And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. 9 And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? 10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. Genesis 3:8-10 KJV
To listen is to pay attention in order to hear. To hear is the function of perceiving sound. The foremost commandment that God ever gave His people was to hear: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut 6:4). Israel was admonished by God to listen and hear. To be victorious in life, you must learn to live by listening to hear the voice of the Lord with the third ear—the ear of the spirit (Rom. 10:17) and without faith to hear, it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6).
What is the voice of the Lord? How does it work? The answer lies in God’s first commandment ever given to Israel after they came out of Egypt, after the miracle of turning the bitter water sweet. God said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). Here the voice of the Lord was essential to make the right decision for one’s health and to live a healthy lifestyle. The voice of the Lord is the sound of the Lord, and the sound of the Lord is the Word of the Lord, and the Word of Lord is the His will (Text).
According to Jesus, God’s people and truth-seekers will hear the voice of the Lord (John 10:27; 18:37). Now, it is the Holy Spirit who helps you listen and hear, what God is saying, with the third ear. “But when the Comforter comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he will testify of me (John 15:26). How can you hear the testimony of the Holy Spirit without the ability to hear the voice of the Lord? The mechanics of hearing the voice of the Lord is that Holy Spirit hears from the Father and the Spirit speaks to your heart and tells you of things to come (John 16:13). If Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord in a fallen state, how much more should you hear God’s voice in Christ Jesus; you are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
So, “today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 3:7; 4:7). Don’t resist, hide from, or turn a deaf ear to His voice because He stands at the door of your life knocking, and refusing to open the door to let Him in renders you as wretched, miserable, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17, 20). The Lord is standing, knocking, and speaking and those who have ears will hear the voice of the Lord!
Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you — ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:3-5 NKJV
God is one—not two, three, or multiple gods. So, whatever you need, want or desire, you only have to look to the true and living One God. Only with this revelation can you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and strength, if you listen and hear.
To listen is to pay attention in order to hear. To hear is the function of perceiving sound by the ear. Listening precede hearing. God told Israel that in order to have a good success in the Promised Land, they had to listen and hear. To get through life, we all must use our ears to listen and hear. But to listen attentively, not only for what the Word is saying, but also the subtext of what is being said; that’s what it mean to listen with the third ear (Rom. 10:17). The Holy Spirit helps us listen and hear with the third ear (the ear of the spirit).
So, what is God saying to you? “Does not the [spiritual] ear test words, and the mouth tastes its food (Job 12:11). To know what God is saying to you, you need the Holy Spirit to counsel, teach, and help you to listen and hear with the third ear (John 14:16-17; 15:26).
Naturally, as you grow older some of your natural hearing may decrease, but spiritually, as you grow in the Lord your listening and hearing should increase acutely. In fact, in the revelation of Jesus Christ given to the Apostle John in the book of Revelation, Jesus clearly instructed John to write what he saw and put in a book and send seven respective messages to the seven churches of Asia. At the end of each message, without exception, Jesus told John to write that His message to these churches could only be heard with the third ear—not their physical ears: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29: 3:6,13,20,22).
So, hear with the third ear people of God. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Heb. 3:7; 4:7). Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. Acts 19:1-6 KJV
Do you ever feel emptiness inside? Do you ever feel a void or vacuum in your life? Do you ever feel that something is missing? Could it be the power of the Holy Ghost?
Like Apollos disciples in our text above, we must stop living our lives as if we haven’t “heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” We must stop living as though something is missing. If something is missing, undoubtedly, it is the power of the Holy Ghost.
Jesus made a promised to His disciples, that after His return to heaven, He would pray to the Father to give them another Comforter—another like Himself that would be a Helper and Counselor, i.e., one called along aside of them to help so that they would never be powerless, empty or missing something (John 14:16). He further promised that He would never leave them as orphaned children, but He would always come to them no matter the situation and provide them with Holy Ghost power as a resource (John 14:18).
When you have Holy Ghost power, the Holy Spirit teaches you and brings all things to your remembrance, whatsoever the Lord has taught you in His Word (John 14:26). You would never lack nor feel like something was missing because the Spirit of God would guide you into all truth and , prophetically, show you things to come (John 16:13). As a result, you would never be empty, feeling a void, or left to your own limited resources, but rather are able to tap into Holy Ghost power.
The Apostle Paul, when he encountered Apollos’ disciples, at Ephesus, readily noticed that something was missing about them; and, what was missing was the power of the Holy Ghost. These disciples only knew of John’s baptism and nothing about Jesus’ promise to send the power of the Holy Ghost. But when Paul laid hands on them, they received the promise of Holy Ghost power (Acts 1:4-8). Is there something missing in walk with Jesus? Could it be that you’re in need of Holy Ghost power!
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Acts 19:1-6 NKJV
An instructor, in a school or college, will give a student a grade of “Incomplete” if the student was passing the class but unable to complete the class or the required assignments. Many Christians are incomplete, not in their faith or righteous standing, but in their understanding of Jesus, the Gospel message, and His many promised blessings.
