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By John Piper — 2 years ago
http://rss.desiringgod.org/link/10732/15038409/how-to-be-filled-with-the-holy-spiritPost Views: 332
By Vaneetha Rendall Risner — 8 months ago
Have you ever heard God’s voice?
Has he spoken words that have strengthened your soul? Or transformed your perspective? Or brought you abiding peace? God’s words are unlike human words. They change us. They bear fruit. They do not — and cannot — return void (Isaiah 55:11). God spoke our whole world into existence. For God, speaking is the same as having it done.
In suffering, perhaps more than at any other time, we need to be attuned to God’s voice. Otherwise, we’ll be persuaded by the voices around us that tempt us to despair in our pain, to believe that God doesn’t care, to conclude that the world’s way to handle suffering is better than God’s way. These competing voices, of Satan and the world (or of our friends or insecurities), can lead us away from the Lord, making us doubt what God has clearly said.
Who Has Your Ear?
Satan came to Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, tempting him to doubt his identity and to test God’s reliability, implying that God was not true to the word he had just spoken (Matthew 3:17). Satan loves to prey on our vulnerability, pouncing when we feel alone and weak.
People we trust can also inadvertently lead us from the truth. We can begin to doubt what God has shown us when others question what he’s said, or when they offer some fresh “revelation” or insight that supersedes what God has clearly said. In 1 Kings 13, the Lord told a man of God to go straight home without stopping, but he was persuaded by an old prophet (who claimed to hear from an angel) to do the opposite of what God had told him. We don’t know why the old prophet lied, but the consequences were disastrous. When God’s word to us is clear, we need to obey him rather than relying on the opinions of others — even of those we respect.
The voices of our fears and insecurities are constantly whispering to us as well. God told the Israelites that if they were disobedient, he would send faintness into their hearts. The sound of a driven leaf would put them to flight, and they would flee as someone fleeing from the sword. They would fall even though no one was pursuing them (Leviticus 26:36). This is what happens when we don’t trust the Lord, when we listen to our fears instead of listening to him. We hear terrifying sounds. We imagine the worst. Our hearts melt, and panic consumes us, even when we have nothing to fear.
All these voices can fill our minds, drowning out the voice of God, redirecting our thoughts, and intensifying our insecurities. This can happen even when the words we hear aren’t inherently evil. Since the voices we listen to will inevitably shape us, we need to be aware of their influence. What books or articles are we reading? What podcasts are we listening to? What friends do we spend the most time with? Whom are we following on social media, and what are we watching on screens? These voices all shape us, in both subtle and overt ways. Some leave us unsettled and fearful, others entitled and angry, but listening to God’s voice will fill us with strength and peace.
I Know His Voice
When I was a little girl, I lived in a large ward in the hospital with other children, and was permitted to see my parents only on weekends. I went through major surgeries alone, constantly afraid of what might happen since my parents couldn’t be with me before surgery. But on Saturday mornings, as soon as visitors were allowed, my parents would come to the hospital. I vividly remember hearing my mother’s voice in the hall. Even before I could discern what she was saying, her voice made me feel safe. I could relax, confident that she and my father would take care of me.
“Hearing God’s voice in my suffering has brought a comfort that has enveloped me.”
Similarly, hearing God’s voice in my suffering has brought a comfort that has enveloped me. I know that I’m not alone. God is near. He will take care of me. Like all Jesus’s sheep, I know his voice (John 10:27). It’s unmistakable. Even though sheep may not understand all the words, they recognize the reassuring voice of their shepherd, and know they are safe.
So, how do we recognize God’s voice?
Often it begins with inviting him to speak to us, perhaps when we wake up, and particularly at the beginning of our time in Scripture. We might say with Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9). While Scripture describes God speaking in a variety of ways, the Bible is the primary and most reliable way we hear from him. The words of Scripture are God’s very words, and form the framework for all we know about God.
What Does God Sound Like?
When we read the Bible, we are listening for God’s voice, often reading and rereading until the Spirit gives us ears to hear. Until God opens our ears, the words can seem dry and lifeless. They can seem like academic knowledge, not like life-giving comfort and wisdom.
As we dig for treasure, though, persistently knocking until we hear God’s voice, the same words suddenly come to life. They inspire us, leave us in breathtaking awe of God, and buoy our confidence in him. His voice dispels our darkest fears, revives our weary souls, gives us supernatural wisdom, and reassures us that something much better is coming.
In reading Scripture, we are not only listening to God’s words for us, but we are also becoming familiar with the sound of his voice. We start understanding his ways. God isn’t limited to speaking through Scripture — but Scripture attunes our ears to what his voice sounds like. As we memorize Scripture, his words begin running through our minds. We can discern truth from falsehood, knowing God will never contradict what he’s told us in the Bible.
