As we approach the end of our sabbatical, I have been thinking about how we respond to God’s voice as disciples of Jesus. We’ve been able to participate in 3DM‘s morning prayers while we are here in Pawleys Island, and back on Ash Wednesday this was the crux of Mike‘s reflection on the Scripture:
Most people never benefit from hearing God speak because they don’t implement systematic change in response to it.
Of course, this is a basic biblical paradigm. In Jesus parable, both the wise and foolish builders heard Jesus’ words. The difference was that the wise builder put them into practice and the foolish builder didn’t. James tells his readers that merely listening to the word is a recipe for deception. We must also do what it says. This is the assumption behind the tool we know as the Learning Circle: we discern what God is saying, but we don’t stop there – we do something about it, we respond in some way.
However, there are different kinds of responses that yield different levels of transformation. If we merely respond emotionally in the moment, it will rarely result in sustained change. It’s one thing to feel inspired by hearing God speak to us, but it is another thing entirely to implement systematic change in response to it. There is a big difference between emotional response in the moment and systematic repentance.
It seems to me that “systematic” is the key word here. Changing our day-in, day-out habits is the way that we open our lives to more of God’s grace, which the only way to be transformed anyway. Lots of people came to hear the word of God and be baptized by John in the desert, but it couldn’t end there. John exhorted them in very practical methods of repentance:
- “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
- “Don’t collect any more [taxes] than you are required to.”
- “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
I’m also reminded of the parable of the four soils. There are three out of the four soils that respond positively to the word, but only one that actually produces a crop. Two of the soils respond positively initially but don’t persevere in responding. One springs up quickly but has no root and withers. Another begins growing but eventually is choked by the thorns of worry, riches, and pleasures. The fourth soil, however, represents those who receive the word and, by persevering produce a crop.
The key to producing the crop is sustained, intentional, systemic change that allows us to receive the grace to be transformed. This is how the kingdom works, and thus is a promise for every single one of us. The kingdom of God is at hand! Repent and believe the good news. Or, in other words, put Jesus’ words into practice in a systematic way and you will find them to be true.
We are now in the season of Lent, when many people adopt a new practice or engage in fasting of various kinds. As such, it seems to me that Lent is an opportunity to change your life forever: Establish a new habit that reflects a systematic, intentional response to whatever God is revealing to you, and the result will be sustained transformation. You’ll get traction in your sanctification and begin to live into more of the things God is calling you to.
If you haven’t yet embraced a Lenten discipline, it’s okay to start late. I did. Start something today.
To give you some ideas, check out the blog posts below on the temptations of Jesus. use them to provoke a “Kairos,” then implement a disciplined, intentional response to it.
- Engaging Temptation: Appetite
- Engaging Temptation: Approval (Affirmation)
- Engaging Temptation: Ambition
What is God saying to you? What are you going to do about it?
Bill Fennen says
Great to hear from you again Ben! Always inspired by your writings.
Ben Sternke says
Glad to hear that Bill! Good to hear from you as well. I hope all is well with you and yours!
I really loved this series. Thanks for re-posting those links!