How many examples do you need? Gideon, from the lowest of the tribes, hiding in the winepress, heard God. Rejected out in the wilderness Moses, a man who said he couldn’t talk, who initially doubted God, who wanted anyone else to do what God asked him to do, heard God. David, the youngest in a strong big family, heard God. Peter, just a lowlife fisherman heard God. Do you think you can’t? Do you think only the greatest or best or most intelligent or most religious can hear God? How many examples do you need?
Some Christians believe that only the choice Believers hear the voice of God. Many believe He reserves the honor of hearing His voice only for those blessed with some extraordinary skill, talent, or spiritual gifts. WRONG! So who can hear the voice of God? Any Spirit-filled Believer! However, there are some choices you can make that will sharpen your spiritual ears and it’s those choices I’d like to talk about with you today.
1. Those who hear God’s voice are AVAILABLE to Him as His friends.
Bonnie occasionally will grab my attention when she says “I told you that!” or she often implies: “Are you listening to me?” I must confess that often she’s right. I am physically present, nodding with the right response, even looking at her while she talks, but I’m not really listening to her. I’ve drifted mentally to another place, solving another problem, or listening to the TV, or thinking about something else. My inattention diminished our relationship at that moment.
There are levels at which we connect with people..
In our inner circle, our spouse, our kids, and our closest friends, they have nearly complete access. We are available to these people. They can call on us anytime, anyplace, for just about as much support as we can give. We listen to them, care about them, and interact, talk, deeply with them. (usually, unless it’s our wife sometimes.)
Then there are those who are in our circle of friends to whom we are available most of the time. We’ll respond to their request for our help, listen to them, and share much our life with them. Then there is the next level of connection we find neighbors and co-workers. We are available to these people at certain times and places for specific kinds of conversation. We are more generally guarded with established boundaries. Those who most clearly hear the voice of God are those who have formed a deep friendship with the Lord. Their friendship with the Lord is above that first level I spoke of.
Think of people in the Scripture who heard from God. Who heard the Lord’s voice best?
Jesus, of course. Why? Because He lived very, very close to His Father. Time and time again in the Gospels we are told that Jesus went away to spend time alone with God. What was He doing? He was enjoying conversation with the Father.
Another man who heard God’s voice was Abraham. Three different times God spoke of Abraham as His friend. This man wasn’t perfect, either. He lied twice about his relationship to his wife to save his own skin! He doubted God’s promise and took his wife’s servant girl as a concubine. But, his heart was ready to receive correction and he constantly returned to the Lord with a confessing heart. He was thus called, “the friend of God” and heard the voice of the Lord guiding, directing him.
Moses spent so much time with God that it caused his skin to shine! His face was so radiant when he came down from 40 days in the presence of the Lord that he wore a veil. His love for God is so evident in the words of Exodus 33:15-18 NLT Then Moses said to God,
“If you don’t go with us personally, don’t let us move a step from this place. If you don’t go with us, how will anyone ever know that your people and I have found favor with you? How else will they know we are special and distinct from all other people on the earth?” And the Lord replied to Moses, “I will indeed do what you have asked, for you have found favor with me, and you are my friend.” Then Moses had one more request. “Please let me see your glorious presence.”
Are you a friend of God? He has made an offer of friendship that stands firm. To the Israelite remnant in Babylon He said, Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV
“When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD. . .”
That promise is just as firm for us yet today. Make yourself available to Him. Seek after God with your whole heart, longing for Him with an intense love, and you’ll hear His voice. Don’t confuse seeking after Him with having a ‘little daily devotion’ or attending church or even with some ritual religious practice. Seeking Him as a friend is learning to share His life, loving the way He loves, making Him the priority person in your daily decisions. Be His friend.
2. Those who hear God’s voice are those who respond with OBEDIENCE when He speaks.
Jesus said, John 5:30 “I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” He obeyed what God told him to do even when the will of God was still not fully revealed. Do you? When God speaks, He is looking for complete obedience much the same as any parent would.
When children are little, we know if we attempt to explain why, they often don’t get it. When they are 2, 3, and 4 it is enough to say, “Do it because Daddy said so.” Parents know that kids need to understand total obedience before they go to school in the early years or life won’t get better. I’m not suggesting you be cruel, that you beat them, or that you mistreat them. But they need to learn that your word is enough, that obedience is not only expected, it is demanded.
So it is with our Heavenly Father. He speaks and expects an obedient response. If we are immature in faith, He will be patient as with a child as we get pointed in the right direction. But until He sees some obedience, He generally will not speak further and fully.
