Have You Heard the Word (5): Hearing Aids
Intro – A specialist suggest surgery for a 94-year old woman who was losing her hearing. She promptly vetoed the idea. "I'm 94 years old, and I've heard enough!" I think a lot of people feel that way about the Bible. We’ve been in church for years. What’s new to learn. We’ve heard enough?!
That’s the danger Jesus addresses to His crowd of fickle followers when He says in Lu 8:8, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” He intensifies the concern in Lu 8:18, “Take care then how you hear.” In a world where some people are dying just to get a part of the Bible in their hands, we, with our multiple versions and copies have utterly forgotten how amazing it all is.
In Deut 4:11-16 Moses lovingly reminds the Israelites, 11 “And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. (Skip to v. 15). Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves.” Their neighbors worship idols they can see and talk to, but who never speak in return. Their gods are silent. The one true God is never seen, but He is there and He is not silent. He’s not just a vague God who is out there somewhere. He’s a God who is spoken and who claims the right to be heard. He has Words, and so Jesus says, “Take care then how you hear.” Then in v. 10 Jesus reveals that His parable has 2 purposes – to reveal truth to those who will listen – and to conceal truth from those who have heard enough.
I. To Conceal Truth – The idea that God is so loving He will not judge is not found in the Bible. It is a satanically-inspired vision of God that brings apathy to many. Listen to how God describes end-time events in II Thess 2:9: “The coming of the lawless one (the Anti-Christ) is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. (They would not listen). 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion (who sends delusion? God does. Why?), so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” That’s a chilling promise, Beloved. It validates the principle that continued rejected leads to condemnation. Reject truth long enough and God will conceal it forever.
II. To Reveal Truth
Thankfully, there is another side to the coin. God longs to reveal Himself to those who want Him. Take care then how you hear. 4 hearing aids!
To hear God, you must want to hear God. David instructed his son, Solomon in I Chron 28:9, “The LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” That promise is just as good today as it was then. Seek the Lord and you will find Him. Fob Him off and you condemn yourself. We must be like the woman who went to the bank to open a joint account. When asked if the account would be with her husband she replied, “Oh, no – I want a joint account with someone who has a lot of money!” Can’t argue her strategy. She wanted all she could get. That’s exactly the attitude for those who would know God. We must want Him above all else.
It takes effort, work, perseverance to hear God. That’s why Moses tells Israel in Deut 4:29, “You will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” God wants everyone, but He is weeding out those who don’t want Him. To hear Him we must persist. The disciples did. They made a lot of mistakes, but they didn’t give up on Jesus and He didn’t give up on them. They insisted on knowing. Lu 8:9, “ . . . his disciples asked him what this parable meant.” They persisted.
To us that means study to understand the Word. That’s how we hear God. The world is full of people who want a college degree but they never get there because they won’t pay the price. Similarly a lot of people want to know God, but they will not persist. Carrying a Bible around or having one on the coffee table will not do it. The message doesn’t just ooze out thru leather!
Others think merely reading the Bible is enough. “A chapter a day keeps the devil away!” Well, there is value in reading, but to really hear God, you have to dig. Walter Martin in Screwtape Writes Again has the head demon instructing his nephew, “You wasted a great deal of time bothering about your patient’s daily habit of reading the enemy’s word. . . . One of the most successful ploys (to keep people from studying the Word) has been to equate reading with study. Urge them to concentrate upon how much they read rather than on either its meaning or practical application.” God instructs us in II Tim 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” That’s more than mere reading. Psalm 1:1-3: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2) but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Get into a Bible study that gives you a daily challenge of reading and questions to contemplate. That can add quality to time in God’s Word. Get a notebook and do the following as your read:
1. Observe – Read the passage several times noting such things as verb tense, repeated words and phrases, who is speaking and to whom. Is the passage drawing a contrast or stating a purpose? Are there other passages of Scripture that help interpret this one? Follow Rudyard Kipling’s advice, “I keep six honest serving menthey taught be all I knew. Their names are what and why and when and how and where and who. I sent them over land and sea; I sent them east and west but after they have worked for me I give them all a rest.” You will be amazed at what you can dig out of a passage by the simple process of observing – and how fast the time flies.
2. Outline – Some of you will take to this, some not. But if you like puzzles and grammar – outline the passage. This is especially helpful in the NT epistles. You’ll be amazed at the truth that jumps off the page.
3. Develop Principles – You are listening for God, right? So ask, what does this passage teach me about God and how He works? You are looking for universal truths derived from your reading. Write them down.
4. Read a commentary – A good commentary or study Bible can help insure you’re on the right path. What have they seen that you didn’t? And perhaps you will have seen something that they didn’t. It is very helpful to use a study Bible (ESV or MacArthur) and to keep a good one-volume Bible commentary close by when studying (MacArthur or MacDonald or Wiersbe).
5. Application – The purpose of study isn’t to increase our IQ. It is to change our life. Ask, what in my life needs to change as a result of this?
Do that and you will begin to feed yourself. You’ll become a serious student. None of this is hard, but it takes discipline. That’s why being accountable to a study or friend helps. Persist! Nothing in life is more important than this.
That’s what the disciples did in Lu 8:9, “And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? If you want to know what the parable means, ask the one who gave it, right? If you lived in colonial times and wanted to know what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote “All men are created equal”, what would you do? Ask Tom, of course. You wouldn’t ask George or Ben or John – you’d ask Tom. Same with the Bible. Ask the author! I Cor 2:11, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” The HS is there, ready, willing and able to open the Word to us. John16:12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” The HS is our ultimate interpreter.
