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Hearing His Voice

October 16th, 2015

If any man hears my voice and open the door, I will come in…

Revelation 3:20

“Hearing people” today is an essential skill for leaders in the Western nations, and it is becoming increasingly important throughout the world. Social researchers across the globe have identified the growth worldwide in almost all cultures of the common people demanding more respect from leaders. There is much good in this trend – more good than bad in my opinion. James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” We Christians should be sensitive to ideas and feelings and opinions from among our fellow believers.

Yet there is along with it the danger of losing perspective, to think that because all people are important, that all worldviews, all values, all ideas are equal in value. And there is where we find trouble. Just because all people are important does not mean that all ideas or standards of morality are equal, or even important.

The Bible put the emphasis on listening to God, developing the discipline of hearing His voice above all others. The Revelation 3 passage above is from the letter to the church Laodicea. They had heard one another, had become sensitive and responsive to each other’s thoughts and feelings. But in the process they stopped listening for God’s voice.

Sadly, there are many Christians and many churches this way. Their boast is in who attends, the talents of the members, the notoriety that they bring rather than on the Lord. Some churches will be quick to hear a generous giver, but neglect the duty to hear the biggest Giver of all – the Lord Jesus.

Christ promised that those who heard His voice could through their response of faith and obedience bring about renewed fellowship with the Lord. Our first duty in the church is to listen to the voice of Christ, for His voice brings peace and joy and life.

Confess your sins up to date. Read His Word daily. Expect Him to speak to you. He may simply tell you how greatly He loves you. He may just affirm in your heart the truth of His Word. Listening to Christ is not about hearing new revelations, rather it is about hearing Him affirm to you the Word that He has already given. The one who listens to His Spirit as he reads the Word, can also expect the Lord to guide him.

This is a renewed church – a fellowship that is confident of the presence and voice of the Lord in their individual hearts as they meet under His Lordship.

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Christ Formed in Us

August 11th, 2014

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pins of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…

Galatians 4:19

The Christian family has often returned to Galatians when it got off-track in its doctrine, expectations, and perspectives. Here in this brief letter the Spirit inspired Paul to explain true doctrine and to confront false teachings that have infiltrated the church off and on from the beginning of her history.

Consider this verse above and how it explains to us the purpose of the church, what our experience should be, and what our expectations should be. We exist to please God, and not just to please Him but to experience Christ within us, living our His life in us and through us.

The first thought, that we live to please God, can hardly be argued against by anyone familiar with the teachings of any form of biblical faith – though some have tried. Today, looking back on the past three hundred years of history, some churches have been almost swept under by humanism that has dethroned God and has exalted humanity to His authority. Whether this is called progressive-ism or liberalism or humanism or unbelief, it seems to be all in the same. But these movements, as tragic as they are, are short-lived for in their nature they have cut-off the affected parts of the Christian body from the main Body. Any church or movement that says, in the name of Christianity, that God’s opinion about us, that Christ’s authority over us, is of no account to us, is clearly antichrist doctrine. Better legalism than this.

But the second thought on this passage above is that it confronts legalism. Legalism is performance-based, promising blessings only as we outwardly do certain things. Legalism is the effort to achieve by the strict enforcing of rules and principles of outward behavior the transformation of our hearts and lives – an effort to make us godly through threats of punishments or rewards of faithfulness. It is both the “carrot and the stick” approach used in the past to motivate horses – dangle a carrot in front of his nose and the dull-minded animal will seek to walk to get it, even though it will always be just out of his reach – and if that does not help, then strike him on hip with a stick, and the sharp pain will get him going.

Unfortunately often in some Christian movements this is the only motivation offered. The “carrot” may be many things – riches, health, friends, acceptance, appeasing the judgmental attitudes of leaders – and the “stick” can also come in many forms, usually some threats – threats of financial disasters, future health problems, shame, and rejection by others. The carrots remain just out of reach, but the stick is often felt.

In these brief words – “Christ formed in you” – the Spirit-inspired writer explained to us the principle of transformation under grace. Its power is not fear or greed or the desire for acceptance by others. Its power is the Spirit of Christ who lives within us. Legalism with its threats and false promises of rewards is not the consideration, it is not the power, it is not the life of God, nor the power and force of the Christian life. The question Paul asked in Galatians 3:3 – “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” – echoes in the words of Christ being formed in us.

Let us be clear that God does reward faithfulness, and that disobedience does often bring unpleasant results. To do the right thing is rewarded by God. But outward adherence to righteousness mostly or only for the sake of outward rewards is the least mature motivations for Christian spiritual growth. True motivation comes from the life of Christ within us – living in our individual lives and living in our community as believers. Christ forms Himself in our hearts and in our fellowship.

So our purpose is not just to outwardly please Him, nor to even do this mostly. Our purpose is to experience Him personally and corporately and to let His life indwell us, and in so doing He will change us into His image. The outward measurements are of some benefit – our dull minds need something objective or we will too easily get off track – but the power and nature of transformation is the inward reality of God at work within us.

In our homes, God did not give us parents to merely rule us with punishments and threats, rather they set the right examples in life, and in good homes the children desire to become like their parents in all good character traits. Even more so in the Christian family – we not only have Christ as our Example, but we have Him also as our inner spiritual Experience.

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