earning, when he has never been taught?" Then Jesus answered them, "My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own." (John 7:15-17)
Almost every time I talk about Immanuel Prayer, someone asks, "How do you know that what you're hearing or seeing is from God?" We teach on this in our classes and include in our handbooks a long document providing scriptural support and ways to test whether something is from God. But today I want to add another element: obedience.
According to Jesus, the heart of the issue is an issue of the heart: am I resolved to do God's will and not my own? Am I submitted to his authority? Do I seek discernment with a pure heart, or am I trying to gain something for myself?
In our quest for discernment, we look to all kinds of standards. In John 7, the Pharisees and crowd asked some really good questions as they decided whether to follow Jesus:
Does he follow the rules/law? – Jesus implies that they are using this standard when he says, "If a man receives circumcision on the sabbath in order that the law of Moses may not be broken, are you angry with me because I healed a man's whole body on the sabbath?" (v.23)
Do his claims line up with the Bible? - "Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee." (v.52)
Do the leaders believe him? - "Has any one of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?" (v.48)
Does his teaching make logical sense? - "What does he mean by saying, 'You will search for me and you will not find me' and 'Where I am, you cannot come'?" (v.36)
Is he powerful and effective? - "When the Messiah comes, will he do more signs than this man has done?" (v.31)
Many of these questions are very important, and at least one (the Bible) is vitally necessary. They're all legitimate questions we still ask today. But underlying them all, and impacting the way we ask and answer them, are the motives of our hearts. We can ask about logic because we are scared of emotions. We can ask about effectiveness and end up pursuing cultural values rather than God's values. We can ask if the leaders believe him, or if the Bible lays it out clearly, because we don't want to be responsible for our own decisions. We can ask any of these questions with wrong motives and get a distorted answer.
So what do we do? Jesus says that the one who resolves to follow God's will - the one who commits in his heart to obey even when he doesn't understand it or like it - the one who humbly recognizes his own inability to choose correctly and his own dependence on God's Spirit - the one who seeks no gain or glory for himself but wants to make Jesus known - that is the one who will ask these questions with a pure heart and receive undistorted answers. That is the one who will recognize and receive what is truly from God.
Lord, show me any areas of my life where I am not resolved to follow you. Where am I following my own desires, or obeying other people, when you are leading me in a different direction? Where am I half-hearted or double-minded in obeying you? And what do I need in order for real change to happen in those areas? Lord, I am willing, and you are able. Help my unwillingness.