Wednesday, January 10, 2018

FAITH COMES BY HEARING

Faith Comes by Hearing (a continuation of Jesus For the Layman)

Jesus, the Son of God, is the Shepherd. But He is not just any old shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd. And what does this God Shepherd say about His sheep? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”[1]

The Good Shepherd’s sheep hear His voice. He knows them and they follow Him. Jesus spoke those words to a group of people who did not believe that He was the promised Messiah, the Christ. He said to them, “You do not believe, because you are not My sheep”[2] Jesus knows who His sheep are. As much as it is good to know Jesus, it is far better to be known by Him. For who wants to hear Him say, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”[3]

How do we hear the voice of Jesus? How do we get to know Jesus? Well, the answer is, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”[4] What is the Word of God? “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”[5] So we see then that we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in all the Scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Jesus is the Word incarnated. The Bible is the Word inscripturated. The latter reveals the former. It is how Christians hear His voice. And Jesus says, “He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers”[6]

As a young teenager, when I knew Jesus only as a swear word, I kept homing pigeons. The pigeon loft was located in a grassy clearing next to the ruins of Tullichewan Castle. There was also a farmhouse with a cobbled courtyard that had once been the stables for the castle. At night, some friends and I would occasionally get together in the pigeon hut to try to contact the dead through the means of a home-made Ouija board. We called it “Spirit in the Glass.” Each member was to breath into the glass. Then we would place the whisky glass rim down on the board upon which each letter of the alphabet was laid out along with the numbers 0 to 9 and a “YES” and “NO” at opposite sides of the board. Each member would place an index fingertip on the bottom of the inverted glass. “Spirit of the glass are you with us?” This question would be asked until the glass started to move. Invariably there would be accusations that someone was pushing the glass and as many denials. The glass would spell out the name of the supposed spirit we had contact with. Next time we’ll put butter on the glass so that no one will be able to push the glass without their finger sliding off!

And so it was. Our theory was that the body heat from our fingers on the glass caused the air in it to expand and thus, like a hovercraft, the glass would glide across the board. But what about the spirit spelling out names and answering questions? Well, if no one was able to push the glass because of the melting butter (we also tried Vaseline), then what was going on? Sometimes the glass would just have a life of its own, spelling out answers to our questions even when no fingers were on the glass! Creepy? You bet!

The scariest time was when the glass began speedily and erratically spelling out on its own, what we thought was, “I am good.” “What?” we responded, “You are good?” “No!” came the quick answer, “I am God!” At that, even though there were no fingers upon it, the glass flew off the board and hit the wall!

Other than scare the living daylights out of me, my experience with Ouija boards also opened my mind up to the possibility, nae probability or even actuality of another dimension, an invisible, spiritual realm. Sure, we tried to rationalise it all away, and sure, it is all subjective experience on my part, but this spirit business became real to me. Indeed, I could write a book on the ghost stories and weird experiences I began having around that time. However, the point is that whether I was in contact with actual dead people or demons impersonating actual dead people, I became aware of the supernatural. From there, though it was almost two decades later, I began to think that if there was a spirit realm, then maybe God who is Spirit needs to be investigated. So I joined a Masonic Lodge[7] thinking that maybe God was hiding in there, in among all their “secret” activities.

I used to write research papers for my local Masonic Lodge and subsequently they gave me an award for doing so. Part of the award included a King James’ Version of the Bible – which I read. One needs to be careful (I say this tongue-in-cheek) when one reads the Bible, lest one be converted! There was one verse of the Bible in particular that led to my being converted by the Author of the Book, John 14:6, the second half of the verse in particular. I’ve written about this elsewhere, so here’s a quote from my From Mason To Minister book:

Not everyone is converted to Christianity the same way as the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus. Saul, of course, became Paul the Apostle of Jesus Christ. Indeed some children grow up in Christian homes never knowing the moment of their conversion, knowing only that they have always loved Jesus and have always trusted in Him alone for salvation. In some ways I envy those Christians.

