Transformed by listening
There is a wonderful intimacy that Jesus Christ shared with the Father while here on earth. It is this same intimacy that God wishes to share with us!
Back when the telegraph was the fastest method of long-distance communication, a young man applied for a job as a Morse Code operator. Answering an ad in the newspaper, he went to the office that was listed. When he arrived, he entered a large, busy office filled with noise and clatter, including the sound of the telegraph in the background.
A sign on the receptionist’s counter instructed job applicants to fill out a form and wait until they were summoned to enter the inner office. The young man filled out his form and sat down with the seven other applicants in the waiting area.
After a few moments, the young man stood up, crossed the room to the door of the inner office, and walked right in. Naturally the other applicants perked up, wondering what was going on. They muttered among themselves that they hadn’t heard any summons yet. They assumed that the young man who went into the office made a mistake and would be disqualified.
Within a few minutes, however, the employer escorted the young man out of the office and said to the other applicants, "Gentlemen, thank you for coming, but the job has just been filled."
The other applicants began grumbling to each other, and one spoke up saying, "Wait a minute, I don’t understand. He was the last to come in, and we never got a chance to be interviewed. Yet he got the job. That’s not fair!"
The employer said, "I’m sorry, but the last several minutes while you’ve been sitting here, the telegraph has been ticking out the following message in Morse Code. ‘If you understand this message, then come right in. The job is yours.’ None of you heard it or understood it. This young man did. The job is his." "Let he who has ears to hear, use them."
In my thinking, there is a vast difference between hearing and listening. Often the words are used interchangeably but to me they carry much different meanings. The men who were waiting to be interviewed were hearing a lot of things in the busy telegraph office, even hearing the telegraph clicking in the background, but it was only the young man who got the job who was listening. You see hearing is something that occurs passively, it is something we have no control over. Whereas, listening is something that occurs actively, it is something that we do have control over. Hearing doesn’t always result in an action, but listening always does.
Listening is when we use our ears to hear rather than just letting our ears hear. We know we’re hearing when we are aware someone is speaking, we know we’re listening when we respond to what someone is saying. Remember listening can sometimes come from hearing, but hearing always comes from listening. We "hear" music, but we’re listening to it when the music brings us to some sort of action, something as simple as a smile or as complex as a dance. I know there are some times when I’ll hear my wife but she’ll be quick to point out that I’m not listening to what she’s saying, how does she know? By what I am doing!
God wants people to listen to Him. Yet, we live in a world where many people don’t even hear God let alone listen to Him. And sadly, even the people who do "hear" Him aren’t listening. How do we know? By what they’re doing! Remember listening is something that is active in nature, whereas hearing is passive.
Supernatural Transformation occurs in part when we become listeners, not mere hearers of God’s voice. Do we hear the voice of God in a world that is filled with noise and clatter? Better yet, are we listening for the message God wants us to hear? Throughout the scriptures God has always put a premium upon not only hearing, but listening to His voice.
Nehemiah 8:3 (NKJV) 3 Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.
Proverbs 8:32-33 (NKJV) 32 "Now therefore, listen to Me, My children, For blessed are those who keep My ways. 33 Hear instruction and be wise, And do not disdain it.
Matthew 7:24 (NKJV) 24 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:
James 1:22 (NKJV) 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22 (7X)
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches…"
Does God put any less emphasis and significance upon listening and acting for you and I today? God expects you and I to learn to listen and act upon the things spoken to us in His eternal Word. To not only hear His Word but listen to it. If we are to be supernaturally transformed and have the heart of Christ manifested in our lives then we need to not only hear the truths of God but we also need to listen to them! That is, we need to not only be aware that God is speaking but also respond to what He is saying.
The Listener puts Himself in a place to Hear.
Mark 1:35 (NKJV) 35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He (Jesus) went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.
Luke 5:16 (NKJV) 16 So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed.
One characteristic that stands out about Jesus is that He prayed. In these two passages we learn that Jesus’ heart was a listening heart. Jesus understood that He needed time with the Father, time to communicate with Him. And this communication involved speaking and listening, not just hearing but listening. Jesus would later tell His disciples…
John 15:15 (NKJV) No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.
Jesus learned from the Father because He had a heart that listened. Jesus was a listener.
When Jesus encountered the Father in those quiet times He entered with the purpose of listening to the Father, He purposely positioned Himself to HEAR what the Father wished to say. How do we spend our time with the Father? Doing all the talking with God not getting a word in edge wise? Or do we spend it listening to hear what God has to say? There is a lot that God wants to say to us folks but if we’re not listening we won’t hear it! That is, until He gets our attention.
Maybe that’s how we should look at the difficulties that we go through in our lives. Is God trying to get our attention so that we’ll listen and hear what He wants to say to us?
