Ask, Listen, Respond

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In this message, we remember that to follow Jesus is to listen to his voice.

Alright. Hey everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I’m so glad that you’re here. We want to welcome our Denton campus and everybody who is watching online. Let’s give them a hand. We are so glad that you guys are here. And for those of you that tune in online every week, we are so glad that you tune in to be a part of this with us. And today we end our 21 days of praying and fasting. For the last three weeks we’ve been creating space in our lives for God to fill. We’ve been giving up some things we’ve been dependent upon in this world to be more dependent upon the things of God. And we’ve gotten in tune with His presence. We’ve been aware of Him in our lives. And we’ve all prayed this one simple, little prayer every day. Lord, help me hear your whisper. What do you want to say to me? And God has been moving and He has been doing some amazing things, and He has been speaking. And it’s not that He just started speaking in a lot of ways. It’s that we’ve just started listening. And I think this was an incredible beginning of the year for us to put God first and value Him above all things.

And what I want to say to those of you that are sitting here, if you feel like, “Man, I really didn’t do at all that well, and I kind of had a cheeseburger on day two.” Or whatever that thing is that you were going to try to give up, listen, here’s what I want to say to you. It is not about your performance. It is about His passion for you. Okay? It’s not about what you do for God. It’s about becoming in tune with what God has done for you. So this whole thing is not like, “Oh, I gave something up for three weeks for God. I earned some favor.” No, you didn’t [Laughs]. You already have all the favor you need in Jesus. And so what all we’re trying to do is just create space in our life for that favor to take root within us, so we believe it a little bit deeper. And so what I just want to say to those of you that maybe struggle with this or you weren’t sure about it, listen. If you took one little next step in this 21 days, it was a win. If you read one verse in the Bible more than you normally would have, it’s a win. If you were asking God one time, “Lord, help me hear your whisper”, than you normally would have, that’s a win. If you came to service one weekend more than you normally would have, that’s a win. If you worship just a little bit more than you normally do, that’s a win. It’s about taking these little next steps on our journey with Jesus. And sometimes you just have to celebrate the little things because big things always start small. And so sometimes that breakthrough you’re looking for comes in just those little steps of following after Him. And this is such a significant series in the life of our church because if you were here in the very beginning of it, I told you that really after discovering your identity in Jesus I believe the next most important thing on your journey with him is learning to lean in and listen to his voice. And so my hope is that this isn’t just a series that we walk out of when it’s done and say, “Well, that was a good series.” My hope is that this becomes a new way of life, that you believe you can hear the whisper wherever you are. Romans 12:2 — “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds.”

In other words, if you want to change the way you live, then you’ve got to change the way you think. That’s what Jesus says when he says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent, what it really means is change your thinking. Stop agreeing with the things of the world and start coming to an agreement with the things of the kingdom of heaven. And if you will repent and change your thinking and come into alignment or agreement with that, it will change the way that you live. And so my hope in this series is that there’s been some repentance, that we’ve changed the way that we thought about hearing the voice of God. And so just as a reminder of where we’ve been. The first week we just tried to build your faith and said, Jesus is our shepherd and we are his sheep. He wants to speak to us and we hear his voice. And in the second week we talked about positioning our hearts. We want to position our hearts before God to hear His voice, because it’s desire, not ability that determines whether or not you will hear Him. You don’t have to be qualified. You don’t have to have the special gifts and talents. You don’t have to be the super-spiritual religious person. You just have to have a desire and a hunger and you will hear His voice.

And then last week what we did is we talked about seeking confirmation. We said that once you hear God’s voice it’s wise to seek confirmation to be sure that it’s Him. So we equipped you with some wisdom. And what I hope you’ve discovered in this series is that you can’t outrun the presence of God. You can’t out-sin the love of God. And you can’t outgrow your need for the voice of God. Psalm 32:8 — “I will instruct you and counsel you in the way you should go. I will watch over you”, he says. To follow Jesus is to listen to his voice. His voice is our life. And in fact, the great privilege of your life is that the God of the universe wants to speak to you. The great privilege of your life is that the God who created the universe wants to speak to you on a daily basis. And not only is that a privilege, it’s actually a responsibility. You now have a responsibility to lean in and to listen to his voice.

