“Experiencing God: Listen #1” 3-5-17

Our emphasis during our walk to Easter is experiencing God. This week as well as next week we will be focusing on listening or hearing God. So we need to start with a fundamental question: Has God lost His voice? When did you hear Him last? Seriously, we must ask why do we have such a hard time believing God speaks and for some to even see Him acting? One of the biggest problems with this as well as our view of God is that we have become a product of a rational world view. We are trained to think the supernatural may not exist, unless it’s a zombie apocalypse.

Time is certain; eternity is possible. The physical body is certain; the soul is possible. I exist; but about God’s existence I can’t be certain. In this world view our reality often is the material, measurable, and a seeable world. We are trained to believe that what we see and know exists and that then gives “life” meaning. We are trained to be rational. All too often we and many others have lost our sense that God is at work in the world and speaking to us. Often then, if He is, He is far removed from us. This world is all there is.

This reality today changes the rules of life. We see it all around us today. Survival of the fittest. Gain power and status and wealth, and keep it, give it away only to the deserving. Ignore the weakest, worship the strongest. If we are to serve under this concept, make sure we serve ourselves first. To the person who sees only this material world, their only god is himself/herself; power is real, love is not. Freedom is under our control. Sacrificing one’s self-interest for others or God often is a ridiculous idea. Doing your own self sufficient thing is critical, even if it brings pain to others.

Why am I talking about this? Because this reality has come through the doors of the church in America and stolen vibrant, powerful, and life-changing Christianity from us! The thing is many of us have adopted these ideas without consciously realizating. We wonder why Christianity is so hard to live, and we wonder why we have so little spiritual power and/or authority.

Today’s rational philosophy denies the spiritual, the eternal, and the miraculous. A Christianity lived without these is a dead philosophy. As you sit here today, do you think the Bible is a collection of stories, almost legends, kind of true things that illustrate just some human values and truths? Is the Bible a historical book telling us the stories of God’s work that sometimes apply to today? Either way, it’s influenced by rational thinking.

Is the God we find in the Bible truly your God? Do you believe that the Bible teaches about what God did thousands of years ago, but it is no longer a guide that teaches us how to experience His power today? Too many think that this statement is reality: to confess deep love for God, yet live a life of thinking and acting as if you have full control of yourself. That has seeped into the church. I propose that this has seeped into the young adults who have left the church after mom and dad quit telling them their going to church! That and our hypocrisy.

Feeling things as I just described has two immediate results:
1. We experience little of God’s supernatural power because we have no faith to pray for miracles to happen and little confidence that God is speaking to us today about His will.
2. We have a moralistic version of Christianity that believes that discipline is the key element of a spiritual life. Mix that discipline with a little help from God and it makes us better people while we are on our way to heaven… Beyond taking us to heaven, we don’t really expect too much from God and we usually get exactly what we expect.

Is God – Jesus your passion? When you read the Bible do the words strike deep in your heart? Does there seem to be a disconnect between His Word and your life application? Have you noticed a gap, a huge one, between the Christianity we read of in the Bible and the Christianity we find at the church and in your life? Is there an enthusiasm in your faith? We need to move to understanding and possessing this truth in our heart: The events were real in the Bible and they must seem just as real now and they teach us spiritual truths that are to be lived out in our life now.

The Hebrews writer got it right in 13:8 and we need to truly buy into what he says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When you truly grasp that then you can have a real living, powerful, and life-changing real relationship with God! So do you believe that God speaks today? What have you asked Him for in bold faith? Have you asked specifically enough so that you would know IF and/or WHEN He answered?

In I Kings 19, the prophet Elijah had just humiliated a bunch of pagan priests and as they were after him this depressed man ran away to a mountain. The Bible says God said: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” To paraphrase Elijah’s response, he said the world was as ungodly as ever and they want to kill me. (Sound familiar?) God said to Elijah “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.”

You know what happened: big wind, no God, big earthquake, no God, big fire, no God, then sheer silence and Elijah covered his face and stood at the cave entrance “And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus……and the Lord went on to give very specific instructions.

To the world this is this just a cool story about a man who hears voices in his head. It is a story that teaches us about hearing God’s voice. Hearing God’s voice in the silence, when we stop and really listen. Do you hear from God? Do you recognize His voice? Do you even LISTEN for His voice? Hearing from God makes the difference between a Christianity today that is just a good moral discipline or a Christianity that is an experience of walking intimately with the Lord. Let’s focus on that. God promises you that that has great fulfillment and that that satisfies the deepest needs of our hearts and minds!

IF you are not hearing from God, you trapped in just a religious system, a philosophy of life based on regulations and traditions without great joy or abundant hope. IF you are hearing from God, you are truly alive with an all consuming hope of living FOR eternity, yes living to bring the Kingdom of God here now. God SPEAKS!
But all too often, His voice falls on deaf ears. Jesus told a parable of shepherds going to the sheep pen. As the sheep were let out in the morning to go their pastures, the shepherds called to their sheep and they followed the voice they recognized.

Jesus said in John 10:16: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” That is God’s promise. God, through the prophet Isaiah promised in 30:20-21: “And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,”

What a promise. God says He wants to speak specifically to us. But we don’t hear Him because we are much like the people to whom this promise was first given. They didn’t want to hear from God, nor did they want to trust Him. They wanted to live by their own wits and do their own thing! Isaiah said just before this:

“Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are
not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, … These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. God goes on to tell them that their refusal of His voice will only bring them calamity and sorrow, but then He promises them His loving restoration. If they just listen.

O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Do YOU think you can hear His voice? Do you have real faith in this or do you think “I wish I could hear that voice.” YOU CAN! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hearing God’s voice is a promise for all God’s people who will learn the language of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:17 – “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.

There is a divine pattern in the Bible. To be effective in doing the word of God, we must first hear from God. It was normal for Jesus to hear from his Father before he did or said things. That was Jesus’ method of operation. (John 5:19)He did what he saw his Father doing. Moses did that too, it has always been God’s ideal for his servants.

Ex. 25:9, 40; Acts 7:44; Heb. 8:5 explains God had took Moses on a mountain where he showed him a heavenly vision of what the tabernacle was to look like. Then he warned him to make the earthly tabernacle according to the pattern he saw. This has always been the best way to live and to act-see it in heaven and copy it on earth. You pray each Sunday “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” so live it. No one can do God’s will on earth unless God first reveals his will from heaven. He reveals, we copy. He initiates, we respond.

Start being like Jesus. John 5:30 Jesus claims he can do nothing of himself, so he judges as he hears his Father judges. John 7:16, His teaching does not originate with himself but with his Father. John 8:28; 12:49-50; 14:10, 24, He speaks only the words of his Father. John 14:31, Simply put, he does exactly what his Father commands him. Jesus was a servant under orders in unbroken communion with his Father. And he does all of these things- judges, teaches, speaks, obeys, by the power of the Holy Spirit who rests on Him. In John 16:13, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit hears too, ‘ will not speak on his own; he will speak only that what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.’ Hearing God in order to serve God is the New Testament pattern. Shouldn’t it be the pattern for our lives?

IF we want to do the work of God and have real success at it, we will have to hear from God. To hear from God we need to confront our rational assumptions about this life and see where we are reaching worldly rational conclusions. Then, in faith, we must begin to learn a new language, the language of the Spirit.

God is speaking. It is time to listen. This week, would you make your prayer a simple one – “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” Then make spaces and times of quiet listening.
Turn off the radio or TV and pick up your Bible. Ask the Spirit of God to talk to you.
Begin an adventure of faith. Next week I will continue this theme with a message about the ways in which God speaks to us today.

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