Whose voice do you hear?

When I was a boy, my family had a dog named Prince. My brother, my sister and I used to play a game to see “whose dog” Prince was.

One day, the three of us went into the backyard and spread to different corners. My sister would call Prince, then he would run over to her, tail wagging. Then my brother would call for Prince, and he would run over to him. I would call Prince, and he would run to me.

Then we moved the game to the next level. My sister would call Prince, and he would start to run over to her, but before he got there I called out for him. Prince would then turn in the middle his run and start heading back for me.

Then we turned the game up to its final tempo, when each of us would call Prince simultaneously. We were all trying to keep Prince in an area closest to us. Prince was having to choose between three kids simultaneously calling him, and whoever Prince stayed closest to was the person who inspired the most control over and loyalty in him.

What I remember is that Prince stayed closest to me for longest. Next up was my sister. And third was my brother. Prince was running his furry legs out trying to keep up with all the calls and attention. 

While we were still calling him, my Dad came out onto the back porch and whistled once. Prince immediately broke away from us kids and went over to Dad. Once he arrived, he wagged his tail a few times and then sat. No matter how us kids called to him, he wouldn’t move a muscle for us while he was sitting beside Dad. Prince knew who his real master was, and he loved to be in his presence.

What about you?

Whose voice do you hear?

Whose voice is most significant to you?

Whose voice sets the agenda in your heart?

Is it your parents’ voice? The father who loved and accepted you? Or the mother who walked out on you? The father who demanded perfection? Or the mother who seemed disinterested or distant?

Is it you friends’ voice? Whose opinions you feel compelled to follow?

Is it the voice of those you look up to? The voice of those in the circle of people you inwardly desire to be accepted by?

Is it the voice of society? The voice that proclaims that wealth, ambition, prestige, power or sex contain the secret to happiness? 

Is it the voice of popular culture? The voice that says everything is relative. That black is white. That bad is good. That things might be true for you, or that your reality might be different from my reality?

Is it the voice of your false self? The voice that echoes the pain others have inflicted on you. The voice that wallows in pity? The voice that dwells on what you’ve lost? The voice that repeatedly tortures you for innocent mistakes? The voice that is focused on self? 

Whose voice do you hear?

Whose voice sets the agenda in your head and your heart?

Whose voice controls you?

God speaks

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1–2).

The author of Hebrews begins his exhortation, right from the first passage, by drawing a contrast. This passage contrasts “long ago” and “in these last days”. It contrasts the diversity of ways in which God spoke in the past, and the singular way in which He has spoken now. And within these contrasts, is the explicit statement that it is God who has spoken to us by His Son.

Phillip said to Jesus, “Show us the Father…”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? … Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you, I don’t speak to you on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does His works” (John 14:8, 9, 10).

Jesus is the authoritative, ultimate, singular apex of the self-revelation of God to humanity. So, when He speaks, “we must pay attention to what we’ve heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).

So, what did He say?

He said, 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16a).

Let us think carefully about these words. In scripture, the words “the world” does not simply designate everything God created. “The world” designates those who do not know God (John 1:10). “The world” designates the enemies of God.

“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Which is exactly what Jesus did, as He hung on the cross: He prayed for those who persecuted Him; He interceded for those who despitefully used Him.

You know, this is the only passage in the entirety of scripture that says, “God loved the world.” You can look from beginning to end in your Bibles, and this is the only time it says this. More often, scripture says things like this, 

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

“Do not love the world”—Yet—“God so loved this world.” Is this a contradiction? It would be a contradiction if John 3:16 said nothing else. But John 3:16 does say something else. John 3:16 says,

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16a).

God didn’t say He loved what the world is. God didn’t say He loved what the world does. God doesn’t love greed, malice, lies, theft, murder, adultery or fornication. God doesn’t love atheism, totalitarianism, warfare, bloodshed and conflict. God doesn’t love the degenerating body of sin you and I cart around. What God said was, 

“God so loved the world, that He gave” (John 3:16a).

He loved so much He gave. He loved so much He redeemed.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

 “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

God loved the world so much He couldn’t leave it in its parlous state. He couldn’t leave it untransformed. He couldn’t leave it “alienated and hostile in mind” (Colossians 1:21). He couldn’t leave it doomed. He couldn’t leave it “having no hope and without God” (Ephesians 2:12).

So,

“God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16a).

God gave His Son. And God was in His Son. By His Son, God spoke. 

And “Today” is the day of salvation for those who hear his voice. For those who hear His voice, and do not harden their hearts, but instead believe in Him, will not perish, but have eternal life (Hebrews 4:7; John 3:16). “Come to me. Are you struggling? Are you burdened? Come to me, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Is this the voice you’re listening to? Is this the voice that controls you? For if you hear it, you will obey it. And if you obey it, you’ll never be the same again.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).

