Hearing God Conversation Part 1
Listening is key to Christianity. We already have an 'A' in the class of Christ we just need to learn to listen for the right answer in each situation.
I ask you to consider the process of exercising your sixth sense through your ear-gate, and you realize that is next to impossible. It is possible in Christ. He did it, so it is possible. Sometime, just sit back and only listen—don’t look at anything or anybody in particular. Don’t make a nuisance of yourself or make a show out of it. But somehow, discreetly, you can listen to the voice of God, the voice of the enemy, the voice of the flesh, the voice of insecurity, the voice of pride, the voice of selfishness, the voice of judgment, the voice of fear—whatever the voices are in the spiritual realm. If you can train yourself to listen to those things, rest assured you will have ten times more information coming in if you also use your eye-gate. I’m giving you the greater challenge of using your ear-gate so that you’ll learn how to exercise yourself in perhaps the lesser challenge of using your eye-gate. Frankly, most people aren’t inclined to use either one. Possibly it’s because they are consumed with themselves or, in some cases, they just don’t know it can be done. Or perhaps they are not as interested in God’s work as they ought to be. They are preoccupied with the things of the world. So, for whatever reason, most people really do see most things after the flesh. They don’t pick up on most of the opportunities to serve God because they just don’t notice. Basically, I’m just offering this thought of how you might do it in a more challenging way. If you can sink 80-foot putts, you’ll probably sink 4-foot putts. So I’m asking you to approach it on the larger scale and thereby learn how to do the thing that ought to be the easiest thing in the world to us as a prophetic people.
Stan: I know it’s not always just a conversation about spiritual matters that reveals the heart, but that is a pretty good indicator. Talking about anything would reveal the heart too.
Mark: There are other things to listen for, but some would be the voice of God, the voice of satan, the voice of the world, the voice of preoccupation, the voice of selfishness, shallowness, pride, foolishness, fear, apathy, naivete, etc. If you depend solely on the eye-gate to discern spiritual matters, I wonder if something were to happen to your eyes, if you wouldn’t lose too much time in becoming profitable to God again. If you’re not inclined to be profitable to God by using your eye-gate to see how you might serve Him, then to discuss the ear-gate is silly. But if you’re willing and anxious and zealous to serve God in any way that you can, then I would encourage you to take those opportunities to use your ear-gate, too, in order to discern spiritual matters. But it’s definitely not in so-called spiritual conversation that we find most of our information about how to serve God and what the next task in front of us might be. It’s in any kind of circumstance—from working in the kitchen to shopping or sleeping or any matter you would want to mention. In any given 45 minutes, if a person is inclined and ready and able and sharp in their senses (having exercised their senses), there are going to be a half dozen opportunities to serve God. Or at least there will be a half dozen breadcrumbs leading down the path of how God would want us to serve Him next by enlarging a person or situation in Christ. The opportunities are found by those who are inclined to listen.
That’s one of the things we talked about the other night—listening. Every situation gives us an opportunity to listen. We were talking then about listening to God, and that Jesus is whispering answers to us. It’s not us trying to find the answers. It’s not us striving to get a perfect score on the test. He’s giving us each answer. We’re just too distracted or too invested in self-life or pride or shallowness to even listen. We’re working hard to get all the right answers. We get depressed when we don’t get one right. We get prideful when we do get one right. However, done correctly, He gets all the glory because each time we’re listening, we’re right. The Father loves the Son. The Father and the Son have made covenant. We’ve entered into covenant, not on our own, but through the Blood of Christ and into the Blood of Christ. We are in Jesus’ covenant with the Father. Therefore, it’s Jesus’ answer we’re trying to listen for. We’re not trying to attain anything on our own. We’re simply listening for His answers—unless we’re too preoccupied to do so. Basically what I’m saying now is that functioning is listening—primarily, being led by the Spirit. Having a life that’s flawless in execution day after day would be a life that’s flawless in listening day after day. It’s a life where we don’t get too preoccupied and start zooming off on the phone with some energy in some direction. Then, we come to our senses and try to recover and try to figure out the right thing and all that kind of stuff. Instead, it’s the life that is controlled by the Spirit. That’s what Romans 8 said. The life controlled, the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. That’s the object—that we would give the Spirit control of our mind.
