My Sheep Hear – God Teaches Us

God teaches us all things (John 14:26) and guides us into all truth (John 16:13). God teaches us deep spiritual things that only He knows (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He does these things by His Spirit. In fact, He gave us His Spirit in order to teach us these things (1 Corinthians 2:12) and that He might hide them from those who do not know Him (John 14:19; 22-23).

What do I make of this? The fact that God teaches us means that if you have ever learned any spiritual truth about God, then you already know how to discern His voice. God is the one who taught you, and you learned it directly from Him.

If you don’t recognize that God teaches us, then consider one or more recent circumstances in which you become aware of spiritual truth or in which you became aware of spiritual error. These may have happened during a conversation with another Christian, while you were listening to a sermon, or when you were reading your Bible. In all circumstances, regardless of the agent that contributed to the learning, the Holy Spirit is the person who revealed the truth or exposed the error to you.

The apostle John wrote:

But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. (1 John 2:27)

When you think back on the instances when the eyes of your understanding were opened and you became aware of the truth, consider the internal voice of the one who told you those things, and think about how He opened your eyes. Reflecting on these things, knowing that God teaches us and guides us into all truth, may help you discern the sound of His voice.

To be continued…

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Overcoming Legalism – Coming Soon

Legalism is a big problem today. We can see it in the guilt we carry around for our sins.  We can see it in the rules and regulations we have amassed to obey.  We can see it in our criticism of those who are less disciplined than we are.  We can see it in our fear that living free of the law will lead us deep into sin.  And we can see it in our fear that listening to God’s voice will turn us into raving lunatics.

The Bible describes those who are caught up in legalism as “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).  Legalism causes a person to be “entangled again with a yoke of bondage”, and under it “Christ will profit you nothing” (Galatians 5:1-2).  Legalism makes you “a debtor to keep the whole law” (Galatians 5:3). Legalism places you “under the curse” (Galatians 3:10). It makes you “foolish” and “bewitched” (Galatians 3:1). Legalism “cheat[s] you of your reward” (Colossians 2:18).

Given the weighty negative consequences of legalism, one might think the practice has few followers. But on the contrary, there are many among us who practice legalism.  And many of those who practice legalism compel us to practice legalism with them. The sad thing is that many Christians are suffering the curses of legalism, and they are not aware that legalism is the cause of their suffering.

The key to overcoming legalism is for a Christian to accept the righteousness that he possesses in Christ instead of trying to create his own righteousness through obeying the law.  After I finish the series on hearing God’s voice, I will turn my attention to helping Christians overcome legalism. Stay tuned…

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My Sheep Hear – Part 2 – He Cries Abba, Father

I first learned to discern God’s voice when I realized that it is the Holy Spirit’s voice together with mine that cries out to God, “Abba, Father.” God taught me this when He opened my eyes to the truths of Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15.

Galatians 4:6 (NKJV) says:

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”

And Romans 8:15 (NKJV) says:

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

Long before I learned to discern God’s voice, I realized that I hungered for God deep in my heart. I identified this hunger with the sentiment echoed in Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15, that as children of God, we cry out to Him in our spirits like young children cry out to their earthly fathers. The fact that I recognized this hunger for God in me served as corroborating evidence that I really was a child of God.

But I did not realize that God Himself was the source of my hunger for Him. Then, God opened my eyes to the truth of the Scriptures. From Galatians 4:6, He taught me that He sent the Spirit of His Son into my heart, and that His Spirit cries out, “Abba, Father.” He taught me that Galatians 4:6 is not about my spirit crying out to God, but it is about Jesus’ Spirit in me crying out to Him. From Romans 8:15, God taught me that my cries to God are by way of the Holy Spirit. He taught me that Romans 8:15 is not about Jesus’ Spirit in me crying out to God, it is about me crying out to God by way of Jesus’ Spirit.

Being confronted with these truths, I realized for the first time that God’s voice is discernable, and that I am able to discern it. I hear Him when He cries out, “Abba, Father.” Not only do I hear Him, but I also join Him when He cries out to God. In effect, He leads me in my cries to God.

Stop for a second and think about this. The Spirit of Almighty God expresses His personal affections to God the Father from inside our hearts in a way that is discernable by us. And not only do we discern His cries automatically, we join Him in those cries. And we identify so closely with His sentiments that we may not even realize that our cries originate with God. But if we make the effort, we can discern the truth that they originate with Him and not with us. And if we make this effort, and if we discover that our hunger for God originates with Him, then we have learned to discern God’s voice. This is a good place to be.

To be continued…

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My Sheep Hear – Part 1 – Distinguish God’s Voice

Jesus said, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.” (John 6:44-45 NKJV).

Every salvation experience is the result of God reaching out to a lost person and teaching him about the reconciliation that is available in Jesus Christ. Every person who hears God and learns from Him goes to Jesus. And Jesus saves everyone who turns to Him (John 6:37). Based on these facts from Scripture, I can say without any doubt that every Christian has heard God’s voice and has learned from Him.

