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24 September 2012

Listening to God - 24 September

We’ve talked about various ways that God uses to get our attention, and we’ve seen specific examples in the Bible to support our understanding. Yet, when we listen, we can sometimes wonder if God is really going to talk to us personally. How do we know the voice we hear is God’s and not a figment of our imagination – or our way of justifying whatever it is that we’ve asked God about? Unsurprisingly, the Bible has something to say about that, too.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and my Father are one.  John 10:27-30 (KJV)

(I love the phrase “pluck them out”. The English Standard Version says “snatch”, but I really like “pluck” because it implies that we are somehow buried in God’s hand, one with Him.)

Jesus says that we will know His voice. Knowing isn’t an immediate gift at salvation – we need to study and pray to really know His voice. As a guideline, when you’re asking whether you’re hearing from God, think of these things:

1.       Is what you’re hearing consistent with the teachings of the Bible? If ANY part of what you hear is not consistent with the Bible, you are not hearing God. God can never change His mind, and He won’t give you instruction that goes against the Reference Manual that He left for us.
2.       Does what you hear generally clash with your earthly desire and go against what society says is right and wrong? Since we are sinful creatures, we want to hear stuff that will satisfy our sin nature. God’s instruction will have us turn from the things of this earth.
3.       Will you be challenged to rise to a new level in spiritual understanding or faith? God will always call us to improve our walk with Him.
4.       Does the message call for personal courage to change your path and do what He says?

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10  “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:8-11 (ESV)

God will give us instructions and then equip us to do the job He expects us to do. Nothing is impossible for God – and nothing He wants us to do is impossible for us, either. One of the hardest commands for me personally is this one:

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  Matt 5:44-45 (ESV)

Why does Jesus want us to do something that’s so inconsistent with the world’s values? These are the kinds of instructions that can only come from a loving God. Loving my enemies goes against my human nature and it certainly defies the logic of our society.

We’ll go over some of the points I’ve outlined on Wednesday and Friday as we seek to make sure that the words we hear are from God and not from our own nature. In the interim, I challenge you to think of one person in your life to apply Matthew 5:44-45 to. Pray for him or her this week. Ask God to change your attitude toward that person. It will be difficult at first, but take God at His word. Bless that person and pray for them. See what God can do with your prayer.

See you Wednesday.

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