This morning, we’re beginning a new message series entitled, “Hearing God.” Together, we are going to learn about different ways in which God speaks and how we can more clearly hear His voice. After all, how can we truly be more connected with God unless we can clearly communicate with Him?
However, the most important aspect of hearing God has nothing to do with method or technique or any physical thing that we can do. The most important aspect of hearing God actually makes a transition from our previous message series, “Understand.”
The people group presented in the gospel accounts that always amaze me the most are individuals who were a part of the Pharisees, Sadducees, elders, and teachers of the law who knew the word of God in undeniable detail yet did not recognize it when it stood before them face-to-face. It is those who heard the words of Jesus, saw His miraculous works, and knew all of the prophesies and details of His coming, yet did not recognize their fulfillment when it stood there before them in the flesh. If they could physically hear God, see God, and interact with God and still deny that they had done so, how much more are we at risk of missing God among us?
This reality brings us to the most foundational part of hearing God; identity. To hear God’s voice, we must have a firm grasp on our identity in our relationship with Him. Jesus taught exactly this when it came to hearing His voice.
22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep (their identity). 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
Jesus explained in an absolutely black-and-white fashion that the problem with hearing God has nothing to do with His communication, but with our lack of understanding and willingness to realize our true identity as well as the identity of Jesus. This scenario is much like ours when we argue that God just needs to plainly speak to us and reveal His will for our lives.
The Jews said, “How long will you keep us in suspense? Tell us plainly.” How many times have we said the same thing to God? Jesus’ response to them, and to us today, is that He has already plainly told us. The problem, according to Jesus, is that we do not realize who we are and who God is. It all comes back to identity.
Just to be sure that there we’re all on the same page, Jesus was both fully God and fully man. This is why He gave Himself both titles, “Son of God” as well as “Son of Man.” We just read one of those times that he makes this claim with absolute certainty and He does so several other times as well such as these:
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
To hear God, we must first realize who He is; three-in-one, Father, Son, and Spirit. He always has been so, currently is, and always will be. Though it’s a mystery that we’ll never fully understand, it is the reality. This was most clearly revealed when Jesus was baptized in Matthew chapter 3. The Son was baptized in water, the Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and the Father spoke from Heaven. Although this group of Jews obviously heard the words of Jesus and saw His miraculous works, they still could not accept the identity that Jesus claimed as being God.
This mistaken identity lead to their inability to truly hear Him. How many times does God speak to us and we say, “That can’t be you, God!”
This created not just a slight disagreement, this created a total division among these Jews as discussions of who Jesus is still often results in today. There is simply no fence to teeter on nor neutral, middle ground when it comes to who Jesus is to us!
19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
21 But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Jesus also called out the second case of mistaken identity, they were not His sheep. They didn’t know who Jesus was nor who they truly were, themselves. If you were to ask them, they were devout followers of God. If you were to look upon their lives, they lived in order to honor and please God. They would have no question of their salvation were you to ask them. However, they were far, far from it! The same God that they claimed to know, serve, and honor was standing face-to-face with them and they not only totally denied Him, but even picked up stones ready to kill Him!
In John chapter 10, Jesus gives the analogy of those who believe in Him as being sheep and He their shepherd. For time’s sake, we’re not going to read through it all, but I highly encourage you to do so. As Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” The greatest deceit that we could ever be under the influence of is believing that we are something that we truly are not.
Jesus gave us three attributes that we can use in order to check our own lives on. If we fail any one of these three, then it is critical right here and right now that we fully surrender our lives to Jesus as to escape our deceit. Jesus said that His sheep:
- Listen to His voice
- Are known by Him
- Follow Him
- Jesus said that His sheep listen to His voice.
It is almost humorous that we beg God to speak to us and demand that He reveals His will to us. We pray and fast and read and meditate and sacrifice and do everything that we can trying to get God’s attention and to make Him tell us what we desire to hear. Jesus never recognized His lack of speaking as being an issue, though. He simply responds, “I did tell you, but you did not believe.”
God is always speaking, but are we listening? Do we intentionally focus and listen for God’s voice as we live our lives? Do we value God’s voice above all of the other voices demanding our obedience as they draw their influence over us?