To whom much is given, much is required. Great invitations come with great responsibilities. And if we’re honest, that’s the part we’re not so sure we like, because really for most of us at the end of day it’s much easier if God just gives us predefined expectations. Like, just kind of tell us what we need to know in the front end and then we will go ahead and we’ll take care of all that. So we would rather have predefined expectations than we would a relational conversation with Him. It’s easier that way because you get to get in the driver’s seat. You get to be in control. You kind of know what you have to do. So we would prefer kind of some boundaries and some guard rails. This is exactly what I need to do to follow Jesus. But that’s not how he leads us. He leads us in a relational way that creates conversation, that forces us to seek him, that creates intimacy and dependence upon him. He leads us in a way that forces us to lean in and listen to the whisper. Now, be real clear on this. There are absolutely guard rails in life. Some things based on scripture are absolutely sin and some things we are absolutely called to obey.

There is no negotiation of some of these things. Some things are absolutely sin and harmful. Other things we’re called to obey and are healthy for us. But what about everything in the middle? What about all those other things that maybe scripture doesn’t exactly touch on? Or just the realities of the daily routine — like, how do you know what you’re supposed to do in all this space in between? God has different things to say to different people about those different things. Like, just think about the scriptures for a moment. The rich, young ruler — Jesus says to him, “Go sell everything you have. Give it to the poor. You will have treasure in heaven.” And so if we look at that we could say, “Well, that must be an expectation that everyone else has to follow.” Well, if you look at Zacchaeus who probably had more money than the rich young ruler, Jesus never says anything about selling everything he has. Some of you are like, “I want to be Zacchaeus, not the rich young ruler.” Different things to say to different people based on the struggles or the idols or the propensities within their hearts.

Think about Peter for a moment. Jesus says, “Peter, you know, come follow me. Leave your boat. Leave your life. Leave everything behind and come and follow me.” Now compare that to the demoniac, the man full of demons, and Jesus sets him free. And the demoniac says, “Jesus, I want to leave it all and come and follow you.” And Jesus says, “No, no, no. You go back home and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.” So here’s a guy that wants to leave it all and follow Jesus and he says, “No. The way you follow me is by going back home.” Two different guys, two totally different things that he says to them. Or how about the lepers? The one leper Jesus reaches out and just touches him and heals him, and then the 10 lepers he says, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” If the one leper would have gone and showed himself to the priest, he wouldn’t have been healed. And if the 10 lepers would have pressed in and tried to get Jesus to touch them, they wouldn’t have been healed at that moment either. Why? Because he had different things to say to them based on who they were and what struggles or what faith they needed to be built in their life. I mean, you can think of Matthew, the tax collector. God tells him to leave his business, his tax collector’s booth. But then the Roman Centurion, Jesus heals his servant and sends him back home and strengthens his business position or his leadership role.

Or how about Peter and John? In John 21, at the end of the resurrected Jesus’ time on this earth Jesus says to Peter, “Peter, when you’re older you will go places you don’t want to go. You will have to do things you don’t want to do.” And Peter’s instant response is to point to John and say, “But what about him, Lord? If I’ve got to do that, what about him? Are you going to say that to him too?” And Jesus says, “What is it to you, Peter, what I have to say to John?” He has different things to say to different people, which means the abundant life is only possible to those who lean in and listen. There is no pragmatic formula to follow God. There is no A plus B equals C, abundant life comes out on the other side. No, no. You have to lean in and listen to his whisper for your life.

I mean, listen to this. First Corinthians 10:23 says, “You say I’m allowed to do anything, but not everything is helpful. You say I’m allowed to do anything, but not everything is beneficial.” In other words, there is a whole lot of freedom you have in Christ. But how do you know which things are helpful and beneficial? Yes, absolutely. This is sin and this is obedience, and these are the guard rails, but what about all this space in between? How do you know what is helpful and beneficial? Like, for some of us sitting in this room right now to change jobs it would be really healthy. For some of us to change jobs would be really harmful. For some of us sitting in this room, you could watch a TV program and it would be absolutely okay. For some of us if we watch that same TV program, it would be really harmful for us based on some things we struggle with or some propensities that we have. How about our kids, for those of us that have them? Based on our kids some of us need home schooling, ome of us need public schooling and some of us need private schooling. Well, how do you need which is the right option?

