home > Pastor’s Desk / 2021 / June / Hearing The Will of God

HEARING THE WILL OF GOD

What I am about to say may shock some. I may even upset most of you who read this. But I hope that in reading this, you will hear my pastoral heart and not prejudge me before you’ve read it all — and prematurely assume that I am being unnecessarily pedantic or petty. I need to speak up about an issue that has been troubling me for some time. I have observed many people becoming disillusioned with their concept of Christianity and walking away from Christ as a result of this issue. It has split churches and even ended marriages and it’s time for someone to finally address it despite its popularity!

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
This is the way, walk in it,”
when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
Isaiah 30:21

 

FIRSTLY, UNDERSTAND THAT CHRISTIANITY IS SUPERNATURAL

Nearly all religions are ‘dead’ religions. While these religions are characterised by various traditions, rituals, and ceremonies, there is very little ongoing supernatural interaction or experience associated with them. Such religions stand in contradistinction with genuine Christianity which is a ‘living’ religion because such Christianity is characterised by its adherents enjoying a continual and personal interaction with the Holy Spirit. This is precisely what Jesus taught us — that the Holy Spirit would lead us, guide us, and instruct us.  

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17

Becoming a Christian requires a miraculous spiritual transformation whereby an alienated soul (described in the Bible as being spiritually “dead”, Eph. 2:1-5) is reconciled to God by the Holy Spirit mediating the sacrificial work of Christ on our behalf.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son,
much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.
Romans 5:10

This “new life” opens up a Spirit-transformed believer to some amazing supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is why we reasonably describe genuine Christianity as supernatural.

 

PRAYER AS A DIALOGUE

Jesus praying.Most religions practice prayer — but Christianity views prayer uniquely. For Christians, prayer is not the merely the mindless reciting or chanting of religious phrases. Rather, prayer is talking from the heart to God. It’s not about saying certain words or phrases as if prayer required some kind of Hogwarts’ training! Rather, genuine prayer involves confessing, requesting, pleading, interceding, and worship. It is where the believer is invited by God to come close and to be transparent. Many Christians describe prayer is a dialogue with God. But this description can be misleading because the dialogue involved in genuine prayer is not necessarily, and in fact, is not usually, a matter of God talking back to the one praying in the same way as the one doing praying. (The Bible does not teach ‘listening prayer’ such as this.) Genuine prayer-dialogue is where the child of God prays, and then listens to what God says in His Word. In this way, your first aim in praying is not to hear a word from God, but to hear the Word of God! By treating prayer — and the Word of God — like this, you discover that when it comes to making important decisions in your life, the Word of God (the Bible) gives you wise counsel. This counsel instructs you to obey God’s general commands, to seek out wise counsel from trusted and proven advisors, to submit to those God has placed over you or alongside you, and to not be hasty.

 

LEARNING TO HEAR WHAT YOU DON’T NEED TO LEARN TO HEAR 

Over the years I have seen many people offer “How To Hear God” seminars and books. But nearly all of these (if not, all of these) ignore some blatantly obvious descriptions in the Bible about how God speaks to one of His children. When we search the Scriptures to study how God spoke to people we notice two outstanding things. Firstly, as CS Lewis depicted in the Chronicles of Narnia, it was very rare that God actually directly to an individual. Secondly, when God spoke, it was always clear and understandable. In the Old Testament God spoke to pagan rulers often through vivid dreams without any of them very having done a How To Hear God’s Voice Seminar! God also spoke His redemptive Word through just a handful of prophets. The Old Testament actually gave people some tests for determining whether any prophet who claimed to have heard from God was genuine or not. 