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
- Jesus said that His sheep are known by Him.
Relationships work both ways. Here, Jesus is referring to the very people that He was speaking to. I know, I feel a bit like Captain Obvious, but we have a tendency to overlook this fact. The people that he was speaking to were devout followers of God who knew all about Him as far as their head knowledge and the veneer appearance of their lives were concerned. However, when He stood in front of them, they did not actually know Him.
Jesus separates the sheep from the goats not by the people themselves, but by Himself. People may know a whole lot about God. They may have every word of the Bible memorized and have gone through classes and studies and discipleship tracks and force their lives into a Christian-looking mold, yet aren’t known by the shepherd because they aren’t one of His sheep. They have head knowledge, but no relationship.
It is only through a personal relationship with Jesus that He is known by us. Our names are written in His book of life and He is involved in even the small details of our lives. Jesus gave us a stern warning that not everyone who calls themselves by His name, talks the talk, and even walks the walk are truly His. We often read these words of Jesus thinking of others, but wouldn’t these people He is referring to do exactly the same thing? Rather, we must allow God to search our own thoughts, search our own hearts, and reveal to us who we truly are.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Doing Godly things, even the outright miraculous acts, is considered by Jesus to be evil if they are done apart from a relationship with Him. We must get first things first. A relationship with Jesus first, then the works of Jesus second. Good deeds are no replacement for a relationship. We understand this in our relationships with one another and we must understand this in our relationship with Jesus as well.
- Jesus said that His sheep follow Him.
We all too often judge whether someone is following Jesus based on what they do. However, as we just read, actions and words are not what we are to judge by alone. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7 that it is by the fruits of someone’s life alone, not their actions, that we should judge. He said, “By their fruits, you will recognize them.” It is not the actions and words of someone’s life, but the fruits that clearly reveal whether we are a sheep or goat before the Lord.
The fruits found in the life of a sheep are found in Galatians chapter 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If our lives are not defined by these fruits, then we need to come running to Jesus to receive His salvation!
If we bite and devour people through gossip, are jealous, fly into fits of rage, have selfish ambition, practice sexual immorality, get drunk, and desire to control others, those are the fruits produced by not being a sheep. If our lives are void of the fruits of the Spirit, then we have deceived ourselves if we call ourselves a Christian.
Would you like to know if your life is producing these fruits? Ask the people around you; co-workers, friends, family, class mates, and neighbors to honestly tell you. Don’t ask people that you know will be nice to you and sugar coat things, ask people that you know will be honest with you. Would your co-worker or spouse call you a joyful, peaceful, patient person who consistently is kind, gentle, and self-controlled? If not, then let’s set our lives straight right here and right now this morning! Let’s stop this deceit and start actually surrendering our lives to Jesus!
Why ask someone else? If you “curse on them Mondays and pray on them Sundays, if this is how you roll”, those people will recognize it when we may quickly ignore our true condition. When it comes to our lives, others aren’t deceived about them. The reality is that someone who is deceived to believe that they are saved wholeheartedly believes that they are saved. Over and over again throughout the New Testament we are warned not to be deceived in this matter. Those who follow Jesus will produce the fruits of doing so.
The most important aspect and the foundation to hearing God’s voice is identity.
Do we recognize Jesus for who He truly is? If He were standing in front of us, would we recognize Him or be like the Jews who picked up a stone in anger to kill Him?
Just as important, do we recognize who we are? Are we a sheep or goat before the Lord? Jesus will separate them in the end, but until then, many wolves and goats are among His flock, some unknowing who they truly are themselves. Have we deceived ourselves or do the fruits of our lives reveal that we are truly His?
This morning, let’s get these identities right. Let’s lay down religion and enter into a relationship with Jesus. Let’s lay down our whole selves and allow Jesus to transform us into one of His sheep; listening to Him, known by Him, and following Him! In the upcoming weeks, we’ll cover the practical side of hearing God’s voice, but this is all meaningless without this identity correction.
As you arrived, you received a powerful and detailed reminder of who you are in Christ. Let’s choose to stop believing lies about ourselves and begin standing on the truth of who us, His sheep, truly are!