Summary: The sermon looks at the difference between "hearing" God and "listening" to Him and His commands by introducing the Christian Spiritual Disciplines, how they help us to hear, listen and obey God. The sermon focused upon the three (most importance discipl
HAVE YOU HEARD?
The Spiritual Disciplines and Listening to God
Stephen H. Becker, M.Div.
November 14, 2007
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church—Elk Grove
When God speaks, do you obey Him? For Christians, this might seem like a silly question for someone to ask and I think most would answer, “Of course, I’d obey Him.” As Christians, it pretty much goes without saying that we love God and want to obey Him. We want to be like Isaiah, answering God with “Here I Am!” But the issue for many of us Christians is similar to the issue we read about in today’s Old Testament lesson. God speaks, but often people do not listen. God speaks, but often people do not listen. But why is that? I know that as a parent, there many times when I am irritated with my children because I have asked them to do something, and then upon finding out that the task didn’t get done, they’d claim, well, “you never told me to do that.” What’s even more frustrating is when I remember, distinctly, telling them, to do that chore. I spoke; the kids heard me, but they didn’t listen. And here it is again in Jeremiah. God speaks, but the people do not listen. So let me ask you, when is the last time God spoke to you? Does He speak to you? And if so, do you hear him? Are you listening to Him? Let’s open with prayer…
In our reading today, we find the people of Judah in a bit of hot water. God had a warning for them…a warning that the Lord sincerely wanted them to hear and obey. Here the Lord instructed His Prophet, Jeremiah, to confront the people who came to worship in the Jerusalem temple. If the people persisted in their sin and refused to listen to the Lord’s prophets, Jerusalem would be invaded and the Lord would abandon his temple, just as he had abandoned the sanctuary at Shiloh. So Jeremiah hoped that this warning would bring the people to their senses and prompt them to listen to God, to stop sinning and to repent and ask for forgiveness. Did the people listen to God’s message? Well, they “heard” it, but they certainly didn’t listen to it or obey it. In fact, verse seven tells us, “the priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaks these words…” But their actions certainly didn’t demonstrate that they listened because if you keep reading in chapter 26, you’ll find that they, in fact, tried to kill the Prophet because of the message. Hearing, then, is not the same as listening and obeying. It’s just like when my son hears me ask him to clean up his room, but he listens by moving his toys from one pile to another.
What are, then, some of the ways we as Christians can learn to listen to, and obey the Lord? In verse three, we see that God wants us to do more than simply hear Him; He wants us to listen, and in listening, we have God on our side as we resist evil, and, moreover, turn our lives in the direction of God. So listening to God is far more than hearing. But hearing is the starting point of where we receive God’s word. We can’t listen if we can’t hear. God, in His love for us, has given us many ways to hear His message and to listen to it; these ways are gifts from God and are known as the spiritual disciplines. The spiritual disciplines are practices—they are putting into practice what we have learned from Scripture and from the Holy Spirit as a regular part of our Christian lives. The Bible itself lists many of the spiritual disciplines that God has given us, as tools in growing closer to Him. So, let’s take a look then at a few of them that will allow us to avoid what Jeremiah was warning us about today in the reading, while allowing us to really listen to God.