The Way Attunement Works: On Hearing the Voice of Jesus

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John 10:3–4; 14–16; 27 (NIV)

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice . . . 

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd . . . 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

CONSIDER THIS

Speaking of attunement, I sometimes get caught in a time-warp watching online videos. Lately the videos have been of Australian Shepherd dogs and the way they herd sheep. What amazes me is they hear and respond to their master’s voice commands. These dogs’ attunement to the voice of their master really is kind of astonishing. They are attuned to the nuance of words, tone, cadence, and even hand signals. Then I remember my LuLu (aka Lucy), our beloved Chihuahua Jack Russell Terror accident of nature. Recently, my two daughters began calling her “Jerry.” I think we could call her Rutabaga and she would look up. LuLu really only responds to one word and one word only: “Treat!” (If you tune in on today’s Wake-Up Call Facebook Group I’ll be sharing a picture of Lucy in her Halloween Costume.)

All of this to say when it comes to attunement to the voice of Jesus, I find myself somewhere on the spectrum between Lucy and an Australian Shepherd dog.1

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

So how does this work? How do we hear the voice of Jesus? We aren’t dogs and Jesus isn’t a trainer. He is our God and we are his beloved. Jesus is always speaking to us. This is really part of the very essence of following him—hearing his voice. We first learn to hear Jesus by listening to what he has already said in his Word.2 It is kind of like learning the language. Then we learn to listen to his voice through his indwelling presence via the Holy Spirit as he nuances, amplifies, clarifies, and interprets his words, ways, and will in the particularities of our own everyday lives. And yes, he speaks to us not in an audible voice but into the sacred place of our inmost being. This is attunement, learning to hear him through our inmost being. If our physical body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, our inmost being is the holy of holies. This is why the vastly misunderstood concept of holiness matters so much. Holiness is not outward behavior, though it is reflected there. Holiness is the inward sanctity and purity given and nourished by the Holy Spirit to all who belong to Jesus. 

He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive;
the mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe.3

Wake up, sleeper! Rise from the dead! Jesus issues this wake-up call. There is so much he longs to show and share with us. It will take a lifetime to even scratch the surface of the vastness of this vision. 

THE PRAYER

Farmer Father God, thank you for sending us the Good Shepherd, your Son, our Lord, Jesus Messiah. We hear your voice on the Mount of Transfiguration saying, “This is my Son, listen to him.” And we long to listen to him. We think of the words to the hymn, “He speaks, and listening to his voice, new life the dead receive; the mournful, broken hearts rejoice, the humble poor believe.” Holy Spirit, sanctify our inmost being; set this sacred sanctuary apart for the indwelling of the Son of God in us—every day of our lives, and right now. Praying in the name of Jesus, amen. 

THE QUESTION

So where do you put yourself on the spectrum between Lucy and the Australian Shepherd dog in the hearing of the voice of the master? Are you sensing the drawing of the Spirit to become more attuned to Jesus? 

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt
Sower-in-Chief
seedbed.com

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P.S. I’ll be preaching in Little Rock this Sunday. You are invited. 

This coming Sunday, November 6 I will be preaching at St. James United Methodist Church. 8:30, 9:30 and 11:00am. If you come do say hello. 

