This sermon is number 4 in a series of 7
Life As God Intends For His People - Part 4
"Life Of Hearing God"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2011 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Well, good evening to you all, it's good to be back again - thank you to John for the singing once more, I appreciated that piece. Thank you all for turning out, it's good when people come back - it's never worse for the preacher than when nobody comes back to hear him after the first night! But some of you have come back after the first, and the second evening, and some of you have been here every night which we do appreciate. May the Lord bless you, and we do trust that He has been blessing you in these days. He has certainly been blessing me through the word, through delivering it, and having fellowship with you dear folk. I do trust that that will be our portion the rest of the week.
Now, if you have been with us, maybe I should examine you? What did we do on Sunday night, if you were here? 'Life Eternal', that's right, and how that's the life that we have to live - and it's God's life that He has put in us. Then Monday night? 'Life Empowered By The Spirit', yes. Last night? A 'Life Of Grace Not Law' - well, some of you were here! That's good! You didn't all fall asleep! Well, tonight it's 'Life Of Hearing God', or hearing from God. So we're turning tonight just for one verse, although we will be looking at a lot of Scriptures throughout the message, just one verse from John chapter 10. Some of you hardly even need to turn to it, I'm sure, John 10 verse 27, the words of our Lord Jesus. John 10:27, Jesus said: "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me".
Let us pray. I've been asking you these nights to come to the Lord now, come with your heart, and say: 'Lord, speak to me'. I hope He has been speaking in these nights, I believe He's going to speak tonight, and He's going to reveal truths, perhaps, that you have never seen. You have perhaps grown up in evangelicalism, for want of a better phrase, but you have never understood what it is to hear the voice of God. So let us come and say: 'Lord, I want to learn to hear You'. Let's pray.
Father, we thank You for Your holy word. We thank You for everything that it teaches us, and it is indeed the revelation of Yourself. We thank You for the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You that He was manifested, 'We see His glory', the Apostles could say, 'the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth'. They said that they could touch and handle the Word of life - and, Lord, we thank You for their testimony. Lord, we want a deeper relationship ourselves with You, we want to experience You first-hand. We thank You for the witness of the Gospels, but we thank You for the witness of the Spirit. Lord, we pray tonight that all of us gathered here would have eyes to see, and hearts to perceive what the Spirit says to the church, what You're saying to us tonight, Lord.
'Speak, Lord, in the stillness
While we wait on Thee;
Hush our hearts to listen,
Speak, O blessed Master,
In this quiet hour,
Let us see Thy face, Lord,
Feel Thy touch of power.
For the words Thou speakest,
They are life indeed;
Living Bread from Heaven,
Now my spirit feed!'.
Give the help of the Holy Spirit that I need, Lord, and all of us together - for the glory of Christ we pray, Amen.
'Life As God Intends For His People' is a 'Life Of Hearing God', or hearing from God. The Lord Jesus Himself is very clear: 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me'. Now, the primary way that we hear the voice of God is from the revelation of the Scriptures, and we must always stand on that firm foundation. If we stray off it, we stray into the area of the cult or the false religion. When we pay attention to any form of revelation which supersedes or contradicts Holy Scripture, we're in big trouble. It has to be said that some elements of the Christian Church have disposed of the Bible in favour of some kind of subjective mysticism, a bit like New Age actually - and that has led them into all sorts of dangerous areas. Now, whatever God may say to us today, it will always be in line with what He has already said in His revealed word. He's not in the habit of contradicting Himself. Isaiah the prophet said in Isaiah chapter 8 and verse 20: 'To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them'.
So we're very clear that the word of God, the Bible, is the primary means of God's revelation to us, it's the main way that He speaks to us. Now, having said that, it is the written word of God that tells us that God is willing to speak to us in a variety of ways. The danger is, because God has given this complete and ultimate revelation of Himself in Scripture, that we conclude that God cannot or does not speak today. Francis Schaeffer, the great Bible teacher and Christian scholar, said: 'God is the God who is, and is not silent'. In other words, the God that we worship is a God who speaks today. In a sense, this is at the very core of life as God intends for His people, because from the very outset on Sunday evening we established that this eternal life that God gives us is more than just a ticket to heaven. Jesus defined it in John 17 verse 3: 'This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent'. We have seen that eternal life, and this salvation which we enjoy by grace through faith, ultimately can be summed up in a one word concept: relationship.