Apollos was one of those “incomplete” Christians. He was a gifted speaker but he didn’t have a revelation of Jesus Christ and His grace, nor could he—at first—preach a complete message of the Gospel. Although he was a learned man, educated, eloquent, and mighty in the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 18:24-26), he was yet deficient and insufficient, not complete in his understanding of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Like Apollos, you can only experience and teach to others what you know and understand, notwithstanding your zeal and fervency of spirit (Acts 8:25). When the Apostle Paul came to Ephesus, he readily saw that the disciples of Apollos’ were in some way incomplete, so he asked them the same question that every believer should ask himself: “Did [I] received the Holy Spirit when [I] believed?”
In the New Testament, there are three baptisms specified for Believers in Christ Jesus. Understanding and receiving one or two of them without all of them renders you as incomplete in the revelation of Jesus with respect to all of His promised baptismal blessings, i.e., water baptism (Matt. 28:18), Holy Spirit baptism into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13), and, don’t leave off, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 5, 8)—that would be “incomplete.” Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7 NKJV
God’s Word, i.e., the Scriptures and the Gospel are perfectly true, and it is the truth that have the power to effectively change the soulish realm of man; it makes a man who was once foolish or seducible wise in their decision-making in life. The wisest decision one can ever make to accept the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Salvation is not the new birth and the new birth is more than salvation. Salvation is progressive but the new birth springs forth like a light in darkness. However, the path that leads to the new birth is conversion. Conversion means to revert back to or turn back to the Lord; it further means to change to something different; to turn about or around; and moreover, it involves a turning from and a turning to (ex. Luke 22:31-32).
Salvation is a decision (John 3:16; Rom. 10:9-10). Many believers, as a result of this decision, are saved but unchanged. They fail to live unto righteousness (1 Peter 2:24), and to allow the engrafted Word to produce a positive change in their life circumstance (Jas. 1:21-22).
So, what is true conversion? It is an experience that involves repentance and a change, i.e., turning from and turning to (Acts 3:19-20)—an experience when you repent of sin and turn to Jesus Christ as both your Savior and Lord. It is a turning point from the dominion of Satan unto the lordship of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:14); it is a marked change where you turn and become as little children in humility and meekness, as far as your attitude (Matthew 18:3); and, it is not proclaiming your own goodness or self-righteousness (Prov. 20:6), but rather proclaiming the Lord death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 11:26). This is true conversion!
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-4 KJV
To be converted is to revert back to or turn back to the Lord, but it also means to change to something different. Many have tried to change in some way—using sheer will power—and became discouraged when the change didn’t happen, or happened but didn’t last; but, unless you are converted and change your attitude, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus told His disciples that if they weren’t converted, they would not enter the kingdom of heaven, He was not talking about going to heaven, but rather, He was saying to them that they would not experience the inward realities of the kingdom unless they changed their feelings and opinions about being the greatest (See Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48). Remember, Jesus’ disciples were already believers and followers of Him but they needed a serious attitude adjustment. Generally, children don’t have haughtiness, pride, worldly ambition, and a lust for power So Jesus used a child to teach this object lesson of humility. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James. 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5-6). Without humility, you will not enter into the kingdom realities of righteous, peace, and joy (Rom. 14:17) and other kingdom blessings.
But to enter into these kingdom of heaven realities, you must be converted, i.e., you must change! You don’t have the power to change anything about y9urself apart from God’s help (Jer. 13:23); and, repentance precedes conversion (Acts 3:19). To truly repent (Metanoia, Greek word) is to change your mind. Change your mind about what? Change your mind about yourself and be not conformed to this world (Rom. 12:1-2). Change your mind about God and be changed into His image (2 Cor. 3:18). Except you be repent and be converted, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven!
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner [the sinful] from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 NKJV
To be converted is to revert back or turn back to the Lord. When a believer returns to the Lord, it is called restoration, but restoration is the result of repentance. There are so many disillusioned and wounded believers who have stumbled, slipped, or failed in some way who need to be converted, i.e., repent, restored and returned back to the Lord.
A believer who wanders away from the truth, and begins to live a life inconsistent with his or her beliefs, is living in sin. Now, there is much disagreement over whether or not it is impossible for a believer to lose their salvation (See Heb. 10:14), but all agree that those who move away from their faith need to repent and be restored to the Lord.
How do you convert the backslider? Psalm 19:7 gives the perfect prescription: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7). The Word of God is perfect and has the power to convert the soul when spoken in love and compassion. God’s sure testimony throughout the scriptures is: “O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, and His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).
In out text above, the Apostle James urged believers to help the backslider by taking the initiative, to pray for him or her, act in love, and meet the backslider where they are. Isn’t this exactly what Jesus did for Peter when he backslid? (See Luke 22:31-34; John 21:15-17). In addition, the Apostle Paul instructed the believers of Galatia to bear and share the backslider’s burden: “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering yourself, lest you also be tempted. Bear you one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:1-3). So, reject religion and false tradition in ostracizing and judging and condemning backsliders, and practice unconditional love and acceptance. Love not only covers a multitude of sin, it covers all sin, too. (Prov. 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8).
