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28 September 2012

Listening to God - 28 September

We learned that the first way to know that God is speaking to us is to compare what we hear to Scripture. This is the primary way that we know God’s will. But there are other ways that we can see God’s will for our lives. Generally, if something is counter to our sin/human nature, or it is opposite of what society tells us is acceptable, we can begin to believe that it’s God giving us an answer. A few examples:

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  Matt 5:39 (ESV)

Keep your money. You don’t make enough to pay your bills. Why give anything in church?
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. Mal 3:10 (ESV)

There’s no real right and wrong. What’s right for me is right for me, and what’s right for you is right for you. It’s all relative.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings.  Heb 13:8-9 (ESV)

There are many paths to the divine. We will all go to heaven because God is loving and if you’re a good person, God is too nice to not let you into heaven. God’s Love Wins. There’s no hell for good people.
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.  Matt 7:13-14 (ESV)

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 (ESV)

When the Bible speaks, it shows us a path that is clearly different from the world. We know we hear God’s voice when we are told to turn from the moral depravity in the world. In fact, we’re specifically cautioned against three different types of worldly love.

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. 16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16 (ESV)

Once again, we see God speaking to us through His Word and telling us to do something that is completely opposite from what we see in advertisements every day.

Can you see that the way to hear God is to study Scripture? How much quality time do you put into your Bible every day? If you don’t give God quality time, how can you expect to hear what He has to say?

Once we hear God’s message, we are challenged to grow in our faith and take courageous steps to turn from the ways of the world to the ways of the Lord. God expects our faith to grow.

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. Matt 17:20 (ESV)

God expects us to have little faith at first – the size of a mustard seed. But He promises that with even a tiny bit of faith, nothing is impossible! But how does that square with our lives in 2012? Are you without a job? Lost your home? Don’t have transportation? Can you “will” these things into being with that mustard seed faith? There are preachers – called prosperity Gospel – who tell you that God promises to give you physical stuff if you give to their particular ministries. God never promised to give us the good life, or to even give us what we want. Following Christ means that we will have trials and temptations and problems. I don’t know why you don’t have a job, or a house, or a car. It doesn’t seem fair, but isn’t this exactly why we need to learn to listen to God? Have you asked Him what He wants you to learn or have you simply bombarded Him with your demands for that new car, or the new job? Can you look at your problems (we all have them) as a way to become closer to God and to clearly hear His voice?

God calls you to become courageous – especially in times of stress and adversity. For that, let’s consider Joshua for a moment. He was a great warrior and a great leader, but can you imagine how he must have felt to be called to lead Israel after Moses died? Who wants to try to follow in Moses’ shoes? Obviously God did – and He gave Joshua words of comfort that we can use today.

Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh 1:6-9 (ESV)

Joshua is told to be strong and courageous three times. The first time, God reminded Joshua of the blessing – the Promised Land. The second time, God reminded Joshua to stay on track by staying in the Word and remembering God’s commands. Finally, God told Joshua to remain encouraged because God was with him in the journey.

Can you claim these promises? God has an ultimate blessing for each believer: a mansion in heaven. We know this because we stay on track and focus on His Word, especially in times of trouble. And finally, we are reminded that God will be with us in all of our journey.

His promises to the Israelites are His promises to us. We need to stand courageously in the face of opposition. We need to stand in the Word so we know God’s will. We have to be willing to go against the flow of society to remain in His will. And finally, we need to act in love.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14  Let all that you do be done in love. 1 Cor 16:13-14 (ESV)

Act like MEN? I hear the women screaming… that’s what it says, ladies. We are to exhibit the masculine qualities of standing firmly and courageously. And men, you need to exhibit the feminine qualities of loving actions. Isn’t the Bible wonderful? It clearly shows that women and men have different roles in society, but shows that each of us is to exhibit some of the other’s qualities as well.

Next week we’ll talk about advice. We’ll discuss hearing from God versus hearing from Satan, and receiving good and bad advice from our Christian friends. Until then, stand firm. Love your enemies. Be strong!

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