The first few chapters of the book emphasize that in order to hear God’s voice, we must know and recognize God’s character. “To recognize God’s voice, we should begin by knowing, as best as possible, God’s character as he has revealed it already. That is, before we listen for what God might say, we should heed what he has already said. Listening to the Spirit means listening to the God of the Bible” (p. 27). Seeking to hear the voice of God while only living with a cursory knowledge of the Bible invites confusion and deception. The dedication that we show to our favorite musician or TV show should pale in comparison to our dedication to knowing God’s Word.
I know in my own experience I have simply wanted to know God’s answer for a particular question in my life. But I think God has said to me what he said to Keener: “Don’t seek my will in this matter. Seek me—and then you will know my will” (p. 37). If we become obsessed with knowing God, then I think we can assume our obsession with knowing where our lives are going next would fade. “Knowing God is more than simply getting guidance for the details in our lives” (p. 39).
In chapter 4, Keener emphasizes the Spirit’s work inside of us, transforming us from the inside out. We have been created new in God’s image and are to reflect that image. “As we learn to know Jesus more intimately, and like Moses spend time with God on the mountain, we will begin to reflect his glory more thoroughly” (p. 73). But “[h]aving his new nature in us does not mean we can be passive about our transformation” (p. 73). This is why Paul instructs to “take off” the old man and “put on” the new man. We are called to obedience (Eph. 4:25-32). And with these two things hand-in-hand—the Spirit abiding in us and us obeying him—the fruit of the Spirit develop within us. As N.T. Wright points out in his After You Believe, it is no accident that “self-control” is in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Having this fruit requires action on our part; action that is given by the grace of the Spirit, but action nonetheless.
Keener notes, as well, that the Spirit “empowers us for worship and relationships with others” (p. 82, emphasis my own). If we think that our spirituality is simply between us and God, then we have missed the point. “Love the Lord your God...and love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the summary of the law.
How can we 1) Get to know God’s character better so we may better hear His voice? 2) Allow the Spirit to transform us and take action in that?