Hearing God for the New Year (Part One)

Hearing God

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

John 10:3

As believers, we enjoy the Blessed Trinity’s personal presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should experience an on-going conversation with God: speaking to God and being spoken to by his Spirit. The normal Christian life is God speaking, directing, and guiding us by his love and through his Spirit. In turn, we can respond in delight by honoring his leadership through obedience to his will. This process of being directed, guided, and led by the Holy Spirit in the affairs of everyday life is called hearing God (John 10:25-30).

Personal Presence

Dallas Willard affirms that as believers, we were meant to live in God’s presence and fellowship.

People are meant to live in an ongoing conversation with God, speaking and being spoken to by him. God’s visits to Adam and Eve in the garden, Enoch’s walks with God and the face-to-face conversations between Moses and Jehovah are all commonly regarded as highly exceptional moments in the religious history of humankind.

Aside from their obvious unique historical role, however, these moments are not meant to be exceptional at all. Rather they are examples of the normal human life God intended for us. God’s indwelling his people through personal presence and fellowship. Given who we are by basic nature, we live—really live—only through God’s regular speaking in our souls and thus ‘by every word that comes from the mouth of God’ (Deut. 8:3).

Dallas Willard, Hearing God Through the Year (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 9.

Inward Call

God’s voice may be an inward drawing, an internal prodding, or a wooing sense in one’s spirit. On occasion, God’s direction may come as an outward audible voice, which sounds much like our own human voice (1 Sam. 3: 1-21). Mostly, God speaks in our hearts as a thought that is much like our own reasoning. God’s thought appears to come out of nowhere and is not an idea we normally would have conceived. Dallas Willard calls this type of inward direction, “a God characteristic type of thought” (1 Kings 19: 12). God is not playing a cat and mouse game disappearing when we most need him. He is no trickster playing with our lives while we stumble around in the dark. The Lord will make his will known even if he has to repeat it continually.

Sin’s Dullness

God’s guidance is restricted and hindered by unrepentant sin. Many believers do not hear God because they are unwilling to do God’s will. If God is silent, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal hidden sin.He will be faithful to convict us by exposing our sin, so that, we might find forgiveness and mercy. Continual disobedience hardens our hearts, thereby inhibiting God’s personal and direct guidance.

If we desire intimacy, we need to open our spirits to Christ’s Lordship expressing to God our willingness to change. God’s direction may be correcting, even rebuking, but his voice always contains the enabling grace to obey. If sin is not the reason for God’s silence, then move forward, knowing that God has promised to be with us (Matt 28:20, Heb.13:5). God especially works through our sanctified reasoning as we grow in maturity and Christlikeness. Remember, the voice of God will not lead us to be disobedient to his Word, the Bible (Psa. 119:105).

To be continued: “Hearing God for the New Year: Part Two” will be posted tomorrow.

Look Into His Face

Christ in the Morning

The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.

Rom. 13:11-14 (NLT)

In the early morning, as soon as you awake, remember that you are in the very presence of God, who has ben watching beside you through the long dark hours; look up to His face, and thank Him.

Consecrate to him those first few moments before you leave your bed. Look towards the coming day, through the golden haze of light that streams from the angel of His presence.

You cannot forecast very largely what your difficulties are likely to be, the quarters from you may  be attacked, the burdens that may need carrying. Take care not to view any of these apart from God. Be sure that He will be between you and them, as the ship is between the traveler and the ocean, be it fair or stormy.

As you dress yourself for the day, remember that God supplies you with vesture clean and white. with meekness and gentleness of Christ, with garments of salvation, the robes of righteousness, and the jewels of Christian virtue.

Do not look at these things apart from Him; but remember that they are attributes and graces of His own nature with which to array yourself. And above all put on the armor of light; remembering that God is light.

