Friday, 8 May 2015

To Hear You Must Get Closer

Matthew 21v31The Son of God told a story to those who also called God "Father" about a Father who had two sons. The first son was asked to go and he said he would but he didn't. The second son was also asked to go and he said that he wouldn't but he did. Jesus asked, "Which one did the will of his Father?" And asking the same question a different way He might have asked, Which one felt his Father's heart more?
Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.Matthew 21:31 
When King David had won the heart of his men they went off into battle and in a brief moment of respite David let out an ever so-feint sigh. His closest comrades where his mightiest soldiers and all three of them were moved by the sight of David sighing and heard what he sighed. 
And David said longingly, "Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!"  Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD."Second Samuel 23:15-16 
In this graphic episode of devotion David and his mighty men show us what it means to love God. This kind of love is not minimum love. It's not lip-service love. It's not mere dutiful love. It's heartfelt love. It's the kind of love that goes beyond reasonable expectations or requirements. It's not just selfless love, it's another-focussed love. These men were watching and listening to the one they loved. It wasn't that David caught their attention with an abrupt command - it was that they were already voluntarily giving their attention to him so that they detected even his faintest sigh. To love God like this is to not merely be dutifully moved to obey His commands, but also to heed His warnings (which may not be commands), to welcome His advice (which may not be warnings), and then to be attentive to His desires which may not be immediately obvious. The Apostle Paul describes this progression as the progress of the mature. Not all Christians are sensitive to God's desires and thoughts. But the spiritually mature have learned to go beyond cold obedience to the laws of God to becoming sensitive to those things which God gently warns about, and then responding to God's heart desires.
Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Philippians 3:15
Go work in my vineyard
God has certain desires. We can discern these from His Word and cultivate them by having a prayerful heart attuned to His. When the father of Jesus' story asked his sons to go and work in his vineyard there was a price to pay. Working in the open in the middle of a Middle Eastern summer's day is not pleasant. Little wonder the immediate reaction of his son was to say "No". But something happened in the heart that weighed up the costs between personal cost and discomfort with breaking his father's heart. How many of us see 'sin' as merely breaking the commands of God, rather than breaking the heart of God? How many read of a Biblical warning and fail to hear the heart of God behind the warning? Can you hear the warning in the New Testament command to not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26), or do you only hear a cold command? Can you hear the warning in the Scriptures about drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18), or do you only hear an alcohol limit? When we read 'that God desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth' (1Tim. 2:4) are we merely theologically informed or are we deeply moved to action - just like David's mighty men were? 
My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done
For an old heart like mine
Soften it up With oil and wine
The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew
With the wine of Your Blood 
MY EYES ARE DRY, Keith Green
Behind every command of God is a warning. It's like God saying don't walk through that field of land-mines. Initially it sounds like a command. And whenever a born-rebel like me hears a command my most natural response is "Don't tell me what to do!" But behind this prohibition to walk through the field of land-mines is a warning: This field contains land-mines which could harm or kill you. Yet, if I "listen" to God even more intently, I hear not merely a command or a warning, but His heart: I love you and want the best for you and I don't want to see you hurt. Please don't go through that field. You might read the command of Hebrews 10:25 which commands believers not forsake weekly church attendance and only ever hear a cold command. You may have matured to the point where you recognise the warning behind the command. But too few have have pressed their ears to the pages of this Scripture and heard the gentle rhythmic pounding of God's heart for His children to be together in His Name as a witness to a world He desires to save.
¶ Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
Romans 10:1
Ps. Andrew

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