¶ “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Deuteronomy 13:1-3

When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Deuteronomy 18:22

As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.”
Jeremiah 28:9

Based on these two important pieces of Biblical information you be assured of two important principles. Firstly, if God wants to speak to you directly, He will do so in an unmistakably clear way. Secondly, God rarely speaks directly with a person — yet He has given us His Word which is sufficient for us to know how to be reconciled to Him and to come to know Him and His will. (Anyone who claims to have had God speak directly with them yet openly and wilfully disobeys God’s written Word despite this encounter with God, is probably lying!) Knowing these two great Biblical principles should benefit any son or daughter of God who has felt that perhaps they have not been spiritual enough because they have not heard from God the way others claim to have; and, it should also cause the child of God to occasionally admit that they may have acted in presumption rather than on the basis of the Word of God’s instructions to seek wise counsel before presuming that “God told me to…” I have been guilty of such presumption.

Yet there have been several significant times in my journey with Christ when I have sensed that God has ‘spoken’ to me. As I have grown in my walk with Christ I have learned that God’s wisdom for the decisions I have to make often comes from my wife, my elders, and my trusted friends. Each Sunday before I stand to speak before the church I seek God for His word for our church and for Him to speak through me to those participating in our worship service. It is often in these moments that I sense the Holy Spirit impress upon me a word, words, or a thought, that I then convey as I minister on Sunday. I have learned, and am learning, to pay attention to the impressions that the Holy Spirit puts on my heart. But rarely will you ever me say, ”God spoke to me this morning and said…” or, “God has told me that we should…” It is when people make such expressions a part of their usual vocabulary in describing their relationship with God that they are in grave danger of committing presumption and arrogance. It has been my common experience with such people that their failure to admit their presumption and face up to the fact that God did not tell them to do something has resulted in them hurting and disillusioning other brothers and sisters in Christ. I have seen marriages end because of it. I have seen churches split because of it. I have seen friendships finish because of it. And sadly, I have seen vulnerable Christians walk away from church and Christ because of it.

If you feel God is speaking to you about something, or telling you to do something, rather than publicly declaring it as so, I would like to urge you to test it and follow the principles of wisdom from God’s Word first. 

  • God will never tell you to do something that His Word clearly forbids (such as committing sexual sin).
  • God does not always guarantee that you will succeed or prosper if you obey Him (think of the Prophet Jeremiah). In Scripture we see that God often let people ‘fail’ as they faithfully obeyed Him.
  • God rarely asks a person to do something without first preparing them for it (think of each of the disciples that Christ appointed as apostles). Which is more likely: God telling someone to immediately leave their job and begin tomorrow working as a brain surgeon; or, God speaking to someone who has spent the last 8 years of their life getting through medical school and training as a surgeon to now begin to focus their specialist training on becoming a brain surgeon?
  • God rarely directs a person to tell another person to do something that they weren’t expecting. This has sadly happened when someone has claimed that “God told me to tell you that you should marry me!” In every instance that I know of where this happened and the person complied, the marriage has ended quickly and sadly.

 

BEING A CHRISTIAN IS A RELATIONAL ADVENTURE

Christianity is a dynamic (always changing) journey with the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit within us who works within us to desire to do and pursue the will of God (Phil. 2:13). It is the illumination of the Spirit that takes God’s Word as we read, study, and meditate on it, and makes it seem fresh and alive to us. And it is the Word of God, which He, the Holy Spirit, inspired men to write so that we could clearly discern the will of God for our lives. You don’t need a word from God to know what God’s will for your life is. You don’t need to attend a “Learn To Hear The Voice of God” seminar, or to read a book on the topic. Instead, you just need to dialogue with God in prayer through pouring out your heart to Him with your requests, petitions, confessions, and thanksgiving; and then, prayerfully read His Word as the light of the Holy Spirit illuminates it to your soul.

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Second Corinthians 4:6 

Perhaps if more believers were led by the Spirit like this, less Christian marriages would end, less churches would be split, and less Christians would walk away from Christ and His Church after becoming frustrated by the false belief that since these presumptuous Christians have apparently mis-heard God so wildly, the reason must be that God doesn’t actually exist. This is one of the most pressing issues that needs to be confronted today — especially among those of us who identify as Spirit-filled Pentecostals. 