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. Luke 22:31-34 KJV
To be converted is to revert back or turn back to the Lord. There are two kinds of conversions: (1) In the case of a sinner, he or she turns to the Lord in godly sorrow; it is called repentance; and, (2) With respect to a believer, a believer returns to the Lord after straying away or backsliding; it is called restoration. And, as a believer in Jesus Christ, the Satan wants to crush you as a grain of wheat and destroy your faith in God. The good news is: if your faith should ever falter, God won’t let it fail.
Like he did with Job (Job 1:6-12), Satan desired permission to sift and shake Simon Peter like wheat in a sieve, metaphorically, thus destroying him in an overall strategy to destroy the rest of Jesus’ disciples because Peter was regarded as the “rock.” And, if this rock were to fail, then surely the rest of the disciples would have fallen in their faith in Jesus, as well. Like in Peter, Satan hopes to find that your faith is nothing more than chaff, dirt or dust that he can blow away.
Notice carefully that Jesus didn’t pray for Peter not to fail, but He prayed that his faith failed not. Jesus knew all along that Peter would become weak and cowardly after His arrest. But He prayed for his faith not to fail. Even today, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father on high making intercession for you that your faith will never fail (Heb. 7:25). It isn’t the test or trial that will destroy you; it is a lost of your faith in God during, through and after the test and trial (Jas. 1:2-4).
Peter had a false sense of his true strength even though he said that he was ready to go to jail and even die for Jesus. But on the same day, three times he denied that he even knew Christ. Jesus prayed not against Peter’s denials, but rather for his faith to remain even when he became fearful and afraid. God knows exactly where you are spiritually, and He knows exactly what’s in your heart—even when you don’t really know, as Jesus knew about Peter. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12), and “if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3). After the test or trial, let your faith in God cause you to return back to Him again, and when you’re converted strengthen your brother!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” 1 Peter 1:3 NKJV
Jesus told a group of religious leaders, who sought to kill Him, that searching the Scriptures for eternal life, apart from coming to the Author of the Scriptures (Jesus) would be futile (John 5:39, 40). You don’t find life in the dead letter of the Scriptures: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). So, before you come to the Scriptures, you need to first come to the Author of the Scriptures and acknowledge that Jesus died and rose again for you to be a son of God (Rom. 8:17), and God as revealed in Christ is the only place where you’ll find life (John 10:10; 14:6). It is your birthright to know and experience and live out this truth that you are born again to a living hope.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). To be born again to a living hope is not just an improvement of your old self–—it is a transformation of your life. You see, the Gospel teaches replacement, i.e., a shift to a new identity. You become a new creation who is capable of doing new, different, and better things; and, you find that new person only in Christ Jesus.
In order to become a new creature, you must be willing to die to your present identity. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Thus, you must die to your old identity and be resurrected to a new identity. You are born again to a “living hope” by the incorruptible Word of God (1 Peter 1:23). The incorruptible Word helps you to release the old identity and be born again. Being born again produces in you a living hope—a hope that is alive—alive with God’s life—a hope that sees all things working together for your good.
As the Apostle Peter stated in the above text, being born again imparts hope for this present dimension here on earth (John 3:3, 5, 12). You’re born again not to go to heaven, but to a living hope—a hope to live by here on earth. Your hope is based on that which was always so in the kingdom of heaven, which can now be manifested in the earthly realm of your experience (Matt. 6:10). A living hope is for now—not for heaven (Ps. 27:13). You are born again to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” . . . 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? John 3:5-9, 12 NKJV
The born-again experience must be understood according to the revelation of Jesus and not according to the custodians of religious church tradition. According to Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit in the rebirth is like the wind—it’s incomprehensible!
Wind is a movement of air; wind is breath; and, wind is a prevailing force or influence, e.g., “the winds of change.” Metaphorically, as the wind blows, you can experience significant change in your life. Jesus used the illustration of wind to help Nicodemus understand the dynamics of being born again (Text, verse 8)… The new birth is like wind that blows. As the wind blows, it blows where it wishes; you can hear the sound of it, but you cannot tell where it came or where it is going, so is everyone born of the Spirit.
Wind cannot be seen, but its power and work can be seen. The word, “wind” (pneuma) signifies the breath of life. There is life in the breath of God, i.e., the same breath of life that made man a living soul, and the same breath that Jesus breathed into His disciples ( See Gen. 2:7; John 20:22). The wind blows here on earth, not in heaven (Text, verse 12). The new birth is not about heaven (Jn. 3:3, 5; Matt. 6:10). The new birth is for living in the kingdom of God here on earth (Matt. 5:5; Ps. 115:16). As the wind blows, your experience will be that the new birth is not an evolution; it is a revolution!