Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice.” Every believer — every person who has the Holy Spirit — hears from the Lord. But it doesn’t take very long on the journey before you discover that some have greater bandwidth!
It literally feels like a mechanical issue – like its encoded in DNA, with no reference to maturity, knowledge, or character. Some people just seem to have larger antennae. I remember seeing a very funny presentation once on gender attributes in communication: the picture was of a broken radio whip antenna vs a satellite dish! You already know which picture was attributed to men, and which to women!
The same principle seems to apply when it comes to listening to God. So the bad news is we seem to be born with a limited bandwidth: limited potential. The good news is that most people don’t use their full potential. Most of us start with only a single watt of power being applied to the system we have: over time and with practice the wattage increases. But as always, there is a sovereignty issue at play: God in his wisdom influences the listening patter and often sovereignly breaks through, moving far beyond our normal limits.
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There is a secondary gospel dimension that works well with this analogy, and that is that the gospel itself fits in a variety of bandwidths. The AM variety is basic and lacks nuance. Try a big band sound, and listen on AM. You can hear all the voices but they are muted, and the instrumentation really lacks depth. Moving up to FM is like uncompressing the signal: a fuller and richer sound, and you can discern instruments you didn’t know were at play. The piece sounds entirely different! Now bring that music home on a CD with a surround sound system. It’s the same piece, remember? But you might not believe it. The music has come to life, and you feel like you are in front of the stage watching the live performance. You feel like you are IN the performance!
Most of us have a habit of compressing the signal. We do it for all kinds of good reasons. The limits of our own time and knowledge. The limits of our conversation partner. The limits of knowledge on a given passage and its translation into a given culture. Compression itself is a problem, but the bigger issue is that we forget that AM is the least desirable medium. When that much information is lost, and we forget that the gospel was designed for live performance, things can go badly wrong. We may find ourselves thinking in black and white terms, feeling we have mastered the music when we are still in grade one.
The best answer, of course, is to learn an instrument and join a band. Become part of the performance by practice and habit: feel the music, let it enter your soul, learn to improvise, learn composition, get together with other players and jam, become the music. It takes a whole community of musicians to perform a complex composition, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.