Can we ever get away from the scene in which Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus? The better question might be, "Do we want to leave that scene?" Do we not want to take the time to listen to Jesus? Isn’t that where we belong?
Luke 10:41-42 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "You are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
There are times for serving, but God wants our attention more than our service. He wants our ears more than our mouths. He wants our hearts more than our minds. HE wants us!
If we are to be like Jesus we need to purposely place ourselves at the feet of Jesus and listen to what He wants us to hear! Have we settled for anything less?
The Listener is also careful of what He listens to.
It is amazing how often God’s Word, The Bible, doesn’t enter into the conversation when people start talking about "God speaking" to them. I guess it gives it more of a spiritual punch to think God spoke directly to them without having to use His Word. I know God can and does speak to us but I believe God speaks primarily to us through His living Word, and anything we think He is saying must align itself with the Word.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
Not only did Jesus spend regular time with God in prayer, He also spent regular time in God’s Word. Of course we don’t find Jesus pulling a leather-bound New Testament from his satchel and reading it. We do, however, see the awesome example of Jesus, while in the trauma of the wilderness temptation, using the Word of God to deal with Satan. Three times He is tempted, and each time He resists the attack with the phrase, "It is written" (Luke 4:4,8,12), and then He quotes a verse. Jesus is so familiar with scripture that He not only knows the verse, but He knows how and when to use it.
Another occasion in which Jesus’ knowledge of the scripture comes into play is when He was asked to read in the synagogue. He demonstrated by His reading in Luke 4:21 that He knew His way around the Word of God.
Folks, the listener is one who is careful of what He listens to, he matches up what he hears with what he knows is right. He goes to the right source.
Do you know that there are only two ways we can study the Bible? Study it with our mind made up or study it to let it make up our mind.
The listener will go to the Word of God to listen to what it says, not to tell it what to say! So much error and misinterpretation of the Bible has come about because people aren’t really listening to it at all!
John 14:26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
It is important that as we approach God’s word that we pray for His Spirit to show us the meaning, and the application of His word to our life. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help us Hear the truth! And as His word says, the truth will set you free!
If we would read God’s Word for the purpose of hearing His voice; wouldn’t we read it in greater fashion?
Psalms 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
The Listener isn’t satisfied with what someone else has heard. And yes I realize that for some of us it is difficult. Some of us have tried to have a daily quiet time and have not been successful. Others have a hard time concentrating. And all of us are busy. So rather than spending time with God, listening for His voice, we’ll let others spend time with Him and then benefit from their experience. We’ll let them tell us what God is saying. After all, isn’t that why we have a pastor? They are good at listening to God, I’ll just learn from them.
We like others to listen for us. Would we do that with our vacation? Would we send someone else on a vacation on our behalf and then have them tell us all about it when they get home? Would we hire someone else to romance our spouse and then have them tell us all about it? How about eating? Would we be satisfied to have someone tell us about the culinary delights they enjoyed on our behalf? I don’t know about you but the answer for me is NO! I want to experience those things FIRST-HAND!!
And yet, this is what many people are satisfied with in their relationship with the Father. Folks, the listener is one who realizes that listening to God is a firsthand experience.
When God asks for our attention, He doesn’t want us to send a substitute; He wants us. He invites us to vacation in His splendor. He invites us to feel His touch. He invites us to feast at His table of plenty. He wants to spend time with us. With a little effort, our time with God can be the highlight of our day and we’ll realize that we aren’t satisfied with anything but a first-hand experience.
The Listener responds to what He hears.
So we’ve seen that Jesus is a listener. Because it is the Father’s desire to be transformed into the likeness of Christ He wants us to be listeners too. To purposely place ourselves where we can hear His voice, to be careful of what we listen to, and to not be satisfied with what someone else has heard. But so far, we’ve only covered half of the listening process. Remember that listening is more than just hearing. Listening involves a response to what we have heard. It is this response that I want to finish with.
John 17:20-23 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one: 23 I in them and You in Me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
John records a wonderful prayer that Jesus had for all believers who have made Jesus Christ Lord of our lives today. In this prayer Jesus not only tells of the nature of the relationship He shares with the Father but also the kind of relationship He desires from us. This relationship can best be described as one of "dependent intimacy". Jesus spent much time hearing what the Father had to say, but we know that Jesus was a listener because of the response He had to what He heard. And this response was shaped by the relationship He had with the Father.
Listener’s response indicates dependency. The life of Christ was never a life of independence from the Father but a life of dependence upon the Father. Every breath, thought and action was based upon His dependency on the guidance of the Father.
John 5:19-20 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, to your amazement He will show Him even greater things than these.
John 5:30 By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and My judgment is just, for I seek not to please Myself but Him who sent Me.