At the same time, other voices can encourage our faith as well. We know, for instance, that “the heavens declare the glory of God,” and all of nature sings his praise (Psalm 19:1). Faithful preachers proclaim God’s word, which then takes root in our hearts. Friends share nuggets of what God has shown them, and our spirits and faith are strengthened.
“I must choose to open the Bible and read, even when everything in me is fighting against it.”
Sometimes God speaks directly to our inner being without an intermediary. While God speaks predominantly through Scripture, I’ve sensed him speaking to me twice in words that were not directly from the Bible. They were both during times of suffering and uncertainty, and immediately afterward I felt a tangible change. As I considered the words I believed were from God, I tested them against Scripture, and asked him for confirmation. After the encounter, I was left with an inexplicable peace and a deeper wonder and trust in God.
Let His Voice Be First
When I’m anxious, my mind naturally runs in a hundred different directions, looking for answers and solutions I can produce in my own strength. It’s hard to be still before God. Yet that’s when I need stillness most. I need to be quiet enough to hear God’s voice, and know that he is near. I must choose to open the Bible and read, even when everything in me is fighting against it. In turmoil, I want noise and distraction to drown out my pain, so stillness has to be an intentional choice, a deliberate shift to listen to God. It rarely happens when I’m scrolling through my phone, landing on whatever captures my attention.
When you want to hear the voice of God unmistakably, I urge you to read your Bible, and ask him to speak to you through it. Quiet your heart, and submit to his word. Listen for his voice singing over you as his beloved (Zephaniah 3:17). Let the first voice you hear be his, as you declare with David, “Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust” (Psalm 143:8).
By David Mathis — 8 months ago
Lightning can be majestic. That is, from a safe distance. Or from a secure shelter that frees us from the threat of electrocution, and allows us to enjoy the spectacular show.
The concept of majesty first brings to mind great sights, like distant lightning. Whether it’s a scenic vista of purple mountain majesties, the skyline of a great city, the dazzling beauty of gold or precious jewels, or the grandeur of a royal palace and its decorum, we typically associate the noun majesty, and its adjective majestic, with stunning glimpses, panoramas, and sights.
Majesty captures a greatness, power, and glory that is both impressive and attractive. And as with lightning, what is majestic from a safe distance can be terrifying when right overhead, without shelter. And so it is when the living God showcases his majesty at the Red Sea — his enemies panic with fear (Exodus 14:24), while his people, whom he rescues, know themselves safe and praise his majesty:
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble. . . . Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? (Exodus 15:7, 11)
Yet when Scripture mentions the majesty of God, the reference is not exclusively to the visible. Thunder, not only lightning, also may strike us as majestic, when we don’t find ourselves exposed and at risk. And so, as Scripture testifies, God’s voice is majestic.
His words ring out with divine greatness, and tangible goodness, in the ears of his people. His speech is both authoritative and appealing, imposing and attractive. His voice both cuts us to the heart, and makes our hearts thrill. His words wound us in our sin, and we welcome it in the Spirit. God’s majestic words, spoken and written, surprise and delight his people, even as his enemies cower at his thunderings. Their fear is terror; ours is reverent awe and joy.
His lightnings enthrall his saints. As does the thunder of his words.
Greatness of His Word
Consider, first, the greatness of “his majestic voice” (Isaiah 30:30).
“No voice speaks with such authority — or remotely close to such authority — as the voice of the living God.”
No voice speaks with such authority — or anywhere even remotely close to such authority — as the voice of the living God. His words, unlike any other words, are utterly authoritative, and on every possible subject he chooses to address. Like no other mind and mouth, his words are not limited to an area of expertise. His expertise, as God, is all things, without exception.
But the greatness of his word includes not only his right to speak on any given subject (and every subject), but also his ability to speak to the most important subjects and do so extensively, and perfectly, and have the final say. He not only takes up far-reaching, bottomless, eternal, truly great topics, but he never speaks above his head, or out of his depths, as even the world’s greatest minds do when they come to the topics that matter most.
God never speculates. He never overreaches or overextends his knowledge. He never over-speaks. As God, he may publicly address any subject matter he chooses, and with unassailable authority, and he does so perfectly, every time, in all he chooses to say and not say.
In Scripture, he does give us an extensive word, but not an exhaustive one. He chooses to limit his spoken revelation to a first covenant and then a new one, 66 books, and 30,000 verses across the span of a millennium and a half. However, he chooses not (yet) to speak to every possible subject in his created world and beyond, but to speak with both clarity and repetition, despite the trends and undulations of every generation, to the realities that are most timeless and essential. And in doing so, he cues his people in on the subjects and proportions of his focus that prove most important in every time and season.