Or for some of us it would be totally okay to have this possession, and for others of us it would be really harmful if we had this possession. And you can go through anything, activities, relationships, your choice of healthcare, all that stuff. Some things are healthy; some things are harmful. How do you know? How do you know how to live out the freedom you have in Christ? You can’t base what God wants to say to you on what He has said to someone else. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. You say, “Well, isn’t that all predefined?” Sin is and obedience is, but what about everything in the middle? I mean, think of my two kids. What is healthy for my eight-year-old is really harmful for my six-year-old. And what’s healthy for my six-year-old is really harmful for my eight-year-old. They’re different kids with different seasons of life, with different passions and gifts and talents and skills and propensities and struggles and personalities and calling. And so we have to lead them very differently based on who they are. The same is true with us.

Listen to Galatians 5:25 — “Let us walk in step with the Spirit.” You see, here’s what religion wants to do. Religion wants to define everything as good and bad and right and wrong. Spirit-led life wants to ask God what is best. That’s the difference. Religion wants predefined expectations. This is good, this is bad, this is right, this is wrong. Spirit-led life says, “God, I just want to walk with you and find out what is best in every situation, in every circumstance, in every moment of my life.” And if we would live that way, you realize judgment would instantly be released from your life? Because most of the judgment in our life comes from “God told us to do this and so we expect everybody else to do it too.” Well, maybe God told you that because it’s healthy for you, but maybe it would be harmful for them. Like, if we were the rich — let’s just be honest. If we were the rich, young ruler and he told us to give away everything we had and we actually did it, for the rest of our lives we would be like, “Dude, you can’t have anything. You’ve got to give everything away. I had to do it. You have to do it too.” And then we would judge the person that keeps a $5 bill in their pocket.

Right? What’s healthy for one is harmful for the other. That’s why I love our vision, helping people take next steps on their journey with Jesus, because every person in this room has a next step and what is healthy for you is really harmful for the person sitting next to you. And what’s healthy for them is really harmful for you. So what does it do? It forces you to take the responsibility to lean in and listen to what He says is helpful and beneficial for your life in this moment, in this season, in this time. The whole thing can be summed up to this. I asked, He said, therefore I will. I asked, He said, therefore I will. And that’s kind of how I want to close this series together. That’s how you follow Jesus and that’s these three favorite words that have been on your journal that you’ve seen every day for the last 21 days [Laughs] as you’ve opened it — ask, listen and respond.

And we talk about it all the time. And so I want to give you one last message here on this. I want you to write these things down and then we’re do something at the end. But this is how you figure out how to follow Jesus in the space in between, because the reality is as we live most of our life in the space in between the guard rails of sin and obedience, how do we know what is best? We ask, listen and respond. Okay? Are you still with me? Okay. So three thoughts for you basically — three thoughts, I just told you. First one is this. Ask God what He wants to say. When we say ask, what does it mean? Just ask God what He wants to say. Matthew 7 — “Ask, and it will be given to you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you.” If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father in heaven give good gifts to you? If you will just ask Him to speak, if you will seek after Him, if you will knock on the door, He says you will hear His voice. Ask Him. God, what do you want to say to me?

What do you want to say about this situation? God, what do I need to be aware of? What do I need to be in tune with? God, how do you want me to respond to this? God, what is my next step? Just ask Him what He wants to say? I mean, think of King David for a moment. King David, man after God’s own heart, the king of Israel, giant killer. Well, if you read the stories of David, the most often repeated phrase around David’s life is, “David enquired of the Lord.” You find it over and over and over again. David enquired of the Lord. In other words, he asked God to speak. “God, should I go to battle? God, how should I respond in this situation? God, how can I deal with this ungodly authority in my life? Where there was a moment of chaos, he would step out and find quiet as God. Or whether it seemed like a simple decision that he should just be able to make on his own, he would still ask God and enquire of the Lord. And because he expected God to speak, he heard God’s voice.

