Some of my very best memories as a child happened around a table, about like this, it was a little bit bigger. But at six fifteen or six thirty every morning at my house, regardless of when you were leaving you had breakfast. And regardless of what you were doing you made your way to the table.
And we would eat a meal that my mom or sister or someone would fix and then at the end we took all the plates and we pushed them to the middle and even as early as, like, I can remember, this is probably is not good advice for parents but about three or four years old I didn’t like milk and so if I would drink part of my milk my parents would put a little coffee in there and then I would douse it with lots of sugar and I would sit around with a cup of coffee and with my mom and dad and my sisters and we would talk.
And there was a sense of belonging and affirmation and you talked about your day, and you talked about school, and you talked about what you were afraid of, and you talked about the dreams that you had, and it was just a time, twice a day, where you really talked as a family.
And there’s something powerful and encouraging. I have no idea what it does in the life of a child, let alone a parent, but there’s something very, very powerful when you have a heart to heart talk with your mom or with your dad, or better, with both.
And there’s a sense of counsel, and direction, and affirmation, and now and then some rebuke.
But I asked myself, “Why, why are those the best memories?” And even today, I mean, people give me a hard time. I’m not sure I even like coffee, some would say I’m lying.
But I think it’s so paired with the best experiences in relationships in my life that it’s always been around a cup of coffee that I’ve felt a sense of belonging, connection, and love with other people.
And, you know, as a kid, you know, you know it’s not true when you completely grow up but when you’re a kid it’s, your parents care. I mean they’re strong, they’ve been there, they’ve done that. And so when you sit around a table like that and you talk, there’s a place where really you’re processing life and you’re being guided, and directed, and affirmed and, you know, getting little redirection.
And what I would suggest is that you never outgrow that need. And I think God knows we never outgrow that need. Because even though you may end up forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty as parents what you know is you’re always parents and you have kids whether they’re forty or fifty or not.
And you’re a kid. And you need a Father. You need someone to sit down and talk to that you can process life with, that affirms you, and loves you, and really listens, who’s been there, who’s done that, who’s strong, who’s committed.
What I always knew about my parents is whatever we talked about around the table it was unspoken but they were committed to help me make it through it. Now, sometimes they put it back in my lap and sometimes I owned my decision. But what I knew is they were for me.
And it’s interesting, when Jesus went to a church by way of the apostle John in Revelation chapter 3, and He wanted to explain to grown kids who have a heavenly Father about how important it was to have a relationship with Him, He said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” He’s saying this to a church. He’s saying this to believers. He’s saying it to a church just like ours.
“I stand at the door and knock. If any man, if any woman, if any student hears My voice and if they’ll open the door,” He says, “I will come into them.” And then He uses an interesting phrase, I like the old English on this one. “And I will sup with him and He will sup with Me.” Or the idea is to dine or to eat.
See what God knows is I don’t care how old you are, you know what you need and I need? You never outgrow the need to sit down with someone who loves you and cares, and whether it’s over a meal or a cup of coffee but it’s where heart to heart connection time occurs.
And the God of the universe in Revelation chapter 3, you know what He does? He invites you, and He invites me to have personal, uninterrupted, intimate time where He can let us know how accepted, and loved, and affirmed we are.
He can say that, “I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve been tempted, I understand, I know your heart, I know your motives, I know your challenges, I know your family, I know your struggles, I know the inner recesses, I know where you’ve been, I know what you’ve done, and by the way, I even know tomorrow.”
And last week we talked about how He speaks as we talk to Him. And this week, we want to talk about how He speaks in the way that He talks to us.
Because it’s one thing for us to say, “Yes, in this chair, wouldn’t it be great, I mean, wouldn’t it be great if in a physical, resurrected body Jesus would sit down and I could be sitting here and I could offer Him a cup of coffee and He could get a cup and I could get a cup and I could say, ‘Lord, you know something? Theresa and I have been married, you know, well over twenty-five years and we have four grown kids but, you know, there’s a couple things that I’m really struggling with and I’d like to run them by You. Do you mind if I just kind of lay them out here for You?’”
And to have Him in His physical body make eye contact with Me and just nod and say, “Sure, Chip, I understand. Tell Me what’s going on.” And then lay out what I’m struggling with, and what I think, and where my fears are, and then maybe even He wouldn’t talk but have that look in His eyes like, “I got this one covered. Didn’t I already promise I’m going to be with you on this?” “Well, well thank you. Well, you know, since you’re so available there’s a couple other things I’d kind of like to run by You because there’s…”
But how does it work today? Because I’m not Peter, and I’m not Paul, and I’m not John, and I haven’t had any revelations and I’m guessing nobody in this room has.
