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Sep 09, 2012

The Play Book

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Getting Your Head in the Game

Keywords: hearing god, god's voice, the bible, word of god


While God can use many means to communicate with His children, he has chosen the written Word of God as his primary and most frequent means of speaking to us. This is God's play book for our lives. Combined with what the Spirit of God does to help apply God's word, it is unlike any other source of God's voice and revelation to us. This message also looks at what often stands in the way of us hearing from God through it and what we can do simply and regularly to hear God in it.


The Play Book

Part 2—Getting Your Head in the Game

Sept. 9, 2012


With fall just a couple of weeks away, most of us are trying to “get our head in the game” again after a long summer.  Even when football is your profession, it can be difficult to “get your head in the game.”  Take a look.  (VIDEO CLIP)


Review:  Getting our head in the game spiritually isn’t a bad metaphor for what needs to happen between us and God when it comes to winning spiritually. So much of a winning team has to do with the relationship between the coach and his players—who makes the plays, how they are run, how the players are motivated, talked to and communicated with on and off the field.

            So we are taking a few weeks to talk about some of the ways in which God has designed for us to connect with Him as life’s Divine Coach. 

Last week we took a look at HOW it is that God has chosen to communicate with human beings since the beginning of time right up till today.  And though we went from Genesis to Revelation, what became clear was that God has historically used just a handful of ways to actually communicate directly with us. 

  • He started with Adam and Eve by simply using human language and audible speech.  That is a form of communication that God will also use at the end of time and in all eternity.
  • He used visions (often involving angels) and dreams in both O. and N. Testaments
  • Prophets who heard from God and communicated God’s message to others, both O. and N. Testaments.
  • Jesus Christ, both pre-incarnate (theophanies), his incarnational ministry (Gospels), and post-resurrection (Saul’s experience on the road to Damascus).
  • Written Scripture
  • The work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.


There are a couple of opposing dangers that we need to protect ourselves against when it comes to hearing the voice of God, much like twin ditches on either side of a road.

1.)    Claiming that God either no longer speaks to people at all.

  1. Or, if He does, He can only speak to his children in one way, through one medium or form of communication we’ve already mentioned, such as just dreams or just the written Word of God.

2.)    Expecting God to speak primarily and/or frequently through the extra-ordinary means he has sometimes used in the past (such as dreams, visions, prophetic messages, etc.).


That leads us to the question, “Does God have a main, frequently employed, normative way in which He communicates with us on the ball field of life?”  If so, what is it?  And how are we to take advantage of it? 


I believe God says, “YES” to that question.  And I think that can be clearly demonstrated from the Bible that the main, frequently employed and normative way in which God chooses to communicate with people today is through the written word of God personally applied by the Spirit of God.   


Clearly, that statement has two components to it:

1.)     The Word of God.

2.)    The Spirit of God applying His word.


The first part, the Word of God, refers to the primary content of the messages God wants us to hear from him.

The second part, the Spirit’s application of that word, refers to the powerful application of His messages to us.  Content and application—two different and vital parts of God’s communication with us.


I could spend this and several other sermons proving to you that it is God’s word that he uses most frequently and primarily to communicate with us on a regular basis…but I won’t.  Let me just say that the written word of God we have in the Bible is THE most sure, secure, clear and discernible communication we will ever get from God.  Dreams often must be interpreted by someone else.  Prophetic words must be tested and proved (I Thess. 5:21).  But having a written word of God allows us all read it, all dissect it, all work at coming to its intended meaning and all experience the work of the Holy Spirit applying its contemporary significance to us pretty much all the time. 

