Closer Than You Think


In this message, we’re reminded that the intent of the voice of God is to bring us closer to his heart.

Everybody, welcome to Valley Creek Church. I am so glad that you’re here with us at the beginning of the new year. I’m glad you’re putting Jesus first at the beginning of this year. And we want to go ahead and welcome our Denton campus and everybody online. I want you to cheer for them and tell them we are so glad that they are here. I’m really glad that you’re here with us. If you weren’t here last week, we said that this year in 2016 at Valley Creek Church we’re believing this is going to be a year of breakthrough. That’s what we think the theme or the thread or the tone that God wants to bring throughout the year, kind of what He is speaking to us. And so we talked about that, that God wants to break us out of some things that have been holding us back and break us into some new things that He has in store for us. And so if you weren’t here and you missed that message, I’d encourage you to listen to it, because it just talks about how do we position our heart to get ready for that. And I’ve already heard from a number of people this week that have said they’ve experienced more breakthrough in the first week of 2016 than they did in all of 2015.

And so I’m believing that that’s going to be true of all of us as we go throughout this year. Matthew 6:33 — “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and everything else will be added on to you.” In other words, put Jesus first and he’s going to take care of the rest. And so one of the ways that we’re going to position our hearts for breakthrough in 2016 is we’re going to start this weekend with our 21 days of praying and fasting. For the last few years as a church that’s what we’ve done at the beginning of every year, 21 days of praying and fasting. And if you’ve never done that before, you’re not sure what it is, you’re like “What is fasting? How does that work?” Well, it’s a good question and I’m glad you asked. Fasting is when we disconnect from the things of the world and prayer is when we connect in with God. Fasting helps us disconnect from our dependency upon the flesh, and prayer helps us become dependent upon the Spirit. It’s just about putting God at the center of our life. Fasting is simply just giving something up to create space for God, because at the end of the day you can’t make God move, but you can create space for Him to fill.

None of us can make God move, but we can create space for Him to come and fill. He is a filler, not a forcer. Matthew 5:6 — Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” In other words, we don’t want to hunger for the things of this world. We want to hunger for Jesus. And when we hunger for him and we make space for him to move, he will come and he will fill our lives. And Jesus says if we will seek him in private, he will reward us openly in public. And so for the next 21 days we’re just going to pray and fast together. And if you’ve never done it before, here’s some examples. Maybe you give up lunch every day for the next 21 days. And instead of going to McDonald’s or whatever you do, take that 30 minutes and spend time with God. Go for a walk and talk to Him. Maybe you give up your morning coffee or wake up 15 minutes earlier, and just read the Bible and talk to God and process with Him. Maybe there is some technology you give up or some TV shows. The point is about giving up something you’re dependent upon. [Laughs] Maybe you give up Facebook.

I know that would be so hard. And the fact that it’s hard shows you how good it will be to give up something you’re dependent upon to make space for God. You don’t fast broccoli or the dishes or laundry.
You fast something that you feel like you’re dependent upon. And so in giving that up what you’re saying is, “God, I want to be dependent upon you and not on that thing.” And so you got one of these cards when you came in, and it’s just got a bunch of little examples for you and some good information. There’s information on our website for those of you that have never done it before, but it’s simple. You can do it. We’re going to have some great prayer gatherings, some Beyond services. And then here’s what I would encourage you to do. It’s that if you have your phone, to take it out and if you’ve never done this with us before, just text VCCFAST to 41411. VCCFAST to 41411, and here’s what will happen. It’s every day for the next 21 days you will get a one-sentence text from us to encourage you on this journey.

And every day when you get that text you can be reminded that there are thousands of Valley Creekers all over the city going through their life but they are putting Jesus first too, and that they are giving something up in order to make space for God to fill. And it will build your faith and it will encourage you. And by day three when you’re dying for that cheeseburger or to log in to your account, you’re going to need that encouragement to say, keep going, because it’s worth it, because God has some amazing breakthrough in store for you. And so on this card there’s a reading plan we would encourage you to do. It goes along with the series. We’re just trying to help you create little next steps that you can take to move forward on your journey with Jesus as we prepare for a year of breakthrough. Okay? What I love about what we do at Valley Creek for our 21 days of praying and fasting is that every year while you’re seeking God for yourself and you have your prayers and your breakthroughs that you want, we always pick one prayer that we all pray together. One prayer that every day we all pray the same prayer to create unity among our church to remind us that we’re all seeking Jesus together, that no one is alone, and because that’s an area in particular we want to see God move in our church.

