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Faith Comes by Hearing

Romans 10:17

Jim Davis

A lady was having an elegant party and wanted to serve mushrooms, but was a little uncertain about the mushrooms, so she fed some to the dog. He ate them and everything seemed all right, so the mushrooms were prepared and served. During the party the maid hurried to the hostess and said, "The dog is dead." The guests rushed to the hospital and had their stomachs pumped. After the confusion was over, the maid said, "That car sure did mess up the dog."

We often do not really hear what is said. President Franklin D. Roosevelt got tired of smiling that big smile and saying the usual things at all those White House receptions. So, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was paying attention to what he was saying. As each person came up to him with extended hand, he flashed that big smile and said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." People would automatically respond with comments such as "How lovely!" or "Just continue with your great work!" Nobody listened to what he was saying, except one foreign diplomat. When the president said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," The diplomat responded softly, "I'm sure she had it coming to her."

Just having the ability to hear doesn't guarantee an accurate reception of a message. Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." (Luke 8:8 NIV)

Hearing the Gospel Is Our Primary Task

After listening restlessly to a long and tedious sermon, a 6-year-old boy asked his father what the preacher did the rest of the week. "Oh, he's a very busy man," the father replied. "He takes care of church business, visits the sick, ministers to the poor.... And then he has to have time to rest up. Talking in public isn't an easy job, you know."

The boy thought about that, then said, "Well, listening ain't easy, either."

One thing that really makes hearing difficult is that what we already believe and feel affects what we hear.

Matthew 13:13-15
This is why I speak to them in parables: "Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: "'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' (NIV)

The trouble with hearing is that often what we believe and feel comfortable with affects how we hear. We endeavor to interpret everything we hear in light of what we already know. This kind of hearing rejects what is not consistent with what I already believe. It is little wonder that Jesus warns us to take heed to how we hear.

Think about the weakness of this kind of approach to hearing and knowing God. Only accepting what we hear, which confirms what we already believe, closes our minds and hearts to discovery. What scientist would go out and on a study in any field of science rejecting everything that didn't confirm what he already believed? The purpose of scientific discovery is to validate or invalidate what we know or think we know.

There was a time when everyone believed the world was flat. What if no one ever challenged that belief? What if we were still walking around on what we believed was a flat earth? Too many are afraid to have what they believe and feel challenged. But challenging what we believe is never dangerous. It will only confirm or deny what we believe and feel.

Sadly, too often the world does not encourage and honest search for truth. We rather remain comfortable with what we already believe. Galileo an Italian astronomer and physicist (1564-1642) was the first to use a telescope to study the stars (1610), he was an outspoken advocate of Copernicus's theory that the sun forms the center of the universe, which led to his persecution and imprisonment by the Inquisition (1633). At the time of this theory men believed that man and the earth was the center of the universe. A continual search for truth is absolutely essential in religion and science.

The first step to coming to God is hearing what he says. This should be the purpose of a study of the scriptures. We must allow the scriptures to validate or invalidate our beliefs.

I know an atheist that was asking a preacher some hard questions. The preacher told the atheist that he ought not to ask such questions. The preacher was actually asking the man to close his mind to further discovery. Of course, that was the end of the conversation.

It's easy to be completely sincere about what you believe and yet be badly mistaken! There was a physician who was administering a controlled mixture of oxygen and anesthetic gas to a patient in a New York hospital. When one of the tanks was empty, the doctor used a new one marked Oxygen. Almost immediately the patient died.

The coroner's autopsy revealed carbon dioxide poisoning. Upon investigation the second tank was found to contain pure CO2 and had somehow been mislabeled. The manufacturer denied any wrongdoing. No one knew how it could have gotten by the inspectors. The doctor had no doubt that he was using oxygen when he administered the lethal gas. No one wanted the tragedy to happen, yet they were all sincerely wrong.

This incident demonstrates that good intentions are not enough. Likewise, in the matter of salvation, many people are saying, "As long as I am sincere, I'll come out all right in the end." But they are sadly mistaken. One must be absolutely certain about eternal matters. Many things called "Salvation," "Forgiveness," and "Life" are mislabeled.

When these things are mislabeled they prevent our reception of God's Word. Hearing can only come by the Word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Believing An Important Part of Hearing

While making a brief Christmas address to the people of the British Empire in 1939, King George VI spoke of his faith in God's leading. World War II had begun, and Great Britain faced the onslaughts of Hitler's reckless military barrage. As the King spoke to the people on that Christmas day, he concluded his remarks with these lines written by Minnie Louise Haskins some 30 years earlier: "And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: 'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown." And he replied: 'Go out into the darkness and put your hand in the Hand of God.' That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.'"

We don't have to fear. We have Someone to guide us even in the darkest night. That's why the psalmist could say, "Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me." God's presence enables us to face the unknown with complete confidence.

Faith in God is the only thing that will open our hearts to truth. When we hear something that conflicts with what we feel and believe in our hearts, it may be time to place our hand into the hand of God and allow him to lead us out of our darkness. It is faith in God that will take us beyond the limitations of sense and feeling. Faith will pick us up where sense and feeling will let us down. Faith in God is the only thing that will allow us to truly hear what he is saying.

