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Do You Still Speak Today?

Do You Still Speak Today?
18th May 2014

Do You Still Speak Today?

Speaker:
Passage: Hebrews 1:1 - 14, 2 Peter 1:3 - 4

Hebrews 1:1 – 14
2 Peter 1:1 – 4
Do You Still Speak Today?

“Big decisions in my life”, wrote one man, “have always come easy, and are made without hesitation. It is easier for me to make a life-changing decision, than to decide, what to get for dessert.” I don’t know whether that’s your experience, of making decisions, or not! I imagine though, for many of us, making life-changing decisions, is significantly more difficult, and more taxing than that!
The man who said those words, Tony Hawk, is a professional skateboarder!, Maybe his life is much more straightforward than yours or mine! Because most people I speak with, at some point in their lives, struggle with making decisions, because of the great pressure to make the right decision, combined with a feeling that we don’t have all the information we need, to make that right decision.
It can be difficult, it can be crippling for some people, when they’re so afraid of making the wrong decision, that they can’t make any decision.
When our kids were really little, we sometimes used to see them paralysed with indecision, just unable to choose between 2 options.
Sadly, for some people, that experience follows them through life, unable to make a decision, because they’re afraid they don’t have enough information.
And so people who have, what we might call a spiritual awareness, in their decision making, they want to know, “Well, what does God say?
The extra information they want in that moment is, “What does God say about this choice?
Can God speak to me in this situation, and give me some guidance?”
And maybe that’s you, you’re facing some area of decision, probably more significant than what to get for dessert, and you are hoping, or wondering, if God will speak to you, so that you can make a, right, godly decision.
Perhaps though you’re in a slightly different category. Maybe you are more like Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder!
You’re not troubled by making decisions, you’re not wondering if God can speak into a particular situation.
Maybe your question is much more basic.
Maybe your question is not, can God speak to me in this situation, and give me some guidance,
Maybe your question is, Can God speak?!
Does God speak?
“Forget about making decisions, I just want to know, if God has said anything.”
Looking at the hundreds of questions that were submitted to the If You Could Ask God website, it’s pretty clear, that lots of people are looking to hear God speak.
We got question after question like,
“Do you still speak today?”
“Will you tell me what to do with my life?”
“How do I know what you say, and what is just people saying stuff?”
“Do you speak through nature and stuff, or just voices?”
“Where can I go, to hear you speak?”
“Why don't you speak today, like you used to?”
And those are great questions, aren’t they?
And if those are your questions, thanks for coming along today, and thinking about some answers with us.
God speaks
If we look at that first part of the Bible that we heard earlier, from the book of Hebrews, we see straight away, that the Bible has something to say in answer to our question:
Page 1204, In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, at many times, and in various ways
“God speaks!”
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, at least we can say, God has spoken.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors
That is, remember who the original recipients of this letter were Jewish Christians, and so their ancestors, were the characters of the Old Testament; Names we may be familiar with, Moses, Noah, King David.
God spoke to them.
Now there are lots of people who believe that God exists,
Believe that God created everything,
But they believe that after creating everything, God more or less sat back, hands off, and had no interaction with the world that he made.
He doesn’t do anything,
He doesn’t say anything.
This way of thinking about God, is sometimes likened to a person winding a clock, and then walking away, and letting the clock run of its own accord.
There’s a term, I’m sure you’ve heard it used, “helicopter parents”, those parents who are always hovering over their child.
It’s considered a bad thing in parents, being over protective, but actually, that’s a better picture of God than the absentee clock winder.
God speaks.
And he hasn’t just spoken once, he’s been hovering right in there the whole time, speaking in a whole range of different ways.
I think it’s intriguing, that the author of this letter, whose whole purpose is to encourage people who were at risk of giving up on God, because of the hardships they were facing,
That’s his goal,
And the way he starts is to say “God speaks.”
If you’re a Christian person, which I imagine most of us are,
When someone tells you, “it’s just all too hard to be a Christian”,
The people in my class, or my office, or my family, are giving me a hard time because of my faith, and I just want to make it all go away,
Do you expect, that the very first point of your encouragement to them, would be to say God speaks?
See, I think the author starts with this enormous statement, “God speaks”, because not only is this great news for people who are trying to find out about God, trying to work out what God thinks about things,
But because this is the basic foundation for the entire Christian faith;
God has something to say!
God hasn’t remained silent, far off, isolated from us, who have turned our backs on him,
We who have lived in his world, as if he doesn’t exist,
The good news of the Christian message is that God speaks.
