Tuesday, April 23, 2013

How Does the Holy Spirit Help Me Hear God?

In the fourth part of his series, "Spirit" Erwin McManus reviews our spirituality dilemma.  "We spent the last few weeks stepping into a new and unique conversation;  where we are being trapped in between a material and spiritual reality .."  Some of us are aware that we are spiritual creatures. but all of us are reminded every day that we are physical.  We need to eat and drink and sleep, but there is also this spiritual reality that we can't put our fingers on.  We know how to answer our physical needs.  We eat when we're hungry.  We sleep when we're tired.  Then, on another level, we satisfy cravings of our minds, like the need for success and physical contact.  But there is still more going on in us; something more substantive that we crave.  These cravings are informed by our spirituality.  It's as if our souls know something that our physical bodies do not.

Our souls long to connect with the God who created us.  We know something is missing.  There's a hollowness that remains unsatisfied no matter what we do physically.  We can't interpret it so we cry out to God.  Our soul searches for unconditional love and so we try to fill this "love" gap.  As a result, we end up moving from person to person and from relationship to relationship   But before we can address this need of our souls, we have to realize that we are not physical beings with spiritual appetites.  We are spiritual beings with physical appetites.

All of us seem to know that there is this cosmic force around us and we try to connect with it.  In the  Scriptures, we find there is in us this longing because we are designed to live in communication with God.  We also find that the Spirit of God is a person and He is highly intelligent.  In the book of Ezekiel, we have this intimate moment between God and the prophet Ezekiel.  The conversation begins in Ezekiel 37 -

The hand of the Lord was on me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”  Then He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded.  And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’”  10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army. 

What we've learned is that this Spirit of God can be translated into "breath" and "wind" of God.  When Jesus said "I can fill you with my Spirit", it can be translated, then, to "I can fill you with my wind" or "my breath".    Also, what we find is that it translates into the "voice of God" speaking to us.  His ultimate intention for us is to give us life through this wind, breath or voice.

In Ezekiel, Don't you think that there is an unnecessary middle man in the exchange between Ezekiel and God?  God can make the bones of a dead army live, so what is Ezekiel's purpose here?  God wanted him to speak to the bones.  He wanted him to prophesy over the bones; to state a declaration of the future over them.  When Ezekiel hears God s instructions, he realizes that God wants him to become the voice of God!   He speaks in the passage in first person, as though he were God Himself speaking.

But that which he was declaring was exactly what God commanded him to declare.  Ezekiel talks about how he prophesied, but after he does as God instructs, as Erwin says, "it almost happened".  The bones came together and reorganized themselves.  They connected themselves correctly to the right and left sides of the body.  Tendons and muscles appeared and gathered, followed by flesh.  But God then wanted Ezekiel to "continue the conversation".  God told Ezekiel to watch what it was like to be God.  He wanted him to witness this.  Why?  Because this is the way God loves to work among his people!  God finds people who believe in Him and who will declare His glory.  He tells Ezekiel to prophesy His breath.  God spoke, through Ezekiel, to the bones and that set the stage for what was next.  God commands Ezekiel speak the breath of God.  What God's breath brought was then life.  As Ezekiel prophesied, the breath of God enters the bony, fleshy but still-dead bodies.  The bodies steadily begin to stand up to their feet and suddenly they become a vast army!

Realize that this is part of living the life into which Jesus invites us.  Without the breath of God, we have no life!  We are just death wrapped up in a bony, fleshy existence.  When Erwin's son Aaron was just a little boy, Erwin and he had just boarded a plane and the two were listening to the instructions in case of an emergency.  The stewardess was showing how to survive a water landing and she was pointing to the exits.  Aaron was ignoring her until, on this particular flight, she said "if you are an adult, first put the mask on yourself and then put one on your child".  Aaron perked up and asked what she said. Erwin tried to rehash and then explained the last statement, but Aaron said "no, you put the mask on me first. Airplanes are not safe for children".  He knew that if we try to live in a world without breath, we are going to be gasping for air.  Erwin then explains that he doesn't like the part where they say the bag may not inflate!  "I want my bag to move with me...I want my bag plump with oxygen!"  See, a lot of us are in a place where we have lost cabin pressure.  Everything around us has made us slaves.

But a part of the process that makes this all work is that the Holy Spirit allows us to be in communication with God.  He allows us to first have a conversation.  Have you ever gone out with someone who didn't talk or talked too much?   This was someone who only talked about themselves and then said, "you are so interesting".  We cannot move into a relationship until we communicate with God.

God told Ezekiel (paraphrasing), "I want you to travel with my Spirit and I want you to listen to Him.  Do as He says and then live your life according to what He tells you.  The people in Ezekiel's day were slaves as a way of life.  They were essentially used to this lifestyle.  They moved from bondage to bondage.  The Egyptians and the Babylonians were using the Jewish people as pawns.  Would there ever be a day when they would be free?  Yes, there would be.  But only with the presence of God.

God is asking us, "Do you believe that I am the God who has a future for you and who will bring light into the  darkness?   But we can't even be in that conversation if we don't even seek to listen to God.  Do you feel that God just talks a different language?   Jesus saw this as our dilemma.  It was certainly helpful when God showed up in the physical form of Jesus.  We could see that God Himself understood the struggles of the physical world.  We could touch Him and fellowship with Him.  He was as we are; tendons, muscles, bones and blood.  But then God left us TWICE.  First, He was crucified and buried.  But then He scares the disciples to death by reappearing.  He catches more fish for them, shows Doubting Thomas physical proof of His spiritual reality, but He only stays for a short while and leaves again.  That had to be traumatizing, but the reason Jesus had to go the second time was because He was sending in His place the Comforter; His communicator.  "I don't think they believed Him for a second."

