The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Expect to Hear from God’ preached by Pastor Mike White on Sunday, 2/23/2014, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click here: http://bit.ly/1ewsiWy
Expectation Determines Outcome
The focus of this piece is building an expectation to hear from God on a regular basis. We have certain rights as Christians living under the New Covenant; one of those rights is constant communication from God. At CityLight Church, we believe that the Bible is the full counsel of God. We are cautioned not to take anything away from God’s Word, or to add anything to it (Rev 22:18-19). What I am not saying here is that we should expect God to add to His written Word. However, Scripture must be interpreted. As our Helper and our Guide, the Holy Spirit aids us in interpreting the Word of God. He speaks to us in the form of speech, visions, dreams and sensations to illuminate how God’s Truth relates to the specific circumstances in which we find ourselves on a daily basis. All of us should expect to hear from God, because it is only through this hearing that we are able to conform our lives to His Will.
Another necessary preface is that nothing God is speaking to you through His spoken (rhema) Word will ever contradict Scripture. I have had conversations with many people who claim to be ‘led’ by the Spirit of God who are convinced He is telling them to do things that quite obviously do not line up with His Word. That will never be the case. The Holy Spirit will never give you instructions that contradict the Bible, because a house divided cannot stand (Mk 3:25).
Our Spiritual Nature
In order to understand how and why God communicates with us, we have to come to grips with our spiritual nature. As Kenneth E. Hagin was fond of saying, man is a spirit, with a soul, living in a body. This is the three-fold nature of man, as illustrated in the following verse:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thess 5:23
As a simple proof, we know from John 4:24 that God is Spirit. We also know from Gen 1:27 that we are made in the image of God. It therefore follows that if God is Spirit and we are made in His image, we too are spiritual beings.
The understanding of the spiritual nature of man is foundational if we are to comprehend the rebirth process at the moment we give our lives to Jesus Christ and rely on Him for salvation:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” – 2 Cor 5:17
When we receive Jesus Christ, our spirit is reborn. Our regenerated spirit is able to communicate directly with the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:16) because we are children of God. Our body is not reborn when we accept Jesus Chris into our lives. Even Paul longed for the day when he would be free of his earthly ‘tent’ and present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:1-2). Our soul (mind, will and emotions) is not reborn when we accept Jesus either. It is therefore necessary to ‘renew our minds’ (Rom 12:2) daily by praying and reading God’s Word.
The understanding of man’s spiritual nature is also fundamental if we are to achieve any sort of happiness and fulfillment during our time here on earth. If you think of yourself as a purely intellectual being, you will be missing something. You can spend your entire life reading books and pursuing knowledge, but you will be spiritually empty because you are neglecting that part of yourself. If you think of yourself as purely an emotional being, you will also be missing something. Many of us try to ‘find love’ and ‘listen to our hearts,’ while forgetting that the unredeemed heart is desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). Yet if we cater only to our emotions, we will be spiritually empty. If you think of yourself as purely a physical being, then of course you will find yourself feeling empty and alone. No diet or workout routine can negate the fact that at some point in time, your body will begin to decay and you will be confronted with the reality of death. It is far better to embrace our spiritual nature now and cater to it, so that by the time we face life’s more defining moments, we already have a comfortable and confident understanding of who we are.
Why God Speaks
Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave us instructions to expect and heed His Holy Spirit. God speaks to us today through His Holy Spirit. We must always remember that the Holy Spirit is a Person. When we get go know the sound of His voice, we can have a conversation with Him just as easily as we can speak to the person sitting next to us.
“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14:16-17
The Holy Spirit dwells with our regenerated spirit in our bodies. Having received this privilege, we are living in the greatest era mankind has ever seen. The veil is torn (Matt 27:51) and we have unrestricted access to the presence and counsel of God. We have legal right and access to boldly approach the throne of grace (Heb 4:16). In fact, we are living in an age of which the Old Testament prophets could have only dreamed:
“Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.’” – Lk 10:23-24
Jesus Christ has given us eyes to see and ears to hear. He has blessed all of our senses so that we can experience Him constantly. We are living in a period of history that would make prophets and kings jealous! We must take advantage of the communicative privileges we have been afforded because of the Cross of Jesus Christ.
Peter calls the Gospel something ‘angels long to gaze into’ (1 Pet 1:12). Isn’t it absolutely amazing that angels – having experienced God’s presence in heaven – would rather experience what we get to go through every day? Why would that ever be the case? Angels don’t need forgiveness; we do. The more we know we are forgiven, the greater our understanding of God’s love (Lk 7:47). All of us – including me – have done some things that make us cringe, but God has forgiven all our sins. It’s only by experiencing God’s forgiveness that we understand the depth of God’s love.