True faith continually leads us into the unknown but it always brings us into the presence of God. I am not talking about some kind of subjective revelation that has no basis in the revealed, objective, received, written Word. Too many rely on their own private revelations interpreting the Word as they please. It should be obvious that people like Jim Jones, David Koresh and the Hale Bob Comet folks have perverted the truth of God through their own private interpretations. Someone suggested that their private interpretations had more to do with indigestion than the leading of the Spirit.

It is the Word of God that leads us safely through the unknown. Whatever we believe---must be consistent with God's written Word. If we believe and feel that something is so, but we cannot find support for it in the Word we must conclude that what we believe and feel isn't from God.

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

Repentance Is the Key to Hearing

We can only really hear God with a repentant heart. An atheistic barber, walking through the city slums with a minister, remarked, "This is why I can't believe in a God of love. If He is as kind as they say, why does He permit all this poverty, disease, and squalor? How can He allow these poor people to be addicted to dope and other character-destroying habits?"

The minister was silent until they met a man who was especially unkempt and filthy. His hair was hanging down his neck, and he had half an inch of stubble on his face. The preacher was ready with his response: "You can't be a very good barber or you wouldn't permit a man like that to continue living in this neighborhood without a haircut and a shave."

Indignantly the atheist answered, "Why blame me for that man's condition? I can't help it if he's like that. He has never given me a chance! If he would only come to my shop, I could fix him up and make him look like a gentleman!"

Giving the barber a penetrating look, the minister said, "Then don't blame God for allowing these people to continue in their evil ways when He longs to speak to them and give them directions for salvaging their lives. They are slaves to sin and evil habits because they refuse to heed God's word and accept the One who died to save and deliver them."

Only those who are open to follow God can truly hear. Only as we follow the light, will we have new light by which to walk.

Matthew 13:11-12
He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. (NIV)
Note that Jesus says, "Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance . . ." This is spoken in the context of Christ saying, "He that hath ears, let him hear." Our reception of what we hear determines whether God will reveal more. Only as we endeavor to live up to what we already know will we get more knowledge.

In Luke's account, Luke writes in the same context: "Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him." (Luke 8:18 NIV) This is a clear indication that if we do not properly receive what we have heard we will lose what we have gained.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. (NKJ)
We can quench the Spirit's burning desire to lead us. If the Spirit is leading us, and we come to a point that we refuse to follow, it is at that point that we will cease to learn more of God's revealed will. It is at that point that God will cease giving us wisdom.

It is true that we can continue to study the Word of God, we can analyze it, dissect it and even memorize it, but without a determination to turn our lives in repentance . . . unless their is a determination to line our actions and thinking up with God's word, the Spirit of God will cease to lead us. A fleshly effort to understand the Word through research and history is far different than one's effort to understand and obey. The results are far different also. If we are not careful we will only be walking in what we think or some scholar thinks.

There must be a living dependence upon what is revealed before we can truly hear more. When we commit in repentance to obey God's Word, God will enable us to understand more. When we come to God seeking wisdom to understand and apply his word to our lives, it is at that moment that we will receive understanding from God. Only as we are open to hear God and receive and act upon His word can we ever receive further revelation from Him.

Romans 10:8-11
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (NIV)
Hearing Must Lead to Confession

The Scriptures are full of expressions like "the word of the Lord came unto me," and "God spoke all these words." Someone has counted such phrases and says that they appear 680 times in the Pentateuch, 196 times in its poetical books, 481 times in the historical writings, and 370 times in its prophetic portions. Never did the Lord communicate to us more clearly, however, than in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ; for He is the brightness of the Father's glory, "the express image of His person." One writer has aptly commented, "Jesus is the best photograph God ever had taken."

Jesus is the perfect communication of God. Jesus said, "If you have seen me, you have seen the father." (John 14:9)

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (NIV)

All of us have bought an item that needed to be assembled. The manufacture gives you written instructions along with a blown up diagram of how everything fits together. That is what God has done in Christ. God has given us instructions but he gave us a living diagram of how his word works in the life of Christ.

Jesus' actions and words were so effective in revealing God's plan that when two blind men followed him they called out to him, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" (Matthew 9:27) They understood whom Jesus was when others failed to understand. Jesus made it possible for even the blind to see.

Matthew 9:27-30
As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" "Yes, Lord," they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith will it be done to you"; and their sight was restored. (NIV)

It is not enough to hear the word. We must see how it is to work through the life of Christ.

Romans 10:8-11
But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (NIV)

Confessing Christ is paramount to declaring you dependence on hearing what God has to say through Christ. It is little wonder that John in the opening of his gospel refers to Jesus as the "Word." Christ is the communication of God and we must hear him.


When Matthew speaks of hearing he reveals that Jesus said "He that hath ears, let him hear."

When Mark speaks of hearing he reveals that Jesus said, "Be careful what we hear."

When Luke speaks of hearing he reveals that Jesus said, "Take heed how you hear."

Proverbs 2:6-10
For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair-- every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. (NIV)

Steps to salvation: Hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized.


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