 

Your pastor,

_

THE PRODIGAL FATHER

 Does anyone know what the word prodigal means? Perhaps most people assume that it means: “wanderer”, or “rebel”, or perhaps even “backslider” or that it only applies to sons. This seems to be based on the story that Jesus told in Luke 15 to which most Bible Publishers assign the division title – The Parable of the Prodigal Son. But the word prodigal does not occur in this parable. Interestingly, there are three lead characters in this shocking and famous parable: the father and his two sons. One of these was genuinely ‘prodigal’, and, as Tim Keller points out, it was neither son! To appreciate what Keller means we might need to take another look at what the word prodigal actually means. It comes from the verb prodigious which means remarkably great in extent, size, or degree (New Oxford American Dictionary). It is a word often used to describe an author who regularly writes books – John Grisham is a prodigious author. A prodigal person is therefore, prolific, extravagant, excessive, and, lavish. Keller points out that even though most people ascribe this to the wayward son in the parable, it is more appropriately a designation for the lead character in the story, the father!

SUPER SUCCESSFUL CHRISTIANS

Spare a thought for those people who are often overlooked by churches—and if they are Christians—they frequently struggle to even find a suitable church where they can deepen their relationship with Christ. Often we think of those who struggle with life as those who are “down and out” and blighted by impoverishment, or destitution, or ill-health, or family breakdown, or poor mental health. But surprisingly, even those who are seen as super-successful because of their wealth, social stature, public acclaim or amazing achievements, are actually struggling with loneliness, emptiness, and poor mental health — even if they are a Christian. These super-successful Christians are CEOs of large companies, or world-class or national sporting champions, or internationally renowned performing artists, or A-lister actors, or media personalities, or highly sought after professionals such as surgeons or barristers. They often pay a high price for their success, including, long work hours, constant stress, public criticism, extended time away from their families, fierce competition, and strained marriages. These pressures are exacerbated by their constant travel associated with their work which also makes them vulnerable to exhaustion and extraordinary temptations. This is why these super-successful Christians need to join the kind of church that can provide them with the kind of support, counsel, and accountability that every Christian needs. Here’s how a church can become this kind of church.

MAKING CHURCH A WELCOMING HOME

For many people, making a decision to attend a church is a significant and potentially daunting decision. As they come through the front door they are entering an unfamiliar environment. It is also an environment that may be associated with preconceived ideas of what the expectations and rules of the church community may be. These people probably will not know anybody and they might have concerns that relate to their previous or current lifestyle. For those of us who are regular church attendees, it is possible that we may not fully appreciate the challenges a new attendee may be facing. When we can relate to these concerns, I believe we are better equipped to provide a warm and patient “welcome” to what we hope will become their new church home.

LOVE IN ACTION

Physical illnesses and stressful events are endemic in our society. They can be likened to the thorns that cause both pain and damage. It doesn’t take much for them to impact a person’s life in ways that they did not expect. I believe that we can become more resilient as followers of Jesus by applying an appropriate solution to a known problem. I believe that an appropriate and important part of the solution is for us to show love the way that Jesus demonstrated love during His ministry on earth.

THE TOOLS OF REMEMBERING

I like to think I have a pretty good memory.  I like to think I’m organised.  Generally, I am – I don’t double book appointments, I keep track of what I’m doing and when, I mostly turn up on time. But, on reflection, I’m not so sure this means I have a good memory.

TRUTH vs SOMETHING BIG AND HAIRY

“You were lying in your bed, you were feeling kind of sleepy.
But you couldn’t close your eyes because the room was getting creepy.
Were those eyeballs in the closet? Was that Godzilla in the hall?
There was something big and hairy casting shadows on the wall.
Now your heart is beating like a drum, your skin is getting clammy.
There’s a hundred tiny monsters jumping right into your jammies”!