The ways God spoke in the past were many and varied
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, at many times, and in various ways
Notice that God’s speaking to humanity in the past, prior to the life and ministry of Jesus, it was mediated, it came through people.
The prophets were messengers appointed by God to speak his Word.
And so through these prophets, God spoke in many and varied ways,
And if you went to Sunday School as a kid, or if you’ve been around churches much, you might remember some of the ways in centuries past,
The burning bush,
The pillar of fire,
The still small voice,
God spoke through angelic messengers,
He appeared in the form of a human,
He spoke with the sound of a trumpet,
He spoke through thunder and storm.
One prophet acted out scenarios,
Another named his children, such that people would hear God speak, when their names were called.
Others told of dreams that God had given them.
And in these many and varied ways, God revealed himself.
He spoke about his character;, that he’s forgiving, compassionate, slow to anger,
He spoke about the problem of sin, the problem that separates us from God, and makes it so hard for us to hear God. Because in our rebellion against God, as we’ve declared independence from God, we’ve established a great chasm, between him and us.
And as God spoke, he promised that he would, in fact bridge that chasm, and make it possible for people to really hear him, and know him.
And it’s not that God was experimenting with a range of different approaches, trying to work out which communication style could articulate everything that he wanted to say.
No, God spoke at so many different times, and in so many different ways, because not one of those methods in itself could say everything that God wanted to say.
It may be a poor comparison, but I can’t help but think of election advertising.
I just wish that election advertising, was limited by law, to one 30 second ad per candidate, shown once in primetime, at one point, in the lead-up to the election.
Wouldn’t that be great?!
You may be less cynical about it than I am!
But we don’t get that do we?
We get constant TV advertisements,
Posters everywhere,
People knocking on the door,
Flyers in the letterbox,
Ads all over the internet,
People even asking, if they can address our congregations!
But I understand why it’s like that.
The candidates know they can’t say everything they want to say, by picking just one of those methods alone.
Similarly, God knew that not one of those many and varied methods could communicate everything that he wanted to say.
But the truth is, not even all those many and varied ways put together, was enough, for God to communicate everything that he wanted to say, to humanity.
God speaks today
And so in stark and brilliant contrast, to the way that God spoke in the past, God speaks in a new and decisive manner, today.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets, at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
And here, finally, the author claims an answer to our question of God, “Do you still speak today?” the answer is a resounding “yes”, in these last days, God has spoken to us.
these last days, simply means in the days since Jesus of Nazareth, lived, and walked and talked, and died and rose again.
And so while we stand nearly 2000 years since this letter was written, these last days, include our days as well.
We live, in these last days, in which God speaks!
That is, according to this, today is a day, when you can hear God speak.
Tomorrow, will be a day, in which you can hear God speak.
God speaks today through his Son
But how?
Well, in contrast to the many and varied ways that God spoke in the past, today God speaks through his Son. in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, 
The author wants us to see, not only that God does speak today, but that the way God speaks today, is infinitely greater, than how he spoke in the past.
Often, that’s not what we think, is it?
I have lots of conversations with people who say, “I wish I lived back in the times when God spoke through the prophets, you know, give me a burning bush, or a voice in the thunder and the storm”,
Or “I wish God would speak today, like he did back then.”
But the Bible says here, that God doesn’t think, the way he spoke back then, was better than the way he speaks today.
Once he spoke through the prophets,
Today God speaks by his Son
In the past God spokeat many times and in various ways,
Today, God speaks by his Son the exact representation of his being, who then sat down, job done, no, further, message, necessary.
When God speaks today, his nature and purposes are fully and finally revealed,
When God speaks today, we hear, what people in ages past, could only long to hear.
When God speaks today, we don’t hear God’s voice, mediated through prophets or messengers, God speaks by his Son, and see how Jesus, the Son of God is described? the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being
The language is of an engraving or an impression. The imprint of something.
But it doesn’t just mean an artificial representation of something, as if we’d got God and pressed him into some squishy clay to make an impression!
It means Jesus is the essence God.
It means that what is true of Jesus, is true of God.
It’s why, the whole of Jesus’ life, can be described as God speaking.
God speaks today, not just through Jesus’ words, but through his life, through his ministry, even through his death and resurrection.
That’s how God speaks.
Framed, on a wall at my parents’ home, is the front page of the New York Times, from February 12th 1999. It was my sister’s 21st birthday, we were in New York, and so she kept a copy of the Gray Lady, as it’s called, as a memento.
In the top left hand of the front page of the New York Times, appear the words, “All the news, that’s fit to print.”
