In the last post we discussed the fact that God tells us to listen to Jesus. God said, “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5) We listen to Jesus today by reading His Word, the Bible, and heeding what He says. We also listen to Jesus through His Holy Spirit whom He sent to live within us.
When Jesus dictated the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. He closed each letter with the words: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22)
We long to hear a word from God, but to what end? A few, I suppose, are looking for a sensational “God” experience in which they hear an audible voice. Perhaps many more of us are simply desperate to know God’s will in a situation and we want to hear from Him before we take the next step. We don’t long for an audible voice, but expect more of a strong impression or prompting from the Holy Spirit—but how?
There’s much more to communication and hearing from God than a voice or a prompting. For when it comes to communication, it all goes back to relationships. Let me explain what I mean with the following illustration.
In John chapter 4, Jesus and His disciples were traveling through Samaria to return to Galilee. Jesus was tired from the journey and sat down by a well while His disciples went into town to buy food. A woman from the nearby town came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. At this point, the conversation was stranger-to-stranger, and the woman even questioned why He, a Jew, would ask her, a Samaritan for a drink. For Jews did not associate with Samaritans.
At this level of relationship, it was a polite conversation between two strangers in a “chance” meeting. But Jesus moved the relationship up a notch when He told her that He has water to offer her that if she drinks, she will never thirst again. He now had her rapt attention and she wanted some of this water. Her interest has heightened both their relationship and their level of communication.
Then Jesus cranked the level of their relationship way up when He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” At this the woman opened up and responded, “I have no husband.” To which Jesus replied, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
Reading the narrative, it feels like she thought Jesus got a bit too personal here, but she was stunned by how He could possibly know these things about her. Perhaps in her discomfort with the personal way the conversation turned, she changed the subject and talked about the differing views on worship between the Jews and Samaritans. In that context she said, “I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.”
“Then Jesus declared, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he.’” Hearing this, coupled with all that Jesus had said to now, she believed Him, left her water jar there and ran to town spreading the news everywhere, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” And we’re told that many of the Samaritans believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony.
This incident beautifully demonstrates various levels of relationship and communication. And we experience these different levels daily. For instance, you might go to the store and have a brief conversation with the cashier about the weather. You may not know each other’s names. You may never see each other again, but you experienced a friendly conversation with another human being.
At home, the doorbell rings and there’s a salesman on your porch telling you he can solve the problem with your dying lawn. He’s got your attention. You may be interested in hearing what he has to offer, but chances are, you’ll confine the conversation to the front porch. It’s still impersonal and fairly fact oriented. This is a business-like conversation.
Later that day, a good friend shows up at your door unexpectedly and asks if he/she can come in. They need to talk about an issue going on their life. You graciously invite them in and lead them into your living room or kitchen. You serve them a tasty beverage and sit down with them to hear what’s going on in their life. You empathize with them and are deeply concerned for them.
Of course, there are even deeper relationships than that one with your friend. Often, when my wife and I are in public, just a glance, a nod, or a squeeze of her hand communicates volumes. We are in tune with each other like this because of the intimacy of our relationship.
These examples, as well as the progression we saw with the woman at the well, represent various levels of relationship AND communication. If we truly want to hear from God, we must ask ourselves what level of relationship we are cultivating with Him, for that greatly determines the kind of communication we’ll receive.
We began this post talking about how we hear from Jesus through His Spirit. This is not something mysterious or mystical. Paul explained, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:14-15)
In the same chapter, Paul describes being “led by the Spirit” as a lifestyle of living with the desire to please Him. By the Spirit we “put to death the misdeeds of the body.” (Romans 8:13) In this humble, yielded relationship to the Lord, He invites us to call Him “Abba” (Daddy). He offers us a very intimate level of relationship with Him. Within such a relationship, we’re attuned to His voice and His leading.
But instead of crying out to Him in this daddy-child relationship, we often approach Him formally and with social distance. Just listen to the way we pray to the Lord. Sometimes we treat Him more like the casual conversation with the cashier at the store or the salesman on the doorstep. We keep our relationship with him at arm’s length because we’re afraid of what He might demand of us if we let Him get closer. We dictate this standoffish relationship and wonder why we struggle to hear from Him.
We need to press into Him. Come to Him in complete trust as our Abba, Daddy. Abide in or remain in Jesus (John 15). “Walk by,” “live in,” and “keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5). “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8) These are all expressions for the same intimate relationship with our Lord. And it’s within this intimacy that we hear from Him.