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.
One of the most important spiritual disciplines for a Christian then is God’s Holy Word…our Bible. Scripture is the place to which we can go to find God’s Word…where we can go to hear the Word of the Lord. The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we have all broken it. The Word of God in Scripture tells us that “for the wages of sin is death.” So, in Scripture, we learn about God’s righteous requirements…what He expects of each of His children. And in Scripture, we find what the result of disobedience to God’s Law is. Hopeless and death. But then in this same Scripture of God, this same Word of God, we find the Good News of Jesus Christ. In the Bible, God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, Who is the real Word of God made flesh. There in Scripture we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for all of us breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. When we hear and listen to the written Word of God, we are literally hearing and listening to our own salvation. Paul puts it this way in Romans 10:17, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Friends, in the Bible, we learn the ways and will of the Lord; in Scripture we find how to live in a way that is pleasing to God. You see Scripture allows us to hear God’s Word. But moreover, in Scripture we learn how to listen to God’s word. Jesus tells us in Luke 11:28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” So one of the greatest spiritual disciplines is the Word of God, our Holy Scripture. And friends, we can do more than just read the Bible. We can study it, we can memorize it, we can read it as part of our daily devotion, either alone or together with another believer. These are all spiritual disciplines related to God’s Word. Think about this example my friends, “The largest radio receive on earth is in New Mexico. Pilots call it ‘the mushroom patch.’ Its real name is the Very Large Array, also know as the VLA. It is a series of huge satellite disks on thirty-eight miles of railways. Together the dishes mimic a single telescope the size of Washington, D.C. Astronomers come from all over the world to analyze the optical images of the heavens composed by the VLA from the radio signals it receives from space. Why is such a giant apparatus needed? Because the radio waves, often emitted from sources millions of light years away, are very faint. The total energy of all radio waves ever recorded barely equals the force of a single snowflake hitting the ground. What great lengths people will go to searching for a faint message from space when God has already spoken so clearly through His Son and through His Word. All the while, we as Christians remember what the Apostle Peter said in 2 Peter (1:19), ‘We have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.’”