THE SEVEN EARS OF MAN
Celebrating the New Covenant Church's Sabbath Year,
Oslo, Sunday 25 February 1996
A Strange Dream
A few days ago I had a rather extraordinary dream. I dreamed that I had seven newborn baby sons. They all looked alike and it would have been hard to distinguish them were it not for the fact that they each had very different ears. The last baby had rather large radar-like ears which were black with soot. It eagerly latched itself onto its mother's breast. I noticed, moreover, that this last baby had fully developed teeth.
Now I mention this dream for two reasons. Firstly, it addresses the important question of how we should listen to God, the theme I wish to continue from last week. Secondly, it informs us that there are seven different ways of listening. Seven is the number of God, the number of completion. It is the "Sabbath number", representing rest and that which is dedicated to God.
A Sabbath Year of Thanksgiving
The New Covenant Church of God is celebrating its Sabbath Year at present. A whole year has been dedicated to Him in which to simply thank Him for what He has done for us these past seven years. And most importantly, it has been a listening year. Some might say that because of persecution that we have been forced to listen. And there's much truth in that. Others would say that because our numbers have been so depleted we have had to listen carefully like Gideon as the Lord reveals His battle plan to us. And that is true also. For none of our own plans have gone quite the way we have imagined they would, notwithstanding serveral prophecies which have been fulfilled which have served as pointers to that plan. One by one we have been forced to put our carnal weapons aside so that it is plain to all that it is the Lord who acts, and not men, in this Church. I wonder what else He will take away between now and April?
The baby with the dirty right ear is a gentle reminder that either I, or the Church, or maybe both, aren't listening properly because our spiritual antennae are dirty. So let us try to find out what the Lord is actually telling us. We have more than enough revelatory keys if only we can locate them and apply them properly.
How Many Ears Do We Have?
There were seven babies in the dream which quite surprised me because I had always thought there were only five ways of listening to God.
The Lord said to Moses:
"When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal Myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. With Him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord..." (Num.12:6-8, NIV).
The most indirect way in which the Lord speaks to us is through dreams. This method involves the least interference from the conscious mind because we are asleep.
The second way He speaks is through vision, of which the scriptures record three types: (a) a trance, in which the mind is completely arrested; (b) a picture which is flashed upon the inner screen of our mind while we are vividly alert; or (c) a direct seeing into the world of the Spirit. Whatever the type, our minds are active and participating but the Holy Spirit is in charge and shows us the picture.
Though dreams and visions are usually non-verbal, occasionally we hear words as well. Thus dreams and visions transcend language.
There is another way the Lord speaks, and one which prophets find the most frustrating sometimes, called dark speech (KJV) or riddles (Num.12:8; Ps.49:4, NIV). In this form of revelation the Lord uses speech figuratively. Language comes into the mind and the mind is involved but the messege is itself beyond present comprehension. The mind is both used and by-passed.
This "dark speech" is at first baffling because the Lord talks to us in puns and parables. One common mistake prophets make is that they interpret what they hear or see literally. The seven babies I saw did not mean I would suddenly have septuplets (that would indeed be a miracle!). This means that whenever we hear the Lord we must carefully test what He is saying or projecting. But why use this perculiar form of revelation?
The reason is that we have two enemies who are constantly trying to distort God's Word coming through us. One is called the flesh -- that is, our carnal, unredeemed nature -- and the other is called the devil, who uses evil spirits to try and mislead us. More often than not the Lord uses dark speech or riddles to confuse the flesh and the devil by engaging our thinking processes.
Satan is actively interested in anyone trying to listen to God because it means he cannot continue to easily trick us. So it is with the flesh, because it wishes to rule or dominate our spirits. So both will throw up smoke screens and try to confuse by jamming our spiritual wavelengths.
The Business of Listening
We are in the business of listening, brethren and sisters, and listening is hard. It is not, as I told you last week, just a matter of stopping all activity -- of doing nothing. For one thing, the greatest casuality of true listening to the Lord is one's pride. If there's any pride still around, you can't hear. I guarantee it. Pride is one of the best spiritual wavelength-jammers around. Show me someone who is humble and meek as Moses was (v.3) and I will begin to suspect that God speaks to him. Show me someone who is proud and stubborn and experience tells me that he probably doesn't know how to listen at all.
So the first key to listening to the Lord is to pray from the depths of our hearts that His grace will override our stubborn minds and hearts. We have got to jam the jammers! We have to be on the ground, face down, if we want to hear. Not just symbolically, but really.