Maybe David became the man after God’s own heart, because he had the humility to lean in and listen in every area of his life. I mean, think about this for a second. If you think about it, probably 95% of us sitting in this room have a cellphone. You probably have it with you. 95% of us have a cellphone, and the moment you take that cellphone and you turn it on what you’re doing is you’re saying you’re giving the voices of the world instant access to your life. That’s why you carry a phone, isn’t it? [Laughs] You’re like, “No, I just like to browse on it and play the games, you know.” Maybe, but the moment you turn it on you’re giving the voices of the world instant access to your life. They can contact you in any moment, in any situation, at any time, in any place. And you’re giving access to your friends and your family, to your Twitter followers, and your Facebook friends, and bloggers and YouTubers, and politicians, new stories. I don’t know, all this stuff you like to go on with all that things, like whatever you like, ESPN, whatever it is. You’re giving their voices instant access to your life.

That’s okay. That’s just what a phone is. Okay. Well, in Jesus you have the Holy Spirit inside of you. And the moment you ask God what He wants to say, it’s like turning on the Holy Spirit — beep, beep, beep. And you’re saying, “God, I give your voice instant access to my life.” I’m giving your voice instant access. Any time, any place, wherever I am I want you to speak to me. Instead of being so consumed with a notification of, “I got a like on my Facebook” thing — I’ve hit Facebook pretty hard in this series, I realize that. Maybe that’s a sacred echo for you. We need to be more concerned with Holy Spirit, what notification do you want to give me? You don’t have to go find His voice because it’s right here. And the moment you ask God to speak, it’s like sending Him a text message and then waiting for the response. Okay? Ask God what He wants to say. Second thing, listen to His voice. Listen to His voice. Isaiah 30:21 — “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”” If you ask Him to speak, then He will tell you how to live your life in the space in between. It’s not it’s God speaking. It’s, are we listening? And active listeners will hear things from God that casual listeners never will. Like, there’s so many times I’ll come home after a long day and I’ll be in my house doing whatever. And my kids want to come and talk to me and they’re sitting there and they’re going on and on, but I’m not really listening. I’m kind of nodding and uh-huh and just kind of casually letting it pass through my brain. And I just, you know, if there’s something really important, they will get my attention. Finally, after a while one of them will like grab my face and be like, “Dad, you’re not listening to me.” You’re right, I’m not, you know. I’m casually listening.

And so I don’t hear the deep things that they really want to tell me. But if I will actively listen, look them in the eyes, put everything else down, acknowledge what they’re saying, ask questions back, they will tell me things about their day and what they were thinking and stories and moments that I would never hear if I only casually listened. The same is true with God. If you actively listen, you hear things that you would never hear if you just casually expect — if it’s important enough, He will get my attention. No. He is waiting for you to actively listen. Now if you’ve got a Bible, real quick look with me in Mark Chapter 4. Mark Chapter 4 — this was one of our readings that we did over these 21 days together, and you’re familiar probably with the stories, The Parable of the Sowers. Jesus says a farmer goes out and he scatters seed and it falls on four different types of soils, and he defines them as different kinds of hearts. And he teaches it to the crowd, and then he pulls away with his disciples to explain it. Pick it up with me in Verse 13. “Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How will you then understand any parable?” “The farmer sows the word. In other words, God is speaking. Some people are like seed along the path where God’s voice is spoken.” As soon as they hear it Satan comes and takes away what God said that was placed in them. Others like seeds sown on rocky places hear God’s voice and they want to receive it with joy, but since they have no root they last only a short while. When trouble or persecution comes because of God’s voice they quickly fall away. Still others like seeds sown among the thorns hear God’s voice, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke God’s voice out making it unfruitful. Others like seeds sown on good soil hear God’s voice, accept it, and produce a crop 30, 60, or even 100 times what was sown.” Okay, what Jesus is saying is that God is speaking and He has a lot to say.

