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.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.’” (Revelation 2:7, NKJV)
What the Spirit of God said to the church of Ephesus (by the Lord’s messenger or “angel,” Revelation 2:1) was said to all the churches of Christ. Christians are urged to lend an ear and give careful attention to the divine message. Notice how the Spirit of God communicates with Christians. It is not through your emotions, feelings, and life events. The Bible says God speaks to us all in the same way, through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2). The apostolic Scriptures are the mind of God, revealed for us to know (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). Also, please see in today’s verse that it is the person “who overcomes” who is given access to the tree of life. Those who prevail will be saved. But, not everyone will eat from the tree of life (Revelation 22:1-5). Some Christians will not listen to Jesus. And so, they will not “fight the good fight of faith” nor “lay hold of eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12). Refuse to be that kind of Christian. Open yourself to the word of God and faithfully follow Jesus by following “what the Spirit says to the churches.”
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)
Jesus expects us to listen to Him and to understand His teaching. Just as we listened to our math teacher to understand that 2+2=4, we must listen to the teachings of Christ to learn (properly understand) the truth of God. Divine truth is not an ever-moving target that can only be understood according to each person’s own situation and environment. This relativistic view of divine truth is common, but it not what Jesus taught about the nature of divine truth. Jesus defined His word as truth and said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jno. 8:31-32). God’s word is truth, not what we feel is truth or what our experiences say is truth (read John 17:17). We do well to conform our view of truth to Christ’s view of truth, and then listen carefully to what His truth says. That is at least part of what it means to have “ears to hear.” By doing so you are equipping yourself to listen to and understand His word (John 8:43).
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: (Ephesians 4:20–21, NKJV)
Knowing Jesus Christ is not instinctive or automatic. We cannot know “what would Jesus do” unless we learn from His word what He would do. Yet, what Jesus personally did while on the earth is not necessarily what you and I must do. For example, Jesus kept the Law of Moses (its feasts, its offerings, its dietary restrictions, etc.), yet we are not obliged to do so today because that law has been removed (Colossians 2:14). We know Jesus always did the will of His Father, and that is the very thing we must also do (John 5:30; 6:38; 8:29; Matthew 7:21). The Father’s will is that we hear and follow Jesus (Matthew 17:5; John 8:31-32). The Scriptures teach us about Christ. We hear Jesus by hearing the words of those He sent into the world to preach His gospel (Hebrews 1:2; Luke 10:16). Jesus told His apostles to teach the disciples “to observe all things” He had commanded them (Matthew 28:20). The apostles fulfilled their mission by teaching the truth that is in Jesus. Learning Christ from them illuminates our path toward God, it does not turn us back to the spiritual blindness of lewdness, uncleanness and greediness we lived in before we were saved in Christ (Ephesians 4:17-19).
Therefore hear the parable of the sower: (Matthew 13:18, NKJV)
If you are not familiar with the parable of the sower, please read it, and Jesus’ interpretation of it in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23. Take time to “hear” the parable and learn its lessons, some of which are these: 1) The condition of one’s heart determines whether he or she will understand and accept God’s word. 2) The same word of God will be believed by some, and rejected by others. Therefore, we dare not try to change the message of truth in an attempt to entice people to accept it. 3) Satan is at work hardening hearts against the word of God. 4) Truth cannot thrive in the shallow soil of the emotion-based heart. We must have an abiding commitment to God’s word, come what may – not to how we feel about it. 5) Hearts that are distracted and filled with concerns for the things of this world do not have room for the word of God. A person cannot serve two masters with one heart (Matt. 6:24). 6) Good and honest hearts hear, understand, and follow the word of God. So, did you listen to the parable? Which heart do you have when you hear the word of God? Is your heart the hard, wayside soil? Is it the shallow, emotional heart that easily falls away when tested? Is it the overgrown heart that has no room for God’s word? Or, is it the good heart that receives truth, holds it fast, and patiently bears fruit? Make no mistake: You decide which soil describes your heart.
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20, NKJV)
Instead of listening to the urgings and enticements of sin (see Jas. 1:13-16), we should be swift to hear “the word of truth” (Jas. 1:18-19). Instead of speaking rashly and letting anger boil up and spill over in angry words, we must keep hearing the word of God. When God’s word is heard and obeyed it produces “the righteousness of God” (v. 20). This controlled spirit avoids sin, but the angry heart spews out transgressions (Prov. 29:22). Don’t give in to the temptation to be ruled by angry passion. It never brings you closer to God.
21 Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ 22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air… (Acts 22:21–23, NKJV)
Paul had told the crowd how Jesus appeared to him, commissioned him to be His apostle, and saved him from his sins (Acts 22:1-16). He told them how Jesus appeared to him again, warning him to flee Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-20). The people of Jerusalem continued listening to Paul until he said the word, “Gentiles” (v. 21). Their hearts were so filled with hatred and contempt that they would not even consider the thought that Gentiles could be in the kingdom of God. Their hearts were closed to the gospel, being hardened by prejudice. They were ready to kill Paul rather than hear the truth he preached. Have you already made up your mind about some Bible teaching without considering what the Scriptures actually have to say? You cannot learn and follow the truth unless your heart is open and receptive to examining the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Be willing to listen and to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).