The gospel of the kingdom

Let’s return to our key passage.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1–3).

Do you realise that this is the gospel? This is the good news of the kingdom. This is a statement of the message that Jesus said would be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:14).

In Jesus’ preaching, His key declaration was that the kingdom of God had arrived (Mark 1:15; Matthew 12:28). Do you read, “The kingdom of God is at hand”? (Mark 1:15). That’s a Hebrew way of saying, “This kingdom is so close you can touch it. Look it’s right here.” If you want proof that that’s what Jesus is saying, turn to Matthew 12:22.

“Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’ But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.’” But Jesus replied, “If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:22–24, 28).

Now, what do we mean by a kingdom? A kingdom has a ruler. A kingdom has subjects. A kingdom is ruled. The ruler has power and authority. The ruler’s will is known and put into effect. And those who contravene His will experience His judgment.

So, let’s examine this gospel message in Hebrews 1:1–3. By His Son, God spoke. Clearly and singularly. Thus making known His will. God appointed this Son His heir. Heir of all things. This heir is also the creator, and the radiance of God’s glory, and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. All this is saying, “I and the Father are one.” Let’s read that statement from Jesus in context.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:27–30). 

Returning to Hebrews. This gospel passage says the Son made purification for sins. Sins were cleansed. Removed. Unstained. Made white. Gone.

“One act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” “By the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18b, 19b).

Finally, this Son sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high. In other words, He assumed royal prerogatives. He sits on the throne. He reigns. He now has power and authority to command His kingdom. And that’s explicitly what He told us,

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Another telling of the gospel

I’d like for each one of us to know and understand this gospel. I’d like for us to understand it, because Jesus said that this gospel of the kingdom must be and will be preached to all the world. So, let’s read another telling of the gospel. As you’re reading and hearing it, please pay attention to the fact that it has all the elements we’ve mentioned as being pertinent to the gospel. This version of the gospel was told to a people who were not familiar with the history of the LORD. To a people who were about as ignorant of God as the society in which we find ourselves today.

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for

‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

as even some of your own poets have said,

‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

“Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:22–31).

Here we have God, who made the world, is Lord of that world. He is the source of life. And He is near to everyone. So near that we are in God.

“In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

“Abide in me” (John 15:4).

We all are God’s children. We are His redeemed. He’s paid the price. He’s bought you at a cost. But He’s not treating you as slaves; He’s treating you as a Son or a Daughter; and if a Son or Daughter, then He’s treating you as an heir (1 John 3:2; Galatians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:7).

So, if you’ve heard that God rules, that He reigns, that He has all power and authority, that He created the world, and redeemed it, that He loved you so much that He redeemed you, that you may enter His family and become an heir. If you’ve heard this good news, then He has a commandment for you.

“Repent” (Acts 17:30).

“Repent and turn to God” (Acts 26:20).

Repentance means that “Abide in me” becomes “Abide in me, and I you.” (John 15:4).

“Repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with repentance” (Acts 26:20).

“Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:21).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

The gospel commission

I’d like you to notice something about the author who wrote Hebrews. Turn to Hebrews 2. Take a look at verse 3. It says,

“What we have heard … was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard” (Hebrews 2:1, 3).

The author of Hebrews heard this message from those who heard it from the Lord. So, this author was a second-generation follower of Christ. He heard it from the apostles. And despite the fact that He heard it from the apostles, this author is able to write, 

“In these last days, [God] has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2).

God’s voice by His Son sounded clearly for this author, because the apostles who heard Jesus’ own voice, obeyed His commission. Let’s read it.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

That’s the kingdom declaration. Jesus is saying, “I reign. I have power and authority in heaven and earth.” And given the kingdom declaration we have a command.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in my name, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19, “in my name” as quoted by Eusebius, and practised by the apostles: cf Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5).

Because the Lord Jesus Christ has all power and authority—because He reigns—we are to go and make new subjects of the kingdom. We are to unite them with Christ through baptism, and teach them to observe everything He commanded us. He wants subjects of the kingdom whose desire is to obey Him, doing the Father’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. In other words, with joy.

Having given us our order, the Lord then ends with a promise.

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

The Lord’s promise causes us to recall His opening statement. He is with us, and has all authority in heaven and on earth. And that is Who is with us. The One with authority.

When we obey this commission, it is then that people can say,

“In these last days, [God] has spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2).

For we, His subjects, are His body (Colossians 1:18).

Conclusion

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1–3).

Whose voice do you hear?

Whose voice sets the agenda in your head and your heart?

Whose voice controls you?

 

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