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Discerning the Voice of God

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listening, considering, discerning:
is nothing more than the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth. More than just thinking, but knowing, hearing, discovering, and responding to the ways God communicates and how he communicates to people in whom he is in relationship.
Deuteronomy 18:15–20 ESV
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
Psalm 111 ESV
Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!
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1 Corinthians 8:1–13 ESV
Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
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Mark 1:21–28 ESV
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
Deut.—it is to him you shall listen, just as you desired, put words in mouth—matter of life and death, are the commands of God.
Deut.—it is to him you shall listen, just as you desired, put words in mouth—matter of life and death, are the commands of God.
—posture, receptive: God focuses, nature and character known. fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. all who practice have good understanding.
1 Cor. 8: always a relational trajectory. how will our discernment impact our relationship with God, relationship with others, and our world.
—authority of teaching. voice of God vs. the evil one. unclean spirit cried out—learning to filter the words and ways of the evil one. if you have the spirit of God, you have the capacity and authority to follow the commands of God.
discernment: context, what is being sought. who is speaking? why are they speaking? what are the condition of the eyes, ears, heart, relationally
what is discernment? why do we need to discern? what are some practices (practical ) where can we go to learn more (instructors, inform, teach)
Facets/Steps/Process of Discernment
opening? to whom are you listening? (attention, intention) or what are you listening? (source of information)
posture (receptive, humble, awe, reverence, willingness to trust God (will, way, words)
intent/desire—what are you desires? what is the purpose/intent of your discernment
voice of God vs. the voice of the evil one
What—voice of God. instructions, necessitates understanding & relationship with God
here is an example: coffee tasting. region. type. means of drying, washing roasting.
influences the body (feel in your mouth) the taste (finish), the flavor, and the smell.
Why? know certain things (instructions, laws, precepts, commands, etc.). But how do these apply to life, story, and the context of our situation. how does God speak to us in the midst of our relationship? That’s why in the early methodist class meetings, Wesley developed a protestant version of what catholics had been practicing for centuries—contemplative practices that invite the follower of Jesus to pay attention to the relationship, not just the activity of the relationship.
In early Methodist class meetings, the leader asked everyone, him/herself included, about the condition of their souls. The groups I have led or participated in have used these 4 questions:
1 — How is it with your soul?
2 — Have you done all the good you could and avoided all the evil you could this week?
3 — How have you availed yourself of the means of grace?
4 — How can we as a group best pray for and support you?
Even Wesley knew the importance of practical practices of discernment. The act of discerning isn’t just to know what God is saying and speaking to our lives and our world… We don’t seek to listen and consider the words of God simply so we can know more. It’s important b/c we are experimental beings that want to know how to be in relationship with God and how that impacts/changes our life and our life with others and the world which we live.
think about . What was God doing in the life of his chosen people? What was being spoken? why? and to what end? so they could be set apart? yes, but also so they could live and move and influence their lives, their family, and the world which they were places.
In discussing this topic my desire is to help us move the nature of discernment from the head and activity of what we do, into the area of the heart and how we grow in relationship with God—that we develop an healthy balance of relating to God with our head, heart, and soul; that we know how to think, how to act in a way that is an outflow of a communal experience of inner transformation.
many practices, perspectives and preferences exist that incorporate what I will suggest for you this morning. But I am speaking to what I know, have learned, and practice regularly.
Not linear steps or chronological, more like facets and practices that create an environment in the follower of Jesus to listen, consider, and obey the voice of God.
Duet. speaks to the opening our heart, mind, and soul to listen to God. That the voice of God and hearing the nature of His being spoken to us is of utmost importance. speaks to the posture of discernment. reflects willingness and a receptivity; it also carries with it an awe, reverence, respect, trust, and understanding of who God is, how he has revealed himself, and what he is up to. speaks to our intent/desires—what do you truly want from God? do you even know? are you aware how you are may hinder or significantly influence your relationship with others and in turn the message of the gospel? what do you do with your desires/intent and God’s intent for relationship with you and others. How does God want to give you the desires of your heart? How might God be asking you to take the approach of holy indifference? —learning to filter the voice of God and the voice/messages/intent of the evil one?
Satan desires to seek, kill, and destroy. Often this attempt is not done in daylight, but much more in secret, in the darkness, in silence.
for example: Michigan State; Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, etc…these secret have power when they are in the dark, in silence, and in the shadows. But when the evil is made known, it unravels, the light shines forth and hope begins to spring eternal.
One Ring of Tolkien’s fantasy world: One Ring to rule them all, One ring to find them; One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.
Harry Potter’s nemesis: Lord Voldemor(t) attempted to return to power and influence not by direct assault, but through cunning and secrecy.
Countless life stories, myths, and films have spoken of evils attempts to gain power and imprison as many as possible. In comes as no surprise that reveals such a conversation b/w Jesus and an evil spirit. it highlights an important aspect of faith for people to consider in the realm of discernment.
Philippians 1:9–10 ESV
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
Leviticus 10:10 ESV
You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean,
1 Kings 3:9 ESV
Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
Hebrews 5:14 ESV
But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Psalm 119:66 ESV
Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
Each of these speak to a practice and experience; of consistent communion and being in relationship with God.
Each of these speak to a practice and experience; of consistent communion and being in relationship with God.
Personally, the most helpful filtering has come through contemplative practices. These practices to me, are aspects of the what I call, filtering information, words, events, life, etc…what is being listened to, considered, and pondered:
These practices are samples of ways to learn the practice of discernment and incorporate opening, posturing, communication intent/desire, and the ability to filter through what comes into our eyes, ears, and heart
Prayer of Examen: The Examen is a method of reviewing your day in the presence of God. It’s actually an attitude more than a method, a time set aside for thankful reflection on where God is in your everyday life. It has five steps, which most people take more or less in order, and it usually takes 15 to 20 minutes per day. Here it is in a nutshell:
Ask God for Light—look at our day with God’s eyes
Give Thanks—be grateful for the gift of the day
Review the Day—look back on the day, guided by the holy sprit
Face your shortcomings—face up to what is wrong in life and in me
Look toward the day to come—Ask where I need God in the day to come
Lectio Divina: meaning "divine reading," is an ancient practice of praying the scriptures. listens to the text of the Bible with the "ear of the heart," as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one's relationship with the Divine.
Prayer of Silence/Centering Prayer: consent to God’s presence and action within; state desire to consent to the will and way of God; when engaged with your thoughts, go back to your desire to consent to the will and ways of God; Centering Prayer familiarizes us with God’s first language which is SILENCE.
Spiritual Direction: conversation with someone(s) that are willing to ask how it is with your soul and pay attention to the discussion and insights that flow (see Wesley class)
1 — How is it with your soul?
2 — Have you done all the good you could and avoided all the evil you could this week?
3 — How have you availed yourself of the means of grace?
4 — How can we as a group best pray for and support you?
Activity outside of yourself: serving others, involved in outreach, ministry on the margins/people that are not like you/working with children-youth, mission trip
Spiritual disciplines (fasting, retreat), journaling, prayer journal, bible study, prayer groups, etc…
Lifestyle changes/shifts/movements—inviting God to reveal things in your life that are hindering your relationship. The grace and mercy to move in the terrains of freedom and direction of transformation. money, relationships, consumption, activity, mental health, emotional health, etc…
This has simply been an introduction into a conversation about how we can begin to discern the way God speaks and how that will influence our relationship with Him, others, and our world.
This has been one perspective with a myriad of approaches. This is not the only way, but hopefully I have presented you with some things to consider and practices to try out and consider.
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