And so a few years ago we all prayed every day. We said, “Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit.” And then the year after that we prayed, “Lord, teach me to pray.” And then last year we prayed, “Lord, awaken my heart.” And this year I want to invite you to pray this simple prayer, “Lord, help me hear your whisper.” Every day for the next 21 days I want to invite you to pray a simple prayer, “Lord, help me hear your whisper. What do you want to say to me?“ And what we’re going to do for this series in this 21 days of praying and fasting is we’re going to do a series called Whisper, talking about leaning in and listening. We’re going to talk about how do we hear the voice of God in our lives. And as we prepare ourselves for breakthrough, one word from God can change everything. So we need to know how to hear His voice, and so when you came in you didn’t just get that card. You got one of these journals. And here’s my hope for you with this journal. My hope is that you will use this journal to write down notes as we talk about how do we hear God, so you will know how to do it.

That you write down prayers that you’re praying, and most importantly that you will start writing down the things that you believe that God is saying to you. All this is, is it’s a sign of faith to say, “I’m believing that God is going to speak to me”, because those who expect to hear God’s voice will hear God’s voice. This is a sign of faith that we believe you’re going to hear the voice of God. And by you receiving it, it’s your sign of faith to say, “God, I believe I’m going to hear your voice.” And my hope for you is, I mean, simply you just need to do this right now. Write your name in the top of the journal because everybody’s looks the same. If you don’t do that, you’ll be sorry about it. And then at the top just write this. Just write, “Lord, help me hear your whisper.” One-sentence prayer. And in the second line write, “What do you want to say to me?” Those who expect to hear God’s voice will hear God’s voice. I mean, the theme verse that we’re going to use in this series is this, Habakkuk 2.

Here’s what Habakkuk says. He says, “I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at the gate of my guard post. There, I will wait to see what the Lord says and how He will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others. This vision is for a future time. It describes the end and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently for it, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed.”” In other words Habakkuk says, “I will position my heart to hear His voice. I will write down that which He says, so that I may have a clear vision to pursue.” I will position my heart to hear His voice, because I believe He is going to speak. I will write down what He has to say, because I believe that His voice has value. And then I will have a clear vision to pursue, a next step to take, a direction to go in my life.

And what I really believe and I’ve been praying for you is, I believe if you will engage with us for these next 21 days, if you will pray that prayer every day, “Lord, help me hear your whisper”, and you will use the reading plan and you’ll be here and you’ll press in to the things of God, I believe in the next 21 days you will hear God’s voice for you. Maybe you’re never heard it before. Maybe you feel like God hasn’t been speaking to you in a while. Maybe you used to hear God, but you really don’t know. If you engage with us for the next 21 days, I believe you will hear God speak. And He has some great things to say to you. Jeremiah 33:3 — He says, “Call to me and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not yet know.” There are amazing things that God wants to speak to you, and I believe He is going to do that over the next 21 days. You see, what I believe in, it’s kind of our philosophy, a methodology here at Valley Creek. I believe that after discovering your identity in Jesus the next most important thing on your journey with him is learning to hear his voice. After discovering your identity, who you now are in Jesus as a follower of him, the moment of salvation, the next important thing on your journey with Jesus is learning to hear his voice.

I mean, it’s the ultimate empowerment that you don’t need a man to tell you what God is saying. You don’t need a mediator because you already have one and his name is Jesus. And so God wants to speak directly to you about your life wherever you go. In fact, what I love about our vision more than anything else is, we help people take their next steps on their journey with Jesus. And what I love about our vision is it forces you to hear the voice of God for yourself. Some of you are like, “Then I don’t like that vision.” [Laughs] Well, too bad, because I don’t know what your next step is and I never will. So what do you have to do? You have to ask, listen and respond to what He wants to say to you. And so what makes our vision so amazing is it teaches you how to hear the voice of God for your life. So no matter where you go for the rest of your life — you can move out of state, you can move across the world, and if you know how to hear His voice, you will know how to follow Jesus. That’s what’s great about our vision. And so I’m believing that you’re going to hear God’s voice. Do you? Excited for that? Can we do that together?

