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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Lessons in Listening - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Lessons in Listening - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Lessons in Listening - Part 2
TOPICS: God Is Moving

So often when we take time in the presence of the Lord, we want him to hear about our problems and do something. But learning to listen to the Lord means I simply would like to be in your presence. I'll take some time with your Word. I'll put on some worship music and enjoy the imagination that the Spirit of God is present with me. I wanna learn what it means to be with the people of God. And if you don't enjoy that, if that's uncomfortable for you, if it's awkward, if it's frustrating, that's a very important place to begin. And if the imagination of being in the presence of the Lord holds little appeal for you, have the courage to say to the Lord, you know, I haven't been that interested. It hasn't mattered that much to me. Again, the honesty, the integrity, of the desire for a relationship with God will exponentially change the tone of what God will do in your life.

Listening matters. In John 10 and verse 27, Jesus said, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me". Pretty simple stuff. "My sheep listen to my voice; they know me". Folks, we've got to learn to recognize what God is doing. We are too easily manipulated, we're too vulnerable. There's too much foolishness in the church that gets wrapped up in God language or "The Lord said," and it has little to do with the Spirit of God or the character of God, amen? Matthew 3 and verse 8: "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance". This is an interesting notion, this. What comes from the presence of the Spirit of God, the Bible describes as fruit. The fruit on a tree is dramatically different than the ornaments on a Christmas tree. If you see a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, you didn't think, "Oh, somebody really fertilized that. Somebody sprayed all the insects".

You understand immediately that somebody did something to decorate that tree completely apart from the integrity or the health of the tree. On the other hand, if you pick fruit from a tree and the fruit is of good quality and it's delicious, you understand the tree is healthy. Well, the Bible talks to us about the Spirit of God bringing fruitfulness to our lives. In Ephesians 5 and verse 8: "Once you were in darkness, but now you're in the light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.) Find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with fruitless deeds of darkness".

Again, I like simple things. I want to live with the notion that my light is bearing fruit that reflects the participation with God in my life. Then I want to avoid things that are fruitless in God's economy. If God says they don't have value, that he doesn't approve, that he's not interested, even if I'm attracted, even if I have an interest, I want to cultivate the habit, I wanna implement the discipline, that says, I will not give my time or energy to things that God says is fruitless. I believe that will become increasingly important in what's before us.

There's a third component of developing our listening skills of watching and listening and thinking and being prepared to act. We have to both watch and understand. Understanding requires some insight. In judges, chapter 6, it says: "An angel of the Lord came and sat down under an oak that belonged to Joash," it's Gideon's father, "where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, 'The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.'"

In those two verses, two things are reported. They're separate; they're related, but they're separate. It says an angel of the Lord came and sat down under an oak tree. We don't know how long he was there. We don't know what he observed. We simply know he took a place under an oak tree. But then in the 12th verse, it says, "When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said something to him: 'The Lord is with you.'" That intrigues me. It doesn't say the angel came and sat down under the oak tree and spoke to Gideon. It at least seems to me to be implied that the angel was there for a bit before Gideon, it was revealed to Gideon. So I wanna plant a seed, I wanna submit to you that God is moving around your life and around my life, that there are angels involved in our journey that we're not yet aware of.

So the question is, are you watching for God's involvement? You see, it's so easy for me or for you to focus on the disappointments, the discouraging things, the ungodly things, the things I don't like or the things I don't agree with. They get pumped towards us all the time. They cascade over our awareness. It takes more discipline and intentionality to watch and listen for what God is doing. It's a different way to live in the world. You don't need to spend hours a day focused on the news report. They've got about an 8-minute loop. They just repeat, take 10 or 12 minutes, you can listen to it 1 1/2 times. You got the news for the day. Spend the rest of the day thanking God that he's moving in the earth, that he has assignments for you, that he's engaged with you, that there is hope for your future, that our security isn't related to the Federal Reserve or the strength of the dollar, that our children have hope beyond the president of the teachers unions. That would have been a good place for an "amen," but it's okay. You just hang in there.

