DO Not Merely Listen 2-7-16
“Do Not Merely Listen” James 1:22-25; Jeremiah 32:32-42 2-7-16
To see a video of this sermon, click here
There is a difference between listening and faithful listening. The father said to the teenage boy, “Did you not hear what I said? If you did, why didn’t you do something about it?” The teenager said to the parents, “You never understand me. You tell me you love me but all you do is give me stuff. You never spend time with me.” Love always involves listening. Faithful listening always involves more than just hearing what is said. We get busy with our own agenda, and often that does not include those we love. This week in football we have witnessed one of the saddest things- a person with great talent- enough to win the Heisman and get drafted in the first round in the NFL, Johnny Manziell, “Mr. Football”, as he was called is about to be cut from the Cleveland Browns. He has been known to abuse alcohol, abuse drugs, and abuse his girlfriend. He will not listen to his parents who twice last week tried to get him into rehab. He refused to listen to them. He refused to listen to his girlfriend. He refused to listen to the Cleveland Browns organization. He refused to listen to his agent. It is a very public inability to hear any voice but his own. Our passage is a call to hear, and not just to hear, but to act on what we hear. Instead of asking, “what does the Lord want me to do because I came today” people too often ask, “How did you like the minister?” It is not the tie, or the robe or the lights, or the heat or air conditioning that made us leave our houses to come here. It is the Holy Spirit who wants to speak to us today. It is clear that there are three kinds of hearers of the Word. Those who refuse to listen, those who listen but not act on what they hear, and then those who listen and act on what they hear- who both hear and heed. I. HEAR BUT DO NOT HAVE EARS- Listen negatively. Some are rebelling here today- you dragged me to church. The husband tells the wife- the wife tells the husband – the child tells the parents- I don’t want to be here. They have ears, but they are stopping them up. They have hearts but they are purposefully turning them as cold as ice. Pride and self-centeredness get in the way of hearing and worship. So the Pharisees saw the miracles but, even though they intellectually believed in them always found something wrong- they were done in the wrong place or wrong time. Their pride would not let them hear. The gospel call is to shed the skin of our pride and selfishness like a snake sheds its skin- be made new.
- A second kind of hearer: HEAR BUT DO NOT RESPOND- Listen positively but do not heed. Some have come because they want to be entertained, or it is the thing to do. They have low expectations that anything will happen to them. But if the Holy Spirit changes you, you shall be changed whether you like it or not. Sometimes life hardens us- we suffer, our expectations are not met and we harden ourselves into believing God does nothing. It is like wax build up in the ears. This group may say they “try to listen” but because they do not act on what they hear, the gospel makes little difference for them. They have heard the call to repent- but they do not repent. They have heard the cry to Believe! But they remain staunch in their skepticism. Spurgeon rightly said of this verse: “Hearing of a feast will not fill you. Listening to a brook will not quench your thirst.” Having the right information does not change you. Knowing there is money in the bank is not the same as having money in your pocket. Knowing where the storm shelter is will not keep you from getting wet. Knowing what kind of medicine will cure you is not the same as taking it. Knowing all about Christ and the church- means nothing if you do not accept Him. It is one thing to be an atheist. But there are many more practical atheists- who hear but do not respond. The response is the same whether they are in church or not. James describes such a person as one who looks into a mirror. Even a casual hearer of the gospel knows that the gospel tells them a lot about who they are. We see in the gospel that we fail we are in need of salvation. But the question then is, do we take the solution, or do we just walk away? When I am in a hurry- I can look in a mirror and see that my hair is standing straight up- or that I have a big piece of white lent on my black coat. But if I am in a hurry- I may walk away and not fix it. James is saying- don’t just see the truth- do something about it. Listen and respond. Listen and heed. The text speaks of being “hasty hearers.” They hear the sermon and then they are off. They are quickly on to business as usual without digesting what they have heard. Cam calls the play- but receiver does not hear it right- not paying close attention. Can go when wrong snap count is called- five yard penalty- happens every game- someone doesn’t listen right. Or can run wrong route and get an interception. Do not let the truth come in one ear and out the other. Let it have a home.
III. HEAR AND RESPOND- Listen positively, put it into practice, bear fruit. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them. Our passage says that those who hear and respond are “blessed in what they do.” In other words, God helps and makes the work they do go smoother and more fruitful. The words described here of this person is that they do three things: 1) they look intently into it; 2) they continue in it- not forgetting; 3) they do it. 1) THEY LOOK INTENTLY INTO IT- They examine it. I can remember taking my wife’s ring to be resized and polished and the jeweler did what I do not ever do. He pulled out a special scope and looked for several minutes at the diamond. This is what we should do with scripture. Scripture is not a piece of trash to be stepped over- but a diamond to be appreciated- with many different facets. Look into it- like a child stoops to examine a beautiful flower that others just walk past. Think about what you have heard. Some here take notes- look back over them. The sermon is on youtube- look back at that- or play it when you are driving in your car. 2) The continue in it – nor forgetting it- The Greek word for continue is “parameno.” Parameno is really two Greek words. Meno- means abide, and para- (from which we get our word parallel) means beside. We are called to abide beside what we hear. Stay by it, sit by it. Don’t just stay for a second by the one you love and say you did your duty- but abide with them. Look them in the eye and listen to their words and ask questions. Abide beside- means really abide. Listening means you are not so hasty that you cannot focus. It is hard to listen these days. Many other voices, events, and things call us to hurry up. So if you have read the Word and it means nothing- don’t give up- read it again. Give it more than a passing glance. 3) They do it- a person who heeds- does not just hear, they respond. A reaction occurs. This is when the match is set to the gas. This is when the ignition is started. This is when the “on button” is pushed. The text doesn’t say this person is blessed FOR the deed done, but is blessed IN the deed done. It is when we respond that we find the blessing of the Holy Spirit- leading us and giving us strength. Someone who reads the directions but doesn’t ever follow them is in trouble. They have much knowledge of which they can brag- but little experience. Perhaps one of the greatest follies of any sports happened when the Minnesota Vikings played the San Francisco 49ers in 1964. Jim Marshall had already recovered a fumble and had run it into the end zone for a touchdown for Minnesota. Marshall recovered another fumble on the 34 and proceeded to run it 66 yards into the end zone. The problem was he was running it the wrong way- into the wrong end zone. His own teammates tried to catch him to tackle him. His coaches were yelling at him. His teammates on the sidelines were running down the sidelines telling him to turn around. But you know what Marshall thought? He thought they were cheering him on. He heard their voices, but he wasn’t listening. He was determined to go as fast as he could the wrong way-despite all the fans, coaches, and teammates who were asking him to turn around. Listen to the voice of truth asking you to turn around. Be ye doers and not hearers only. Do not be as one who has ears but cannot hear. Do not be as one who hears but does not respond. Let the Word bear fruit in you. Do not shut your ears or your heart to the Holy Spirit of God. There is a difference between listening and heeding. There is a difference between listening and faithful listening. It is found in getting up and responding. I remember my first homiletics professor saying, I want you to picture me in the back row of the church each week. Picture me saying that the difference between teaching and preaching is asking for an application. But more importantly- picture me asking, “Ok. What do you want me to do?” What I want you to do- is to ask that question when you read the text and hear the sermon. The Bible is not just for information it is meant to make a difference. So, don’t just be hearers- be doers of the Word.