So, to hear from God is all about a relationship. We also use the term 'communion' - we have communion with the Lord. Can I say to you dear folk: that is more than reading your Bible and praying, even every day. 'Read your Bible and pray every day if you want to grow', there's a lot of truth there - but what we're talking about tonight is more than that. I believe what God intends for His people is more than that, because there's a lot of dear evangelical folk, and it's a battle for them to get even to the point of reading the Bible and praying every day - but they are not really getting through to God, and God doesn't seem to be getting through to them. They are not communing, there is not that interaction that there ought to be. It's one thing to read a book, but it's quite another thing to know the Author. The hymn writer put it like this:
'Beyond the sacred page we seek Thee, Lord;
Our spirits pant for Thee, O living Word!'.
Now this is a New Covenant principle in the Bible, that we hear from God. I want you to turn with me to Hebrews chapter 8 please, Hebrews chapter 8, and if you were to read from verse 8 you will find a quotation from the Old Testament, Jeremiah chapter 31; where God makes, through the prophet Jeremiah, the promise of a new covenant to the Jewish people. Here it is reiterated in the book of Hebrews, and applied to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as coming under the blessing of the promise of Abraham that we saw last evening, this promise of grace. Whilst it's made to the house of Judah and Israel, we are partakers by grace through faith in this new covenant. Now one of the aspects of it is in verse 11, look at what it says, read verse 10 to get the follow-through: 'For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people', that's the work of the Holy Spirit, to write the law of God on our hearts. That's what we said last night, we're not living by law, we cannot achieve the law, but the Holy Spirit in us can enable us to live a holy life by the power of grace through faith in the Spirit. But look at this, verse 11: 'None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD', for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them'.
You see, Christianity is more than a mere set of beliefs, it is personal covenant with God through Jesus Christ which promises fellowship and communication with the Holy Spirit, who is the orchestrator of the New Covenant. You'll not need to teach your neighbour, 'Know the LORD', for all shall know Him, for we will all have this communion and fellowship of the Holy Ghost. But sadly, it has to be said, many Christians continue to substitute dead tradition or fleshly religiosity in place of this proceeding life in the Spirit. I wonder is that you tonight? Can I say to you, as I have come here this week, that I love to see people getting saved, I love to see Christians being built up - but my heart is really for those who have been sold a pup, for those who have not got the real thing, who are maybe saved and secure in an eternal sense, but you are not experiencing the wonder of all the ramifications of grace in your life. You're not having this true relationship, as we said last night, with God as your Abba Father, through abiding in Jesus Christ, His Son, and through loving obedience living by the power and person of the Holy Spirit.
This can be evident in our pulpits through preaching. There's plenty of preaching in Ulster even today, though things are going downward I'm sure you'll agree, there is still plenty of preaching of the word of God - more than perhaps anywhere in the Western world. But I have a question at times, and it's a question that many people are asking today even in our province: where would you go to meet God? Where would you go to hear from God? You might think that that's a ridiculous question, but you know it talks in the book of Amos about a famine in the word of God. You might say: 'Well, we could never say that about today in this day and age in which we live! Sure, even the Internet has proliferated the word of God to such an extent that you can have all the resources imaginable'. We praise God for that, but that's not what I'm talking about. When Amos talks about a famine of the word of God, he's not talking about a lack of Bibles, what he is talking about is the proceeding life, the word of God from his heart.
Now we in evangelicalism have all the cliches off pat about what we think we believe, for instance, Isaiah chapter 55 and verse 11: 'So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it'. There we say: 'Well, no matter what we preach from the word of God, no matter how many verses we quote, no matter how many Bibles are littering the country, the word of God always will return not being empty, but will fulfil the purpose that God has promised'. Well, that's not what the text says - and if you think about it reasonably and rationally, there's an awful lot of sowing of the word of God in our province, and very little reaping. I know there's the law of the harvest, but the harvest has got to come around sometime, hasn't it? I know God is a God of the harvest, but the verse says, let me read it to you again: 'So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth', that is speaking of the proceeding word of God.
Let me give you another example of it in Deuteronomy chapter 8 and verse 3, our Lord quoted it in His temptation, He said: 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every' - does it say 'every word of God'? Is that what it says? That's not what it says, that's the way we quote it, it says: 'by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God'. That's something different, I believe - the proceeding word of God is what is on the heart of God now, at this specific time, for a specific people. Now that's different than just quoting verses, or preaching sermons, there is a prophetic edge when we are speaking the word of God that is upon the heart of God for a given time for a specific people. That's what the preacher's responsibility is. You remember what Paul said 1 Corinthians 4:20: 'The kingdom of God is not in word but in power'. We revere the word of God, and we've already established that it is the foundation of God's revelation, but there is more than just preaching the word and quoting the word - there is the power of the Holy Spirit that is indispensable for Gospel ministry. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 1 verse 5: 'Our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit'.
