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80: How to Hear God’s Voice When He Speaks

80: How to Hear God’s Voice When He Speaks

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“Follow Me, and I Will Make You… Whatever I Want”

In the Gospels, we encounter a radical figure who issues a bold invitation to those He calls unto Himself: “Follow Me.”  These words, spoken by Jesus, are not merely a suggestion but a summons, a mandate to leave life as we have always known it and embark on a journey that has no end— at least on this side of heaven.  His invitation is to die to self, to follow Him wholeheartedly, and to imitate Him in all aspects of life.

Or, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die.”  But what does it really mean to follow Jesus, especially in the context of the 21st-century woke Christian culture we find ourselves in?  How can we be faithful disciples of our Lord?


What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus?

The essence of Jesus’ call to “Follow Me” is about more than just physically moving from where you are to where He is.  It’s an invitation to a new way of life.  It’s about leaving behind old priorities and identities (like nets or tax booths in the Gospels) and embracing a new identity rooted in faith and obedience to Christ.  And this call is marked by a willingness to let go of personal ambitions and possessions, or to take up one’s cross (Matt. 16:24), and to enter a life of service and mission with Him, by following Him.  It’s about embracing all that Christ offers: His teachings, His lifestyle, His ambition, His mission, His sacrifice, and the purpose of His life.

Ok, got that.

I’ve heard sermons about giving all to Christ for as long as I can remember.  But ‌every time I try to truly follow Him wholeheartedly, I seem to fail.  Sometimes miserably.  There has to be something I’m missing— maybe some key ingredient I have somehow overlooked.

And, to be honest, there is.


The Importance of Hearing His Voice When He Speaks

But there is also one vital aspect of following Jesus that is often neglected in our preaching and church practices— and that is being able, or acquiring the ability, to hear His voice when He speaks to you.  Otherwise, how can you follow Him?  For without His direction, you’re basically flying blind.  I mean, how can you know what He wants you to do?  How can He encourage you, instruct you, or even rebuke you?  And how can you have fellowship with Him or grow in the likeness of Him if you can’t hear Him when He speaks?

Remember, one vital and essential key to following Jesus is to speak to Him and have Him speak back to you.  This is the essence of a relationship with the Lord.  All relationships, with God or with someone else, are built on two-way communication and not a single monologue from only one partner.  And without a relationship… well, we’re just talking about religion.  And nobody wants religion.


Some FAQs About Hearing His Voice

So let me ask you, are you a follower of Jesus?  Do you hear His voice when He speaks to you?  And if you’re not sure, let me answer just a few questions you may have.

Q:  How do I know if it’s God speaking to me?
A:  God’s voice will never contradict Scripture.  Never.  And His voice brings peace and clarity in confusing situations, often challenges us to grow spiritually, and is always consistent with His character of love.  Plus, and I know this may sound mystical, but when God speaks, you will recognize His voice like His sheep do their Shepherd (John 10:3-4).  Or, to put it another way, there is no way you cannot hear His voice if you belong to Him as one of His sheep.  Read the chapter yourself.

Q:  What if I don’t hear anything?
A:  God can even speak in silence.  These times of silence may be opportunities for you to grow in trust and faith in Him, or in what He last spoke to you.  So keep listening, keep praying, and remain open.  Remember, God can speak to you any way He chooses.  He can even guide you with just the look in His eye (Psalm 32:8).  Sometimes, God’s silence is preparing you for what’s next— and that’s a good thing.  A really good thing.

Q:  Can God speak through other means, like circumstances or other people?
A:  Absolutely.  See above.  God can speak to you in any way He chooses.  It’s one of the prerogatives of being God.  He can communicate with us in any number of ways, including through other people, circumstances, dreams and visions, a bolt of lightning, a blinding light on the way to Damascus, while riding a donkey, and even through the quiet nudging of our spirits.  But it is essential that you discern these extra-Biblical messages of God in light of Scripture and prayer.

