Hearing The Living Words Of The Lord

Quaker apostle George Fox tells in his journal of the early years when he struggled continually with his sinful condition and could get no victory.  He sought counsel from various Christians, but time and again came away disappointed and empty.  Nothing they said could deal with his condition.  Then came the day when he heard a voice speaking to him and saying, “There is one who can speak to thy condition—even Christ Jesus.”  It was a life-changing word for Fox, for it was the kind of word that had quickening power in it.   “And when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.”  From this point on Fox walked in a realm of spiritual victory seldom seen in the church from that day to this.

Further back in church history is the story of Augustine who struggled to the point of despair over the lusts of the flesh.  One day he was sitting out in the garden of a friend weeping bitterly when he heard a child next door repeating over and over, “Take up and read, take up and read…”  It seemed strange to Augustine that a child at play would say such words. He got up and ran for the volume of the writings of Paul he had earlier been reading, and when he opened it his eyes fell on the words, “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ and make not provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13.13,14).  Immediately the shackles of his bondage fell from him. Augustine was familiar with these words; he had read them many times before.  But this time they went forth in the power of life that liberated him.

This does not, of course, vindicate the later teachings of Augustine that became foundational Roman Catholic doctrine.  But it certainly causes us to realize that there is a quality to the word of God that we simply cannot do without.  There is more to the word of God than the letter of Scripture.  In Hebrews we read that “the word of God is living, and powerful…”

The founder of the China Inland Mission Hudson Taylor spent many years trying to live the Christian life.  His experience was one of struggle and defeat spliced with times of short-lived victory.  He would begin his day with prayer, but the pressures and burdens and difficulties of life bore down on him.  All too often he found himself irritable with hard thoughts in his mind and unkind words in his mouth.  Taylor described this time in a letter to his sister.

To will was present with me, but how to perform I found not.   Then came the question, is there no rescue?  Must it be thus to the end—constant conflict, and too often defeat? …Instead of growing stronger I seemed to be getting weaker and to have less power against sin; and no wonder, for faith and hope were getting low.  I hated myself, I hated my sin, yet gained no strength against it… Sometimes there were seasons not only of peace but of joy in the Lord; but they were transitory, and at best there was a sad lack of power.

Taylor was very weary of this kind of Christian walk, and not long after this he received a letter from a friend which contained a sentence that transformed his life.  Here is his description of it.

When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter… was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before.  [He] wrote, ‘But how to get faith strengthened?  Not by striving after faith, but by resting in the faithful One.’

This was the beginning of a new walk for Hudson Taylor.  He had received an empowering revelation of the exchanged life.  It was no longer he who lived, but Christ who lived in Him.  Now instead of striving he rested in Christ, trusting that Christ in Him could and would meet every situation he faced.

The thing is, I read the same words and discover they don’t quite do in me what they did in Hudson Taylor.  What is the difference?  Simply this.  If it is a method or a formula we are seeking we seek in vain.  We too must hear that same living word.  The same God who spoke to Augustine and Fox and Hudson Taylor must speak to you and me.  We must hear for ourselves Him who is seated at the right hand of God and who speaks from the Throne the kind of living word that has quickening authority in it.  He bids us, “Abide in Me, and I in you.”  How can it happen?  Simply because He bids us, and the power of life in His word cements it to us.

I often think of Ezekiel’s experience.  He had seen the magnificent vision of the glory of the Lord, and upon seeing Him fell on his face.  Now he heard a voice of One speaking to him.   “And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee” (Ezek. 2.1).  Now notice the kind of word that the Lord spoke to Ezekiel.  “And the Spirit entered into me when He spake unto me and set me upon my feet…”  Oh to hear this kind of living word—the kind of word that has spiritual authority in it and stands us on our feet, the kind of word that ministers the Spirit into us.

That’s what the New Covenant is supposed to do—and does when it goes forth.  Our need for this is very great in this hour.  We have so much of “the word” available to us; here in western lands we have Bibles coming out our ears, and innumerable sermons are available to us in our churches and on the internet.  But where is that living new-covenant word that is a ministration of the Spirit?  In spite of all we have we are clearly in the days Amos prophesied of—the time of the famine of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8.11).  We have so much of the word, but where is the kind of word that when it goes forth causes the Spirit to enter into us—and into others when we open our own mouths to speak—with quickening power?

