Sunday, October 29, 2006

Study Skill 04: Listen with your heart

This is an addition to an old series of posts from Autumn 2005. In many ways this develops from this recent post on application. My concern there was that God's word requires us to believe God's promises. And, that the book of James particularly expects that this change us.

This post is prompted our church meeting today, on Hebrews 3v1-4v13, which draws heavily on the events of Israel in the Wilderness (see Numbers) and Psalm 95.

The essential point here is that God says in the Bible (attributed as The Holy Spirit speaking in 4v7):
"7Today, if you hear his voice,
8do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,"
So we must ask some questions.

1. Is it TODAY? (the answer is always yes)
2. Can I hear God's voice? (if I am a Christian with an open Bible, he is speaking)
3. Then I must not harden my heart. What must I not do? Act like Israel in the Wilderness. They failed to believe God's great promise of rest, prefering to believe in the circumstances. They grumbled about what God had given them, wished for something better, wished that they were back in slavery once more....

The key is to:
Listen with our hearts
When we read the Bible we do not just listen in our thinking, but our attitude, affections, desires and actions. God speaks to us and his word examines us as we read it.

The goal of reading God's word is not that we should be hardened. Rather, he commands us to soften our hearts - and we can rightly pray for his help in this. We need to hear what God says, and determine to change TODAY.

The application is more than just to read the Bible and pray. Neither of those things are bad results, but we're in real trouble if we wouldn't want to do either having spent time listening to God. When God speaks we're to keep listening - like the people of God post-exile who listened attentively to God's word for hours on end. But God wants to see more happen than this - he looks for wholehearted change.

This may be uncomfortable, our hearts are are deceitful above all things and change doesn't come easily. Admitting that we're wrong is very difficult. Humility is desperately hard but God's forgiveness is more than enough for us - that is to say, however wrong our heart has been it's not too late to admit it and come back to God with a soft heart.

God invites us to enjoy him forever as forgiven sinners... proud in need of being humbled and vulnerable, divisive in need of serving and caring others, arrogant in need of being gentle and kind... but he invites us to change and in our time of need offers more than enough grace.
What is God saying to my heart? What change does he want to effect in my heart? What is that change going to look like? How does it effect the things I love the most? How can I be hardened to sin? How does my heart-change benefit other Christians?
A heart that listens resolves itself afresh to depend upon the Cross of Christ. A heart that listens to God is unashamed to admit past failure, for it delights in the forgiveness. A heart that listens to God seeks the power to have a heart that continues to be soft, knowing that it can be so easily fail again.

Such a heart hits the pillow at night repenting of the day's sin and embracing God's forgiveness at the Cross. And such a heart will awakes each morning to ask, is it TODAY before resolving to harden itself to sin, and soften itself to the life-giving world-changing universe-creating Word of God once more. Once more, because the Cross of Christ is glorious, and our Saviour speaks the final word.

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