Who Are You Listening To?

“The gate-keeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognise his voice and come to him.”

John 10 vs 3

Who was Jesus talking to in this passage?

The Pharisees

And what do the Pharisees stand for?

The law, legalism, works, judging others, hypocrisy, rejection of Jesus, a refusal to accept that salvation comes through Jesus and not their own pride-full works, selfish ambition (for wealth, position, power, and influence), and hearts so hardened they neglected the most important attribute of God – love.

My question for you today is this;

‘Who are you listening to?’

Are you listening to the voice that tells you His mercies are renewed every morning?

Are you hearing the voice of love  – the one that tells you Jesus has paid the price for your salvation in full?

Or

Do you only listen to the voice that tells you the price for your salvation must be paid with your works?

Is it the voice that tells you to measure God’s love via the depth or otherwise of your material wealth that you’re hearing?

The one so pride-full that you constantly judge others to be less worthy of God’s love?

Over the years I’ve had to learn to consciously guard my heart to ensure that I’m hearing the voice of the Gate-keeper / shepherd as against that of the pretender.

The voice of the pretender is that which focuses on material blessings being the all-encompassing evidence God’s love and approval.

Material wealth and God’s approval was definitely a main feature /demonstration of God’s love in the old testament. But have you noticed material wealth is never mentioned as a benchmark for God’s love in the new testament? Rather, Jesus implies that it is difficult for the rich to enter His kingdom.

Please note – I’m not saying material wealth is bad. Indeed, who doesn’t want to live a life of comfort?? My point here is that we need to drop the notion of God’s love being demonstrated by material gain. It is not only wrong but highly dangerous and often destructive.

I had the privilege of listening to a wonderful sermon at my church last Sunday. Utilising the parable of the rich young man whom Jesus told to go and sell all his belongings in order to make heaven, the crux of the message was ‘What is obstructing you from fully serving God?’. As I listened, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the underlying meaning of that parable.

The rich young man’s instinctive defense was to illustrate his obedience of the ten commandments. Indeed, one could say his obedience of the ten commandments (the law) is what led to his wealth (Deuteronomy 28). However, as his finances and assets increased, not only did pride take center stage, but wealth became his god. As a result, what mattered most to him was money, status, influence, and power.

The parable of the rich young man isn’t too dissimilar to that of many church-goers today – hearts and minds focused on the law for the sake of financial increase. In other words, the voice they hear most often is that of pride-full gain.

But the most significant point of this particular parable comes a few verses later.

‘The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

Matthew 19 vs 25-26

This parable isn’t just about the rich young man. It is about all of us. For just as the rich young man struggled to let go of his wealth, so too many of us struggle to let go of our own gods – pride, arrogance, gossip, slandering others, lust, anger, envy, jealousy, judging others – basically anything and everything that gets in the way of our total commitment and service to God.

But what does Jesus say? He says it is impossible to achieve on own, but possible with God.

It is only through Jesus that we can have eternal life. It is only by His grace, mercy, and favour that we are saved. The voice of grace and mercy is not one that judges or condemns. His is not a voice that says you did not get that contract or job because of your sins.

His is the one that tells you how much you are dearly loved, thereby enabling you to have a real and personal relationship with him.

Everyone’s path is different – some are destined (by God) to be wealthy, and some are destined to be not so wealthy. If you are destined to be not so wealthy, it does not mean that God loves you less, or your chances of happiness are fatally reduced.

The more you focus on material wealth as a sign of God’s love and approval, the more your relationship with Him disintegrates into one of formulas – reward and punishment.

What happens when in your eyes, you haven’t been blessed enough? You become discouraged, depressed, resentful of others, and angry with God.

If you find yourself in a church that is more or less centered on the old testament because of its focus on formulas for material gain then it is fairly likely the voice of the gate-keeper is not the one you’re hearing.

He does not dwell on material wealth. Rather, he tells you to trust Him to meet your needs. The Gate-keeper’s voice is the one that encourages unconditional love, peace, gentleness, and kindness. And it is as-a-result of His love that we become better people – molded more and more into his image with each passing day.

You can guard your heart and mind by being careful what you listen to on Sunday mornings.

A Jesus-centered church will never focus on material wealth. Rather, the messages are centered on the gospel – love, forgiveness, kindness, peace, tolerance, gentleness, and mercy.

As the bible says, the heart of man is often not something to be desired. Which one of us can lay claim to not at times being judgmental, unkind, unforgiving, self-centered, or selfishly ambitious??

We are all flawed in one way or another.

However, none of us can claim not to hear the gentle voice that tells us to focus on His love for us, as against material gain; or tolerance and empathy, as against judging others.

The question is whether or not we want to listen.

The onus or responsibility lies not with your pastor, but with you.

For it is you that determines the voice you wish to hear.

You can choose to stay in a church that focuses on material gain, or find a church that is centered on Jesus Christ.

Look for Jesus and you will most definitely find him.

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