These are lyrics from a song on the very first Veggie Tales video every made. The title of the song?  “God is bigger than the Boogie Man”. Junior Asparagus was lying in bed frightened, and Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber appeared to tell him that he doesn’t have to be scared of the imaginary monsters because, “God is the bigger.” My childhood night-time fears weren’t so much about big and hairy monsters, aka boogie men, or Godzilla in the hall. My fears were house fires – our home burning down, and “burglars” or “robbers”. But I certainly identify with lying in bed, my heart beating like a drum, my skin getting clammy, my imagination in overdrive.

CLOSING THE DEAL

In 1871, the American evangelist, Dwight (“DL”) Moody was preaching to huge crowds each night in Chicago. At the end of each message he would give an appeal for people to either respond immediately to the gospel message he had just presented, or at least go home and consider it. But on Sunday October 8th, 1871, a huge fire broke out in Chicago. It burned through the city for days and became known as The Great Chicago Fire. Around 10,000 people were homeless as a result, and hundreds of people lost their lives. Moody was heart-broken when he realised that many of the people who had died were the people who had attended that Sunday night meeting where he had urged them to consider accepting Christ. His deep grief over this tragedy led him to make a vow that he would never again merely urge people to simply consider accepting Christ. From now on, he vowed, he would plead with all those he preached to – to immediately turn away from their sins and turn to the Saviour. DL Moody committed his life and ministry as an evangelist to be someone who would always strive to close the deal because he was now aware—more than ever—that people’s eternal destinies were in jeopardy! 

BUILDING A MOODY CHURCH

The three things that make the Christian life exciting and enthralling are the same three things that enable a believer to develop a closer relationship with God. The combination of these supernatural gifts gives the child of God an awareness that there is more, much more, to this world than we can see, touch, taste or feel. When the Christian’s faith is grounded and buttressed in God’s Word, godly prayer, and God’s house he or she flourishes. But there are forces at play that are determined to stop the believer from reaching their spiritual destiny. While we might think these enemy forces only use the fiery darts of doubt to hinder the believer’s journey to glory, there is something that they successfully use far more often: our mood. This is why, for any church to be successful, it must discover how to build moody church.

PRAYING PRAYERS

The amazing thing about prayer, is that nearly everyone does it – but hardly anyone thinks they do it well. If you visit any Christian bookstore you will notice that the largest display of books is about prayer. And it’s not just Christian bookstores where you’ll find books on prayer. Regular bookstores also sell a wide range of books on prayer (even if they do classify them as books on ‘meditation’!). One of the most frequently searched questions on Google is, “How to pray” (which then points enquirers to over 2.3 billion web pages answering their question). But in all of human history – and two thousand years before anyone but one had ever heard of Google – there was just One person who was supremely qualified to answer this question. And fortunately for those of us who really want to know the answer to this question (without having to peruse more than 2.3 billion web pages!) He gave us the answer.

WHY SOME BELIEVE

Why is it that two people can look at exactly the same evidence and can come to completely different conclusions about it? Even more puzzling is how two equally qualified scientific experts can look at the same data and utterly disagree about what it means. This happens many times in court cases where the prosecution will call their “expert witness” to give his or her professional opinion to verify that the defendant is guilty only to have the defence to present their “expert witness” who gives his or her professional opinion as to why the prosecution’s expert witness was wrong and to prove that defendant is innocent! This at least illustrates why it is not always the quality of the evidence that leads a person to accept or reject a claim. This especially apply to the claims that Jesus Christ made. Of the four accounts in the New Testament written about His life, three of them were written by eye-witnesses and the other one (Luke’s) was written by someone who interviewed many eye-witnesses. It is with interest that we turn to the last one to be John’s Gospel, where he describes dramatic proofs that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Yet despite these otherwise inexplicable proofs that at times thousands of people witnessed, many still wouldn’t believe. But it seems among those who did believe they all had one thing in common.