24 responses »

  1. Thank you for this timely word, Allan!

    Indeed we NEED to hear a living word that will not only instruct and direct, but empower. I believe it’s also called a “Rhema” word in some circles. God still speaks today, by His Holy Spirit He confirms His Word in so many ways. And as we walk, as disciples, in journeys similar to those His people have walked before, I don’t think we get to a place of being able to clearly articulate what it is we hunger for in our prayers. And He answers. The God Who answers by fire! :O)

    I noticed that in all the experiences you mentioned, except Ezekiel’s which is of a different order, all the people mentioned had wrestled to the end of themselves and were thirsty for the life of Christ in them and through them. Once they “heard” and received, with faith and delight, that word, pregnant with power, shattered all human limitations. Interesting the fact that they then lived a life that inspired and changed countless others.

    Well done, Allan, always a blessing to partake of the bread you share here…! I hope I can share it with others (with your byline)?

    Blessings,

    Andre

    =——-=——-=0=——-=——-=
    Where kneeling hearts soar
    http://www.soaking.net
    =——-=——-=0=——-=——-=

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    • Hi Andre, I think there are many these days who are aware of the present “famine” and are hungering and thirsting for a living word. That should fill us with anticipation: surely it means God is preparing this very thing for us!

      …And yes, please feel free to share this with others.

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  2. It was sure good to see you and Maryln and God is filling us with hunger as he blesses us daily.

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    • Hi Alden, it was good to see you and Christine as well. What you said in your comment is quite thought provoking– that God is filling us with hunger. And that this hunger is a blessing. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.”

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  3. Thank you for your faithfulness. I love this. I was a quaker for many years and love their simplistic life. The other examples you used are rich with depth of understanding. Many blessing be yours this day.

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    • Thanks, Debbie. Welcome to A Mending Feast. When George Fox had that experience– of hearing a voice that told him there was One who could speak to his condition, even Christ Jesus– it was the beginning of a whole new understanding of Christ for him. Fox saw that Christians were looking back to a Jesus who was but a historical figure. No, he taught, we are to look to the Jesus Christ who has come and is now present to be our Teacher. This One, the living Christ, could speak to his condition with an authority that was effective.

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  4. Allan, I know you not. But as I was praying listening to music from Soaking.net, a sentence from your article caught my eye. And boy, did it minister to me. Its not a formula or method….thats called religion. Its simply a Father speaking to His child, and thats called relationship. I dont know if I can tell you how on time and how deeply this has blessed me. I may never meet you here….but guaranteed Im hugging your neck in Heaven. Thank you brother…..

    Jeff M. from Alabama

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    • Thanks Jeff. I’m blessed that you were blessed. After I wrote this blog entry I remembered a passage from John in which Jesus said, “The words that I speak unto you, they are Spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6.63). We can’t live without such words, brother, and it seems to me that these days there’s a famine for this kind of “bread.” Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth (present tense) out of the mouth of God. And so I pray that more and more we will listen for and hear words like this– the kind of words that are Spirit and life.

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      • Today I was feeling some kind of way guilty even for where my relationship with Christ is…I was compelled in my spirit to stay home and get in the presence of the Lord…I turned on soaking.net and starting reading your article immediately I knew this was meant to be….totally blessed me encouraged me to not give up and to feed my hunger with the Bread of Life…Lord order my steps

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        • Hi Gwen, I’ll just complete that verse you started: “Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (Psa 119:133). These are difficult days, there’s a lot of “disorder” around us. And the only way through it all is by hearing the Lord’s Voice, His living word, and obeying. This is the “ordered” way through it all. This is the only “order” in the midst of chaos. We must give ourselves to this with all diligence.

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          • I’ve just finished a week of Bible classes in the Christian school where I teach here in the great state of Alabama….and those classes have dealt with reciprocity & commitment in relationship, in the church, in our walk with the Lord, etc….and what I just read from Gwen & you Allan simply blessed me. There is “order in the midst of chaos”….you wrote this & I cant help but think that it comes from true commitment to The Father, His Word, His ways & obedience to them. I thank God for grace…oh I am desperate in need for it daily. But with all the disorder around me….the only way thru is by committing to His Word & giving myself “to this with all diligence”. I feel challenged by you this morning….and I’m thankful. I once said I may never meet you here on earth…but now I’m kind of hoping our paths somehow cross. Hahaha…it would be a blessing. Thanks again….