  • Moses and the prophets made it clear that the people of Israel must be careful to obey all the law that God had given them.  (c.f. Deut. 31:12-13)
  • Jesus used God’s word both to combat Satan’s temptations and to instruct or rebuke countless people.  And he reminded us that it isn’t by physical food that we really live in this life but by “every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). 
  • Paul reminded us that it is the God-breathed Scriptures that have the ability to “teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness,” so that every child of God may be “thoroughly equipped for every good work,” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17
  • Paul told Timothy that the regular and frequent reading of the Scriptures along with preaching and teaching them was to be central to the church’s experience (I Tim. 4:13).
  • He told us that it is the word of God, “the sword of the Spirit,” that is our only real offensive weapon (Eph. 6:17).


Unlike the early church and many centuries of the church, we have this written, sure word of God in printed form.  We can take it anywhere we want, open it any day of the week, and listen to the Word of God that is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12).  Whereas Old Testament saints had to wait to hear it read at the Temple during annual festivals or taught in the synagogues one day a week, we can tune into God’s voice in his word any day or night, any moment. 


Robert Munger, in his classic little story, My Heart—Christ’s Home, compares our lives to a house into which we have invited Jesus Christ to take up residence and take charge when we believed in him by faith.  He compares our minds to the “study” or “library” of our house which we fill with various information, thoughts, ideas, books, etc.  The appetites and desires of our lives he compares to the “dining room”  of our life, where we go to fill our lives with satisfaction.

            When he gets to “the living room,”  this is what he says. 

“[The living room] was a quiet, comfortable room with a warm atmosphere.  It had a fireplace, sofa, overstuffed chairs, a bookcase and an intimate atmosphere. 

[Jesus] also seemed pleased with it.  He said, “Indeed, this is a delightful room.  Let’s come here often.  It’s secluded and quiet, and we can have good talks and fellowship together.” 

            Well, naturally, as a young Christian I was thrilled.  I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do than have a few minutes alone with Christ in close companionship.

            He promised, “I will be here every morning early.  Meet me here and we will start the day together.” 

            So, morning after morning, I would go downstairs to the living room.  He would take a book of the Bible from the bookcase, open it, and we would read it together.  He would unfold to me the wonder of God’s saving truth recorded on its pages and make my heart sin as he shared all he had done for me and would be to me.  Those times together were wonderful.  Through the Bible and his Holy Spirit he would talk to me.  In prayer I would respond.  So our friendship deepened in these quiet times of personal conversation. 

            However, under the pressure of many responsibilities, little by little, this time began to be shortened.  Why, I’m not sure.  Somehow I assumed I was just too busy to give special, regular time to be with Christ.  This was not a deliberate decision, you understand; it just seemed to happen that way.  Eventually not only was the period shortened, but I began to miss days now and then, such as during midterms or finals.  Matters of urgency demanding my attention were continually crowding out the quiet times of conversation with Jesus.  Often I would miss it two days in a row or more.

            One morning, I recall rushing down the steps in a hurry to be on my way to an important appointment.

            As I passed the living room, the door was open.  Glancing in I saw a fire in the fireplace and Jesus sitting there.  Suddenly, in dismay, it came to me, “He is my guest.  I invited him into my heart!  He has come as my Savior and Friend to live with me.  Yet here I am neglecting him.”

            I stopped, turned and hesitantly went in.  With downcast glance I said, “Master, I’m sorry!  Have you been here every morning?” 

            “Yes,” he said, “I told you I would be here to meet with you.”  I was even more ashamed!  He had been faithful in spite of my faithlessness.  I asked him to forgive me and he did, as he always does when we acknowledge our failures…. 

            He said, “The trouble is that you have been thinking of the quiet time, of Bible reading and prayer, as a means for your own spiritual growth.  This is true, but you have forgotten that this time means something to me also.  Remember, I love you.  At a great cost I have redeemed you.  I value your fellowship.  Just to have you look up into my face warms my heart.  Don’t neglect this hour if only for my sake.  Whether or not you want to be with me, remember I want to be with you.  I really love you!”

