M: 10/13/19: “Ask to Listen”

We are in a series called SoulShift: The measure of a life transformed, where we’ve been talking about powerful shifts God makes on the inside of us. Today we are going to talk about the shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’.

Let me ask you a question. What would you say is the main difference between someone who is a Christian, and someone who is not? The answer is that a Christian has a personal relationship with God.

Let’s say you have a friend who is in the hospital and one day they call you and ask you to stop by and bring some books for them. So you head to the hospital, go to the front desk and drop off some books with a post-it note that says, “For: So-and-so” then you leave. Well, you’ve technically done what they asked but let’s take the same scenario, only this time let’s say you pick out your friend’s favorite books, then you put together a few of your friend’s favorite snacks, you pack some games, and then you go into your friend’s room and sit by their side, you talk for hours, sometimes you sit in silence as friends do, and you are there with them. Which of these two scenarios describes the kind of relationship God wants to have with you? Yet when we talk about a personal relationship with God, there are many people who believe that God was content to drop off some books 2000 years ago and then disappear never to be seen from or heard from again.

Please hear my heart. I love this book more than any other possession I own. The Bible is the most powerful book ever written. Its truths are the same yesterday, today, and forever, but this book was never meant to replace a relationship with the living God, it was meant to lead you into one. Too often we approach this book looking for answers rather than
listening for the still small voice of the one who gave it to us.

The fact is that, as citizens of the information age, we have become far too preoccupied with asking. Gone are the days of mystery and wonder. Today, if we want to know something, we simply whip out our phones and Google it. You don’t know something – wait 2 seconds, you will know it. But for all our knowing, have we become any smarter or wiser? Has our sovereignty over the information we consume made us more compassionate or loving? If we’re not careful we can approach God and His Word the same way we approach a search bar. I just throw up a question and wait for the answer.
But here are some things that happen when I shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’:

  • When I ask, I am always talking, so my mind is active and busy.
  • When I listen, I’m not talking, so my mind is passive and open to new directions.
  • When I ask, I want to know something, so my interests are confined to the things I want to know.
  • When I listen, I want to know what God tells me. I learn to respond according to what God is revealing to me at the time. That becomes my subject of interest.
  • When I ask, I expect an answer and I want it to be clear and practical. I often grow impatient with prolonged waiting.
  • When I listen, I realize I’m not in control of God, so I am more patient and open to ambiguity.
  • When I ask, my relationship with God is peripheral. I value it only so far as it helps me find an answer.
  • When I listen, my relationship with God is the reason I am talking to Him. So how do we make the shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’? The first thing we need to understand,

Scripture and history give us countless stories of men and women who were able to tune into the unseen frequency of God’s voice and discern His purpose for their lives. In fact, the people who make the biggest impact and leave the greatest legacies are those who are able to both hear and follow God’s voice. Jesus made it clear that His followers would be marked by the unique ability to recognize and listen to His voice. “ 2  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out,” (John 10:2-3 NIV).

In this passage Jesus is the shepherd and God’s people are the sheep. The Bible says that God’s people listen to His voice. How do we know Jesus is the shepherd? Look at verse 14. Jesus says, 14  “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16  I have other
sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd,” (vv. 14-16). When Jesus says He has sheep that are not of this sheep pen, He’s referring to non-Jewish people or Gentiles. Anybody here not of Jewish descent? We are the other sheep that Jesus is referring to. And Jesus says He knows His sheep and they know Him. The sheep listen to His voice.
“ 27  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” (v 27). So Jesus makes it clear that the moment you said “Yes” to Him, you became a new creation and are now able to listen to His voice. This isn’t something you do; it’s who you are!

Did you know that at this very moment there are a number of invisible signals, transmissions, and programs being broadcast all around us? In this very room, filling the space between us, are invisible streams of information that, if we could tune into them, would reveal classical symphonies, conversations, interviews, and reports of current events. Unfortunately, none of us has the ability to receive those transmissions, for that you’d need a radio. But just as this radio is designed to receive those invisible transmissions the Bible says you were created to hear God’s voice. Because right now, at this very moment, God is broadcasting all around us. Filling the space between us, are invisible streams of His love that, if we could tune into them, would reveal How He feels about us, His plan for our lives, and how loved we truly are. This isn’t a gift reserved for Pastors or ministers; Jesus says all of His sheep listen to His voice. Turn to your neighbor and say, “You’re a sheep!” Say, “Bah”. 