But You Don’t Know What I’ve Done…
I’ve spoken with many people who seem to be under the impression that something they have thought, said, or done disqualified them from a relationship with God. This can never be the case.
Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. There is no sin too big for the Cross. Sometimes we refuse forgiveness because we develop an attitude that we don’t deserve it. Even worse, many times we cloak that attitude in a veil of humility. ‘God can never forgive me for what I’ve done,’ we say. What we’re really looking for with a statement like that is sympathy from other people. We crave affection from God, but instead of appropriating His love for us, we take the childish route and seek that affection from other people.
I’m not going to mince words here: the attitude that our sin is too grave to be forgiven is not humility; it is presumption. It is arrogance. We have to be very careful when we make statements like, ‘God will never forgive me,’ because what we’re actually saying with those words is, ‘My sin is bigger than the Cross of Jesus Christ.’ When we refuse forgiveness, we’re actually saying that our sin – our action – carries more weight than the defining action of God’s love: Jesus Christ hanging and dying for our sins on the Cross. What we’re actually saying is we know better than God. If the God of the universe has already forgiven us, who are we to deny that forgiveness?
If that doesn’t sit well with you, please take some time to digest it. Talk to your pastor or a trusted friend, and ask him to lead you through a prayer of self- forgiveness. The groundwork has already been laid, and the work of the Cross is finished. When we 1) establish expectation and 2) make time to hear from God, He’s going to speak to us!
The Cross entitles us to a relationship with God. Why? Because when we accept Jesus Christ into our lives, we are adopted into the family of God. Just as an earthly father speaks to his children, the Heavenly Father will speak to us:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 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.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”
– Rom 8:14-16
If we call God our Father, we should expect to hear from Him!
God’s Best Interest
Did you know it’s actually in God’s best interest to speak to you? Yes, you! It’s in His best interest to speak to all of His children. Any earthly king, ruler or leader has to communicate expectations and instructions to his servants. A leader can’t simply issue over-arching instructions with general guidelines, and then leave specific interpretation up to his subjects based on their discretion. He has to issue further guidance which is tailored to a given situation based on any new, pertinent information.
A few weeks ago, Bill de Blasio (the new Mayor of New York City) took a lot of heat for leaving schools open. On Wednesday, 2/13, the National Weather Service predicted 3 inches of snow; by Thursday morning there were 10 inches on the ground. Parents, teachers’ unions, and even Al Roker took him to task for keeping schools open. What happened here? There was new information (in the form of accumulation), but instructions were not updated to account for that new information. Every time it snows, parents know conceptually that school might be closed; they know there are guidelines in place in case that decision is made. However, the mayor’s office needs to communicate specific instruction every time it snows so that parents, teachers and the rest of the city all know what to do. Otherwise, it would be pure chaos!
We also see this communication principle in marriage. You meet ‘the one’…you fall in love…you plan your wedding day. Once the two of you tie the proverbial knot, does the communication just stop? Of course not! That would be an excellent recipe for disaster and divorce. If a husband and a wife don’t have regular communication, the marriage will be stagnant at best; it will dissolve at worst. Once the commitment is made and the marriage covenant is established, the communication is just beginning! A husband and wife can finally be naked in front of each other, both physically and emotionally. Nakedness breeds intimacy. God’s design has always been for us to bare all of ourselves in front of him. He wants to communicate daily with us to maintain intimacy.
Expect to Hear from God
Under the New Covenant, the Bible tells us to boldly approach the throne of grace:
“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.“- Heb 4:15-16
Jesus was human. He experienced every ounce of temptation we experienced, and He understands what you’re going through. He gets it. When it comes to communication, He knows the enemy’s goal is to try and make you pass up your right to hear from God. Yet we need to approach God and expect to hear from Him. We are allowed to approach Him because of grace.
Grace is defined as unmerited favor. We can never deserve it; the lack of merit makes it a free gift. In parts of the Bible, ‘favor’ is defined as being granted an audience with a king. If a nobleman had favor with a king, he would be allowed access into the throne room: to speak with the king face to face, make his concerns known, and then receive specific instruction as to how the matter would be resolved. Under the New Covenant, grace means being granted an audience with the King, even when we don’t deserve it.
– by Pastor Mike White
© Michael D. White and CityLight Church, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael White and CityLight Church with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.