Questions People Ask the Church: Can I Really Know God’s Will
Where is God? People ask this question of the church and I have no trouble pointing them to God. I know the answer to that one. Why do bad things happen? is another question peole ask the church. The answer 9 and one-half time out of ten is found in a word called sin. Can I trust God? My answer is "Yes! You can't afford not to!" Can God forgive me? You bet He can. God's grace is greater than all my sin.
Can I really know the will of God? Of all the question people ask the church, this is the one I struggle with the most. Not because I don't know the answer, but because--like the rest of you--I too struggle to find it.
One of the great truths that is evident throughout the Scriptures is that God speaks to His people. He speaks in order to reveal Himself, His purpose and His ways. And He speaks in order to reveal His will. God speaks.
The question is: "Are we listening?" Our Lord Jesus is quoted by the apostle John as saying, "He who belongs to God hears what God says." This brings us to a critical issue in the believer's life. If the Christian does not know when God is speaking, he or she is in trouble at the heart of his or her Christian life.
In the Old Testament God spoke in divers manners according the our text. That simply means that God does not limit Himself to one set way of communicating truth to His people. A quick review of Old Testament passages will reveal that God used angels, visions, dreams, symbolic actions, a gentle whisper, and miraculous signs to speak to people.
What is most significant is that God chooses to speak to us, not the method He chooses for doing it. Those with whom He spoke knew it was God and they knew what He was saying.
When we look at how God spoke to characters in the Old Testament, we see a pattern emerge which teaches us some basic truths about how God communicates with us.
I. WHEN GOD SPOKE, IT WAS USUALLY UNIQUE TO THAT INDIVIDUAL
- God does not treat us as one of many grapes within the bunch
- God sees us as the unique individuals we are with our singular personalities and distinctive character
- Psalms 44:21 says "he knows the secrets of the heart"
- Psa 94:11 says "The LORD knows the thoughts of man;"
- Matt 10:30 says He knows the number of hairs on your head
- I John 3:20 says "He knows everything."
- the implication is that when God chooses to communicate with you it is because He has a message which relates to you as a unique individual
- in others words, God does not use generic scripts when He speaks to you
- He keeps your unique personality and your peculiar situation in mind when He speaks to you
- ILLUS. Many years ago when I was working on my Masters Degree I did a study of how radio and T.V. preachers use the electronic media to communicate with their audience. I wrote to both well-known and lesser- known religious personalities in order to get on their mailing lists. There was one radio evangelist out of Texas who was the most interesting. About ever three months I would get a letter from him. The letter almost always began the same. "This is God's personal revelation (personal revelation was always underlined) to you as He has told me to tell you. The letter would then ramble on about a variety of things God had personally told this evangelist to tell me. The interesting part of this was that the letter was always mimeographed! I couldn't help but wonder how many others had gotten the same "personal revelation!"
A. GOD'S COMMUNICATION WITH US IS ALWAYS A DISTINCTIVE EXPERIENCE
- we see this in the life of Moses
- Moses had no precedent for a burning bush experience
- he could not say, "Oh, this is my burning bush experience. My spiritual fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had theirs, and this is mine."
- there were no other experiences of God speaking this way
- it was a unique and distinctive communication with Moses designed to get His attention and drive home the message
- God wants our experience with Him, and His voice, to be personal to us
- He wants us to look to Him for a relationship rather than depending on some method or technique
- if Moses had been alive today, he would probably be tempted to write a book entitled, My Burning Bush Experience: and How you Can Have One Too!
- then people all over the world would read his book and be out trying to find their burning bush
- because we are all different, God uses different ways to speak to us
- ILLUS. Those of you with more than one child know that you must frequently use different styles of communication to get a point across to your children. Some of you are blessed with that compliant child. All you have to do is say, "Karen, it's time for you to go take your bath and get to bed." The child hears, perceives the message and does what they are told. Then there is the other child. "Billy, it's time for you to go take your bath and get to bed." The first time you say it, it's as though you we talking to a wall. Billy is engrossed in watching Dinosaurs and does not even acknowledge your statement. The second time you are a little more forceful, "Billy! Go take your bath and get to bed!" At that point he turns and looks at you as if to say, "You weren't talking to me, were you?" Ultimately, only a "burning butt experience" is going to get Billy's attention.
- the important thing is not how God speaks to His people, but that He speaks
- this has not changed
- He will speak to you
II. WHEN GOD SPOKE, THE PERSON WAS SURE GOD WAS SPEAKING
- because God spoke to Moses in a unique way, Moses was certain it was God
- Moses had no question that His encounter was with God
- Moses trusted God, obeyed Him and then experienced God doing exactly what He said He would do
- could Moses logically prove to someone else that he had heard from God?