My own conversion was climactic. Like a stuck needle on an old broken record, I was trying to come to grips with Jesus saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). I thought this exclusivity was very arrogant. I remember sitting in my armchair contemplating these words, and wondering who this Jesus thought He was! The “stone the builders rejected” of the Bible (and of the Chapter of the Royal Arch teaching) was about to really sink into and permanently lodge in my heart.

My brother Fearghas’ painting of the spaceman lost in space became how I felt. He had become detached from the mother ship – I was lost in space. The millions of stars were twinkling in the black night sky. I was surrounded by people at work and had my family at home. I played soccer. I had a busy social life. I attended Masonic meetings, but like the drifting spaceman, I began to feel so lonely and detached in the universe. Still, in my heart I pondered the things I had learned about God as I sat on my armchair.

I began to call out to God audibly: “I want to know You!” I had come to the stage in my philosophical travels of being unable to prove to myself whether I was awake or dreaming. It’s a terribly terrifying place to be, not knowing if I was dreaming that reality is real, or worse, whether I was part of someone else’s dream! How does anyone know if they really exist? How are we to measure reality? Perhaps I was really in a coma lying on a hospital bed somewhere.

Is truth a subjective thing? If it is, then, am I the measure of reality? Am I the centre of the universe? Does the universe cabalistically emanate from me as its centre? (I had delved into cabalism as I fossicked around in the dusty tomes of Masonic literature in Masonic libraries.)

For there to be objective truth there would need to be a Supreme Being Who had revealed His will to man. Otherwise one man’s opinion is as valid as any other man’s contradiction.

I believed in a Supreme Being, but who was He? I continued to cry out to Him. And as I did so, I listened in my heart for the answer. But all that I could hear was Jesus saying I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. I would reply to Him, “Get out of my way. I am looking for God!” And again I would cry out to God. And again Jesus would say, No one comes to the Father except through Me. Around and around we would go. Sitting alone in that armchair I became, in my mind, the spaceman. The severed umbilical cord slowly flapped in the solar wind. The stars in the dark sky continued silently blinking. I began to gasp for air. I felt weak. I gasped for God, for life! “I want to know You, God!” No one comes to the Father except through Me was the singular reply. “But I’m looking for God!”

Then it happened. The lights went out in my mind. Not one twinkling star in the black expanse of the universe – only utter darkness! Horror and great darkness fell upon me! Like a fish in a net, or deep in the dark hold of the icy bowels of a fisherman’s boat, I feebly gasped for air! “I want to know God!” My cry was very feeble now. Again the words of Jesus entered my mind: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Tears began to stream down my face when at last I realized who Jesus is. He is God! How stupid of me! I had seen it over and over in the Bible, yet it never really dawned on me until I was at the end of my tether. Jesus is my Saviour. He is my Lord and my God. As I sat on my armchair, I began to cling to Him for dear life. And it was only afterward that I recognized that He was the One who held me safely in his grip first. By His Spirit, working with His Word, the Father had revealed the Son to me. The Spirit enabled me to see the Father in the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way to God. He is the Truth. He is objective truth - truth outside of me, outside of all men. And He is the Life – everlasting life. Jesus is Paradise. He is Noah’s Ark. He is Solomon’s Temple. He is Salvation. Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls - yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God [i.e., Jehovah Adonai] is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills. (Hab. 3:17-19) 
There came a Shepherd long ago, Searching for His sheep.  
He will not rest till all His flock Is safely in His keep. 
With open arms He calls to them.  His voice is soft yet clear.  
And they come home to Him again. The Shepherd loves them dear.  
Good Shepherd I will heed Your call, For this I must confess:  
I cannot find my own way out Of this darkened wilderness. – Author[8]


[1] John 10:27-30 NKJV.
[2] John 10:26a NKJV.
[3] Matthew 7:23b NIV
[4] Romans 10:17 NKJV.
[5] 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV.
[6] John 10:2-5 NKJV.
[7] The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
[8] From Mason To Minister Through the Lattice, Nordskog Publishing Inc., Ventura, California 2011, pp, 98-100.

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