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Sermon #08 — James Series
Title: Hearing the Word of God
Text: James 1:19-20
Subject: Hearing the Word of God
Date: Tuesday Evening — March 24, 2015
Readings: Allen Kibby and Larry Brown
The title of my message tonight is Hearing the Word of God. I want to give you some plain, simple, biblical instructions on how to hear the preaching of the Gospel. The Scriptures give us much instruction about this business of hearing the Gospel and how we are to hear it, because much instruction is needed. Open you Bibles to the first chapter of the Book of James, James 1:19-20, and hear what God says in his Word about Hearing the Word of God.
(James 1:19) “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: (20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
Whenever you come into the house of God, it should be with an intense desire to hear the Word of God.
Thomas Manton made this wise observation…
“If we were as swift to hear as we are ready to speak there would be less wrath and more profit in our meetings.”
Usually, I find that when people do not profit from the ministry of the Word it is because they practice exactly the opposite of what James here commands. They are slow to hear, swift to speak, and swift to anger. There are many who seem attend church for no other reason than to find some point of disagreement. They can hardly wait for the preacher to finish speaking so that they can point out his errors. Such people are a continual source of strife and division. They do not worship, and they do everything they can to keep others from worshipping. Let us guard against this tendency of proud, self-willed flesh. May God make us swift to hear and slow to speak.
(Ecclesiastes 5:1-2) “Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. (2) Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.”
Parable of the Sower
In the 8th chapter of Luke’s Gospel narrative the Lord Jesus Christ gives us a word of instruction in this matter. He says, “Take heed how ye hear.” Knowing that a great multitude of people were gathered together to hear him out of every city, and knowing that most of them would be hearers only, and not doers of the Word, our Lord spoke to them by a parable. He used the similitude of a farmer who went out to sow his seed (Luke 8:4-15). You know the parable.
(Luke 8:4-15) “And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: (5) A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. (6) And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. (7) And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. (8) And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (9) And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? (10) And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. (11) Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. (12) Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. (13) They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. (14) And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. (15) But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
In the parable the Savior plainly tells us that few there are, in any group of hearers, who receive any saving benefit from the preaching of the Gospel.
Three things are evident in the parable of the sower.
1. The preaching of the Gospel is sowing of the seed of life.
2. Only those whose hearts are made good by the regenerating power and grace of God the Holy Ghost receive the Word to the saving of their souls.
3. Once we have received the good seed of the Gospel into our hearts, we must take care that nothing chokes it out and destroys its influence.
Now, hear the warning the Son of God gives to all who sit where you sit and hear what you hear.
(Luke 8:18) “Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.”
Proposition: If we would profit from the ordinance of God, if we would profit spiritually and eternally from the preaching of the Gospel, we must take heed how we hear it.
Divisions: I want to do two things in this message.
1. First, I want to show you that we ought to seize every opportunity God gives us to hear the Gospel.
2. Second, I want to give you some suggestions that, I hope, may help you to hear the Gospel with spiritual profit.
Seize the Opportunity
First, I want to show you that we ought to seize every opportunity God gives us to hear the Gospel. — Let us take care that nothing chokes out the influence of the Gospel in our lives. Like Simeon and Anna, I want to be found in the house of God, beholding God’s Salvation, speaking the praise of Christ, and learning of him. Like Mephibosheth, I want to be found sitting at the King’s table. Like Mary, I want to be found sitting at his feet, hearing his Word.
Make certain that in hearing, you hear the Gospel. I can’t tell you how often I hear from men and women around the world who write to me or call me, asking questions about the things of God, who tell me that the reason they have called me, or the reason they have written to me is that their pastor does not preach the Gospel.
· If a preacher does not preach the Gospel, don’t listen to that preacher!
· If the church you attend does not believe the Gospel, find another church!
Don’t ever delude yourself into thinking that religion is good. Only Gospel religion is good. All other religion is deadly and damning. It is not going to church that profits our souls. It is not the hearing sermons that profits us. It is not religious chatter that benefits us. It is the preaching of the Gospel, the declaration of our great God, his greatness, his goodness, his glory, and his wondrous works in the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Galatians 6:14) “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
It is from this place, the house of God, that God commands his blessing upon his people (Psalm 133:3). No wonder David sang as he did (Psalm 122:1-9).
(Psalms 122) “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD. (2) Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem. (3) Jerusalem is builded as a city that is compact together: (4) Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the LORD. (5) For there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David. (6) Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee. (7) Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces. (8) For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee. (9) Because of the house of the LORD our God I will seek thy good.”