I minored in math in college. Who knows why! I remember reading upper class math theory books and not getting it. The logic escaped me. I couldn’t grasp it. But when I got to class and the instructor explained, all became clear – sort of! That’s the role of the HS. I John 2:26-27 says, “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you (that’s the HS, ref v. 20), and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” Does this mean no commentaries or human teachers? Of course not. John was a teacher himself! His point is it’s all useless unless the HS is consulted. He’s the lynchpin. We must never come to the Word without inviting the teacher to come too. But persist and you’ll be amazed at the things He will show you.
Caution: Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it all. No one does. Deut 29:29 reminds us, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Much as we hate it, there are some things that are not for us now. And what He does give isn’t for IQ development; it is that we may do all the words of this law.” That’s why we want to hear – so we can do!
The acid test. Have you heard God? Then your life will change. If not, it doesn’t matter how much we know – we really haven’t heard. It’s gone in one ear and out the other. It troubles me to see Christians who have it all together doctrinally. I worry about being one. They can tell you the difference between amil, premil, post-mil and pan-mil (that’s the belief that everything will pan out in the end!). They know the difference between being, justified, sanctified, glorified and sanforized. They could tell you the difference between sub-lapsarianism, supra-lapsarianism and Labrador retrievers. They’ve got it down. But there is a coldness in their life. You can know a lot about God and not know God. To know God is to practice Him, and then He gives more.
That is the point of Lu 8:16-18: “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light.” The lamp Jesus refers to was usually a terra cotta saucer-shaped object with a handle on one end. On the other end was a nozzle-shaped extension with a hole for a wick. When lit, it gave light. You would never light it and then hide it under the bed. Its whole purpose would be ruined. So what is the lamp? Matt 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus is saying, “I am not lighting you so that you can go hide. I am lighting so you can shine – give light to others. To hear the Word is to live the Word. That’s the test.”
A true believer has the light of the Word in his life and lives like it. He will not be a “secret service” Christian because in reality there is no such thing. Jesus Himself says in Matt 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Sure we will goof up at times. We live in a secular society where we will face scorn and hostility for our allegiance to Christ; at times we will fail. But that can’t be the trend for a true believer. We are lit to shine. We can’t deny Christ and call ourselves Christian! It doesn’t work that way.
So v. 17 has a dire warning: “For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” There are a lot of great Sunday Christians, but their light is hidden the rest of the time because they have no real light. They may fool others and even fool themselves, they cannot fool God. One day the light of His omniscience will shine on their hearts and every secret will open up. All the skeletons in the closet will come out. Every secret sin; every hidden deed and thought; every cover-up will be exposed. There will be no secrets on that day. Things long forgotten will be exposed. In the words of John in Rev. 20:12, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.” God has the record of every life outside Christ. Ananias thought he could lie about his offering, but God knew the truth. David thought he could cover his adultery with murder, but God saw it all. The skeletons are coming out, Folks.
In light of that Jesus says in v. 18, “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” This is the crossroads that occur every time the gospel is preached. Those who believe will be given more. Paul says in II Cor 3:18 we “are being transformed into the same image [of Christ] from one degree of glory to another.” Just as we move from addition and subtraction to multiplication and division to algebra to geometry to trig to calculus in math – so we advance in our Christian life.
But to the one who thinks he has, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” Those who are apathetic move in a negative direction from darkness to darkness with each failure to submit to the Lordship of Christ. Every time we hear the gospel, there is either movement toward Christ or movement away. “Take care then how you hear.” Those who hear rightly put it into practice. Out life shows whether or claim of faith is true or not. We must ask, “If I were charged in a law court of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict if -- if you left out Sundays?” Would there? The fact is you’ll never live a Christian life without Xn fellowship and teaching. You’ll only fool yourself – but if Sunday is all there is that is Christian about you , believe me, you’re not saved. You have no light, and the person most fooled is you. True believers practice what they have heard.
Conc – Philip DeCourcy, our CA pastor, is an Irishman. While living there in 1994 he hosted a Pastor’s Conference at which Dr. John MacArthur was a speaker. Philip’s father was particularly excited about the visit because MacArthur’s father, Jack MacArthur had come to Northern Ireland many years previous with two other evangelists. It was under their ministry that Philip’s father had come to Christ. So Philip’s dad cornered Dr. MacArthur to ask about his dad. John told him, “Dad’s doing well. He’s getting up in years, but faithfully preaching the Word on a weekly basis.” What about the other 2 evangelists? The tone changed. One of the other men denied the faith later on. The other had also left the faith, left his family and died a drunk. What happened? Only God can judge the heart, but it would appear that they were never real – never really heard. They’re described in I John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” Looked good for awhile, but never truly saved.
Just like another guy I know. Fooled his close friends for three years. So trustworthy they made him treasurer of the group. Taught by Jesus Himself, and one of the 12 closest. Saw every miracle, did many himself, heard every word, but Judas never REALLY heard! It was all outward. And when it didn’t go the way he expected, he followed the money. He sold his Savior and his soul for 30 pieces of silver. You can be oh so close and still not hear the Word. Don’t think just because you sit through church every week that it’s a done deal! Don’t ever think you’ve heard enough! Have your heard the Word? Is your life transformed? If not, why not? Why not today? When we leave here today it is either to further light or further darkness. Will you not come to the light? Let’s pray.