            You know, the truth that Christ wants my fellowship, that he loves me, wants me to be with him and waits for me, has done more to transform my quiet time with God than any other single fact.  Don’t let Christ wait alone in the living room of your life, but every day find a time and place when, with the Word of God and in prayer, you may be together with him.”  [Robert Boyd Munger, My Heart—Christ’s Home, InterVarsity Press, pp. 12-16]



Most Christians I know today who are growing in Christ spend time every day with God in His word and prayer.  They will tell you, “It is that daily time, more than anything I do on a regular basis, that God uses to speak to me and help me grow.” 

Without pressuring anyone or trying to manipulate a response, speaking honestly and candidly, how many of you here today would say you have experienced the same thing at some point in your Christian life—that regular, consistent time in God’s word is one of the top 3 factors affecting your spiritual health?  [Show of hands?]


So let’s talk about WHY it is so hard to make time for what many of us know is probably the single most significant minutes of our day—time in God’s word and prayer?  [Solicit answers.]

1.)    Not motivated.

2.)    Over-scheduled life

3.)    Lack of discipline (up too late, sleep too long, get involved in other things first, etc.)

4.)    Fatigue/bad night’s sleep/draining day

5.)    Don’t get a lot out of your reading?  Boring? Hard to understand. 

6.)    Don’t know what to do.

7.)    Spiritual battle

8.)    Distracting surroundings

9.)    Don’t know where to read

10.)            ???

So let’s talk about every one of those items and figure out a way to change what we may need to change so that we can really begin to connect with God on a daily basis through his word. 


 #1.  Lack of motivation:  What is it that motivates those of you who are pretty steady about being in God’s word daily, regularly, to do so?

  • Desperate time in life
  • Felt need to hear from God
  • Pray for spiritual hunger
  • ???


#2.  Over-scheduled life:  Again, those who find regular daily time in God’s word your practice, do you all have easy, empty schedules?  J  No, I’m guessing most of you are pretty busy people with very full schedules.  So WHAT do you do?

  • Learn to schedule this time in and not allow other things to be scheduled over it.
  • Take charge of your life!


#3.  Lack of discipline:  this relates to the previous issue.  This is, I would say, a key to a lot of spiritual progress. 

  • Solomon said in Proverbs 1:2 & 3 that Proverbs are useful “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life….”
  • Later on in 23:23 he says of discipline, “Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.”
  • 2 Tim. 1:7, Paul tells us that, “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 

Why?  Because simple discipline is necessary to achieve virtually anything worthwhile in life.      


What helps build this particular discipline?

  • Accountability
  • A stated goal
  • ???


#8.  Distractions/surroundings:  Some of you are living in houses with 5 or 6 or 8 housemates.  I know how difficult that can be…trust me!  J 

ILL:  When I was in college, I did whatever I needed to (short of breaking and entering) to find secluded, private, quiet places to meet with God.

  • Library typing room at PLU.
  • College prayer chapel
  • Getting up earlier than the rest of the house.
  • A closest…literally


Another tool:  I keep a pad of paper and pen handy so I can write down things as they come to my mind that would normally distract and sidetrack me—calls I need to make, people I need to contact, items I need to work on, etc.  That gets them out of my head and my head free to focus on the Word of God.


#9.  Don’t know where to read.  Read whole books.  Read an O.T. and a N.T. reading each day.  Possibly follow a reading plan, a “read-through-the-Bible”, etc. 

[See handouts.]


#5 & 6.  Don’t know what to do; don’t get a lot out of it; hard to understand.

I’m guessing this is probably one of THE MOST SIGNIFICANT reasons why people struggle hearing from God. 


I’ve found in my own Bible reading and study that one of the best things I can do to actually hear from God while reading, studying and meditating on God’s word is to ask the right questions of a passage. 

“What are those?” you are thinking, right?  Let me give you a few you can usually use with any passage.


1.)    What did this text mean according to the author and original audience?

2.)    What does it teach me about God?

3.)    What does it teach me about people/others/me?

4.)    Any commands to obey? 

5.)    Promises to claim?

6.)    Is there a principle(s) here I can apply?  (Timeless, universal, accurate to then and now, etc.)

