ISSUES OF FAITH: Are you listening?

I WAS GIVEN a blank piece of paper and a pen. My friend was given a paper with a picture on it that I was not allowed to see.

His job was to describe the picture to me. My job was to draw the picture.

Guess what? My drawing was different from the picture he described.

I could have faulted my friend for giving me a lousy description. He could have faulted me for being a lousy listener — and artist. But neither of us was at fault.

We had just experienced a graphic lesson on communication.

From beginning to end in the Bible, we learn that God is a communicator — a powerful and faultless communicator. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light (Genesis 1:3 ESV).

God spoke things into existence. That’s impressive.

After God created Adam and Eve, God spoke to them. “Be fruitful and multiply,” (1:28) and he spoke to them again saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:16).

There was no ambiguity in God’s communication. It was simple. You can eat from all of the trees ­—except that one. As readers, we already know what’s going to happen.

Then we discover there is a serpent that can also communicate. Interesting. He’s described as “crafty.” This crafty communicator said to Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’ ” (Genesis 3:1).

Eve had heard God clearly and corrected the crafty serpent. “No, God said we could eat from any tree — except that one — the one with all the juicy fruit hanging from it.”

The communication was clear. God said. Eve heard.

The crafty serpent also heard and tried to re-craft the communication. No, God’s communication was clear.

Communication wasn’t the problem. Obedience was the problem.

God communicates in many ways.

The book of Romans tells us that God communicates even without speaking a word. “For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20). Again, God’s communication is clear; excuses for ignoring his communication abound.

The book of Hebrews tells us that God has spoken to us in many ways in the past, but “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son …” (Hebrews 1:2). With Jesus, God’s communication isn’t just clear, it’s personal.

So, what did Jesus communicate? What did Jesus say? A lot.

Read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and you will frequently read, “Jesus said …” And everything Jesus said is worth hearing carefully.

For example, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That’s vital communication.

Jesus could say that with authority because he backed up his talk with his walk.

It was his sacrificial death on the cross to pay for our sins that makes it possible for us to come to the Father. I can’t say that Jesus’ actions spoke louder than his words, but they certainly supported them.

Yes, God communicates clearly, and the crafty serpent is still trying to distort God’s communication.

The responsibility falls on us to listen carefully — and respond.

“Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!” (James 1:22 MSG).

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27 ESV).

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Greg Reynolds is pastor of Joyce Bible Church. His email is jbc@joycebiblechurch.org.

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