You are to put on Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, and you are to descend from your room into the arena of daily battle as one who is endued with the beauty of His character. This concentration of thought upon God , during the act of dressing, will prepare the soul for those acts of adoration, thanksgiving, and intercession, which arise to God as the fragrant incense of the Temple.

F.B. Meyer quoted in His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life, ed., Nick Harrison (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 10.

Why Do You Turn Your Face Away?

The Face of God

“Come,” says my heart, “seek God’s face”;your face, LORD, do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your servant in anger. You are my help; do not cast me off; do not forsake me, God my savior! Even if my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me in.

Psa. 27:8-10 (NAB)

Why do you turn your face away? We think that God has turned his face away from us when we find ourselves suffering, so that shadows overwhelm our feelings and stop our eyes from seeing the brilliance of the truth. All the same, if God touches our intellect and chooses to become present to our minds then we will be certain that nothing can lead us into darkness.

A man’s face shines out more than the rest of his body and it is by the face that we perceive strangers and recognise our friends. How much more, then, is the face of God able to bring illumination to whoever he looks at!

The apostle Paul has something important to say about this, as about so many other things. He is a true interpreter of Christ for us, bringing him to our understanding through well-chosen words and images. He says: It is the same God that said, ‘Let there be light shining out of darkness’, who has shone in our minds to radiate the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, the glory on the face of Christ. We have heard where Christ shines in us: he is the eternal brilliant illumination of souls, whom the Father sent into the world so that his face should shine on us and permit us to contemplate eternal and heavenly truths – we who had been plunged in earthly darkness.

What shall I say about Christ, when even the apostle Peter said to the man who had been lame from birth Look upon us? The cripple looked at Peter and found light by the grace of faith: unless he had faithfully believed he could not have received healing.

When there was so much glory to be seen among the Apostles, Zachaeus, hearing that the Lord Jesus was passing by, climbed a tree because he was small and weak and could not see the Lord through the crowd. He saw Christ and he found light. He saw Christ and instead of robbing others of their goods he began to give away his own.

Why do you turn your face away? Let us read it thus: even if you do turn your face away from us, Lord, its light is still imprinted upon us. We hold it in our hearts and our innermost feelings are transformed by its light.

For if you truly turn your face away, Lord, no-one can survive.

St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, Explanations of the Psalms

HT: Universalis

First Commandment People

First Commandment People

Matt 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:25-28

Cn. Glenn E. Davis

First Sunday after Epiphany:

The Baptism of Jesus

January 10, 2009

Illustration: The Movie, “Field of Dreams”:

Ray: You guys are guests in my corn.

I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do.

I didn’t understand, but I’ve done it.

I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me.

Shoeless Joe: So, what are you saying?

Ray: I’m saying, “What’s in it for me?”

Shoeless Joe: Is that why you did this? For you? I think you’d better stay here, Ray

Point: No matter what kind of sacrifices Ray made, he was continually thinking about himself. Self-centeredness is not love. Love is yielding my rights, privileges, and needs for the sake of God and others (2 Cor. 5:14-15).

Divine Purpose: The Goal of our lives;

We were created by a passionate God to be a passionate people and are heart-fulfilled only when we passionately love and pursue the passionate God. John 4:23.

Divine Call: The conviction that drives our choices;

Love is the passionate unselfish choice for the highest good of God and others without concern for reward or recognition.

Who would forsake the One they follow if they were bound by chains of love? These chains set free and don’t bind (1 Cor. 13; Matt. 22:34-40).

[Ambrose, “Your Portion,” Day by Day with the Early Church Fathers (Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999), 272.]

Love is NOT simply an emotional warm and fuzzy feeling, but rather the selfless, passionate giving of oneself to God and his commands. Love desires God’s will and cannot imagine living any other way.

Love is NOT niceness: smiling a lot and never hinting that something or someone is wrong.

Love is NOT sentimentality: warm, fuzzy feelings that are supportive of any, all, and every behavior.

Love is NOT mere sexuality; it does not demand immoral behavior.

Love is NOT turning a blind eye.