7.)    Can I identify with any of the players in the story?  How or in what ways?

8.)    How are the truths/principles of this passage evident in my life and experience presently?

9.)    What might God want me to do with these truths/principles today?  How can I respond to him now?  (May be simply a prayer response, a decision, an action, an attitude, etc.)

[Solicit other responses.]


But you want to know what I do even before I begin reading or studying a passage?  I PRAY.  I ask for God’s help in understanding a passage.  I ask him to speak through his word.  I ask him to give me spiritual ears to hear and eyes to see.  I try and ask, “Is everything OK between you and me or is there some sin or issue that might be blocking your voice to me?”  And I wait for just a moment to see if something comes to mind.  Then I start reading. 


There is one more step that I think helps a whole lot of people.  It goes by the name of “journaling,” “writing,” “meditating,” “reflecting.”  Essentially it is asking God to apply this to your life and then putting pen to paper with one or two things God may have showed you from the passage.  It may be a spiritual/life principle you saw, a command or promise, an insight into life or God, etc. 

            The point is:  WRITE IT DOWN!  The chances that you will remember what you read and apply it some way to your life are exponentially higher than if you don’t.  (By the way, the same applies to sermons and classes.  Take notes!)


[Show my “composition notebook” and/or black binder.]


  • Use the pages we supply every Sunday at the Info Table (soon to be “Info Wrack”).
  • Get a cheap notebook.
  • Use your laptop or electronic device. 
  • Plan it into your time. 


You can remember these 3 simple components of a meaningful time with God this way:

  • P.B.J.—Prayer, Bible & Journaling
  • 3 “R”s—Reading, Writing & Reflecting (prayer)


ILL:  How we unpacked John 7:25-52 in our Wed. Beta group. 

  • Prayed.
  • Read the passage.
  • Asked questions:
    • Who are the players? (Jesus, crowd in Jerusalem, authorities/Chief priests/Pharisees, temple guards, Holy Spirit)
    • What was each of them like?  Different attitudes, mindsets, etc?  (Diverse spectrum of responses.)
    • Who do you identify with most?
    • Vss. 37-8:  What “thirst” did God use or is he using in your life to draw you to Jesus?  How has the Holy Spirit caused “living water” to flow in your life through believing in Jesus Christ?


Psalm 119 talks about the word of God in almost every verse. 

Choose one of the short paragraphs on the handout page.  It has 5 of the 22 sections of the Psalm.  Use the 3 questions following to help you hear from God about his word.


  1. Are there any benefits or promises associated with having/obeying/observing the word of God?  If so, what are they?  What can God’s word do in and for me? 
  2. Any commands or admonitions?
  3. What is the emotional tone of these verses?  (Hopeful?  Troubled?  Anxious?  Peaceful?  Happy?  Etc.)


[Have people share just one or two things on #1 with everyone.]



I’d like to ask you to make a personal commitment for the remainder of this month. 

1.)     Will you commit yourself to read God’s word “x” number of days/week for the rest of this month?  Which days?

2.)    Will you commit to practice the PBJ or 3Rs each time?

3.)    Will you tell someone else about your commitment…today?




QUESTIONS to ask when reading a passage:

1.)   What did this text mean according to the author and original audience?

2.)  What does it teach me about God?

3.)  What does it teach me about people/others/me?

4.)  Any commands to obey? 

5.)  Any promises to claim?

6.)  Is there a principle(s) here I can apply?  (Timeless, universal, accurate to then and now, etc.)

7.)  Can I identify with any of the people in the story?  How or in what ways?

8.)  How are the truths/principles of this passage evident in my life and experience presently?

9.)  What might God want me to do with these truths/principles today?  How can I respond to him now?  (May be simply a prayer response, a decision, an action, an attitude, etc.)


By God’s grace, I will seek to read, pray and journal the following days of the week for ___ weeks.

          M   T   W   Th   F   S   Sun