Saturday, August 8, 2009

On My Bookshelf: Hearing God

Yesterday, we considered the question, How involved does God mean to be with us? I shared with you my own imaginative take on the events of John 21, because they seem to indicate to me the kind of relationship the resurrected Jesus wants to have with me. Today, I am posting an excerpt from Dallas Willard's Hearing God. This is an excellent guide to how God is involved with us in an intimate way and how we can walk with him in the details of our lives. Willard has an interesting perspective on why Jesus kept showing up after his death and then disappearing again -- something I have never quite understood.

After his resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples in visible form only on a very few occasions over a period of forty days. His main task as their teacher during these days was to accustom them to hearing him without seeing him. Thus it was "through the Holy Spirit" that he gave instructions to his apostles during this period (Acts 1:2). He made himself visible to them just enough to give them confidence that it was he who was speaking in their hearts. This prepared them to continue their conversation with him after he no longer appeared to them visibly.

An instructive scene from these very important days of teaching is preserved in the last chapter of Luke's Gospel. Two of Jesus' heartbroken students were walking to Emmaus, a village about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem. He caught up with them in a visible form that they did not recognize, and he heard their sad story about what had happened to Jesus of Nazareth and about how, it seemed, all hope was now lost.

He responded by taking them through the Scriptures and showing them that what had happened to their Jesus was exactly what was to befall the Messiah that Israel hoped for. Then as they sat at supper with him, suddenly "their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight" (Lk 24:31) But their recognition was much more than a visual recognition, and that was the whole point. They asked one another, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?"(Lk 24:32)

What were they saying to one another? They were recalling that his words had always affected their heart, their inward life, in a peculiar way. That had been going on for about three years, and no one else had that effect on them. So they were asking themselves, "Why did we not recognize him from the way his words were impacting us? " The familiar "Jesus heartburn" had no doubt been a subject of discussion among the disciples on many occasions.

Soon he would meet with them one final time as a visible presence. There in the beauty and silence of the Galilean mountains, he would explain to them that he had been given authority over everything in heaven and on earth. Because of that they were now to go to every kind of people on earth and make them his students, to surround them with the reality of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach them how to do all the things he had commanded.

You can well imagine the small degree of enthusiasm with which these poor fellows rose to greet their assignment. But his final words to them were simply, "Look, I am with you every minute, until the job is done." (Mt 28:20, paraphrase) He is with us now, and he speaks with us and we with him. He speaks with us in our heart, which burns from the characteristic impact of his word. His presence with us is, of course, much greater than his words to us. But it is turned into companionship only by the actual communications we have between us and him, communications that are frequently confirmed by external events as life moves along.

This companionship with Jesus is the form that Christian spirituality, as practiced through the ages, takes. Spiritual people are not those who engage in certain spiritual practices; they are those who draw their life from a conversational relationship with God. They do not live their lives merely in terms of the human order in the visible world; they have "a life beyond."

- Dallas Willard, Hearing God


What do you think? Does God mean to be involved with us in this way?

Would you be interested in doing a study, using Hearing God and your Bible, on how God communicates with us and on how we can walk in a conversational relationship with Him?

I am considering launching a sister blog, linked to Apple Pie, just for that discussion. Let me hear some feedback from you either in the comments or by email.


Please note: I did not receive any compensation or free merchandise in exchange for my written review or my opinion about this book.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Cassandra,
    Thanks for the comment. I see we are kindred spirits, united by faith, family, homeschooling and....apples! I have a special place in my heart for apples :-)


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