Okay, John Chapter 10 — if you’ve got your Bible, John Chapter 10. Here is what I want to do today. All I want to do is build you faith that you’re going to hear His voice. I want to get it started with just this faith, understanding that you can hear His voice. One word from God can change everything in your life. John 10, Verse 1 — Jesus speaking, “I tell you the truth. The man who does not enter by the sheep pen, by the gates, but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he is brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.”

Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them. They didn’t understand, but I believe that you’re going to get it, that we’re going to get it together. We understand that Jesus is the good shepherd and we are his sheep. You probably heard that before. And it says that he is speaking to us and what I want you to see in Verse 3 — it says, “The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” In other words, God’s voice wants to speak to you about your identity. He calls them by name. He declares who they are. He wants to tell you who you are. He leads them out. He draws them forward. He draws them into relationship. His voice will draw you closer to him and then his voice will lead you out into wide open and spacious places. His voice is going to lead into green pastures and the abundant life. He wants to speak to you about your future and your destiny. Okay? So a couple of thoughts that I want you to get. I’d encourage you to use your journal and write these down, because you will now have this with you for the rest of your life.
Here’s how to hear God. First thing is this. God wants to speak to you. It all starts with this. God wants to speak to you. Verse 3, “The sheep listen to His voice.” This past year Coleen and I, we got to go to Israel. And as we were in Israel traveling around, everywhere you go it’s like rolling hills and mountains. And as we drove around on the tour bus we were shocked by how many shepherds and sheep there were, just like everywhere. I mean, everywhere you went there were shepherds and sheep on every mountain, every hill, every valley. I mean, there were all over the place. And when you got close enough to them what you discovered is that the shepherds were always talking to the sheep. I don’t know why in my mind. I just thought shepherds were just kind of quiet and just sat there peacefully with their sheep, but they weren’t. They were always talking to their sheep because they loved their sheep and they cared for their sheep, and they’re leading their sheep. In fact, the sheep will die if the shepherd isn’t speaking to them. And so as I was sitting there and watching that this last year, driving about, I was thinking about this passage.

And I could picture Jesus teaching people that, pointing off in the distance and says, “My sheep know my voice.” In other words, I want to speak to you. Matthew 4:4 — Jesus says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” You don’t live and survive because you eat physical food. You live and you survive because you eat spiritual food. And the spiritual food is God’s voice coming to your ears. He says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes.” That’s present tense — proceeds now. God is constantly speaking from his mouth to your ears. He wants to speak to you. I mean, think about Peter for a second. Imagine, Peter is on the shore of the Sea of Galilee with his boat and here comes Jesus. And Jesus invites him to come and follow him. Inherent in that invitation is the understanding that if they were going to journey together they were going to constantly talk, that Jesus is going to speak to Peter. Right? I mean, just assume like we’re going to constantly talk. Well, imagine if when Jesus shows up and he invites Peter to follow him, he speaks to him only one time.

He says, “Peter, come and follow me.” And imagine if for the next three years Jesus never spoke to Peter, but Peter always had to figure out what Jesus wanted to communicate by the game of charades. That will be a little weird, don’t you think? I mean, you can picture Jesus and Peter walking down the road and they get to this point. Here’s a guy on the side of the road. Remember, Jesus only communicates in charades. So he looks at Peter and points at the guy. [Laughs] “Jesus, I don’t know what you’re saying, man. I mean, you’ve got to help me out here a little bit. Like, three words, sounds like? Give me something, Jesus. I’m not sure what’s going on.” Come on, Peter. Cast out the demon! Did you get it? Oh, come on! Now it’s better than that. That was better than that. And if you got it, I want you on my team for charades.