Q:  How can I be sure it’s really Jesus speaking to me and not just my own thoughts?
A:  Remember, learning to discern the voice of Jesus takes time and practice.  The more we immerse ourselves in Scripture and spend time with Him in prayer, the more familiar we become with how God speaks and what His voice sounds like.  Practice makes perfect, especially when discerning the difference between our thoughts and the voice of the Lord.  Jesus’ voice will always align with His Word and character.  So, if you’re unsure, seek the counsel of mature believers and wait until you know for certain it is the Lord speaking before acting on what you have heard.

Q:  Do I need to hear Jesus’ voice audibly to follow Him?
A:  Absolutely not.  Hearing Jesus speak audibly is not a requirement for following Him.  Throughout church history, countless believers have followed Christ faithfully without ever hearing His audible voice.  Jesus speaks in many ways, and how He chooses to communicate with you is sufficient.  Psalm 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens, and He does what He pleases”— including how He chooses to speak to you.  So don’t put Him in a box of your own expectations.

Q:  What should I do when following Jesus feels difficult or costly?
A:  Following Jesus is not always easy, but He promises to be with us every step of the way.  When the path is difficult (and it usually is), you simply must cling to His promises, lean on His strength, and keep your eyes fixed on the eternal joy set before you (Heb. 12:1-2).  And remember, the heroes in Hebrews 11 all faced trials and difficulties, far more difficult than we usually face, yet they remained steadfast, resolute, and unmovable.  How?  Because they understood “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).  So when following Jesus seems scary, just follow Him closer.  Believe me, it works every time.


Reflection

Wherever you are on the journey of learning how to hear His voice, remember that following Jesus is a lifelong process.  We will never arrive, at least not on this side of eternity.  But day by day, step by step, as we keep our eyes fixed on Him, He is faithful to lead us, to mold us, and to use us for His purposes and His glory.

May we continually hear and heed the Savior’s call: “Follow Me.”


The Higher Christian Life

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79:  Embracing the Call to Radical Christianity

79: Embracing the Call to Radical Christianity

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Challenging the Status Quo

We live in a world where the term “radical” often evokes images of extremism and division and has developed a rather nasty reputation in our culture since the ’60s.  Therefore, it may come as a surprise that at the very heart of Christian discipleship lies a call to a radically different way of life.  This radical lifestyle is not about taking up arms or shouting louder than the voices of opposition.  Instead, it’s about embracing a radical love, a radical commitment, radical obedience and sacrifice, and a radical transformation that only comes from fully embracing the life and teachings of Jesus Christ himself— who was the greatest radical who ever lived.

That’s right.  Let that thought sink in for a moment.


What is a Radical, and Why Should I Care?

But first, to set the stage, let’s define what the word “radical” means.  According to Webster, “radical” is ‌defined as “something (or someone) new and different in contrast to what is traditional or ordinary.”  In other words, being “radical” is a relative term based on a comparison with what society deems common or ordinary or what we refer to as the “status quo.”  This means it is the ordinary and traditional aspects of a society that determine, right or wrong, if something (teachings or ideas) or someone (individual or actions) is radical or revolutionary.  Consider that last statement carefully.  Note where the power to make the determination lies (mainstream opinion and not actual truth).  Do you see the problem?

When a culture refers to individuals or their beliefs and practices as radical, it means they are considered extreme, controversial, and even dangerous to the mainstream.  And since they could harm the status quo by threatening change or something even more frightening, accountability— those accused of being radical are often marginalized, excluded, punished, canceled, and eventually eliminated for the good of the whole, or at least for the good of the power elites who govern the whole.


But What About Jesus?

This compels us to address the question nobody wants to ask.  Namely, is it OK, maybe even expected, for the Christian life to be viewed as radical by our lost and dying culture that rejects the claims and teachings of Christ?  And if so, are our Christian ideas and actions supposed to challenge the status quo of our society (both secular and sacred) at this point in history?  Or do we just blend into the woodwork and hope the culture will leave us alone to do the religious things we want?  Which is it?  You can’t have it both ways.  But we all know that.

