March 27, 2017

Two kinds of communication from God — both needed

An article on raising children spoke to parents whose teens were not living the way they had been raised. The outcry was that “but we taught them . . .” The response to this was: “Just because you said it does not mean that they heard it.”

Married couples also learn this principle, generally without liking it very much. We tell our spouse something but he (or she) does not get it, either because their mind is elsewhere, or they have what my father used to call ‘selective hearing’ — they didn’t want to hear it.
Both communication snags come into play when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others. The Bible says:

“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13–17)

Faith comes by hearing the word, yet this is not necessarily the logos but the rhema. In the Bible, these two Greek terms are usually translated ‘word’ but they do not mean the same thing. Logos is ‘truth discovered through communication’ (a simple definition) which in Christian terms is truth personified in Jesus Christ and God’s message.

Rhema is ‘an utterance stated intentionally’ (again, a simple definition). It is more like a personal message, such as God speaking to the shepherds at the birth of Christ, or as above: God speaking to the hearts of sinners so that they hear the good news of the gospel directly in their heart.

This means that I can speak the truth of the gospel (logos) clearly, often, and to anyone, but unless the Holy Spirit speaks it (rhema) while I am speaking, it goes in one ear and out the other. However, this does not allow anyone to blame God for a lack of response from those who hear the gospel and reject it.

Paul praised the Thessalonians for their growing faith yet also warned them that when Jesus returned, He would “inflict vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” (2 Thessalonians 1:1–10)

Salvation is a simple matter, but also based on certain revealed knowledge. We must believe who He is as revealed in Scripture, not construct a character who fits what we imagine or desire.

We must also believe what He says about us, that without Him we are sinners, spiritual dead and separated from Him without any desire to change. A man told me that he could choose to believe in God anytime he wanted. I said he could not because apart from grace, he would never want to.

A third but most vital requirement for salvation is knowing that Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, both God and man in one person. As today’s devotional reading says, He is man and able to suffer the penalty of sin, but also God who alone can satisfy the claims of divine justice.

God’s salvation message also includes the Cross where Jesus sacrificed His life and satisfied the justice of God to put away our sin. Full understanding may not come at once, but it is part of the gospel message and deepens as we grow. Jesus died for me and put away my sin forever.

Because of Jesus, I am reconciled to God. This is an eternal reality. I did nothing to earn or deserve it and can do nothing to lose it. As this grace sinks into my heart and mind, my life changes. Instead of rejecting and refusing, yielding and submission happens. I begin to hear logos because I’ve heard rhema. God has spoken to me personally, and that changes academic hearing and learning into a deep, rich, and personal relationship with God.

Jesus, sometimes I need to rehearse what You have done for me and in repetition my appreciation grows deeper and deeper. Where would I be without You? What would I be doing without the Holy Spirit? What would I be listening to if You were not speaking rhema to me? I am grateful for the truth, that the “logos” became flesh and dwelt among us, yet it is rhema that changes my life. Thank You for the truth of logos — and thank You for the intimacy of rhema. Without both, I would remain lost in sin.

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