And so how does God speak to ordinary people? You know, He said on the very last night on the planet something very powerful in John 16. He said to a group of people that were sitting in chairs a little bit different than this but in His physical body He said, It’s really better for Me, and it’s better for you, that I go because I’m going to depart and go with the Father, and I am with you now, but the day is going to come when I will be in you.”
And He says, “Then the Spirit that I’m going to send, the paraclete, the one who is called alongside, He will be in you, and with you, and He will manifest My presence and My power, and He will reveal all truth to you, so instead of having to wait in line, like if Peter is talking to Me right now, John you had to wait in line.
Or, James, you had to wait in line. Or, Bartholomew, you had to wait in line. You don’t have to do that anymore. I want you to know I’m going to be available 24/7. And you can talk to Me anytime and I’ll talk to you.”
And the question I have for us tonight is how does that really work? How does the God of the universe, I mean, is this really real? Is this true? How does He speak to ordinary, regular, normal men and women like you and like me?
As Jesus spoke to the early disciples, so now the Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures. And remember it’s the Spirit who is going to make the truth known.
The apostle Paul is talking to a Corinthian church that is very carnal and they’ve had all kind of great experiences, and what He wants to teach them is, just as Jesus would sit down in His physical body and out of His lips would come words, and He would talk with a man, or talk with a woman, the woman at the well, the woman who lost her daughter, the people that are confused, the people overwhelmed, and condemned with guilt, and just as He would speak to them out of His mouth, so now He will speak to you, and He will speak to me, but it won’t be in His resurrected, physical body.
He’s going to speak to you, and speak to me, through His Spirit, and His Spirit is supernaturally going to take the Word of God and make it come alive in your actual experience, so that He’ll speak to your personal needs in your life through His Word, the Bible.
And you say, “Chip, that’s pretty far out. Where do you get that?” Notice what the apostle Paul writes to this Corinthian church. I Corinthians 2 verses 9 to 16. He says to them, “No eye has seen or ear heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” Just let that soak in before you read further.
Eye hasn’t seen, ear hasn’t heard, or entered into the heart of man all that God has prepared for those who love Him. God has a wonderful plan for you. God loves you. What He wants to do in you and through you, and your relationships, and your family, and your future, it is so beyond, so better than anything you could ever imagine.
Well then, how do you find out about it? Verse 10, “But God has revealed it to us,” how? “by His Spirit.” Well how does it work, Paul? “Well, see, the Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within Him? Well, in the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.”
Then notice what’s true of you and what’s true of me. He says, “We,” speaking of us believers, “have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God,” why? “that we may understand what God has freely given us.”
And then He goes on to explain. “This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit expressing spiritual truths and spiritual words. You see, the man without the Spirit, the unbeliever, he doesn’t accept the things that come from the Spirit of God because they’re foolishness to him and he can’t understand them because they’re spiritually discerned.
However, the spiritual man, the believer, the person who has received Jesus and the Spirit of God dwells in him, he makes judgments about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
It’s the Spirit within us, as believers, taking the revealed Word of God, so that you actually have the mind of Christ. You can know what Jesus thinks. You can know what Jesus feels. You can know what is true and what is false. You can know what is wise, you can know His plans, you can know His direction. You can have as intimate a relationship with Jesus, in fact, more intimate than if He would come in the flesh and you could sit and talk with Him, in these chairs.
He’s available 24/7 and He loves you, and He wants to reveal Himself to you. And His Spirit, dwelling in you, will illuminate your mind and your heart in such a way that as you get into His Word, He will reveal Himself specifically, and His plan for your life, and direction for your life, and wisdom for your relationships.
Last week, these paths are ancient; they’re well worn. People that have known God, people that have been greatly used by God, people that God has spoken to. Last week, it was the ancient path of communion where people learn to talk and to pray.
And remember we learned prayer is nothing more than keeping company with God. Now we’ll look at the ancient path of the Holy Writings. And what I want you to see here is God’s Word is living and it reveals Jesus to us.
This is not a compilation of scrolls and scripts that were handed down that got put in a book and someone put a little leather binding on it. God’s Word is living.
Notice what the writer of Hebrews says, “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to the dividing of the joint of the soul and spirit of joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and the attitudes of the heart.”
Anybody ever have that experience when you read God’s Word? I memorized it in a little different version. It says, “The Word of God is living and active and is able to divide the judgments of the heart right down to the very depths of your motives and your heart.”
Have you ever been reading the Bible, and as you read the Bible, it literally act like there’s a spiritual highlighter and a verse would pop up off the page almost? And what it would show and almost like a little video recorder goes off on your head and that truth out of that verse and your personal experience somehow connects, and God speaks to you about that relationship, or that thought, or that motive, in a way that is unmistakable, and you realize God has taken the written Word, that is the living Word, and He has spoken to me.