That’s ridiculous! That’s ridiculous to think that Jesus would invite Peter to follow him and yet never speak to him. How can you follow someone who doesn’t talk to you? I mean, he’s a relational God who wants to be in relationship with you. How can you be in relationship with someone you never talk to? I mean, when the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts Chapter 2, God opened up in eternal conversation with you. We get to talk. He wants to speak. I mean, we’re going to do 21 days of praying and fasting and Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 — he says, “This is how you should pray. Prayers are conversation with God. Our Father in heaven, hail be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil.” In other words, Jesus says when you pray you’re just talking to God and pray like this. “Hey dad, you’re a really good dad. And I love you dad and I’m thankful for you. And dad, you’re so full of wisdom that your plans and your purposes are what’s best for my life, and that’s what I want.”

“And I know you’re going to take care of all my needs. I don’t have to worry because you’re going to provide for me. And because you are so kind and compassionate and forgiven me my failures, I have the courage to forgive the people who have hurt me. And I know you’re not going to lead me into dark and scary places, but that you’re going to protect me and empower me, and you’re going to help me live a life of victory. You’re a good dad, dad, and I love you.” That’s what he says how to pray. +
You get to walk right into the throne room of heaven and talk right to the Father, because you go in with Jesus and it’s as if Jesus himself — that’s why we say in Jesus name when we pray, amen — it says if Jesus himself is praying that prayer, that’s the access it has to the Father. So he here is us, but then he also wants to talk back to us. John 16:12 — Jesus says, “I have more to say to you than you can even bear.” In other words, there is so much God wants to say to you, you couldn’t even handle it all right now. So He will tell you what you need to know exactly when you need to know it. He wants to speak to you.

And when you’re not in conversation with Him, God is not mad at you. He misses you. Revelation 3:20 — “Here I am. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone would hear my voice and open up the door, I will come in and He with him and he with me.” In other words, I’m speaking and I want to be with you. Will you open up to door and listen? You see, if you hang out at Valley Creek for any amount of time, you will hear us say this all the time. Identity determines behavior. Identity will always determine behavior. Who you are will always determine what you do. Who you believe you are will determine how you live and act in your life. And so when we talk about the voice of God, when you start to understand who you are in Jesus, you instantly have faith to expect that he is going to speak to you. I mean, think about it. In Jesus, the Bible says, you’re an ambassador of the kingdom of God. Well, the ambassador is going to expect to hear the voice of the king, because they need to know how to represent the king in the world.

How can you represent someone who never speaks to you? Or how about when Jesus says that you’re his friend? Okay, if we’re friends, then we should have an expectation that we’re going to hear his voice, because how can you be friends with someone who never talks to you? Or how about this identity? Your beloved sons and daughters. If you are beloved sons and daughters, that’s who you are, then you should have an expectation that a good Father is going to speak to you. How can you be a beloved child if you have a father who never speaks to you? Who you are determines what you do. Identity determines behavior. So your faith to hear the voice of God is based on your belief of who you believe you really are. If you don’t think you can hear God’s voice or you don’t believe God wants to speak to you, you don’t have a listening problem. You have an identity problem. It’s an identity issue, because when you understand who you are all of a sudden your faith grows to expect that He is going to speak to you. Does that make sense to you? Can you catch that?
That’s why everything always goes back to identity, because when you understand who you are in Jesus it starts to change how you view you and how you act. I mean, think about this. If Jesus died for you, don’t you think he will speak to you? Isn’t that like basic logic? If he was willing to die for you, don’t you think he wants to speak to you? I mean, God doesn’t speak to you because you’re good. He speaks to you because He is good. And the behavior of the sheep never impacts the voice of the good shepherd. The behavior of the sheep does not determine the voice of the good shepherd. The good shepherd speaks to sheep that run away and to sheep that follow. I mean, God spoke to Adam, the ultimate failure. He spoke to Moses, the murderer. He spoke to Jonah, the runner. He spoke to Peter. Enough said, okay? And he spoke to Paul who wanted to destroy the church. You read the gospels. You will find Jesus spoke to people with demons, diseases, doubts. He spoke to dead people. “Lazarus, come forth.”

