If you could have a conversation with God, would you look forward to it? Or would it be more like going to the Principal's office? I ask, because your ability to hear from Him is directly affected by your answer.
We've already talked about the importance of losing interest in our own opinions (in the first two articles of this series, if you would like to review). I simply cannot hear from God when I think more of my opinions than His Word; He may be speaking but I'm not listening. But there's also a flip side.
If you want to hear from God but dread it like you were going to the Principal's office, I want to assure you there's no reason to ever dread hearing from Him. That “Now what have I done wrong?” expectation seriously hinders our ability to hear from God through His Word or in any other way.
If I stood at the corner of Hollywood and Vine with a sign that read “God Wants to Point out All Your Flaws and Tell You What to Do” would I draw much of a crowd? I doubt anyone would want to hear anything I had to say—at least here in the United States.
Would I have a different response if my sign read: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1a NIV)”? Yes, I could start to draw a crowd with this sign.
The truth is… I should hold both signs, because they belong together. The deception is… we don't see how the two can possibly go together.
As a little boy on the farm there were plenty of times I came to the house covered in cow manure, chicken manure, dirt, grease… you name it. Mom never said, “Mike, you're disgusting. You will just have to stay outside tonight.” But Mom also never said, “Mike, I love you so much” and then sent me off to run around the house covered in manure. Nope… when I hit the door it was, “Stop right there!” She would maybe give me a kiss, and then say something like, “Mike, you're disgusting. Where have you been? Let's get you cleaned up.”
Just because God accepts us and loves us as we are doesn't mean He's going to let us run around His kingdom just as we are. Where did we ever get the idea that because He accepts us as we are, He intends to leave us as we are? This is deception. And this deception is keeping us from hearing Him.
It's just not possible to hear from God with selective hearing. You will have no clue what He's saying to you when you hear “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)” without also hearing “I am the vine, you [are] the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5 NKJV).”
While we may look forward to hearing how God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners (see Romans 5:8), we really don't want to hear about how we’re supposed to love and bless and pray for the people trying to hurt us (see Matthew 5:44). But when we hear one without the other—when we use selective hearing—we end up without fully understanding either one.
When we set aside our selective hearing though, and listen with everything we've got, we are seeking Him with our whole heart—and we will hear Him, as promised:
But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you
find [Him] if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deuteronomy 4:29 NKJV)
Blessed [are] those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! (Psalm 119:2 NKJV)
And you will seek Me and find [Me], when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV)
There's nothing God could possibly say to you that you shouldn't want to hear—not if you understand His heart toward you. Sure, at some point in the conversation He will point out your flaws and tell you what to do; there is some of this on every page of the Bible. But what's so bad about hearing Him say, “Mike, let's get you cleaned up!” Do you really want to stay just as you are?
What were your interests as a kid? I wanted to be a cowboy like my cousin Gary. We had a junior bull‐riding event at our local arena and I signed up—never having ridden a bull. Gary helped me in the chute. He had my hand wrapped so tightly in the bull rope I asked him, “How I am going to get out of this thing when I'm ready to get off?” (I was picturing me at one end of the arena, and the bull and my hand at the other end.) Gary grinned, “That won't be a problem.” The chute opened and about two jumps later I was flying through the air with my hand still attached to my body—so much for my bull‐riding career.
My ego recovered quickly… I had other interests… so I moved on. But what if being a bull rider was all I could think about? What if Freckles Brown (PRCA World Champion Bull Rider in 1962) had been there that night? What if he'd approached me after the event and said, “Kid, let's talk”? Would I have looked forward to hearing from him—the best bull rider in the world? I guess it would have depended on what I thought he was going to tell me. I would be thinking, “Obviously, he can't compliment me. So is he going to point out all my flaws and tell me what to do?”
Let's assume this is what he would have told me that night: “Kid, you don't have enough muscle and your head's not right. You need to bulk up that scrawny frame, and you need to pay attention and read the bull.” If he then walked off, and I never saw or heard from him again, I would have probably assumed, “He was trying to be nice to me—a kid who doesn't have what it takes; but just in case I'm not smart enough to quit while I'm ahead, he at least gave me a couple of pointers.”
Isn't this what most of us expect to hear from God? In a nice way, don't we expect to be reminded of how we just don't measure up… but we could… if… if we would just follow the rules?
Have you ever thought to yourself? “Oh… it would be wonderful to hear from God in a more personal way, but then He would have to remind me of all of my faults, and tell me how to fix them with standards I can't possibly achieve. It would be just too hard to hear from God in a more personal and direct way. I can hope he might slip in a little encouragement every once in a while, but I'd better limit my contact with Him to the way it's always been.”
But what if Freckles—to the boy who more than anything else in the world wanted to ride like him—had said that night, “Kid, you've got what it takes. You don't have enough muscle and your head's not right. You need to bulk up that scrawny frame, and you need to pay attention and read the bull. But you've got what it takes to be a world‐champion bull rider. Here's my phone number.”
Yes, to hear from God you will hear in part, “You have some flaws to fix. You have some things you need to do.” But if you will hear in full, you will also hear, “You are my child. You have what it takes. You have some flaws to fix and some things you need to do. But I will help you. You are my child.”
Before we continue tomorrow, please make a commitment to seek after God with your whole heart. Yes, God accepts each of us just as we are; he loves just as we are. But He doesn't leave us just as we are.
Have a good day,