That’s the beauty of why I tell you when we engage the scriptures you will find the same things repeated over and over again. Everywhere you read in the Bible you come to the conclusion, God is speaking and you hear His voice. The farmer sows the word. He is speaking and He has a lot to say. He is constantly scattering seed and it falls on every person’s heart sitting in this room. Jesus says there are four soils, four hearts, and God’s voice lands on all of them. He says there’s the hard heart. God speaks to them and it lands there, but because they don’t have the humility to receive it, Satan quickly comes and snatches it away. He says then there is the rocky heart and they hear God’s voice and they get really excited. “I heard God. This was amazing. The scripture jumped out at me. What a great sermon.” Whatever it may be, but the moment there is cost, persecution, or trouble, inconvenience, sacrifice or uncomfortability, they quickly allow that seed to wither and die. He says then there is the heart full of thorns and thistles. They hear God’s voice. It takes root. It starts to grow, but because their life is so full of so many other things it actually chokes the seed out and never allows it to be fruitful.

There is an appearance that God’s voice has really taken root, but there is no fruit. And then there’s the good soil. Here is God’s voice. It gets in, it takes root, and it produces a 30, 60, 100-fold return. And so here’s the question I want to ask you towards the end of this series here. It’s this; which of those four types of soils is your heart? Which one of those most closely aligns with your heart? And you don’t get to say, “Well, there is a fifth option and I’m the fifth one.” No. Jesus says there’s four, and every person in the room is one of those four. Don’t assume your good soil. Don’t just assume because you’re sitting here today you’re good soil, because do your actions communicate that you have a desire for His voice? You say, what does the good soil look like? Well, the good soil clears the land. It creates space for God’s voice.

It cultivates the ground, so that it can get in. The seed gets in and then it waters it and fertilizes it and weeds it, protects it so it can produce fruit. In other words, the good soil does the things we’ve talked about in this series. They slow their life down. They engage the scriptures. They pursue godly relationships, and they ask God to speak with humility. Which type of soil are you? That’s why in Verse 9 Jesus says, “Let him who have ears to hear, hear.” In other words, whoever really wants to hear God’s voice, will, because the Father is scattering it on all of us. Now if you’re sitting here and you’ve been with us this whole series and you’re thinking in your mind, “Well John, you said at the beginning of this series that you believe we’re all going to hear God’s voice.” And let’s say that’s you and you are here and you’ve engaged. I mean, you did the Bible reading plan. You prayed that prayer every single day. You used your journal. You showed up and took notes. You worshipped and engaged. And you did all of that stuff but you feel like, “I didn’t hear God’s voice over these last three weeks.” Okay. If that’s you, here’s what I would say to you. Over the last three weeks then, you’ve positioned your heart towards God. You’ve honored Him by making Him first in your life. You’ve passionately sought after the Lord and you valued His voice. That’s a win. That is a win. And you say, “But I didn’t hear His voice.” It’s a relationship. You can’t demand God to speak, but you can position your heart to listen. And sometimes we have to wait on the Lord. And so if that’s you, you keep waiting on the Lord. You keep doing those things. You will hear Him speak. Okay? That’s for some of you. Now for others of us, we’re sitting in this room right now and we’re saying, “Well, I heard God speak over these three weeks, but He didn’t speak to me about the one thing that I really wanted to hear.” [Laughs] Ha-ha. Now we touched the nerve. Okay. It’s in desperation where you seek God most passionately. Will you agree with that? All you have to do is look at the life of the Israelites. They’re the classic example of this.

When they were desperate they sought God, and God would move on their behalf and speak to them. He would bless them, and then their life would be good. And so they would drift away from God and pursue idols, and their life would then fall apart. They desperately cry out to God, and He would come in their desperation and speak to them and bless them and they would be into God. But then because He blessed them their life would be good and then they would walk away from God. They wouldn’t need Him. And then their life would fall. I mean, it’s just this cycle over and over again, which is the cycle of human heart. The human heart drifts from God when life is good, by nature. So desperation is actually God’s grace in your life. It’s his greatest love to allow things in your life that will cause you to seek Him with the most amount of passion. If God is love, then it’s actually His grace in your life to allow things that will cause you to seek Him with the most amount of passion. Desperation will take you places you never had the faith to go. And remember, God is always more interested in intimacy with us than he is in changing our circumstances.