Joseph and Asenath
Yesterday the Revelations Committee of the Church discussed another book for canonisation called Joseph and Asenath. It was not originally on our agenda and fell into our hands quite by "coincidence" last Friday when we went to buy some Norwegian translations of the other scriptures we have been planning to canonise. I think all those who have read this book fell in love with it from the beginning. It is a powerful testimony of humility and what deep contrition can do in parting the veil that separates us from the Lord. Asenath, the first wife of Joseph of Egypt, learned how to be humble and meek. She was a proud, stubborn and rebellious woman but was overwhelmed by the purity and goodness of Joseph, and wanted to have what he had. This led her to repentance and to an eventual angel visit. She humbled herself for a whole week fasting, praying, and begging forgiveness for her sins. I wonder how many of us have wished we could do such a thing but never got around to doing it!
A little over 18 years ago I did something similar, fasting and locking myself away in my room, determined not to come out until the Lord had spoken to me and had told me what to do with my life. After several hours intense prayer and struggle I was baptised in the Holy Spirit and became a changed man forever. I wish now I hadn't stopped but gone on! I would like now to finish what I started in 1977 and clean out my seventh pair of spiritual ears.
A Monster Called Pride
Until we have dealt with the monster called pride we are never going to hear the Lord. Our visions will be distorted, our dreams confused. We won't be certain who we are hearing when we hear voices within. Pride must first be slain. As soon as we have slain pride in just one area in our lives a door of revelation will open and the Lord will use whatever method we allow Him to speak to us.
Shunning the Occult
Another area we must be completely clean in is involvement with the occult in any form. Fortune telling, astrology, card reading, crystal balls, seances, palm reading, magic, withcraft, alchemy, yoga, Rosicricianism, Free Masonry, enchantments, oathes and curses, hypnotism, etc. (Dt.18:9-14; Lev.20:6,27; Isa.47:12-14). But even if you have not been involved in the occult personally, you can be influenced if your parents or grandparents have been involved. This is sometimes called "psychic heredity". Some of the symptoms that may apprear in the personality of a person whose immediate family have been involved in the occult can be morbid depression, violent temper, irresponsibility, immorality, chronic fear, hysteria, agnosticism, irresponsibility, atheism, hate, persistent illness, unpredictable behaviour, and many other abnormalities.
These symptoms can become particularly accute when we draw close to the Lord, by committing ourself to Him or going into deeper covenants. My father was a Freemason, not a serious one, but his involvement was sufficient to plague me for many years. I would see mystical visions that had nothing to do with Christianity ... counterfeit visions ... especially after I was born again.
Occultism in your ancestry can interfere with your relationship with God, and if you discover occultic involvement, you have got to wage a war of prayer until you have overcome. But that's not all. One thing we must realise, which may sound shocking to some schooled in the "all infants-are-pure" doctrine, is that we are rebels from birth. Do you disbelieve me? Well hear what the Lord said to Isaiah: "You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ear has not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth" (Isa.48:6, NIV).
Like it or not, that rebellious nature is in our flesh the moment we are born, no matter how sweet and innocent our spirits may be. I know sometimes I shock people when I look at a little baby and say: "This is a miniature adult" or "there's an ego on legs". But it's true. We are rebellious from the moment we are born, and we want our own way. The beauty about babies is that they are "natural" about it; the problem with children and adults is that we try to hide it.
Do we, I wonder, ever blame the Lord when we discover how utterly rotten we are deep down? I'm sure we do sometimes. "When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord" (Prov.19:3, RSV).
I don't want to go further into the occult today important though it is. But I want to stress it. Even so-called harmless dabbling like reading a horoscope in a magazine is not harmless. Why do people read them in the first place? Is it just out of idle curiosity? Just for fun? No, it's not. It's always because there is a small particle of belief, and that particle of belief is enough to made a soul disbelieve in the Lord for a moment. So don't do it. Hold all forms of the occult with contempt for even a magazine horoscope is going to interfere with your spiritual radar.
I've experienced the occult and so I am giving you a sober warning. Flee from it as you would from the devil himself. It will defile your spirits, spoil your ability to discern, and open you up to even stronger forces. If the occult figures in your life in any way, now is the time to completely cut it out. Ask for prayer partners to help you.
Well, I hope that's scared you a bit. You ought to be. The occult isn't like playing with a loaded gun. It's far worse. It's like introducing cancer into your body and then having a good laugh afterwards. It will kill you slowly and then suddenly overwhelm you just when you think you have it under control. You never can. You can only exorcise it in the Name of Jesus.