So we were talking the other night about how listening is the way to know the Father’s will and to know the right answer in situation by situation. I’m also suggesting now that we’re not simply listening for some “voice” from the Father, per se. What we’re listening to is life. We’re listening to things that are Christ and the things that aren’t Christ. We’re listening to things that are of Heaven and things that are of the earth. We’re listening in our spirit, either with our eyes or our ears, for things that are born of Heaven and things that are born of flesh. What’s born of the flesh is flesh, and what’s born of the Spirit is Spirit. Paul said that it’s possible to know the very mind and heart of God through the Spirit of God because those that are spiritual have the mind of Christ. That’s our object. That’s our desire—to grow in those things. That’s what Christianity is. Christianity isn’t benevolence, evangelism, etc. Christianity is a life that is hidden in Christ, period. Nothing added to that. No good works, no good deeds, no “thing” to do—prayer, fasting, worship, bible study. It’s not that. Christianity is a life that’s hidden in Christ, period. Now, a life that is hidden in Christ will explore and live in and breathe all of those wonderful things mentioned above. But those are not the components of Christianity. The only component of Christianity is the life hidden in Christ, one who listens—the mind controlled by the Spirit. It’s a life that is absorbed in, defined by, consumed by, and energized by the Spirit of God, period. Nothing more—nothing added to that. Evangelism cannot be added to that. Benevolence cannot be added to that. Good deeds, bible study, prayer, and fasting cannot be added to that. Those things have no value. The Buddhists do all those things. Those things are just not a big deal. But, our life hidden in Christ, LISTENING—a spirit that’s consumed with the Spirit of God—will function in God’s time and God’s way in all those things. There’s no doubt about it. Good deeds, bible study, prayer, and fasting aren’t the substance of Christianity. Those are just by-products of being led by the Spirit.
So, just for fun sometime, use your ear-gate in a way to tap into that sixth sense of discerning in the Spiritual Realm, more than just the physical realm.
Katie: Do you have any thoughts about the potential of sitting back and judging things like the hearts and attitudes of people? It’s important to not have the motive of sitting back and judging each person’s actions, right?
Mark: First of all, if you’re not accomplished in that matter of bearing much fruit to the Father’s glory, you have to assume that you’re a rookie, green, wet behind the ears, in even doing this thing, whether with your eye-gate or your ear-gate. You’d better assume you’re going to be wrong a lot of the time. It’s by constant use that our faculties are defined. It’s exercising ourselves unto godliness. Nobody in this room is going to go out and run a marathon tomorrow. You may do something lesser because you trained for something lesser. But you won’t be running a 26-mile marathon at any significant pace tomorrow because you haven’t trained for that distance. What we’re talking about doing is an “ultra-marathon.” It’s pretty foolish to think that you’re really going to be able to sort out these matters with great accuracy until you have been refined in them. You try to pursue these things. You follow the breadcrumbs, the things you feel like God wants you to serve in. Maybe you find out you were wrong. So, you go back and sort it out. You are equipped in how you were wrong and why you were off-track. Maybe it was some fleshly thing in you. You were actually jealous, but you thought they were being prideful. See? So you’ve got to find out through having your own heart and motives refined constantly how to even hear and see accurately.
Secondly, anything that’s not unto being helpful is judgment. If it isn’t for the purpose of enlarging Christ, it is judgment. It doesn’t matter whether you’re discerning accurately or not; it’s still sin to weigh people’s motives unless you intend to do something about what you discern. You’re judging unless you’re available to God and fully compassionate to help someone change, to help Christ be enlarged in them. It’s not just for entertainment—it’s so Christ can be enlarged and glorified. Our motives have to be pure in it all. Otherwise, we’re disqualified. We can’t be of any use unless we intend to be of use with the things that we discern—if we discern properly.
