Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. (John 5:24, KJ2000)
And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form. And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he has sent, him you believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life. (John 5:37-40, KJ2000)
“And the Father himself, who has sent me, has borne witness of me. You have neither [not] heard his voice at any time.” What an indictment! Jesus was saying to these devout Jews that as far as God was concerned, they were stone deaf! Have you ever thought that these words of Jesus could apply to us who believe in Him?
Recently, I had a conversation over breakfast with a dear brother who loves God and is quite knowledgeable in the scriptures. Over the years God has used him to lead others to Christ and he has become a prolific writer about scriptural things. I have not personally known anyone like him for having insight into the deeper meanings of scriptural teachings. Yet, he confessed to me that he was having to be purged of all the interpretations of his former Bible teachers and things about the scriptures he has read so he can hear what the Spirit wishes to say to him as he reads the Bible. He found that as he reads a verse he hears the voice of these human teachers and their spin on each verse. I have not had any formal Bible school training as this brother has, but I still know what he means. As I read certain passages in the Bible, what my own teachers said about those scriptures either in their writings or personally, pops up in my mind.
So the question came to me as I was pondering this problem, “Do I hear HIS words to me when I read the ‘Word of God’ or do I hear the words of human teachers and preachers and what they said about these scriptures?” Jesus made it clear that after He was to die on the cross, we would not be left alone but that He would come again. The Holy Spirit would be our Teacher and lead us into all truth (See John 14: 18-20 & 26). Yet, how many of us have filled our minds with the teachings of men and their traditions that make the commandments and leadings of God of no effect (see Matt. 15:6)? Even our adherence to the Bible itself can get in the way of obeying God as it did with Peter (See Acts 10:9-16). Isn’t this what Jesus was telling the Jews who wanted to kill Him because He healed a lame man on the Sabbath?
He that HEARS my words and believes shall have everlasting life. We search the scriptures as did these learned Jews, but do we come to Him in the process and listen for His voice? Or do we look for and unconsciously hear the voices of our Christian teachers as their teachings bounce around between our ears with each verse?
When the Spirit teaches us, there is life in His words. When we do not hear His voice, even as we study the Bible, it is nothing but a dead letter. The letter of the Bible kills, but the Spirit who desires to teach us gives life! Like Peter said after most of the disciples had turned away from Jesus, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:68, ESV2011).
Paul the Pharisee had been taught by the best Jewish scholars in Jerusalem, but when the living Christ confronted Him for the first time in his life he had to ask, “Who are you, Lord?” He knew the words of God, but he still had not met THE Word of God or heard Him as his Teacher! His life would be radically changed as Christ went on to teach him by His Spirit. When we wait on the Spirit to teach us, we have His words of life taking up an abode in our hearts. When we read the scriptures and hear the words of our human teachers or rely on them to tickle our ears with new things, death remains in us. We are no better than Paul who persecuted Christ by killing those who believed in Him thinking he was doing God a service. This radically changed Paul would go on to write,
For who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been his counselor?… For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Rom 11:34-36, KJ2000)
God desires to un-teach us so that we can once again become as children desiring to hear our Father’s voice or as Peter put it,
As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby: If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1Pet 2:2-3, KJ2000)
This process of His stripping might take us out into a dark season of wilderness where we are even removed from Bible reading and teaching until we can hear HIS voice once again. Oswald Chambers wrote,
“At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him…Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet…” (February 14th– My Utmost for His Highest)
Dear Father, help us to see our need to hear your Spirit as we read the scriptures and blot out of our minds all the voices of our human teachers that we have heaped upon ourselves over the years so we can hear Your voice clearly once again, Amen.