The problem today often is, and I include myself within this statement: preachers, like most Christians, are not hearing from God. They are preaching the word, but there is a famine in the proceeding word of God. There is a famine in what is on God's heart, the burden that God has for a specific people at a specific time. The reason is simple, Psalm 25 verse 14: 'The secret of the LORD is with those who fear Him, and He will show them His covenant'. You see, I believe in Bible instruction of course, whatever way you want to term it, even catechising, it's an important thing - but what we need today in our modern age is not more instruction, but more revelation, and there is a difference. You see, information about the Bible does not guarantee revelation of the Spirit. That's why we can have men and women with a lot of education, and very little unction. I don't despise education, but it's no substitute for the unction of the Holy Spirit.
The pew follows the pulpit, and we should not be surprised that, if our preachers are not hearing from God and communicating what is on God's heart, that the people in the pew aren't expecting to hear from God either. But the Bible is clear, as far as I can see, that life is God intends for His people is knowing God in more than just reading your Bible through in the year: 'My sheep hear My voice'. Are you hearing the voice of the Saviour? Let's face it, before the New Testament was formulated and published, did the early believers hear from God? Did they? Of course they did! Not only that, but add to that the fact that even when the Bible was published and duplicated, most of the early believers couldn't read anyway. Do you think, from day-to-day, that they didn't hear from God? Of course they heard His voice, they had a communion with God that was deeper than just reading words off a page - even if those words are inspired. Thomas Manton, the puritan, put it like this: 'To serve God is one thing, but to seek Him is another - many hover around the palace, but few speak with the Prince'. Do you, Christian, know what it is to speak with the Prince? Do you know what it is to hear His voice?
I want to be very practical tonight. The first question I want to ask and seek to answer is: what does it mean to hear the voice of God? What does it mean? Now we've already established that we primarily hear the voice of God through the word, through the preaching of the word, particularly when it's in the power of the Spirit - and I think you can tell the difference. But also when you're reading the word in an individual sense, the Spirit can shine light upon the page and you can have a personal application of Scripture to a circumstance or situation in your life. Also, by the way, when you're reading the word consecutively and continuously, the word is being input, so that when the Holy Spirit sees fit He can bring an output - so that's a good reason to be reading the word, and feeding on the word, because what the Holy Spirit often does is He lifts something that we've maybe read and forgotten, and He applies it to a situation - but if we haven't put it in, He can't lift it out; not He can't, but generally He doesn't.
The Bible also says: 'The heavens declare the glory of God'. God communicates to us through creation. It also tells us that the expectations of God's law are written upon our hearts, which basically is the conscience. God can speak to us through our conscience. God also can speak to us through His providence in circumstances, where He closes doors, He opens doors. But Scripture also records - you know the characters and the incidents - where God spoke through visions, and through dreams, and in various supernatural ways. God even spoke with an audible voice. Now, when I'm speaking tonight about God speaking to us, and us hearing the voice of God, am I speaking about an audible voice? Well, can I tell you: I wouldn't dare limit God to not speaking with an audible voice. If He wants to speak with an audible voice, He will - but it's a very rare thing. Let me give you two reasons why it is quite rare to hear God with an audible voice. The first is: God speaks from His dwellingplace. You might say, 'Well, that's all the more reason for God to speak audibly from heaven', but that is not His dwellingplace now. Well, it is, the heaven of heavens is 'My dwelling' - but you, believer, listen: you have now, by grace through faith, become a Temple of the Holy Spirit. You are God's dwellingplace, so that now He can communicate internally with you, by the Holy Spirit, in your spirit. So, in a sense, you don't need Him to speak audibly, He can speak internally. A second reason why Him speaking audibly is rare is: speaking internally to us increases our faith and dependence upon God. You see, it takes an act of faith to listen and obey the Spirit's voice within. You know, if you hear a great booming voice, and it shakes the house, it takes less faith to act upon that than it does to act upon the still small voice within your heart.
That's often what we call this voice of God, the 'still small voice'. I'm sure you've heard it termed as such. It comes from 1 Kings chapter 19, let me remind you of the story, where Elijah fled from the wicked Queen Jezebel. He was at a real low ebb in his life and ministry, wishing he would die, and God came before him in His mighty presence. It says that God passed by him, and there were various accompanying phenomena. There was wind, there was fire, there was even an earthquake - but the Bible says that the message of God did not come in any of those manifestations. Moments later, God chose to speak softly, in a peaceful way, and His message came through a still small voice - 1 Kings 19 verse 12 - and a wise man translates that phrase: 'The voice of a gentle whisper'.
