We continued the Soul Revolution series at Gateway Church in Austin. Lead pastor of Gateway and author of the book Soul Revolution, John Burke shared about hearing God’s voice. Here are some of his insights:
“The goal of the 60 day experiment we started last week is to stay connected to the Source of Life and Love. Our habit is to ignore God’s presence, but He promises if we will simply stay connected, listening more and more, He will produce a quality of Life in us that fulfills our deepest longings for purpose, love, adventure, joy, Life and Freedom.
I used to be very skeptical that you can actually hear from God. No doubt there is a lot of confusion and potential for abuse when you start talking about hearing God. I don’t hear God with an audible voice, and I never have. It’s dangerous when people declare with absolute certainty, ‘God told me.’ At the same time, I’ve been recording my journey of listening and responding to God for over 25 years now, and I can look back and see 100s and 100s of amazing ‘coincidences’ that make it impossible for me to deny that God does speak and He does guide. We have to be willing to listen and respond.
Too often we get too distracted with noise and busyness or unwilling hearts so that we never learn to hear. All throughout the scriptures from Moses to Jesus it says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” There’s a spiritual kind of hearing we must develop.
- In the Old testament, Moses said, Love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. Deuteronomy 30:20
- The prophet Jeremiah says, This is what the LORD Almighty says…“To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.” Jeremiah 6:9-10
- Jesus said of the Pharisees (religious leaders who did religion, but didn’t listen to God), “For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes.” Matthew 13:15
In other words, the key to developing spiritual ears that hear is to develop a willing heart. Willingness to respond and trust is the key to developing ears that hear.
Soul Revolution is based on Jesus’ last words from John 13-17 He’s explaining to them all about the simplicity and power of doing life with God’s Spirit. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. John 14:16-21
It’s not about rules or religion—it’s about a relationship.
We must “tune in” to God’s voice or we won’t hear it.
Jesus explained God’s Spirit is like the wind. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8
You can’t see the wind, but you can see the effects of the wind. God’s Spirit cannot be seen, but you can see the effects when willing people are moved along by listening and responding.
In many ways, life is like sailing. Sailboats don’t move by their own power, they have to stay in tune with the wind which moves them along. The wind can’t move a boat until the sails are up. If God’s Spirit is wanting to guide you, but you’re not paying attention to the moments of life, you’re going to miss it. So many of us miss the ride of our lives because we live stuck in the past, listening to condemning voices of the past (past fears, past failures, past hurts, past regrets). Some of us live out in the future so much (planning, strategizing, worrying about what might be or could be). Not wrong to plan or think ahead, but do you miss responding in this moment? Jesus paid a heavy price to set you free from the past and from worries of the future. God wants you to live each moment more connected to Him in this moment. Pay attention in the moments between each 60:60 reminder. Let regrets, stresses or worries remind you to live fully this moment – sails up! Then let Him move you. Hear and respond.
We can learn to read the signs of the Spirit’s promptings by knowing the Scriptures. The Bible is a compilation of 66 books covering 2000 years of God interacting with imperfect humans. God reveals his character, his will, and ultimately what He’s like as One of Us. That’s why Jesus said, I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose…So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:17-19
The reason knowing God’s revealed identity and will is so critical is because there are lots of voices in your head you can mistake for God’s voice – the voices of parents, authority figures, a co-worker & bosses, condemning, shaming voices. We can be deceived, but knowing God’s will and ways in Scripture also allows the Holy Spirit to do what Jesus promised: 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. John 14:26
Think about Scripture as a very wide ski slope with yellow tape on either side marking the out of bounds of hidden dangers. On the left out of bounds are false ideas about God – God is out to get us, or thinks we’re hopeless, or God wants to ruin our lives. On the right side, the Scriptures mark the moral out of bounds – lying, stealing, adultery, getting high, dishonest business practices hurt us and others. The scriptures mark the out of bounds areas leaving a very wide trail with lots of freedom.
God also speaks to us through prompting thoughts, dreams, or other people. 14But God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams…He whispers in their ear. Job 33:14-16 I don’t dream much, but if it’s vivid, I’ll talk to God about it. Sometimes God speaks to us through other people. “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” 2 Corinthians 7:6 Paul realized that God answered his prayer needing encouragement and comfort when Titus showed up. Usually God guides me by putting His thoughts directly into my thoughts (a whisper so quiet, I can mistake it for my own thoughts, unless I’m really paying attention. And I usually don’t know if it’s mine or His until I act. I see in hindsight).
We have to keep adjusting the sails of our minds steering our actions to keep being powered along by His Spirit. Paul explains this, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… In order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” Romans 8:1-5
God doesn’t care what you’ve done, where you’ve been, He’s paid to free you from the past and the worries of the future. What he cares about is this: “How willing are you this moment? And the next, and the next?”
So this week, listen, and take a risk! That’s what we’re experiementing with—going all out, responding in faith, and seeing if God doesn’t reveal himself. The more you trust, the more you get to see God guiding you on the most exciting adventure you can ever go on.”
To watch or listen to the entire message, go to www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.