Monday, November 17, 2008

SO, HOW DO YOU HEAR THE VOICE OF JESUS?

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Yesterday I spoke of how important it is to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus, the Shepherd, rather than rely on a series of clich├ęs or even your favorite passages of Scriptures by taking them out of context.

So, how do you hear the voice of Jesus? I want to offer 5 essentials to prepare you for hearing and listening to the voice of Jesus:

FIRST-Immerse yourself in the Scriptures. Read, reread and meditate on the Scriptures as you would a love letter, not a research paper. Always search for Jesus wherever you are reading, not getting sidetracked with anything else. Remember it's the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law. This was the mistake the religious leaders who confronted Jesus made and He was continually correcting them. They were so wrapped up in Bible memory and organizing the Scriptures into doctrinal systems that they missed Jesus in the process.

It is fascinating to me to think about what the Scriptures were that were around when Jesus was working with His disciples. It was the Law or Torah, the Writings, which included the Proverbs and the Psalms and then the Prophets. When Jesus was confronted and tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus quoted Scripture to resist the evil one. He quoted verses out of Deuteronomy. Then we see Jesus walking with two disciples on the road to Emmaus and He did something that blows me away. In Luke 24:27 it is recorded: He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Jesus walked them through the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms in order to open their minds about Himself.

Then Philip had a very special divine appointment with the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the scroll of Isaiah in his chariot. In Acts 8:35 it says: Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. Philip used the Old Testament to teach this interested official about Jesus.

SECOND-Be aware of the Jesus themes throughout the Scriptures. In order to seek Jesus in the Scriptures, especially the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, look for the major themes about Jesus there. For instance, there is the theme of the glory or the Shekinah glory-the visible presence of God-throughout. Beginning with the presence of God in the Garden, the burning bush, the pillar of fire by night and the cloud by day that led the children of Israel through the wilderness, the star of Bethlehem and then Jesus is the ultimate Shekinah glory-the visible presence of God-on earth. Check out the many times the Angel of the Lord or the Angel of Jehovah appeared in the Old Testament. Most think this was actually Jesus. The theme of the Messianic deliverer of those who are surrendered to be His people is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. The theme of the suffering Servant, the Son of Man and the Son of God is embodied in Jesus and clearly presented in the Gospels. Jesus was the uniquely born one-the holy one of Israel-born of a virgin by the Spirit of God.

Jesus fulfilled and gave meaning to every mark and letter of the Mosaic Law. Jesus fulfilled every longing of the heart of the Psalms-to dwell among us. And, Jesus also fulfilled the many Messianic prophecies. The Scriptures all speak of Jesus and find their culmination in Him, so look for those themes that find their way to Jesus.

THIRD-Count on His wisdom. If you are seeking to hear and listen to the voice of Jesus, ask for His wisdom as you live your life the best you can. In one of the early writings of the New Covenant-the book of James-there is a very insightful passage: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. Those who doubt should not think they will receive anything from the Lord; they are double-minded and unstable in all they do. (James 1:5-8) I ask for wisdom every day and sometimes many times a day and I count on it as I make decisions, wanting to hear the voice of Jesus as I move through the day.

FOURTH-Be sure to seek Jesus within the context of a few. One of the most important ways for you to hear the voice of Jesus is to operate within a supportive community. It's learning to practice the "one anothers" in the name of Jesus. Remember, it's when two or three are gathered together in the name of Jesus that Jesus will show up and make His presence known. When this happens, you will recognize and hear His voice.

FIFTH-Discipline yourself to listen when you pray. When you pray, don't just do all of the talking and asking; take the time to listen for an answer. This seems so simple, yet it is very difficult to do. It takes some painful discipline to sit quietly and listen.

You will find these 5 essentials to be most helpful as you seek to hear the voice of Jesus in times like these.

There is one more thing that seems vital in hearing and listening to the voice of Jesus. It may be the most critical dimension of all! In John 6, Jesus was asked: "What must we do to do the work of God?" Jesus answers this most simply with: "The work of God is this: TRUST THE ONE GOD HAS SENT." Or, simply put: learn to trust Jesus with everything-your security, your family, your business, your future-everything! When you have the courage to trust Jesus with everything, believe me, you will hear and listen to what He has to say. This is the ultimate expression Jesus is looking for as you learn to respond to His most revolutionary words ever: FOLLOW ME! I think Jesus is saying to each of us: "Can you hear me now?