Revelation: Practice Presence

Revelation: Practice Presence

This year is going to be a year of revelation!  We’ve been reminded of how transforming just one revelation from God can be.

Last week, we learned that one of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to bring revelation to us.  We learned how to pray the perfect intercessory prayer without using even a single word; praying in the Spirit!  Praying in the Spirit is such an awesome privilege that we don’t take advantage of often enough.

Like Paul to the church in Corinth, we strongly encourage everyone to pray in the Spirit, sing in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, learn from the Spirit, and be led by the Spirit in every aspect of life.

However, the Spirit does more than just intercede for us in prayer through unintelligible sounds that we can’t understand.  The Holy Spirit also brings us knowledge and wisdom and a greater degree of understanding than we could ever possess on our own.  The Spirit brings understanding of not only spiritual things, but also of the natural world around us that He created including our relationships with others. 

God is constantly speaking and pouring out His revelation.  The question is, “Are we listening? Are we watching?”  If God is pouring out His life transforming revelation and we’re not receiving it; what could we be missing?

Matthew 13:13-14

13 …Though seeing, they do not see;

    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

This thought crossed my mind when we were driving together as a family last week.  Nate is moving on into adulthood and as I was driving, I was sharing some financial advice.  As I was sharing some practical ways to budget so that we can pay all of our bills and still enjoy life, I stopped to ask what he thought.  After a long, awkward pause, I started to say his name.

Turns out, he had his earbuds in blasting music, bobbing his head, and didn’t hear a single word that I said.

How often does this happen with God and us?  How often is God pouring out life-changing wisdom right to us, but we’re too busy scrolling through our phones or watching TV or whatever else we distract ourselves with to receive it?

It’s like the old-school TV bunny-ear antennas or AM/FM radios or like the cellular data of today.  Radio towers all over the world are transmitting radio waves that travel all around us and even through our houses and bodies.  However, without having the right receiver to interpret and translate those radio wave signals, they go completely unnoticed by us. 

With the right cell phone, network access is granted and we are free to communicate.  Of course, that cell phone needs to be charged up, powered on, not in airplane mode, and within our reach to function as intended, right?

Everyone who has put their faith in Jesus for their salvation has received the Holy Spirit.  We have all that we need to freely communicate with God.  We have full access to His Kingdom resources.  The Holy Spirit is like that TV or radio or cell phone.

However, we have to choose to be filled with the Spirit just like our cell phone needs charged.  We have to choose to be trained in the Spirit just like we needed to learn how to use our cell phone.  We need to be intentional about being present in the Spirit’s Presence just like having our cell phone with us to be of any use to us.

If our cell phone battery is dead or we have no idea how to use it or if we leave it on our night stand at home, we’re missing out on what it offers to us.  It may be ours and it may grant us access to a world of knowledge and wisdom and resources and it may connect us to our loved ones, but it won’t be able to manifest any of these things unless we are intentional about using it.

Before going into more analogies, let’s go to our training manual of how to operate in the Spirit; the living word written by people as they were led and inspired by the Spirit.

We’ll start with one of the greatest men of God who lead the people of God and performed all kinds of miraculous feats and spoke on God’s behalf.  Before all of this, he didn’t know how to recognize God’s voice.  Much like all of us at one point in our lives.  Unlike some of us, however, he grew up in the Presence of the Lord and was raised serving the Lord.  Long story short, he was adopted by the priest, Eli, as a toddler.  Read 1 Samuel 1-2 to get the full backstory; its good stuff!

1 Samuel 2:21;26

21…Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.

1 Samuel 3:1-10;19-21

1 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.

Please keep in mind that this wasn’t because the Lord wasn’t speaking and it wasn’t because people weren’t going through the motions of serving Him as He instructed them to.  It was because they were not intentional about seeking Him.  If you read about Eli’s family, their service to the Lord had very selfish motives and even resulted in outright sin while serving.  Anyways, we’ll move on and not go into those details at this time.

2 One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called Samuel.

Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.

6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

This was a boy who actively served the Lord in the sanctuary, who was raised by a priest whom interceded between God and mankind, who knew the written and spoken word of the Lord.  However, he didn’t personally know the Lord; he didn’t have a relationship with Him.  He also didn’t have a revelation of the word of God; he didn’t recognize God’s actual voice. 

He heard a literal, audible voice and thought that it was Eli.  There’s a whole lot of sermons and revelation that could be unpacked from that reality, but we’ll leave that for another time…  In any case, the literal voice of God was something familiar to Samuel, he just didn’t realize it or recognize it.  He couldn’t differentiate God’s voice from Eli’s at this time.

Some of us hear the audible voice of God all of the time, but we think that it is just our own thoughts or imaginations.  We just haven’t been trained to discern what is our own thoughts, which ones are the Holy Spirit’s, which ones are from Satan, and which ones are from a whole host of other influences in our lives.  Lots more discernment training will be coming down the road about these later on in the series.

