Monday, March 30, 2020

Listening and Speaking to the God who Speaks and Listens

I am going to make a big deal about something because it is such a gift of grace to me that I have to say it.

I have encountered someone who does these three most wonderful things for this attachment-needy man:

  1. He initiates speaking to me freely because he loves to have me know what he is thinking and doing[1]
  2. He listens to me constantly because he wants me to enjoy what it feels like to be heard (he likes it when we hear him, after all)[2]
  3. He answers me when I call on him so that I get to feel the satisfaction of attachment to someone who is perfection itself.[3]

It might sound like that is only two things, that God speaks to me and I speak to God. I see it as three things, that God initiates speaking to me, he welcomes me initiating speaking to him, and he responds to me when I call on him.

What stands out is how determined God is to customize his communication to me so that my attachment need is satisfied in him in the God-sized way so I can bear with the attachment-distress that is woven through my life experience in the people-sized ways.

When people are put in the place of filling our God-sized attachment need, losing them, even through this terrible time of social isolation, is losing everything. On the other hand, when it is God who fills our God-sized attachment need, our attachment need is constantly met in Christ so that our attachment/relationship with him helps us with the detachments we feel with people.

Which brings me back to this expression of God speaking.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)

This is what Jesus addressed with his disciples in his first group encounter after his resurrection. Look at all the references to God speaking! Everything was already written, which means it is what God had already spoken. Jesus had spoken to his disciples repeatedly about these things. Jesus was right then speaking to his disciples about what he had spoken about what was written. And now we have these words recorded in Scripture so that the whole collection continues to speak.

I’ve been meditating on this Scripture for some time, following the threads of revelation woven into my morning tapestry (other Scriptures that show the same things). Yesterday this connected to Romans 1 where Paul introduces his ministry and tells us why he is not ashamed of the gospel. I was overwhelmed with wonder and joy at what God was speaking about.

What is standing out is that God is SPEAKING!

I now realize that I was brought up in a man-centered institutional church culture that hid from me the relational dynamic of God speaking to his people. When Henry Blackaby introduced the biblical picture of God speaking to his people way back in 1992, I began welcoming something that seemed like a wonderful addition to my life to help me along the way. In no time at all I was so thankful that God had me listening and speaking to him as never before.

Twenty-eight years later, I can feel this wonder that the issue of God speaking was never an add-on to what I already had. It was God calling me back to the beginning. And today, that is literally what he did!

This morning, as I was connecting the layers of God speaking in relation to what Jesus told his disciples, God led me back to the very first lines of the Scriptures. In thirty-nine English words, God introduces the whole book of Genesis. And then we read this: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”[4] For a long time I have looked at this through the issue of creation, that the Bible absolutely defies the fairytale of evolution and reveals the glory of God’s creative genius. [5]  I can see how the book of Genesis lays the foundation for everything else we have in Scripture.

However, what God wanted us to know about him from the beginning was, “And God said…”! Understanding everything from the foundational reality that God created is necessary. But it is equally necessary to see this thread of revelation introduced in the first words of the first chapter of the story: God speaks!

The Bible is not merely a brilliant and concise description of human history. It is the speaking of a God who speaks. The God who spoke light into existence spoke ahead of time of the coming of the Messiah. When the Messiah came, God with us, he spoke the good news of the kingdom for all to hear. When anything happened in Jesus’ ministry, he spoke to people about how to understand it. When he was going to die, he spoke to his disciples so they would be ready. When he was raised, he spoke to them so they could understand that he didn’t lay down his life to save them from Rome, but to save them and us from sin!

Now we have the completed Bible with all the writings of the New Testament that are the continuation of God speaking. God speaks. He loves to speak. Jesus is the Word (logos) of God.[6] This is not just a personification figure of speech to make an inanimate thing have living characteristics. This is the Son of God who is the living Word of God who speaks the word of God to us even to this day.

And then we have this tragedy that is far more grievous than all the restrictions of social-distancing due to COVID-19. Satan is convincing professing Christians that not listening to the God who speaks to them is acceptable Christianity. Not speaking to the God who listens is considered by many church folks as acceptable Christian living. Not asking God for what we need like dependent children is something that so many professing Christians are okay with.

And the whole while, it is the Father’s very nature to speak and to listen. It is inherent in our identity as the only creature made in the image and likeness of God that we speak and listen because our God speaks and listens.

On the other hand, the pride that does not like to listen and refuses to speak is so not like our real selves that Satan is the one glorified by the deception. Look at what God says about a time when he was going to discipline his people for refusing to engage with him in listening and speaking:

“'Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.’”[7]

When people who had plenty of opportunity to eat at the table of God’s words refused to listen and speak to their Father, he used this distinctive discipline of hiding from them the food of his words. This is the result:

“They shall wander from sea to sea,
    and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the LORD,
    but they shall not find it.”[8]

As the discipline ran its course, the people would come to the place of frantically looking for the word of God, but they would not be able to find it. They had to know what that felt like so they would never let it happen again.

What would be a key characteristic of the future when God fulfilled all his promises regarding our gift of salvation?

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.[9]

The “heart of stone” that will not listen or speak to God will be replaced with a living heart that relates to God in both word and deed. The relationship of, “they shall be my people, and I will be their God,” means that we will listen and speak to God because he is speaking and listening to us.

Not very long after God got my attention on these things in 1992, I was hit with an explosion of painful experiences that would have destroyed me if I was not listening and speaking to God. Today he has stirred my heart with a fresh wave of wonder at how determined he is to not only speak to me, but to make certain that I know he is speaking to me. As I listen to him and speak to him what is in my heart, I then have the freedom to keep in step with his Spirit and follow him wherever he leads.

When God says, “Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am’”,[10] it is just that, that God is speaking! He is speaking to us about speaking to him, and if we will listen to him and do as he says, we will experience him listening to us.

And if you aren’t encouraged yet, let Jesus’ words lead you to the throne of grace to hear and speak what your relationship requires: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”[11] That’s what God wants for us, that in the abiding relationship of branches attached to the vine, us hearing what he has to say leads into the greatest joys the human soul can experience.

Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)

[1] The whole Bible is God initiating speaking to us.
[2] Everything God’s Book says about prayer is God showing us that he loves to listen to what is on our hearts. Jesus constantly listened to what people brought to him and spoke to them what was on his heart.
[3] The theme of us calling and God answering is huge in God’s Book. For example: Psalm 4:1; 17:6; 20:9; 81:7; 86:7; 91:15; 99:6; 102:2; 118:5; 120:1; 138:3; Proverbs 1:28; 21:13; Isaiah 50:2; 65:12 and Isaiah 66:4 show God as the one who calls and no one answers; Isaiah 58:9; 65:24; Jeremiah 7:13; 7:27 and Jeremiah 35:17 refer to God calling and people not answering; Jeremiah 33:3; Jonah 2:2; Zechariah 13:9. Of course, the Bible is also full of examples of people calling and God and being answered. Note: If you are familiar with the conflict between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18:20-40), Elijah made it a central issue of their test to see which God/god answers when his people call on him.
[4] Genesis 1:3
[5] If you are unaware of the overwhelming evidences that show the Bible’s description of God’s work is precisely what science keeps affirming, check out these sites that address the creation-science issues:; (Institute for Creation Research);  
[6] John 1:1-3
[7] Amos 8:11
[8] Amos 8:12
[9] Ezekiel 11:19-20
[10] Isaiah 58:9
[11] John 15:11

No comments:

Post a Comment