[Sep. 27] In Matthew 21:23-32 Jesus is confronted by religious authorities about his authority to preach, and his reply is to ask them about who they thought gave John the Baptist (who promoted Jesus) his authority. Since any answer they gave would either confirm Jesus or deny John (whom most thought was a prophet from God), they refused to answer. Jesus then refuses to answer them. He follows this with a parable about two children. One of the children says he will follow instructions but does not. the other initially refuses, but then relents and obeys. Both heard, but for whom did the words have real authority?
Following up from Wayne’s discussion the previous week is the issue of hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd. I (John) asked how we know Jesus is speaking to us about anything.
- An early comment was that God reveals his will in the Bible. Jesus has the entire witness of the Bible to speak for him. If what we are planning is clearly against instructions in scripture, then it is most likely not Jesus’ voice.
- A second person commented that you can know by the fruits (results) of the implementation of a plan or a lifestyle. If there is solid evidence of love being worked out, then it is likely to have been Jesus’ will.
- Another observation is that the Holy Spirit transmits Jesus’ will into the hearts and wills of his people, both collectively and individually. He does this by giving “gifts” to his church (1 Cor. 12 & 14). These gifts work together, complementing and confirming one another to bring about much more collectively than the sum of their parts. Cooperation is a hallmark of the outworking of the will of Jesus Christ.
- And yet, it is not necessarily that simple. There are times when there appears to be cooperation among just about everybody, yet there may be one lone dissenter. There are times when the lone dissenter is bearing a prophetic word to correct the local body or even an entire denomination. Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who spoke out against the German church adopting Naziism) are modern examples of such a corrective word.
Because there is no simple “system” that can make it absolutely clear what Jesus’ voice is telling us, it is important that we discern and value one another’s gifts. This means that open communication is a key ingredient in letting the gifts speak of Jesus’ will to us collectively. It is also important to learn from the wisdom contained in the Bible about Jesus’ will for his people. It is also important to watch for the fruit of our actions and our life together as a people called by the Good Shepherd. It is neither simple nor easy, yet keeping these ways of discerning in mind should help us live a Christian life together in a way that enables us to be fairly confident that we are truly hearing Jesus’ voice.