Hebrews 13:2 says: "Don't forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it". Practice hospitality. You'll get to entertain some angels. "Well, I don't like people". Change. Be kind to the people who serve you in a restaurant. Be generous, be kind to the people whose names you're never expected to know, the people that you interact with at a grocery store or at a Quick Mart. The people that you bump into through the course of your day, listen to them, treat them with dignity and respect. You never know the appointments God has arranged for you. Behave as if you're an ambassador for the King. Say, "I'm busy. I've got a lot to think". I know, I know, I know busy people, but determine to take the events of your day as a series of divinely arranged appointments. I believe if you'll do that, you will find God's engagement in your life is far more frequent and far more prevalent than you've been willing to consider.

All right, watch and understand. Number four, when we're listening for the Lord, he'll provide confirmation. When God gives you direction, God will confirm it for you. Now, you don't need confirmation for the fundamental truths which are presented in scripture. You don't need God to confirm what moral and immoral is. He's told us that in the plainest of language. God said he created us, male and female. You don't need that to be confirmed for you. So don't be so spiritual that you're no earthly good. God's defined marriage for us. He's warned us about gluttony. He's warned us about drunkenness. We don't need God to tell us what to do with our resources. He told us the first tenth belongs to him. We have a lot of instruction. We don't need confirmation of that. But in the specific responses to the seasons that we walk through in life, the challenges that come when God is initiating changes, we need to understand how to listen and recognize his confirmation.

The principle I learned as a young man has held true: that big changes require big guidance. Don't make great changes because someone suggested it to you. Don't make tremendous changes in your life because you found a single verse and "it just resonated with me on that day, so I sold my home and I canceled my insurance and I took my kids out of school and we don't know where we're going". That's not God. That's too much pizza. Big changes require big guidance. It's biblical. In Judges 6, Gideon has had this visit with an angelic figure but he's not done. The confirmations that come are multiple. "Gideon replied, 'If I found favor in your eyes,'" verse 17, "'give me a sign that it's really you talking to me. Don't go away until I come back and bring my offering and set it before you.' And the Lord said, 'I'll wait.'"

Same scenario, verse 21: "With the tip of his staff that was in his hand, the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread, and fire flared from the rock, and Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord. He exclaimed, 'Sovereign Lord! I've seen an angel of the Lord face to face!'" Up until this point, Gideon really didn't understand he was interacting with an angel, until the moment had already passed. It confirmed this notion that he had. He knew he was speaking to someone who had a perspective that he didn't have himself. You see, it's so important, as we begin to listen, we have the desire to hear from the Lord, not to be weird. I really have little patience with weird Christians. Weird does not make you spiritual. It just makes you weird. Do you understand the difference?

If you have no gas in the tank of your car, you don't need a word from the Lord. You need a filling station and cash or a place to plug in your EV. Again, it's a very important principle. I've seen too many people, I have shed tears over people I cared about who've been manipulated with spiritual language. You don't have to be weird to follow the Lord. But if you have a desire to know him and you'll present yourself to him and you'll become familiar with what the fruit of the Spirit of God looks like, it's not hidden. It's clearly described for us in scripture. It can be recognized. If you'll do that, you'll begin to recognize God's involvement. Now, why that's important is that momentum matters. Momentum matters in physics, momentum matters in business, momentum matters in athletics. And I assure you momentum matters in your spiritual formation.

The verses I just read to you are from Judges 6:21-22. In chapter 6, verse 25, it says, "The same night," the same night that Gideon is aware that he's had an angelic encounter, "the Lord said to him, 'Take the second bull from your father's herd, the one that's seven years old.'" Do you know, God knows the ages of the livestock in the field? Some of you think you've been fooling God. He knows how old your goldfish is. I bet he can keep up with us. "Tear down your father's altar to Baal and cut down the Asherah pole beside it". There is a momentum which grows as you follow the Lord. It did in Gideon's life and it will in yours. In a very similar way, there's a momentum which grows if you follow your old carnal desires and you give yourself license. You'll become increasingly sloppy in your spiritual life.

