Watch the video — it’s short, about 8 minutes, and faith-building.
There’s quite a difference between taking part in a church service with its readings and message and familiar words — and actually agreeing with God as He speaks through it.
By nature we are quite complacent, initially resistant, and independent, especially when our will locks horns with God’s gentle guidance.
The key is whether our mindset is to receive, or not. That’s an intentional setting of the will.
God is always speaking — especially through His word, through other believers and by His quiet and hard-to-discern guidance. But — let’s be honest — we are not always listening. And even when we are, we may not be up for receiving it.
Too easily, we dismiss what God is saying before He has finished saying it!
We need help. Specifically, we need to help each other, because we hear in different ways, just as we have different God-given attributes.
That’s why God has set in His diverse body of Jesus followers on earth, people with different spiritual gifts and various ways of making Him real to others.
But we’re going to start in an earlier time with that father of all faith, Abraham. Today, we’d call him an early adopter.
God often spoke to him and his track record was to hear and receive without any ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ — and get going.
He embodied what the psalmist later wrote, “I trust in your unfailing love”, Psalm 13:5.
In one of the best-remembered stories about Abraham in Genesis 22, we hear about Abraham’s crisis of obedience, after having heard God tell him to prepare to sacrifice Isaac, his only son and descendant.
This was a clear and unambiguous word from God, telling him to do the most difficult thing imaginable — and it seemed to go right against a solemn covenant promise from God he had held for years — that he would have a descendant, in fact a whole tribe of them.
You and I would prevaricate… “I must have heard wrong… let’s hold on, I need confirmation… I need others to hear God with me…”
And none of these things is wrong! God usually does give confirmation, and additional clarity if we ask Him for it. We see it in the Bible and we find it in our experience of Him.
But this time with Abraham, the real sacrifice was his priority. God hand big task for Abraham and He needed him to surrender his will.
And so he was testing — almost testing to destruction — Abraham’s complete trust in Him.And we read,
“Early next morning he got up and loaded his donkey,”
He set out on the journey he had been given. He had little to hold on to apart from simply trusting that God would steer his progress as he went.
That a good principle for us to follow. God can steer a moving vessel. If we move out with Him, He can always nudge us into a better direction.
And in a way, that’s what happened. Right at the last moment, God intervened dramatically, telling Abraham, his arm poised with the knife, NOT to harm his son. And as he looked up. Startled by God’s voice, there in a thorn bush he saw a ram caught by the horns.
It was as he had spoken out in faith earlier, “God Himself will provide…” There was the sacrifice!
Abraham was on his own in hearing and following God.
But in Christian life, in the biblical traditions there is no sense of the one priest having all the gifts and calling the shots.
It’s always collaborative. It’s about believers in fellowship together. And after Jesus’ resurrection and specifically after Pentecost, the priesthood became a shared one. As believers, we all have become priests who can represent God to others around us and represent their needs to God who we know. God speaks and we hear and receive it together through our diverse attributes but complementary gifts.
Some are good at speaking and encouraging, some explain well and teach, some are gifted in reaching out to those that don’t know God. God’s love in us makes us warm and relational but some are gifted in empathy and caring. And serving is a value shared by all.
The question is whether our gift is welcomed, especially if God has shown us to share it somewhere new. Is it received as part of God’s provision or perceived as a threat?
Jesus said to his disciples — and of course that’s us too — anyone who receives you, receives Me. And the opposite is true as well:
“If you receive a prophet, a messenger of God, as one who speaks for God; or receive a righteous person and the help they bring, you will receive a reward like theirs.
Matthew 10:41 NLT/The Message.
And we find God’s favour and blessing begins to go before us as we learn to receive Him. And that’s both receiving what He is saying, and who He has sent.
Knowing God through Jesus and in the life of the Holy Spirit, we are free to make good choices, to live God’s way.
It wasn’t like that before we came to know Jesus. We were ruled by our own independent desires and needed rules to keep us in check.
But as Paul taught Christians in Rome:
“You are not now under law, but under grace — set free from sin.
Romans 6:15 and 22
This is not a privilege earned by our good conduct but what we have been freely and undeservedly given by God through Jesus’ intervention for us.
Being under grace has the parallel meaning of freedom and enabling: the sin that once controlled us has been replaced by the guiding and empowering of God’s Holy Spirit in us.
Like a garden that has been landscaped and newly planted, we have to maintain it. We must keep it in good trim all the time, because otherwise it will soon overgrow and spoil into a tangled mess again.
So it is in our lives. They are put into good order, right standing with God, and we don’t have to sin.
The maintaining comes from being able to obey from the heart the pattern of teaching that has claimed our allegiance.
And that’s receiving God and receiving what He says, receiving His gifts in His people, because we belong to Jesus and have received Jesus as our Lord and represent Him to the world around us.
And that’s saying yes to God, His word, His workers, and His way.