Years ago the caricature of a librarian was a matron who roamed the library shushing everyone. I hope the title for this entry won’t stir that image! Picture, instead, an auditorium in 2013 filled with the clamor of scientists awaiting the arrival of speakers who would confirm the discovery of the Higgs boson—the so-called “God particle.” It’s great to visit but when the speakers arrived it was time to listen!
So who invites even more attention? Perhaps the God who created the God particle? Certainly, when God speaks we will want to listen, right?
That, in turn, raises a question about God speaking: will he be offering a talk or a speech at a conference in days to come? Do we have an auditorium we can visit or a channel to watch?
I don’t ask this to be careless or absurd but to try to build a bridge between the real world and a premise of faith that God is the ultimate communicator. As a Triune God he has always been in a communion of conversation. And he is still speaking today, even if he doesn’t come to us in the ways we might desire or expect.
So our underlying question is this: When God speaks today, where, and how does he do it? This brief blog can only tease the question, but here goes.
First, God sets a platform for his sharing by what he does. I mentioned the God-particle in opening. Recently I listened to an audiobook on Europe’s Hadron Collider and the hunt for the predicted Higgs boson. One feature stood out: the overall orderliness and symmetry of nature allows scientists to make such predictions. My own response was to credit an intelligent design to a Designer who stands above nature and rules it in ways we can see and admire.
Second, and more to the point of communion, God wants to share himself with us in Christ. John was sensitive to this as he wrote his gospel. Jesus was introduced as God’s “Word”—who is “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, [and he] has made him known.”
John goes on to report how the Spirit takes what Jesus reveals of the Father and shares it with the disciples: “All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he [the Spirit] will take what is mine and declare it to you” (16:14).
Here is a pattern: whatever the Father offers belongs to the Son; and his Spirit, in turn, declares it to his disciples. Then in John’s next chapter this self-giving of the Father, Son, and Spirit is carried forward through the disciples to our day—and “also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (17:20-21). In effect, divine union and communion breeds human union and communion.
So this word-based communion—“that they may all be one”—points to God as its source: “just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.” A relational bond in an alienated world is a compelling signal of God’s presence in us. It helps others to hear what God is saying when they see him acting in and through us.
We know, too, that God shares himself in a fully accessible form: in writing. The apostles, with the Spirit’s oversight, recalled what they learned from Jesus as they wrote the New Testament. Jesus also reassured his disciples of the reliability of the Jewish Canon—the Christian Old Testament—as the Spirit’s disclosing ministry. It’s available to any and all readers.
As for the Spirit’s unique place in the Trinity one roles stand out: he is the active voice in sharing God’s heart to all who will hear. And this is crucial—and the reason for Christ’s warnings not to dismiss the Spirit. To hear God we must have his Spirit.
Listen to 1 Corinthians: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (2:14). The Spirit-to-spirit ministry calls for a new heart, attuned to God’s heart. Our sole role is to repent of our old hardness of heart.
A person’s not hearing God, we learn, comes from distaste, not disability. In John 8 we read of the deceit of the great Liar—the devil—as the reason people do not hear God’s voice. As Jesus put it, “my words find no place in you” and “you cannot bear to hear my word.” These comments followed his premise that only authentic believers will know “the truth” that comes by “abiding” in his word.
Later in John, as Jesus spoke to Pilate, he returned to the appetite for truth as the basis for hearing and responding: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (18:37).
His final line brings weight to our question. Hearing God is truth-defined. And some are drawn to the Truth; many are not. And in John 8:42 we read that the Father stirs a love for Jesus in the soul; then in John 14:6 Jesus is personified as “the truth.”
But how much truth will we find in a world that dismisses God? Are we likely to hear the Spirit’s whispers as we spend most of our time listening to the world’s entertainments? Or to worldly politics, counseling, leadership, or to any other realm where God is ignored?
Christ’s invitation to “abide in my word” takes time and quiet. Yet once we get a taste for truth nothing else satisfies. So perhaps it’s time to “be quiet” and enjoy!