Hearing & Following the Voice of Jesus

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27)

This past Sunday as we explored the “Presence of the Spirit” in our new series Ghost Stories, I presented a way to pray that helps us experience the Holy Spirit’s leadership and guidance in our lives. I discovered this pattern in Gordon Smith’s book The Voice of Jesus. This book has had a significant impact on my spiritual life and how I follow the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. By way of reminder and further explanation, here’s the pattern for our prayer:

Gratitude is our response to the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we are loved by the Father. We must always start here—the love of God for us. Nothing is so fundamental to the Christian journey as knowing and feeling that we loved by the Father. It is from the experience of God’s love that we know the grace of God and live out every other dimension of our Christian faith. In gratitude, be specific about what you’re thankful for. In doing so, you will see and experience the presence of God and His goodness and love for you.

Confession is our response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. When we know the depths to which we are loved and known by the Father, then our sin becomes all the more “despicable.” I don’t say that to take us into deeper places of self-loathing and shame. I say that to ask, “how can we walk away from that love in our sin and disobedience?” The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and then disciplines us because He loves us… because He wants to remove all of the barriers and roadblocks that prevent us from seeing and experiencing the Father’s love. Our response is confession. As with gratitude, be specific about your sin and remember that God is faithful to forgive and cleanse you (1 John 1:9)

Meditation is our response the Holy Spirit’s illumining our hearts and minds through Scripture. Knowing that we loved by the Father, having confessed our sin and rebellion against Him and His love, we are now ready to come to God through His Word. Our minds and hearts are clear to hear His voice and to see His character and plan as revealed through His Word. The Holy Spirit illumines (shines light on) the Word, and our hearts are changed in the process. Our response to that light is to meditate upon it. Here’s a helpful article about studying and meditating upon God’s word.

Discernment is our response to the Spirit guidance in times of choice. Now that we are beginning to know and experience the assurance that we loved by the Father, convicted of our sin in His perfect love, and having come to His Scriptures to shape our hearts and minds in light of who Jesus Christ really and fully is, now and only now are we ready to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides in times of choice.  The problem is that we often jump immediately to wanting the Spirit’s guidance in times of choice. When we go here without having practiced gratitude, confession, and meditation, we short-circuit the process and cannot clearly hear the voice of Jesus through the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we know we are loved, if we know we are forgiven and freed from our sin, and if we know the heart and character of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then we are much more likely to make the right choices through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Try praying this pattern and see how the Holy Spirit develops wisdom and discernment in your life and experience.

I’d enjoy hearing how it goes and if you have any questions or thoughts.

Confess|ing & Community

 

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him. And the more deeply he becomes in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown.

Dietrich Bonheoffer in Life Together

Jesus is LORD

“And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ.'” (Mark 8:29)

The most important question that Jesus will ever ask you is “Who do you say that I am?” And my hope and prayer is that you’ll answer, “You are my LORD. You are my only hope. You are my Savior. You are God Himself come to rescue and restore me.” The confession “Jesus is LORD” is the most fundamental confession of the Christian faith… nothing is as simple and nothing is as important. How does the confession “Jesus is LORD” change everything?

Jesus is LORD of…

Creation. If Jesus is the LORD of creation, then He’s all-powerful. He has the power to do whatever He wants and needs to do in and through your life, and even your crises.

Incarnation. If Jesus is the LORD of the incarnation… God Himself who came down to this sin-infested, broken world full of broken people, it means that He is near. He is in the thick of it with you. He’ll never leave or forsake you.

Crucifixion. If Jesus is the LORD of the crucifixion, it means He died for you to take away your sin. You are no longer condemned because of your sin and rebellion against God. Jesus died the death you should have died, paid the penalty you should have paid, and offers you the life you were created to live in and through Him. You are forgiven and set free.

Resurrection. If Jesus is the LORD of the resurrection, just as He was given life from death, so are you. Jesus can make all things new in your life and in your world. He can heal and bring life back to those broken, dark places in your life.

Ascension. If Jesus is the LORD of the ascension, in heaven on the very throne of the universe, it means that nothing escapes His purview and vision. Nothing goes unnoticed. He knows every heart ache you have, every struggle with faith, every tear that falls. And it means that He stands ready to intercede and pray for you, to give you the faith to believe that He really is who He says He really is.

Where do you need to experience Jesus’ lordship in your life right now? Do you need to see the all-powerful Lord of creation move in your life? Do you need to know that the Incarnate Lord is near you bearing your burdens? Do you need to trust and believe that the Lord who was crucified for you really has forgiven you and set you free? Do you need to experience the Lord’s resurrection power that makes all things new in your life? Do you need to see Jesus as the Lord of heaven, ruling and reigning over the universe?  Respond to Him today and confess that Jesus is LORD.