So he doesn’t hide things from us. He hides things for us. He is not trying to hide something from you, so you can’t find it. He’s trying to hide it for you, so you will seek after Him and pursue Him. Jeremiah 29:13 — “When you seek me with all of your heart, then you will find me.” And so if you’re sitting here and you’re saying, “God didn’t speak to me about these two or three things I needed Him to talk about.” Okay, well you know what? Can I just encourage you? Me too. I hear God speak about a lot of great things over these last 21 days, but there’s two or three things I’m desperate for Him to speak about and He didn’t speak to me about those things. So what I want to say to you is there’s nothing wrong with you. You didn’t do something wrong and it’s not that there is a break between you and God. Sometimes He just allows that desperation to linger, so we seek Him with a little bit more passion, because I think for some of us what God is saying is, “Let’s not just be passionate in this series. Let’s be passionate in our life.” And so for me there’s two or three things He hasn’t spoken about. So you know what? This series ends, but who cares? It’s not about a series or a fast. It’s about, I’m going to keep pursuing God with passion because I’m desperate for Him to speak in these areas.

So I welcome the desperation. Okay? And then the last thing is this. You’ve got to respond with obedience. Ask God what He wants to say. Listen to His voice. Respond with obedience. God is not careless with His words. They contain so much life and so much power, he gives them to people who will steward them well. I don’t know if you realize this or not, but stewardship is a big deal to God. And you don’t own anything. You are a steward of everything. Psalm 24:1 — “The earth is the Lord’s, everything in it, the world and all who dwell among it.” Okay? Nothing you have belongs to you. You are a steward of it all. And God expects you to steward your finances, your talents, your anointing, your abilities, your time, your family, your relationship, and His voice. And obedience is how you steward His voice. I mean, listen to this.

Jesus says, in Mark 4, “Consider carefully what you hear. With the measure you use it will be measured to you, and even more. Whoever has, will be given more. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.” This is huge. Here’s what Jesus says. Whatever you do with what God has said yesterday will determine what you will hear tomorrow. Whatever you do with what God has said yesterday will determine what you will hear tomorrow. If you’re faithful with the little, he will entrust you with much. Your ability to hear new things that God wants to say to you is based upon how you have responded to and steward the old things He has already said. I mean, just think of the Parable of the Talents. The one guy that doesn’t use it, he buries it in the ground. In the end it’s taken away from him. But the other ones that do use it and come back with a return stewarded well, the master gives them even more. That’s true of God’s voice. I mean, listen to me. In this series we should be more concerned with God has said than what God has yet to say.

And if this whole series for you is, “I need God to speak to me about fill in the blank”, or “I can’t wait to hear about such and such”, that’s really the wrong focus. The right focus is, “I want to be more concerned with what He has already said than what He has yet to say”. Because the question you have to ask yourself is, what have you done with what God has already been saying? Have you stewarded well? Have you moved from a posture of receiving to a posture of obedience? And if you’re sitting there and you’re saying, “Well man, I’m not really hearing God”, okay, well then my encouragement to you would be, go back and do the last thing He has already asked you to do. Because if you will do the last thing He has already asked you to do, you just steward it well and now you will release future things that He wants to say to you, because He is waiting for you to do something with what He has already said to you. Does that make sense to you? This is the key of this whole thing. I mean, can I tell you this? My great concern for Valley Creek Church — this is a big statement.
My great concern for Valley Creek Church is that we won’t steward the revelation He has given us well. If you’ve hung out with us for the last three or four years, you’ve realized the revelation God has given us, guys it’s off the charts. Revelation about who we are, about who He is, about what the kingdom is like, about being beloved sons and daughters, about being ambassadors of the kingdom. I mean, the revelation He has given us, it blows me away when I go back and look through the series and my notes of what He has spoken to us, that God has shared with us that much stuff. And the problem with revelation is, once it’s given, ignorance is no longer an option. Revelation is when something is hidden and it gets uncovered, like something hiding under a tarp. The moment I lift up the tarp and show you what’s in there, ignorance is no longer an option. You now know what’s there, so you can’t pretend like you don’t know. Okay, that’s revelation. Once it’s given, you can’t pretend like you don’t know.