So, there are two safeguards. First, with humility, we recognize we’re not very good at using our ear-gate and eye-gate. We’re probably wrong. It’s probably something in us that’s off. The whole process may cause us to be able to help and serve others and God. And, more than likely, it’s also going to enlarge us and refine us. So we go into it with that sort of humility. Secondly, there absolutely has to be a motive that this isn’t just something I noticed to talk about or noticed to think about. Anything that I see is a commission from God to be somehow useful to Him in prayer and fasting and perhaps discussion and other sorts of things. It’s unto something very purposeful and very good and wholesome. It’s unto the enlargement of Christ in a person, and in His Church, ultimately. And if it’s not unto enlargement, it is judgment. If it’s unto separation, if it’s unto walls being built, if it’s unto passivity of any kind, it’s sin and judgment. It’s not Christ at all. So those are the two safeguards: humility and the right motive.
Pam: Can you explain about the eye-gate again?
Mark: I am saying that Jesus said the eye is the lamp of the body, and there are two aspects of that. One is that what we take into our body through the eye-gate can bring darkness. And how great would be that darkness! The other is what we discern through the eye-gate outside of ourselves. Spiritually, if we SEE nothing because all we see are three-dimensional physical objects, then how great is that darkness in us! If we don’t see spiritual matters, then all we see is physical matter with the eye-gate. If we see men after the flesh only, then how great is that darkness, and how shallow we are to live that way! So the eye-gate essentially goes both directions about spiritual matters. We can ruin ourselves spiritually on the inside by what we let in. Also, as we look out, if there is no discernment of spiritual matters through the eye-gate in a room full of people, then we are pretty dark inside.
Pam: What do you mean by the eye-gate and ear-gate principle versus looking in the Spirit?
Mark: Well, with my eye-gate, what do I see? I see your eyes. I see your facial expressions. I see what people call body language. I see how you did your hair. I see how you dressed. I see all those different things. Now I don’t see anything because my eyes are closed. But you’re still there. How do I find out who you are spiritually when I don’t SEE any of those things? What I’m suggesting is that God can, by His Spirit, allow us to have great amounts of spiritual information—if we have trained our ear-gate the same way that, hopefully, we’ve been training our eye-gate to see and hear men no longer after the flesh. Somehow, I would still be useful to God if I didn’t have my eyes. My ears have also been exercised, through constant use, to discern what’s of God and what’s not of God so that I can be useful to Him. It’s a different way of gathering spiritual insight. It requires much more of us to be able to use our ear-gate and be truly useful to God.
I can look around right now and no one is saying anything, at this exact moment anyway, except for me. Right now I can still look around and gather spiritual information out of every seat in this room. But if I close my eyes, can I still gather spiritual information out of every single seat in this room? That’s a challenge, isn’t it? But it is of Christ to be able to do that. The information is still available. A part of exercising ourselves through constant use—so we would be able to serve God properly—requires that we refine our sense of hearing to be able to hear men no longer after the flesh. To an extent, we all do that. For example, if someone sounds cocky, anybody in this room could hear that. But is he cocky because he’s insecure, or is he cocky because he’s prideful? Which is it? Do you know the difference? You’ve got to learn the difference, if you are going to be of any use to God. You have to know which one it is. It sounds the same on a tape recorder, but it doesn’t sound the same in the Spirit.
Mark: Part of the process of growing in maturity is learning how to respond. There are a lot of different ways to respond. One is to go right up and talk to them about it. But that’s not always right. You may break the bruised reed and snuff out the smoldering wick. What if someone just had an incredibly rough day at work or at home with the children, and you totally misread something and go up and have it out with them, thinking you’re doing God a favor. Actually, you can be harmful to a person if the timing is wrong, if the approach is inappropriate, if you’re the wrong person to do it, or something like that. Maybe you’re just totally wrong about what it is, but three other people have just talked to them about the same thing this week. If you’re way outside of the bounds of what God wanted to do with that moment in time, you can mess somebody up. It can actually be rather harmful.
