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The Voice of God (2) Responsibility - 3rd July 2005 pm

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The Voice of God (2)

Responsibility

Hebrews 1 & 2

1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

2 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

This morning we paused to consider – in the familiar teachings of Jesus from John 10 – the security that comes from listening to the Voice of the Lord.  This evening we turn to Hebrews and consider the great danger that is posed to the believer who DOES NOT LISTEN to the Voice of the Lord.

I have said before, and I will say again, that there is no book of the New Testament that has such a commanding opening as this.  There is a resonance about the words that demands our attention.

God who in times past spoke through the prophets… has in these last days SPOKEN UNTO US BY HIS SON.

There are aspects of Hebrews which make the book demanding to read – many of the references to Old Testament practice seem to our modern minds a little strange and distant – but of the central message there is absolutely NO DOUBT AT ALL.  However wonderful is the Voice of God in Creation and in Revelation before Jesus came – it cannot compare with the wonder of HIS VOICE and HIS PERSON!

GOD SPEAKS

Hebrews reminds us that God has spoken  - but that He now speaks.

It is a speaking in history – at many times and in various ways

It is a speaking in creation – the Son, through whom He made the universe

It is a speaking in glory -  Jesus – the radiance of God’s glory

It is a speaking in providence – “sustaining all things by His powerful word”

It is a speaking in a finished saving work – “He sat down at the right hand of

                                                                        the Majesty in heaven…”

So you can’t possibly have missed it!

And, indeed, those to whom he wrote, and we who have heard it too we have HEARD that Voice again and again.

The question is:   ARE WE LISTENING?

Those who have young children, and those who have or do teach will understand that distinction.

Many hear – but few LISTEN!

I want you to reflect this evening upon how and when you have heard God speak.

Can you hear Him in the wonder of His created work?

Can you hear Him in the lessons of History – particularly the history of God’s people?

Can you – have you heard Him speak who is full of the glory?

Can you hear Him as He supports and maintains your world and your life?

Have you heard Him from His cross – IT IS FINISHED?

I want you to reflect on WHEN you heard Him for the first time.

I want you to consider how He has spoken to you since that time when you turned to Him in repentance and faith –

Has He directed a change in your life?

Has he set before you a plan and hope and a purpose?

Has he spoken to you in the darkness of difficulty?

Has he spoken to you in a moment of great joy or celebration?

How seems His voice today?

We MUST LISTEN

2 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The writer warns us that we are in danger of drifting away. 

I will return to that in a moment in our concluding thoughts – but I want you to see how his argument runs:

If the earlier voice – that is now a distant echo – if the earlier voice of angelic messengers, and prophets and law demanded our attention – HOW MUCH MORE[1] must we listen attentively to the Voice of the Lord Jesus?

We can see that people of old heard and needed to listen – but now, even though the message has become much more accessible and much more full of promise than that – we need to understand the NEED TO LISTEN.

The writer uses three words to describe the Voice of God that demands our attention:

·        ANNOUNCED by The Lord

·        CONFIRMED to us by those who heard Him

·        TESTIFIED by signs, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit

In these three ways he wants us to move from the important but distant message of the OT to the word of the New Testament. This is to become our guide and our compass, our anchor and our hope.

It is not that the earlier Voice was less important – but God has graciously moved us on from that to the SOMETHING BETTER that is in CHRIST.

The new voice will ADD TO not subtract from the Law – it will fulfil it not replace it.

God is saying – ARE YOU LISTENING?

Listening to what?

WHAT JESUS SAYS                                  Announced by the Lord

The words of Jesus – and His work upon the Cross and in the empty tomb and in His glorious triumph in heaven – LISTEN TO THAT

Make sure you are constantly learning what He is saying.

WHAT THE WORD SAYS ABOUT HIM      Confirmed by those who heard Him

The Gospels, The Acts and the Epistles

Whose constant theme is JESUS.

How well do you know them?

It is wonderful to hear God in the greatness of His creation – no one is suggesting that you stop wondering at that:

 

 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1–4)

“And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?” JOB (26:14).

Make sure that you are always moving on – always learning more.

For the longer we live the Christian life the greater our vision of the Lord should be.

C S Lewis  in his children’s book  has Lucy meet Aslan the lion:

C. S. Lewis memorably portrayed the growing Christian’s experience of an ever-enlarging Christ in his Chronicles of Narnia. Lucy, caught up in her spiritual quest, saw the lion Aslan—Christ—shining white and huge in the moonlight. In a burst of emotion Lucy rushed to him, burying her face in the rich silkiness of his mane, whereupon the great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half-sitting and half-lying between his front paws. He bent forward and touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath was all around her. She gazed up into the large, wise face.

“Welcome, child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” 1

Expanding souls encounter an expanding Christ!       (R.Kent Hughes 1993)

And thirdly

THE TESTIMONY OF GOD AT WORK               signs, miracles and gifts of the Spirit

4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

The Voice of God is not a recording!  It is a live performance.  

Yes – of course those first great signs were a matter of record – but God does not stop in His work!

As we were reminded recently – we should be expecting at least a few miracles along the way.

And finally

We might drift away

2 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

Hebrews blends together in his book the glorious supremacy of Christ – the wonder of something better – with repeated warnings – some of them quite severe and all of them making us sit up and take notice.

He wants us to realise that although the finished work of Jesus is just that – there remains a real prospect that we who have heard may stop listening – and if we do we may DRIFT AWAY

This is not to be confused with backsliding – although it may lead to it – this is not a determined rejection of the voice of God – it is a gradual failure to keep listening.

3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?

Is a text often used evangelistically but it is addressed to believers.

The writer is stressing the need for the MOST CAREFUL ATTENTION – a word we might use if we were instructing a security guard to scrutinise the monitors before him in some high risk establishment. A casual glimpse will not be enough.  This is listening indeed and not merely hearing.

His concern is that his hearers will – like a boat lightly moored come loose from its anchorage and slip downstream.  It is not something that happens intentionally but something that is the result of not watching, not listening not paying attention.

I find these words singularly challenging – because my spiritual life tends to move in bursts – from one period of attentive worship or study – through an interval of inactivity – to a dangerous slackness. 

WE need to take stock – to celebrate the VOICE OF GOD in all its manifestations – but in particular to listen to that which speaks of Christ and His teachings, Christ and His works – Christ and His coming again.

As we approach the Lord’s table we need to examine our hearts.  Reflect upon the way God has spoken to others – and to us.

ARE YOU LISTENING?

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk, till travelling days are done.

 

HYMN 275


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[1] His favourite phrase

1 C. S. Lewis, Prince Caspian (London: Fontana Books, 1980), pp. 122–124.

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