NOTES FOR FURTHER REFLECTION

  1. Seedbed recently partnered with Zondervan (Harper Collins imprint) to revise and re-release Jack Deere’s classic best selling book from decades back, Why I am Still Surprised by the Voice of God: How God Speaks Today through Prophecies, Dreams and Visions. I commend this work to you. And I’ll reference another one we did not publish but that I like equally well (ok, even better). It is by my friend from across the pond, Pete Grieg and titled, How to Hear God: A Simple Guide for Ordinary People. It is truly a masterpiece. 
  2. While all of the Scriptures are fairly the Words of Jesus, it is of particular importance that we hone in on the recorded words of Jesus as we have them in the Gospels. And when I say his words, I mean the whole thing: His preexistence, conception, gestation, birth, growing up, signs, sayings, words, deeds, miracles, parables, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession and return. Our in most being longs for Jesus; hungers and thirsts and literally cries out for His Presence. One of the biggest mistakes his followers make is to assume they can hear his voice unaided by the recorded Word of God. Apart from Scripture and through the primary interpretive lens of the Gospels we will readily train ourselves to hear what we want to hear and call it the voice of Jesus. If we do not know what he said and did then we will not recognize what he wants to say and do now. 
  3. This comes from verse 5 of the celebrated Charles Wesley Hymn, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” The hymn originally contained eighteen verses and was written in 1739 to commemorate his conversion on May 21, 1738. Since 1780, this has been hymn #1 in any hymnal worth its salt; and you will be glad to know it is hymn #1 in Seedbed’s new hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise (whose title is also inspired by the hymn). We include nine of the original eighteen verses. Get your copy today! For those who are listening to the audio and those who love to sing—we are now singing hymns every day after the Wake-Up Call entry. 
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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I believe that attunement to Jesus’ voice or the lack thereof (whether we’re like Lucy or an Australian sheep dog) depends on our choice, not on our ability to hear Jesus. He said that all His followers can hear Him: “My sheep hear my voice.”

    As a new believer reading the book of Acts, I became frustrated seeing how often God spoke to the early Christ-followers and I suddenly said to God: “You spoke to people in the Bible, why aren’t you speaking today?” In an instant these words came to my mind: “The problem’s not that I’m not speaking but that you’re not listening.” Oops! The problem was with me, not God.

    I began to notice that as I read the Bible and the words burned in my heart, that Jesus was speaking to me. Sometimes during the day or night a thought consisting of words would drop into my mind and I knew it was Jesus talking. Sometimes a godly inner prompting without words and sometimes a soul-stirring image would come to me. With a holy sense of awe, I recognized that they were from God. Sometimes my conscience would begin to steer me away from wrongful thoughts or actions and I could tell that Jesus was lovingly directing me to safety.

    In college a friend and I would listen to Jesus together and then tell each other what we heard. After I married my wife and would listen to Jesus together with each other and sometimes with friends and share what we heard. The results were always inspiring, even life changing.

    As employees of The Salvation Army, my wife and I were asked if we would open up a Salvation Army Corps (church) but do it in a non-traditional way. We were thrilled to accept the offer. For 10 years we would gather on Sunday morning and engage in heart-felt worship and singing. Then we would ask people to listen to Jesus and then say and/or do whatever He told them to.

    It’s not an overstatement to say that every Sunday morning was miraculous. Ordinary people spoke with humble heart-felt elegance. They ministered in great power to one another. They explained Scripture with profound insight. They testified to wonders God was doing in and through them. They confessed sins and humbly repented. All this was done as they were prompted by the risen Jesus. We had no ending time and sometimes this would go on for up to 2 1/2 hours.

    “He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the ekklesias (the name of the interactive town hall meetings in various ancient Greek cities which literally means “the called-out ones” that the NT writers used as the word for a gathering of members of the body of Christ). I believe God is speaking to gatherings of His body, but we as individuals have been trained to listen to a human speaker more than to the ever-present, living Jesus. Thus, we unintentionally quench the promptings and directings of God’s Spirit and curtail what the living Jesus is wants to do in the meeting through the ordinary believers assembled in His name.

    Ordinary Christ-followers can hear Jesus’ voice. Let’s set up Christian gatherings where they can practice listening to Jesus and then say or do whatever He tells them to.

  2. I once heard a story from another pastor, Rev Emmet Huntsman, about a rancher who purchased some property that came with some sheep. Before he’d owned the property for very long, a wildfire was sweeping through the area, and as it was threatening this herd, the new landowner went out to try and get them moved to safety. As he was trying to corral them, and get them into trailers, they fled from him, because they did not yet know his voice. The sheep perished in the flames. We need to get to know our Masrer’s voice, lest we perish in the flames.

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