1-17-16 Sermon: “God Still Speaks”
“God Still Speaks” Psalm 119:9,11,105; Mt 13; Rev. 2:17; 22:17 Theme: Faithful Listening
God Still Speaks Psalm 119:9,11, 105; Matthew 12:39; 13:13-18a; Rev. 2:17; 22:17
God speaks today. When the Reformers say that God speaks in scripture by the Holy Spirit- it is not some mythical, poetic way of saying “God used to speak and we can apply it.” The Bible itself describes itself as a “living word, powerful and active.” The Holy Spirit, Calvin said, speaks through scripture- making it alive to us today. Scripture is the headphone of God. Scripture are the lens of the glasses through which we find God. Many people even in this room can testify that God has led them as they have examined scripture. Scripture is the testimony to the Great Word- Jesus Himself.
Scripture is an interactive book. One book I read to my kids was “Goodnight Moon.” Now I read the same book to my grandkids, but it is interactive. You press the book and it comes alive- press the balloons and they pop. Press the bowl full of mush and the spoon scoops it. Press the lights and they go out. The Bible is not just a history book- it interacts with our reaction. Jesus Christ is the Living Word behind the Bible. He is not the dead word- but an ever applicable-ever relevant word. So someone asks, “How should I live?” I need God to give me a sign. Jesus said to his generation that “an evil and adulterous generation is looking for a sign” (Mt. 12:39). I remember this room mate in college who was always wanting God to show him a specific sign. I tried to tell him that God has already said so much- and that he should be listening to what God already said before he should seek a supernatural sign. But he got pretty superstitious about this. This often happens when we believe in god but don’t trust His Word. I tell you this to give you two instances. One friend invited him to go out drinking on the eve of a big test. Now, this was not just going out to try one or two but this was a clear invitation to go get plastered together. Now the Bible does say, “Be not drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit.” But my roommate, who knew that verse, did not want to hear it. So he decided to play “flip the coin.” Heads I go out and get drunk. Tales I stay home and study for my test tomorrow. Ironically, it came up “tales- study for the test.” He said, “Let me try that again.” This is the problem. He didn’t want to listen to what God had already said, so he wanted God to say something different. God has said so much in the Bible. I am still learning so much there every day I study it. It is like getting daily food and nourishment for my soul. It is not like reading a history book. It is more like reading a very complicated letter from your parent on how to live. I remember getting a letter once from my father with some great instructions on getting through a particular problem I was having- but that letter- written out of concern for me- also had some life-long truths. The Bible is sufficient for all we need to know in and of itself. If we are looking for a sign- we need to make sure we are already listening and willing to obey what we have already heard. That is faithful listening. Some think the scripture has no practical application. Everyone knows Exxon has oil wells in Egypt. But it started when one of the directors of the company read Ex. 2:3 which said that Moses’ basket was lined with pitch. He reasoned that where there was pitch there was oil- and sent Charles Whitshott, a geologist there who found it. We should be careful that we are not trying to wow ourselves with the supernatural. This is why Jesus said, “an adulterous generation looks for a sign.” Our true every day task is to listen- really listen to what God has told us in scripture. I like the great verses we ready in Psalm 119: “Your Word is a Lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” In other words, God shows us in scripture how we should live. It also says, “How shall a young man keep his way pure? By heeding and living according to your word. You word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119:9,11). In other words- I have memorized scripture- and it has become a part of me so that I will not mess up. This is why for centuries people memorize the Ten Commandments. They are stone inscriptions for a reason. The Holy Spirit still speaks. It is important we know this. The Bible says, I have experienced this and many of you too- that the Spirit guides us in the right way, convicts us of sin, helps us to remember, strengthens us when we are weak, comforts us when we are uncomfortable, encourages us when we are discouraged. The Spirit speaks to our spirit. God is not silent, nor has he faded away into dust or gone to live only in a primitive culture. God does care that we are sophisticated or not believe and trust in Him, and that we not replace Him with our pride. God does care that we not close our ears to His voice because we think we know better. Years ago I closed my ears. I always went to church, but I saw that the church wasn’t as perfect a place as I had envisioned. I knew some of the sins of my parents and their friends. I naively thought I was better and that the church had nothing to offer to improve me. Now I know how pride can get in the way of listening. I had ears to hear. I was in a place where I could hear- the United States where there is a church on most main streets and the gospel where you can find it. But I had closed my ears. I had decided that Jesus was just one small voice among many voices. I did not believe that surrendering to Jesus could so anything for me. Someone told me that Jesus was a real person, and not just a philosophy. They said Jesus was alive and could still speak hope to my life. My belief in Jesus Christ made me a changed person. Jesus is not a dead figure of history, but a living Lord raised and still at work. Jesus is the Living Word. When I saw that, I had a reason to live, a reason to give away myself to others; a reason to hope. My hope is not in myself, or in my friends, or even in the church. My hope is in Christ who speaks daily to my soul. He speaks in scripture. I am always learning and growing there. He speaks in providence- though not always clearly. He speaks in godly counsel and advisors. He speaks today. God also speaks when we are speaking to Him. We need to understand prayer as conversation with God. Prayer is not just writing a letter and mailing it to Santa. It is talking to the living God who listens. Romans 8:39 says the Holy Spirit prays with our spirit to the Father. In other words- God takes our mangled up- poorly spoken words and forms them to be acceptable to the Father. It is in conversation with God that we become sensitive to God and His heart. In General, when we pray through the scriptures, the scriptures become alive to us. Instead of just reading the Psalms- pray through them. This is an ancient proven practice that opens our ears to God. So instead of just reading- The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want- pray- “Lord, be my shepherd- let me go where you lead me for there I know I will lack nothing.” I think one of our true weaknesses is in our prayer life. We are growing in our ability to pray for one another- but we need to grow in our practicing the prayers of God. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8). Listening to God is a part of praying to God. Use the scripture in your prayers. Henry Warsdworth Longfellow wrote, “I heard the Bells on Christmas Day” about his reaction to church bells ringing from a bell tower tolling the message of “Peace on earth goodwill toward men.” Longfellow’s wife had died in a fire. His son ran off to fight in the Civil War and was severely wounded. The last stanza summarizes the whole poem: And in despair I bowed my head; “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong, And mocks the song Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, good-will to men.”
God is not dead. He does not sleep. And He is not silent. He has spoken. You are here today because He still speaks. As the bells continued to ring, so God continues to speak and call us to Himself- He asks you to come- to listen and hear His voice and respond.
This weekend is Martin Luther King weekend. King was known as a civil rights leader, but he was also a Christian pastor of Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta and his sermons helped change the world. He didn’t believe the Bible was just a dusty old book. But he believed its words about “let justice roll down like a river” and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” He often said he got his philosophy of non-violence and love from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. His “I have a dream speech” was rooted and he quoted from the prophet Isaiah in the Bible. “II have a dream when every valley shall be exalted and every hill made low.” His last speech was rooted in the end of Moses’ life when he looked at the promised land but didn’t get there. He said, “Like anybody… I would like to live a long life…But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain and I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I many not get there with you but we as a people will get to the promised land.” This is in stark contrast to the Black Panthers and Malcolm X who preached racial war and hatred. King said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Yet on a national level, love is not mentioned as a weapon in race relations. When the shooting occurred at Mother Emmanuel church- they didn’t just talk the Bible, they lived the idea of turning the other cheek and that changed the world. What God wants is people who do not take the Bible as a book to be shelved, but as the living word. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.