I mean, it is impossible to read the Bible and come to the conclusion that God does not speak to His people. Impossible. You could never just go in a closet, read the Bible for the first time, and walk out and say, “I’ve concluded God does not speak to His people today.” You would get the opposite conclusion. But what we sit there and say is, “Yeah, but I’ve never heard God speak to me.” Okay, well listen to me. Don’t bring your theology down to your personal experience. Raise your personal experience up to your theology. Just because you’ve never the heard of voice or you think you’ve never the heard of God in your life, don’t bring your theology down to what you’ve experienced. Instead say, “What has God said and I’m going to now expect my experience to come up to what He has said is true?” The Old Testament, he spoke to people. Jesus spoke to everyone he walked by. The Holy Spirit was poured out and given to all those who now believe in Jesus. He is within us. It cost God everything to open up a conversation with you. He wants to speak to you even more than you want to listen. And so don’t focus on your ability to hear. Focus on his desire to speak. Okay? God wants to speak to you. Are you with me so far on that?

Okay. Second this is this. And here’s what’s interesting. Here’s what I want to say. The number one question that people ask me as a pastor is, how do I hear God’s voice? So this is like everything. This is the journey of following Jesus. Second thing is this. You hear His voice. You hear His voice, and notice I didn’t say you can hear, you should hear, you might hear. You actually hear His voice. Verse 3 — “The sheep listen to his voice.” If you’ve been around here, you’ve heard this analogy before, but for everybody that’s new I want you to get this. Think about it like this. When you were born in this world, you were born with the innate ability to hear. When you were born as a baby, you were born with the innate ability to hear in the physical realm. You didn’t have to grow ears. You didn’t have to learn how to hear. You didn’t have to convince other people to speak.

You were born with the innate ability to hear in the world around you. You just had to learn to tune out the voices of chaos and tune in to the voice of the one who is holding you. Okay, well Jesus that when we by faith believe in him we’re born again into the kingdom of God. Well, when you’re born again into the kingdom you’re spiritually reborn. You’re born with the ability to hear in the spiritual realm. You’re literally born again into the kingdom with spiritual ears. You don’t have to grow spiritual ears. You don’t have to learn how to hear. You don’t have to convince the Father to speak. You have the ability to hear in the spiritual realm. You just need to learn to tune out the chaos of the world and tune in to the one who is holding you. So the question is, is Jesus your shepherd? Come on, yes or no. Is Jesus your shepherd? Yes. Are you his sheep? And he says you hear his voice. You have the ability to hear. You actually hear it. Think about it like this maybe.

My kids are six and eight. And as they’ve grown the conversations that we’ve had together have changed. And I have always spoken to them at their level of understanding. Whatever they can understand I’ve brought my conversation down to their ability to understand. Like when they were a baby you did the whole, you know, goo-goo gaga, baby. Or when they started to walk or crawl you do the whole, like, “Oh, look at you. You did a so good job!” You know? And then they started school and the conversations got a little bigger. And now as they’re learning to read we’re talking about vocabulary and definitions of things. And as they become adults it will change the conversation again. I’ve always spoken to my kids in a way they can understand, because I love them. I’ve not forced their ability to listen to rise to my ability to speak. I’ve brought my ability to speak down to their ability to listen and understand. Same is true with God. He will always speak to you in a way that you can understand. Like, you have to understand that God does not speak to you in big theological terms that you don’t get. He doesn’t use churchy vocabulary. It’s really good news. The only people who use churchy vocabulary are church people. You understand that, right? Not even God uses churchy vocabulary. He doesn’t speak to you in King James version English only, you know? Thee, thou, musts, obeyeth, me-eth.
He doesn’t do things in like a cryptic code, like three letters to the right circle, four rows down, three things to the right circle. You know, two pages forward, one page back. No, He didn’t do cryptic code and He doesn’t make you need a translator. He speaks to you in a way you can understand. He is a good father, so He uses the universal language of love. Beloved children hear the voice of their father. You hear His voice. I mean, check this out. I think this is amazing. John Chapter 12 — Jesus is getting close to go into the cross. Here is what he says, “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? No, it’s for this very reason that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Ready? “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there heard it and said it had thundered. Others said an angel had spoken to them. And then Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” Now catch this for a second. Jesus is there. The Father speaks from heaven. There’s a huge crowd there, and it says everyone in the crowd heard His voice. Only they had one of two responses. Some of them justified it and explained it away, said it had thundered. And then another group of people knew something spiritual had happened. They just didn’t think it was for them. They thought an angel was speaking to Jesus. They justified it, explained it away, or knew something spiritual had happened but didn’t think it was for them.