And unused revelation will always create a hard heart within you. I mean, listen to this. Hebrews 3:15 — “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” That’s huge. He says today if you hear His voice, don’t harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion. In other words, when you hear God speak if you don’t obey it, He calls it rebellion and says your heart will be hardened. When you hear God speak and you don’t obey it, He calls it rebellion and He says it will harden your heart. Every time you know a next step you’re supposed to take and you don’t take it, it gets a little harder to take it in the days to come and your heart becomes a little harder. That’s what He is saying. I mean, revelation isn’t supposed to here. It’s supposed to be here. It’s supposed to be experienced in our lives. And so my hope for you would be at the end of every single series you take out a journal like that and you say, “God, I want to ask, listen and respond. What do you want me to do with what we’ve just walked through in this series?”

Because if you don’t do that, you will have information in your head, but you will never have transformation in your heart. And you will therefore be deceived. If you know what God has said, but it never comes into here and it never moves into action, you literally deceive yourself. Listen to this. James 1:22 — “Do not merely listen to the word” — God’s voice — “and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” In other words, if God gives us revelation about making disciples and you have it here but it never goes to here and you never actually walk it out, you deceive yourself. You say, “Deceive myself. What does that mean?” Well, in your mind you think you know everything there is to know about disciple making and you think, yeah, other people really need to learn about disciple making. Because it’s locked in your head, but it’s never come out of your heart. If you sit here and you hear us teach about worship and it’s in your head, but you never move it to your heart, you never actually start to worship God, you deceive yourself. You think you are a worshipper even though you’re not actually doing it, because it’s in your head but hadn’t made it to your heart.

I can give you everything from generosity to — I mean, everything we talk about, if it gets stuck in here but never comes to here, you’re deceived because you believe that it’s alive in your life but it is yet to produce fruit. Revelation without obedience is form without power and it’s appearance without fruit. It’s the most dangerous type of soil there is, the third soil, because there’s an appearance that God’s word has taken fruit, but there’s no fruit. Does that make sense to you? Okay, let me illustrate it to you like this and then we’re going to do something together. It’s the Super Bowl next week, okay. Anybody excited about the Super Bowl? Cowboys don’t make it. None of us are excited. Apparently, that’s the reality. Okay. It’s the Super Bowl. So let’s say the team is out on the field and it’s the middle of the game, and the coach from the sidelines calls in a strategic play for the team in the huddle. The strategic play is based on what the score is and what the defense has been doing and what the offense’ strengths are. He calls in a strategic play. They get in the huddle. They communicate.

Everybody knows their assignment. They’ve practiced. They’ve prepared. The moment the players call, everyone knows exactly what they need to do. They confidently break the huddle. All go up to the line of scrimmage. The center puts his hand on the ball. Everybody lines up knowing what they’re supposed to do. The defense takes their posture, has their scheme prepared. The crowd holds their breath in a hush. And imagine, if instead of the center snapping the ball, they all line up, he puts his hand on the ball, and then after about five seconds they all stand up and start high-fiving each other like, “Yeah man, we got that. We totally knew what to do with that plan. We are awesome.” And they huddle back up and they look over to the coach, and they’re waiting for a new play to be called in.