Jesus did nothing without the Father’s approval. The judgments He spoke of were the judgments of the father. The words of warning were the word of warning from the Father. The love He showed was the Father’s love. His heart was set upon acting in accordance with the will of the Father. Jesus’ response was dependent upon what He heard from the Father and what the Father did through Him!
What does God desire in you and me? The same! Jesus was setting the example of what is possible in our lives. What has happened in Jesus’ life can happen in ours!
John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.
How are we acting, independently or interdependently? Where is our heart leading us, a life by our self or a life that is hidden in Christ with the Father? Remember, "God loves us just the way we are, but He refuses to leave us there!!"
listener’s response indicates intimacy. Jesus’ was not only dependent in His relationship with the Father but it was also built on intimacy.
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.
God draws several pictures to describe the relationship He desires. One is 1 Corinthians 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; God also used marriage to show His desire for and the possibility of intimacy with Him. Revelations 21:2 describes the church as the bride of Christ. Romans 6:5 tells us that we are united with Christ. You’ll notice that people who live long lives together eventually begin to sound alike, to talk alike, even to think alike. As we walk with God, we take on His thoughts, His principles, His attitudes. We take on His heart.
Finally, one last picture, God uses the analogy of sheep and their shepherd to describe the intimacy He desires with us. Many times Scripture calls us the flock of God. "
Psalms 100:3 Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
We don’t need to know much about sheep to know that a good shepherd never leaves the flock. If you see a flock coming down a path, you know that a shepherd is nearby. If you see a Christian ahead, you can know the same. The Good Shepherd never leaves His sheep.
But notice, what John says, John 10:27, My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.
Here it is again, "LISTEN". Intimacy and dependency upon the Father is born out of our listening to His voice. When we respond to what He says, and when we follow where He leads.
The more we search the Bible, the more we realize that unbroken communion with God is the intent and not the exception. Within reach of every Christian is the unending presence of God."
I’d like to conclude with something I read in Max Lucado’s book, “Just Like Jesus” that sums up best what has been said. It is a story……you’ve heard before, though you’ve not heard it as I am going to tell it. Surely you have, for you are in it. You are one of the characters. It is the story of the dancers who had no music.
Can you imagine how hard that would be? Dancing with no music? Day after day they came to the great hall just off the corner of Main and Broadway. They brought their wives. They brought their husbands. They brought their children and their hopes. They came to dance.
The hall was prepared for a dance. Streamers strung, punch bowls filled. Chairs were placed against the walls. People arrived and sat, knowing they had come to a dance but not knowing how to dance because they had no music. They had balloons; they had cake. They even had a stage on which the musicians could play, but they had no musicians.
One time a lanky fellow claimed to be a musician. He sure looked the part, what with his belly-length beard and fancy violin. All stood the day he stood before them and pulled the violin out of the case and placed it beneath his chin. Now we will dance, they thought, but they were wrong. For though he had a violin, his violin had no strings. The pushing and pulling of his bow sounded like the creaking of an un-oiled door. Who can dance to a sound like that? So the dancers took their seats again.
Some tried to dance without the music. One wife convinced her husband to give it a try, so out on the floor they stepped, she dancing her way and he dancing his. Both efforts were commendable—but far from compatible. He danced some form of partner-less tango, while she was spinning like a ballerina. A few tried to follow their cue, but since there was no real cue, they didn’t know how to follow. The result was a dozen or so dancers with no music, going this way and that, bumping into each other and causing more than one observer to seek safety behind a chair.
Over time, however, those dancers grew weary, and everyone resumed the task of sitting and staring and wondering if anything was ever going to happen. And then one day it did.
Not everyone saw him enter, only a few. Nothing about his appearance would compel your attention. His looks were common, but his music was not. He began to sing a song, soft and sweet, kind and compelling. His song took the chill out of the air and brought a summer-sunset glow to the heart. And as he sang, people stood, a few at first, and then many and they began to dance. Flowing to a music they had never heard before, they danced. Some however, remained seated. What kind of musician is this who never mounts the stage? Who brings no band? Who has no costume? Why, musicians don’t just walk in off the street. They have an entourage, a reputation, a persona to project and protect. Why, this fellow scarcely mentioned his name!
"How can we know what you sing is actually music?" they challenged.
His reply was to the point: "Let the man who has ears to hear use them."
But the non-dancers refused to hear. So they refused to dance. Many still refuse. The musician comes and sings. Some dance. Some don’t. Some find music for life; others live in silence. To those who miss the music, the musician gives the same appeal: "Let the man who has ears to hear use them."
Let God have you, and let God love you, and don’t be surprised if your heart begins to hear music you’ve never heard and your feet learn to dance as never before.
United Methodist Church
218 College Street
P. O. Box 327
Ducktown, Tennessee 37317
Sunday School: 10:30 a.m.
Sunday Morning Worship: 11:00 a.m.
Rev. "T" Reamsnyder, Preaching