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Description: Hearing and Discerning God’s Voice
Hearing and Discerning God’s Voice
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Karl Barth baffles you repeatedly when he gets way beyond in his thinking on some things so that I
just pass over some of it and pick it up the next time. He’s great and always speaks beyond what he
fully understands but certainly what we understand. And one of those things that he bewildered me
with a couple of volumes back was when he said, “God could have decided not to show himself.” Why
did he will to show himself? It bewilders you once you start thinking about it.
We wouldn’t have known anything about him and we wouldn’t have had to bother with God. God could
have decided not to show himself and he would still be God and still have all that he has. I thought
about it and decided, “Yes, that’s right.” And Barth makes the point that the only reason God would
bother to show himself was because of his love. He wanted others to know him and see him. And you
begin to think, “Yes, that’s right. He didn’t have to show himself. It was really loving to show
himself especially now that we understand what that cost him.”
Then Barth says, “He had his own son. God didn’t need us or anyone.” You probably know it if you’ve
read a little theology – it’s what’s called the eternal generation of the son. All we know is that
Jesus was with God forever. And then Barth goes onto say, “God had to speak a word for anybody to
know anything about him. And that word was his own dear son. That was the only way he could show
himself as he really was, through his own son who was part of him and like him in every way.”
And it begins to make sense of the Apostle John. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was
with God and the word was God.” Of course what Barth points out was that Jesus was the word, God’s
expression of himself. That was how God expressed himself to anyone — through his own son. Jesus
was with God from beyond the beginning of time, and then God spoke his son out beyond himself. He
projected himself beyond himself by projecting himself in his own son.
Then I thought of the extra person walking with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. You know the story
of the fiery furnace. “And there walked with him another person like the son of God.” It’s so nice
of God to put it so plainly. We wouldn’t know who that was unless he said, “like unto the son of
God.” Slowly you begin to catch the truth that Jesus expressed himself at times through Isaiah, at
times as the extra person in the fiery furnace, at times as an angel, even at times through the
burning bush. All these epiphanies of God in the Old Testament were Christ expressing himself in
different ways so that we could begin to know God.
And then the Bible says, “In these end times he has spoken to us through his son.” And of course
that was a mighty change when Christ no longer spoke through just a prophet or an image of a fiery
furnace but spoke through a human being. He took to him himself a human body like ours and lived in
our world doing the things we do. And suddenly we saw God alive! This is God himself! This is what
he is like! And so the word became flesh and dwelt among us. Those were wonderful years. Jesus
himself expresses it, “In a little while you won’t see me again and then I’ll come back for a short
time (about a month) and then I’ll go. But it’s to your advantage that I’m going because I’m going
to send myself to you in my Spirit.”
And that’s what happened on the day of Pentecost. The Spirit was Christ himself. Remember the Bible
says, “The Lord is the Spirit”. And Christ himself came with his own Spirit into the dear people at
Pentecost. And the word became flesh in them.
Francis Collins is the guy that was in charge of the genome project that maps the genes of our body.
He is a Christian and has written the book Language of God. He outlines a lot of the details of the
genome and says that there are about 20,000 genes in us. He points out that .01% of the genes in you
are the only time they appear. In each of us .01% of our genes are unlike anybody else.
I used to talk about us being unique because it seemed obvious from God’s care of us – counting all
the hairs of our heads. But of course now the scientists have caught up and they are saying that
.01% of the 20,000 genes you have are absolutely unique. There is only one Martha Nelson and there
will only be on Martha Nelson.
God is still speaking his word and expressing himself. He’s expressing himself in each one of us in
this room in a way that he does in no other person. And that’s why we are here. There’s something of
God in you that there isn’t in anybody else in exactly the same way. And God didn’t just make you to
be different. He made you so that he could do and say through you something of himself. And that’s
why we are here.
And that really is the importance of that part of the armor of God starting in Ephesians 6:13 -17,
“Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and
having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on
the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of
peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming
darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the
word of God.”
Here’s the great flaw of everything that I’ve just said to you. “Do you mean that all of us have
something of God in us? Is it true all of us have a part of God that nobody else has? Is what they
see in me really God?” This opens the way for the guy who says, I’m Napoleon Bonaparte. I’m Christ.
