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Last week we say that God speaks, and the fact that God speaks is what distinguishes him as the one and only true God. He speaks, and His word is life – for man does not live on bread alone, but by every word the proceeds from the mouth of God. We then started asking the question: how does God speak? We saw that God has ultimately and most clearly spoken to us in His Son. We don’t have a God sending us S.O.S codes from outer space, but a God who came near, showed up in our living rooms and said, “Here I am!” Jesus is the Word of God come in the flesh, who made His dwelling among us and taught us the very words of life. When he preached the sermon in the mount, for example, people were amazed at his teachings for he spoke with an authority unlike any other teacher they had ever heard. If you’re not yet familiar with God or church or this whole thing I suggest that you start with Jesus – read His words and hear God.
We then noted that a second way God speaks to us is through His word, the Bible. We don’t hold up the Bible above Jesus, but Jesus showed his disciples how all of the Old Testament could be trusted for all it poke of came to fulfillment in himself, and also promised them that the Holy Spirit would lead them to remember all he had taught them so that they could record for future generations a faithful witness. So later Peter, one of those disciples, explained – we didn’t follow made up tales, but we were eyewitnesses, but even more than that we had the prophetic word made sure which spoke to us and confirmed to us everything we were seeing and hearing, and you would do really well to pay attention to this. So we have the ultimate revelation (Jesus), and the sure revelation (Bible) that point to, respect, affirm and celebrate one another.
Today we are going to talk about a third way that God speaks to us and we are going to sit here for a while for this needs a bit more explanation and can be controversial. God speak to us through His Spirit.
Through His Spirit
- Conviction of Sin Toward Repentance
o Unbelievers: 1 Cor 14:25: the Holy Spirit speaks to the heart of the unbeliever so that they are convicted of sin a come to know the gospel of Christ. My experience the night I was saved. I got it.
His father wanted him to become a man of learning and cared very little about his character. When he was 17 he went to Carthage to study. He studied rhetoric with eagerness and pleasure; but his motives were vanity and ambition, and to them he joined loose living. One of the results of his lifestyle was that he fathered a child at 19, but still refused to grow up, and carried on his life, trying to satisfy his intellectual curiousity by studying one system of philosophy after another. The faith of his mother he found elementary and unsophisticated. Saint Augustine's spiritual, moral and intellectual struggle went on; he was convinced of the truth of Christianity, but his will was weaker than the worldly temptations, and delayed his return to Christ for many months. "Soon, in a little while, I shall make up my mind, but not right now" he kept telling himself. In his half desires of conversion he was accustomed to beg of God the grace of chastity, but was at the same time in some measure afraid of being heard too soon. He realized that his problem was a moral one. The Divine truth for which he was seeking would never be his unless he first overcame his weakness. Soon after, Pontitian, an African, came to visit Saint Augustine and his friend Alipius; he told them about two men who had been suddenly turned to the service of God by reading about the life of Saint Anthony. His words had a powerful influence on the mind of Saint Augustine. He was ashamed his will has been so weak and said to Alipius: "What are we doing to let the unlearned seize Heaven by force, whilst we with all our knowledge remain behind, cowardly and heartless, wallowing in our sins? Because they have outstripped us and gone before, are we ashamed to follow them? Is it not more shameful not even to follow them?" He rushed to the garden, greatly upset; tears filling his eyes, he threw himself on the grass under a fig tree and reproached himself bitterly crying out: "And Thou, O Lord, how long? How long? Is it to be tomorrow and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not this very hour put an end to shame?" As he spoke these words he heard a child's voice singing "Tolle lege! Tolle lege!" (Take up and read! Take up and read!). He could not remember any childhood game he played with any such words. He remembered that Saint Anthony was converted from the world by hearing a single verse. He took up Saint Paul's epistles and read the first chapter that met his eyes: "Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, fulfil the lusts thereof." (Romans 13:13-14) When he told Alipius what he had experienced, Alipius took the book and read, he found the next words to be: "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye" and applied them to himself and joined his friend in his resolution.
o Believers: Psalm 139:23-24: See if there is any offensive way in me. Conviction versus Condemnation. Understand ourselves. The heart is desperately wicked above all things – who can understand it? So the Holy Spirit can search our hearts and tells us things about ourselves that we don’t even know. Why am I grumpy – why did I react that way? Why does it seems that there is a blockage between us God?
