23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23–25, NKJV).
Jesus repeatedly taught people to listen to His teaching with “ears to hear” (Matt. 13:9; Luke 14:35). Some had ears that could not hear (accept) His word because their hearts were dull and hard (Matt. 13:14-15). “Ears to hear” reminds us that faith is produced by hearing (receiving) God’s word (Rom. 10:17). Since Jesus also said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” we conclude hearing (accepting) His word compels us to obey His word (John 14:15). James picks up the theme of hearing and obeying God’s word to identify the saved, those favored by God, and practice pure, undefiled religion (James 1:21-22, 25-27). We deceive ourselves if we think God is pleased with us only hearing His word but not doing His word (James 1:22, 26). This deception keeps people lost in their sins (much like the man who ignores his reflection in a mirror). James equates being a doer of the word with being a doer of the work of the perfect law of liberty, the gospel (James 1:23, 25). Therefore, we must implant God’s word in our hearts, deeply rooted by putting away all wickedness and meekly obeying the Lord (James 1:21). Doers of the word (work) obey in faith and are fortunate, blessed by God with salvation in Christ (James 1:25, 21).
His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (John 2:5, NKJV).
Mary’s simple statement to the wedding feast servants is worthy of our contemplation and imitation. Our lives change when we do whatever Jesus says. We must hear and do what Jesus says to be wise and blessed: “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matt. 7:24). Consider some things Jesus said, and do them. (1) We must receive the words of His apostles. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20). That means we must believe and do what His apostles taught (Matt. 28:20; 1 Cor. 14:37). (2) The lost must believe and be baptized to be saved. Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Instead of refusing baptism is essential for salvation, do what Jesus said, and you will be saved. He said we must be born again of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5-7). (3) Christians must worship in spirit and truth. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). We must offer God the worship He approves in His word. (4) Christians eat the Lord’s Supper in memory of Christ’s death. Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:24-25). The Lord’s Supper is not an unbloody sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It is a memorial of His death by which our sins are forgiven (Eph. 1:7). Remember that having ears to hear Jesus will do what He says (Luke 8:8, 18).
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 11:15, NKJV)
Jesus repeatedly used this exhortation (Matt. 13:9; Lk. 14:35; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Having “ears to hear” is about having a heart that is ready to accept the teachings of Christ. Jesus used a similar exhortation when He said, “He who is able to accept it, let him accept it” (Matt. 19:12). Ears are closed to hearing the gospel of the kingdom when hearts refuse to receive it. So then, our heart condition reveals whether or not we have “ears to hear” God’s word. This is the essential message of the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:3-9). The hard, closed heart does not receive the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19). The shallow, emotional heart listens – until the cost of discipleship is too great (Matt. 13:20-21). The crowded heart is overtaken by other concerns that choke the word and prevent hearing and fruitfulness (Matt. 13:22). The good heart is the soil that listens to God’s word, understands it and bears fruit (Matt. 13:23). The good heart hears (receives) the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18). We must guard against having ears that “are hard of hearing” God’s word (Matt. 13:13-15). If you have “ears to hear” it means your heart receives the word of God, holds it fast, and bears fruit with endurance (Lk. 8:8, 15). The good news is we can change our hearts and start having ears to hear by repenting, receiving the truth, and obeying it. Do you have ears to hear God’s word?
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 7:14–16, NKJV)
We can understand the teachings of Jesus by listening to them. It concerns us when Christians take exception with that simple statement of trust in the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 5:17). When we reduce the teachings of Christ and His apostles (who taught His commands, 1 Cor. 14:37) to personal and relative “interpretation,” we have elevated ourselves above the Lord and surrendered our allegiance to His authority (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 3:17). In today’s passage, Jesus taught that spiritual corruption does not occur because of what one eats, but is due to what comes out of the heart (Mk. 7:17-23). Understanding that evil proceeds from the heart and is identifiable is not a personal, relative, or so-called traditional interpretation of the Scriptures – it is what Jesus said (read Mark 7:20-23). We ought to ask ourselves, “Do I have ‘ears to hear’ Jesus?” If so, you will understand Him. Do not be deceived by attempts to persuade you that understanding God’s word amounts to accepting a tradition about the Scriptures. Truth is not open to different interpretations or opinions. Therefore, neither is understanding it. We open our hearts to the devil when we close our ears to the word of God by reducing an understanding of it to “our tradition.”