To answer this question, we need only look at Jesus’ teachings and how the mainstream reacted to His life.  Were He and His message considered radical and revolutionary by the Jewish establishment of His time?  Was He viewed as a threat, a danger to the profitable inner workings of their religious complex?  How did they view, for example, His cleaning out the corruption in the Temple by overturning the tables of the money changers (Matt. 21:12-13)?  How did they respond when He called them out as hypocrites and encouraged the people to follow God and not man-made traditions (Matt. 23)?  And what did they finally do to silence His voice?  Exactly.

It would appear, from any honest assessment, that the powers-to-be viewed Jesus as a radical and revolutionary and, as such, had Him put to death.  And we are called to follow in His footsteps, to be the light of the world (which exposes darkness, John 3:19) and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13).  Remember?


We Follow a Risen Savior (Who Was a Radical)

Consider a brief overview of the radical life and teachings of our Lord.  Let’s begin with some of His radical actions:

•   Eating with Sinners and Tax Collectors – Mark 2
•   Touching and Healing Lepers – Matthew 8
•   Forgiving Sins – Mark 2
•   Challenging the Sabbath Traditions – Mark 2
•   Cleansing the Temple – Matthew 21
•   Teaching and Practicing Humility – Mark 10
•   Welcoming Children – Mark 10
•   Interacting with Samaritans – John 4
•   Affirming the Value of the Poor – Luke 6
•   Healing on the Sabbath – Luke 13
•   Associating with Women – Luke 8
•   Criticizing Religious Hypocrisy – Matthew 23
•   The First Shall Be Last – Matthew 20
•   Washing His Disciples’ Feet – John 13
•   Ministering to Gentiles – Matthew 8 and 15
•   Teaching in Parables – Matthew 13
•   Proclaiming Spirit Over Letter of the Law – Mark 2
•   Challenging Social Norms – Luke 15

And now, let’s look at His revolutionary teachings.  We’ll begin with the Sermon on the Mount.

•   The Definition of Being Blessed – Matthew 5:3-12
•   Higher Standard of Righteousness – Matthew 5:20
•   Deeper Meaning of Adultery – Matthew 5:27-28
•   The Permanence of Marriage – Matthew 5:31-32
•   Turn the Other Cheek – Matthew 5:38-39
•   Give to Everyone Who Asks – Matthew 5:42
•   Love Your Enemies – Matthew 5:43-48
•   How to Pray (Kingdom Come) – Matthew 6:9-13
•   Do Not Accumulate Treasures – Matthew 6:19-21
•   You Cannot Serve God and Money – Matthew 6:24
•   Seek First the Kingdom of God – Matthew 6:33
•   Do Not Worry, But Trust God – Matthew 6:25-34
•   Do Not Judge – Matthew 7:1-2
•   Love Others Like Yourself – Matthew 7:12
•   Wide Path and Narrow Gate – Matthew 7:13-14
•   Words and Fruits – Matthew 7:15-20
•   Saying and Doing – Matthew 7:21-23
•   Build on the Eternal, not Temporal – Matthew 7:24-27

And we’ll throw a few more in for good measure.

•   The Good Samaritan – Luke 10:25-37
•    The Prodigal Son – Luke 15:1-32
•    The Rich Man and Lazarus – Luke 16:19-31
•    The Greatest in the Kingdom – Matthew 18:1-4
•    Forgive Seventy Times Seven – Matthew 18:21-22
•    The Pharisee and the Tax Collector – Luke 18:9-14


What Does This Mean for His Church?

If our Lord was considered a radical by the culture in which He lived (because His teachings challenged the mainstream status quo), then should our life not also do the same?  Should we not commit to being just like Jesus— to live a life of radical obedience to Him and counterculture to the morals and customs of our society (John 6:38)?

