February 11, 2008

Monday Morning Message - Did You Even Notice?

With thanks to my Dutch friend Paul for bringing the following video and story to my attention. The video served as a jumping off spot for the proclamation of God's Word yesterday.

Following up on the story, which first appeared in the Washington Post, I was struck by the fact that all these people largely ignored a musician with Rock Star status among classical enthusiasts. Bell was giving a free concert (tickets for his performances are difficult to come by and go for $150-$250 a pop) and almost nobody noticed. Amazing that something like this could happen.

I am often asked about hearing God. Below is a brief lesson in Biblical theology followed by some practical observations on hearing God.

Jesus, in Matthew 11:15-17, states, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear. But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'" I think this is a fair assessment of the generation in which we live. It is my firmly held belief that God is, in fact, speaking but people are simply not listening. If this is true, how does He do it?

One way God speaks is commonly known as General Revelation, that is God speaks to all people in all places at all times in a way that is understandable. Psalm 19:1 states, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveal knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard." Quite simply, through the marvel of nature God speaks. Everyone has had moments of awe at the wonder and power of nature. It defies logic, and even defies the statistical possibilities, that all of nature is a random chance. Because of this mankind is without excuse before a God who has made Himself known.

Anthropology supports this notion that God speaks to humanity through nature. Every culture ever studied exhibits a drive to worship. It is as if there is an instinctual pursuit of the transcendent. Humanity has always recognized there is something more. Likewise there is an ethical understanding in every culture that reveals that there is knowledge of God. There is no culture in which murder or rape are acceptable.

It has been said that General revelation is sufficient but not efficient in revealing God. This leads us to Special Revelation wherein God has clearly spoken to specifically reveal Himself to mankind. The supreme example of Special Revelation is Jesus. The writer of Hebrews states it this way, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature" (Hebrews 1:1-3). There are many who will readily acknowledge Jesus as a good teacher or a good man or even a good example to follow. Unfortunately, we are not left with the option of considering Him in this way. Either He was who He said He was or not. Jesus clearly identified Himself as God among men (See John 14:9-11; Mt. 16:16-17; Mark 15:39; John 16:28). Because of this we must either accept Him as God among men or reject Him as a lunatic. I believe that God has clearly and authoritatively revealed Himself to us through the person and work of Jesus.

So, if God is speaking why can't I hear him? This is the natural question which arises from this discussion. Again, turning to scripture, we discover some possible answers.

The first reason one may not hear God speaking is simply because they do not belong to God. "Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice (John 18:37). "The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out...he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice' (John 10:3-4). The question here is this; do you know Him. Please note the question is NOT do you know about Him, but do you know Him. There is a vast difference in an assent to certain facts about a person and a relationship with the person. Without a relationship with Jesus people are simply unequipped to hear Him. For example, at this very moment the room you are in is literally full of voices and faces. However, without the right equipment (a radio and/or television) properly tuned nearby you are unable to hear or see them. Likewise, without a relationship with God through Jesus people are ill equipped to hear Him.

Another reason one may not hear God speaking is they are ignoring Him. Much like the 4 year old child with their fingers in their ears shouting, "LALALALALA - I'm not listening!" There are people in this world who know the voice of God speaking to them but they refuse to hear for various reasons; fear, uncertainty, inconvenience, outright rebellion, the list continues.

Yet another, and by no means the last, reason one may not hear God is they may not be paying attention. Much like the people who, because of schedules to keep and places to be, walked right by a marvelous gift given to them by a virtuoso violinist, people are walking right by the things God is saying to them. In Psalm 46:10 God implores us to "Be still and know that I am God." We are rarely still and even more rarely quiet. This could be the very reason we are not hearing God.

One final question, does it matter if I hear God and choose not to listen? Scripture clearly says yes, it does matter. In my household if my children hear me but do not listen to me we have what the Weather Channel calls a "PDS" (A Potentially Dangerous Situation). The same is true in our relationship with God, at whatever stage it may be. To hear Him and not respond is serious business.

So, is God speaking to you? Scripture says He is. What will you do about it?


SteveJ said...

My problem with all the "hearing God" advice is that it seems so vague. Am I hearing God or is it just my imagination? In the Bible, there seems to be no doubt: a burning bush, the apparition of an angel or a vision.

Not everyone is inclined to mysticism. Especially those of us with self-doubts.

And few people are more irritating than those who confidently declare, "God told me to do such and such."

Just my three cents.

John said...

Thanks for stopping by and right you are about the difficulty of sorting out the voice of God and the voice that I carry around in my head. I think this is where "having the mind of Christ" comes into play.

You'll notice that I didn't get over into the "Here's what God is saying to you" ditch. I struggle enough with the things God may be saying to me. However, I do firmly believe God is speaking and doing so frequently.

Could it be that the irritating people (BTW - they generally irritate me too because the preponderance of them exhibit little or no spiritual fruit other than arrogance) irritate us because maybe, just maybe they have heard something from God and He didn't tell us?

Blessings and hope to see you by here again.