As children mature, we are much more willing to share our goals, reasoning, and plans with them. We ask for their co-operation as we give them direction. But we become willing to allow them to obey or to take the consequences. Believe me I was seldom a screamer or a nag. I directed them, but if they wished to rebel, I was also willing to let them face the consequences, most of the time. They also knew I didn’t directly approve of their dumb choices.
As we mature, God speaks in much the same way. He directs us, but allows us to choose. Often we have better understanding and we know more of what He is doing. Yet, at times, our will and His will are the same, often not the same at all. In that moment we have a choice.
When we choose rebellion, we break fellowship with Him. He cannot participate in our sin, nor will He speak time and again to deaf ears.
1 John 3:21-24 NLT “Dear friends, if our conscience is clear, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive whatever we request because we obey him and do the things that please him. And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. Those who obey God’s commandments live in fellowship with him, and he with them. And we know he lives in us because the Holy Spirit lives in us.”
As that Scripture promises, when we choose to obey wholeheartedly, we are privileged to live in fellowship with Him. The word, “fellowship” is translated “live in” in the NIV. It is the same NT Greek word we find in that passage about the Vine and Branches in John 15. It is a word that literally means to settle down, to be at home. What a great concept. When God speaks and we obey, we gain the privilege of being ‘at home’ and settled in a loving relationship with Him that allows for a continuing conversation. Are you obeying God? Are you responsive to His will AS YOU UNDERSTAND AND KNOW IT TODAY?
If you’re not letting Him guide you in the smaller issues of personal morality, of how you love, of forgiveness, of use of time and resources, HOW do expect to hear from Him about the larger issues of meaningful ministry or life’s purpose?
3. Those who hear God’s voice are HUMBLE.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
Declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Do you REALLY believe that? Conceit is a subtle sin. It settles into our minds when life is good and things are going well and largely we aren’t even aware of its presence. But you know that conceit has taken hold of you when you find that you’re not asking God’s direction on a regular basis. In the bad times we reach out to God. 9/11 saw a spike in church attendance, since then and up to today….decreasing. Have we become conceited in our success?
As a nation we increasingly ignore God, more have removed Him from our day to day lives, living in His blessings and misinterpreting them as the result of our own power and wisdom. Are you humbly asking God for His direction, His care and listening for His voice? Or, do you think you’ve got it all figured out? Even good and godly people are sometimes deceived by conceit. A writer named Jack Deere wrote, “Humility is profound confidence in the mercy of God rather than human efforts or intentions…. A truly humble person knows that no matter how great his abilities or character, he can do nothing apart from Christ.”
Don’t confuse humility with weakness or fear. Humility is a choice of both the strong and the weak. A weak man may shout all the louder for his fear and confusion, trying to hide his insecurity. He fails to show humility. A strong man may fail to consider others, to seek counsel. He, too, shows a lack of humility. The truly humble person knows that no matter his strength, his blessings, his talents, his failures, his brokeness — he can only please God to the extent that he listens to Him and depends on Him as a child depends on his faithful father.
God’s word about Humility is clear: Philippians 2:3-11,
“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit. But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Cultivate the humility that allows you to keep an open ear for the Spirit’s leading in both good times and bad. One last caution in this area: Watch out for the deadly sin of religious pride!
Jesus reserved his strongest words of condemnation, his fiercest attacks – not for ordinary sinners, not for people that had fallen, not for doubters or the fearful – but for those who thought that because their lives looked so good on the outside, they must surely have the inside corner with God.
The Pharisees were largely good people that we would love to have as neighbors. They kept the law, went to churches, and raised nice kids. But they also looked down on people who didn’t quite get it together. They gathered their self righteousness around themselves and withdrew from those they considered inferior to themselves. Their arrogance cut them off from God!
Remember from last week? Psalm 138:6 Though the LORD is on high, he looks upon the lowly, but the proud he knows from afar. Let’s commit ourselves not to repeat their error.
Here inside of our nice church, it is easy to feel some distance from the filth that we see elsewhere. With our marriage safe and strong, it is easy to condemn the person who is struggling with their relationship. We can comfort ourselves by praising arrogant leaders who look good. We can laugh at the jabs they take. But…. as we put down others, pride swells creating spiritual deafness. The voice of God grows more faint as religious pride consumes us.
Come back to the Cross. Renew your understanding that you and the homeless, and everyone in between, stand on level ground as sinners dependent on the grace of God.