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19 October 2012

Listening to God - October 19

Today we finish elements of listening with carefulness, submission, and reverence. We’ll wrap up with week with a quick review, then it’s off to our weekend and a great worship time on Sunday.

Carefully. When we listen attentively, we begin to see nuances in the Word that we’ve never encountered. We might hear a sermon or a word from a friend which shows us the path God wants us to take, or we might feel a stirring from God’s spirit. Whatever method we employ to hear God, it’s important that we confirm the word. It’s too easy to put words in God’s mouth, especially if you want something badly enough (remember that car?) When you think you’ve heard from God, ask yourself:

1.     Does what I hear line up with what I read in the Bible (not someone’s commentary or blog, but from the Bible itself?)
2.     Is it in keeping with the example Christ set when He was on the earth?
3.     Is it in harmony with the way God has spoken throughout the ages (see September 5 and 7)?

God tells us to always test what we hear against His word. It’s a simple test.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. 1 John 4:1-6 (ESV)

And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it. For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, 11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works. 2 John 1:6-11 (ESV)

I can’t stress this enough. When you hear a message from any source – an answer to prayer, your home church preacher, a radio or television minister, a friend, or a blogger – test the spirit. If the person doesn’t give the whole Bible, it’s antichrist (against Christ). There are some “churches” that seem to do a lot of good in the community, feeding the poor, homeless and bus ministries, after school programs for the kids – all sorts of good stuff. If you read the church’s statement of faith (if one even exists), you’ll see that they deny Jesus’ virgin birth, or the infallibility of the gospel, or the need for repentance. Friends, those churches do not preach the same gospel. You need to get out. Other churches believe in the inspiration of the Gospel, but take the “offensive” parts out by saying that it was a cultural issue, for example. Some churches promise prosperity if you’ll believe in Christ. He never promised that! TEST THE SPIRITS!

Submissively. This means that when you listen, you do so fully intending to obey. Jesus modeled this for us at the Garden of Gethsemane. He was committed from before the beginning of the world to do the will of the Father, but He struggled during those last few hours before He was arrested to see if there was another way to accomplish God’s purpose. Like Jesus, we can grapple with God’s answers because we may not understand. However, if we’ve tested the spirits and know that the answer is from God, we must obey. If you are not listening submissively, you are listening rebelliously – or you’re not listening at all!

Reverently. When was the last time that you stopped to think that the God of the universe – the One who created flowers, and sand, and water, and humans, and … everything – that God loves you enough to give you a Book of communications? Not only that, He also invites us to be a part of His plan for the world. When you speak to God, are you calling him Abba with reverence or with familiarity?

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:1-11 (ESV)

Dear Lord, as I speak to You today, I’m eager to hear what You want to say to me (expectant). I have stopped everything, and I’m listening (quietly). I’ll wait until I clearly hear from You (patient). I have confidence that You are going to tell me what I need to hear, even if it’s not what I want to hear (confident). I will depend on You to tell me each step You want me to take, and I know that you will give me the strength to take this path (dependent). I am open to all possibilities, Lord, and I promise that I won’t use the phrase, “except…” when I hear your answer (open). I am listening keenly to every word You say (attentive). I trust that the Holy Spirit will confirm that what I hear is truly from You (careful). Like Jesus, I pray that not my will but Yours be done (submissive). I stand amazed that you, the creator of the universe, will speak to me (reverence). Dear God, I love You and I thank You for the privilege of being called Your child. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Which traits are easiest for you? Most difficult? Is it difficult for you to pray, or do you find it easy?

Which parts of this study have been most helpful to you? Please send me an email or make a comment. I’d love to know.

See you next week when we will discuss sitting in the presence of God.

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