And despite some competition from other potential mottos in the early days of the paper’s life,
"A decent newspaper for decent people"
"Full of meat, clean and neat"
"Cheerful, clean, with glossy sheen", and others, equally forgettable!, that motto has lasted for nearly a hundred and 20 years. They’ve been called the most famous 7 words in journalistic history.
But in that vein, we could say that Jesus Christ tells us, “all the news, that can be known”, that is, everything that is knowable about God, is communicated in Jesus.
Isn’t that astounding?
There is nothing that can be known about God,
There is not a single thing, that God wants to say about himself, that he hasn’t said in Jesus,
In the work,
The words,
The life,
The ministry of Jesus.
All the news, that can be known.
If you want to hear God speak, so that you know what God is like,
It is to Jesus, that you can turn, today, to hear God speak, knowing that you will get the complete message.
This means, of course, that God is knowable.
There’s that famous line from the English playwright, Noel Coward, “God?”, he said, “we’ve never been properly introduced.”
Well, yes you have! God speaks today,
God speaks to us today,
In his Son.
And that’s an answer to our question, isn’t it?
Does God still speak today?
Yes, God speaks today, in Jesus.
But I do understand, if you don’t feel like that’s the whole answer!
The Bible tells us, God speaks today, in Jesus.
But none of us have seen Jesus, have we? Face to face?
Look at the end of verse 3. Where is Jesus now? Currently he is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven!
We can’t just walk up to him, and have him speak to us.
But the thing is, that’s exactly the same situation as the recipient of the letter to the Hebrews.
When the author here says, “God speaks today by his Son,
Jesus had already died and risen, and ascended to heaven. He didn’t mean God speaks to us by his Son, when we see Jesus at the shops, and we have a conversation!
So how does it work?
How does God speak, finally and ultimately, by his Son, today?
If you have one of those blue Bibles there, flick over a few pages to page 1225, and here we have a letter from a man named Peter, one of the Apostles, one of the 12 eye-witnesses of Jesus’ ministry, who he commissioned and sent out as his messengers.
Have a look at what he says, starting at verse 3, speaking of Jesus, His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature,
God has already said everything we need to hear for a godly life
If we think of where we started, lot of people I meet, want God to speak to them out of a burning bush, or something, because they want to make right decisions,
They want to make decisions that honour God.
And that’s a good goal to have!
And yet, what does Peter tell us here?
Jesus has already given us everything we need, to live a godly life, or “for life and godliness” as some of the more literal Bible translations put it.
In the original language, the word for has given, indicates a once-off action in the past, that has ongoing consequences.
Jesus gave everything we need for a godly life, and that giving is still effective today.
Are you longing for God to speak, so that you can make a godly decision?
Jesus has given us, everything we need, for life and godliness.
Are you holding off making a decision, because you don’t think you have enough information from God, about what’s right in that situation?
Jesus has given us, everything we need, for life and godliness.
Do you think that God needs to speak into your situation, with some specific counsel, a particular word, in order for you to make a godly decision?
Jesus has given us, everything we need, for life and godliness.
Are you paralysed with indecision, not knowing what a godly life looks like?
Jesus has given us, everything we need, for life and godliness.
Do you hear Peter’s point?
We don’t need God to say anything new,
Anything additional,
Anything extra, or specific, in order to live a life that pleases God.
Jesus has given us, everything we need, for life and godliness.
God may decide to tell you something specific.
Take that job,
Go to that church,
Marry that girl,
Sure, he may, absolutely!
I’m not going to tell God he can’t reprise ( - EYES) the burning bush, and give a specific command, to someone he wants to use in a particular way.
But he has said, Jesus has given us everything we need, for life and godliness.
Please do not waste your life,
Waste opportunities,
Waste the many blessings God has poured out on us, because you’re waiting for God, to speak to you, so you can make a decision that is pleasing to him.
When Jesus spoke to the Apostle, it was so that we would hear God speak today.
See Peter doesn’t just tell that God speaks,
He doesn’t just say that God makes promises,
He tells us how.
He tells us how God speaks today, to you and me, on the 18th of May, 2014.
It’s through the message of the Apostles, passed down to us.
It’s through the eye-witness testimony about Jesus, recorded for us in the Bible.
I don’t know whether you saw that documentary on the ABC a couple of weeks ago, “When God Spoke English”, it was about the making of the King James Bible.
It’s a little bit tongue in cheek, to say “God speaks English”, but it’s true, because of what Peter, who was an eye-witness, and an ear-witness, if that’s a word, of Jesus’ life and ministry, what writes to people, like us, who weren’t eye-witnesses, and ear-witnesses.