So you do that a few times, and you learn that surely there are options other than just walking right up and blurting something out. Maybe that’s the right thing to do—sometimes it is. Other times what is right is stepping back a little bit. The apostle John talked about some sins that don’t lead to death and others that do, and the process of learning how to pray about such things. Just consider them, watch for an opportunity, and accumulate some things that are not unto death. Pray about what you might want to do. It could happen that another conversation comes up and you would be able to say something like, “By the way, I noticed this situation. I could be wrong about it. The thing that we were just talking about somehow seems related to this. So let’s go ahead and talk about it.” God can actually provide opportunities where it’s virtually seamless—like Jesus’ garment—and it becomes very easy to talk about something that you’ve been praying about. It isn’t a life or death thing at that particular moment. But it’s important, and it does need to be talked about and somehow resolved. So Jesus brings about a seamless opportunity to talk about it. Or let’s say someone is kind of discouraged and they say, “I’m trying to pray and it doesn’t seem like God is listening. I wonder why not.” And you can respond with, “Well, I have an idea. Maybe it’s because of…” So you end up being helpful rather than critical. You’re giving them an answer they won’t interpret as critical or confrontational. You’re actually providing them with a tool to fix a problem that they have already discerned. So now they walk away encouraged that you rebuked them, rather than discouraged by it—because you waited on God’s timing.
Everything we’ve talked about tonight is work of service. So, somehow blundering through things and watching and praying and reconsidering things are part of the process of being equipped for works of service. Part of it is trying to recover from mistakes you’ve made or gaining some insight from an equipper that might help you to know how to use what you think you discern or what to do next. They may say, “Hey, it seems to me it’s probably your problem. It’s probably jealousy on your part rather than pride on their part. What I’m hearing with my ear-gate sounds like jealousy on your part.” So somehow, the process of trying to work those things out equips us—by our mistakes and by our successes—into the manifold wisdom of God. As Paul put it, “the many-faceted wisdom of God.” There are many facets to the diamond of God’s wisdom. There’s a lot of different ways that God reflects His light into a situation—like a diamond with many facets. So as you grow in the manifold wisdom of God, you begin to see that there are 35 options of how to solve a particular problem. It’s not that a problem is not there. At least as far as you can see, it does appear to be there. But, you are also aware that sometimes the facet ends up flashing back at you, reflecting you rather than them. You thought you saw something in them, but it was in you. That’s one of the facets. In the process of working through things, you grow and expand in your ability to see God’s creativity and in how to solve a particular problem. How to enlarge Christ is a better way to think about it. How do we enlarge Christ? How do we bring about teleios—full, mature, complete men and women? How do we do that? How can we contribute to the Spirit’s work in bringing that about?
Diane: This is a little different. I was having trouble hearing God.
Mark: It’s possible to make too much of mystery out of that. 1Corinthians 13 talks about various aspects of what God is. God is love, and love is not rude, not proud or haughty. Those aspects of His character are what we look for as we consider, “Well, did I hear God or not? Should I be in this situation or not? Should I go and be at this lunch with fifteen women?” Is that the sort of thing that you’re talking about, Diane? Is that a possible example?
Diane: Yeah, I guess that too. But a lot of times it has to do with things that we’re trying to study together. Somebody says, “How about we study this?” It sounds great because I would like to spend time with them. It’s many things like that. Somebody invites me to lunch, and somebody else invites me to go with them to the orchard. It seems like I try to do a lot of things, and I end up really tired. In a way, I don’t think I’m supposed to try to do everything.