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          • Hi Jeff, thanks for the encouraging word this morning! I appreciate what you said about grace. Too often the thought is that being saved by grace refers to that initial moment of salvation. That’s true of course, but as you said, we are in desperate need of the grace of God daily. And His word– we need this daily. I have a friend whose favourite psalm is Psalm 119. The whole psalm comes alive when you realize the psalmist isn’t talking merely about the letter of the word, the letter of the statutes and precepts and judgments he mentions over and over again– but of God’s living word. The letter of the word must be quickened (made alive) to us by the Spirit of God before it can become our daily bread.

            Good to hear from you again Jeff, and who knows? Maybe we actually will cross paths someday! We live in the same City… and on the same One-Way Street!

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  5. Allan, your words are so on time this morning because I too need to hear a word out of the mouth of God.

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    • I do too, Jean. And if the need is there, we anticipate that He will indeed speak to us. Let’s train our ear to hear Him, as Samuel did. “Speak, Lord, for thy servant is listening.”

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  6. What an anointed word. In my meditation this morning, I was contemplating on my struggles with weight and kept hearing in my spirit, In Him we move and live and have our being. I then I read your post and Augustine’s experience leaped out in me. I needed to be reminded to rest in the Lord and trust Him in all things. I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me. Thank You for allowing God to use you.

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  7. Allan,

    Excellent encouragement – thank you so much for this posting. Personally, I have found that a word from the Lord that was meant for me is not always intended for all other Christians. The word may come out of Scripture, a teaching or sermon I hear, or a book I am reading. Sometimes we assume that if God spoke to us via that method, we need to immediately share it with everyone else. That is not always the case though – God knows exactly what we need at the right time. I really liked Andre’s comment about being hungry – many times we don’t really hear what God is saying because we are not hungry or desperate enough.

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    • Hi Chad, welcome here. You’re right– God speaks to us individually– “a word in season to him who is weary.” It seems people will try a lot of things to resolve their troubles… until finally they are hungry enough to start listening for that living word from God. I think that the present “famine” of hearing the living words of God is creating a great hunger in a lot of people. So many are going through such hard and difficult things… with no answer in sight. It can only mean that God is preparing to speak very powerfully.

      …And I trust He is dealing in your life and mine with this very thing in mind– that when we open our mouth, the kind of word we speak is the kind people need to hear– the word of the Lord, His own living words.

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  8. Just want so say very good posting and i do not usually visit this site so God must have led me here 🙂 Keep up the good work from, through and for Jesus 🙂 many blessings in Jesus name amen

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  9. This posting ties in with a powerful word I received January 2011. I had been reading a book that made reference to Romans 6:6:”We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” It was 6:00 am so I jumped out of my chair and quietly shouted and laughed and cried at the revelation that my old man and my sin nature was deleted, toast, history! It was the most powerful revelation I have had since my conversion 40 years ago! The ramifications of this word are echoing through my life now and will always inform my relationship with Christ with whom I am in complete union and utterly sanctified! What a constant blast to know that what Jesus finished on the cross was absolutely everything which leaves me with nothing to do but sink back into the life that is Christ in me, the hope of glory! Hallelujah!

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    • Hi Paul, as Watchman Nee taught in The Normal Christian Life, we reckon (or account) ourselves dead unto sin not by great effort on our part, but on the basis of a wonderful fact– “knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him…” (Rom. 6.6). We reckon because we know… And this knowledge comes to us just as it came to you– in a revelation that was a living word.

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      • Yes, I read “The Normal Christian Life” by Watchman Nee and I never understood the word “reckon” in practical terms. The thing about a truth (the truth) is that it is not positional but actual truth. Our seatedness in the heavenly realms isn’t a purely theological idea but the actual reality of our life in Christ – we are there! Reckoning means believing that it is really true!

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        • Hi again Paul. You said, “Our seatedness in the heavenly realms isn’t a purely theological idea but the actual reality of our life in Christ – we are there!” That’s right… and the key words are “in Christ.” This is only true in Him, and for those in Him. We must be baptized into Christ– into His death and resurrection– to know the reality of this truth.

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