Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #161

#161 "Do You Know His Voice?"
August 19, 2008
"When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice." (John 10: 4-5)
There was a priest in New York City who went to Ireland to visit his relatives. While he was staying at his cousin's farm, they decided to have some fun with him. After doing some chores in the fields, they told him to come in for dinner just as soon as he was through rounding up the sheep into the pen. After nearly an hour of chasing after sheep, trying to push, poke, prod, and even pull them with no success, he gave up and asked his cousins to help. They sent out their five-year-old daughter, who simply called out to the sheep, and within minutes they had all followed her through the gate into the pen. (Sermon Central Illustrations) Why couldn't the priest get those sheep into the pen, but a five year old little girl could? They knew her voice.
My children know my voice and the voice of their father. My oldest children always say that they could pick out their dad's laugh in a room filled with a thousand people. They've spent time with us. They've listened to us. They know us. Therefore, they can recognize our voices.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks to us about the Shepherd and His Flock. He is the Good Shepherd and He says that "he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out." (v. 3) He continues by saying that His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. You can search the "Tuesday's with Jesus" archives for my dissertation on sheep, but let me just say that our wooly friends aren't the smartest crayons in the box. That being said, don't get offended when I tell you that they have us beat in the smarts department when it comes to knowing, and following the voice of their shepherd.
Planet Earth is a noisy place. I was having my morning time with God a few days ago, and promptly at 8AM the silence of my backyard was done. It was as if someone sounded the work siren and every lawnmower started, every truck decided to use my street for their route, every air conditioner decided to turn on, and every dog began to bark. After the initial jolt, I just sat for a minute and listened. Underneath all the noise, when I tuned my ears closely to listen, I could still hear the birds singing. I could still hear the wind rustling through the tree above my head. It reminded me that underneath and amidst all the voices and noise of our world, God's voice is still speaking. More often than not, His voice is quiet. It's not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. Elijah heard the voice of God in a gentle whisper. (see 1 Kings 19: 11-12) And so will we, if we just tune in and listen.
And hearing the voice of God is the only way to recognize the voice of God. Let me say it again. Hearing the voice of God is the only way to recognize the voice of God. Many stranger's voices cry out to you on a daily basis. The stranger's voice is coming from your television, your CD player, the magazines you subscribe to, and the voices that proceed from the mouths of people. Stranger's voices tell you what to wear, what to eat, what size you should be, what you should own, what will make you happy, and what defines a successful life. Stranger's voices will tell you that you need Jesus plus some other method. And sadly, we spend more time listening to those voices than to the voice of God. So it's no wonder that good Christian folk follow the voice of the stranger and get led astray. 
Just as the sheep know their shepherd's voice and only follow him and just as my children would know my voice anywhere, we should be able to recognize the voice of our Shepherd because we have spent time listening to Him and getting to know His heart. The only place to hear His voice is in His Word. The only place to become familiar with His voice and know His heart, is through reading His Word. I'm not talking about going to church on Sunday and hearing your pastor's voice. I'm not talking about watching Christian television. Both good things. But I'm talking about daily, consistent time spent in the personal study of the Word of God, so that you are familiar with His voice...the only Source of truth. Then when the stranger speaks and calls your name to come, you will do just what Jesus said. (My favorite part of this passage, by the way) You will "run away from him because [you] do not recognize the stranger's voice." As a result of "knowing" your Shepherd and the sound of His voice, when you are presented with a concept, a theory, a method or an idea that isn't in line with His Word, you will run for the hills!  
You can choose to stay ignorant and easily be given over to deceit. God will never force you. But here's what happens when you follow the voice of the stranger. The wolf will come to destroy you and the stranger will run away because "he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." The thief, the stranger, the hired hand comes only to steal, and kill and destroy. But your Good Shepherd comes that you may have life in abundance, to the full, until it overflows. (John 10:10 AMP) Your Good Shepherd lays down His life for you, His sheep. But you must know His voice. It's up to you.
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