Now I gotta tell you, I did not grow up as a Christian, I never opened a Bible until I was eighteen. But I’ll never forget as long as I live the very first time that happened to me.
I was in a camp. It was a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. The football coach paid for me to go. I didn’t want to go. You could play all the basketball you want for free so I went.
And I remember that every morning they would, the give this little Bible, you know? I had never read the Bible. And I looked out over this grassy lawn on this college campus, six or seven hundred athletes from all over West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky.
And I just thought, “I’ve been dropped into the land of Jesus freaks.” This is 1972. And I’m thinking, “Man, I just gotta get out of here as fast as I can. I got a Bible in my hand and some t-shirt that has Jesus’ name on it.” I had never seen, I had never said Jesus’ name out loud except in a cuss word.
And I wasn’t about, you know, I thought, “They’re going to indoctrinate me. This is probably one of those weird places. I’m not going to read this Bible.” So for fifteen minutes every morning I would just close it.
And about the third morning I thought, “Oh well.” And I just, you know, you’re not supposed to do it like this so I just opened the New Testament. Romans 12:1, “I urge you, therefore, my brothers in view of God’s great mercy, that you present yourself to Him as a holy and living sacrifice. For this is what God really wants from you.” It was a new translation.
“Don’t be conformed or molded after the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that the way you actually live could demonstrate what God’s will is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
And then he went on to say, “And don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought to think but to think of yourself as to having sound judgment as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
And I read those three verses and it was like as I read them a video recorder went on. Don’t be conformed to this world. And I just, it was like a picture of a dictionary came up. Chameleon: and my picture next to that little lizard.
And I was like this with this group, and like this with this group, and like this with this group. And then it said, “Don’t think more highly of yourself.” And like pictures in my mind came of acting arrogant, and big, and cussing in the locker room, and pushing people around, and just out of all my insecurities trying to impress people. And it was almost like, whoop!
Later, about three or four years, and I began to just read the Bible and I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where to read or where to start. So I started in Matthew, and I read it through once, and then I read it through again, and read it through again, and read the New Testament three or four times, and someone told me there was a bigger part that I should check out, and so I started Genesis, Exodus, got to Leviticus and went back to the New Testament and read it again.
And someone said, “You know, you really need to check out that older portion.” So I went back, you know, Genesis, Exodus, hit Leviticus again, made it about half way through, went back to the New Testament. And I remember when I found the Psalms. I had no idea that other people got depressed, and angry, and had no idea that people had really up high times with God, and then just felt like life just stunk, and you could actually say those kind of things to God, and it didn’t even offend Him.
And I’ll never forget when I found Proverbs and it was like this is a gold mine about how to treat people, and how to live, and what to do with your money and, wow, I mean the Bible talks this much about sex, are you kidding me?
And God began to speak to me through His Word. Why? Notice what it says in John 1. John 1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
You see the logos, the Word, the second person of the trinity. John is telling us about before all time, before mankind, in the beginning was the Word, Jesus, and the Word, the logos, was with God.
And then he goes on, look at verse 14, skipping down, “And the Word became flesh,” that’s Jesus, “and He made His dwelling among us.” Literally, He tabernacled among us. “And we’ve seen His glory, the glory of the One and only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.”
And then the next verse says, “And He has explained Him.” That’s why Jesus came. To explain God. You want to know what God thinks, you want to know how God feels, you want to know how God thinks about you, just look at Jesus. His life. And how do you get to know Jesus? Jesus is the Word.
And so, better than having a physical body sitting in a chair to drink coffee with you, and someone you can ask questions… What the New Testament teaches is in the new covenant, the Spirit of Jesus, His actual presence, lives in you. You’ve been sealed with the Spirit.
God wants to speak to you. You actually possess the mind of Christ. You have been sealed, you’re a part of the body, and now this book can be illuminated in such a way that you can know His heart and His mind, your direction, your counsel, how to live, how to spend your money, what decisions to make, what decisions not to make.
And the Spirit of God will take the Word of God and manifest the actual person, presence, and power of the living Christ in you and through you in a way that gives you greater intimacy than even the early apostles had.
You have a better deal than if you could smell the dust of His sandals. You have the potential for a more intimate relationship with Jesus than any of the twelve.
That’s how God speaks to ordinary people. And you might be saying to yourself, “That sounds pretty good. But I got a problem. I’ve been a Christian three years and I would trade whatever He just said for, like, ten minutes with Jesus in a real body.
And, you know, that happened to me a couple times. I mean, you know, those verses coming off the page? I mean, that happened a couple times in the last eight years. That’s not happening to me on a regular basis. God’s not speaking to me from His Word the way that guy just said. So, I don’t know if this really works or not.”
