“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law” (Mt. 7.28-29).
One of the members of our church is an audiologist. Dr. Tony Evans tests people’s hearing. The hearing tests he conducts for his patients require all distractions to be removed. So, he has them enter into a little soundproof room so nothing else can compete except for the one sound to which they are to listen. Sometimes, I think the reason many Christians and churches struggle to hear God very well is because of all the digital distraction and information overload. As one auditory expert has noted, “‘You never listen’ is not just the complaint of a problematic relationship, it has also become an epidemic in a world that is exchanging convenience for content, speed for meaning.”
Yet, I wonder, if we could have all the distractions removed from our lives would we really hear God any better? The truth is that the greatest message in the world will never substitute for good hearing.
We recently finished an extended series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Without a doubt, it is the most powerful sermon ever given. I envy those who were privileged enough to sit and listen to the greatest preacher who ever lived. But as amazing as his sermon was, the crowds who heard it were apparently even more impressed by the way Jesus said it. They knew that this straight-talking Galilean was intimately familiar with what he said. He taught with authority and power. Another gospel writer says that “the crowd listened to him with delight” (Mark 12.37). He was not like their other religious teachers – hollow-sounding moralists who talked a better game than they lived. Yet, for all the admiration they held for this Jesus whom they followed around (see 8.1), the vast majority, the crowds, never received the message he delivered. Then as now, the crowds tend to be wowed in the moment but walk away over time. The crowds end up choosing “the road that leads to destruction” (7.13). Why? How could you possibly miss the message from such a great teacher? C. S. Lewis gives an illustration from his own life of the attitude of many who hear the gospel and fail to act upon it writing…
“When I was a child I often had a toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin: but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist the next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie.”
In Jesus’ day of tangible, physical presence, the easiest solution to ending an unpleasant conversation or to stop hearing a deranged person’s half-conversation was simply to walk away (John 6.6, 66-67). The same is true in our day. Ultimately, the crowds will always walk away because they cannot hear what he says. The truth is, following Jesus has always meant that it will cost you something. Those who love him prove it by what they do with his message. The first duty of love – is to listen. The bible is clear that the best test of our HEARING is how well we are DOING.
I recall a song from a few years back by the late Keith Green, called “The Sheep and the Goats”. It’s last few lines remind us that we can fool ourselves into thinking we are listening to Jesus when really we are not. Here is a link to the song lyrics: https://play.google.com/music/preview/Tw3g7bvphaqodx7cbetjeipa2na?lyrics=1&utm_source=google&utm_medium=search&utm_campaign=lyrics&pcampaignid=kp-lyrics