“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?
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5–6, NKJV)
The apostles understood they would need faith to forgive others and avoid being offenses (Lk. 17:1-4). Their request for Jesus to increase their faith did not go unanswered. The Lord explained to them how to increase in faith (Lk. 17:6-10). Please note, the Lord did not promise to send them an “enabling grace” to empower them with the ability to believe. Since faith comes by hearing, and hearing God comes from His word, we can expect our faith to increase as we rely on His word to lead us (Rom. 10:17). We must trust the power of faith for our faith to increase (v. 6). We must practice our faith, trusting God’s will is fulfilled in us as we put our faith into action (Phil. 2:12-13). Little faith can accomplish great things because Christ dwells in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17-20). We devote ourselves to the power of faith when we obey His word. Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). To increase in faith, use your present faith to do what Christ commands. In the context of this passage, that means start forgiving the way Jesus said to forgive (Lk. 17:3-4). Faith activates our obedience, showing we trust the power of faith.
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22–25, NKJV)
This passage identifies the word of God and describes what it does. First, the word of God is “the truth” (v. 22). The word of God is not a truth among many other truths. It is the truth, it is exclusive, accurate and reliable because is the word of God, not the word of men (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The truth of God purifies the soul when it is obeyed (v. 22; Hebrews 5:9). Our souls cannot be purified unless we obey the truth. Next, the word of God is the seed that produces the new birth (v. 23). The sinner is “born again” when this seed is planted in the heart and obeyed from the heart (Luke 8:11, 15). Those who believe sinners are born again without obedience must ignore this verse (John 3:3, 5). The word of God is powerful, incorruptible and “endures forever” (v. 23, 25). The first-century gospel will do its work in this century. We must receive and obey the truth – the incorruptible word – to be purified of sins and to truly love one another (John 8:31-32; 13:34-35).
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39, NKJV)
The Bible records many promises of God, but, three He made to Abram are especially profound. God promised a nation, a land and a seed to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 22:18). The Bible is a record of God keeping these promises. The nation promise was fulfilled when Israel became a nation after being delivered from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 19:5-6). God kept the land promise to Israel when they invaded Canaan and “took possession of it and dwelt in it” (Joshua 21:43; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7-8, 24). The promise that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” was restated to king David and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 13:22-26; Galatians 3:15-16). Thus, God’s promise to bless the whole world (Jews and Gentiles) is fulfilled Jesus, the Savior of the world (Acts 13:23, 32-34). As Paul preached, “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through is Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38). The “blessing of Abraham” is salvation in Christ, spiritual relief and life from sin’s bondage and death (Acts 3:19; Galatians 3:14). Those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins have the promise (Galatians 3:22, 26-29). They are saved! Let us thank and praise God for keeping His promises.
1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3, NKJV)
This three-fold promise God made to Abram (Abraham) forms the thesis statement of the rest of the Bible. Its pages show God keeping His promise to make a great nation of Abraham’s offspring when He brought out the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, and established Israel as a holy nation (Genesis 12:2; Exodus 19:4-6). The Scriptures show God keeping His promise to give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham (“To your descendants I will give this land,” Genesis 12:7, 1). God kept His word as He promised, and gave Israel “all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers” (Joshua 21:43-45; Nehemiah 9:7-8). The Scriptures show God keeping His promise to bless all nations through the Seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 22:18). In Jesus Christ, “the blessing of Abraham” (redemption from sin) is available to all flesh (Galatians 3:14, 16, 22-29; 4:4-6). Let us praise God for His matchless wisdom, glory, power, love, mercy and grace! Salvation is only through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). The Bible teaches us how to be saved in Him (Acts 2:36-41; 10:34-35). The Bible is truly remarkable, and invaluable (2 Timothy 3:15-17).
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3–5, NKJV)
The new birth is a spiritual birth, not a physical one: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which his born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). There is one new birth, with two parts (water and the Spirit). To be “born again” one must be “born of water and the Spirit.” What is the “water” of the new birth? It is not the water of physical birth, but the water of spiritual birth. It is the “washing of water” that happens when sin is washed away by the blood of Christ. It is the cleansing that occurs in water baptism (read Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3; Acts 8:35-39). The Bible says, “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21, KJV). What is “the Spirit” of the new birth? It is the Spirit of God, whose seed (the word of the kingdom) is planted into the heart of the sinner (Matt. 13:19, 23; Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 1:22-23). The Spirit of God acts upon the heart by His word, producing faith, convicting the sinner, and persuading him to obey Jesus to be saved (Acts 2:37-38, 39-41). The new birth is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Have you been born of water and the Spirit? Only then can you enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).