Friends and Relatives, Patriotism and Civic Loyalty
The next enemy to our hearing God is our friends and especially loyalty to relatives. So too can patriotism and civic loyalty be. If you really want to hear the Lord and do His will then you've got to cut the strings -- all of them! Yes, I know, I have been "popular" for this kind of sermon before. You've heard me say these things before, as when I last talked about family idolatry...that talk nearly cost me my job! But I won't stop reminding you, because it's you who will suffer if you don't get this sorted out, far more than I will become unpopular with people who wrongly accuse me of being a "family destroyer". You know as well as I do how much I love my family and how much his Church treasures its families. But that's not what I mean, and you know it.
So what am I saying? I'm saying that you've got to cut your strings so that you can't go back to your old, unredeemed ways. When Elisha was called to the ministry, he destroyed his oxen, ploughs and yokes, burned them, and had a feast, so that he couldn't return to farming and abandon the Lord's call to him. He wanted to make sure that his committment was 100%. Jesus was even tougher -- yes, "sweet, mild, and tender" Jesus was far tougher than this! What did He say? He said: "Follow me. But (the man) said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury the dead; but you go and preach the Kingdom of God" (Lk.9:59-60).
The Prophetic Way
Are you hearing this? Someone says: "Brother Joe, your father has died." Brother Joe says to the Lord: "I want to go and bury my Dad." The Lord says: "Forget it! Go and do what I have told you to do!" Does this sound like the Jesus you "know so well"? Or maybe you don't actually know Him. Maybe the Jesus you know is the image you've made that suits you. Wake up! Jesus is telling you to do what God told the prophets to do in the Old Testament, no different!!
Yesterday I spoke with one of the brethren on the telephone and he told me how he loved to read the New Testament, and especially Paul, because the Old Testament frightened him and made him depressed sometimes. I wonder what he would make of Luke's statement here? Or of the other times when Jesus condemned the wicked to hell? We must be very careful not to divide the Old Testament from the New -- they are but different aspects and emphases of the same Truth.
People say they want to hear the Lord speak, but usually it is their God they want to hear -- their image fashioned after their own desires and wants. And then they complain when they don't hear Him! You foolish people! If you don't cut loose from all that holds you down to the world, forget about living the life of a soul in Christ! Just forget it! You know, from all the years you have been in this Church, that we don't deal with watered-down Christianity. We deal with meat, gristle and all. Do you want to know the Lord God of Israel and His Son, Jesus Christ, or not? If you do, then why are you pretending that He is someone else?
Sick in Sin
Look here. The people in the world are sick in sin. They're pathologically ill. But because one is your mother, or one your father, or one your best friend, you say: "Oh, maybe he's not as sick as the rest." You allow your heart to trick you because you have warm and tender feelings for family and friends. It is good to have warm and tender feelings but it is a disaster for your relationship to God, and theirs, if you at anytime try to minimise their rebellion against the Lord or compromise with it. You've got to cut yourself free from all these old relationships and establish them anew. No, I'm not saying, as the cultists do, "Cut off your families." No way! I am saying: Don't turn back to Sodom and Gomorrah as Lot's wife did because you yearn for your loved ones, but bring them out! Save them! Show them that narrow way that Christ has shown you and called you to walk on.
Our character, personality, and soul are formed by living among our father, mother, brothers and sisters, and other relatives and friends, our heritage and nationality, race and culture. BUT ALL OF THEM ARE SICK WITH SIN, however wholesome they may be in appearance. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we die to that womb -- that life -- which formed us, and we are born again into a totally new life. The old umbilical cord is cut -- forever. If we don't cut that cord with all its old ways, motivations, loyalties, belongings, jealosies, fears and carnal loves, and all the inner urges that go with them -- our new life in Christ will be constantly spoiled and we will never hear the Lord speak. As one of the brethren remarked yesterday: if you have one foot in God's Kingdom and one foot in the devil's, which Kingdom are you in? You are in the devil's.
Dying in Christ
When we die in Christ, we die to everything, good and bad. We are dead to everything we have been. We must totally renounce our past. Completely, as finally as cutting an umbilical cord. All of our relatives, our teachers, our race, our culture. Christ still tells us to love-our-parents, to love-our-husband-or-wife, to love-our-children. The question, though, is: WHO will do the loving? Through which nature will we love? ... our carnal nature, or our spiritual Christ-nature? Will it be the Lord loving through us, or will it be the old us trying to love as the Lord loves? If it's us, then, remember, self is dead. And the dead can't love anyone.
