LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT
LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT
Part 3 of 21 DAYS. Revelation 2-3.
Peter Foxwell. The Cornerstone Church. September 2, 2018.
Let's begin our teaching time with the Bible. Please turn to Revelation 2:7:
2:7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
2:11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
2:17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
2:29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
3:6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
3:13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
3:22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
LISTEN TO THE SPIRIT
Jesus sent seven letters to seven churches in the Roman Empire. Each letter begins with the phrase, "These are the words of him ..." Jesus. Each letter ends with phrase, "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
So the words of Jesus are communicated to the church by the Holy Spirit. And these words are to be heard, which in context means understood, and obeyed.
Yes, the seven letters were to ancient churches, but the Holy Spirit is still speaking these words to the church. That's why they're included in the Bible. We are still called to hear, understand, and obey.
So what is the Spirit saying to us? As we fast and pray for spiritual renewal, here are two words from the letters, words that I believe the Spirit is speaking into the Cornerstone Church today:
TWO WORDS FROM THE SPIRIT TO THE CORNERSTONE CHURCH
1. Love Jesus.
(Revelation 2:4) You have forsaken the love you had at first.
Every Jesus-follower faces this problem: Jesus becomes a concept, not a person, a person who loves us, and who we love above all others. We easily makes other things our FIRST love. Good works, sound doctrine, church attendance, spiritual experiences, activism, can all substitute for knowing and loving Jesus.
Loving Jesus is what we're all about; it's what we're created for. That's why Jesus asked his friend Peter:
"Simon son of John, do you love me?" (John 21:16)
He asked him three times for emphasis: the first thing is to love Jesus. I can't define love for Jesus, but here's one part of it:
(Ephesians 6:24) Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.
First love is undying - literally imperishable - no expiration date. Loving Jesus will always be the right thing, the priority, the goal, and the reward.
The Holy Spirit is speaking to us and saying, "Love Jesus as a person, love him with an undying, all consuming, love." As you fast and pray this week, ask, "Holy Spirit, give me unrelenting, ever-increasing, love for Jesus."
2. Stay Focused.
(Revelation 3:2) Wake up!
The verb means to stay focused on what matters most, In context of the letter, it means to be fully "alive" or available to Jesus and his work in the world. It means to leave behind our former spiritually "dead" lifestyle - our BC ways.
(Revelation 3:1) I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
On the night he was arrested, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane and the disciples were trying to pray, but mostly falling asleep. They weren't focused and alert because they didn't understand Jesus and his work in the world:
(Matthew 26:40-41) Jesus returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch (same verb as Rev. 3:2 - wake up) and pray so that you will not fall into temptation ...”
Is that a good picture of the situation we are in? Is the Holy Spirit saying: You're half asleep, Jesus is out of focus, and you're not living his life and doing his work. The prophet Isaiah diagnosed the spiritual problem in Israel:
(Isaiah 64:7) There is none ... that stirs up himself (wakes up) to take hold of you. (KJV)
As you fast and pray this week, ask the Holy Spirit, "Sharpen my focus on being fully available to Jesus and his work in the world." That's a dangerous prayer. Life will change. Put your seatbelt on!
AM I LISTENING?
Thursday morning I woke me up with these words on my mind: "Jesus wants a radiant bride." Often, I would have shrugged, and got on with my day. But perhaps because of our 21 days of fasting and prayer, the words resonated with me in a powerful way. I think it was the Spirit's voice.
What should we do about it? What does the radiant bride look like? How about this? She fervently loves Jesus and she's fully available to Jesus and his work in the world.
OK. So, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. Is your first-love for Jesus - the person - still burning inside? If not, ask him to help you remember what it was like and to want that again:
(Revelation 2:5) Consider (lit. remember) how far you have fallen!
Again, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. Are you fully available to Jesus and his work in the world? In times past, we called that "total surrender." If you're not there, then listen to the solution:
(Revelation 3:2) Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die ...
Get Jesus back in focus and offer yourself fully to him NOW before you die spiritually and drift back into your old life.
Is the Spirit speaking to you about this? Take a moment, let it soak in. Listen. Hear what the Spirit is saying to you right now.
NEXT SUNDAY: NEW SERIES. Discipling Like Jesus.
HOW CAN I TO LISTEN TO THE HOLY SPIRIT?
Start believing that the Spirit is alive and personal and present in your life. He is speaking to you all the time because he is in relationship with you. Jesus is the shepherd and we are his sheep. That's talking about relationship; there's a connection. Jesus talks to us - that's what relationship is all about:
(John 10:27-28) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
Sheep hear their shepherd. Jesus used the metaphor so that we would know that we can hear Jesus speak.
He speaks by his Holy Spirit. Jesus sends his Spirit to speak to us, to guide us through life (Yes, I realize that this was a promise to the apostles and its primary application is to their apostolic ministry, but I believe there is ample biblical support for the Spirit's ongoing ministry of illumination, teaching, conviction, and guidance in all our lives:
(John 16:12-14) “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
The Spirit is speaking. Now. To you and to me. Believe that. That's the place to start.
Stay tuned to the Spirit and you'll hear him speak. The church in Antioch is a model for us to follow:
(Acts 13:1-3) Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
They were worshipping God and praying and fasting. In other words, they were open. They wanted God to speak. So he did. It doesn't say how, but I suspect it was internal rather than a booming-voice-of-God deal, possibly through the prophets (v. 1) in the church. The church stayed open to the Spirit, so the Spirit stayed open to them.
Here's how to stay open to the Spirit - the passage tells us - they worshipped the Lord, they fasted, and they prayed. Here's what I've found:
Worship tunes me into God, clears the clutter from my heart and mind. I worship through Bible reading, listening to praise music, singing praise.
Fasting turns up the volume. The Spirit has been much louder in my Bible reading and prayer times during these 14 days of fasting. It's been a cool experience and I'm planning to keep going because I want more.
Prayer flows out of worship and fasting. My heart is drawn to God and it's a dialogue: talk and listen; listen and talk.
Write it down. As you read and pray, the Spirit will speak insights, ideas, encouragements, corrections in your heart/mind. Keep a journal for reference, so you can give it serious thought to it later.
Life crowds out the voice of God. It just does. So, we have to be very intentional about staying open. Make a daily appointment with God. Put it in your planner.
When I hear the Spirit speak and it's clear what I'm to do, I have a choice to make: do it or don't. In my experience, if I choose "don't," the Spirit will remind me a couple of times, and if I still choose "don't," it's going to be a long time before I hear the Spirit speak again. That's just how it works.
Pastor Robert Morris says we have to "steward" God's voice. If we're faithful, he gives us more. When he speaks, obey.
Jesus gave the church in Ephesus a dire warning about the failure to obey the Spirit's voice:
(Revelation 2:5b) If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
Jesus speaks through his Spirit to the church and he says, "If you ignore what you hear me saying to you, I'll remove your light." I'll stop working in your lives, you'll be a group, but not a church, because I'll withdraw my presence and power.