Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reforming the church starts with having the ears to hear

I have had the opportunity to speak with many Christians over the past 15 years that I have been a believer. And one of the most common topics of conversation has been the topic of free will. Most Christians, at least in America and especially the south, seem to think that they do have free will. When it comes to this topic they tell me something like this. They say that first people must hear the Word of God and then they can decide by their own free will whether they want to follow Him or not.

I have to admit that sounds really good at first. I could believe that if it weren't for the Word of God. Because when you really study the Bible you will find that the idea of free will is nowhere to be found.

Sure you may find a verse here or a verse there. Like Old MacDonald, "here a verse, there a verse, every where a verse, verse." Anyone can take a verse here or there and rip it out of its context and make it say whatever you want it to. But the truth is, those verses always end up explaining more about what God wills and what God has done than what we have done. And what we have done is only because He willed it to be done, not because we were free outside of His will.

James 4:13-15
Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

Now back to the people who say that once we hear the Word of God preached then it is up to our free will to believe and follow Christ or not.

The problem with their reasoning is they are only partly right. People do need to hear the Word of God preached and people do need to choose Christ in order to know Him. In other words, they must display faith in Him at some point. I have no argument with them over that. All of that is biblical and true. You must hear and you must believe in order to be saved.

Romans 10:14 (NASB)
"How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him who they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?"

The question is this, is their hearing and is their believing by their own free will? No. That is simply not in the Bible. 
John 1:12-13
But as many as received Him, to them He had given the power (the ability) to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, (because) they were not born of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but they were born again by the will of God.

At the fall in the garden, mankind did not simply fall out of a tree and break their legs, they fell totally and completely and died. God said, that is Adam and Eve ate from the tree they would surely, "die." That is die spiritually. They would;d lose all ability to choose any spiritual good at all. And they did. Now all people are dead in sin.

Ephesians 2:1
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…

If we are going to be “conformed into the image of Christ” we need to start with understanding Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) and molding all of our thoughts to it and not how we feel.

A few verses down from Romans 10:14 is Romans 10:17, which says
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.

You see what this verse does? It is the summary verse of how our salvation works. You need faith and you need to hear and your need the Word of Christ. All of those elements together create salvation in the heart of a sinner.

Faith must come from hearing. So we know where faith comes from, but where does “hearing” come from?

Here is the key to the whole understanding of salvation. The Bible never talks about hearing the Word of God in the physical sense when it comes to salvation.  Anyone can show up at any given church on any given Sunday and be physically present with physical ears and listen to the Bible read and preached, but no one on their own can “hear” that what is actually being preached and read is the Word of God and respond to that word.

No one can “hear” Word of God as the Gospel call on their own and respond. Why? Because they don’t have the ears yet. They are dead. And dead people can’t hear and can’t respond and can’t produce the faith and repentance it takes to be saved!

Isaiah 43:8
They are blind, even though they have eyes, and they are deaf, even though they have ears.

In order to go from simply using physical ears to hear a physical Bible read, to using spiritual ears to hear the living Word of God, a person must be raised from the dead and given new eyes and new ears.

And do you know whose command accomplishes that? Do you know what sovereign general simply speaks and raises the dead? Simply gives the Word and blind men see and deaf men hear? Jesus Christ!

Romans 10:17
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.

Hearing comes from the Word of Christ. And when Christ gives the Word to a dead sinner’s heart they come alive and hear the Gospel and respond!

He gives them ears hear what they could never hear on their own! "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt.11:15).

Jesus also said, "Many are called but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14). Every time a preacher rises to the pulpit and pours out his heart to preach an accurate Gospel message he is in his own ability calling men to respond to that message. He is calling the people who are physically present to receive that Gospel and be changed by it, but unless those people are given ears to hear the Word of God, unless they are chosen by the Word of Christ, they will never come, they will never respond and they will never be changed.

But if they are changed, if they do respond, and again I don't mean physically coming to the altar, or physically talking to the preacher or praying a prayer or signing a card, I mean if they spiritually respond. If their hearts are actually changed by the Gospel message, then they will begin to believe in and follow Christ! They will begin to realize their sin and run after the one who can free them from it.

John Piper recently asked the question: "Christian, have you thanked God (like Paul) that you heard the words of man as the very words of God?"

1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the Word of God, which also PERFORMS ITS WORK IN YOU, who believe.

In other words, when men accurately preach the Word of God, just because you are physically there and physically hear them, that does not necessarily mean that you can spiritually believe in it as the Word of God. You cannot create your own spiritual ears or your own spiritual heart to hear and believe! It must be created in you.

And these people…the people with ears to hear and eyes to see and new hearts follow with, they love the church. Pastors don’t have to call them and look for them and knock on their doors wondering why they aren’t worshipping regularly with the body. These people are running to the church building every time the doors are open because they can’t wait to hear what they now have ears to hear with - the voice of their Savior through the Word of God!

John 10:27
My sheep HEAR My voice and I know them, and they follow Me.

This is the heartbeat of the Gospel. So many people today think far too little of God and far too much of themselves. This understanding of the sovereignty of God in salvation reverses that. It thinks much of God and little of man (which is the view of Scripture), so that God is now in His rightful place...the highest and most exalted place possible, where He alone saves sinners according to His will and for His glory!
Isaiah 48:9-11
"For My own sake I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another."

This is the heartbeat of reforming the church. It does not matter how well the preacher preaches, if the church is not made up of sheep that long to hear their Savior so they can follow Him in every area of their lives. 

A word to pastors: So what part do we play? We make absolutely sure that the Gospel we are preaching is the Word of Christ and nothing less and then we feed it to our people over and over again. And as we do that we pray like crazy that our loving God will graciously grant our people the ears to hear. In other words we spend hours on our faces before the throne of grace on behalf of our people. Because before they are our people they are His people. And we must be completely dependent upon God to save Hs people and reform His church. He is our only hope and He wants it that way!

No comments:

Post a Comment

PLEASE READ BEFORE POSTING: Before you can post a comment or question you must first click "Join this site" at the top right hand corner of this page. I am not only the author & creator of this blog, I am also the moderator of all comments & questions you might have. And I welcome your feedback. All I ask is that you do not write anything inflammatory or argumentative. I will review your comments before allowing them to be seen publicly. I look forward to reading any thoughts or questions you might have as you read my posts. Thank you for visiting my blog.