After all, we are not of this world (Phil. 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11), and neither was Jesus—and that should show in every aspect of our lives.  So join with me and accept His life’s total consecration to the Father, which will most definitely be viewed as radical by your friends and family, maybe even your church.

But who cares?  After all, to “live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).


The Higher Christian Life

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78:  How to Prepare Yourself to Meet With God

78: How to Prepare Yourself to Meet With God

To download the slides for this message, click – HERE

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Disclaimer: Let’s Define Some Terms

As we discovered in Part One of How to Experience God When You Pray— when we talk about experiencing God in prayer, we are specifically defining prayer as more than a monologue, but something even deeper.  It is a true, two-way conversation with God, where you speak, and He listens, and He speaks, and you hear His voice.  Then, as the abundant life revealed (John 10:10), we rinse and repeat, as often as we like, and grow in our relationship with Him through a true conversation in prayer.  Nothing is greater than having God personally speak into your life.  And your prayer life and intimacy with God will be completely revolutionized when you experience His presence when you pray.

In this post, we will examine some ways to prepare ourselves to experience God when we pray.


Our Preparation for Prayer

When you went on your first date with the person who later became your spouse, do you remember the preparation you made to meet with the person you wanted to build a relationship with?  I do.  I remember it was very important for me to make a good first impression.  Why?  Well, to do otherwise was failure— and nobody wants to fail on a first date.

So I dressed in some reasonably nice clothes, or at least what was clean and didn’t smell too bad.  Granted, it was not my Sunday Best, but it was the best I had for a first date.  I made sure I brushed my teeth, ran a comb through my hair, forcefully tamed any unruly eyebrow hairs, and tried to bring out the best of me when I was meeting Karen.  And why wouldn’t I?  After all, I was enamored with this woman, totally smitten, or as the owl said in Bambi, twitterpated.  I wanted to build a long-term relationship with her and hopefully, someday, maybe, if I got really lucky and won the lottery, make her my wife.

So preparation was important— really important.  Because you never get a second chance to make a first impression.


Preparing to Enter His Presence

And if this is true about a first date, how much more is it true about entering into the presence of God in prayer?  This means that when we pray, when we desire to have a direct, personal conversation with the Creator of the Universe— when we speak to the Almighty and expect to be heard and then expect Him to stoop to our level and respond, there must be some prior preparation that takes place.  After all, we take the time to update our resume and try to look our best and learn about the company before we sit down for a job interview, don’t we?  And we would never go to our childhood friend’s wedding in the same clothes we wore while mowing the yard, would we?  And most certainly, we brush our teeth, sometimes twice, before sitting in the dentist’s chair.  So if we make preparations before these events, how much more before we bow our heads in prayer?

Let me list three steps we need to do before boldly entering into His presence in prayer.  But be warned, each of these is vital for experiencing Him when you pray.


First, We Must Prepare Our Hearts to Meet With Him

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, (why) for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8), which is exactly what we are hoping to accomplish through prayer.  We want to experience His presence— and that begins with preparing our hearts before Him.  Since God is holy, we must make ourselves as holy as we can by confessing our sins and asking for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9).  This way, we can come to Him as He requires, with “clean hands and pure heart” (Psalm 24:4).  We must also search our heart and forgive those who have hurt us as He, in the same manner, has forgiven us who have sinned against Him (Matt. 6:14-15).  And we must surrender all self-will and independence to Him by freely and voluntarily presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice, one that He finds “holy and acceptable” (Rom. 12:1).  This allows the Spirit to renew our minds and align our desires more according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), which is vital to having your prayers answered.


