His Voice First

A New Year’s Resolve and Prayer

We live in a world awash in words. The competition for your attention, your eyes, and your headspace — and that through your earspace — has never been more aggressive and ruthless. Our modern lives teem with digital and analog voices vying for our limited focus. They clamor for our money, our time, our energy, our love, our worship.

Oh, the countless, incessant voices of modern life, and with them, the unnerving lack of silence! Voices in the air, voices in print, the cacophony of voices that accompany and empower the endless scrolls and reels of images on our screens, moving and stationary. Yes, we are flooded in visuals as well, but our pixels do not thrive in silence. Even as loneliness becomes epidemic, few of the lonely know true silence and solitude.

In such times and spaces as ours, and at such an occasion as a new year, how might we learn to better drown out the remote, digital voices that have so few messages of importance for us, and better hear the near, precious, embodied voices? And in particular, what if the voice of Jesus carried the most weight of all?

Hear His Voice

Jesus says that his sheep will hear his voice (John 10:3), know his voice (John 10:4), and listen to his voice (John 10:16). As they read and reread and meditate on his word in Scripture, his people, illumined by his living and active Spirit, hear the voice of their living and active King, seated in power on the throne of the universe.

In his living and active word, they hear — we hear — his voice roar like many waters (Revelation 1:15) and console like the chords of many harps (Revelation 14:2). We hear his majestic voice thunder like a trumpet (Revelation 1:10), slicing through foes like a two-edged sword from his mouth (Revelation 1:16), and we hear him patiently, gently stand at the door and knock (Revelation 3:20), ready to perform the most exacting of life-saving surgeries with his verbal scalpel.

The very voice that said, “Lazarus, come out” (John 11:43), and cried aloud from the cross (Matthew 27:46, 50) — and one day will announce, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man” (Revelation 21:3) — this very voice continues to speak, even in 2024, through his written word and by the Spirit.

What might it mean for the voice of Jesus to genuinely be first in our lives? More than podcasts and radio and Spotify. More than television and movies. More than the voices on ESPN and Saturday Night Live and cable news and YouTube. More than the talking heads and hot takes of online influencers and endless political drivel.

What might it mean to really put his voice first?

First in Delight

Start with the heart. Our goal and deepest prayer is that we, like John the Baptist, would be among the friends who rejoice greatly at our bridegroom’s voice (John 3:29). This joy is what we aim at, long-term, with the fresh resolves and prayers of a new year: a better-conditioned heart, the slowly and stubbornly re-formed frame of our soul’s plasticity.

How often do we hear Christians concede (sometimes as a veiled excuse) to be “wired” a certain way? Indeed, there are some ways you’re wired. But often we talk about being hardwired in ways we’re actually far more plastic. And society’s not helping us with this. Our world has come to feign plasticity in precisely the places we’re hardwired (like biological sex) and to pretend hard-wiring in the places we’re plastic (desires and delights).

Mark this well for a new year: your desires, good and bad, are not givens. Now, you may not, in the moment, simply be able to will yourself into some specific delight, or disgust, but you can retrain your palate over time. In fact, with each passing day, you’re either solidifying and deepening your heart in its present desires and delights, or retraining it for different ones (Romans 6:19; 12:2).

So, this, among other designs, is what we aim at with new-year resolves and prayers: reshaping, reconditioning, retraining our hearts, to delight in what’s truly delightful (and so find appropriate disgust in what is truly disgusting). We seek to acquire new tastes, holy ones. And there is no person, and no voice, more worthy of our supreme delight than the voice of Jesus.

First in Deference

Next, as Jesus’s voice becomes the one we delight in most, so his voice comes to have greater functional authority and power in our lives. We grow in applying, and complying with, his word. Despite our old instincts as sinners, “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation” (Philippians 2:15), we learn to defer to Jesus’s voice in Scripture over the chorus of other voices, including our own.

In times when many play fast and loose with truth in public, we might well rally afresh to truth even without bending our eyes and ears more attentively to the word of Christ. But as Jesus said to Pilate, “Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37).

Are you really “of the truth”? Do you truly, practically, habitually listen to the voice of Jesus, and defer to his word, over your own preferences and partisan peers, when he says, on the one hand, “God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6), or on the other, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27)?

Do you hear him speak, and obey accordingly, when he says through his apostles that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Timothy 1:10), nor those who revile (1 Corinthians 6:10)? “Let marriage be held in honor” (Hebrews 13:4). Amen. And, next verse, “keep your life free from love of money” (Hebrews 13:5). Amen. On the one hand, “No longer walk as the Gentiles do” (Ephesians 4:17); on the other, walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:2–3).

Deferring to the voice of Jesus will scarcely make us fit nicely into the secular parties of this generation. It will keep us on holy footing, rather than careening right or left with the swell of preferred voices. It will keep us from really finding a homeland here with the many faces of unbelief. The words of Jesus will be goads, on every side, to keep us from subtle worldly traps that would domesticate us to cities here (or prairies here), rather than to the city that is to come.

First Each Day

Finally, such delight and deference to Jesus’s voice will lead to a growing sense of need, and joy, to make his word a clear, objective, demonstrable priority in our lives — and that at the daily level.

I’m not interested here in suggesting any new laws about all true Christians doing morning devotions. Far and away, the testimony of saints throughout the centuries has celebrated the priority of starting the day, and setting the day’s mood and trajectory, with the voice of Jesus, but I can grant a few exceptions in some seasons of life.

Whatever we may claim about our bent or wiring, what we do first in the morning is telling. In some good measure, it reveals the priorities of our souls.

Strangely, most of us do go looking for words when we wake up, however consciously. This might be one of the things God has wired deeply in our human souls, to wake up looking for direction and nourishment, not just physical but spiritual. Tragically, many turn their morning hunger to notifications and news, to social media and news, to video clips and news. Some also turn to news.

But this hunger of soul you awake with every morning is not designed to feed on today’s news but on timeless good news. And that not just through our own rehearsals of gospel truths remembered from previous encounters, but through fresh communion with the God of the gospel, in his Son, by his Spirit, through his written word.

Now, “first each day” doesn’t mean “first only,” as if we might start with giving our attention to Jesus, then move on and scarcely ever have his person and voice return to our consciousness. We want his voice to abide, that is, remain, in us all day, not just in the morning (John 5:38; 8:31; 15:7; 1 John 2:14). So, we might ask about last each day as well. And in the middle. After all, that happy man of Psalm 1, whose “delight is in the law of the Lord,” not only seizes the mornings but “meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2).


Perhaps you’d resolve this with me for the new year: to put the voice of Jesus first. First in delight, first in deference, first each day. First in preference, in power, in priority.

Let’s resolve to have the very voice of God almighty, through his eternal Son, by the Spirit, in Scripture, dominate and liberate this new year. Through Bible reading, rereading, and meditation. Through sitting attentively under faithful preaching. Through committed engagement in the life of the church, with the people of the Book.

Resolved: to put the voice of Jesus first in 2024.