One of the most challenging journeys we make as Christians is to learn how to recognize, and consistently hear God’s voice, as many Christians struggle to hear from him regularly, or at all. But why is this, if we have the spirit of God living inside of us, how come hearing from him is such a difficult thing for so many of us?
(I will explain why the picture above relates to the article at the end, trust me, it starts off a bit abstract but we will get there!)
Our Obedience Affects The Intimacy, And Amount Of Communication In Our Relationship With God
Even though many Christians want to hear from God, most do not understand how they must be obedient before expecting a vibrant conversation, or intimate relationship, to start taking place
Now, before the enemy starts telling everyone we need to be perfect before God will talk to us so we become afraid of rejection, remember God loves us tremendously, and wants an amazing, passionate relationship with everyone, but he is very specific about what it takes to gain intimacy with him, as his presence is always stronger or weaker depending on how much someone respects, and obeys him
Also, before we go on, I want to address how many people will read the OT passages below and say “But those are from the old covenant, we have a new relationship now!”, yes, that is true, but if the new covenant guaranteed everyone would hear from God clearly, and without condition, then why don’t we?
I bet you did not think of that, Bad Answer Brown!
Okay, I kid, but you get my point, as ignoring the OT when we want to support our point of view makes no sense, in fact, the authors of the NT did no such thing as they quoted it all the time to help NT Christians understand theology, as well as God’s character
Anyway, let us look at some examples of what it takes to have an intimate relationship with God, as Jesus taught that when we obey him fully, both he and the Father will develop a special relationship with us, not before, just like how Peter told NT believers, by quoting an OT scripture, that God is far from the wicked, but listens to the prayers of the righteous!
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him
(This verse is incredible!
Note how Jesus clearly states that “whoever has my commands and obeys them” is the one who “will be loved by my Father”, as there are clear differences between the types of relationships God has with those who obey him versus those who do not. Also, look at how Jesus went even further by saying he will not love, or show himself to us fully unless we obey his commands! This is not exactly a comfortable, or common teaching, as many are taught nothing we can do will affect our relationship with God in any way, but this is totally false–remember, this is Jesus talking, not some random person who decided to say something nice sounding for the sake of winning a bigger audience or selling books, nor was it someone teaching theology based on their fear of rejection or someone’s made up image of God, this was God himself talking!)
1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry; the face of the Lord is against those who do evil
The LORD is far from the wicked but he hears the prayer of the righteous
We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will
The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them
Regardless of whether these verses are from the OT or NT, they all reflect one thing: God’s personality when it comes to being intimate with mankind
It is important to understand God’s personality in this area, as it did not change during the shift between the old covenant and the new
Based on this, we must be careful to use discernment when people try to ignore the OT in favor of some easy sounding, unscriptural doctrine that involves completely ignoring God’s character we read about in the OT
If Jesus himself said God loves, and interacts with us differently based on whether we are obedient or not, it is difficult to disagree with him unless we decide we know more about God than Jesus did
Another example, is how Jesus, who was our ultimate example, did not have an intimate relationship with God by default, nor were his prayers heard because he was special, God heard his prayers because of his “reverent submission”, and because he “delighted” in the fear/respect of God
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord
The words “reverent submission” and “fear of the Lord” in Hebrews and Greek mean “godly fear, respect for God”, so we see Jesus was heard because he respected God, and lived obediently, not because he was “special” or above the rules of God’s character–think about that the next time you sin with the mindset of “God will forgive me anyway, what does it matter if I do this”, as that will absolutely destroy your prayer life
Also, God spoke very directly about the type of people he favors the most, as he has always been closest with those who respect, and obey him
This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word
A lot of Christians were never taught the scriptures above, as they are not exactly popular messages, but now that they are in front of you, do not reject them because they are uncomfortable, as God wants us to lay down all things that separate ourselves from him, and seek him passionately, but we need to know the truth about his character first, regardless of whether we find it challenging or not
In fact, we can rest assured that seeking true intimacy with God will be challenging as it requires consistent obedience, which is why it is important to humbly submit ourselves to him, acknowledging we need his help to walk in righteousness, as we cannot get there on our own, nor can we get there by doing nothing!
It is okay to admit we do not have the kind of passionate, life changing relationship with God we want, but it is *not* okay to ignore the Bible’s teachings on how to get it, as it requires us to draw near to God through obedience, love, and sincerity once we become Christians–with full confidence he will reward us with his presence when we do so, as that is exactly what he promised!
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up
(Note that James is talking to NT Christians who have already entered into a relationship with God, as he is telling them the key to intimacy with God is ridding ourselves of sin, and drawing near to him with enthusiasm!)
…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful
(Note that we are to draw near to God with sincerity!)
I am your shield, your very great reward
Since we now understand how our sincerity, and obedience affects our intimacy, and level of communication with God, we should ask ourselves if there are any sinful things in our lives that are standing between having a powerful, vibrant relationship with our creator, as disobedience is the single largest block to our communication with God
All this brings us to our next point: are we really sincere when we say we want to hear from God or do we just want him to fulfill a request, or solution, we already feel comfortable with?