In that same chapter in verse 36, Gideon is asking for more confirmation. In fact, it's become a metaphor for the people of faith through the centuries about Gideon's fleece. Gideon rather apologetically says, "Lord, you know, I'm sorry, but could you confirm this assignment because it's impossible"? It wasn't like God had asked Gideon to do something that he was capable of. The assignment's impossible. And he said, "You know, I'm willing, I'm listening. I've cut down some altars and I'm already hated by the community. But if this is really you," and the expression is Gideon put out a fleece. But what he prayed was, he said, "Let me put the fleece of a lamb on the ground and let the ground be dry and the fleece be wet".

And when he was awakened in the morning, that's what happened. And it says that he wrung the fleece out and there was a bowl full of water, but Gideon wasn't satisfied. He said, "Lord, if it's you, I want you to confirm that for me tomorrow. Let the fleece be dry and the ground be wet," and God complied. Two times, Gideon went back to the Lord and asked for confirmation beyond everything he had received. I would submit to you it's an expression of God's grace, his unmerited, his undeserved, certainly his unearned favor towards us, and his patience. God knows we're frail. He knows we're cracked pots. He knows our inconsistencies. God knows our limits and in this passage, it's so clear to me that as we're trying to learn to listen and to walk new pathways and to accept new responses, that God displays grace and patience.

Two times, Gideon's asks for affirmation. I would submit to you it's much better to learn to recognize God's direction in your life, his spirit within you, than to pray for those kind of physical confirmations. I've heard all sorts of weird stories: "Lord, if you want me to do it, let this happen or that happen". My Bible says that those that are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. We have a unique advantage over those persons in the Old Covenant. The New Testament, the revelation, the great Revelation of the New Testament beyond the redemptive work of Jesus, is the Spirit of God lives within you and me, that he no longer lives in a temple built with human hands, but that you and I have become the temple of the living God. That if you've made a profession of faith in Jesus, his Spirit lives within you.

And what we want to learn to do is recognize his prompts, his encouragement, his direction, to know the difference between what comes from him and what comes from my old carnal self. It's a powerful revelation. So I'm not encouraging you to cultivate Gideon's practice of asking God for a physical sign. I'm encouraging you to recognize what the presence of God's Spirit looks like in your life and in the lives of the people you're dealing with.

Ultimately, the evidence of obedience, the evidence of listening in your life, how do you know somebody's listening to the Lord? They're obedient to him. Gideon gives expression to that in Judges 7: "The Lord said to Gideon, 'You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, announce to the people. "Anyone who trembles with fear can turn back".' So twenty-two thousand men left". Two-thirds of the army left. Gideon said, "Listen, if anybody's afraid, go home". All the smart people went home. They're outnumbered 10 to 1, at least. The technology of their enemy is greater than what they have.

So Gideon says to the force that's gathered for the battle, "If you're afraid, go home. If you're not afraid, you don't understand". It's very important that Gideon was willing to let his force be reduced in obedience to what God was saying. He's listening. The evidence in my life, the evidence in your life, that you listen to the Lord, isn't your ability to quote something or to use spiritual vocabulary words. It's obedience in your life. The alignment between your life and the authority of God's Word is the best evidence I know that you're listening to him. It's so important. Two times, God tells Gideon to reduce his force. Two times. The group is whittled down to 300 people. The objective never changes.

God said, "I'm gonna deliver the Israelites from this overwhelming army". The objective has never changed, but the methods are directed by God at each interval. It was true in the book of Judges and it's true in the 21st century, wherever you live. God's objective in the Earth is that the name of Jesus be lifted up, his kingdom extended, that every person have a privilege of hearing the truth. He's preparing a church, a bride without spot or wrinkle. He's establishing the Jewish people in a homeland that he promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants. God's purposes haven't changed. They're not evolving. But the methods, we have to receive his direction to understand how we walk in this season.

I'll give you one last piece. In Judges chapter 7, the battle is imminent. The 300 that God has given to Gideon are prepared. They're equipped with the tools that they've been told to take. It's the night before battle is to begin. And it's such a powerful expression of the kindness of God towards people who will listen. I want you to know that if you have a desire to listen to the Lord, that there's a mercy expressed towards you that I don't believe comes any other way. The kindness that God shows to Gideon on this night is truly remarkable to me. It's chapter 7 and verse 9: "During the night the Lord said to Gideon, 'Get up and go down against the camp, because I'm gonna give it into your hands. If you're afraid to attack, go down to the camp. Listen to what they're saying. Afterward, you'll be encouraged to attack the camp.' So he and his servant went down to the outposts".

