The words “hearing” and “listening” are very similar, and yet for the purpose of this article, allow me to offer a distinction.
Hearing: the faculty or sense by which sound is perceived.
Listening: the act of hearing attentively.
Those who hear the words of Jesus need to put forth effort to hear Him with sincerity of heart. It is entirely possible to hear the words of Jesus, and see His works among men, but still be deaf and blind to the realities of Who He is.
In Matthew 13, Jesus spoke the parable of The Sower. When He finished, His disciples asked Him why He spoke in parables. Consider the ramifications of His response to their question.
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Jesus empowered and sent out His disciples on a preaching and healing tour through Israel. Part of His preparation for them was to teach them about what kind of attitude and outlook a disciple of Christ ought to have. Lest they or we be discouraged, we need to understand…
1. What the cost is for following Jesus.
2. We need to understand the goal.
3. We need to understand the comfort in following Jesus.
We need to be reminded of the Teacher/Student relationship.
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Matthew 8:18-22 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 20And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” 21Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Most American Christians understand the concept of the need to follow Jesus at any cost. In this passage, Jesus points out two conditions that His disciples must be willing to accept: Jesus comes before creature comforts, and Jesus comes before family.
Some who follow Jesus fail these requirements in obvious ways. Other followers of Christ fail in more subtle ways. It is the second scenario that I wish to consider.
For some Christians, owning a home or homes has kept them from following Jesus closely. They haven’t rejected Him, but they have become extremely distracted and preoccupied with that which will pass away.
There is nothing inherently wrong with home ownership, but in America, it is almost considered a “God given” right to buy a home. In many minds, the Gospel includes “The American Dream”. Don’t misunderstand me, we can be homeowners and still follow Jesus. But does our home ownership compete with our efforts to follow the Lord? If owning and maintaining a home keeps us from following Jesus according to His desire for us, would we forsake home ownership?
We buy a home, and then chant the mantra about “being good stewards” of that “which God has given us”. I don’t think that the Lord would lead us to stewardship that would leave him as 2nd or 3rd on our list of our priorities. We assume that God want us to be homeowners, but for some Believers, renting would be more spiritually freeing.
For some Christians, family relations are not good, and are not viable competitors against our devotion to Christ. However, in some families, devotion to family rivals or eclipses our devotion to Jesus. This is an insidious trap. Family devotion seems so “Christian”, and yet it can become more important to the Believer than his or her relationship with Jesus.
The Christian who is overly devoted to family is a prime candidate for replacing Jesus with family. In their minds, “family devotion” is the “Christian” thing to do, therefore, it can never be wrong and can never go too far. But devotion to family can go too far, and we can exalt our devotion to family over and above our devotion to Christ. It’s not that we reject Jesus, it’s just that family relationships become His competition.
I am thankful for all who desire to follow Jesus. I am thankful for my salvation. May we all be very careful in these two seemingly innocent aspects of life. May we never allow even “good” things to hinder our devotion and obedience to Jesus. Be careful to not allow the good to replace the best.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
“…unless we day by day voluntarily and deliberately remind ourselves of this righteousness we need, we are not very likely to be hungering and thirsting after it. The man who truly hungers and thirsts after it makes himself look at it every day.
“But”, you say, “I am so tremendously busy. Look at my agenda. Where have I time?” I say if you are hungering and thirsting after righteousness you will find time. You will order your life, you will say, “First things must come first…” Where there is a will, there is a way. It is amazing how we find time to do the things we want to.
The man who is hungering and thirsting after righteousness always puts himself in the way of getting it. You cannot create it of yourself…But at any rate, you do know there are certain ways it seems to have come to [the heroes of the faith] so you begin to imitate their example.
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Matthew 5:1, 2 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…
We only know what Jesus went on to say because “His disciples came to Him…”, and they eventually wrote it down for us.
The multitudes did come to Him (7:28), but His disciples came to Him with the expressed purpose of learning. Read more »