Can You Hear Me Now?

The Galatians were saved. How were they saved? Paul asks, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Gal. 3:2).  They were saved by the hearing of faith, they sincerely believed what they heard about the message of Jesus Christ.  Hearing was a gift. Faith was a gift.  The Holy Spirit was a gift. This is because the Bible says we were dead in sin and it is by God’s gift of grace we are saved (Eph 2:8-9). Simple enough. They heard the message of the gospel of Christ and believed and were saved.

It is also wise to note that dead people do not hear anything.  There is no awareness of sound in the grave. After a loved one has died talking to them at their grave site may be psychologically beneficial for you but really they can’t hear you. Why bring that up? Because God had to give us the ears to hear what he was saying by raising us from spiritual death to life.  A person must be born again first then they hear, believe and repent.  The Bible teaches, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” (Eph 1:13). God gave us the hearing of faith after regenerating us and brings us back from the dead spiritually and then we heard the word of truth and then received his Spirit!

But can we hear him now? Are we listening to God now? Yes, there is a difference between hearing and listening, just ask my wife. In fact, James insists that we should be, “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:19). Notice the idea of being swift to hear and being prepared to listen to God’s Word, with the readiness that cultivated soil has to receive seed. Hearing or listening is a heart issue.  It tells us whether we are living in error or not.  God spoke though Isaiah, “I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” (Isa. 66:4).  Hearing was connected with the act of obedience, disobedience was seen as not hearing.

Real listening brings prompt obedience. We have so much to repent for. The Christian should praise God everyday for what Christ did on the cross, and justification by faith through grace or we would truly be lost, just for the fact we drag our feet to obey when God tells us what he demands.  We should feel crushed at  how slow we are to obey.  Jesus rebuked his disciples saying, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken…” (Luke 24:45). God wants us to pace ourselves with his Word. In an unagitated manner, in a peaceful heart  be ready to receive the Word. “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Ps. 119:32NIV). No delays, let me run in the path of your commands. He who has the liberty to obey, being set free by Christ liberating power should run as fast as they can to obey.  

The Apostle James states that we should, “lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 italics mine).   The word used for filthiness here can refer to a filthy garment and several commentators agree that it actually means “wax in the ear that plugs up the sound.”  Spiritual ear wax, imagine that.  Ears are one of the parts of the body that adults forget to clean, they also have to be careful how they clean them.  But this is not hygiene we are talking about.  The people here are not listening, they have so much sinful wax build up, they have neglected their spiritual walk and are deaf to God.  

I have had to shout and still was not heard with people who have “ear-buds” listening to their MP3’s.  I even see it in some churches where kids instead of listening to the message sit in church “plugged up.” It is like that. Imagine the Pastor attempting to preach with everyone in his congregation with ear buds inserted.  They are playing games, listening to music or watching a video. They cannot and will not hear him. They can smile, throw in an amen and hide their yawn, but they are basically deaf. As preachers we cannot really tell who has heard our message every time we preach. Even Isaiah asks, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Is 53:1). We cannot visibly see the evidence of the hearing of faith, it only be seen in the fruit of people character. I am sure there is many a preacher who would like to tap his microphone and ask, “Can you hear me now?”

Any time we are unable to hear the voice of God in the scriptures,  that is when the flesh takes over and masquerades as religion and spirituality.  Sadly, we do not realize that we are stunted. What is worse is that we begin to listen to “voices” other than the Holy Spirit through Scripture.  It is not an intellectual issue, or being locked up in a room and being tortured and brainwashed by heretics. It is frightening how easily this can happen. We do not even notice our deafness and suddenly when we need to hear him most-we cannot! God open our ears! Teach us to pull out the weeds from the garden of our hearts. Teach us to change our spiritual oil and maintain a clean heart. As Christians we must make a lifetime commitment to throw off the whole network of evil and malice, the remnants of sin in our lives so that we can hear the Word. 

The Spirit brought us into union with Christ so we might hear his voice. He who breathed on the disciples will not shun from whispering to us through the scriptures. But when we develop or are taught human ideas about what pleases God, or it can cause confusion, and deafness or we become sluggish, slow, lazy and begin to do stupid things because we are “dull of hearing” (Heb 5:11). That is legalism.  The most dullard thing to do is depend on our strength rather than the Lord’s mighty power. When we are plugged up our love for God and others, our joy and our peace is completely based on what we do rather than on who Christ is and what he has done. For without the Word the Christian is  frustrated and discontent. How many times in the beginning of the New Testament did Christ say, “ye have heard, but I SAY?’   We have heard so many man centered things. It is nauseating. Oh that we would shut our ears to all men and be locked in with the scripture. The sad condition of many who have professed Christ is that they are walking in defeat and self worship because all they hear is opinion and bad teaching. They are agitated, anxious and angry.  They need to rest in Christ who says, Come unto me all ye who a weary and heavy laden.” Can you hear me now?

Many people  just do not listen to God anymore. They have shut their ears to the scriptures. “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.” (Zech 7:11). They listen to MAN and his teachings and their worship is empty (Mk 7:7).  We need our hearing checked.  How can you test your hearing? We need be careful about the content of what we hear that it lines up with the scripture. “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” (Job 34:3). If it is not scriptural reject it and move on. There is no perfection on this side of heaven but there are things which are most surely believed among us as Christians and we should adhere to those things and those things alone. Jesus said, “Take heed what ye hear…” (Mk. 4:24).  