- no, all he could do was testify to his encounter with God
A. GOD ALWAYS IDENTIFIES HIMSELF TO THE BELIEVER
- to Abraham He said, ". . . I am the LORD that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees," Gen 15:7
- to Abraham's son Isaac God said, "I am the God of Abraham thy father:" Gen 26:24
- to Jacob He said, "I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac:" Gen. 28:13
- to Moses, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Exo 3:6
- to the prophet Isaiah God says, "I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;" Isa. 44:24
- to the prophet Jeremiah, "I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth." Jer. 9:24
- over two hundred times God says to Israel, "I am the Lord" or "I am the Lord thy God."
B. MOSES WAS SURE IT WAS GOD SPEAKING BECAUSE HE HAD COME TO RECOGNIZE GOD'S VOICE
- when you're a fugitive who has become a shepherd on the back-side of now-where you probably have lots of time to spend with God and you learn the sound of His voice
- Moses does not question that it is God speaking to Him
III. WHEN GOD SPOKE, THE PERSON KNEW WHAT GOD SAID
- Exo 3:7,10 "And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; . . . Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt."
A. WHEN GOD SPEAKS, HE SPEAKS CLEARLY AND SPECIFICALLY
- ILLUS. After God spoke to Noah about building the ark, Noah knew the size, the type of materials, and how to put it together. He did not have to guess at what God wanted. When God spoke to Moses about the tabernacle He was very specific about the details. When God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, He gave specific directions to His disciples--where to go, what to do, and how to respond.
- after God spoke to Moses at the burning bush there was no question in Moses' mind what God wanted him to do
- that is why Moses raised so many objections
- he knew exactly what God was saying and exactly what God was expecting
- this was true for Moses; and it was true for noah, Abraham, Joseph, David, Jonah, Daniel and others
- our trouble as Christian is not that we don't hear God, we just don't like what He says at times
- when God speaks we need to obey in faith even if God has not given us all the details we desire
- throughout the Scriptures we see that God always gives a direction on the front end when He speaks to us
- He may not tell you all you want to know at the beginning, but He will tell you what you need to know to make necessary adjustments and to take the first step of obedience
- when God called Abraham, He simply said, "Go to the land I will show you" Gen. 12:1
- that was not very specific
- it required faith
- But God did say, "I'll show you."
- God will always give you enough specific directions to do now what He wants you to do
- when you need more directions, He gives you more in His timing
- ILLUS. When I felt God calling me into the ministry, He did not give me very many details. He did not tell me whether He wanted me in missions, or evangelism or education or the pastorate. It was only after I obeyed that call, publicly testified to it and began my theological education that God began to reveal the area of ministry he had called me to. Even then He did not tell me what churches I would pastor, where they would be or how long I would be at each one. He progressively reveals His plans to us when He is ready for us to know more. When that time comes we need to be obedient.
B. WHEN WE DON'T OBEY, GOD'S VOICE GETS FAINTER AND FAINTER
- I believe that this was King David's problem and the reason why he fell into sin with Bath-Sheba
- David had stopped obeying God and when we stop obeying God His voice gets fainter and fainter because it cannot penetrate our hardened hearts
- disobedience also caused the nation of Israel to become "hard of hearing" and is the reason they so frequently slipped into idolatry
- Ezek 12:1-2 "The word of the LORD came to me: 2 "Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people."
- the first is sin
- Psa 66:18 "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:"
- will not hear me is literally will not pay attention to me
- Mat 20:20-23
- Numbers 11:10-15
- God had called Moses to a task, but when the going got tough, Moses wanted out!
- though he had repeatedly seen God at work, he did not believe God could supply meat for the people
IV. WHEN GOD SPOKE, THAT WAS AN ENCOUNTER WITH THE LIVING GOD
- Moses would have been foolish to say, "This has been a wonderful experience at this burning bush. I hope this leads me to an encounter with God!"
- that was an encounter with God!
- whenever God reveals truth to you, by whatever means, where ever it happens that is an encounter with God
A. WHEN WE ENCOUNTER GOD, WE ARE STANDING ON HOLY GROUND
- Exo 3:4-6 "When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob."
- holy ground is found in many different places
- it can be found in an auditorium or a cathedral--if that's where God speaks to you
- it can be found in a plowed field or an open meadow--if that's where God speaks to you
- it can be found in a bedroom, or a living room or beside the kitchen sink--if that's were God speaks to you
- the question of the hour is: "When was the last time you found yourself standing on holy ground?"
- in other words, when was the last time you encountered God?!
- when God speaks and your hear and respond--that is an encounter with God
- why is God so concerned that you encounter Him in prayer?
- because God is interested in having a relationship with you
- ILLUS. How would you feel if God gave you the same amount of time and attention that you devote to Him? If God put as many things ahead of you as you put ahead of Him? If God offered as many excuses as you do and if the excuses were no more justifiable than yours? If God's promises were no more certain than yours? If God withheld His blessings from you as you withhold your offerings from Him?
CON. One of the great truths that is evident throughout the Scriptures is that God speaks to His people. He speaks in order to reveal Himself, His purpose and His ways. God speaks. The question is: "Are you listening?" This morning you can be standing on holy ground.