I have always loved my mother, and always will. But I renounce her in the faith. This does mean that I hate or revile her (Lk.14:26). It means that I have cut my soul's umbilical cord, just as the nurse did when I was physically born. It means that I have renounced that carnal nature in my mother, and that in myself, the relationship that bound us together. I now embrace her in the new life and love that Jesus has given me.
Are you the same person when your parents visit, or you visit your parents? Does your behaviour change? If it does, you are living a double life. There can only be one self -- the carnal self, or the Christ-self. We can't play at being Christians. I am not bound to my parents any more. I am free. Are you free? Are you still held in your parents' spell? Have they actually let you go to be what you are and want to be? Or are you still consciously or unconsciously trying to please them by imitating their ways, as you did when you lived at home? Are they still trying to draw you in to their world by an emotional umbilical cord they refuse to cut?
When you have cut that mental and emotional umbilical cord to your parents you will be free to love them even more than before. You will be able to love them in freedom, without having any a fisherman's line and hook attached to you with which they can reel you in emotionally whenever they want to manipulate you. You've got to cut that when you leave home and get married, and you've got to do that when you receive Christ. Yes, and you've even got to renounce your husband or wife in the Lord too! It must be the Lord that binds you, not the flesh, otherwise you will forever be serving the flesh and its selfish demands. And when you have cut free the fleshy nature's demand, you will be freed to love your spouse even more! I guarantee it!
Everyone knows the story of Abraham. They know it so well that they don't know it! The theory of it is jammed in our heads. How often we have talked about "Abrahamic sacrifices" and said: "How nice!" Well, now it's your turn, for real. Abraham had to lay down his life, his gift from God, and his ministry, otherwise Abraham would have been able to manipulate God with Isaac whenever the going got tough or not to his liking. Yes, brethren, even this Church has to die! And on 1 April it's going to DIE -- not symbolically, or partially as it has done before in 1992, but completely and spiritually. Even this wonderful Constitution we have just written has to die in case we get too confident in it. Even all the hundreds of hours work by the Revelations Committee -- yes, all the revelations have to go, in fact, everything the Lord has given this Church. It's all got to go! Not the way our enemies, and the way those who have left us, suppose, for they are but rebels who have created their own gods. Not their way. We have to give up that which we want with all our hearts. Even Zion. We have seen our hopes for Zion broken little by little as those we thought were indispensible to the cause of Zion left us or withdrew their committment. But I am laughing, brethren, I am laughing! The smaller our chances by earthly standards, the better as far as I am concerned, for then God's glory really can be demonstrated! Let Him financially bring us to the edge if He wants to, so that we don't have a single cent to build Zion!  You see, I trust Him. I really do, even though I have doubted often, as I know you have too.
Our desire to be special has to go. We must be seen to be as feeble and weak as any other Christian. All our colourful and pompous flags must go, all our wonderful revelations, our temple endowments, our "prophets" and "apostles" (if we really ever had any) and everything else that makes us "special". Even our special "Spirit" must go! Yes, we must become beggars before the veil of the Firstborn -- penniless, homeless, churchless, friendless...the lot. And we can either give everything up voluntary, as Joseph's wife Asenath did, or we can have it forcibly taken away from us as Job's was. It's up to use to choose. I hope we will be mature enough to cheerfully put everything at Jesus' feet and shout, "Hallelujah! Thy will be done, O Lord!"
I've renounced the Patriarch's job twice in my life -- now I have do to it a third time. What are you going to renounce? What positions in Zion have you been coveting? What wonderful plans for Zion do you have that you are willing to lay down? Everything, I hope. Well, it's time we layed down this tiny mustard seed of a Church and asked the Lord to multiply it seven fold. I'll be happy with 50 souls this year, then 250 next, then 1,500 next. Do you believe in the law of multiplication? I do! He's stipped us down to the knuckles -- a mere nine souls, of whom 7 are 100% active. Let's be frank -- this is our modern Gideonite army! And that's what we're going to take our spiritual Jericho with.
The World Mocks
People have laughed at us with far more members than this, and those who have left are laughing even more, saying we are ever the optimists. But so was Gideon before the swarms of the enemy. So was Moses with an Egyptian army pressing at his heels. So was Jesus when He hung on an executioner's gallows. If you have not by now come to expect miracles from nothing that you have not understood the true Christian faith. For out of nothing the Almighty God creates universes. And out of nothing He is, by His grace, going to create something so special that our enemies will be furious and those who left us will kick themselves hard and weep for their stupidity.
These last two days the Revelations Committee has been sifting through the Covenants & Commandments which has been collecting dust for years. And we have been amazed at what we have found. Virtually the whole course of this Church, to the present day, has been mapped prophetically in advance! By whom? By the prophets? No! By GOD!