See there’s a condition. There’s a condition. This doesn’t happen for everyone, all the time, in the same way. What I just described is God’s plan, it is available for one hundred percent of all Christians, all time, and that includes you.
But in point number two, here’s what I want to make is that we must come in earnest if we’re going to hear His voice. We must come in earnest. There needs to be a desire. There needs to be a level of focus. There needs to be a discipline. There needs to be a passion. There needs to be a sense of, “God, I want to hear Your voice. God, what You say means more than anything else and whatever it takes for Me to hear Your voice, that’s what I’m going to do.” That’s who God speaks to.
In fact, the average Christian that I meet - and this just breaks my heart - the average Christian that I meet not only doesn’t know this book, is not even in this book.
I finally, you know, in the last twenty plus years of teaching, and usually after I teach I’ll often, for a half hour or forty-five minutes, I end up talking with people and all the stuff, you know, that happens in their life and, man, I mean you name it, boy, I’ve seen it, heard it.
And so finally I got where I ask one question. I ask, “Well tell me, tell me a little bit about your time in the Scriptures with God.” And when they talk about they’re on their seventh marriage and, you know, their drug habit that they can’t lick and, you know, all this people approval addiction that they have and on, and on, and on, and on, and on.
And almost without exception the diet of God’s Word they had was not even sustainable for life. They weren’t in the Bible at all. David said, “How can a young man keep his way pure? How do you live this life? By keeping it according to Your Word. Your Word I have hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.”
The problem is not that the Spirit doesn’t live in a believer, and the problem is not that this is not powerful, and that the Spirit of God will not take this and make it the living Word, personalized for your life.
The problem is there isn’t “earnest” in most Christian believers’ life. The problem is they know a lot more about Friends, about TV shows, about ESPN, about the Wall Street Journal, and a number of soap operas than they know about the Scriptures.
And so because of that, when they long to hear God’s voice, and they need to hear a word from God, they don’t hear. And we say, “Well, what’s it look like to have “earnest?” Proverbs chapter 2:1 to 5 lays out very specifically the condition.
Notice He says, “My son.” Notice the word “if.” If you have a pen circle the word “if.” Then, go all the way down to verse 5 and circle the word “then.” He says, “If,” here’s the condition, “then,” here’s the results.
He says, “My son, if you,” notice, underline this, “accept My words and store up My commandments within you,” underline “accept” and “store up.” There’s an attitude and an action.
First of all, I’m going to come to God and I accept it. I’m not going to argue with You. I accept Your Word and I’m going to store them up, they’re going to matter to me. That’s the reception of God’s Word.
Then, notice verse 2, “Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding.” So now it’s beyond an attitude. Now it’s, “Okay, I really want to know. I’m turning my ear. I’m going to listen to You rather than all this noise out there and I’m going to apply my heart, I’m going to think, I’m going to ponder, I’m going to meditate, I may even memorize it.”
Notice verse 3, “And then if you call out,” the verb notice there, “for insight and cry aloud for understanding.” Is that how you approach the Scriptures? “God, show me what this means! I’ve read it, I’ve thought about it, I’ve memorized portions of it, I’ve done Bible study, I just don’t know what it means.” Cry out for insight. “Lord, show me. I’ve got a big decision. I’ve read all through Proverbs, I still don’t know what to do. Please show me what to do. I’m reading Your Word, speak to me today.”
And He says if you call out for insight, cry aloud for understanding, and then notice the intensity in verse 4. “If you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure.”
What He’s saying is, if you bring the same kind of intensity and focus to wanting to know and hear God’s voice that you do to your job, for many of us men, at making money, of making the business grow.
Or for many of us, in our sports, you want to be good at something, what do we do? We watch video tapes, we read books about it, we watch the pros, we go to interviews, we go to pro games, we spend money, we do all kind of things to do what? Get better at a sport.
And He says, “If you want to hear My voice, accept My words, store them up, turn your ear, apply your heart, call out, cry aloud,” and then you look for a word from Me in My Word like a man that is searching for silver, or someone who knows. I’m not sure where it’s at, but somewhere in this quarter mile radius, there’s a sunken treasure ship with one billion dollars worth of gold bullion and I’m going to find it. And I’m going to stay out here every day, and I’m going to keep dropping lines, and I’m going to pay for divers, until I find it.
It’s that level of focus and intensity and “earnest” that says, “I’ve got to get it.” When you come to God’s Word with those attitudes, and that level of focus, notice the promise, “Then you’ll understand the fear of the Lord and find, or discover, the knowledge of God.”
God’s Spirit, living in a believer, will take God’s written Word, make it God’s living Word, and He will begin to speak to you, an ordinary person, about every single area of your life.
And a lot of it will surprise you. It won’t be all about challenge and get with the program. You know what His voice will say most often? “I love you”.