I think the most exciting thing to me about having a relationship with the God of the universe is hearing His voice. To be able to read God’s Word every day, sit at His feet in worship, and listen for the voice of God Almighty speaking to my heart is almost more than I can stand!
Jesus didn’t die for us to have religion, go to church, and follow a bunch of rules. In fact, He had something to say about that in Matthew chapter 23. Jesus confronted the religious spirit of the Pharisees with some of the harshest words we ever hear Him say in Scripture.
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are (Matthew 23:13-15, NIV)
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill, and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel (Matthew 23:23-24).
Jesus came to live among those whom God had called to be a nation–set apart in their worship of the one true God–and yet His own didn’t even recognize Him. I often wonder how many of us in the church today would recognize Jesus if He walked among us. Would His teaching seem foreign or even wrong to us? Remember, He was accused of being Satan!
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:10-12).
I love that…but to those who received Him and believed in His name. Not to those who were life-time members of the church. Not to those who were Jews. Not to those who talked about Him or claimed that they knew Him. But to those who received Him and believed in His name. His name is Yeshua–literally “salvation.” That is the name in which they believed.
Their belief wasn’t based on what they did for God but on what He had done for them. Their reception of Him was not based on the fact that they were church members or Christians or any other religious definition. They received Him because they believed that He is truly the Son of God, and they were willing to leave everything behind to follow Him.
Following Jesus is about having a personal relationship with Him: following Him, serving Him, spending time with Him, listening for His voice, walking by faith, and obeying His Words.
After Jesus went to the cross, died, and was resurrected, He walked the earth in His resurrected body for 40 days and was seen by over 500 people. On one of these occasions, two of His followers were walking along a road when Jesus began to walk with them, but they were kept from recognizing Him. He explained to them all that had happened according to the Scriptures, because these two did not understand that He had risen.
After they arrived at their village, the two believers invited Him to stay and eat with them. When Jesus broke bread with them, their eyes were opened, and they realized He had been with them all along. Afterwards, they asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us? (Luke 24:32).
I adore this story! You know why? Because even when they couldn’t see with their natural eyes, their hearts burned with recognition. They knew Him. There was no religious experience for them. They just truly knew Him.
We may not always see the Lord at work around us, but if we know the Lord, I believe our hearts will burn within us when He speaks. Those Pharisees Jesus rebuked for their religious spirit? They heard His voice, but they didn’t receive His truth.
We have so many opportunities today to hear God’s voice. Seek the Lord while you still can. Don’t let your heart grow cold. Let His truth burn within you.