8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”

Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Samuel received simple training on how to discern and respond to the voice and calling of the Lord and then went back to wait on Him.  Now that Samuel was seeking after the Lord and waiting on Him with the expectation of being called personally by name again by Him, the Lord showed up in an even greater way than just a distant voice!  Again, there is a whole lot of sermons and revelation that could be unpacked from this reality, but we’ll save that for another time as well…

10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

19 The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. 20 And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the Lord. 21 The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.

One of the greatest tools we have available to discern the voice of God is being familiar with His written word.  Samuel didn’t recognize God’s voice because the word had not yet been revealed to him.  He knew and could quote the word of God, but there is a huge difference between knowledge and revelation.  For more about that, go back to the message on the 8th.  🙂

Even as Samuel grew up both naturally and spiritually, God used His written word to reveal Himself to Samuel.  God still reveals Himself to us through His written word.  What God actively speaks to us, the Greek word rhema, will never contradict what we find in His written word, the Greek word logos.

We now turn ahead to the New Testament where Jesus gives us another analogy about perceiving God’s voice; quite a while before cell phones and radio waves were revealed.

John 10:1-16 (NLT)

1 “I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! 2 But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. 5 They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.”

6 Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, 7 so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

There is only one way, one truth, and one life and that is Jesus.  He is the only way to be saved; the gate of Heaven.  He is also the Good Shepherd.  Those who accept His salvation and follow Him are His sheep.  He takes great, great care of us!

Being a sheep has taken on a negative connotation in our culture today.  To be a sheep in our culture is to blindly follow someone with blinders on and to sacrifice all self-identity as to fully conform to a selfish dictator who cares only for power, authority, and their own best interests ignoring any truth or evidence that contracts the shepherd.

When Jesus likens us to a sheep, it is one who exercises their free will and chooses to follow Him.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, leads His sheep into truth and welcomes questioning as He guides us into the truth that can be proven by evidence.  He also doesn’t sacrifice sheep for His selfish desires.  Instead, He sacrifices His life for the benefit of His sheep.  He leads us into green pastures and beside still waters and provides for our every need.

We hear and recognize His voice and follow it.  We won’t follow the voice of a stranger.  If you are saved, you hear the voice of God!  Go ahead and declare that out loud together, “I know the voice of God!”  If you aren’t convinced, repeat this truth that Jesus said about you in John 10 until you stop lying to yourself saying that you don’t hear God and don’t know His voice!  🙂

At one of Bethany’s recent basketball games, God showed me how this often works.  Bethany knows her coach personally.  She trusts that her coach has her best interest in mind and wants good things for her and for her to reach her full potential.  She is familiar with her coach’s voice because of intimate times that they spend together being trained as they practice together.

At a game, there are countless voices all shouting.  Very often, they are shouting at her telling her what to do.  With all of the clapping and shouting from supporters and opponents and officials and team mates and other noise all happening at the same time, when she hears the voice of her coach, she listens to it.  She discerns and recognizes it despite all of the other noise and direction and it is her voice that she follows and obeys. 

While she is out on the court playing, she even hears the voice of her coach without her coach’s lips moving at all.  She hears the voice of her coach internally as she’s dribbling down the court setting up a play or right before taking a shot or when she is covering her opponent in defense.  Her coach’s voice is clear in her mind guiding and directing her because of all of the times that she heard it practicing what she is now doing in the game.

How much time do we spend practicing the Presence of God?  How much time do we spend one-on-one with Him?  How much time do we spend in His word listening to Him?  There is a direct correlation between this time spent and how easy it is for us to hear and recognize His voice above the others.

My family could be at a festival packed full of loud strangers with no ability to see each other.  Yet when I call one of my kids’ names out, they will recognize and discern and follow it with fullness of trust.  Why?  Because of the time that we have spent building a relationship together.

When they are away from Becky and I out there in the world and faced with a difficult decision, they will hear our voice guiding and directing them sourced from the wellspring of knowledge and wisdom that we have poured into their lives over the years.

Megan just received her driver’s license this week and I’m sure that she’ll be hearing my voice as she drives alone as we spent time together practicing driving.  Even though I am absent, my voice will still be inside of her head guiding and directing her into safety.

So it is with God.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, we can hear and discern and perceive the voice of God clearly above all of the other noise and all of the other voices.  We can draw from the wellspring of knowledge and wisdom within us. 

The more of God’s word that we know and memorize, the quicker we become at recognizing His voice.  The more time we spend seeking the Presence of God and in worship, the easier it becomes to trust Him; even if what He is calling us to do doesn’t makes sense at the moment.

Next week, we’ll continue to dive into this matter further as we learn more practically how to receive God’s revelation.