The God who speaks through his Son, speaks through the message of the Apostles, that is, the Bible.
One of the things we remind ourselves of almost every week here at Trinity, is that as Christians we believe that God speaks to us today through the Bible.
And this is part of the reason that we say that.
Do you remember learning about personal pronouns in school?
I think I must have been sick the day they taught grammar at school, so I didn’t learn it properly until I went to theological college!
So if you’re like me, let me remind you, personal pronouns are “I”, “We”, “You”, “Us”, all of those kinds of things.
Look at how carefully Peter chooses his personal pronouns in verse 4 for example, he has given us, his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature.
The people Peter’s writing to, they were, exactly like us.
They lived in countries far away from where Jesus had lived.
Numbers of them wouldn’t even have been born at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Certainly none of them ever heard Jesus speak.
That’s us, right?!
And yet Peter says, Jesus spoke to the Apostles, those eye-witnesses, so that these people, who never heard Jesus, could hear God speak.
he has given us, the apostles, his very great and precious promises, so that through them you, far flung people, may participate in the divine nature.
God’s great and precious promises, the greatest words ever spoken, were entrusted to faithful witnesses, commissioned by Jesus, for our benefit.
Again, without trying to limit God, or put God in a box, because of course God is entirely free to speak today any way, besides the way in which he’s promised he will, but if we want to hear God speak today,
The place to God to hear the fullest word from God,
Is not a voice in the storm,
It’s not the whisper in silence,
It’s not a burning bush,
The way in which God promises to speak to us,
Declares that he has spoken to us, and with ongoing effectiveness, is in the Bible,
In the testimony of these Apostles, who received the great and precious promises from God, for our benefit.
Friends, if you long to hear God speak, here is the guaranteed way for that to happen.
It’s not as exciting sounding as a burning bush is it?!
Or a voice in a storm?
Or even a whisper, a still, small voice?
And yet, I think that’s mainly because we don’t understand, that all those other ways that God spoke in the past, none of them, not even all of them together, could communicate what God wanted to say,
Until God spoke in a person!
In the words,
And the work,
And the life,
And the death, of his Son.
God, speaks, today.
One of the books we’ve recommended for people who want to read some extra, in our next teaching series, from the book of Romans, comes from a series called The Bible Speaks Today.
It’s a good title. You pick up the book, you’re reminded, The Bible, speaks today.
You uni students, who are involved in the ES ministry on campus, Where do you go every Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday lunch time? You go to a meeting called “The Bible Talks”!
It’s not just a clever name!
It’s to remind you, the Bible talks!
Or more specifically, God talks, through the Bible.
Perhaps it’s obvious,
It’s unspectacular,
Perhaps it’s not even what we’re looking for!
But in the Bible, we hear God speak today.
So let me say something quickly to those of us who call ourselves Christians, and then something more broadly.
This week I read the results of some research that was done in the US, where Christians were asked to reflect on their spiritual growth, or lack thereof. The number one characteristic of people who felt that they were growing spiritually was, personal reading of the Bible.
People who were deliberate, in turning their ears to hear God speak, saw the growth in their spiritual lives.
Those who weren’t turning to hear God speak by the means he’s promised, saw little growth.
And the people who had previously seen little growth, but then more recently had felt themselves moving forward, what changed?
You guessed it, they started reading the Bible regularly and deliberately for themselves.
And, as God promised he would, he spoke to them.
It’s not rocket science!
Those of you who are Christian parents, what lengths do you go to, to develop your children’s discipline in sport, or with the instruments they’re learning.
What effort do you go to, to get them to practice the piano?
What lengths do you go to, to take them to sports practice, to games,
What lengths do you go to, to help them develop their reading of the Bible,
To teach them, to hear God speak?
There’s a film called The Seventh Seal, by the prolific writer and director Ingmar Bergman. It’s the story of a knight, named Antonius Block, who returns home from fighting in the crusades.
Block goes into a church, and encounters death, personified as a man.
Block, the knight says, ”I want knowledge., Not belief. Not surmise. But knowledge.
I want God to put out His hand, show His face, speak to me.”
And Death replies, “But God is silent.”
And Block says, “I cry to Him in the dark, but there seems to be no one there.”
Death replies: “Perhaps there is no one there.”
To which Block replies, “Then life is a senseless terror”
Friends, I’d hate for that to be you.
To exist in a world where God is silent.
To live in senseless terror.
Because in a way that neither Bergman nor Block, neither creator nor character, understood, that terror truly would be senseless.
Because God, speaks, today.