We hear a lot of voices today - each representing some "cause" for which they are willing to "go public" with. Some are reasonable and seem to catch our attention simply because what they present seems logical and straight-forward. Other voices are not as forth-coming in their motives - they simply manipulate the crowds with their message until they have them to the place we might call "biting on the bait". Our mailboxes are inundated with this request for "charitable contribution" one right after another. When we hear a voice calling, do we recognize its source? Jesus was most concerned with this when he gave his disciples this instruction:
Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he's up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won't follow a stranger's voice but will scatter because they aren't used to the sound of it. (John 10:1-5 The Message)
Look at what Jesus says first. The means of entry one attempts to take in "getting to you" is often the most "telling" sign we have. In this case he used the example of climbing over the fence instead of going directly through it. This suggests some type of "manipulating" influence - not being straight-forward in their presentation. This should be a dead give-away to us, but how many times have we been "snookered" into their manipulative ways? If you are like me, there have been times!
So, our first thing to consider in keeping ourselves safe is the manner in which someone presents their "cause". I believe in something called "transparency". In other words, their books have to be open to me! I need to see the evidence of their works! Now, not everyone is comfortable being transparent, are they? Does this necessarily make them "dishonest" or "manipulative" in their purpose? Not totally, so Jesus gives us additional means by which to evaluate the "cause" we will get behind.
He tells us to consider their voice - a recognizable thing. Now, let me put up some "safety measures" here before we go on. If we are to know someone's voice, we have to be so accustomed to them being around in our lives that we easily recognize the voice, even in the darkness, right? I have some friends I've known for years. I recognize their voice before they even make it into my office or my home. Why? We have "hung out" together enough I now recognize their voice without having to see them face-to-face.
Now, let me just say this and I will leave it at that - we cannot expect to be kept safe from the manipulative voice of our enemy if we never get familiar with the voice of our Lord. The Holy Spirit is not a loud and boisterous voice inside our heads - but he does give us a "niggling" we might call an urge, or an impression. If we ignore the subtly of his "voice", we sometimes find ourselves in some pretty awkward and compromising positions. As we respond to the "niggling", we find we become more familiar with the voice. Just sayin...
Last, but not least, Jesus reminds his disciples of the evidence of how we are being led. The Lord leads with a protective oversight. The one who manipulates really leads so as to scatter. Look at this another way - does the voice you are listening to the most "draw you closer" to the support and fellowship of other believers, or does it allow you to be pulled out into the open, able to wander away unnoticed? If the first is true, the voice is likely a good voice, free of manipulation and malice. If the latter is true, the voice is likely determined to see us in a place where we can easily be "picked off" and left in a place of desolation.
If we miss the means by which they come to us, and then miss the evidence of being familiar with the voice, then we stand one more chance of recognizing their deception in the way they are leading us. Miss all of these and we might just have already been deceived!