John 16:12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”

Want an inside track on what God has done in history and what He plans to do in the future?  Live in step with the Spirit.  Jesus said for us to have the conversation and to have it our whole life.  When He speaks, He speaks life into the world.  The Spirit will speak to us because He and God are one.  This Spirit will guide us into the light and into the life that He has come to give us.

Why doesn't God speak more clearly?  Believe it or not, there is a reason!  Hebrews 3 shares with us;  So, as the Holy Spirit says:  “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your ancestors tested and tried Me, though for forty years they saw what I did.  1That is why I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known My ways.’ 11 So I declared on oath in My anger, ‘They shall never enter My rest.’   

So the writer of Hebrews is describing the time of God's people when they wandered in the wilderness refusing to follow Him for an entire generation!!  God is saying that our ancestors tested and tried Him and, as a result, He declared an oath that they would never enter His rest.  See, when God speaks to us, we have to respond to His voice.  Sometimes we actually respond with disbelief!  God says, "this is what I want for you" and we respond by saying, "I don't think so".  Have you ever wanted to do something that you knew was wrong and a small voice warned you not to do it?  That was God!  The same is true when you were at a point of making a life decision and there was a voice saying, "Don't make that mistake!"  Well, that was God.  Have you ever decided to use someone or lie to someone and a voice convicted you saying that it wasn't in line with your character?  That was God.

Scripture describes our not listening to this "voice" as a sin of disbelief because we're not trusting God with our life.  We are saying, "I don't trust you with my future. I don't believe you are correct".  So, our ancestors decided to do things their own way and this wasn't the journey God wanted them to live!  What happens, then, is our hearts become hardened against God.  Then our ears become "dull" and we slowly become deaf to the voice of God. Then, all we experience is our own, self-induced "silence" of God.

Just because you've gone deaf, doesn't mean God isn't speaking!

When you sense the voice of God, you have to respond.  But if you respond by disobeying, your heart hardens because you don't want to feel the pain, the guilt and the shame.  Your heart doesn't just harden to these things either.  It also hardens to love, peace and faith.  This is when your ears become dull and, finally, there comes a day when you don't even remember hearing the God's voice at all!

If we respond positively to God, our dreams and our relationships come to life.  All we have to do is follow.  Erwin says he uses the word "follow" versus the word "obey" because many people don't like the word "obey".   If we will follow, God will move us to the future we were born to live!  If we follow, our hearts will be softened and we will once again "hear" God.  Jesus reminds us through his parable of different soils that receive seed.  Some soil is hard and other soil is soft.  God tells us that we have to have good soil which means we have to have soft hearts to hear Him.  The tender heart can move into a relationship with God and that then helps us to hear.  Once we hear, we can live.

When is the last time God spoke to you,  you heard Him and then you followed Him with a heart of joy?

Matt 16:13 addresses a question Jesus asks; 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by My Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church,and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He ordered His disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah.

I love it when God helps us "cheat on a test".  When God asks a tough question and, only if the Spirit has spoken in His voice to us, God gives us the answer!  Simon got a name change because he was no longer trapped in this physical world view.  He knew the Spirit.  You are Peter and a rock  You are finally ready to live in the invisible not the visible; ready to live life eternal, not just a timed life.  In Peter's case, God gave the keys of heaven to him, saying, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven!  Erwin jokes, "I don't even know what that means, but I want to test it!!

Have you ever been given keys.  "It was awesome when I got my first house...getting the keys was awesome...But going inside of it was more amazing!  Getting the keys to my first car was great...but what if we received the keys and then didn't get to drive the car?  Have you ever lost your keys?...A car is worthless if we have no keys!  "Do you guys know Emerson? ..  This is a guy at the church who has so many keys!!  Why do they give this guy so many keys?  Because he is trustworthy...But another reason why Emerson gets so many keys is because when he finds things that need to be fixed or things that aren't being utilized, he goes in and creates things that are beautiful!"  God has given us the keys to heaven and some of us have lost them!!  We've left them on our "desk" or we've put them away in storage.

This weekend Aaron was driving really fast with Erwin in the passenger seat because they were following a friend of his on a motorcycle the road was swerving.  Erwin kept asking Aaron to slow down. "I'm begging you, as a man, to SLOW Down!!  But then I heart this small week voice in the back that said,  'I gotta get out'.  Next thing I know, a guy got out and it got ugly (he was throwing up)...So, then, do you know what happened?  He gave me the keys and I was able to drive at my speed!!"

God has given us the keys to heaven.  He is looking for the person who will hear His voice life and give life . men and women.  He wants His people to hear the audacious things He suggests and then He wants us to respond faithfully!  He calls us to speak His breath and His wind.  "I refuse to live and die never calling out the wind.  I am going to tell the wind it is time to move and bring life to this world!!...If I have to live like a fool, I will.  If I don't, I am only looking at a life of dry bones.  Let me ask you,

Do you believe God can use you to bring life?  Do you believe God speaks to you if you declare His voice to the world?  Do you believe dry bones can live?  When is the last time you heard the voice of God and what did you do with it?

Ask God right now to speak to you.  There is a voice from God that is telling you where you are and where you need to go.  Do you trust Him, His Son and the Holy Spirit?  The conversations need to go two ways and whatever He says, you respond with joy!

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