God has graciously given us the sword of the Spirit. He’s graciously outlined to us, “This is what
I’m like.” So when someone expresses something of himself and you wonder about it you can just check
it out here in this book (the Bible). Is it the same Spirit that is outlined in detail in this
book? This is the sword of God’s spirit and this word expresses God as he really is.
If you are uncertain that what you are expressing is what God thinks, then just look and see if it
is in line with this word. Those of us interested in Greek know that the word for “word” is rhema
and it’s really the utterance of God. It’s God’s own utterance. Again and again you can sense in
this book what God is uttering. It’s not just a matter of checking out something that you’ve done or
thought and looking it up to see if you can find the words in this book. But it’s reading and
studying the Bible so that it is able to speak to you in your heart and your spirit. It’s able to
utter again to you what God is thinking.
And you can do it in different ways. My grandmother had a little box of promises, little curled up
pieces of paper with verses on them. You picked one out and read God’s word to you. Wesley at times
would just open the Bible and his eyes would light on a verse. I don’t mean that but reading the
Bible with a hunger to hear God and a desire for Him and then meditating upon it so that God’s
Spirit speaks to you or often just gives you an impression.
I’ve often had the experience of reading a verse or chapter and coming to a line like, “the
steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” I’d never bother with Lamentations but as I read it just
came home to me that the steadfast love of the Lord NEVER ceases. I thought, “Do you mean NEVER
ceases — it just goes on forever?” It brought up to me, being a good protestant, the issue of
purgatory. I’m sure it doesn’t work like purgatory but if the steadfast love of the Lord never
ceases then we can’t contradict that.
As you meditate upon this dear word, the rhema of God, the Spirit of God gives you revelation and
light. And that enables you to know are you on the right track. Is this thing within me, that I feel
I should do what God wants me to do? I agree with you it’s not just a matter of looking it up and
seeing if God tells you to do this. But it is dwelling in this book, spending time with it, loving
it and wanting to know what it says. Then, God reveals to you where you are or what you should be
doing or thinking.
That’s why we are here in business, going around to our accounts and selling the jewelry that we
make. God has something of himself to show them through you and me that he has not planned to show
through anybody else. It will not come from us consciously thinking, “What can I say to them today
that will make it all real?” No, it comes from us joyfully walking in God’s presence and as we do
that he is able to show himself through us.
That’s why the Bible is talking about taking the whole armor of God and standing in the evil day. We
are not fighting against flesh and blood. We are fighting against principalities and powers. What
are those powers saying? Your car isn’t going right. There’s something wrong with your car. There is
something you have to get done. You haven’t planned what you are going to do for your holiday. What
are you going to do? Your mother is not well what are you going to do? This person doesn’t like you
very much. You are feeling uncomfortable with the shoes you have on. Or, someone criticizes you at
the service station.
They are principalities and powers – all trying to take you away from the joy and delight of your
father loving and dwelling in you and Jesus having things to say through you. So that’s why he says
to take the whole armor of God so that you’ll be able to stand against all the principalities and
powers that are trying to preoccupy you with all these silly and unimportant things.
Passivity can be one of the ways that the principalities and powers work upon you. You just sit in
the car and daydream or “wool gather”. You aren’t really thinking or praying –just doing nothing.
That’s why God says to take the whole armor of God, the sword of the spirit, the helmet of
salvation, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness – all these things. Have them, use
them and wear them so that he himself can begin to speak through you.
So it’s a pretty active thing. When we are dry and things are dead that’s the principalities and
powers. We need to stand and standing is us saying, “Lord, I’m with you at your right hand, above
every rule and authority, dominion and power.” It’s dwelling where God has placed us at his right
hand, even when we were yet sinners he made us alive in Christ and raised us up with him.
It’s not just a slick little game we are playing. It’s a real battle against the thoughts that are
opposite to what is truth. It’s a preoccupation with this world that we see. Do we really get up
each morning and think, “Lord Jesus what do you want to do today?” No, we think, “It looks like
another rainy day.” Aren’t we full of ourselves? We are so full of ourselves and utterly
preoccupied with ourselves. Of course that’s foolishness. We are not the reality. The reality is the
Spirit of Jesus inside of us trying to get out. Let us pray.