Are You Listening?

Are You Listening?

Do you hear God speak to you? When Samuel heard God's voice, he didn't recognize it. When Gideon heard God's voice, he was so unsure it was God that he asked God to show him several signs. If the Old Testament prophets and men of God had trouble discerning God’s voice, how are you and I supposed to know it is Him speaking?

First, we have to believe God speaks to us today; otherwise, we won’t hear Him. There are Christians who believe God does not speak to us anymore. They argue that God only spoke to people before the Bible was written, but now that we have the Bible, God’s communication is limited to what we read in the Bible. Or some believe God just gives us freewill to make all our own decisions without speaking to us.

Unfortunately, the reason people believe God doesn’t speak today is not because of what the Bible says, it is because they haven’t sensed God speaking to them. Therefore, they conclude God must not speak to anyone today. They interpret the Bible through their experiences, rather than interpreting their experiences through the truth of the Bible. Just because you have not heard God speaking to you the way God spoke to people in the Bible does not mean God is not speaking to you. The problem may be that you are not listening!

Jesus said in John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Jesus says that we will hear His voice and follow Him—if we belong to Him. Once we have spent any time with someone, we begin to know and understand them and recognize their voice very easily. Therefore, we should know His voice and desire to hear it. Like pet sheep, we should rejoice to hear Him and follow Him.

God's voice is clearly heard when we take time to hear it. Just like any conversation, to hear someone else, we usually must stop doing other things and focus our attention on them. Those who devote time to read the Bible, those who listen to godly preaching and testimonies, those who spend time in prayer and meditate on God, usually hear God's voice. The more you read the Word and respond back in prayer, the easier it becomes to recognize His voice. It is His love and grace that allows us to have such an intimate relationship with Him that we can talk to Him and He speaks to us in a variety of ways.

God speaks to all people through His Creation: Psalm 19:1-2  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

In the Old Testament, God spoke directly (i.e. Noah, Abraham, Moses), through angels (Gen. 16), visions (Gen. 15), dreams (Gen. 28:10-19), a gentle whisper (1 Ki. 19:12), miraculous signs (Ex. 8:20-25), and through the prophets.

In the New Testament, God also speaks to us through the words of Jesus, His Son.

Hebrews 1:1-2 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

Jesus said in John 14:10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work.

Jesus was saying these aren’t just my words, they are my Father’s words. I am telling you what He is telling me. Even as a man, Jesus was still one with the Father. Therefore, He knew what the Father wanted Him to say, and He said it.

Even after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension we see God still speaking to His people directly (Acts 9:15-16), through angels (Acts 5:19-20), dreams and visions (Acts 10:3,10), miraculous signs (Acts 3:6; 10:44), and prophets (Acts 11:27). Admittedly, these are rare experiences, but they are still means through which God speaks to His people under the New Covenant.

Even though God continues to speak in similar ways in the New Testament as in the Old Testament, one very important thing changed after Jesus’ Resurrection: the Holy Spirit was sent to us. Jesus promised He would send the Holy Spirit (God’s very presence that was in Him) to live within all those who believe, and the Holy Spirit would speak God’s Word to us.

John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 16:13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.

Jesus was telling His disciples that while they had the privilege of hearing the Father’s words through Himself, once He left, the Father would send the Holy Spirit to live within us. The Holy Spirit’s gentle small voice still teaches us, reminds us of Jesus’ words, guides us into all truth, speaks the words of the Father, and tells us of what is yet to come.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit, is speaking to you.

Are you listening?

Just because we have listened carefully and intently to one thing from God does not guarantee that we will listen and obey everything He says. We show our lack of love and respect for God by ignoring what He says. We give His Word mental assent, but we don’t obey it.

Jesus said in John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Have you disobeyed our Lord this week? You’re probably not sure.

Although 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray without ceasing, most of the time, we are not listening to Him. If we had realized that Jesus was speaking, most likely, we would not have deliberately disobeyed. But we are so focused on things of the world, things we feel compelled to accomplish, our own thoughts and emotions, our desires and appetites that we ignore Him. God is speaking, but we are not listening. He might as well never speak to us.

The goal of our spiritual life is to have such a close identification with Jesus Christ that we will always hear Him and know that He always hears us. If we are united with Jesus Christ, we can hear God all the time through the devotion of listening. A flower, a tree, or a servant of Christ may convey God’s message to us. What hinders us from hearing is our attention to other things. It is not that we don’t want to hear God, but we are not devoted to hearing Him. We are devoted to other things and even to service and to our own convictions. God may say whatever He wants, but we just don’t hear Him. The attitude of a child of God should always be, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” So, are you listening to God’s voice (not mine) at this moment?

Sometimes when we read or hear God’s Word, we do not really listen to Him, because we think we already know what He said. We have listened to the traditions of men and accepted what men interpreted from the Word rather than listen anew for the voice of Christ. Even now, while I am speaking, you need to listen to Jesus speaking by the Holy Spirit to your spirit.

Mark 9:7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”

This brings up an important issue and danger if we are not careful. How do we distinguish the voice of Jesus by the Holy Spirit from other voices and influences?

