17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17–18, NKJV)
Jesus expected His apostles to understand His warning against the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, but they were only thinking about physical bread (Mark 8:14-16). He said their hearts were “still hardened” because they could not perceive (understand) the meaning of His warning. They needed to comprehend the corrupting influence of their error, immorality, and hypocrisy (Matt. 16:11-12; Luke 12:1). Here is a lesson on being distinctive hearers. It matters how we hear Christ’s word. Jesus said, “Therefore take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18). The Pharisees disputed with Jesus and rejected His signs (Mark 8:11-12). Like their forefathers, they were “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears” (Acts 7:51-52). We must have open hearts to receive the gospel of Christ, lest the leaven of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians corrupt us. (Demanding preaching that scratches itching ears still happens, 2 Tim. 4:3-4.) When we resist the word of Christ, we are disputing with and testing Jesus just like the unbelieving Pharisees (Mark 8:11). May we humbly, reverently, and obediently accept the word of Christ. We understand Christ’s teachings when our will is to do the will of God (John 7:16-17; Eph. 3:3-4; Heb. 5:12-14). Open your heart to the gospel of Christ, and you will be blessed (Acts 17:11-12).
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say (Luke 6:46, NKJV)?
Why do you say yet not obey? That is the penetrating question Jesus asked those who followed Him from place to place during His ministry. Disciples (followers) learn and live the training received from their Master (Luke 6:40; John 8:31). Jesus is not our ‘Lord’ unless we obey Him. Like them, the Master challenges us to investigate our motives for saying He is Lord while disobeying His word. The Scriptures help us examine ourselves to discover and remove obstacles preventing salvation and hindering discipleship. (1) A hard heart (John 12:37-40). An open, receptive, and responsive heart accepts the word of God and is fruitful by doing the Lord’s will (Luke 8:15; Acts 17:11-12). (2) Fear and favor of men (John 12:42-43). Fearing rejection from others, many still prefer men’s favor over God’s approval. (3) Love of the world (1 John 2:15). Genuine love for Jesus obeys His commands (John 14:15). When we misplace our love and disobey Jesus, we deceive ourselves to think we love Jesus. (4) Deceived by false teaching (Luke 8:15). A popular doctrine convinces many souls that Christians cannot fall from grace (be lost). Yet, the gospel warns disciples against falling away (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:12-13). This false doctrine opens the door to complacent, neglectful faith (Heb. 6:11-12; 10:39). Jesus said it is foolish to hear His words and do nothing (Luke 6:49; Matt. 7:26-27). But it is wise to hear and do His words (Luke 6:47-48; Matt. 7:24-25). Yes, we must do more than say, “Lord, Lord,” to be a disciple and enter the kingdom of heaven. We must hear and do the words of Christ (Matt. 7:21-23).
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).
17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him (Luke 8:17–18, NKJV).
How we listen to God’s word is a determining factor of whether we will understand it. When we make up our mind about any Bible subject before even considering what the whole counsel of God says, we have closed hearts, ears, and eyes (Luke 8:9-10; Matt. 13:10-17). We will never accept and hold fast the word of God with such a self-satisfied mindset (Luke 8:15). God’s word is not beyond comprehension. It reveals the purposes and will of God and the secrets of the human heart (Luke 8:17, 10; Heb. 4:12). A willingness to do God’s will, coupled with an earnest examination of God’s word, will result in knowing, accepting, and obeying His word (John 7:16-17; Acts 17:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:15). This person is assured abundant spiritual blessings (Luke 8:18). The person who dismisses the meaning of God’s word because it does not agree with feelings, experiences, and preconceived ideas has deceived himself. What he thinks he possesses (knowledge of the truth) is denied him due to conceit, self-righteousness, and arrogant assumptions. When we listen to God’s word, may we always keep humble hearts turned toward God and away from ourselves. Be careful how you listen to God’s word (John 8:43-47).
For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13, NKJV).
Paul unashamedly declared the gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel’s power to save the lost reached Thessalonica, where Paul, Silas, and Timothy preached “the gospel of God in much conflict” (1 Thess. 2:1-2; Acts 17:1-9). How the Thessalonians “received the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13) is how the gospel’s power continues to save lost souls. (1) First, the lost person must hear the word of God. The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not hear it (Rom. 10:13-17). The Thessalonians heard God’s word (v. 13). (2) Second, the lost person who hears the word of God must believe it. The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not believe it is true. The Thessalonians “welcomed” what they heard from Paul, Silas, and Timothy as God’s word, not man’s (v. 13). The gospel they preached is still the truth one must believe for salvation. (3) Third, the lost person must be converted and obey the word of God (Acts 3:19; 2:38). The gospel cannot save if the sinner does not obey it. Obedient faith saves. Otherwise, it is dead faith (James 2:17-18). When the Thessalonians heard, believed, and obeyed the gospel, they turned from idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:8-9). The word of God “effectively works in you who believe” (Christians, v. 13). Hear, believe, and obey the gospel, and its power will work in your life, too (Phil. 2:12-13).
