søndag 11. september 2016

God does not whisper! (Hearing God’s voice)

Last week we learned that prayer was talking to God. Today we’re going to learn about listening to God. How do we hear God’s voice?

So, listen very carefully, because this is extremely important.

(In corner, whispering:) God speaks in a still small voice. You have to seek it out every day, by being spiritually sensitive. Only special people hear his voice. You don’t hear his voice? There must be something wrong with you. You’re not special.

Could anyone hear me? No? Well, why didn’t you come closer! That’s an illustration of what seems to be the current idea about how God speaks. I said “God speaks in a still small voice. Only special people can hear it, by being spiritually sensitive by seeking it out.”

Well if I’m standing and whispering in a corner, and none of you can hear me… that’s not your fault, is it. That’s my fault. If I want to speak to you I need to speak clearly and loud enough for you to hear me.

God does not whisper. God does not play games. He does not hide from us, his children. As we learned last week, God is a person. And he is a person who speaks. Nearly the first thing we read in the Bible is “and God said”!

1. God does not whisper. He speaks loud and clear: through his Word he speaks, and through his Son, he speaks

But why then don’t we hear God’s voice?

2. God does not whisper: we don’t hear because we don’t want to hear!
We are sinners who would rather listen to ourselves, or indeed anyone else, than God

3. God does not whisper: If we know the Bible, we will see God at work everywhere, and will know what to do in every situation

So, let’s get on and listen to God.

1. God does not whisper. He speaks loud and clear: through his Word he speaks, and through his Son, he speaks

This morning I want to set you free. Free from the need to mystically look or be in special place or be a “holy man”, a priest or anything in order to hear God. Every believer hears his voice. Jesus said “My sheep know my voice”.
God speaks so as to be heard. He is not whispering in a dark corner.

But, you might say, what about the still small voice? That’s been said many times and this passage from 1 Kings 19 that we read has been used often, often by well-meaning people, to say that we need to be sensitive to the leadings of the Spirit. Unfortunately, it’s a mistranslation and a misreading of what is actually written, and it’s lead to all sorts of problems with Christians running around trying to “hear” God – instead of listening to him speak through the Bible! Let’s listen to Him now, and be set free by the word of God.

I want you to notice carefully what actually happens when God passes by Elijah, like God passed by Moses.
First God asks Elijah v9 But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Elijah moans O I’m all alone. 10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

Elijah was down. He wanted some experience of God, like Moses had. He wanted God to speak to him, like He spoke to Moses. That’s why Elijah travelled all the way to the same mountain, Mount Sinai, and went up to a cave. He wanted God to tell him what to do. When Moses went up and God passed by God spoke for forty days and nights to him, giving him the law of God.
Elijah wanted that.
We all know that feeling don’t we? Speak to me Lord, I don’t know what to do.
And Elijah had good reason. King Ahab and his wife Jezebel were out to kill him.

But what does God do?

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

So big noise, ground shaking – but the Lord is not there. He could be. But He’s not. Then v12 continues: And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. Literally a thin silence – a silence you can hear. God was not in the storm, or the earthquake, or the fire: but after that there was an audible silence. Like after an explosion, the ringing in your ears. It is an audible silence. A silence you can hear. Note that it does NOT say that God was in the silence. It does not say that God spoke in a whisper. It’s just eerily quiet. So Elijah goes out to see what’s going on.

13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And then they have exactly the same conversation they had at the beginning. And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He replied again, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

The fire and storm and “still small voice” changed nothing. Why have we got this stupid idea from this that we need to seek out God’s small voice? It did nothing for Elijah!

If anything, this silence says to Elijah, stop being a fool! You already know what to do. I have already spoken. I spoke through Moses. Why are you coming back up here wanting new words? Do what you’re supposed to be doing. Now go, and v15 and onwards is what Elijah must do. And he does. He realised he was being foolish expecting God to come and appear to him, like some dancing monkey. He knew what he had to do.
So he gets up, tightens his belt, and does what he should have done in the first place. Obeyed God.

What we learn from 1 Kings 19 is not “wait around for some small voice- because that’s God… probably, I think”. We learn that God has already spoken clearly in his word. God does not whisper. He speaks loud and clear through his word, the Bible. To hear God speak, read our Bible!

But wait, there’s more! Elijah lived before Jesus. We live after Jesus. We don’t just have Moses and the Old Testament: we have Jesus and the whole Bible. We know what we must do. We know what obeying God looks like. It looks like Jesus.

Heb 1:1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honour at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

How do we know what God is like? Through Jesus. This is why Jesus is called the Word of God. Remember the beginning of John’s gospel. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Jesus is God’s perfect Word to us. The perfect way to communicate what he is like and who he is. If we want to know God we just have to look at Jesus. God speaks to us through Jesus Christ.

There was a craze when I was at school which some of you might remember: it was a bangle that you put around your wrist, and it had the letters WWJD on it. WWJD: What would Jesus do?

It’s a good theological statement. That’s what we need. Jesus is the perfect Word from the Father. He is the embodiment of the Law of God. What he does is right and perfect. So in every situation I can think what would Jesus do?

God speaks loud and clear: through the Bible he speaks, and through Jesus, he speaks.

2. God does not whisper. We don’t hear God’s voice because we don’t want to hear Gods’ voice!

A Christian author named A.W. Tozer wrote this: “Most Christians don't hear God's voice because we've already decided we aren't going to do what He says.”