I wonder how often we sit in this room and God speaks to us, but we have one of those two responses. Explain it away or say, “That was a nice spiritual experience, but it wasn’t for me.” Everyone hears God’s voice. It’s just how we choose to respond. I mean, how many times in your life have you said something like this? Well, that was a weird coincidence. There’s no such thing as a coincidence. It’s God getting your attention. How many times have you thought, “Man, that was a strange impression or a strange sensation, or an interesting experience?” And maybe there’s a prayer you’ve been praying and then that night you have a dream that almost is like an exact answer to that prayer. And you wake up the next morning and say, “Well, that was sure weird. I just had this dream. It was almost like God was speaking to me about it.”

[Laughs] I can’t help you much more than that, people. And sometimes I think we hear His voice. We just don’t like what He has to say. We can explain it away. We can say it was a spiritual experience for someone else. You realize it is totally possible to hear the voice of God and be completely unaware of it. It’s like Jacob in Genesis 28 when he says, “Surely, God was in this place, and I knew it not.” Surely, God has been speaking to me all my life, and I knew it not. That’s why two people can come into a service, why two people can read a scripture, why two people can be in a small group and leave. And one of them has this profound life-changing encounter and the other one feels like it was boring and irrelevant. It’s what’s your willingness to tune into what He is saying. In Revelation 2:7 Jesus says, “Let he who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.”

So catch it. Let he who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit, the Holy Spirit, is speaking to the church. And you are the church. The church is not a building. It’s the people of God. So the Spirit is speaking to you. The question Jesus asks is, who wants to actually hear what He is saying? The question is not, is God speaking to me? The question is, are we listening to what He wants to say? And if you think about it like this, if you are in Jesus, you by faith believe in him and you’re included in Christ, well if Jesus could hear the Father everywhere he went, then so can you. Because everything that’s true of Jesus is now true of you when you by faith believe in him. In fact, for some of you this is just going to mess with you a little bit, but you have already heard His voice. Like, if you’re saved, if you’re a follower a Jesus, you’ve been born again, you heard His voice. Like, how do you think you got saved? [Laughs] You’re like, a really good preacher at a crusade, man. No. No preacher is that good. Listen to me.
John 5:25 — Jesus says, “I tell you the truth. A time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God, and those who hear will live.” Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good. He came to make dead people alive. You were dead. You heard his voice. When you responded to it, you came to life. If he would speak to you when you’re dead, don’t you think he will speak to you now that you’re alive? You’ve heard his voice. Or how about this? Have you ever been convicted of something? This impression that you just know you shouldn’t do that. I know I shouldn’t do this. I know I shouldn’t watch that. I know I shouldn’t look at this or say that. We’ve all had that. What is that? It’s the Holy Spirit saying, “Hey, let’s not walk down the road of death. Let’s walk down the road of life.” Have you ever been reading the Bible and had a verse jump off the page and like hit you square between the eyes? That’s God speaking to you. This is the word of God already spoken, and a word of God once spoken continues to be spoken. And so He will grab it and illuminate it, pull it off the page and feed it to you, as if He was speaking to you face-to-face. You’ve heard His voice.
Or how about this? Have you ever been sitting in a church service just like this and you feel like the pastor is talking directly to you? Did you ever feel like somebody had a camera in your living room that week? We do. No, we don’t. That would just be creepy for all of us. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times we’ll do a message and it will be about the mission of God and disciples of the nations, and some guy will come up to me after service and be like, “Man, when you were talking about marriage and reconciling with our spouses it just got me.” I’d be like, “What? We talked about mission and making disciples.” “No man. When you were talking about marriages and reconciling with our spouses, just right there I know what I needed to do. And I need to go and apologize to my wife.” And I’m like, “Bro, I didn’t use the word marriage, reconcile, wife once in the entire message.” “Yeah, yeah, you did man. Well, you said that.” What’s happening? The first two or three times that happened to me, I thought I was going crazy.