What I'm talking about primarily tonight when I speak of hearing the voice of God is this 'still, small, gentle whisper' of God in our spirit. Do you know something? One of the greatest hindrances to the supernatural is the desire for the spectacular. Let me repeat that: one of the greatest obstacles to the supernatural is the desire for the spectacular. The spectacular can stand in the way of recognising God's voice, because you're waiting for a great booming intonation, like Charlton Heston from the movie - and you have not discerned that that is not normally the way God speaks, and because of that we miss Him when He speaks. Do you know something? I want to tell you something, Christian: you have more than likely been hearing the voice of God regularly, but not recognising it. Perhaps you have been looking for the spectacular, but the still small voice has been there all along.
From the new birth, we talked about it on Sunday night, John 3, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us - and I believe that He comes to live in the human spirit, like the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and Temple, and from that spirit He wants to move into the soul and right through the body and have complete control over us. We read in Proverbs 20:27, 'The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart'. You see, it's the lamp of the Lord, it's where the Lord sees, and it's from that place that the Lord speaks. Turn with me to Romans chapter 8 till we get some more light on this, Romans chapter 8 please verse 16, Paul says: 'The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God', that's really what we're getting at. That doesn't just happen at the moment of conversion, but it's something that continues right throughout the Christian life: the witness of the Spirit to our human spirit - and that witness is often a positive 'Yes'. What I mean by that is, a sort of coming alive within our spirits when we know God is leading us. When you know something is right, or God is speaking, there is something inside you that seems to jump. Now I'll be grasping for words here tonight, because I don't know, I'm sure you have the saying down here: 'It's better felt than telt', do you? Well, that's where this is concerned: it's better felt than telt. If you have experienced this, you'll know what I'm talking about - it's hard to put into words.
When we talk about this witness of the Holy Spirit with our spirit, it's a kind of intuition, a kind of impulse and knowing, an impression that comes upon us that God is wanting us to do something, and positively saying 'Yes' to us in a certain regard. I'm reminded of whenever I was having romantic feelings as a young fellow, and you want to know: 'Is this lassie, is she the one?' - do you remember that? Maybe you've tried to erase it from your memory, or circumstances from then has erased it from your memory! But how many people do you ask: 'Well, how do you know?', and the answer, what's the answer? You know the answer down here, what do they say? 'You'll just know', isn't that what they say? 'You'll just know'. Well, it's a bit like that with this voice, you have a sense: 'God is speaking to me here'.
Now, what He can do in the positive - the Holy Spirit witnessing with your spirit - He can also do in the negative, when He says 'No'. He can bring cautions, by the Holy Spirit to our spirit, and sometimes you've had this, where you sense God saying: 'Be careful!'. Have you ever had that? 'Beware, slow down!' - a sudden deadness. If the positive is a sudden life, and a sudden jump, there can be this sudden deadness that comes over our spirit, and a lack of life. God is warning us: 'Hold back! Put on the brakes! You're going to make a mistake here!'. Now this can come through various ways. God can speak through a word, He can speak through a thought, He can speak through a feeling, or, as I've said, this intuition, this knowing, this impulse - but that is often how God supplements the word of God, the principles and precepts of the word of God, with this inner witness of the Spirit.
There's a wonderful illustration of it in the Old Testament, I'm not going to get you to turn to it but I'm going to relate it to you. On one occasion in the Old Testament God spoke through the High Priest using two instruments, the Urim and the Thummim - have you ever heard of them? The Urim and the Thummim really, I believe, correspond to the New Testament witness of the Spirit, what we're talking about here. The Urim and the Thummim were contained in a pouch behind the breastplate of the High Priest, which meant it was close to his heart. When there was a need for divine guidance, the High Priest would peek behind the breastplate into the pouch to see if the Urim glowed, and if the Urim glowed that was a signal that He knew the Lord was speaking, and the Lord was saying 'Yes, go ahead and do that, it's My will'. So, if you like, there was this inner burning in the heart of the High Priest that was saying: 'Yes, that is My will'. Now, of course, if there was no glow from the Urim, then he knew that God was speaking not to take action, not to do anything.
Now in the New Testament we read in 1 John 5:6: 'It is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth'. Now, the Urim and the Thummim was not an automatic mechanism that you could switch on and switch off like a GPS. Saul found this to his detriment. You might remember the story in 1 Samuel 28. Saul enquired of the Lord if he should go to battle with the Philistines, and what he should do as they were coming upon the Israelites, and it says: 'The Lord did not answer him, either by dreams or by Urim or by the prophets'. Then what Saul did was, he said to his servants: 'Find me a woman who is a medium'. There's something just coming onto my heart just now: there's a lot of the Lord's people, and they're running hither and thither everywhere to find guidance, but going to God. Some of them are running to mediums - now you wouldn't believe that, but that's the truth. You see, what we're talking about here has to be in conjunction with scriptural truth, scriptural principles, precepts, and most of all obedience to those - not just to be hearers and knowers of the word, but doers of the same. It's when that is all bound together that God's voice will be heard clearly.