How true that is! Like our kids when we say ok time to tidy up, or time for bed – they become remarkably deaf! Hey, why didn’t you tidy up like I asked. Oh, I didn’t hear you! But say “I’ve got a chocolate here for you” – and their hearing is fantastic.
We’re often like that with God.

My Dad is fond of saying – for him the letter WWJD stand for What will Jack do? Because he knows what Jesus will do – the real question is will Jack obey! What will Jack do? What will you do? What would Jesus do?

I was sitting with my cousin after my Gran’s funeral. I had preached a clear gospel message. He’s drifted from the faith recently. We were talking – and I had the perfect opportunity to gently challenge him on where he stood with God. Death stared us in the face. Eternity was in our thoughts. I knew all I had to say was “So, where are you with God”.

What did I do? Chickened out. Made excuses in my head. I’ve already preached, I’ve done my bit.

And the moment passed us by.

Gaah! I could have been part of God’s work in his life. Instead I fluffed it.
Oh God is still at work in him. But not through me.

Why did I miss that opportunity? It was SIN. I was thinking about ME. My embarrassment, my laziness, my whatever. I did not love my cousin enough to speak those words. I did not have the mind of Christ, but the mind of Daniel.

All too often we don’t hear what God is saying because we’re trying very hard not to hear what he’s already said! That’s the equivalent of sticking our fingers in our ears shouting “LALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU”.

So we ignore what he’s already told us to do in his word: things like love our enemies. How’s that going? What about forgiving others? Anyone that’s burning you up inside? Forgive others their sins because you have been forgiven yours. It’s right there in the Lord’s prayer (Fader Vår). Lalala.
What about be sexually pure? How’s that going? No pornography, only sex with those you’re married to, and that’s someone of the opposite sex. Not even sexual fantasies. Are we listening to God? Or are we pretending not to hear him, shutting him out- and then complaining we can’t hear his voice, complaining that our life is such a mess?
What about be patient, kind, long-suffering, generous, self-disciplined, be faithful, and so on – be like Jesus.

Listening to God is HARD! So instead we replace it with the Christianised version of “follow your heart”.
Obey your impulses!
When I put it like that, you’re like: no way.
But if I say “Listen for the still small voice of God”. Oh it sounds so spiritual. And it’s tempting. Oh so tempting.
Because it’s much easier to wait around for some “small voice- because that’s God”, than actually to obey what he’s already said. This leads to following your own impulses, to foolish decisions, and emotional and spiritual abuse. You know, “God told me to tell you that.” The correct answer is: well he hasn’t told me! And it leads to a hierarchy of Christians – better Christians and worse Christians depending on how much you “hear” God’s “voice”. And people become experts at playing the system and being more holy than you.

And it’s nonsense. If God wants to tell you something, you will hear it, believe me! God does not whisper. In fact, he’s often bellowing. Particularly in Revelation. Everyone there seems to be speaking “in a loud voice”.

What is it that God has said to you that you don’t want to hear? Maybe through reading the Bible. Maybe through a sermon here at church. Maybe through someone challenging you. And oof, you realise, I’m not obeying God here. And you just, tune him out.

Make right now. Come before him and say: I’m sorry. I don’t want to obey you. Please help me to obey you.

God does not whisper. We don’t hear God’s voice because we don’t want to hear Gods’ voice!

3. If we know the Bible, we will see God at work everywhere and will know what to do in every situation

Turn to Rom 12:1–2 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Easy, isn’t it? Transform your thinking by reading his word, and doing what it says. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Remember what we read in James? 1:22–25 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.

Oh, but reading the Bible is such hard work.
So is any relationship worth having! How much time do you need to spend with your wife? Talking with her, listening to her, getting to know her. And your kids! Relationships demand time and effort. Why would our relationship with God be any different?

But just like with our wife and kids – the more time we spend with God, the more we will want to spend time with him, as we get to know Him better and better, deeper and deeper.

And as we spend time with him, hearing from him by reading his word, talking to him in prayer – we will start to recognise his work in our life and in the world. We will start to see things through his eyes. We will recognise his guiding hand in all things.

What did Rom 12:2 say: Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

And the more you are filled with the knowledge of God, the more you are filled with his Word, the more you will start to behave and act more like Jesus. The more guidance you will get to change things. And because it is GOD who works in you and we serve powerfully with his Spirit in us, we will change. Because as we humble ourselves in prayer and Bible study we will be changed.

That’s why we’re big on Bible study. That’s why I want to see all of you there. Because my concern is that you’re not reading your Bibles. If you ‘re not reading your Bible’s you:
Won’t know God
Won’t know how you should be living as God’s people
Won’t know how to discern between the different voices and impulses in your head – which one’s right? I don’t know
You will lack power to do what is right.

It’s hard to hear God when we’re refusing to listen to Him. It’s hard to hear God when we’re avoiding Him. But when we listen to him, when we tune our ear in to his voice. Wow! We hear him everywhere. We can see his hand in all things. Our blind eyes are opened. Our deaf ears hear.

Do you want to hear God’s voice? Then train yourself by reading his word, and you will hear his voice.

There is plenty more to say on this topic, but I’m going to stop here.. There’s time for questions after communion.

There is no still small voice. God is not whispering. He speaks loud and clear through his word, through his Son. We close our ears because we don’t want to listen to what he’s already told us to do. That is sin. We need to repent of our sin and obey our Father. And then we will see and understand his will for our lives, his good, pleasing and perfect will, and be blessed.

So, God is speaking. And he’s speaking clearly. The question we each need to ask is: Will I listen?