Chosen but Not More Special Than Others
Because we have been chosen, brethren and sisters, doesn't make us special. We aren't. Never delude yourselves. Only God is special. If we don't learn this lesson now we will become "puffed up by our own sensuous minds, taking our stand on visions, not holding fast to the Head who is Christ" (Col.2:18-19). If we do, we will be led into "strange fire" and think we have been given the mandate to lead others into it, as those who have left us stupidly believe. If we think we are "special", we will twist and warp whatever God is saying to us.
In the Narnia legends, C.S.Lewis tells in The Horse and His Boy about a hermit and a great war-horse called Bree who had just undergone a humiliating experience. "My good horse, you've lost nothing but your self-conceit...You're not quite the great horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that. But as long as you know you're nobody very special, you'll be a very decent sort of horse, on the whole, and taking one thing with another" (p.127-8).
Because God has called us, we need continual humbling to remember that we are nothing very special.
How to Hear God
Well, I've spent a long time talking about pride. Now, to conclude, how do we then listen to God and hear Him? Having cut our umbilical cord with the past and discovered we aren't anything very special, we are in a position to listen...well, almost.
First, we must saturate our minds with the Word of God. We must know His scriptures. The Scriptures must become our breath and thought, the raw material through which God can talk. They must be the pigments or paints with which he can paint visions on the canvass of our minds. They must be our checkpoints, our maps or points of reference. They must be the guardhouse and prison of every motive, the treasury of wit and wisdom, the deathbed of fantasy and illusion. It is our censor. It is the vehicle of our verbal expression.
Remember next that we hear God only because He chooses to speak to us and not just because we have learned how to listen. We can't conjure up the Lord's will or demand it. We must simply wait and see and be glad whether He speaks or not. And if we don't hear anything, we must just get on with living and not sulk or get disppointed, or try to go one step ahead of Him. Learning to be patient is a vital sign that we are listening properly. Prayer is a pretty good time to hear God but isn't the only time. Likely He will speak when you're least expecting it, in the shower, driving the car, making love to your wife, or sweeping the kitchen. You don't know. He is constantly full of surprises, which makes the art of listening to God all the more exciting. It's far more exciting than waiting for a birthday present or for the long awaited return of an absent son.
God Always Speaks in Love
Next, God always speaks in love, even if He chastises you. Whatever the answer He gives, no matter how frightening or disappointing, it is always grounded in love. He is not vindictive. He doesn't tease you as I know I tease my own children sometimes. Accept stern discipline from as you would the best news in the world, for it is. Whatever He says is the best for you. To appreciate this we must really come to know God so that we do not misread Him. Knowing His character is vitally important. You might be surprised just what He is really like.
How can we know if it is God talking and not Satan? Simply manners. Satan invades, but God politely and respectfully asks entrance in. Don't be too concerned about what God wants for others. Find out what He wants for you first and foremost. Many times when we think we have received revelation for others is is merely our own suspicion. It's an easy trap to fall into. Our sins are our private business -- don't suppose that the Lord is going to reveal others' sins to you. He rarely does. But yours, He'll show you until you blush with shame. Listen humbly.
The Spirit always speaks in harmony with sound scriptural doctrine. But also remember that when fresh light breaks into the Word, it often upsets cherished interpretations. The Lord reshapes us and the Church by revelation. But the core doctrines of the faith will not be changed -- the Apostles' Crede, for example, is fundamental truth.
Remember that the Spirit can just as easily speak through another as through you. Don't expect the Lord to reveal everything through you. He has a tendency to disperse the revelatory truth among the Body. Don't be so proud as to suppose that only you can obtain the truth of a matter -- you may have to eat humble pie and learn from the mouths of others who are filled with the Holy Spirit. In fact, that is one of the ministries of the Elders. Thus we must balance our private hearing with our brother's word. "Two heads is better than one", and two heads filled with the Holy Spirit are better than one.
Finally, hearing God is a matter of experience. It may be hard at first, but with practice it becomes easier and more enjoyable, like listening to beautiful music. Hearing, like appreciating good music, has to be cultivated.
To hear God, we must love Him and serve Him. He speaks so that we can serve His people. If we are only interested in ourselves, He is unlikely to be too interested in us...except to wake us up from our selfishness. The first lesson in hearing God's Word to us personally is discovering what He wants us to do for others.
It's as simple...and difficult...as that.
 This is precisely what the Lord did in 1997 and 1998 when the saints lived on the financial edge not knowing whether they would eat from one day to another.
This page was created on 13 April 1998
Last updated on 13 April 1998
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