He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me (Luke 10:16, NKJV).
Jesus empowered seventy disciples with miracles and a message when He sent them into cities ahead of Him (Luke 10:1, 9). Their message was, “The kingdom of God has come near to you,” and their miracles certified its validity (Luke 10:17-20). Therefore, those who rejected them and their message rejected Jesus and the Father who sent Him. (Necessarily, the converse would also be true. To receive them and their message would be to receive Jesus and His Father, John 13:20.) Judgment without mercy would descend on the city that refused Christ’s message and messengers (Luke 10:11-15). This reality warns us not to “refuse Him who speaks” to us today (Heb. 12:25). God speaks to us by His Son, who sent out His apostles with His gospel of salvation (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:1-4; Matt. 28:18-20). We cannot discount and discard the apostles’ teachings in the inspired Scriptures and have any expectation of God’s approval (1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). I recently read a report that almost 40% of those surveyed think a person who does not believe in God can (will) go to heaven. Yet, “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear” (1 Pet. 4:18)? Unbelievers do not go to heaven but hell (Rev. 21:8). Christ calls us to receive His word and follow Him. Then we will be received by Him (Acts 2:36-42).
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (Hebrews 1:1–2, NKJV).
When Jesus was transfigured on the mount, “a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory,” saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The voice commanded to “Hear Him” (2 Pet. 1:17; Matt. 17:5). All are under divine order to hear Jesus. By doing so, we are listening to God since God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” How does Jesus speak to us? Not through living prophets like God did to the Hebrew fathers (Heb. 1:1). Not through dreams and visions like in times past. Not by so-called personal promptings of the Spirit (subjective notions attributed to the Spirit of God). Jesus said by receiving those He sent into the world (His apostles), we receive Him and the One who sent Him (John 13:20). The salvation Jesus began to speak was “confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (His apostles, Heb. 2:3-4; Mark 16:15-18). We “shall not escape if we neglect” the great salvation they preached (John 16:13; Mark 16:20). When Pentecost believers heard and received the apostles’ words, they repented and were baptized and, thus saved, were added by the Lord to the church (Acts 2:37-41, 47). Christ saves every soul the same way today. Yes, we must hear Jesus today. How? By receiving, obeying, and continuing in the word His apostles taught (Acts 2:41-42; 10:42-43; 1 Cor. 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14–15, NKJV)
Paul’s sequential flourish of rhetorical questions reaches an apex with the glorious gospel of peace with God and its welcomed messengers. Nahum wrote of the impending downfall of Nineveh, the great enemy of righteousness whose sins doomed her to destruction. God was against her and would be laid waste by Babylon (Nahum 3:5-7). Messengers shouted the good news of Nineveh’s demise from the mountaintops; Peace had arrived (Nahum 1:15). Nahum’s portrait of this victorious proclamation typifies the more significant announcement of sin and death’s defeat by the Son of God. His gospel declares deliverance from sin’s bondage and death. It heralds salvation’s peace with God through Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6; Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 1:20-22). Preaching the gospel of Christ is essential for sinners to hear its saving message. Otherwise, they cannot believe in Christ and call on Him for salvation (Rom. 10:12-13; Acts 22:16). And so, Christ sent out His apostles to preach the gospel of peace to the world (Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20). Early Christians went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Christians continue to walk in their steps, bringing the glad tidings of good things, the gospel of peace.
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).
28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:28–29, NKJV).
Those who heard Jesus’s message were astonished when His sermon on the mountain concluded. Utter amazement swept over the Galilean crowd who, with rapt attention, had listened to the Teacher from Nazareth. They had not heard teaching like this before. Jesus taught authoritatively from within Himself, not like the rabbis in their synagogues who leaned upon previous experts in the law to support their premises. Jesus spoke truth with the authority of heaven, independent of what men opined and postulated. His words bore the voice of heaven’s power (not the impotent regulations of men). They still do. Jesus competently and boldly taught the righteousness of the kingdom because He possessed the authority (power, the right) to do so. He is God with us, the Word who became flesh, full of grace and truth (Matt. 1:23; John 1:1-3, 14, 17). To honor the Father, we must hear (receive) the teachings of His Son, Jesus (Matt. 17:5). We stand in awe of the truth Jesus taught and its power to save the lost and secure the saved (Matt. 4:23; 9:35). So may we ever submit to the authority of Jesus Christ and be counted righteous by faith instead of futilely trying to establish our own brand of righteousness (Matt. 5:20; Rom. 1:16-17; 10:1-3). The Master Teacher has spoken. He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matt. 13:9, 13-17).