The coach doesn’t have a play to be called in, because he already called a play in. And until they run the play that’s been called the coach really doesn’t have anything else to say except, “Run the play that’s already been called.” Same is true with God. He calls a play and He expects us to run it. And a lot of us, we line up and we get to the end of a series and we get all lined up. We know what we’re supposed to do, what our assignment is, what God has said. We get all lined up, but instead of running the play we kind of step away, high-five each other. That was a good series, man. Yeah, I like that. Good small group discussion. We’re awesome. We know what we’re doing. And then we come back together next week in a huddle and we want a new play to be called. Listen, you won’t always like the play that’s called, but there are no Omaha’s in the kingdom of God. No audibles. You just got to run the play, baby. You know, you’re like, “I want the flea flicker and the Hail Mary pass.” Okay, you’ve got to run about 50 up the gut, three-yard runs before the coach will call in the flea flicker, because he’s got to set up the defense first, you know.

We don’t always like the play, but you’ve got to run the play that’s been called. Whole lot of us sit around and we’re waiting for God to call in a play, and He is waiting for us to run the one He already has called. So let’s just run the play that He has called. And you’ve realized, if you come to church every single week and you never run a play, you realize how hard your heart gets? You realize how far behind you get from the movement of God? Because He is still waiting for you to run a play like five years ago, and then you start moving into a posture of criticism and judgment because what’s being said isn’t relatable to you. Why? Because you haven’t run the play that He already asked you to run. Obedience tells God you’re ready for more. Luke 11:28 — “Blessed are those who hear and obey”, Jesus says. You’re not a blessed by hearing. You’re blessed when you run the play. If you really want to hear God’s voice, then choose to obey before He speaks. Choose to say, “God, the answer is yes. Now what’s the question?” You’ve got to run the play. And you’ve got to run the play because the coach is the only one who understands the strategy that will win the game. He is the only one that knows what your play needs to be. What would it be like if every week we all ran the play? Our unique play? We would win 10 zillion to nothing.

But sometimes it feels like we’re losing because we keep just huddling up and huddling up and huddling up, so we’re actually going backwards. Okay? So here’s what I want you to do. You grab your journal for me for a second. And if you don’t have one, just grab a piece of paper or your phone. And what I want to do for a moment is I want to just give you an opportunity to put the Revelation into practice, to run the play. So if you will take your journal and just open it up for a moment, I just want to give you a few moments to just literally listen to God. If you will take that journal and just write, you know, on the top. Just ask God what He wants to say. Then listen to His voice. And then respond with obedience. What does God want to say to you right now? So just dismiss and go on our ways reinforces what I’m trying to break down. We can’t just say high-five, good series, let’s move on. No, no. Let’s run the play. And the play that He has been calling is, lean in and listen. So can you for just a moment not be afraid of the silence, not be concerned with other things, but just ask, listen and respond?

Maybe He wants to talk to you about your marriage. Maybe He wants to talk to you about your kids. Maybe He wants to speak to you about something you’ve been struggling with. Maybe He just wants to tell you that you’re loved and that He is with you. For some of you maybe He just wants to tell you that He is real and you can believe in Him. And literally I want to encourage you to write something down on the page. Even if it’s the question, “God, what do you want to say to me?” and you feel like you hear nothing, it’s a sign of faith. You see, it doesn’t matter what man has to say to you. It matters what the Holy Spirit wants to say to you. And so we have to be okay with the quiet. We have to be okay with the stillness. We have to be okay to take moments and hear plays that maybe we don’t really want to run, but ones that are going to help us win the game. So maybe some of you, you’re hearing God say to you, “Hey, I want you to run the play we’ve already talked about.” And you know exactly what that means. That will soften your heart instead of continually hardening it. What does He want to say to you? And then what’s your next step?

The reason I want to take a moment and do this together is because I’m teaching you, this is how you do this in your own life. You don’t need to do this in church. You can do it everywhere you are. Ask, listen, and then have the faith to respond. What does He want to say to you? So Holy Spirit, you are the great whisperer and we believe that you speak. May we have the courage and the faith to lean in and listen? May we hear your voice? May be respond with obedience and run the plays that you call, so we can keep receiving more revelation, more understanding, more insight, and more of a relationship with you. We choose relationship over predefined expectations. And we say, “Speak Lord, for we are listening.” May this move from a sermon series to a new way of life, as we walk with the Good Shepherd who leads us to green pastures. We love you Lord. In your name we pray. Amen.

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