After all the prompts from the Lord, after prophetic messages, after angelic visits, after a fleece that was wet and a fleece that was dry, after God whittling down the force. After all that God has done, it's the night before battle and Gideon is both afraid and discouraged by the nature of the enemy. The Lord knows it. He says to him, "If you're afraid to attack, let me tell you what you can do". God's acknowledging the battle within him that Gideon is having. The problem seems greater than his ability or his resources. That's important, folks. God's gonna ask you and me to stand in places that exceed our energy, our strength, our wisdom, our experience, the resources that we have for the problem. He'll put us in places where we need outcomes and we understand fundamentally, we are powerless to deliver the outcome.

The question is, will we be obedient in that place? Will we say to God, "Recruit somebody else. I'm not interested. I'm not gonna pray for the people where I work. I'm not going to pray for the school where my children go. I'm not praying for the neighborhood where I live". Are we willing to be salt and light in all of those places? "I'm not going to stand up and say I'm an advocate for the Jewish people in the nation of Israel. It's unpopular in too many settings. I don't want to be divisive". Jesus said he didn't come to bring peace; he came to bring division. And we're going to have to have the courage to choose the truth. The kindness of God: "Gideon, if you're afraid, I know you're discouraged. Go down to the camp, you can be free of fear and you can be encouraged".

God doesn't criticize. He offers a way to overcome both his fear and his discouragement. The reality of the circumstance? It's an impossible assignment. You know, our reality apart from God, a great outcome for our lives is not just improbable, it's impossible. We live in a broken world, a fallen world. Evil exists and it doesn't just intend to limit you or diminish you. The objective of evil is your destruction and you and I are weak, we're frail, we're limited in our understanding and our awareness. We have a default position that is selfish. The only hope we have is that there's an Almighty God and he loves us and he cares for us and he will help us. It's the revelation of scripture that we're not alone, that we can be forgiven of our mistakes. We can be cleansed of our past, that we have a helper who will lead and guide and direct us on the most improbable journey. It's a message of incredible hope. The question, the ultimate question, that will determine outcomes is, are we listening? Do we intend to hear? Do we really want to understand? Is our objective to co-operate?

Well, I wanna close with a prayer. I want to pray for those who have been ignoring God. If you have the courage to say it to yourself, "I haven't been interested. I wanted God to bless me, but I didn't really want to be bothered with what he wanted, I just wanted to know the winning lottery numbers," I wanna pray for those who have the courage and the humility and the honesty to say they've been ignoring God. And then I'd like to pray for those who are willing to hear, to invest effort in listening, not just during the commercial breaks, but you will actually begin to seek the Lord. If you're in either one of those categories, I'm gonna ask you to stand really quickly. We're gonna pray.

O Father, thank you for your Word, for the truth that it presents to us, the invitation that it holds. I thank you that in every generation, you have a message for your people, that you haven't left us alone, that you haven't withdrawn for us. Lord, that even when our own stubbornness, we are walking through consequences of our own that we have contributed to, that you move on our behalf in grace and mercy. And we come tonight to repent, Lord. Many of us have not been listening. Oh, we've issued some demands and occasionally a request, but we've had little interest in listening. Forgive us tonight. Give us understanding hearts. Begin to give us a new hunger and a thirsting for the things of God. Give us a joy when we're in the presence of your people that we've never known.

Lord, all of us stand tonight to present ourselves before you as living sacrifices. I ask you to give us insight and understanding beyond our years, our experience. Lord, lead us and direct us. May we recognize what you're doing, to recognize the fruit of your Spirit in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in the places we work, the factories, and the job sites, Lord, wherever they may be. May we be a generation of men and women who have been willing to listen to the voice of a living God and act upon the truth that you've made known. Holy Spirit, help us. We thank you for it tonight, in Jesus's name, amen.

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