Saturday, August 09, 2008

Heeding the Warnings

As I write this I am sitting on the beach while my youngest son attempts to dig the deepest hole ever made by a human in sand. The surf is up and dozens of people have taken to the waves with their boards. Periodically a message is broadcast across the beach advising swimmers and surfers to stay within the area marked by two red and orange flags.

Personal Warnings
The broadcast is not recorded. That's clear from the message which asked that the three people at the left of the beach move back between the flags. A recorded message may have some effect, but there's more response made to the personal warning of danger. Every time the lifeguard's voice has boomed across the beach there has been an immediate response from those in the water.

I wonder if the same is true of our walk with Jesus. The orange and red flags are provided by scripture. It tells us where our boundaries are. But sometimes the Lord speaks a personal word of warning to us. Do we heed it?

Are We Listening?
I used to be part of a church drama group. I remember the performance of a sketch in which a Christian was praying the Lord's Prayer and was somewhat annoyed when God began to try to engage them in conversation. It went something like this:

Christian: "Our Father which art in heaven,"
God: "Yes!"
Christian: "Our Father which art in heaven,"
God: "Yes!"
Christian: "would you mind not interrupting? I'm trying to pray!"

And so it went on with the Christian trying to fulfill their duty and God unable to get a word in edge ways.

Prayer was always intended to be a two-way conversation with the Lord at least equally involved. We have to cultivate this quiet intimacy with Jesus. It's extremely rare that He broadcasts His warnings through a megaphone so we must learn to recognise His still, small voice during our alone times with Him so that we can hear His warnings when they come.

Do We Respond?
The other aspect to this is how we actually respond when we do hear that warning voice. What do we do when we experience that disquiet which is the Holy Spirit communicating with our own spirit that we should not continue on a certain course of action? That probably depends on how much we want to do it!

When the Lord convicts us that what we are about to do is sin, or will put as in a position to be tempted to sin, it is vital that we respond by turning away from the sin. If we don't do this our conscience will be seared (1 Tim 4:2) and we will find it increasingly hard to hear the voice of God.

But He doesn't only issue warnings about blatant sin. Paul says that whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom 14:23). Sometimes the Lord asks us not to do something that many of our Christian brothers and sisters participate in with a totally clear conscience. It is not sin for somebody else, but it becomes so for us because we have had a personal word from the Lord which was, "no." It may be that we have a particular vulnerability which He wants to protect us from or simply that He's asking us, "will you be obedient to me in this, even if you don't understand why?"

Prayer College Assignment
It is essential to our spiritual well being, but also to our physical well-being, that we learn to hear and to respond to God's warning voice. Learn to listen as well as talk in your quiet times and you will be better equipped to hear His words of warning or correction as you live out your life day by day.

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