Now it takes time to discern the voice of God in our spirits, and to recognise this subjective leading of God, and sometimes the signals can be peculiar to you personally. I heard someone say: 'It's not always about learning God's language, but He learns ours, as it were'. What that simply means is: He knows the way as we can understand what He's saying to us, how He's speaking to us. It's all about relationship, it's just like a husband and a wife learning to communicate with one another, and they learn after years together to read one another - so we learn how to know God, how to read what He is saying to us personally. You know couples, the wee things they laugh over that nobody else would laugh over, a certain look that they have toward one another, a raised eyebrow maybe, and he knows he's in trouble! It's communicated, and it can be read and understood - and what do they develop out of? Those signals develop out of relationship, getting to know one another. Now listen: when you develop a relationship with God, you begin to read Him, you begin to read His promptings and His nudges and His checks.
There's a lot of people, and they really get uptight about the issue of guidance, don't they? 'What does God want me to do here? Who does God want me to marry? What does God want me to do as a career? Where does God want me to live? What church does God want me to go to?' - and the danger is, guidance is first and foremost a relationship with the Guide. Never turn from the Giver to the gift. You see, the reason why God wants us to hear His instruction is not because He wants us to be in the right place, He wants us to get close enough to Him that we hear Him! Are you understanding what I'm saying tonight? God is more concerned about who you are in relationship to Him, than what you do for Him. You remember I said last night: Christianity is not about doing, it's about being. In the same regard, God is more concerned about who you are in relation to Him, and you getting a knowledge of that, than what you do for Him or where you do it.
It's wonderful, and I hope it's an encouragement to some of you folk here tonight, to know that you don't have to rely on some super-spiritual Christian for guidance. You don't have to rely on your minister, or your pastor, or an elder. You don't have to rely on an elite Bible teacher, whilst we may have our favourites, you don't need to depend on them for the guidance of God. You know there was a group of false teachers, we heard about the Judaisers that came into Galatia, well there was another crowd and they came into Ephesus and some other churches, and they were called Gnostics. John was getting at them when he wrote his first Epistle of John. They were saying that there's only a certain select few who are in touch with God, and these special prophets, elect prophets of God, they're the only ones who can tell you what the will of God is for your life and the word of God. Do you know what John said to them? 1 John 2:20: 'You, Christians, have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things' - isn't that wonderful? You have everything at your disposal in the Holy Spirit who indwells you, and the voice of God that speaks to you. Built, of course, on the principles and precepts of the word, and on subsequent obedience to that, you have everything you need to know God's will for your life.
Now sometimes confirmation of God's will can come from the voice of another person, but can I tell you to beware of anybody that comes up to you and says: 'God told me to tell you that you need to do this, or be this, or go there, or else God's going to do this to you'. Do you see anybody that says that? You send them on their way, and say: 'Whenever God wants me to do that, He can tell me Himself, and He doesn't need you to tell me'. Now I'm not saying that God can't bring people along who say: 'I think this is what God wants for you', but anybody who says, 'If you don't listen to what I'm telling you, you're going to get cast down or zapped' - don't you listen to that person, because God is well able to instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go, because 24/7 you've got the Holy Spirit with you. That's why you ought to be filled with Him, as we said on Monday night, so that you can be absolutely sure you're right smack, bang, centre in the will of God.
We've got to move on. What does it mean to hear the voice of God? We've seen that, but how can we recognise His voice? Now I'm going to try not to make this more complicated than it needs to be, we often complicate things. It's actually not that hard to hear the voice of God if you really want to obey Him. If you stay humble, He promises to guide you. Now I have to say that there are times, and I have experienced times of silence in my life when I haven't sensed God speaking - but I have to also reiterate that that, as far as I'm aware, is the exception rather than the rule. Those are times of testing that are rather unusual, and God has a purpose for them, and He always comes back and speaks again. But normally, and generally speaking, God has a lot to say to us, our problem is - well, it can be many things, our ears can be plugged through unbelief, or through pride, or through sin, or maybe we don't expect to hear Him. I think that's probably the case for a lot of Christians: they're not expecting to hear from God, so they're not listening for Him. Or maybe they don't know what to listen to or for? They can't recognise His voice. You know there are waves going through the air constantly, radio waves, aren't there? You need a tuner, and you need an aerial, and a receiver to tune into them - but maybe you don't know what to look for, what to listen for, to hear the voice of God? Another common difficulty that people have is: 'Well, it's alright talking about this voice of God in my spirit, but how do I know it's not the devil?'. Have you ever thought like that? How do you know it's not the devil telling you to do that? Or how do you know it's not just yourself? Some fleshly desire, 'Lord, You want me to marry this beautiful big six-foot blonde, Lord, is that what You want?' - it could be the flesh. How do you know?
