The prerequisite to hearing is listening. I find it very interesting that Jesus says to each and every one of the seven churches addressed by him in the book of Revelation – “Let the person who is able to hear, listen ..” (TV)
Perhaps it goes without saying but the truth implied in this statement is that there are those, in each of the churches addressed, incapable of hearing. That’s a sobering thought.
It is also interesting to note the matters with which Jesus takes issue in these churches – sexual immorality, false teachers, false leaders, false prophets, the facade of appearing to be alive while being dead, being materially rich but spiritually poor and, primarily, the loss of their first love who is in fact standing outside the door pleading for entry.
The appearance of their success is in fact a mirage – but they are too busy, too involved, too blind to see it. And the call of Jesus is that they listen, hear his warning, repent and follow his instruction. If not he will oppose them openly and remove their authority as representatives of The Light. Are things much different in 2020?
In the last few days American Pastor Loren Sandford said this – “The church in America lost its voice a long time ago and became ineffective in this culture because we began to compromise our connection to our God and King Jesus Christ. Unholiness, disobedience and compromise flooded in to the church and we tolerated it and wrote theologies to undergird it.” I suspect that, to a greater or lesser degree, the same is true in our own nation. The problem is that, so often, the church proclaims one thing and lives another. Our lives and behaviour do not match our profession.
Is it possible in this time of isolation for many, silence for some and opportunity for all that God is asking us to listen to his voice – and in the words of Jesus to the early church in the book of Revelation to – “Change your ways and turn to me” (Revelation 2:16 TV)? In other words this may be a time when, in silence before a Holy God, we are being asked to examine ourselves.
The friend I mentioned in my last post, living in isolation and listening quietly for the voice of God said that he had been convinced of the vital importance of “looking at fruit in order to identify the root”. And, since that conversation, that subject has been much on my mind.
Indeed is this not what the Apostle Paul also encourages us to do – “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
I believe we can sum much of this up by recognising that the concern of God, in relation to those who claim to know and represent him is that their lives (not just their lips) produce good, recognisable fruit. Of course Jesus himself addressed this issue – “You can identify them (false prophets) by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:16).
Such personal reflection, for me at any rate, takes me back initially and once again to the primacy of love in all we do. Love and obedience to our Father first of all – and at one and the same time – love for others. I leave you with the prayer of Paul the Apostle, which, I believe, we all need to meditate upon and repeat often both for ourselves and others –
“Father, out of Your honourable and glorious riches, strengthen Your people. Fill their souls with the power of Your Spirit so that through faith the Anointed One will reside in their hearts. May love be the rich soil where their lives take root. May it be the bedrock where their lives are founded so that together with all of Your people they will have the power to understand that the love of the Anointed is infinitely long, wide, high, and deep, surpassing everything anyone previously experienced. God, may Your fullness flood through their entire beings.”
Ephesians 3: 16 – 19 (TV)