God speaks, my friend (1/3)

God speaks, my friend!

Let me put out right from the bat an important observation:

What is the defining difference right now between a person who believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and a person who does not?

We can’t say only “salvation” or “going to heaven”. Those realities are all future related.

Then what is it?

The big difference between someone who believes and another who does not is this; the believer has developed some sort of personal relationship with God whereas the other has not.

A personal relationship. That is the game-changer!

In any personal relationship, communication is really key. The story goes, although science has never definitely proven this, that women on an average day speak much more than men. Of course, it’s a generalization and there are plenty of exceptions to this. I am not debating here if this is true or not, the point is that people communicate. That’s what makes them human.

In my family, the communications are very well distributed among my wife and I. Janine speaks pretty much 6 days of the week and on Sunday I have some catching up to do…It’s hard, but I am trying…

No that’s just a joke. A bad one, actually.

Coming back to communication. The defining difference between a believer and someone who does not is a personal relationship. It’s about knowing God, communing with Him, having conversations.

A.W. Tozer wrote in his classic book “the Pursuit of God” the following and I quote:

“I believe that much of our religious unbelief is due to a wrong concept of and a wrong feeling for the Scriptures of Truth. A silent God suddenly began to speak in a book and when the book was finished lapsed back into silence again forever. Now we read the book as the record of what God said when He was for a brief time in a speaking mood…The facts are that God is NOT silent, has never been silent. It is the nature of God to speak. The second person of the Holy Trinity is called the Word. The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. The bible is not only a book which was once spoken but a book which is now speaking.”

God speaks, my friend! He really does.

Obviously, God has already spoken through His Word, the Bible. In it, we can know about Him, His ways, works and will. What does God want? Well, we FIRST go to the Bible, because that’s God’s General Will revealed to us. It’s our safety net.

Often we long to hear from God in specific situations. Which one to marry, where to live, job to take etc. And yes, it’s true that God also has a specific will. For example, I believe that it was God’s specific will to come with my family to Australia. But there is no book, chapter and verse in the Bible that says that specifically, right? So how can you know?

Years ago, a well-known pastor in the US got himself into trouble when he preached from the pulpit that he was hearing from God. His denomination believed that hearing from God was through the Bible only. Things like prophecy, words of knowledge, new revelations were dangerous things that would go beyond scripture. So, the pastor was invited to be interviewed before a panel of ordained elders of a board of credentials. For hours they questioned him about this ‘God’s speaking to me’ issue. Finally, after some hours, the poor man asked the panel a question:

Pastor: Sir, can I ask you something?

Panel: Absolutely! Go ahead!

Pastor: All of you were called into ministry, right?

Panel: Yes, that’s true!

Pastor: Well, let me ask you a question, how did you know that you were called? What book, chapter and verse said that?

Panel: Silence…

As Tozer said before, God has never been silent. He is still a speaking God and speaking and hearing are all part of a personal relationship.

So, let me make my first point and it relates to the WHAT:

  1. Hearing God speak is a matter of identity.

Hearing God’s voice is not about something we do, but it is about someone we are. Or, saying it in another way, hearing God speak is not primarily a behaviour. No, it’s a reflection of our identity, of who we are and also WHOSE we are.

Jesus said in John 10:27: “My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me.”

Sheep are interesting creatures. They have the ability to hear and recognize the voice of their shepherd. Jesus is the Shepherd of our souls, for those of us who know God personally. Three foundational truths I’d like to put out here.

First, our ability to hear God is innate or part of our ‘instinct’ as we are His sheep.

Second, our ability to hear God is also learned.

Now before I go to the third truth, let me pause here for a moment. We were made by God and originally, we were designed to live in a personal relationship. OK, that got disrupted through sin, but when people turn back to Him, that broken relationship, communication included, is being restored. So, from the beginning it is innate. It’s part of who we are, or better, it’s part of who we are supposed to be. Yet, at the same time, our ability to hear God is learned. Let’s for instance, compare these two truths of learning a language. Babies when they are born, have the ability to communicate with their parents. It starts with crying perhaps, but as the baby grows up, he or she starts saying words and those words become sentences etc. You get it. It can be learned!

Having said this, let’s go to the third truth. Our ability to hear God can also mature over time. It’s one thing to be able to communicate, but it’s something different to be mature in communication. God wants us to be mature. Have you noticed how children and teens sometimes are able to communicate something, and still, what they say might very well be completely inappropriate?

Dad, you’re old! Mom, you are wide! Granny, you are really ancient… Kids can really make their parents feel embarrassed.

Not very appropriate to say, right? Well, in our communication with God, His desire is that we really become mature in this. There is a genuine growth process in it. In our eagerness, which is to be commended, to know God’s will we may have mistakenly used methods and techniques that show our desire to communicate and know God, but it doesn’t always mean that God wants to do it that way.

In Bible college, there was this classic joke. It goes like this.

A man was desperate to hear from God as he was going through a season where he needed to make important decisions about his future. So, after having prayed for a while, and not hearing anything back, he opened his bible and stopped randomly somewhere in the New Testament and pointed at a bible verse, thinking that this might be God’s specific will for his life.

The verse read: “And Judas hung himself!”

“This can’t be it!” the poor man thought, so he gave it another try. Again, he opened his bible in another verse. Could this be it?

The second verse read: “Go and do likewise!”

Now the man became very desperate. Finally, he gave it one more attempt and to his amazement, he came to this verse:

“What you are about to do, do it quickly!”

It’s a funny story. It does show how Christians desire so much to hear from God. I wouldn’t recommend the technique I just mentioned, although God can speak sometimes when our eyes go over a bible verse and suddenly it seems to be highlighted. It caught our attention…

God wants us to mature into adulthood. The Bible as the General Will of God is the first place we go to. Just imagine how difficult it would be to understand God’s specific voice for a specific situation – let’s say that we only consult God every now and then, when a big life decision is ahead of us and yet, ignore all the other general stuff of knowing His ways, works and will.

Now, it’s one thing to know that God still speaks. He doesn’t contradict what has been already revealed in Scripture, but He does still communicate. The reason we know that is because the Holy Spirit still guides, prompts, convicts and leads us. He is the Spirit of Truth and will lead us into all truth!

But then the next question comes up. Why do we want to hear from God? It’s a shift from the ‘what’ to the ‘why’.