But then what’s happening? The Holy Spirit is what’s taking what’s being said in faith. He is bending it and he is putting it right into your heart, so you hear exactly what you need to hear by faith. Here’s what we do. We pick and choose sometimes what church services we want to come to based on the series. You realize the series is completely irrelevant. God will say whatever He wants to say to you in the midst of whatever series we’re in. You can have a series on giving and you can find people have the most life-changing encounters of something in their past. You can do a series on mission and watch people’s marriages get restored. You can do a series on miracles and watch all of a sudden people start to become generous. I mean, it has nothing to do with what the series. It has everything to do with God as living and active, alive and now, and He wants to speak to you right where you are.

I mean, think about it like this. Imagine a good father. He jumps into the pool with his kid and he is sitting in the deep end, and here is his little kid, you know. And he’s got, what they call, the water wings on, you know. I like the little tube that goes around here and like harnesses the whole thing together. And his little kid is looking and the father is in the pool going, “Hey, hey, come on jump. Jump. I got you. This is going to be so fun. You can do it. Come on, jump. I’m going to catch you.” Here’s this little kid on the side of the pool and the father is speaking, but because all the other kids are making such a ruckus, splashing around. It’s loud and chaotic, and there’s so much fear within the child. The child is not in tune with the father’s voice. It’s noticing the chaos around them and the fear within them. But you can’t then conclude that the father isn’t speaking. You can just conclude that the noise around them is what’s making the child unaware of the father’s voice. And so what the child needs to do is tune out all the distractions, tune in to the father who says jump, and then go for it.

You see, I think a lot of times we say the wrong things. We say, “God, if you really want to speak to me, then turn your voice up.” God says, “I am speaking to you, so turn your life down.” Is your life too loud to hear His voice? Because He is speaking. And the last thing I want you to get is this. It’s that His voice draws you close. His voice draws you close. Verses 4 and 5 — “When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice.” In other words, Jesus says that we can become so familiar with his voice that we will run away from Satan’s voice, the voice of a stranger. We will literally learn to run away from fear, shame, and condemnation and run towards love, acceptance and kindness. God always speaks in a way that’s drawing you to Him. God is not found in casual exploration. He is found in passionate pursuit.

So He will speak to you in a way that makes you passionately pursue after Him. Now you remember Elijah in First Kings 19? We talked about him last year. Elijah is the guy who needs breakthrough. He is at the end of himself. He has got a ministry hangover. A crazy woman is chasing him down trying to kill him. This guy needs breakthrough. And he’s on the side of a mountain and God comes to meet with him. And it’s a great story. It says, “A wind blows through the mountain and comes so strong that it breaks open rocks. But the Lord wasn’t in the wind.” It says, “Then an earthquake came and shook the very foundation of the mountain that Elijah was on and shook everything apart, but the Lord wasn’t in the earthquake. Then came a fire that tore down the side of the mountain and burned up everything in its path, but the Lord was not in the fire.” “Then”, it says, “came a gentle whisper, and the Lord was in the whisper.” And so Elijah pulls a cloak over his face. He goes out on the side of the mountain and he leans into the presence of God.

God most often speaks to us in a whisper. And you say why? He whispers because He is close. He is not way off in some galaxy. He is not in the universe. He is not so far away that He needs to shout and yell. He is right here. So He whispers because He is close and because He wants to be closer still. Because He knows when He whispers it will force you to lean in and get a little closer to Him. You have to remember that the entire intent of the voice of God is to draw you closer to the heart of God. The intent of God’s voice is to lead you into God’s heart. So He will whisper to draw you close. I mean, let’s be honest. We want God to speak in the spectacular, do we not? I want God to speak, but the wind blowing down the mountain and an earthquake and a fire and all of that. I want God to speak to me in a text message. That’s what I want. I want my phone to start just blowing up. You know, like, “Isn’t God awesome?” I want to be watching TV and all of a sudden have that — beep, beep. “We interrupt up this program to bring you a special message from God.” Or imagine walking your dog down the road — woof, woof — and then all of a sudden it becomes like Balaam’s donkey and it turns and it starts talking to you as God.

