There is a Voice that demands to be heard above the competing crowd. There is Someone who commands we listen to Him over everyone else. There is a Man who speaks with such authority, and yet such winsomeness that He compels our attention.
There is a leader who never published a book, never held public office, never posted so much as a tweet, and yet His influence is greater than any other human.
This Man lived and died 2000 years ago in an obscure, though often fought over, corner of our World. This Man refused to remain dead, refused to be ignored, and still speaks today.
Jesus Christ, the son (so it was thought) of Joseph and Mary. The rural Northerner. The Carpenter. The Teacher. The Miracle-Worker. His Words ring out through the centuries, and urge us to LISTEN to him right now:
He called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand.” (Mark 7:14)
As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:8)
“Take care then how you hear.” (Luke 8:18)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
Notice how LISTENING to the voice of Jesus is linked with several things we have already spoken about:
It is a crucial factor in obeying the commands to first listen to them! As we are going through this exercise of looking at the commands of Jesus, I am starting to understand more why some Bible’s mark every word Jesus actually says red.
We ofter hear things today without really listening. But when we are talking about the commands of Jesus, we can’t really listen without then doing as he says.
There is a power in His commands. What we hear from Jesus, he wills into being within us. When he says ‘repent’ and a willing heart listens, he grants the gift of repentance. When he says ‘Be born again!” his very command becomes a promise.
How do you feel when you read these words of Jesus? How do you feel if you read them aloud, or listen to someone else reading them? Is your heart indifferent to them? Are they easily forgotten? Or are they gripping you, as we work through them slowly? Are you really listening?
Jesus has left us commands to obey. If we don’t pay attention, then we certainly shouldn’t expect him to speak to us today. He has spoken already. If we ignore these words, then why would he bother to speak again to us?
These precious words of Jesus urge us to hear his voice. And implicit in the last verse listed above is a promise that those of us who are his sheep will indeed hear him. Surely a big part of this is how we respond to the written words of Jesus. And yet, surely these words resonate with some found in Isaiah 30:21:
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
I do believe that for those who will listen to the commands of Jesus contained in the gospels, and act on them, there is also a promise of an ongoing, direct, intimate communication with Jesus.
After all, knowing Jesus is a critical test, according to the words of Jesus himself. He says those he never knew will be cast aside at the last day.
It is tragic that large portions of the Church have rejected all notion of knowing Jesus as a real concept. It wasn’t always so. In a free chapter from my book Raised With Christ, I catalogue stories from church history that demonstrate the vibrant reality of a relationship with Jesus that others who have gone before have known.
The chapter begins by looking at the experience of the Apostle Paul:
THE GREATEST GOAL OF Paul’s life was a relationship with the resurrected Jesus. He considered everything else as worthless compared to this one thing. Paul claimed that knowing Jesus is the most critical thing, without which we will not be able to be changed by the power of Jesus’ resurrection. We share in his sufferings and carry our cross (Mark 8:34), but by so doing, we share in the power of the resurrection, not only in the world to come, but also in this present world. Paul does not have to strive to attain to a future resurrection. That has already been achieved for him. Paul’s battle is instead the same as every Christian’s, that in this life we might experience in increasing measure something of what will be ours in the future. We can enjoy some of the future resurrection’s benefits right now.
Jesus also promised that he and the Father would make their home with anyone who loves him. Elsewhere Paul describes this in the words, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). It is perhaps strange, then, that although some Christians today do talk about a personal relationship with Jesus, those words can somehow sound trite. Many are embarrassed by such a statement and perhaps for fear of being labeled a “crazy charismatic” do not seek such an experience, nor value it if it has happened to them . . .
Many avoid showing any kind of emotion in response to God and are satisfied with studying God in a purely intellectual manner through Bible reading. We console ourselves with the idea that this is the “mature” approach and look down on those who are full of passion for a Jesus they claim to know. But a man who claimed to love a girl he had never met, but had only read letters she had written, would earn our pity. We were not promised a relationship with a book but with a person. Paul was not immature, and he wasn’t foolish. He was passionate for his books (see 2 Timothy 4:13), but more so for his relationship with Jesus. There has to be a way for us to pursue a personal knowledge of Jesus without throwing away our biblical anchor. We can love the author of the book he left us, which is intended to reveal the person of Jesus to us….
Re-reading the words of that whole chapter today made me yearn for a deeper relationship with Jesus. Perhaps part of our problem today is simply not making enough time to simply be still and really seek him with all our heart.
I have written extensively elsewhere about seeking to hear God, something that the charismatics refer to as prophecy. So I won’t repeat myself here, except to say one word of warning: of COURSE Jesus will never say anything today that counteracts one of his commands recorded in Scripture. And, don’t think that learning to listen to Jesus is somehow disconnected to reading the Bible. In fact, let me make a promise to you that I feel resonating in my spirit as I write these words: If you will learn to listen to the commands of Jesus, recognising them as his voice to you today, then you will also learn to hear his voice whispering directly to you, and you will know it is truly his voice for you will have learnt to recognise him by first hearing his commands.
No wonder Jesus Promised those who listen to his commands and obey them that he would not leave us as orphans.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (JOHN 14:18–23)
I will close this article with a quote from John Piper’s chapter on this command:
“The entire life and work of Jesus is one great argument why we should listen to his word. Page after page of the New Testament Gospels pile up reasons to turn off the television and listen to Jesus.” John Piper
This series was inspired by the book What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper. Why not join me in reading through this book in 2018?
Don’t miss the rest of this series on The Commands of Jesus,
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