3rd Apr 2016

Listening To The Voice of the Shepherd

By Steve Bones

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We are continuing with our theme this month of prayer, and this week are looking at the passage in Luke 6:12-16 (the calling of the 12 disciples) and John 10:1-28:

10:1 "I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them……

14 "I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd……

22 Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon's Colonnade. 24 The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. (NIV)

In the illustration Jesus used in verses 1 to 5 it is necessary to understand how shepherding worked in Jesus’ time. All the shepherds used a communal pen, so all the sheep got mixed up. To separate them, the shepherd would call his sheep and, as they recognised his voice, they would follow him and all the rest would stay in the pen.

One important point I would like to draw out from this passage – it is impossible to follow the Lord if we do not hear his voice! Reading the Bible is not enough, though essential it is not sufficient – we each need to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice.

But you may say ‘I cannot hear his voice’. If so, we need to ask ourselves a couple of searching questions:

(1) Am I one of Jesus’ sheep i.e. am I saved?

I was reading a book recently entitled ‘When God breaks in’ by Michael Green, an Anglican Minister. He was sharing about the life of John Wesley and George Whitfield. They both went to Oxford and longed for a return of the dynamic Christianity of the early church of Acts. Consequently they:

· Started the Holy Club, which met every evening (morality a big issue at that time)

· Visited Oxford prison, held services and met some of the practical needs

  • Fasted

· Acts of self-denial e.g. Whitfield praying all night on his knees in the rain

· The Wesleys went as missionaries to America to convert the Indians

BUT they were not saved; they had not yet been born again! John Wesley was ‘very religious, learned in the scriptures, a clergyman and a missionary’, but had not come humbly to Christ for salvation. He had been trying to save himself. They were both born again soon after this and started the Methodist Church here.

I read an interesting quote recently by William Booth (1829-1912) who was a Methodist preacher and the founder of the Salvation Army:

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.”

The Bible puts it another way ‘having the form of godliness but denying its power’ (2 Timothy 3:5)

(2) If I have the assurance I am saved having, to quote Peter "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (NIV Acts 2:38), then why cannot I hear?

It is this second question I want to spend the rest of my time exploring. However, if any anyone is challenged by the first question, please speak to Andy, me or someone afterwards.

Three features of hearing his voice from the above passage:

· It’s personal! We are all to hear Jesus’ voice personally.

· It’s intangible. We cannot touch or taste or feel his voice, can only hear.

· It’s present i.e. now. Jesus talks to us about where we are now, not only in the past or future where religious people often talk e.g. Old Testament or Jesus’ return.

Apart from needing to hear His voice to follow him, there are other benefits to hearing his voice:

  • Rom 10:17 ‘faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (NIV)
  • Matt 4:4 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (NIV)

We receive faith, which pleases God, and get fed!

Need to give you a quick Greek lesson. On Greek there are two words for ‘word’:

  • Logos, meaning the written word, eternal, mind.

· Rhema, meaning the spoken word, for now. This is the word bought by the Holy Spirit when, for example, you read something in the Bible and some phrase just seems to leap out and hit you, a wow moment!! (Examples when we went to Africa: Julie Isaiah 58:11; Steve Genesis 12:1)

You may not be surprised to learn that in the above two verses, the Greek word used is ‘rhema’! Whereas in the verse below, encouraging us to read/study the Bible, the Greek word is ‘logos’.

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (NIV)

How often should we expect to hear God’s voice?

Matt 4:4 above implies that it is daily, given we normally eat daily!

Further, Jesus listened to his Father’s voice every day, which we read in Isaiah 50:4-7:

The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught. The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. (NIV)

Jesus listened every day and received from the Lord:

· A word that sustains the weary – want to get words to encourage people?

  • Strength to keep going
  • Determination to finish the race
  • Personal direction of what to do

Jesus was always obedient to his Father’s word, ‘not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42).

If Jesus needed a word every day, don’t we? We were told by Jesus to pray ‘give us this day our daily bread’ – could this also include receiving a daily word from God (Matt 4:4)?

Firstly, how do we listen to the Good Shepherd’s voice?

I want to go back to the Old Testament, as they too had to listen to God’s voice:

1 Kings 3:5-10 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you." Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. "Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. (NIV)

In Hebrew, the actual words for discerning is ‘shamea’, which literally means to hear. So Solomon was asking for a hearing heart!

Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (NIV)

Why a wellspring of life?

Heb 3:15 "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (NIV)

Conclusion – we do not hear God’s voice with our ears, but with our heart! Also, as Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, it is possible for our heart to grow hard or callous (Matt 13:15), especially if we persist in sinning (Heb 3:12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God (NIV)).

Secondly, how then can we cultivate a sensitive heart to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice?

Remember, God does not shout! (Think of Elijah on Mount Horeb, a ‘gentle whisper’ or ‘still small voice’ 1 Kings 19:12).

Derek Prince suggests four requirements:

(1) Attention

(2) Humility, which implies we are teachable (Isaiah 50:4)

(3) Time; His time, not ours!

(4) Quietness

For (1) and (2), which are closely aligned:

  • Prov 4:20-22 My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their flesh. NKJV
  • Prov 5:1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, (NIV) Version)

We are encouraged to give God our full attention, and to ‘incline our ear’, or ‘bow the ear’ or ‘listen well’, all of which imply humility on our part – we want to hear, for example when an old person speaks who cannot speak very loud, we would go down to them ear first so we can hear what they whisper. We also want to learn!

For (3) and (4) which are also closely aligned:

  • Ps 46:10 "Be still, and know that I am God; (NIV)
  • Ps 62:1, 5 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him…. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (NIV)

We are told to be still, be silent, to cease striving, to let go and relax in God’s presence. To help us cultivate the right attitude, worship is good (‘hallowed be your name’ – play some music?), kneeling, fasting, going to a quiet place in the house!

Ps 95:6-7 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. (NIV)

Matt 6:6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (NIV) (Film ‘War Room’)

How can we be sure it was really God’s voice we heard?

Four types of confirmation:

(1) Does it agree with scripture? (2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God…)

(2) Circumstances (Jeremiah 32:6-9 told to buy a field from a relative at a time of siege!)

(3) God’s peace in our hearts (Col 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, (NIV))

(4) Through our fellow believers (Acts 13:1-3Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them). We should expect to hear though fellow believers, especially those special relationships in the Bible:

a. Church leaders/Pastor & people (Heb 13:7)

b. Husband and wife (Eph 5:22-24)

c. Parents and children (Eph 6:1)


We are now going to have the opportunity to put this word into practice, ‘to be doers of the word and not hearers only’!

Dave is now going to lead us through a time of taizé worship in which we will have time to be still, silent, reflective, attentive and humble ourselves before God, and expect him to speak – this time is just you and Him! Try not to think about what is happening later today e.g. Sunday lunch, but be attentive to the Lord.

If anyone would like prayer afterwards, or to discuss anything, I am available.

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