(Psalms 84:10) “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
This business of hearing the Word preached is so important that our risen Savior has specifically given the ministry of the Gospel to his Church as one of his chief ascension gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12).
(Psalms 68:18-19) “Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. (19) Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.”
(Ephesians 4:11-12) “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (12) For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”
God has always gifted specific, chosen men for the work of the ministry, to serve the souls of men, men whom he has specifically called to this great work.
· Jude tells us, that “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied (or preached) concerning the Lord’s coming with ten thousand of his saints to judgment.”
· Peter tells us that Noah was “a preacher of righteousness,” the righteousness of God.
· God never left himself without witness, even in those earliest times, but at sundry times and after in diverse ways, spoke to our fathers by the prophets.
· After the giving of the law, the Lord God constantly separated to himself a certain order of men to preach to, as well as pray for his people. Israel always had her prophets and her priests.
· Though the Jews were often carried away into captivity, and because of their sins scattered abroad among the nations, yet God faithfully and graciously kept up a remnant of prophets and preachers, like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and others, to reprove, instruct, and call men to repentance.
Great as those days were, we live in a better day with better provisions.
· We have the complete Revelation of God in Holy Scripture.
· God’s Church today benefits from more than 2000 years of Gospel preaching.
· In our day, in spite of the rampant heresy of this apostate religious age we are blessed of God with the clearest, fullest preaching of the Gospel this world has ever known.
When our Lord Jesus Christ, our great High-priest, had through the eternal Spirit offered himself, as a full, perfect, sufficient, effectual sacrifice and satisfaction for the sins of his people, and after his resurrection had all power committed to him, both in heaven and earth, he gave commission to his Apostles, and in them to all succeeding Gospel preachers, to “go into all the world and preach His Gospel to every creature,” promising to “be with us, (to guide, assist, strengthen, and comfort us always, even) unto the end of the world.”
Now, if it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of God’s servants everywhere, to preach the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16), it is your responsibility to hear the message God sends his servant to deliver. God does not send a man to beat the air.
Most people are utterly insensible of this great gift! They do despite to the Spirit of grace, crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, by willfully refusing to attend God’s ordained means of grace! How terrible will the end of such men be? How tormenting it will be that light should come into the world, that the glad tidings of salvation should be so very frequently proclaimed in this place, only to be despised. The spiritual manna of the Gospel, this angel’s food, is despised as a worthless thing. Our Lord declares that it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for those who despise the Gospel. Better, that men had never heard of a Savior being born, than after they have heard, not to give heed to the ministry of those who are employed as God’s ambassadors to declare the good news of free, saving grace in Christ!
George Whitfield said, “We may, though at a distance, without a spirit of prophesy, foretell the deplorable condition of such men; behold them cast into hell, lifting up their eyes, being in torment, and crying out, ‘How often would our ministers have gathered us, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings? But we would not. O that we had known in that our day, the things that belonged to our everlasting peace! But now they are forever hid from our eyes.’ Thus wretched, thus inconceivably miserable, will such be as slight and make a mock at the public preaching of the Gospel.”
Illustration: Barnard’s Sermon
The Hounds of Hell
Second, I want to give you some suggestions that, I hope, may help you to hear the Gospel with spiritual profit. — Gospel preaching is the ordinance of God, the means appointed by Christ himself for saving of his people and the building of his Kingdom among men. This is the method by which God the Holy Spirit does his work in the souls of men. Consider these facts, and you will gladly hear what I have to say, though what you hear may reprove you and though the reproof may be painful.
1. Never come to the house of God to gratify your religious curiosity. When we come to the house of God, let us come seeking to know Christ, to hear of Christ, to learn of Christ, and to worship Christ. It is not an honorable thing, but a contemptible thing to sit around and discuss endless questions about nothing, ever learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth.
(2 Timothy 3:5-7) “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (6) For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, (7) Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Flee, flee religious curiosity, as you would flee the plague! Come to the house of God with humility, ready to receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your soul.
2. Listen carefully, attentively, to the message God sends his servant to deliver to your soul. Give earnest heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God. Take great care to hear what God has to say to you.
· The Word of a King
· The Pardon of Condemned Felons
· The Reading of a Will
When God descended on Mt. Sinai in terrible majesty, to give his law, the children of Israel sat up and paid attention to his servant Moses! If they were earnest to hear the thunderings, threatenings, and terrors of the law, how gladly sinners ought to sit up and anxiously hear the preacher of the Gospel, as he proclaims the glad tidings of free grace in Christ!