This is the best place to start learning how to distinguish God’s voice from all others. If you are having difficulty doing this, then think back to the circumstances that led to your salvation. Somewhere in there, you should be able to identify God drawing you to Him and creating a desire to be reconciled with Him. God was the one who convinced you that you are a sinner in need of salvation. God was the one who taught you that Jesus is willing and able to save you from your sins. And God was the one who convinced you that calling on Jesus is the way of salvation.

When you think back on the events that led to your salvation, you will probably remember some of the people and some of their words that God used you to draw you to Him. But you also should be able to identify that still small voice that convinced you that their testimony was true, that gave you a sense of urgency to act, and that comforted you that the path to Jesus was the path of safety.

That still small voice is God’s voice. Though it is not audible to our ears, we hear it nonetheless. As the Scriptures say:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man

The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NKJV).

When you find that still small voice who wooed you to Himself, then you have identified God’s voice. And you have begun to distinguish God’s voice from all others.

To be continued…

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My Sheep Hear – Introduction

My Sheep Hear is a series of blog posts that will highlight one feature of my book. Toward the end of the book, I listed several practical ways that Christians may learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s activities inside their hearts. Here, I will highlight these practical ways one at a time and show from the Scriptures how Christians may learn to recognize the Holy Spirit’s personal and intimate interactions with them.

Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27 NKJV). Notice that Jesus said, “My sheep hear.” He did not say, “My sheep should hear”, or “My sheep must hear”, or “My sheep have the ability to hear.” He said, “My sheep hear My voice.”

Therefore, the point of my blog posts is not to convince anyone to listen to the Holy Spirit. Based on the Scriptures, if anyone is a Christian, then he hears Jesus’ voice and follows Him. The point of these posts is to help Christians realize that God is active in their hearts and to help them recognize His specific activities within them.

Why is this important? Because the greatest blessing of being a Christian is that Jesus lives in our hearts. As I wrote in the introduction of my book:

Having Jesus in us is the reason we enjoy a close relationship with God. From the close proximity of our hearts, He reveals wonderful things to us that are impossible to know otherwise. He pours out His love on us. He shows us His glory. He calls us, challenges us, inspires us, leads us, guides us, teaches us, and encourages us. He convicts us, corrects us, and comforts us. He empowers us, satisfies us, sustains us, and gives us hope.

Yet, there is widespread uncertainty within Christendom as to the means He uses to accomplish these things. My contention, and the contention of Scripture, is that He does these things by bearing witness with our spirits (Romans 8:16; 1 John 5:6). I want to help Christians learn to recognize God when He does these things from inside their hearts.

To be continued…

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What Happened to the Still Small Voice?

What happened to the still small voice? When I was growing up, I would occasionally hear a sermon on the still small voice of 1 Kings 19:12. Almost all those sermons included an explanation that it is hard to hear God in the hustle and bustle of life, and that to hear Him, we need to be quiet and listen. Those sermons have all but disappeared. What happened? Why don’t preachers teach us about God’s still small voice any more?

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Through His Spirit

Last week, a preacher on the radio endorsed the Bible as, “the way God speaks to us today.” He may have meant well, but his statement undermines the fact that God reveals Himself and His truths to mankind only through His Spirit:

9 But as it is written:

            “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
            Nor have entered into the heart of man
            The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. [The New King James Version. 1982 (1 Corinthians 2:9–12). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]

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Are You Perfect in God’s Eyes?

Are you perfect in God’s eyes? Most people would probably answer, “No” – and for good reason. We all are keenly aware that we fall short of what God expects of man. As a result, it seems implausible that we could stand before God, who sees clearly every thought and intent of our hearts, and be judged by Him to be holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight.

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Trust Jesus to Keep Your Soul Safe

There is more to believing in Jesus than just acknowledging that He is the Savior. To believe in Jesus means that we trust Jesus with the safekeeping of our souls. If we have doubts about whether He will keep our souls safe to the end, then we don’t trust Jesus – we doubt Him. If, like the people who said “Lord, Lord” in Matthew 7:22, we point to ourselves and to our good works, then we do not trust Jesus to keep our souls safe – we trust ourselves. People who trust Jesus rest their whole weight on Him.

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Righteousness Is a Gift

People tend to think of righteousness only in terms of our physical actions. We see righteousness as being ours when we do what is right or when we refrain from doing what is wrong. We think righteousness is a label given to or withheld from people based on the quality of their actions.

In one respect, this point of view is correct. There is a kind of righteousness that people earn through doing what is right and not doing what is wrong. The apostle Paul wrote about it. He called it “my own righteousness, which is from the law” (Philippians 3:9). This kind of righteousness is earned by people when they obey God’s laws.

But the apostle Paul spoke of a different kind of righteousness that is not earned by being obedient to God’s laws. He spoke of it as being a gift (Romans 5:17). He spoke of this kind of righteousness as a gift that comes “through faith in Christ,” and He described it as “the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

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