The Spiritual Discipline of Confession

“Nevertheless, 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. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” (John 16:7-9)

In Gordon Smith’s The Voice of Jesus, we are taught the spiritual discipline of confession. Our confession of sin is first and foremost rooted in the reality that we are loved by God (Romans 5:8). God loves us extravagantly so, and our sin impedes our ability to hear Jesus’ voice in our lives. Smith writes, “God is calling us away from sin, from that which is not life but death, from that which undercuts our capacity to hear the voice of Jesus and be all that we are called to be” (p. 91).

Confession is the spiritual discipline that enables us to respond intentionally to the convicting ministry of the Spirit.

The spiritual discipline of confession includes (see The Voice of Jesus pp. 103-107):

  • The prayer of humility. We are sinners in need of mercy.
  • Acknowledgment of Wrong. We must agree with the Spirit that we are not living in what is true and good.
  • Acknowledgment of Responsibility. We must admit personal responsibility and culpability and no scapegoat and blame others or our circumstances.
  • Repudiation and turning from sin. We experience grief and remorse from our sin, but true confession also involves turning and repentance from our sin.
  • Acceptance of forgiveness. When we come to Jesus in confession, He promises to forgive us (1 John 1:9).
  • Reformation and accountability. Confession involves purposeful action towards change and transformation. We must develop concrete action steps to live in this new place of freedom and forgiveness. And there is great value in intentional accountability with another Christian brother or sister.

We are loved by the Father and we respond in gratitude. We are also convicted of our sin, and we respond in confession. This forgiveness frees us to hear Jesus voice more as the Spirit illumines our hearts and minds in the Scriptures, which in turn allows us to hear and follow Jesus’ guidance and He leads us in times of choice. See “The Prayer of Wisdom” for the pattern and character of our prayers.

Learn to practice the spiritual discipline of confession. Is there anything you would add to the spiritual discipline of confession?

The Prayer for Wisdom*

(*The pattern of prayer explained here is taken from Gordon Smith’s The Voice of Jesus)

One of the most incredible miracles of being a follower of Jesus is that we have the Holy Spirit, God Himself, living inside of us guiding, directing, and leading us towards wisdom and discernment. There’s a process to what the Holy Spirit does in our lives, and our response to His movement brings us to a place of wisdom and discernment. There’s a character to our prayer. That character and pattern of our prayers is: Gratitude, Confession, Meditation, and Discernment. It’s a pattern of prayer that responds to who God is and what He does through the Holy Spirit.

Gratitude is our response to the Holy Spirit’s assurance that we are loved by the Father. We must always start here… the love of God for us. Nothing is so fundamental to the Christian journey as knowing and feeling that we loved by the Father. It is from the experience of God’s love that we know the grace of God and live out every other dimension of our Christian faith. So the Holy Spirit begins by assuring us of the Father’s love for us, toward us, in us, and through us. And our response is gratitude for that love.

Confession is our response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. When we know the depths to which we are loved and known by the Father, then our sin becomes all the more “despicable.” I don’t say that to take us into deeper places of self-loathing and shame. I say that to ask, “how can we walk away from that love in our sin and disobedience?” The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and then disciplines us because He loves us… because He wants to remove all of the barriers and roadblocks that prevent us from seeing and experiencing the Father’s love. Our response to the Spirit’s conviction of sin is confession.

Meditation is our response the Holy Spirit’s illuminating our hearts and minds through Scripture. Knowing that we loved by the Father, having confessed our sin and rebellion against Him and His love, we are now ready to come to God through His Word. Our minds and hearts are clear to hear His voice and to see His character and plan as revealed through His Word. And the Holy Spirit illuminates (shines light on) the Word, and our hearts are changed in the process. Our response to that light is to meditate upon it.

Discernment is our response to the Spirit guidance in times of choice. Now that we are beginning to know and experience the assurance that we loved by the Father, convicted of our sin in His perfect love, and having come to His Scriptures to shape our hearts and minds in light of who Jesus Christ really and fully is, now and only now are we ready to hear the voice of Jesus through the Holy Spirit as He leads and guides in times of choice.  The problem is that we often jump immediately to wanting the Spirit’s guidance in times of choice. When we go here without having practiced gratitude, confession, and meditation, we short-circuit the process and cannot clearly hear the voice of Jesus through the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we know we are loved, if we know we are forgiven and freed from our sin, and if we know the heart and character of God as revealed in the Scriptures, then we are much more likely to make the right choices through the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Try praying with this pattern and see how the Holy Spirit develops wisdom and discernment in your life and experience.