- Confirmation of God’s Presence Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God. Just the sense of God’s presence. Knowing that He is here. When its quiet, and you’ve given you anxiety to Christ through prayer and you rest in his presence. Stop striving and know that He is God. This is echoed in Phillipians 4:5-7: The Lord is near don’t be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to Him. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
- Assurance of Our Salvation: Romans 8:15-16. The Spirit testifies with our Spirit that we are children of God and so that we cry out ABBA father. I call this the subjective-objective test of assurance. 1 John (a book we will soon study) speaks to the objective tests of assurance. This is the subjective – I know God is my Dad. Doubt experience.
- Approving God’s Word and Revealed Will: Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 2:14. The Spirit illumines God’s word to us, directing toward our lives, so that we are able to understand and apprehend the things of God,
- To receive clear direction in non-moral matters There are a lot of important areas in our lives that the Bible does not speak to. Now don’t get me wrong there is a lot that the Bible does speak to. The Bible gives us wisdom for life and teaches us what God has done for us and how to live and to please God. Part of this idea behind the rooted series was to get a good grasp on the revealed will of God. As I said earlier, Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God and the Bible is the only prophetic word made sure – more sure than any voice you may hear from heaven. Yet the Bible doesn’t tell you things like what career you should pursue, where to go to university, whether and who you ought to marry. This is the frustrating part of the Christian faith for some of us in churches that are really Bible-centered, because the hidden secret is that although the Bible is our only authoritative rule for faith and life, there are decisions that we make every day, month and year that fall into this gaping hole of divine guidance. When I was a younger man, trying to figure out what to do after university, I felt this frustration and sat down with my Bible – how did the early church know what to do or where to go next?
§ 1:15-26: Used wisdom, and through dice and trusted God.
§ 8:1-4: Persecution
§ 8:26-29: Angel told Philip
§ 10:9-23: Vision, Circumstances (look in more detail next week)
§ 13:1-3: In response to prayer (audible voice)
§ 15:6-7, 12-22: Debate
§ 16:6-10: Closed doors, forbidden enty and visions
§ 19:21: Resolved in the spirit.
- Words of knowledge: A few years ago we were going through the book of 1 Corinthians and came to 12:8: To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit,word of knowledge: We talked of the things on this list being special manifestations of the work of the Holy Spirit to meet ministry needs, differing from our gifts, talents or abilities. Being able to know something that you wouldn’t come to know through natural means. Matthew 16:15-17 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Acts 5:1-3 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?
Through my own life, it was that experience of praying, of receiving words from the Lord in scripture, of confirming God’s direction through the opening and closing of doors.
How Do We Hear God Speak?
1) Posture of the Heart: We must listen – not with our ears for if god wanted to speak to us he surely could even if we weren’t tuned in (think Samuel), but with our heart – an openness to listen and obey. Romans 12:1.
2) Study to Show Yourself a Workman Approved So You’re Not Ashamed: 2 Timothy 2:15: rightly handling the word of truth. Systematic and disciplined study of the Bible, so that you know what God has spoken through his son and through the word. If this is the prophetic word made sure, you do well to pay attention to it, so that you don’t get really excited about hearing God’s voice presently through the spirit that you deceive yourself into thinking that any idea that pops into your head is from God. You line it up – but you have to know the sure prophetic word, before you can trust that you can discern un-sure prophetic words.
3) Pray, Listen and Watch
a. One tool: Listening prayer. We’ve done this on a number of occasions. Must of you are still uncomfortable. Pray specifically and ask God for a picture, a thought or a scripture. Our speaker at Getaway, talked about his uncomfortability with this and how he set up a chair and a cup of coffee and talked to Jesus.
b. Some people listening prayer works great. Jean said once that every time she practices listening prayer she gets something. Blew my mind. For me, I rarely get anything that I can distinguish from my thoughts. I was in a church that listening prayer was a big thing and I felt so dull. But then I realized that I don’t need to stay in prayer to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. For me, I pray and then I open my eyes. And wait to see the answer or God speaking to me through other means – circumstances (internship/Prayer summit/Romania story)
c. Don’t be scared off by the practice or the terminology. It took me a long while in my Christian life after hearing of a lot of people’s experience, that the experience of Christians is generally the same, but because the use different terms they get all bent out of shape. A Baptist who says, the lord moved in my heart to write you a check of to pray for you is in 99% of the cases saying the excat same thing as a charismatic who says, “The Holy Spirit told me to give you a check”. The difference is that charismatics tend to seek such things asking God to speak to them, whild Baptists are sometimes caught by surprise.
4) Confirm, confirm, confirm
a. I John 4:1 tells us to test the Spirits for false prophets have gone out into the world. Many take this to test the words the false prophets are saying, but if there is no longer any ongoing speaking by the wholly Spirits, why test anyone – they are all false! Or 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 which says “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test all things!
b. Story of Gideon (Judges 6)