I’ve often told the story of how I visited my parents one evening and, although the screen door was open, I wasn’t able to find them anywhere inside the house. Looking around I came to discover them outside instead. Dad was sitting on the porch swing looking down at mom, who was laying with her head in his lap, looking up at him. It was a sweet and tender moment of intimacy between them that I happened upon, especially when you consider they had been married close to 60 years by then already!
One thing I always admired about my parent’s relationship was how well they knew one another. It was the kind of intimacy that correctly finishes one another’s sentences, that knows what the other one likes or dislikes, that can anticipate one another’s need and then fulfill it before they even ask, and of course, to know the voice of the one you love – not just the sound but all the sighs and intonations and expressions, all the stories, everything about them that affirms to you who they are. When you think about how easy it is to let love grow cold, to drift apart, to develop separate friends and/or hobbies from one another, then you know what an amazing thing it is to be a “long distance runner” when it comes to cultivating love within a relationship. Long after the physical beauty fades, this kind of love endures!
Sometimes I can’t help but compare the kind of intimacy in knowing another person with how the Lord desires that we know and love Him. We know from the tenth chapter of the book of John that Jesus compares Himself to the Good Shepherd, and those who have faith in Him as the sheep of His flock. He tells us in verses 27 and 28 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand”.
The word “hear” is from the Greek word “akouo”, meaning to hear, know, listen, comprehend, understand. This tells me there must be a level of intimacy between the Shepherd and His sheep, so when they hear His voice, they know it is Him speaking!
How do we know His voice?
Is knowing someone’s voice about being able to recognize the sound, like the way I know at work who it is within a virtual meeting that is speaking? Or is the intimacy it implies deeper than mere sound recognition? Does that intimacy take you to a point where when someone else says “Your husband said… ” that I know my husband well enough to say “Oh yeah, that sounds like him!” or “Oh no, my husband would not say that”?
Do you think my mom & dad were on that level of intimacy throughout their entire marriage? You might think that but I know better, because I lived through some of the arguments! Even with my own husband, who I love tenderly and dearly, I can remember times back when we were newlyweds when I still used to think of certain things as “mine” and “his” instead of “ours”. The blending took time.
The first 16 verses of John chapter 15 tell us exactly how we can know with certainty that it is the Lord speaking, and again it all points to intimacy. How does one become intimate with the Lord? Anyone who knows me well knows that one of my favorite quotes is from A.W. Tozer, who said “To have found God and yet still pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love”. It means to uphold the first and greatest command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength! It is to say “yes” to the Spirit’s calling over and over again throughout weeks, months, years, and decades! It means not giving in or giving up but pressing in! All of this is done through prayer and study, a desire to know and have conversation with Him as we read scripture, to have insight with understanding.
I was told many years ago that those unique men and women who are able to identify counterfeit paper money can do so not because they are so familiar with each and every counterfeit there is, but because they feel the real deal all day and every day – so much so that when a counterfeit passes through their fingers, they know it immediately! That is how we know His voice – when, through loving and abiding, you become so familiar with scripture that when you hear someone say this or that, you have an immediate knowing in your spirit if what was spoken is truth.
We have to remember that Satan is the great liar, and he will do everything within his power to make us believe lies about ourselves, about one another, and about the Lord. The more we hear and know the Lord’s voice, the more we will be able to immediately discern when it is Satan attempting to whisper a lie verses when it is God speaking to affirm our hearts.
Hearing and knowing the voice of Jesus is a level of intimacy with Him that He desires to have with us! Not only can we hear and know His voice, knowing it empowers us to trust in Him and His leadership over our lives completely!
1“I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father. 2He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest. 3The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you. 4So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine.5“I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. 6If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. 7But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. 8When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!9“I love each of you with the same love that the Father loves me. You must continually let my love nourish your hearts. 10If you keep my commands, you will live in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands, for I continually live nourished and empowered by his love. 11My purpose for telling you these things is so that the joy that I experience will fill your hearts with overflowing gladness!12“So this is my command: Love each other deeply, as much as I have loved you. 13For the greatest love of all is a love that sacrifices all. And this great love is demonstrated when a person sacrifices his life for his friends.14“You show that you are my intimate friends when you obey all that I command you. 15I have never called you ‘servants,’ because a master doesn’t confide in his servants, and servants don’t always understand what the master is doing. But I call you my most intimate friends, for I reveal to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father. 16You didn’t choose me, but I’ve chosen and commissioned you to go into the world to bear fruit. And your fruit will last, because whatever you ask of my Father, for my sake, he will give it to you! 17So this is my parting command: Love one another deeply!”