Well, let me share with you six things that you need, and they're very simple things. It's not a formula, but it's just coming honestly to the Scripture, six things that you really need to get in place if you want to be sure of hearing the voice of God. Here's the first thing: you need faith. This life is a life of faith, didn't I say it last night? The word of God makes clear: it's from faith to faith, the just shall live by faith. It follows, therefore, that you must believe that God is a God who speaks if you're going to hear His voice. Hebrews 11 and verse 6: 'Without faith it is impossible to please God', listen, 'He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of those that diligently seek Him'. The word 'is' there, I believe, has the sense of 'He is active'. Those who come to God must believe that God is active and moving, and a God who answers prayer, if they're going to be rewarded. If you're going to hear the voice of God, you have to be a person who believes He speaks. So you need faith, and of course that will breed expectancy, and expectancy to hear God is what draws God's voice out - so you need faith.
Here's a second thing: you need humility. You see, it presupposes that if you are seeking to hear from God, you have a sense of your need to hear from Him. I have to say to you here tonight: there's a lot of people, and they know a lot of this book, and praise God for any knowledge that we have, but they are satisfied with an intellectual cerebral knowledge of doctrine, just like the Pharisees. They know their Bible, but they don't know their God, and when their God showed up in the flesh - Jesus Christ - they didn't recognise Him. Pride was the sin of the Pharisees, and pride can often be the sin of the evangelical, the Christian. They have the Laodicean complex, where they have need of nothing. You might say: 'What do I need to hear from God? I've got the Bible here, and that's all I need to know'. The requirement for everything in the Christian life is humility. Proverbs 3:5-6: 'Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths'. Isaiah 57 and verse 15, what a wonderful verse: 'For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place'', this is a contradiction, apparently, ''With him who has a contrite and humble spirit''. God dwells in the high and holy place with the lowly one, the one who is down on the ground on his face. That's God's economy, that God's logistics, that God meets humble people. As James and Peter said: 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble', or as someone else put it, 'God resists the proud, but He can't resist the humble'.
If you want to hear the voice of God you need to feel your need to hear from Him. If you've got it all made, and all sewed up, and settled, and you know everything - you'll not hearing from God, because you're not listening for God. You know it all. You need faith, you need humility, here's a third thing: you need purity. You can hear the Lord much more clearly with a pure, clean heart. Now it's a verse in Psalm 66, verse 18, that says: 'If you regard iniquity in your heart, the Lord will not hear you'. The word for 'regard' there is 'cherish', if you prize iniquity, a particular sin in your heart that you love, the Lord will not hear you. But you can turn that on its head: if you cherish iniquity in your heart, you'll not hear the Lord either. It's communion we're looking for, isn't it? It's two-way, you speaking to God, and God communicating to you. One of the greatest barriers is a sin in your life, or sins, that you need to repent of. Is there something tonight, and you need to confess it, renounce it, forsake it and be done with it, because it's blocking your ears from hearing the voice of God?
Maybe you're unsure why the voice of God is blocked? Well, there's nothing better than having a day or two of cleansing, fasting, and prayer, and seeking God for release to get that cleansing, and that purity, and that transparency, and that honesty in your relationship with Him. You need faith, you need humility, you ought to seek purity, but fourthly: perhaps what is needed - this may not be needed for everyone - but perhaps what is needed is healing. There could be issues in your life where you need deliverance, and you need inner healing for hurts of the past, or things that have got hold on you, bitterness, or all sorts of inner problems, spiritual issues, emotional, mental.
Duncan Campbell used to preach on Elisha and the school of prophets, and you remember the young prophets, the students, were out and they had borrowed an axe, and the head came off the borrowed axe. Elisha gave them this advice, remember? 'Go back to where you last had it, and there you will find it'. Duncan Campbell used to say: 'Sometimes we momentarily lose our axe heads, our best cutting-edge tool for ministry: the clear voice of God. It helps to go back to the place where we last knew we had heard the sharp edge of God's voice'. Is there someone here tonight, and you once heard the voice of the Master? He once communicated to you, and you heard Him as clear as a bell, but tonight you don't, and you haven't for many a year. Well, trace the steps back, where did you lose the axe head? Where did it stop? Did it stop when you swallowed some dead orthodox doctrine with no life? Did it stop when you made a fleshly decision, you were walking in the Spirit and you made a fleshly decision that took you the wrong way? I don't know what it might be, it might be a sin that you started dabbling in. Or it might not be a sin, it might be a bitterness, a hurt that was done on you, an unforgiveness - we're going to talk about this tomorrow night - unforgiveness has caused a root of bitterness in your heart, and it has become a cloud between you and God. You might need healing for that.