Power of His Word
Ponder also the power of his majestic voice. His divine speech is not only authoritative on every subject but indomitably effective in accomplishing every purpose he intends. His words do not return to him empty, but effect, every time, precisely what he purposes (Isaiah 55:11).
“God has the ability to do exactly what he says — and to do it simply by saying it.”
Like no other being in the universe, God has the ability to do exactly what he says — and to do so simply by saying it. “Let there be light,” he says, and without delay or uncertainty, there is light. And he keeps the world he made in existence — he upholds it — says Hebrews 1:3, “by his powerful word.” And when he chooses, he speaks into the deaf hearts of “those who are perishing” — those whose spiritual sight has been blinded by “the god of this world” — and he says, “Let light shine out of darkness.” At that moment, dead hearts begin to beat. Deaf ears hear, and blind eyes see the light of his gospel. They believe and are saved (2 Corinthians 4:3–6).
Well did Martin Luther, author of “A Mighty Fortress,” marvel at the majesty of the divine voice when he wrote that we tremble not for the prince of darkness — because “one little word shall fell him.” According to John’s Apocalypse, the God-man, with his risen, glorified, human mouth will speak the decisive, effective word in the end. On the isle of Patmos, John first heard “a loud voice like a trumpet” (Revelation 1:10), and turned to see — among the visible majesties of Christ’s robe, sash, hair, eyes, feet, and face — that “from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword,” and “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15–16). With no weapon in hand, but fully armed with the power of his perfectly effective word, Christ will defeat his enemies, making “war against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16).
From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. . . . And the rest [those who had received the mark of the beast] were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse. (Revelation 19:15, 21)
The day fast approaches when the risen Christ, as the divine-human mouthpiece of the Godhead, will have only to speak and fell the devil and his hordes with one majestic word from his mouth.
Glory of His Word
Finally, consider the glory of his majestic voice. Even more than greatness and power, glory comes closest to the heart of what majesty signals.
Majesty is typically emotive. It’s the worshiper’s word of choice, not the scientist’s. Applied to God’s word, his majesty relates to the moral beauty of his speech. The divine voice is not only great in volume and pitch but good in the ears of his people; not only powerful but wonderful for his church; not only true but desirable in the hearts of his saints.
More to be desired are [his words] than gold, even much fine gold;sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:10)
And we note, in a fallen world like ours, and with sin-swayed palates like ours, the divine glory often comes with unexpected or peculiar majesty. His majestic voice rarely speaks as human ears anticipate. With our own short-sighted and sin-shaped notions of what a glorious voice will say, we find ourselves startled again and again by Scripture. Here, in the words of God, we find a majesty, a glory, that does not meet our eyes and ears like the world and sin have taught us to expect. His voice rings out with a distinctly divine glory, a peculiar majesty, that far outstrips our small assumptions.
His majestic voice upstages the wisdom of the world, and unnerves the scribes and debaters of this age. It arrests the wise, powerful, and nobly born according to worldly standards. It shames the world’s wise and strong, while exalting the low and despised (1 Corinthians 1:20, 26–28). As the Bible’s great meditation on divine majesty, Psalm 8, celebrates,
Out of the mouth of babies and infants,you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. (Psalm 8:2)
The one who “set [his] glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1) puts his peculiar majesty on display — or makes his majesty audible — in the mouths of the weakest, even babes and infants. And in such peculiar majesty, God’s people hear an undeniably self-authenticating glory: this voice is indeed God’s, not man’s. Humans may forge swords and devise missiles. They may construct towers and adorn palaces. But the Majesty on High will bring them down with the praise of children.
Victory of His Word
So we hear that when God himself came to dwell among us, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). He did not come with the majesty man expected. The Word came to Nazareth, to a virgin, to thirty years in obscurity, with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2). That is, no majesty for the eyes and ears of natural man.
But when God opens our eyes, and ears, we encounter his majesty. We hang on his words, as some did when he taught in the temple (Luke 19:48), and we testify in awe, with those officers who confessed, “No one ever spoke like this man!” (John 7:46). We say with the crowds in Galilee, Finally, a teacher with real authority! (Mark 1:22, 27). And we anticipate the day when he will smite our foes with the sword of his mouth, even as we his church praise him, with the tribute of Psalm 45:2, “grace is poured upon your lips.”
Then we will see even more of the majesty of his lightning, that comes with his thunderous word.