Thursday, 20 January 2011

How to listen to God

"You are permitted to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken from them." Matthew 13:11,12 (NLT)

God speaks!

In Deuteronomy 6:4 we read what is known as the "Schema" which says, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one."

God commands His people to pay attention! The Lord speaks and He calls His children to listen. Jesus says,

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

Jesus says, "proceeds" and not "proceeded"! God continues to speak to the believer and so the believer must continue to listen.

The apostle Paul in his introduction to spiritual gifts explains that God is not a "mute idol" but that He is the living God who continues to communicate with His people in many different ways (see 1 Cor. 12-14).

Why does God speak to us?

There are many reasons why God speaks to us, but from Matthew 13 we see that Jesus wants believers to know "the secrets of heaven" (vs 11) and to have this knowledge "in abundance" (vs 12) so that they "might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn" so that God "would heal them" (vs 15). Jesus says that those who truly listen will produce "a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (vs 23). In the context we see that Jesus is talking about receiving spiritual revelation of the Kingdom so that it grows in our lives and influences our lives through and through (see also Matthew 13:31-33).

Hearing or listening?

There is a difference between hearing and truly listening. To hear is to perceive but to listen is to understand and respond. Many believers hear God speaking to them through the Bible, through sermons, through the Church, etc. but are stunted in their spiritual growth. Christians attend conferences and hear the most amazing sermons but still remain "babes in Christ." Why is that?

The reason that many believers are not growing spiritually and not coming to wholeness in Christ is primarily because they are not truly listening to God!

Luke gives us even more insight to what it means to truly listen to God:
"But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." Luke 8:15

A true listener hears, understands, retains and perseveres so that a crop is produced! If we want to produce a crop then we will need to listen to God.

How do we truly listen?
  1. Ask - ask the Lord to give you ears to hear! (Is. 55:6; 1 Cor. 2:9-14)
  2. Be alert - be attentive to God speaking to you throughout your day and night (dreams)
  3. Position yourself to hear - read the Bible, listen to sermons, etc
  4. Have an open heart - listen to receive and understand
  5. Have a teachable spirit - allow God to challenge and change your thinking (Isaiah 55:8)
  6. Remember what God says to you - retain and meditate on what God has said to you by praying it over your life and repeating it (Psalm 1:2; 119:15)
  7. Apply God's Word to your life - act on what God says to you by faith
  8. Persevere - continue to act on God's Word to you even if you don't see immediate results
  9. Expect a crop - believe you will receive what God has spoken to you
How do you train your listening skills?

I have discovered that those who struggle to listen in the natural also struggle to listen to God! Use your everyday relationships to train your listening skills. Here are a few tips:

  1. Don't do all the talking - "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak" James 1:19

  2. Pay attention - don't think about other things or what you are going to say next whilst you are "listening"

  3. Ask questions - make sure you really understand what the other person is communicating to you. Don't assume you know what the person is saying and where the person is going with what s/he is saying.

  4. Repeat what you have understood to the person speaking to you. Don't say "aha" or the like when you haven't understood or to be polite whilst your mind is somewhere else. It's dishonest and not "owning up" to not knowing something is pride.

  5. After your conversation, check what you can still remember of what the other person told you.

Practice in the natural what you want to grow in spiritually!

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Rev. 3:22


Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Who are you comparing yourself to?

"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." 2 Cor. 10:12

The apostle Paul's words are a sobering reminder that our fellow Christians are not the plumb line by which we are to measure our walk with God. What is "in", popular and the latest fashion can be dangerously misleading if we allow these to become the standard by which we test our faith. Rather, Paul says,

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2 Cor. 13:5

What is the test? John writes,

"Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did." 1 John 2:6

Those who live from the Spirit, compare themselves to Jesus and seek to live like Him, regardless of whether others are doing the same. In fact, God rewards our secret obedience because we believe in Him and don't depend on the recognition of man (see Matthew 6:1-21).

The treasure that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 6 is the reward for living for God's pleasure rather than the approval of man. When we face our Lord on that great day when all of creation will be judged and the Lord asks us each, individually,

"What did you do on earth to love others and please me?"

we will realise that there is no place for an answer like, "our church didn't have a ministry for the poor" or "our church didn't have any outreaches" etc..

God wants to answer, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" Matthew 25:21

Let's not compare ourselves to one another and be foolish but rather "understand what the Lord's will is" (Eph. 5:17) and do it. If your relationship and your obedience to God is dependent on how you see others walk with God then you will probably only be as close to God and obedient to God as those around you. If, however, you compare yourself to Jesus and seek to live as He did on earth, you will store up for yourself lasting treasures in heaven and be revived as you live for God and serve Him only!


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Are you experiencing God?

"Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, 'You are the God who sees me.'" Genesis 16:13 (NLT)

God's purpose in Christ was to restore man to Himself so that man could know his Creator, personally and intimately! God reveals Himself to mankind not only so that man can know about Him but to invite man to enter into intimate knowledge and experience of Him. Sadly many believers are satisfied with knowing about God and don't pursue an experiential knowledge of God. Simply depending on knowledge about God can however be perilous. Jesus says,

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)

The truth is that we can know someone's name without actually knowing the person. Hagar used another name for God because she experienced an aspect of who He is - El-Roi, "The God who sees me." The name she used for God was an expression of her relationship and experience with God.

Jesus came to reveal the Father so that those who believe would enter into the knowledge of God. Jesus prays,

"I have manifested Your Name [I have revealed Your very Self, Your real Self] to the people whom You have given Me out of the world." John 17:6 (AMP)

The manifestation of God's Name is an invitation to enter into the experience of that Name. For example, God invites man to know Him and experience Him as "Our Father." God wants us to call Him "Father" because we experience His Fatherhood and not just because He has revealed His Name as such. Likewise, those who call Jesus, "Lord," must understand that to call Him by that Name must be out of their experience of Him as Lord. That is why Jesus reprimands those who call Him, "Lord, Lord," and yet don't live in the experience of that Name by living in submission to Him.

We must ask ourselves, "Am I experiencing God according to the name that I address Him with?" Do you call God your "Father" because you are living as a child of God and experiencing His Fatherhood? Do you call Jesus, "Lord" because you live in submission to His lordship? Do you call God, "Almighty" because you believe in, and experience His supremacy?

God is inviting you to know Him more. Every name of God in Scripture is an invitation for you to know Him and experience Him according to that name. What name will you use to refer to God because of your knowledge and experience of Him today?