What does the insanity plea in a court of law have to do with hearing the voice of God? Consider the following story.

The Origins of the Insanity Plea

On June 20th, 1843, a man wearing a top hat and tails exited the front door of 10 Downing Street in London. Unbeknownst to him, he was followed by a Scottish woodcutter, Daniel McNaughton. A short distance later, McNaughton drew a weapon in the middle of the crowd of people a fired into the man’s back. The man died five days later from his wounds.

The man killed was Edmund Drummond the secretary to the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. McNaughton had mistaken Drummond for Peel. He had intended to kill Peel because he believed that the government was persecuting him and trying to kill him.

During McNaughton’s trial, nine witnesses testified that McNaughton was insane. He was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity. The aftermath of the trial was the codification of what became the McNaughton rules, the standard for the establishment of the insanity defense.

One of the primary standards under the McNaughton rules was the ability to know right from wrong. In order for a defendant to effectively use an insanity defense, he would have to prove that he didn’t know what he was doing, or didn’t know what he was doing was wrong. For instance, if someone sliced another’s throat, but actually thought he slicing a loaf of bread, he could be declared insane because he didn’t know what he was doing. However, he could also be declared insane if he cut off the person’s head in their sleep because he thought it would be fun to watch them try to find it after they awoke. In this latter case, he wouldn’t have understood it was wrong.

Knowing Right from Wrong

Likewise, Christians can be saved from spiritual insanity if they have a wise, discerning heart to determine what’s right and what’s wrong. In this article, I hope to help you develop a strong spirit that correctly discerns right from wrong. Everything God says is right. Everything that disagrees with what God says is wrong. Therefore, the key to understanding right and wrong is being able to discern the voice of God.

If the only voice that spoke to us was the Holy Spirit, that would be easy. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In addition to the Spirit’s voice, we also hear the voice of our flesh, the speech of the world’s system, or voices from the pit of hell that try to dissuade us from walking the straight and narrow path that God sets for us.

The Voice of Our Flesh

To begin with, we must separate the voice of God’s Spirit from the voice of our own flesh. Paul tells his disciples. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” – Galatians 5:16-18 NKJV. Our own flesh carries us away from God’s word to our spirits when we, like Eve, see the tasty fruit on the forbidden tree. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” – Genesis 3:6 NKJV.

The World’s Propaganda

We must also be aware of the world’s propaganda that speaks to our hearts. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world.” – 1 John 2:15-16 NKJV.

Always be suspicious of “new” ideas that contradict the wisdom of the ages. Things like, “Science has proven that the Bible is simply a myth!” Or, “All talk of a spiritual world beyond the material is just wishful thinking!” Maybe you have heard this one, “There is no such thing as sin. You can do anything you would like, as long as no animals are harmed.” Okay, that last one is an exaggeration, but you get the point.

Technology has advanced and we have a gateway to all kinds of information that formerly was inaccessible. However, our knowledge does not mean we are more wise. Knowledge does not equal truth. Don’t be fooled by the supposedly new ideas the world tries to feed us.

An Angel of Light

Finally, sometimes the voice may be the same one that Jesus heard after fasting in the wilderness for 40 days. Satan, or one of his fallen spirits, will speak to our hearts in a very deceptive way. His voice may sound a lot like God, to the undiscerning. Paul tells us that at times, men will pass themselves off as “false apostles” and then says this, “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” – 2 Corinthians 11:14 NKJV.

It is almost a cliché. A tortured soul commits some unspeakable act. He then tells the media as he is led away in handcuffs, “God told me to do it.” I don’t know the source of the voice they heard, but I can guarantee you, it wasn’t God’s.

When Satan appeared to Jesus, Jesus was able to counter all of his temptations by quoting the standard of truth, the Bible. Likewise, we should be taking in the scriptures daily in preparation for the day that Satan speaks to our heart.

The Three Faces of Temptation

Take note of these three temptations used against the Lord. After forty days in the wilderness without food, Jesus was very hungry. Satan appealed to Jesus’ flesh. “…. command this stone to become bread.” – Luke 4:3 NKJV. The second was Jesus’ eyes, “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.” – Luke 4:5 NKJV. The devil offered to exchange all of the kingdoms for Jesus’ worship.

And finally, Satan appealed to Jesus’ ego. “Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.’” – Luke 4:9 NKJV. What a spectacle this would have been! All the people worshipping, all the priests serving, see Jesus floating down from the tippy top of the temple. He would lightly touch down with a flourish and exclaim, “Ta-da!” But Jesus knew this wasn’t the plan, so he resisted once again.

Also, note, the same three ways that the world tries to deceive – “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” And also the ways Eve was tempted, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food (the flesh), that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise (pride).” We should guard against appeals to our appetites, anything that looks nice like a new car or expensive clothes, or whatever makes us feel important or boosts our ego. I’m not saying that anything that appeals to us on these bases is bad. We just should be careful about such things. The devil uses these natural desires to turn us from following hard after God.

The Original Question

So, let’s go back to our original question. How do we hear the voice of God? The answer is simply to listen. However, we must listen with a discerning heart. We must discern God’s voice from the other voices that speak to us. If we learn to discern God’s voice from all the imitators, we do well. We will be able to please him and promote his will on earth as it is in heaven.

To read more on this topic, check out this article, As I See It: Quenching, Suppressing, and Blaspheming the Holy Spirit