To unpack this further, write in your second blank,

Whoa! Surely there must be a typo there! I thought you were going to say Jesus is alive or Jesus is returning! Why would we celebrate Jesus being gone? Why indeed! That’s exactly what the disciples were asking themselves in John 16 when Jesus told them He was leaving. Listen to Jesus’ words to His disciples, moments before He would leave them forever, “ 5  “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6  But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7  But I tell
you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you,” (John 16:5-7 NASB). “ 7  But in fact, it is best for you that I go away,” (John 16:7 NLT).
Let me ask you a question, and this is Church so be honest, how many of you have ever been broken up with – like, you were the one who got dumped? Doesn’t this sound like a bad breakup line! “I’m going to go now. Don’t ask me where I’m going but just know, it’s best for you that I go away.” But obviously Jesus wasn’t offering up empty words to make His disciples feel better. He truly meant that God’s best would come once He left! But let’s be honest. If you were one of Jesus’ disciples hearing this at the time, you would have been
thinking, “Jesus what is better than having you here?” Even for us, how many of you think it would be awesome if Jesus were alive on the earth today? What could be better than that? Jesus gave us the answer in verse 7, “If I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you;
but if I go, I will send Him to you.” The Helper Jesus was talking about was the Holy Spirit. You see, what the disciples didn’t realize was that Jesus was preparing to stage one of the greatest SoulShifts of all time – the shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’. Jesus was saying the time is coming when you will no longer need to ask someone who outside of you but rather listen to the voice inside of you. You no longer ask one who is with you, but listen to the One within you. Making the shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’ means shifting from an external voice to an internal voice; from asking someone outside to asking the Spirit who is inside; from
asking for advice to listening to God’s heart; from being taught to being led; from obedience to discernment.

I believe in these days God wants to shift His people from knowledge to revelation. As Christians, we still depend on getting our answers more from without than from within.

The problem is not that we seek wise counsel, listen to good teaching, or turn to friends. It’s that we only seek these things and never learn to hear the voice of God within us. Godly counsel is great and it’s important to surround yourself with good Christian brothers and sisters for accountability but listen, God has directions for your future that He wants to show you personally, God has insights about the way He created you that He wants to share with you personally, God has words of love, correction, and affirmation that will only come through a personal relationship and hearing His voice. Don’t go through life settling for what others say about God, you were created to hear Him for yourself!

So to those who say, “Wouldn’t it be something if Jesus were alive on the earth today?” I say, you must not know the Helper – the Holy Spirit; because of Him the Spirit of Jesus is alive and not just in one person but in billions of people on the earth today. The same power to love, to encourage, and to heal is alive in billions of people on the earth today but are we listening to Him? So each of us was designed to listen to God’s voice and Jesus wants
us to make the shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’. What do we do? The answer is simple but not always easy,

“ 11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not toharm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Do you believe that? God has plans for each and every person here today. Do you know what they are?
12  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me [On Sunday morning] [Whenever it’s convenient] with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV).
God has amazing plans to prosper you and save you from harm; plans to give you hope and a future but the Bible says we need to seek Him. Draw near to Me, says the Lord, and I will draw near to you.
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree,” (Jeremiah 29:13 MSG).
Now when it comes to seeking the Lord, I wish I could offer you a brand new path that is going to take you to a whole new level. But the truth is that the best way to know Jesus more is to practice the same tried, tested, and true methods people have been doing for
thousands of years. Are you ready? Pray, read the Bible, and go to Church. But remember, we’re contending for the shift from ‘Ask’ to ‘Listen’. So when we pray, we’re not simply asking for our needs, protection, health, or even God’s will for our life.

It’s not wrong to pray for these things, but try this – set an appointment with God. Plan a day where you get with the Lord with nothing but a pen and journal. Go somewhere for an extended amount of time (it doesn’t have to be all day) and sit with Him in listening prayer.
Don’t bring your phone or any electronic devices. Just sit and invite the Lord to speak. I guarantee you, as you’re sitting in silence, your mind will begin to wander and you will naturally begin to think of things you need to do. When those things come to mind, write them down so you can remember them for later, then go back to listening. If it helps, play
some soft Worship music in the background. Don’t ask for anything. Just sit and worship and be open to how God may speak. As you get impressions of what could be the Lord, write them down and reflect on them. Practice this with a hunger to hear from God and, in time, I promise He will speak.
The same goes for when you read the Bible. Don’t approach God’s Word for a principal to apply that day or for direction for the future. Don’t have an expectation that you have to read a whole chapter or x-amount of verses. If you’re going through a reading plan just read each verse slowly and reflect on what the Lord might be speaking to you through that
passage. You might not get past the first verse. That’s fine. Your goal is to hear God not receive more information. As you grow in hearing God speak to His Word you will become more confident hearing Him speak to you through His Spirit. Why? Because when God speaks, it sounds like scripture. God will never say anything to you that contradicts his Word. So get used to hearing God speak through scripture and you’ll become more familiar
with His voice in everyday life.

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