But He said, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28, NKJV)
Those who hear God’s word and keep it are more blessed than the womb which bore Jesus and the breasts which nursed Him. That’s impressive, since Mary was truly blessed among women (Luke 1:30, 42, 48). Jesus put a premium on keeping the word of God, not on merely hearing it. Indeed, it is keeping the word of God that shows one has “ears to hear” (Luke 8:8). In Luke 8:5-15 the parable of the sower and the soils depicts three hearts that hear the word of God, yet bear no fruit and are lost. It is only the good ground (“those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience”) that has “ears to hear” and are saved. When a sinner hears and keeps the word of God he is “saved by grace, through faith” – he has earned nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9). Why is that so difficult for some to accept? Well, to apply the words Jesus used when He taught this parable, because “seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand” (Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10). Either their heart has been hardened by unbelief, or it is spiritually shallow, or it is filled up with other things (Mark 4:13-20). Jesus promises His blessings when you hear word of God and keep it. Receiving His blessing depends on you.
37 But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37–38, NKJV)
The powerful arm of the Lord was revealed to Israel by the many signs (miracles) Jesus did before the people. His miracles were heaven’s testimony that He is the Christ, the Son of God (John 5:36; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22). Yet, despite His marvelous works, they did not believe in Him. Why not? John answers that question with another quote from Isaiah: “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (John 12:40; Isaiah 6:9-10). It has been said there are none so blind as he who will not see. When we willfully harden our hearts against God and His Son, His testimony of truth will not penetrate it. We will remain lost in our unbelief. The strength of the Lord (His “arm”) has been revealed to the world through Jesus Christ. We must humble our hearts and open our eyes and ears to God’s powerful truth. By doing so, we can understand His will, turn back to God, and be healed of our sins.
51 “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,” (Acts 7:51–52, NKJV)
As Stephen addressed the Sanhedrin council, he leveled the charge of stubbornness against them as the “betrayers and murderers” of Jesus Christ, the “Just One” (Jer. 23:5-6). They bore the outward sign of the covenant in the flesh (circumcision), but inwardly their hearts and ears were uncircumcised; covered and calloused by their rebellion against God. They were guilty of resisting the Holy Spirit by refusing the word of God that the Spirit delivered through the prophets. Then, they fully rejected the Son of God Himself. This should be our warning not to believe we can please God yet reject His word, the inspired Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Our heart and ears are uncircumcised when we resist and refuse the inspired word of God. Let us open our hearts and ears to God’s word every day, and follow Jesus Christ, who Himself is the Word (Jno. 1:1-3, 14).
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:9)
Someone said since God gave us two ears and one mouth, we ought to listen twice as much as we speak! In today’s verse Jesus calls on us to use our ears to listen carefully to what He says. The Lord calls on us to pay attention, to have great interest in what He says. We can easily be distracted from listening to and following the Lord’s word by life’s cares and the enticements of sin (Matt. 13:22). Jesus wants us to hear His word “with a noble and good heart” and “understand it” so we will follow it and bear good fruit in our lives (Lk. 8:15; Matt. 13:23). Are you listening to the word of Jesus? Or, does it have no place in your heart? Make today (and every day) the day you will pay attention to what Jesus says and keep it.
11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that ‘SEEING THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND HEARING THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND; LEST THEY SHOULD TURN, AND THEIR SINS BE FORGIVEN THEM.’ ” 13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:11-13)
The same parable would both reveal and conceal knowledge of the kingdom of God. The condition of the hearer’s heart determined whether or not the parables of Jesus were understood. A ready mind continues to be vital to understanding God’s word (Acts 17:11-12). Notice that Jesus expected His disciples to “understand this parable” of the sower. Knowing it unlocks all of His parables, since it explains the condition of the human heart (the soils) toward the word of God (the seed). You are in this parable; we all are. How do you react to the Scriptures, the word of God? Which soil are you? Read the parable and Jesus’ explanation to find out (Mark 4:3-9, 14-20).