question: "How do I know when if its God talking to me or am I just thinking something?"
Thank you so much for this excellent question! Where do our thoughts come from? That IS a profound question, and the Bible has a lot to say on this subject, but I do not see any "concrete" answers. We must live the Christian life by "faith", trusting in and relying on our Lord Jesus Christ.
The best "simple" answer I can give, is that thoughts from God line up with His Word. When we are unsure about where our thoughts are coming from, we should pray to God, and ask Him to "confirm" whether our thoughts are coming from Him, or coming from our own self.
It seems that when we are "in fellowship", controlled by the Spirit of God, that ALL our thoughts would be coming from God, but, if that were true, we would never again have a "bad thought" and get out of fellowship. So, even while we are "in fellowship", we can be tempted to sin and get "out of fellowship".
We also know, from studying God's Word, that a person can have a wonderful, "godly" sounding thought, to do something that almost anyone would say is "good", but that thought can come from our own selfishness, from our own sin nature, often desiring the praise of men. (These "apparently good deeds" are called "wood, hay, and stubble" and are to be burned at the Judgement Seat of Christ, 1 Cor 3:10-15)
God's Word does tell us that He is actively involved in the lives and thoughts of all His children:
Jer. 10:23 says that "a man's way is not in himself". I believe this is teaching us that all our thoughts either come from God or from our "Old Sin Nature" and satanic influences.
Prov. 20:24 says that a man's goings are of the Lord, how then can he understand his way? God is either "causing us" to do His will or "allowing us" to do something from "our own will".
God works in us to will (to "want to") and do (the ability from God to "do") His good pleasure, Phil 2:13, Heb 13:21, and 1 Thess 2:13.
God prepares hearts and gives us an answer from our voice. Prov. 16:1
God can establish our thoughts, when we commit our works to Him: "Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established". Prov. 16:3
God does not tempt us, but it is our own desires, from our own sin nature that tempts us to displease God: "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed". Jas 1:14
I do not want to sell God short, or "put him in a box", because we know He is Sovereign, and "works all things after the pleasure of His good will", but, I must teach what His Word teaches.
I am very wary of Christians who say "God spoke to me", and told them to do something (quite often God "spoke" to them, to tell YOU to do something) Heb 1:1 - 2 states that God does not speak audibly to us in this present Age of Grace. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken (The Greek "Aorist" tense here is a "point in time, meaning - "once for all") unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;"
God spoke in many ways to His people in Old Testament times, from a voice emanating from a donkey, as in Numb. 22:28, to a "still small voice", as in 1 Kings 19:12, to "face to face as one man speaketh to another", as in Ex. 33:11, and many other ways, such as dreams and visions. But, that was before the Bible was completed. God's people needed these "diverse manners" of revelation from God before they had a Bible they could own and read for themselves.
Now that the Bible is completed, Heb 1:1 - 2 and Jude verse 3 teach us that God has now spoken to us "once and for all" through His Son Jesus, and that the Word of God is the "mind of Christ", 1 Cor. 2:16. When we have the Word of God "hidden in our heart", God brings His Word to our consciousness to direct us.
How does God "motivate" His people to do His will? The Scriptures have many things to say about how God "motivates" us:
Our number one responsibility is to stay in fellowship through instant confession of sin in accordance with First John Chapter one.
We choose our "path" (whether we will be in fellowship or out of fellowship) but God orders our steps (what will happen to us along the path we choose). Prov. 16:9.
Even the desire to confess our sin and maintain our fellowship comes from God!
2 Cor 7:10-11 The sorrow from God causes a change of mind. ("metanoeo", true repentance)
Acts 11:18 A God given change of mind that results in a changed life. (again, "metanoeo", true repentance)
How does God guide us?
In Acts 11:5-16, we have a wonderful outline of how God leads and guides us. In this passage, God needed to teach Peter that the Body of Christ would consist of Gentiles as well as Jews. We have no record of Gentiles being saved in the first 8 years of the Church Age, and the Jews thought they had a "lock" on salvation through believing in Jesus, so, Peter had to have a strong "object lesson" to show him that God was going to save Gentiles as well as Jews. I find seven wonderful principles of Divine Guidance in these verses:
1. In verse 5 Peter says "I was in the city of Joppa praying". Certainly Divine Guidance starts with "prayer". We are commanded to always be in a prayerful attitude.
2. In verse 6, Peter says "I considered". He "thought" about it. We need to "think" and "reason" and compare what is going on with the Word of God. Someone said our "sixth sense" is "common sense", the one that keeps the other 5 senses from making a fool out of us".
3. In verses 7 - 10, The Word of God gives Peter guidance. God spoke verbally, in this case, to Peter. Today, after the last Apostle died and the Bible was completed, we do not have any further revelation from God, we have His completed Word. As Jude verse 3 states in the Greek, "earnestly contend (fight) for the Faith (the completed Scriptures) which was once for all delivered to the saints". We need a maximum amount of God's Word in our soul to have a maximum amount of God's guidance.
4. In verse 11, "immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me". This is what we call "Providential circumstances", or things that God causes to happen around us to move us in the direction He wants us to go.
5. In verse 12, Peter says "the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting". The Spirit of God gives us a "peace" about things to help guide us.
6. In verse 13, we see Christians comparing notes on what God was teaching them. We can learn a lot when we fellowship and discuss the Scriptures with each other.
7. In verse 16, Peter says "Then remembered I the word of the Lord". Scripture memory is very important, and can remind us of God's will and what God's Word says. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 119:11, "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee".
Our Proper "IN FELLOWSHIP" Attitude
When we are "in fellowship", the "fruit of the Spirit" should be produced in us, as listed in Gal 5:16-26: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self control. And our attitude should be that of the Psalmist:
CAUSE ME to hear your loving kindness & to know the way wherein I should walk. Psa 143:8.
MAKE ME to understand the way, and to go in the path, Psa 119:27.
JUDGE ME, Psa 7:8, 26:1, 35:24, and 43:1.
ORDER my steps in thy Word, Psa 119:133.
SHOW ME thy ways, Psa 25:4.
TEACH ME, thy paths, Psa 25:4&5.
TEACH ME thy ways, Psa 27:11.
TEACH ME to do thy will, Psa 143:10
LEAD ME, and guide me for thy names sake, Psa 31:3.
LEAD ME, in righteousness, Psa 5:8.
I am convinced that if we stay in fellowship, through instant confession of all known sin, and take in God's Word, and seek to live by the Word through the power of God, that what we will find ourselves "wanting to do" will be God's will.
As we mature "in the Lord", the task of knowing where our thoughts come from should be continually easier. As Peter says in 2 Pet 3:18, we must keep on "growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever, amen"!
Your questions are a blessing! I hope my answers are clear, and an equal blessing.
Yours "in Christ",