Mark: Well, again, part of hearing God isn’t so much a mystery since God is love and love is not rude, it’s not proud, it keeps no record of wrongs. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. Those qualities of God are manifest in His voice. So, if I feel myself becoming pent up and frustrated, I probably have not found the voice of God in that situation since the fruit of the Spirit is, amongst other things, peace. The Prince of Peace speaks in the voice of peace, and there is no confusion. He is not the God of chaos or disorder. If my day is filled with chaos and disorder, then I’ve not found God in that day. Let’s say someone asks me to go to the orchard with them. I’m frustrated because I’ve got too many things going on, and I’m rude. Well, love is not rude. So I’ve not heard God’s voice, at least not in the way I responded to them. Perhaps I haven’t even heard God in the decision itself. But at the very least, I’ve not heard God’s voice properly or conveyed God’s voice in how I responded to them.
To put it another way, I have somehow stepped out of the Spirit if I don’t have gentleness and self-control and faithfulness and peace and joy in my heart as I’m communicating with others. So I get a knock on the door and at the same time, two phones are ringing and I’ve got 1500 e-mails in front of me and then my beeper goes off and my car phone is ringing and, on top of all that, I was supposed to be some place 15 minutes ago. It’s not so much a matter of sitting back and kind of putting up my antennas and trying to hear God’s voice as much as it is to see that gentleness and self control and lack of rudeness and those other qualities of God are manifest. If I follow those qualities of God and make those things the priority of my next moment, regardless of what else is going on, I’ll find God’s path. I’ll hear His voice if I make those qualities of God my priority. He’ll direct my steps through my day to the extent that I “hear God.”
He speaks to us more through His Son and through His character, than through audible voices and various other things like He did in times past to the forefathers and prophets. While He still does some of that, primarily He speaks through His Son. His Son is the Word, and I don’t mean ink on the page. I mean the logos—the whole of God’s heart and character and mind and personality as we see in love is not rude, it is not proud, it rejoices in good, it is faithful and gentle and joyful and peaceable. Somehow as we follow the logos, the quality of God’s heart and mind, we find His path, we hear His voice, and we bear His fruit. So I look for those things that are not Christ—not so much to show me what to do next, but to show me who to be, so that I can, in turn, find myself being carried along by the river of the Spirit into what He has for me to do. It’s not so mechanical as “God wants me to do that and not this.” It’s not really that. It’s throwing ourselves into the river of God and letting Him wash us through our day. It’s letting Him drive us through the path of His choices for us more than it is a mechanical way of hearing Him about this choice versus that choice. It’s being Him in character and life and liberty, and letting Him wash us through the day—letting the river drive us rather than making decisions of what to do in our day.
Diane: An example is that Lori and I were thinking about studying weather with the children. We don’t want to set up this “program,” but we have to get together and talk about what we are going to do—how to start and to look at what’s involved…. But I find myself doing a lot of that, then it makes me wonder if that gets in the way of my ability to do His will.
Mark: Well, anybody that knows me knows that I’m not very apt to be pressed into a schedule. If someone asks me, “Will you call me tonight at 9:00?” “No, probably not,” is my answer. I won’t do it. I won’t schedule my life that way. That doesn’t mean I won’t talk to them. I would love to talk to them. But I won’t give in to being pressed into a schedule of something having to be between the hours of thus and such. James talked about not saying, “I’m going to do this or that.” If the Lord wills, I want to and that’s my goal. I have a priority system. I know this has to be done. I know I need to research weather. That’s not unspiritual. That’s fine. But, I also know that if I’m feeling this burden, this pressure, because of an external format that I’ve created by scheduling and all that—I’ve missed something. I’m just not going to do that. You can get an awful lot done by having a priority, agreeing with others to work towards this end in the shortest amount of time, and then seizing the opportunities as God provides them. “If the Lord wills, then we’ll shoot for tomorrow morning at 8:30 or so.” But I probably wouldn’t even commit to that until 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. the night before. I probably wouldn’t commit to a specific time because it’s too far in advance, in most cases.
Diane: Where does dependability come in as far as others being able to count on you to help?
