Should a Christians be like a hound dog asleep on a porch or like a sheepdog obeying his master?
I believe that attunement to Jesus’ voice or the lack thereof (whether we’re like a lazy hound dog or an obedient sheep dog) depends on our choice, not on our ability to hear Jesus. He said that all His followers can hear Him: “My sheep hear my voice.”
As a new believer reading the book of Acts, I became frustrated seeing how often God spoke to the early Christ-followers and I suddenly said to God: “You spoke to people in the Bible, why aren’t you speaking today?” In an instant these words came to my mind: “The problem’s not that I’m not speaking but that you’re not listening.” Oops! The problem was with me, not God.
I began to notice that as I read the Bible and the words burned in my heart, that Jesus was speaking to me. Sometimes during the day or night a thought consisting of words would drop into my mind and I knew it was Jesus talking. Sometimes a godly inner prompting without words and sometimes a soul-stirring image would come to me. With a holy sense of awe, I recognized that they were from God. Sometimes my conscience would begin to steer me away from wrongful thoughts or actions and I could tell that Jesus was lovingly directing me to safety.
In college a friend and I would listen to Jesus together and then tell each other what we heard. After I married my wife and would listen to Jesus together with each other and sometimes with friends and share what we heard. The results were always inspiring, even life changing.
As employees of The Salvation Army, my wife and I were asked if we would open up a Salvation Army Corps (church) but to do it in a non-traditional way. We were thrilled to accept the offer. For 10 years we would gather on Sunday morning and engage in heart-felt worship and singing. Then we would ask people to listen to Jesus and then say and/or do whatever He told them to.
It’s not an overstatement to say that every Sunday morning was miraculous. Ordinary people spoke with humble heart-felt elegance. They ministered in great power to one another. They explained Scripture with profound insight. They testified to wonders God was doing in and through them. They confessed sins and humbly repented. All this was done as they were prompted by the risen Jesus. We had no ending time and sometimes this would go on for up to 2 1/2 hours.
“He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the ekklesias (the name of the interactive town hall meetings in various ancient Greek cities which literally means “the called-out ones” that the NT writers used as the word for a gathering of members of the body of Christ). I believe God is speaking to gatherings of His body, but we as individuals have been trained to listen to a human speaker more than to the ever-present, living Jesus. Thus, we unintentionally quench the promptings and directings of God’s Spirit and curtail what the living Jesus wants to do in the meeting through the ordinary believers assembled in His name.
Ordinary Christ-followers can hear Jesus’ voice. Let’s set up Christian gatherings where they can practice listening to Jesus and then say or do whatever He tells them to.