Friday, December 26, 2014

Pastoral Pings (Plus) ~ The Who That Listens to Whom

They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.[1]
          This stood out to me this morning as a very important lesson regarding how God’s children feel about their communication of hope in Jesus Christ. The internet gives many opportunities to discuss differences of belief with others, sometimes with people we don’t even know. Viewpoints and opinions abound.
          One of the struggles for those who want to share with others the good news of God’s loving gift to the world is to know how much or how little to say. It is easy to get lured into arguments that amount to nothing more than word-games. It is just as easy to play the peacekeeper and never speak up at all.
          The wonderful letter of I John is filled with clarifications that will help anyone know whose side they are on. The two sides are the world, and the people of God. We are either alive in Christ, or dead in our sins.[2] From both sides, people speak, and others listen.
          The way we recognize that it is the world speaking, and Worldlings listening, is that both speakers and hearers are “from the world.” What the teachers teach is worldly, and what the Worldlings hear and practice is worldly.
          On the other hand, the way we recognize that we are on God’s side is that those who laid the foundation for God’s church, the apostles and prophets,[3] “are from God,” and, “whoever knows God listens” to those who are from God.
          In summary, Worldlings listen to the false prophets of the world, while God’s dear children listen to his servants. As Jesus said much earlier, “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”[4] Jesus is the Shepherd, he speaks to his sheep, his sheep know his voice, and he is the one they follow.
          At the same time, when it comes to the false teachers, Jesus spoke of his sheep in this way, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”[5] This is an interesting characteristic. Jesus’ sheep do not always know how to explain what is wrong with something, but they know that it is not Jesus’ voice that is speaking. This is true of those who heard Jesus teach in his day, and those who hear Jesus’ apostles and prophets as they laid the foundation for the church.
          On the other hand, Jesus described his enemies in this way, “Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.’”[6] Even Jesus, the living Word of God,[7] “full of grace and truth,”[8] could not get some people to believe in him simply because they were not his sheep.
          To another group Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here.”[9] The apostle John speaks of this in many ways in I John as he identifies that loving God, and loving one another, is a chief evidence that God is our Father.
          Jesus went on to tell this group, “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires.”[10]There is the problem. The devil is the thief who tries to steal Jesus’ sheep, but he cannot do it because Jesus’ sheep only follow Jesus’ voice. On the other hand, even the most religious of people will hate Jesus, and speak against him, simply because they do not know God as Father, and the one who is their Father is a hateful, deceiving, destroyer.
          So, Jesus gives these people every opportunity to hear and turn when he concludes, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”[11] There is it clear that, the way to know someone is “of God” is that they hear “the words of God,” whether spoken directly by God himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, or preached from the God-breathed words of God in Scripture.
          What this does for God’s children is encourage us to talk about Jesus. Share his word with people. Tell people the latest thing you have learned from God’s word. Share whatever gift God ministered to you through your Pastor’s sermon, or through your group Bible study, or the Christ-exalting book you are reading. In whatever opportunities you have, introduce people to thoughts from the word of God.[12]
          Then stand back and watch how people respond. Those who are Jesus’ sheep will hear Jesus’ voice in our proclaiming of his word, while those who are of their father the devil will be just as angry with us as they were with Jesus.
          It is very easy to berate ourselves because someone’s lack of response suggests that maybe we didn’t say the right thing, or to get caught up trying to prove a point in some online argument. However, when we understand that Jesus’ sheep hear his voice, and that this is now seen in the way that people listen to the word of God as spoken through his holy apostles and prophets, we will simply continue preaching the word in season and out of season,[13] fulfilling our place in either sowing or harvesting, knowing that it is God himself who gives the increase by bringing his sheep to hear Jesus’ voice.[14]
          While we always need the fellowship of God’s people to help and encourage us to know when to speak-up and when to shut-up, the encouragement in these Scriptures calls us to rest in the glory of God’s work that he saves anyone at all. Since Jesus has not yet returned, he still has more sheep to bring into his fold. Let us join his work by talking about the words of God in as many ways as we can find. People are listening. Their response to Jesus will tell us whose side they are on.

© 2014 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.)

[1] I John 4:5-6
[2] Ephesians 2:1-10
[3] Ephesians 2:19-22
[4] John 10:4
[5] John 10:5
[6] John 10:25-26
[7] John 1:1-3
[8] John 1:14
[9] John 8:42
[10] John 8:43-44
[11] John 8:47
[12] Seeking to maintain a distinction between God’s Word, and a teacher’s thoughts about God’s word. Paul dealt with this in I Corinthians, with a specifc warning in I Corinthians 4:6 that no one was to go “beyond what is written.”
[13] II Timothy 4:1-2
[14] I Corinthians 3:5-9

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