Love IS obedience to God’s commands.

Love IS hard choices and saying “no” with strong warning.

Love IS calling sin, “sin.”

Love IS selfless, forgiving, unoffending, and serving.

God IS love.

Matthew Chapter Twenty-Three

Verse 34) Love IS not about competition and pride.

Verse 35) Love IS not about “being right.”

Verse 37) Love IS giving oneself passionately and totally to God. Love deliberately prefers God’s commands to our own desires and wants. Nothing less than giving your entire being in love, devotion, obedience and service to the God of Israel.

“Mind, soul, and body” is Jesus way of saying that the entire person is to be sold out to God.

Jesus is quoting the Shema (Mark 12:29-30; Deut. 6:4-5), verses that are recited twice a day by every dedicated first-century Jew. Often by stating the obvious, a speaker is quite profound. In this verse, Jesus reminds the Jews that the essential quality of a relationship with the God is love. The Shema is repeated all day, but its meaning could be forgotten. Jesus points out the obvious-a relationship with God is just that-a relationship.

Verse 39) Love IS about others. Love assists others in their passionate pursuit of God by helping them adjust their lives to God’s plan and purposes. Love is fulfilled when others reap God’s blessing with my assistance.

We already love ourselves-we make sure we have food, shelter, clothing, nurturing relationships, etc. Now, Jesus calls on us to do the same for others.

Love for others . . .

1. Concrete responsibly to care for others needs (James 2:14-17).

2. Putting others first by NOT thinking first and only about “what you are going to get out of it.” (Illustration: Field of Dreams).

3. We naturally already love “ourselves.” Don’t wait for inner healing to love others.

Illustration: As a pastor, I have heard expressed many times, “I love Christ, but I can’t stand people,” or” I love Christ, but I don’t care for his Church.” However, it is not possible to claim that you love Jesus without being in love with his people. First John teaches that my relationships with people reflect my relationship with God (1 John 2:9; 3:14-15; 4:20).

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1John 4:20, ESV).

You love Jesus, in turn, Jesus is in love with people, therefore, you will love people since you love Jesus (1 John 4:10-11).

Everything that comes as a barrier between us another, be it never so small, comes as a barrier between us and God. We have found that where these barriers are not put right immediately, they get thicker and thicker until we find ourselves shut off from God and our brother by what seem to be veritable brick walls. Quite obviously, if we allow New Life to come to us, it will have to manifest itself by a walk of oneness with God and our brother, with nothing between (Roy Hession, The Calvary Road, pg. 36).

Verse 40) Love IS the essence of a relationship with God and the heart of his commands. Loving God and others brings life.

Luke 10:25-28, “Do this and you will live.”

Definition: Eternal life is life and life more abundantly-it is being alive in the realm where God lives. Life is walking with God in unending communion, enjoying his unlimited blessing, experiencing his unconditional love, and receiving his undeserved grace.

Conclusion: We are called to be a first commandment people: we are not fulfilled unless we passionately love our passionate God and serve a passion-driven people. Be passionately in love with your passionate God as you transform your passions into love for others.

We are passionately in love with God because God’s passionate love for us was displayed on the Cross. God’s passionate, transformative love changed our hearts from self-centeredness to Christ-centeredness by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, God’s love enables us to love others with his passionate love. First commandment people have their priorities in order: they have fallen in love with God and they love what he loves-people.

The Exchanged Life

The Exchanged Life

The Exchanged Life is the one-sided trade of my sins, inadequacies, and numerous failings for Christ’s forgiveness, life-sufficiency, and overcoming victory. Ultimately, the greatest of all exchanges is Jesus Christ, the one who is fully man and fully God, truly innocent and without sin, taking upon himself at Golgotha all my selfishness, rebellion, sin and hatred and substituting his righteousness, forgiveness, restoration and love. I can live the Exchanged Life because Christ by his gracious grace made the Great Exchange of my sin for his righteousness on the Cross.