There Is A Difference Between Wanting To Talk With A Friend Versus Asking Dad For Help Because We Are In Trouble
Oh yes, that is right, this is one of the biggest issues we go through when we pray, as we often approach God asking for things as if he is some kind of gumball machine, rather than focus on seeking his presence because we want to be friends
What, does God not have feelings?
Does he not want an intimate relationship with each and every one of us?
Did God create mankind just he could fulfill the earthly desires of the ones who call themselves believers?
Of course not!
God not only yearns to be intimate with us, but he wants us to share the love he showed us to others, which is what Christianity is all about, being friends with God through obedience, and teaching others to do the same!
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command
This passage is amazing, as Jesus openly tells us to remain in his love by obeying his commands, to love one another as he loved us, that he laid down his life for his friends, and that we are his friends only *IF* we do what he commands
Now, to go back to the point about God/Jesus loving people differently based on whether they obey or not, when is the last time someone you heard someone teach a message like what Jesus teaches in the passage above?
Pretty much never, as it is incredibly unpopular, especially among young Christians who are still in the process of maturing, and even among many who call themselves mature, but these are the very words of Jesus, who was God himself!
So, if we see a friendship with God revolves around obeying his commands, we cannot continue to pray to God as if he is only our “go to” when we need help, we need to approach him as one who seeks him for friendship, not just blessings or help when we decide we need it!
What am I talking about?
We always need help overcoming things in our lives, but sometimes we do not even realize there is a problem with our lifestyles, ways of thinking, etc…, which is why it is so important to seek God’s counsel in everything
For example, it is incredibly powerful to come to God with complete honesty to ask things like: “God, I want to be close to you, please show me things I need to work on, areas I need to grow in, and please give me your wisdom, and guidance to mature”
Now that is a powerful prayer, as it shows humility, honesty, and a will to do what makes God happy, rather than focus our prayers on what we want all the time, as the entire point of knowing God is not to receive blessings, help, etc…, it is to know God personally!
On this same point, one of the most powerful habits I have gotten into, aside from diligent obedience, is turning to him at every opportunity to seek his advice, counsel, and insight, instead of always trying to rely on my intellect to navigate tough situations
For example, when I am faced with temptation, difficult people, professional stress, etc…, instead of having an emotional, or even an intellectual, reaction I turn to God in order to see what how he wants me to do, rather than turn to him and say “God, this is what I want, please do this” or “God, I am in trouble, please help me by doing _____”
I mean honestly, I am pretty sure God’s solution for things is far beyond whatever I would have come up with anyway, so why stress myself out trying to think of a solution!
Also, when we have an agenda, it can be very easy to get confused about the answers we hear, which is why it is so important to approach God with the intent of following what he says, not just praying because we already have something in mind we want him to do
Ironically, in my own life, I often got the most “confused” when God was telling me something that contradicted what I wanted to hear, but it did not mean he was not answering me, I just did not want to accept what he wanted
When I found myself in those situations, I conveniently wondered if what I was hearing was really from him, asked others to pray about it as well, etc…, but, in reality, I was just trying to put a different label on my rebellion, rather than admit I did not want to obey God’s guidance, which always led to numerous, tragic situations, especially with relationships
Oh, this is interesting, God spoke to me this morning about one particular case where turning to him, and/or obeying his advice would have saved a lot of trouble: Adam and Eve’s temptation in the Garden of Eden!
Oops, Can I Get A “Do Over”?
Okay, now you know why the picture for this post makes sense, as the situation in the Garden of Eden is an incredibly exaggerated case of people not obeying, or turning to, God when they should, with disastrous results!
Let us read the story for context shall we?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’”
“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband,who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the LordGod called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate”
Keep in mind satan came after Eve right after she was created, as he knew there was no way he could tempt Adam in the same way since Adam had spent so much time with God already, and had developed a more mature relationship, which meant Adam would not have responded to the same kind of temptation Eve would–God and Adam had already named all the animals of the earth together, that is a great way to get to know someone!
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field
Now, imagine all the trouble we would have avoided if Eve had heard satan’s lies, but instead of listening to them, turned and asked God:
“Hey, that snake over there said a bunch of stuff that made me confused, can you help me understand what is going, he is saying you lied to me, is that true?”
Or what if Adam said:
“God, this woman just disobeyed you, I know she is my partner, but what should I do?”
These types of responses reflect the type of attitude we should have at all times, as sometimes the enemy twists our emotions, thoughts, etc… by preying on our insecurities, fears, personal desires, or just plain ignorance, in order to separate us from God through disobedience, but we always we have the power to turn to God and ask for help, we just have to remember, and train ourselves to do so!
So, when seeking God in prayer, make sure you are careful about drawing near to listen, rather than speak, as he knows what we need before we even approach him, we just have to make sure our heart is in the right place when coming to him–just always make sure what you “hear” lines up with God’s character as we see it revealed in the Bible, the enemy is fantastic at deceiving us, especially when we are just starting out!
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him