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The Accuser and the Advocate

It was during the Christmas holidays when I took some “prayer walks” over a several-day period . . . I found myself confessing to God some specific sin patterns in my life . . . There was no harshness, no beating myself up, and no cowering before Him. Rather, this was a refreshing time of open and honest response to His Holy Spirit, for He had gently revealed these shortfalls to a heart that had come to trust Him. I’d long ago learned to discern between the devil’s sharp, accusatory tones—always meant to berate, harm, discourage, and destroy—and the Spirit’s gentle, caring voice of correction and guidance. This was the latter, so I was eager to listen, understand, and respond.1

Over the past 13 weeks, we have been focusing on hearing God, and this excerpt from my first book, Christ in Me, gets at the heart of today’s topic—distinguishing the voice of our Advocate from that of our accuser. So let’s start here: we sin. God knows it, we know it and Satan knows it, too. But how God responds to our wrong is far different than what Satan desires. Both are illustrated in the prophet Zechariah’s vision about Joshua the high priest standing before God in filthy clothes (symbolic of sin) and “Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.”2 This is who the devil is: “The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night.”3 Then how did God respond to this finger-pointing nemesis? “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! . . . Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”4 Where the enemy sought guilt and condemnation, God proclaimed salvation and forgiveness.

Does this mean God marginalizes sin? Quite the opposite, Christ died to paid its price and lives to give us life. “If anybody does sin,” wrote John, “we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”5 For as Paul taught us, “in Christ God [reconciled] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”6 Then He sent His Holy Spirit to “convict the world regarding sin.”7 But God’s purpose in pointing out our wrong is to call us away from the chaos of sin and turn us back to Himself in truth, peace and joy as the people of His highest affection. He draws us into His Word “to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”8 This is the way of the Father, and love is the tone of His voice. We need not be afraid, but to listen, understand, and respond.

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.9 Amen.

1 Paul Nordman, Christ in Me, (Maitland, Florida: Xulon Press), 13.
2 Zechariah 3:1
3 Revelation 12:10
4 Zechariah 3:2
5 1 John 2:1
6 2 Corinthians 5:19 ESV
7 John 16:8 NSAB
8 2 Timothy 3:16 NLT
9 Psalm 139:23-24

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Hearing God in Retrospect

Have you ever recognized God’s voice only in retrospect—He spoke but you didn’t realize it until sometime later? For instance, when Peter confessed to Jesus, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,”1 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”2 God had “spoken” into Peter’s life and he didn’t even know it—he had to be told! When two disciples on their way to Emmaus finally recognized it had actually been the risen Savior who explained to them what “was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself,”3 they exclaimed to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”4 They had encountered Jesus in a very rich way, but they didn’t recognize it until He had left them.

A friend of mine proactively positions himself to hear from God: he keeps a prayer journal. He jots down his petitions in black ink, leaving some open space after each one. Then as he subsequently revisits his journal entries, he uses red ink to record God’s responses and outcomes in the spaces between petitions. He told me not only is this helpful in recognizing answered prayer, it also, in his words, “keeps me accountable when I tell someone ‘I’ll pray for you.’” What a wonderful way to engage with the living, loving God and to hear what one might otherwise have missed!

God is never too busy to hear our requests, even though we in our busyness sometimes miss His reply. He not only listens to us; He delights in speaking to us and revealing Himself in surprising ways. Can you imagine His joy when it occurs to us that He, the God of all creation, has spoken to us in one way or another? It must be like surprising someone with the perfect present on Christmas Day, the giver more elated than the receiver. This is our God—in love, He engages us, even though we don’t deserve it; in faithfulness, He responds, even when we don’t realize it. Such humility only accentuates His glory. As you wait for Him to answer your petitions, take time to recognize those He already has. There might be a surprise or two waiting for you.

Father, You are more faithful to speak than I am to listen. Forgive me. Slow me down and draw me near, that I would hear what You have already spoken. In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 Matthew 16:16
2 Matthew 16:17
3 Luke 24:27
4 Luke 24:32

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The Frequency of Life

I was driving my son to his friend’s house—he was 14 or 15 years old at the time—and along the way I shared this observation with him, “Music can influence you to accept thoughts and worldviews that you would never entertain had they not been put to lyrics with a pleasing melody. You have to be careful about what you take in.” After brief silence, Matthew replied, “You’re right.” (What dad wouldn’t savor those two words from the lips of his teenager?!?) From AM/FM to Wi-Fi, the air is saturated with radio frequencies, each carrying its own message and leaving its own effect. We choose from among them. The same is true about hearing God. There are many voices coming at us from different directions, all of them saying different things, and each of them demanding our acceptance. Then how do we choose wisely from among them? How do we recognize the Voice of truth and tune in to God?

We recognize him by what He speaks. On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples that it was for their own good that He return to the Father, for in His place He would send us the Holy Spirit—“the Spirit of truth.”1 We will know Him, “for he lives with you and will be in you,” Jesus promised.2 Then this Holy Spirit who abides in us speaks to us only that which he hears from the Son.3 He teaches us and reminds us of Jesus’ words to us,4 for His are the words of life.5 In the veritable wall of noise that is our world, isn’t Truth the frequency we seek? It still exists. He is a person—Jesus the Christ— and the Spirit glorifies Him.6

So we tune in to what the Spirit says, for “the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace,”7 and we tune out the worldly desires of our sin nature. We bypass the noise of the evil one, for he is “a liar and the father of lies,”8 and we select instead from the playlist of truth. We block out the voices that incessantly demand our constant fear, and we stream the song of Him who loves us. We take captive even our own thoughts and feelings and submit them to Christ Jesus,9 who is the Truth. The Spirit of God glorifies the Son of God. His voice is the frequency that speaks life. Tune in and take in all He has to say to you today.

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

Father, “Speak, for your servant is listening.10 In Christ I pray. Amen.

1 John 16:7
2 John 14:17
3 John 16:13-14
4 John 14:26
5 John 6:66
6 John 16:14
7 Romans 8:5-6
8 John 8:44
9 2 Corinthians 10:5
10 1 Samuel 3:10