Then the way in which we listen should be adjusted.  How am I listening? I should be asking, “Did I hear you right?  Let go back to the above illustration of ear wax and I won’t dwell on that too much because it would be way to wierd, but let me note ear wax or cerumen can be beneficial against bacteria, fungus and insects.  God obviously wants us to protect our hearing,  “to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14).   We should not listen to anything that we have not tested to see if it matches up with the scripture and the confessions of the church. He says to  “test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21ESV).  If sin is in our hearts we cannot hear correctly. We should take an inventory before we hear the word like we are taking inventory before the Lord’s supper. We should examine, test the mettle of our hearts and motives, and be in an open prepared state to hear the Word of the Lord in the scriptures. Once again Jesus teaches us to, “Take heed how ye hear…” (Luke 8:18). How we need to tune in to what he is saying and adjust the frequency of our hearts.

If you long to hear and obey Jesus said you will have clarity and peace. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (John 7:17). If you are but willing and the Spirit of God has ignited in your heart and fire to hear Christ Words he will teach you and receive you to himself. You will be where he is and walk with him and speak to him as a man speaks to his friend.

He will say, “Can you hear me now?” Good!

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Twisted Thinking

We hear Romans 12:1-2 quoted as often as John 3:16 but I wonder if we get it. Paul pleads,  “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” 

Over and over again in our lives we hear that everything we do begins with a thought. You cannot have wrong thinking and right actions. It doesn’t work!  That is why right teaching and biblical doctrine matter.  The problem is what we think about God. Sin has twisted your thinking.  When it comes to thinking about God the Bible says, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (Ps. 10:4).  Yes, that verse says that God is not in any of his thoughts. Other translations indicate that the spiritually dead person has no place for God in their thinking,  The NIV states, “in all his thoughts there is no room for God.” The margin of the KJV says that, “in all his thoughts they keep thinking, “there is no God.”  That is one of sin’s greatest hijackings of our souls it leaves no room for God.  We set aside God first in our thoughts then our deeds. It brings a moral, practical atheism that lets sin and self-control the soul. Sin attempts to erase the concept of God from our minds or distort it. We must spend our lives untwisting that thinking by the teaching about God that comes from his Word, the Holy Scriptures.

What you think about God has direct influence over how you worship God and how you live. The minimization of God has a direct influence over everything we are. As the old preachers told us we need to magnify the Lord in our lives. Let him be bigger than the trial. Don’t let sin and unbelief put a magnifying glass in front of your problems. But let God become bigger in your mind and heart. Let praise be the magnifying glass that helps you see that God is bigger than your problems.

Amen to that!

If we place God at the center of our preaching, not the peoples needs, problems not our agendas but God-this will give clarity to our understanding of God and he will be the Savior and Helper.  The Bible says teaches when Christ redeems all of his Bride and when all is said and all is done the final result will be that “God may be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:26-28). God must become bigger in our lives because sin attempts to make him seem so small.

At the heart of self is idolatry. The first two commandments are vitally linked. God will not only have no rivals but he forbids the making of an images, especially an image of him. Why? The mind is a factory for idolatry to paraphrase, John Calvin and unscriptral thinking eventually become anti-scriptural. Notice the image can be our thinking. We need to repent not only of sin but from wrong thoughts about God. Peter commented on Paul’s letters, “As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Pet 3:16).  Notice the untaught and unstable wrestle with the scriptures: they distort and twist them because self is at the center and has no room for God in its thinking.

Christ and genuine Christianity teaches that you must have a new nature. The glorious truth of the new birth is that God gives us life and then we renew our minds by the truth as found in Jesus Christ and the scriptures.  “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” (Heb 8:10).  God writes his laws on our hearts gives us a love for God and the power to do what is pleasing to him.

What should we be thinking about?  How to change and modify our behavior? What steps to follow in order to make life less hostile? The behavioral sciences offered in the forms of motivational speaking and psychology are much of  the reason for Churchianity’s failure today. Most people are learning things backwards because they think because their actions change their life will change and that is only partially correct. Your thinking and emotions must change. Your mind must be renewed.  Only God can do this.

After a person is saved, they have a new heart and spirit but their mind must be renewed in order to be transformed into the image of Christ (Rom 12:1-2). This does not happen overnight but occurs in day by day obedience and consistent submission to God’s will. God sanctified and causes all things to work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to his purpose. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:28-29). 

He does this by using trials in our life as a means to purify us. But this means that He controls and monitors our trials! He actually uses our trials to purify us and make us holy.  He takes evil and turns it around for good in our lives. He does this because he has loved us before the world was made in Christ! He is with us and will not allow us to be overwhelmed by life’s trouble but as the Old hymn says, “When through the deep waters I call thee to go, the rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”

What untwists our thinking about God is the straight beams of the cross and the straight edge of the scriptures. Yielding and offering our bodies, renewed thinking that leads to a metamorphosis of life  is directly tied to Christ offering himself. These are “the mercies of God” in Christ. Of the many, many, mercies of God in sending his Son, will we ever completely discover what actually happened on the cross of Christ? We should be constantly focused on it and it will change us. 

This is where we learn to accelerate into obedience and put the brakes on with temptation. The motivating factor is the crucified and risen Savior. “Christ’s gift, meditated on, accepted, introduced into will and heart, is the one power that will melt our obstinacy, the one magnet that will draw us after it…The Gospel of Jesus Christ presents itself, not as a mere republication of morality, not as merely a new stimulus and motive to do what is right, but as an actual communication to men of a new power to work in them, a strong hand laid upon our poor, feeble hand with which we try to put on the brake or to apply the stimulus…” MacLaren Commentary on Romans 12.