Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To Know the Voice of the Lord That Well

God's written word is good and that includes His Law. It sets up good and just principles for living.
Psalm 19:7 says: The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul...
And in Romans 7:12 it says:
Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.

Also, in Luke 10:25-28 it says:
25 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”  27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”  28 And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

Therefore, we should study and meditate on the scriptures, that is, the Bible, as it says in Second Timothy 2:15:
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (KJV)

However, this is only a framework for life, not an end in itself.  Why do I say that?  Well, in the same way that one can read "How To" guidebooks, one can read, live, and benefit from the principles in the scripture without ever knowing the author, and that is a tragic loss.

For example, if a person takes to heart what is written in Luke 6:38:
Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.
That person will benefit by the material blessings that come his or her way.

A person does not have to check in with the Lord, or commune with the Lord, to live by some of the principles in the scripture.  And in the end might He say, "Depart from Me, I never knew you."?  We don't want that!

But to know His voice and experience His presence is a whole new dimension to life.

OK, now usually our understanding of the Lord's instruction, His guidance, His peace, will totally line up with the written word.  And if something comes to us that doesn't, there should be a big warning sign flashing within us.

However, occasionally the presence of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, the spoken word of the Lord, overrides the common understanding of the principles of the Lord.  There are examples in the scripture in which people were told by the Lord to disobey the common understanding of the Law.  Here are three examples.

1. In Acts 10:9-16, Peter was in Joppa on a rooftop praying.  He fell into a trance and had a vision of unclean animals offered to him for food.  Then a voice came to him and said, "Rise Peter, kill and eat." But Peter objected.  (The warning sign was flashing.)  The voice spoke to him a second time saying, "What God has cleansed you must not call common [unclean]."

So someone will say, "Well, that was just a figurative way of speaking.  Peter never really had to eat unclean animals."  This is true.  But what Peter was told to do was just as offensive -  to enter the house of a Gentile, and associate/dine/fellowship with him.  He was scolded for this contact when he came back to Jerusalem.

If something like this happened to me, I think I might have said, "This can't be the Lord God.  It is not consistent with the scripture I know."

Nevertheless, and this is really, really important, Peter knew the voice of the Lord well enough such that, even though this message was so totally contrary to all that he ever heard before, He still knew it was the Lord God speaking to him.  (Acts 10:14, "Not so, Lord...")  (How did he know?  Time spent with the Lord.  And that's how we will know.  And here's some good news - the Lord God wants to spend time with each of us, too.)

2. Although this occurred before the Law was given, another example is the episode where Abraham was directed by the Lord God to offer Isaac as a burnt offering.  I probably would have said, "What?!  This can't be God!".   But it was, and Abraham knew it.

3. And Jesus Himself knew the voice of His Father well enough to know Father's will, which was to offer Himself as an offering for us!  Peter said, in essence, "This is a terrible idea!  This can't be what the Lord God wants."  And we likely would have said the same thing.

So the point of this posting is to encourage us to become so attuned to the voice of the Lord God and hear the Lord God with such certainty and clarity that we will "turn on a dime" if so directed by the Lord.

Someone will say, "This is dangerous.  God does not contradict His word or change His mind."  Yes, the Lord God does not contradict His word and it is especially dangerous to live outside a community of believers thinking that one can and will receive fresh revelation without submitting it to others.

However, we have some examples above where the Lord God contradicted the common understanding of the Law with His spoken word.  And just generally in life, we need fresh revelation from the Lord, else life gets stale.  Yes, this fresh revelation more often than not builds on what we already know rather than seemingly contradicts it.  But, is everything we "know" truly from the Lord?  Have any of us ever picked up the traditions of men and thought them to be the correct interpretation of God's word?  I dare say most of us have.

Therefore, until we get to the place where Peter was, to guard against deception, when and where possible, believers should be open to new revelation, BUT live in communities in which they can submit what they hear to mature believers. (Yes, we need more than just one.  We need a plurality of elders/leaders.)  Then these mature believers can go before the Lord to evaluate what was heard.  Hopefully the mature believers will hear the spoken word of the Lord regarding the issue at hand and be able either to agree or to disagree that what was submitted is from the Lord, or not.

Open my eyes, Lord, I want to see Jesus.  Open my ears, Lord, and help me to listen.  Enable me to press in.

Larry Carroll

Unless otherwise marked, all scripture quoted is from the New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers.