Wednesday, March 19, 2008

listen, speak and live

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer points out in his most excellent book, Life Together, the first responsibility we in Jesus have to God and to our fellow humans is to listen. We must listen and listen well. If we fail to listen to others, Bonhoeffer states, then we'll soon be failing to listen and hear God. And in doing that, we'll end up with nothing left but our own "prattle".

After we listen well, and are really hearing what the other is saying, then we can speak. We need to speak with grace, yet hold nothing back that is needed. As we're in prayer over this, the Spirit can help us so that we won't necessarily say everything that comes to mind. Oftentimes less is more and more is less, both as to how long we speak and how much we say. We need to have a kind of quiet yet bold confidence in what we're saying, but all the time accompanied with much humility, received from God as Jesus by the Spirit works his humility in us, as well as the insight we have from God about ourselves.

And then we must simply live it out. Not many things are worse than those who say one thing but do another, who do not "practice what they preach." If we really believe something than at least we'll want to live it out. This should make us think twice about what we actually say, since it needs to be from the bottom of our heart and something we're prayerfully endeavoring to adhere to in our lives.

What words of insight or anything, would any of you like to say?


Tom said...

Can a person be a Christian without listening to God? Can one be a Christian without reading the Word? I'm just curious as to what you think.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
I would like to put my two cents in on this issue. There has been an unnecessary dichotomy between "faith and works" in the evangelical church. Luther's heightened it must be one or the other view does not help us understand scripture well. If one goes back and reads something like the book of Romans, one will realize (if they carefully study the historical situation) that Paul was really writing a book to bring Jews and Gentiles together. That was the main point of the book.

When one reads the book of James, one finds that James is attempting to write Wisdom literature--in the familiar genre of Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon and other Jewish writings--to provide Christians with a way to live in the midst of the Roman Empire.

The two books really don't overlap in their content that much because the contexts of their writing were so different.

Now to get to your questions.

1) Can a person be a Christian without listening to God?

I would like to ask you some questions in return. Could Saul be king of Israel without obeying the commands of God? It is true that Saul was chosen by God, but being elect or chosen is not just some theological issue of Calvinism (as has often been debated among calvinists. The issue of election is really an election into the family of God, and the election means conforming to and obeying the way of a person in God's family. Saul didn't like the commands of God, so he was removed as king of Israel. If we are called by God, we must obey.

When Jesus called disciples, he was teaching them to follow in his steps. He was teaching them how to bring the kingdom of God to earth in the here and now. If they didn't listen to him, if they did not ask the father, if they did not obey the leading of the spirit, would there even be a Christian church today? The lifeblood of the church is obedience to God and following the leading of the Spirit.

2) Can one be a Christian without reading the word?

Again let me ask you a question: Does God need a book to speak? Can God not speak, as he did in the time of Moses, through even a bush? Can God speak, as he did to Elijah, through a quiet whisper? Is God limited to a book? Was he ever limited to the temple built by human hands? No. No. No.

God is the holy of all holy things. He is no bound by time, space, human logic, or any other created thing. So. Yes. A person can come to know Christ, as Paul did, without ever reading anything--but by belief in the experience of Christ that they had.

Does this mean that Christ can appear in places where his word has never been heard and teach the people about himself? I am open to such a view. Does this mean that I am pluralist? No. I still believe that salvation will come through the person of Jesus Christ.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Good questions.

God's word not only gives us new birth as we read from Peter and James, but God's word is needed for our continued salvation, or our "being saved". As James says, we're to humbly accept God's word planted in us, which is able to save us from the corruption and evil found in the world.

So I don't think a real Christian is bereft of God's word coming to them. Yet it's up to us to listen so as to truly hear and obey. Extremely important.

If one seems to have no inclination whatsoever to hear God's word, for for wanting to hear it, I think you have to ask whether they really are a Christian.

I also think Christians need to beware of tuning God out. This can happen for many reasons. God will keep working, but the danger comes from our hearts becoming hardened so that we no longer really hear or understand God's word to us.

Now as to actually reading the word, yes, I think Christians can go long periods of time without reading it, which ordinarily I don't think is good. But there may be special seasons they need to simply be still before God and begin to experience more of the dynamic of the Spirit in their hearts and lives. But sooner than later they need to get back into reading God's word again I believe that is the main way God speaks to us today, but like Coldfire, I also believe it's not the only way.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Coldfire, Thanks for sharing your thoughts with Tom. From my perspective alot of truth in what you're saying.

I believe God's word tells us all we need to know. But I certainly don't believe it tells us everthing. Things hidden versus things revealed (Deuteronomy). Knowing in part, but then knowing fully and seeing face to face, as opposed to a poor image (1 Corinthians 13).

Yes, real faith means a changed life and good works, in time. Otherwise there's no saving faith, or its weak.

Mike said...

Listening is something that has been lost. we have trouble listening in prayer and then with each other.

Ted M. Gossard said...

I believe you're right.

For whatever deficiencies it might have, that is one reason I like Krista Tippett's program, "Speaking of Faith" (on my side links). There is real listening going on, and therefore much better understanding of where people are coming from.

And like you say, We do need to learn to listen to God so we can truly hear his voice. We need that more than we know, I'm sure.