A fifth thing you need, after faith, humility, purity, healing, is obedience. Now this statement that I'm going to give you now is one of the greatest revelations I've ever had in my Christian experience, listen: obedience is the instrument of revelation. Obedience is the instrument of revelation. What that simply means is: you must obey what God is telling you now if you want continued guidance from God. If God has shown you something that you must do, or must cease from doing, and you have disobeyed, God is not obliged to show you anything more until you do the thing He has already told you. There is a New Testament pattern, of course, that hearing the voice of God isn't so that we can strut around like peacocks and say: 'God spoke to me today, you know! And this is what He said...'. The voice of God is in order that we might be obedient in serving God. Ecclesiastes 5 and verse 7 in a paraphrase says this: 'Dreaming instead of doing is foolishness'. There's a lot of folk talk about the voice of God, and talk about all sorts of supernatural communications, but that's the end in itself: God communicates to us in order that move and do. God said to Isaiah: 'Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, 'This is the way, walk in it''. Whenever you turn to the right hand, or whenever you turn to the left hand, God is wanting to speak so that we may know what to do. In Amos chapter 3 and verse 3 we get the same thing. Amos was the prophet who had a burden from the Lord, and he had heard the voice of God, and it says in Amos 3:3: 'Can two walk together except they be agreed?'. I believe he was alluding to himself: he heard the voice of God roaring like a lion, the book says, because he was walking with God - and walking with God was simply being in agreement with God. You see, we must walk with God if we want to converse with God. Do you know something? To walk with God in obedience, you must walk at God's pace.
There is a Japanese missiologist - if you don't know what that is, it's simply someone who studies world missions across the globe. I'll not even attempt his name, but he talks about the 'three mile an hour God'. He says: 'This is the God of the Bible who led the Israelites out into the desert for a 40 year walk at 3 miles per hour, so they could learn that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God' - a 3 mile an hour walk, that's the pace all of us walk by the way, generally, on average. It took them 40 years to learn a twenty word truth, that 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God' - and they had to walk at God's pace to learn it. Listen to Psalm 32:8-9: 'I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse', what does the horse do? It runs on ahead. 'Or like the mule', what does the mule do? He digs his heels in and won't go. 'Don't be like the horse that runs ahead, don't be like the mule that's stubborn, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you'. God does not want us not coming near Him because we're running ahead of Him, or we're holding back after Him - He wants us to walk beside Him, so that we might understand what the will of the Lord is. That will only happen when you learn to walk with God and walk at His pace, be in agreement with Him.
There needs to be obedience. Listen, you can't run around with one foot in the world, and one foot in the kingdom of Christ, and expect to hear from the voice of God in clarity. You need to obey. The sixth thing that is needed is stillness. You need faith, you need humility, you need purity, you need healing, perhaps, you need obedience, and you need stillness. Life is so busy, isn't it? I mean we have all the mod cons today, and yet life seems to be more busy than ever - because we have all these things we get things done a lot quicker, so we have more time, so we fill up the time with more things to do. Life is so noisy as well, isn't it? There can be, even within our hearts, an internal disquiet through fear and anxiety - and I'll touch on that on Friday night - so that we can't hear the voice of God. Even our external environments can create so much hustle and bustle. I mean the noise pollution through technology alone is incredible. I have an iPod, but some people just can't live without an iPod on their ears, and they have these smartphones that can tell them everything under the sun - and Satan, there is no doubt about it, is clamouring for our attention, just like advertisers clamour for us to buy their product. Satan wants to block out the rivals for our attention, and his greatest rival, of course, is the voice of God. There is even a communication explosion - you know, you don't go anywhere without your mobile phone today. Twenty years ago we didn't know what a mobile phone was, it was about the size of a horse! We've got all these wee mobile phones everywhere, and anybody, just like that, can get in touch with us right away. We can talk to people across the globe, we can see them, and so we've got this pressure that we are constantly in contact with human beings - it's hard to get alone at times.
Now, don't misunderstand me, you don't have to be alone to be still before God. John Wesley's mother, Susanna Wesley, with all those teams of children running around her, was able to throw her apron over her head, and in all the racket just have time with God and stillness. It's something to do with the heart. But often what we do need to do is get more quietness, and get stillness, and be done with the distractions. Any of you who have children and a piano know what it is to be on the phone with the child battering the piano in the background - it's hard to speak to anyone with such a distraction, isn't it? We need to eliminate all the distractions we can to communing with God.