Mark: They can count on you to make it the highest priority. And that’s what they should be able to count on you for, too. If you’re irresponsible, that will show up in time, and then we can talk about that. If you’re lazy, apathetic, undisciplined—that will show up in time, and we can talk about it. But, if you’re about the Father’s business and you’re not willing to commit on Tuesday to a Thursday 8:30 a.m. thing, then say, “Let’s talk about it again Wednesday night. I think that will work on Thursday morning.” That’s not irresponsible. That’s not undependable. You might even need to change it to 7:30. You might need to change it until noon, or it may need to wait another day. “Let’s talk again tomorrow night. It’s not going to work tomorrow.” That’s not irresponsible. Now somebody that’s driven by a checklist mind set or, as Tozer would call it, the “file card mentality,” rather than by the Spirit, is going to be frustrated because now all their little things on their “ticky-tack” list have to move a notch, and so on and so forth. But if that’s the way they are going to function, they’re going to fail anyway. They will not bear eternal fruit functioning that way.
The woman with the issue of blood was healed and her life was forever changed, and a thousand other lives were changed as a result of her testimony because Jesus had time to stop and talk to her—even though another person was dying or dead somewhere else. Zacchaeus, who was up in a tree—Jesus had time for. And didn’t Jesus have other dinner plans? “Zacchaeus, I’m coming to your house tonight.” What did that interfere with? What were His previous plans that had to change as a result of that? There has to be the liberty for God to direct our steps in that way.
That doesn’t mean that we are aimless with no priorities. Yeah, studying weather is important. There’s no problem with that. But don’t ask me on Tuesday to commit to Friday morning. Call me on Thursday night. Let’s shoot for that. Let’s try our best to do that.” That’s very fair, and it also allows leeway for other, higher priority things to come up. And if at some point you feel like you are becoming undependable, then perhaps you will reach the conclusion that it’s not supposed to be you doing this because God is not finding a place for you to be able to do it. He is always somehow redirecting you, and you can’t argue with that point. He is redirecting you and if you did do it, it would be out of guilt or peer pressure or something else. You can’t find a way to study weather, so perhaps somebody else needs to be doing it because you’re starting to feel irresponsible. Love is not rude, but you also know that God is not directing you in a path that would allow you to do this thing except out of guilt or peer pressure. So you have to say, “Frankly, I just can’t do it tomorrow morning. There is something more important—but it does need to be done.” Love is not rude. God just told you to get somebody else involved to fill in that gap.
Now God has brought in somebody that needed to be involved because of a gift they have. You didn’t even know what problem needed to be solved by their gift. But you heard God by being directed this way and God miraculously brought in the perfect gift for the situation-that wasn’t you-and you got to do the thing that He wanted you to do instead. So you can see how God maneuvers us. If we get in the middle of His River, He’ll push us to the place that we need to be—in peace.
You can be more efficient operating in the system of the world and maybe get a few more things done. You’ll still be burdened by it all and depressed and frustrated and confused. But you’ll be slightly more efficient. So pride tends to offset hearing God because you are getting a lot done. Then you go on through life that way.
Your other option is to continue to develop in what we’ve been talking about tonight. You’ll find it won’t make you much of a man-pleaser. If someone is pressing you, pressing you, pressing you to do something, and you’re not all that motivated to do it, if you wanted to, you could respond out of a false motivation, an ungodly one. But, if you were really going to do it conscientiously, you might say, “Frankly, I can’t give into this thing. It sounds legitimate. It sounds urgent, but no, I can’t talk to you.” Why? Because maybe they need to face God on it. They need to pray and fast about it, and they are being lazy. Maybe there’s another person that needs to be involved. Or maybe the timing is not right. There are a couple of other problems that need to fall on top of that one before they are really ready to hear the answer. There are several possibilities of why God may not want something to happen. But it’s not, “God, should I or shouldn’t I?” That isn’t really how it works. It’s being carried along in the Spirit, and you just watch. What’s Him is Him, and what’s not Him is not Him—sorry.