An interesting thing can happen when you listen to God’s Word. It’s amazing what can jump out at you this way. I usually listen while walking and at times have had to literally stop as I say to myself, that cannot be what the Bible really says – and sure enough after checking the printed text on my phone, there it is. I’d just not read it the same way I’d heard it.*
Most recently I was listening late in the evening while walking the hotel halls during a work trip (gotta get those steps in somehow!). I heard a familiar portion of Scripture. In fact, it was not just familiar; it was one of the passages that rocked my spiritual world back in my early 20s. I remember sitting in the little church I had been going to with a friend for several months. I grew up faithfully attending but something was different about this church. A few things were different, actually.
For one thing, when they prayed they didn’t read from a book. They spoke from their hearts. They talked to God as if He were a friend. I also remember being very confused about why it took the pastor 19 years to become a Christian. When he made this statement one day, I turned to my friend and said, “what took him so long? I was born a Christian.” I had much to learn… and with the Lord drawing me as only He can, I would. The words became etched in my heart almost the moment I heard them, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me…” (Matthew 7: 22-23)
That was me. I had grown up doing lots of things “in His name.” I had checked the boxes. I had crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. I had a sense of knowing about God. About Jesus. About the Bible. But I realized in that moment…I did not really know Him. And I wanted to.
Thus began a journey that would be ever-changing, ever-learning, ever-growing, even sometimes, a bit painful as God peeled back the layers of who I was and showed me things about Him – and about myself – that I did not know. That evening in the hotel was no exception.
I’d always thought that piece of Scripture had to do with people who consider themselves “cultural Christians” (i.e. my thinking I was “born into” Christianity) vs those with a born again relationship with Jesus (John 3: 3-8). What struck me that evening though was this: just before Matthew 7: 22, Jesus says: Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (Matthew 7: 21) Did you catch that like I did? …only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. I kid you not, I stopped walking mid-hallway.
It suddenly got very personal. This was not just knowing God vs knowing about God. This was MY listening to Him and MY doing what He says. Jesus set this example in the garden before He was arrested. In His most painful and difficult of moments, He prayed, “not my will, but Yours, Father.” Now I was enlightened and I had to do something about it. I had to think about those moments in the past when I knew that God had spoken plainly to ME about something. I had to come to terms with the fact that there would be moments in the future when God would speak specifically to ME about something – making clear His will in a given situation. I couldn’t play the ignorant card anymore.
Many years ago when I was spending some quiet time just thinking about my life, God, how it all fits together… I felt the urge to write the following words: Do what you know to do (according to Scripture) and what you’re told to do (prompted personally by the Holy Spirit – never contrary to Scripture).
This week would you think of those times in your life when you just know in your knower that God has told you to do something – or NOT do something? Have you been calling God, “Lord” but not truly letting Him have authority in your life? What are your garden moments where you have had to pray like Jesus, “not my will, but Yours, God.”?
*you can listen AND read (and watch via Jesus Film video) using Bible.is!