If we assume God is speaking to us and indeed He is not, we will be deceived and live for ourselves and not for God. The dangers of ascribing God’s voice to things that are not His voice abound. That is how people get into cults and into the occult. This deception is as dangerous as not hearing God or disobeying God. In all these cases, we end up listening to Satan, missing God’s will for our lives, and suffering the consequences.

Unfortunately, there is no formula for hearing God’s voice because God is a Person to relate to, not a computer. If there was a formula for hearing God (i.e. pray the Lord’s Prayer, wait 5 min., get on your knees), people would bypass the relationship and just do the formula.

God speaks to different people in different ways at different times. Nevertheless, there are four essential truths to enable us to shut out other voices and hear God’s voice.

1. To hear God, we have to be close to Him. We come close to God by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, and His blood sacrifice on the cross to atone for our sin and make us pure. By the blood of Jesus, we can enter the Holy of Holies—the Presence of God—to commune with Him.

Hebrews 10:22-23 Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

James 4:7-8 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

To hear the voice of God, we must develop an intimate relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. We cultivate this relationship through constant prayer, repentance, regular Bible study, and daily submitting our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our spiritual act of worship (Rom. 12:1). These things draw us close to God and enable us to hear His voice. If we don’t have an intimate relationship with God, we will not hear Him, and we will be deceived by other voices and our own ideas.

2. In order to hear God, obedience to God is required. God may not be speaking because we haven’t obeyed the last thing He told us.

Luke 11:28 He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

John 14:23-24 Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.”

If we want to hear the voice of God, we must be people who are obedient to God and living the life that Jesus commands. We should not expect to hear God’s voice when we are living our lives selfishly and doing our own thing, because sin breaks down communication between us and God. While we remain unrepentant and in rebellion to God, we will likely be listening to Satan’s voice, because the only thing God is saying to us is “repent”!

3. In order to hear God, humility is required. Humility means we put to death our ideas and allow God to teach us. Humility means we give up our desires and let God direct us. Humility means we are submitted to God and we learn and adapt to what God tell us.

Psalm 25:9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.

Psalm 149:4 For the LORD takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.

Isaiah 66:2 This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” declares the LORD.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time.

If we want to hear the voice of God, humility must permeate every aspect of our lives. We must submit ourselves to God in actions, thoughts, attitudes, and purpose. If pride is something that we deal with in our lives, it will get in the way of hearing God’s voice and then prevent us from obeying Him.

4. To know we are hearing God, confirmation is required. God confirms His messages to us in two very important ways.

First, the message we hear from God will agree with what He has already said in the Scriptures. God does not change, neither does He lie. God is consistent and holy. Therefore, God will not tell us something contrary to His Word. This is why being close to God and knowing His Word is so important.

We must match what we think God is saying to the unchanging Word of God. If what we think God is saying does not match His word, then it is not God speaking. Period. Neither can we trust our feelings when they don’t line up with God’s Word.

For example, many Christians have entered into grievous marriages because they felt strongly that God wanted them to marry an unbeliever, even though God’s Word clearly says in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

Secondly, when there is not a specific verse of Scripture pertaining to our situation, God will use two or more people, circumstances, disciplines, and other ways to confirm that it is a message from Him. If we consult other believers, they must not be someone who will just tell us what we want to hear, but rather someone who is close to God, obedient in faith, and humble so that they will tell us truthfully what the Holy Spirit says. It does no good to listen to someone who doesn’t know the Word of God or who is not filled with the Holy Spirit themselves, because they can’t hear God nor discern His Spirit—unless you just want your ears tickled.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Confirmation is required because we cannot trust our own heart and desires. I emphasize “required” because it is too dangerous to proceed without confirmation. We naturally want to follow our own ways. There is also a temptation from the enemy to pick and choose verses from the Bible to verify what we want and deceive us. He is an expert at that.

On the other hand, it is also possible to take Bible verses and follow them to the letter without being guided by the Holy Spirit, making us legalistic and unlike Christ. That is why an intimate relationship, the Holy Spirit, obedience, humility, and confirmation are required to accurately hear God. But, are you listening?

God communes intimately with those who have believed in Jesus Christ and have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. The evidence of those who hear God’s voice is they are following Jesus by walking in obedience to His Word and producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

To unbelievers, God is speaking through His creation, through preaching, and through His ambassadors. We can become one of those ambassadors. Our Father simply wants us to be humble, submissive, and obedient so we can know Him, hear Him, and become like Jesus by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Then He can use us to lift up Jesus Christ with what we say and do, and unbelievers will be drawn unto Him.

Are you listening? Will you obey?

If you have never committed your life to Jesus Christ, God is speaking to you now, for today is the day of salvation. Believe in Jesus Christ, His death for your sin, and His resurrection, which proves He is God. Make your faith a public confession today. Repent of your sin—your self-rule—and make Jesus Christ your Lord by submitting to Him in baptism. Then you will be born again of the Holy Spirit and have grace to hear God’s voice within your spirit.