[Laughs] Really that would be just creepy. But we want God to speak in the spectacular. But listen to me. You have the Holy Spirit of the Living God inside you as a follower of Jesus, and that is spectacular. You have the Holy Spirit, the great whisperer, who dwells in you when you believe in him, and he whispers to you at any time in any place and that is spectacular. We want God to speak in the spectacular, so we don’t miss it. God wants to speak to us in a whisper, so we don’t miss Him. We want it to be spectacular, so we don’t miss what He has to say. He wants it to be a whisper, so we don’t miss Him. Let me close it with this. I believe so much in this truth. Like, I teach my kids this stuff. And so, I don’t know, maybe two years ago I was tucking my son in bed. I don’t know why he said it to me that night, but he just said, “Hey daddy. I don’t really hear God’s voice.” I said, “What do you mean buddy?” He said, “Yeah. With these ears, dad, like I just never hear Him say anything to me.”

“I can hear you. I can hear mama. I certainly can hear Emma. But I never hear God with these ears.” And I looked at him and I said, “Oh buddy, you’re listening with the wrong ears.” I said, “We don’t listen with these ears. We listen with the ears of our heart.” And he said, “We do?” I said, “Yeah.” And so he closed his eyes and he went silent for 20 seconds, which is like an eternity for a kid. And it was the greatest 20 seconds of my day. And 20 seconds later he opens his eyes and he looks at me and says, “Dad, I think God just spoke to the ears of my heart.” I said, “He did? What did he say?” “He said, “Tray, I love you.”” I looked at him and I said, “Buddy, that sure sounds like God’s voice. You just heard Him.” If you will turn the ears of your heart towards the good shepherd, you will hear His voice. Don’t pursue the whisper. Pursue the whisperer, and you will hear the whisper. Like Habakkuk, let’s position our hearts to hear what He has to say. Let’s write it down, that we may have a clear vision to pursue. Lord, help me hear the whisper. So will you close your eyes with me?

And let me just ask you that same question that I ask you almost every week. What does the Holy Spirit want to say to you? For some of you, this is the first time that question is making sense. You’re realizing that it doesn’t really matter what I’m saying. What matters is what the Holy Spirit is saying. And I think sometimes we can think these last few minutes is kind of the irrelevant part of the service. Like, let’s wrap it up and get to the parking lot and get out of here and get on with our days. But you understand, this last two minutes, this is the pinnacle of the service. We have come in here and we have tuned out the world. We’ve quieted ourselves down. We’ve become aware of His presence. And now we get to listen with the ears of our heart to the great whisperer who wants to speak to you. Some of you, He just wants to talk to you about your marriage, or that job, or your child, or that breakthrough that feels like it hasn’t come. Some of you, He just wants to whisper the word hope into your heart or the words ‘dream again’, or the words “I’ve forgiven you and so it’s time to forgive yourself.” I don’t know what He wants to say. I just know this. God is speaking. You are hearing His voice, and that voice is drawing you close. So maybe you got to just learn a little bit to lean in and listen, to not be afraid of the quiet or the stillness, but to know that He is not here to judge and condemn.

He is not here to be angry and bring shame. He is here to set you free with love and kindness and forgiveness. The great whisperer is in this room, and He is whispering to you. So Jesus, I just ask that you would give us ears to hear what you want to say to us. That you would raise our faith today to believe that the voice of God isn’t reserved for the elite or the spiritual superstars or the religious people or those who know the Bible. That the voice of God is reserved for those with the heart that wants to hear. And so we say to you, we have a heart that wants to hear. Help us hear your whisper. Holy Spirit, this week as we create space for you to move, would you come and would you whisper into our lives? Make us in tune with your voice. Help us to drown out the chaos of the voices, the splashing and the noise of the kids screaming, the fear within us. And may our eyes fixate to our Father, who has something wonderful to say to us. Maybe in your own way by faith, just say, “I believe I’m going to hear His voice.” If He spoke to people with demons, with doubt, with diseases, and those who are dead, He will speak to you. We can’t wait to hear what you have to say, Jesus. We love you. In your name we pray. Amen.

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