Now, let me finish on this note, one of the greatest distractions is this one: how do you know whether or not it's yourself you're hearing, or the voice of the devil? Now, let me deal with this - give me five minutes, will you, to deal with it? How do you know whether it's yourself or the devil? Well, here's a first way of knowing: the tone of the voice. There is a certain intonation to the voice of God that is different than the voice of the accuser, and different from the voice of the flesh. You know the voice of the accuser, the devil, it's condemning. You know something, there could be someone here tonight and you committed some particular sin, and you've already renounced it, and confessed it, and forsook it, and asked forgiveness for it - but you're continually dogged with condemnation. God never does that, that's the accuser, because the voice of the Spirit that convicts us, it disappears whenever we repent and confess. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. So if there is a voice of accusation, nagging and condemning you, that's not the voice of God for confessed sin.
Let me show you this from Scripture, how to know the tone of Heavenly Father's voice. Turn with me to James chapter 3. If you are hungry to hear the voice of God, I want to exhort you to take these verses here in James 3 and study them in detail, because you will find great instruction here on how to discern the witness of the Spirit with your spirit. Look at verse 15, verse 14 says: 'If you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above', so James is now talking about wisdom that is not from God, look at it, 'but is earthly, sensual', that means fleshly, it's of the flesh, of you, or it can be 'demonic'. So he's going to explain to us now how we recognise wisdom, instruction, that is either from ourselves, the bad part, our flesh, or the devil. Here it is: 'Where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there'. So if there is a spirit of envy in you about doing a thing, going down a path, exercising a particular gift; if you're self-seeking; if you're confused, every evil thing is there. Verse 17: 'But the wisdom that is from above', look, 'is first pure'. So God's voice is pure, that means anything that is impure and motivated by impurity is not from God. It is also 'then peaceable' - oh, boys-a-dear, there wouldn't be half the splits in churches in Ulster if men were listening to God's voice, because they wouldn't be doing things that were unpeaceable. It is an abomination in God's sight for brother to fall out with brother, those who sow discord among brethren. The wisdom of God is peaceable, here's something else: it's gentle. If there's anything that comes to you as an impulse, and it's harsh, and it's coarse, and it's rough, it's not from God. 'Willing to yield', and this is a touchy one here in our province - but you see when you get on your high horse about your rights, that's not the wisdom of God. If the Lord Jesus Christ got obsessed with His rights, you wouldn't be here tonight. Do you see it? 'Willing to yield', willing to yield even when you're being robbed of your rights. 'Full of mercy', that's forgiveness - that's a whole other subject we will look at tomorrow night. 'Good fruits', by their fruits you shall know them, it's the same with wisdom. 'Without partiality and without hypocrisy', not putting on a show, not being motivated by a mask before who you really are.
'Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace' - what a test! Now we don't have time to go into all that, but that is a wonderful list of ingredients of how to know the tone of God's voice over and above the devil's and the flesh. But if you're still not sure, here's three tests - listen: first of all, submit to the Lordship of Jesus. Submit to the Lordship of Jesus, ask Him to help you silence your thoughts and desires and opinions that are from the flesh, even other people's. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 10 and verse 5 that we have authority to cast down arguments, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. So you submit yourself to the Lordship of Jesus, and say: 'Lord, I don't want to do what I want to do, without Your will and Your direction'.
Secondly, resist the enemy in case he's trying to deceive you. Use the authority of Jesus to silence the enemy, listen to James chapter 4 and verse 7: 'Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you' - so do that! If you're worried about it being the flesh, submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ. If you're worried about it being the devil, submit yourself to God and resist the devil, and he must flee from you - and then wait and expect an answer from God, and allow Him to guide you as He sees fit, when He sees fit.
Life as God intended for His people is a life of hearing God's voice. Can I tell you something? Spiritual growth, I believe, does not develop until the Christian begins to hear from God through the word and through the Spirit.
Oh Father, we thank You for even hearing Your voice tonight. Lord, we know that You want to take us into that sweet garden of fellowship, to walk with us and talk with us, to share the secrets of Your heart. Oh Lord, we are so busy, and occupied, and disturbed, and distracted. Oh Lord, teach us to come apart, and to rest and wait upon You, and learn what it is. In this Laodicean age, Lord, You are knocking, Lord Jesus, at the door, and You're saying: 'If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with Me'. Oh Lord Jesus, may some tonight hear Your voice and enter such wonderful dining communion and fellowship with You forevermore. Amen.
Don't miss part 5 of Life As God Intends For His People: "Life Free From The Enemy, Part 1: Oppression and Unforgiveness"
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Leaney Mission Hall in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth recording in his 'Life As God Intends For His People' series, entitled "Life Of Hearing God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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