Yesterday we talked about how each person who follows Jesus is able to hear from God themselves without going through a mediator. This is one of the benefits of the new covenant of God which was placed on our hearts of Jesus Himself.
We also looked at some of the ways in which Jesus talks to His followers – i.e. audibly, dreams, visions, gentle whispers, scriptures, etc.
Today we are going to talk a bit about the times in which we are not hearing God – or, should I say, the times in which we feel that God is far away. When this happens we must recognize that there can be many, many reasons for why we feel that way.
We could be in a period of spiritual warfare like Daniel in which the messenger of God was held up by a spiritual battle between the prince of the air and the angels of heaven (Daniel ch. 10). During these times we are to keep on keeping on; be persistent in prayer as Daniel was and you will break through and hear God once again.
There are other times when it feels like we are going through a ‘dark night of the soul’ like our brother Job. During these times it is important that we remember that it did come not because of sin or anything we did. They are just times in which we are to be faithful and to keep walking after God the best that we can. God, in His wisdom, has a plan to use to change the world around us and to share the light of His glory with us… and it should be remembered, that God did talk to Job in the middle of his ‘dark night’…
However while these two reason are valid for not hearing God, the main focus of this post is to look at the times in which the noise of our lives get in the way of listening to the Lord. These are times when the issue isn’t with God talking to us, but with us listening.
Five Potential Barriers To Listening To Jesus
Note that there may be more barriers…but these are the five that I felt God wanted me to share at this point. 😕
• When we have shame it keeps us from coming to God in the repentance, worship, prayer, and fellowship that frees us from our sin
• We want to hide from God and from others…
• Shame tempts us into thinking that there is something fundamentally wrong with us – something that makes us unacceptable to the Lord and others
• This is a lie from the pit of hell!!!!
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” – Jeremiah 31:3
o Think about the prodigal son in Luke 15…
* This was man who knew the Father and yet choose not to obey…
* Yet the Father loved him and watched out for Him…
o You see, God doesn’t just simply tolerate you, He rejoices over you!!
o He accepts you more than you accept yourself!!
o Freedom from Shame
* No shame
* No guilt
* Just grace, mercy
* Freedom and love
• Sin can be a major barrier as it separates us from God
• That is why Jesus came – to destroy the power of sin and evil and to make a way for us to see God face to face
• To have freedom from sin we need to confess it to God – sometimes even to others as James 5 says…
i. We are to turn away from evil and walk after Jesus…that is what confession means. It is not a ‘say something’ and then keep on doing it deal…
• Now this is not to say that we won’t stumble and trip along the journey…
ii. We are living between the ages and therefore we will mess up and sin…it is a fact of life…
iii. The barrier comes when you try to cover up the sin and keep in deep within you…
• It is hidden sin in our lives that we want to keep as it feels comfortable or save…
i. It could be unforgiveness…
ii. Pride and control
iii. Sexual baggage that was never dealt with
iv. A ‘pet’ hobby that isn’t quite Christ like…
v. Idols…money, work, hunting, sewing, reading, TV…anything that devours and demands your attention to the point that it keeps you from talking and listening to God
i. Jesus has broken the chains of sin!!!
ii. Repent from all known sin
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. –Acts 3:19
• There have been times in my life were I have cried out like David:
12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
–Psalms 19:12-14, NKJ
3. Self-consciousness and self-effort
• These keep us on a treadmill where we seek to be “good and acceptable”
• We worry about our performance
• Trying to be acceptable to God leads to burnout and exhaustion…
11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,
“This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the LORD to them will become:
Do this, do that,
a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
they will be injured and snared and captured. -Isaiah 29:11-13
• Bottom line: In Jesus, we already are acceptable to God!!
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. –Romans 5:8
I will accept you as fragrant incense when I bring you out from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will be proved holy through you in the sight of the nations. – Ezekiel 20:41
• We need to fix our eyes on Jesus (Hebrew 12:2) instead of focusing on ourselves. He will set us free from our bondage and grant us freedom to work with Him on His mission.
16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
will never be stricken with panic.
17 I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
and water will overflow your hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled;
your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it comes it will carry you away;
morning after morning, by day and by night,
it will sweep through.” -Isaiah 29:16-19
• Fear robs us on the faith we need to come boldly before the throne of God
• Fear of God telling us to do something we don’t want to do..
i. Go to go somewhere we don’t want to go
ii. To love someone we don’t want to love
iii. To hug someone we don’t want to hug
• Fear…it can cripple you and destroy your life…
i. In some ways this is the same as selfishness as we want to control our lives instead of letting Jesus guide us…
• Fear has no place in the hearts of the Church
After all, the spirit given to us by God isn’t a fearful spirit; it’s a spirit of power, love, and prudence. So don’t be ashamed of the testimony of our lord, nor of me as his prisoner. Rather, suffer for the gospel along with us, in accordance with God’s power. God saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace. He gave us this grace in King Jesus before all time and ages, but has now made it visible through the appealing of our savor King Jesus, who abolished death and, through the gospel, shone a bright lift on life and immortality. -2 Timothy 1:7-10, TKNT
I [St. Paul] am not ashamed because I know the one I have trusted, and I’m convinced that he has the power to keep safe until that day what I have entrusted to him. -2 Timothy 1:12, TKNT
15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. 16 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 17 This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. -1 John 4:15-18
• We want God to bless us and to give us everything we want…
i. I was talking to a gentleman this week who said that he knew that God answers prayers because He had giving him everything he asked for…
ii. Really? I don’t think that is how it works…
• We are to yield our lives to Jesus and we are to follow Him.
• It isn’t about us.
• It is about what Jesus is doing through us – what He is doing in the world around us
• We get to join with Him!! How awesome is that?!
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to come after me, they must give themselves up, and pick up their cross, and follow me. Yes: if someone wants to save their life, they must lose it; and if anyone loses their life for my sake they will find it. What use will it be, otherwise, if you win the whole world but forfeit your true life? What will you give to get your life back?” –Jesus, Matthew 16:24-26
This is not an easy sermon nor an easy lesson. We must daily, weekly, monthly, yearly stop and look at our lives. As the noise of the world caused us to stop listening to God?
Are we just going through the motions instead of seeking His will in everything? I’m not just talking about getting a ‘feel good’ vibe from a Bible reading or a worship service… I’m talking about listening to Jesus when we are working, when we are playing, when we are going through the hard times…
Are we stopping to pray with folks? Encouraging grumpy co-workers? Praying for the sick in the grocery stores? Asking for help in fixing our cars…
Are we seeking the face of God? Or are we content with simply going to church and living an ok life?