At the foundation of the Christian life lies vicarious atonement, which in essence is a transfer of guilt from the sinner to the Saviour. I well know how vigorously this idea is attacked by non-Christians, but I also know that the wise of this world in their pride often miss the treasures which the simple-hearted find on their knees; and I also remember the words of the apostle: “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Cor 5:21, NLT).

This is too plain to miss for anyone who is not willfully blind: Christ by His death on the cross made it possible for the sinner to exchange his sin for Christ’s righteousness. It’s that simple. No one is compelled to accept it, but at least that is what it means.

A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian (Harrisburg, Penn: Christian Publications, 1964), 32.

The Exchanged Life is practical day-by-day trusting in an all-sufficient Christ who lives within me by an all-powerful Holy Spirit. This same Holy Spirit enables me to live the life of Christ in a world gone mad. Christ’s life is my life when I receive his life by faith. As Christ lives his life in and through my life, my life becomes an abundant life. As a result, my Christian life becomes a life of spontaneous joy. Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that I am experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy is knowing that I am unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept. Joy is released in my life when I cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence. The Exchanged Life is the direct daily application of the Great Exchange—a continual substitution of my weaknesses, shortcomings, and failures for Christ’s strength, adequacy, and victory. The Exchanged Life is Christ changing me:

You can never have a changed life until you experience the exchanged life. Christians are continually trying to change their lives; but God calls us to experience the exchanged life.

Bob George, Classic Christianity: Life’s Too Short to Miss the Real Thing (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1989), 108.

The exchanged life is passive in that Christ works in me, but it is active for Christ empowers me to make righteous right choices. I must choose to walk in the Spirit, put on the new man, and trust my heavenly Father’s guidance and direction. As I maintain the confidant expectation that God will be faithful to his promises, then I can anticipate and expect his gracious exchange of my weaknesses for his strength.

But those who wait (or hope) on the Lord shall renew (Hebrew: exchange) their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:31, NKJV).

The Great Exchange of the innocent, sinless Christ who takes my judgment upon himself is the greatest act of love and grace in the history of humankind. Below is a list of the wonderful benefits of God’s most gracious act—the death of Christ upon the Cross.

The Benefits of the Cross

He was born to die, so I could be born to new life.

He suffered temptation, so I can experience victory.

He was betrayed, so I might know his faithfulness.

He was arrested and bound, so I could be rescued from bondage.

He stood trial alone, so I might have an advocate.

He was wounded, so I could be healed.

He endured mockery, so I could know dignity and joy.

He was condemned, so the truth could set me free.

He was crowned with thorns, so I might crown him with praise.

He was nailed to the Cross, so I might escape judgment.

He was stretched out between thieves, so I could know the reach of his love.

He suffered thirst, so I can drink living water.

He said, “It is finished,” so I could walk by faith.

He was God’s Lamb, Slain, so I could claim His sacrifice as my own.

He was forsaken by the Father, so I would never be rejected.

He chose the shame of weakness, so I can know the hope of glory.

He shed his blood, so I can be white as snow.

Michael Card, A Violent Grace (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah Publishers, 2000).

When I believe and receive the benefits of the Cross, my act of faith is most pleasing to God. For I take the Lord at his word, I recognize that the Cross is the great expression of his unconditional love. I will bring joy to God’s heart if I allow him to live his life in and through me. Christ in me, Christ through me, Christ upon me and Christ ever before me that is the Exchanged Life. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9, NIV).

It is a marvelous thing to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, but a more marvelous thing to know that He is the Son of God in me.

Oswald Chambers, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids, Mich: Discovery House Publishers), 482.

Let us pray:

Grant, O Lord, that in your wounds I may find my safety, in your stripes my cure, in your pain my peace, in your cross my victory, in your resurrection my triumph, and a crown of righteousness in the glories of your eternal kingdom.

Jeremy Taylor quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers