One sure sign that we are becoming followers of Jesus is our ability to distinguish his voice from others. Jesus said simply, “My sheep know my voice.” Yet one hallmark among Christians in our day is anxiety regarding God’s direction and guidance. How can there be so many believers who struggle with hearing his voice?
I’d like to suggest that one reason for the anxiety of our age is that we have reduced the gospel to a forgiveness transaction, one that does not require relationship or presence. The good news is frequently presented as the deal of a lifetime: Jesus died for each of our sins, and paid a debt we could never pay. Of course that's true, but we have been taught to take the deal without entering into a relationship with the loving God who paid that price. When we embrace the Biblical image of the new birth we should recognize that the scripture is describing a spiritual reality: that of a child who grows in awareness of a parent’s loving presence. An infant knows the sound of its mother’s voice long before it understands the meaning of the words. A child understands the meaning of its parent’s words without a complete understanding all of the reasons the words were spoken. The relationship between parent and child grows over time, and with the growth of relationship comes depth of recognition and understanding.
Perhaps this week we can hear this much of the shepherd’s voice: “Please don’t reduce me to a transaction. Come to me, listen to the sound of my voice, get to know my words, and discover my heart."