· Free Pardon
· Full Redemption
· Complete Justification
· Everlasting Salvation
I have not been sent here to deliver a dry, insipid lecture on moral philosophy, legal duty, religious history, or creedal accuracy. God Almighty has sent me to unfold before you the great mystery of godliness and the mysteries of the Kingdom of his grace. I’m not reading a dime store novel to you. I am proclaiming the Word of the eternal God.
3. Here is a third word of counsel we will all be wise to hear. — Do not allow Satan, or any by whom he is served, to prejudice your mind against faithful men, sent of God to preach the Gospel to you.
Take heed, my friends, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you. If a man faithfully preaches the Gospel, receive him like the Galatians received Paul, before the Judaizers corrupted them, as an angel of God.
(1 Thessalonians 5:12-13) “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; (13) And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”
(1 Corinthians 4:1) “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
(2 Corinthians 2:17) “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”
4. Fourth, As you ought not to be prejudiced against God’s servant, so you must be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think.
God’s servants are instruments in his hands, no more and no less, just instruments by which God works in his vineyard.
(1 Corinthians 3:5-9) “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (6) I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. (7) So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. (8) Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. (9) For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.”
(1 Corinthians 3:21-23) “Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; (22) Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; (23) And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”
5. Always seek grace from God to personally apply the message to your own heart and life.
Always presume that the message was prepared with you in mind, and spoken to you alone. We are all terribly inclined to look across the room and behold a little splinter in our brother’s eye, rather than deal with the two by four in our own.
6. Sixth, If you would receive a blessing from the Lord, when you hear his Gospel preached, you should do something before the sermon, during the sermon, and after the sermon.
Before the sermon, set things in order in your life so that you come to the house of God awake and alert, and pray.
· For the Preacher
· For your Brethren
· For Lost Sinners
· For Yourself
During the sermon, listen attentively, constantly praying for God to speak to your heart, for Christ’s sake.
· A Fresh View of Christ
After the sermon, discuss the message with one another, with your family, and ask God to plant the seed sown in your own heart and in the hearts of others, for Christ’s sake.
(2 Thessalonians 3:1) “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.”
(Ephesians 6:18-19) “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; (19) And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,”
May God give us grace, that we may seriously apply our hearts to the hearing of the Gospel! I beg of you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, pray for God’s blessings upon your pastor as I endeavor to preach the Gospel to you, and pray for his blessings upon you as you hear the Word of God! If we would but take heed how we hear…
· We might yet, again, see Satan cast out like lightning.
· We might yet see sinners converted.
· We might yet see God work in us, with us, and in our midst!
· We might yet find the Word preached sharper than any two-edged sword, and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strong holds!
· The Holy Spirit might yet fall on this assembly, as he did when Peter preached the Gospel of Christ!
· The Gospel of God might yet run swiftly and run well from this place, having free course in the hearts of men.
· God Almighty, our great God and Savior, is he with whom nothing is impossible. — He who added three thousand to the church on one day in one place, is perfectly capable of doing the same again today, even here!
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for ever!” — He has promised to be with us always, even unto the end of the world. I am convinced that the reason we do not receive larger blessings from the presence of the Lord, is not because our all-powerful Redeemer’s hand is shortened, but because we do not expect them.
(Psalms 81:13-14) “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! (14) I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.”
(Isaiah 48:17-19) “Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. (18) O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea: (19) Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.”
Yes, sometimes, our God, to magnify his free grace in Christ Jesus, is found of them that sought him not. Notorious sinners are, sometimes, forcibly plucked as a firebrand out of the fire. But this is not God’s ordinary way of acting. Normally, he visits those with the power of his Spirit who humbly take heed how they hear, seeking to know him, his will, and his way, and sends the careless away not only empty, but hardened!
Take heed, therefore, how you hear. Remember, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” There I will give a strict account of the message I have preached; and you will give strict account of how you have heard! How will you be able to stand at the bar of an angry, sin-avenging Judge, and see so many messages you have despised, so many preachers, who once longed and labored for the salvation of your precious and immortal souls, brought out as swift witnesses against you?
But it shall not be so with you who with meekness receive the engrafted Word. You will be your pastor’s joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of our Lord Jesus. In that day, I will present you in a holy triumph, faultless, and unblameable, as a chaste virgin to Christ our common Redeemer, saying, “Behold I, O Lord, and the children which thou hast given me!”
“Take heed, therefore, how ye hear!”
(James 1:19-21) “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
(20) For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
(21) Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”