Next, We Enter His Presence, His Way

The Scriptures give us clear instructions on how we are to enter into His presence, and we would be wise to follow what it commands.  Psalm 100:4 says, for example, as we come to God in prayer, we are to enter His presence with praise, worship and thanksgiving, focusing on His character, His mighty works, and His unmatched worthiness.  This is one way we “bless His name,” as the Psalm requires.  We must recognize who He is and who we are and then, once again, surrender control of our lives to Him as we strive to get our eyes off ourselves and onto Him.  We then wait in stillness before Him, opening our spiritual senses in eager expectation of His presence in a way that fills us with supernatural peace (Phil. 4:6-7), joy (Psalm 16:11), and spiritual strength (Isa 40:31).  There is truly nothing like it this side of heaven.


Finally, the Good Stuff— a Two-Way Conversation

If we prepare ourselves to meet with Him, prayer then becomes a two-way conversation and not a one-sided monologue.  We speak to Him, and we listen for His still, small voice to speak to us in return (1 Kings 19:11-13).  Or maybe He chooses to speak to us in something other than a still, small voice, which is sometimes frightening (Ex. 19).  No matter.  He can do what He wants, and we just marvel that He is willing, and we are able, to communicate with the Creator of All.  We make our requests known to Him as our loving Father (Matt. 6:8, 7:7-11), while having the freedom to express our thoughts and emotions honestly (Ps. 62:8), knowing there is no condemnation in Him (Rom. 8:1).  We can ask for insight into His Word and receive revelation by the Spirit (John 16:13-15), as we wait patiently for Him to speak to our inner being about the concerns on our hearts.  This is what prayer is all about, a two-way communion with God that fuels our love for Him and puts our faith on steroids.  And this is an experience you can have when you pray— personally hearing from God and then responding accordingly.


Some Final Thoughts

In closing, let me list just a few final points to help us experience God when we pray.


One, Learn to Make Jesus-Centered Petitions

After aligning our own hearts with the Father in worship and two-way conversation, we’re now ready to intercede for others.  As we lift up people and circumstances to Him by name, we base our petitions on the finished work of Jesus on the cross, which secures our relationship with the Father, and on the Father’s will, and not on what we think needs to happen.  We ask in faith according to His will (1 John 5:14-15), with confidence in His compassion and power to always do what is right, even when we can’t see it at the present time (Rom. 8:28).  We pray His Word, and we pray according to His Word, which always accomplishes His purposes (Isa. 55:11).  And this fact alone gives us profound trust to intercede to our Father for those we love, and then leave the results in His capable and loving hands.  If you learn to approach God this way, you will never be disappointed.  His timing is always perfect.


Two, Come to Him in Child-like Boldness

Jesus said He would answer prayers asked “in My name” (John 16:23-24).  To pray in the name of Jesus means to come before our Father with the full authority Jesus has given us as children of God.  Just as a child asks something of their loving father based on their loving relationship rather than merit, we can now boldly approach God’s throne of grace in full assurance of His love and acceptance (Heb. 4:16), no matter what.  So as we grow in intimacy with Him and in our understanding of His love and delight over us as His children, we will gain confidence to ask Him for anything and everything on our hearts.  And while God delights to give us the desires of our hearts (Ps. 37:4), He also lovingly gives us what He knows is best when our desires don’t align with His greater plans, which, unfortunately, often happens.  And so, as we trust Him fully in child-like dependence, He fills us with His peace and joy in the midst of every circumstance— no matter how unpleasant that circumstance may be at the time.


Three, Learn to Stay Connected

Finally, remember that God designed prayer for continual connection and communion with Him because He longs for a relationship with us.  As we learn to pray with a clean heart, enter His presence in worship, listen for His voice in a two-way conversation, intercede in Jesus’ name for others, and come to Him with child-like boldness, we will experience His presence in ways that transform our everyday lives.  It is a given. Our job is to simply stay connected to the Vine, which is Christ, and let Him take care of everything else (John 15).  And prayer is His designed way to keep us connected to our Father.

But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself.  Take some time to prepare yourself before you pray, and see if God doesn’t reward your diligence with a renewed infilling of His Spirit and the joy of His presence.  You will then begin to experience God when you pray, which is nothing short of heaven on earth.

Go on, give it a try.


The Higher Christian Life

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