Such is the title to the concluding chapter of Ken Ramey’s book, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word , (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010; pp.103ff.). This final section stresses the vital importance of how we listen to God’s Word preached from the viewpoint of Jesus’ closing words to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.7:24-27).
To remind us of Jesus’ words in that spiritual lesson, let’s put those words in front of us:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
In this light, Ramey makes these comments:
Ask yourself, ‘What could possibly be more relevant than knowing that both those how preach and those who listen must give an account to Christ when He returns?’ At the final judgment, the listeners will stand alongside the preachers and be held accountable for the part they played in the preaching of God’s Word (2 Tim.4:1-3). God’s Word itself will be the solemn standard by which both preachers and hearers will be judged (John 12:47-48). While the preachers are judged by the sermons they preached, the listeners will be judged by the sermons they heard.
…Therefore, whenever you sit under the preaching of God’s Word, what should be in the forefront of your mind is that fearful day when you will be judged based on how receptive and responsive you were to what you heard. …what you do with what God has said in His Word determines not only what kind of life you have here on earth, but also where you will spend eternity. That is the bottom line of the Sermon on the Mount. …Jesus concluded His famous sermon by calling on all those who were listening to act on what He had told them. He challenged them to put into practice everything He had just preached.
…Jesus gave a closing illustration that contrasted two types of builders: a wise builder and a foolish builder. These two builders exemplify the two ways people respond to Christ’s words. The wise builder represents those people who hear and obey His Word, and the foolish builder represents those people who hear but disobey His Word. All of us are in the process of building a house, that is to say, living our lives. We are all like one of these two builders. What kind of builder we are will determine how our life ends up. How we build has eternal consequences – it will lead to either eternal salvation or eternal damnation. Heaven and hell are on the line when it comes to listening to God’s Word.
And Ramey closes with a quote from Puritan David Clarkson, which ends this subject with utmost solemnity:
Hearing is the provision made for the soul’s eternal well-being, its everlasting welfare depends on it; if you fail here, your souls perish without remedy. For salvation comes by faith and faith comes by hearing. It is an act of eternal consequence. According to our hearing, so shall the state of our souls be to eternity.
Which leads the author to end the book with this sentence: “So listen to every sermon in light of eternity, because every sermon is truly a matter of life and death.”
Shall we not pray for God’s mercy and grace as we listen to the Word today and every Lord’s day?
Taken from “The Three R’s Blog”
Itching Ear Epidemic
But this [a lack of solid biblical, expositional preaching] doesn’t seem to bother many churchgoers. In fact, if given the option between a systematic, verse-by-verse exposition of a book of the Bible or a more topical message where verses are plucked from all over Scripture and combined to create a special series on practical issues like marriage, parenting, sex, money, work, dating, stress, etc., most churchgoers would pick the topical series as their favorite because in their minds it in easier and more enjoyable to listen to and is seemingly more helpful to their everyday lives. This should come as no surprise since the charge Paul gave to Timothy was given with a view to the future when the church ‘will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears fro the truth, and will turn aside to myths’ (2 Tim.4:3-4). We are living in that time period about which Paul warned Timothy.
There are lots of people in churches today who will not put up with sound, doctrinal preaching. They are intolerant of anyone who gets up behind a pulpit and preaches truth that confronts their sinful lifestyle or makes them feel uncomfortable. They flat-out refuse to sit there and listen. If they feel like the preacher is stepping on their toes, they either run him out of the church or find another church where the preacher strokes their ears and makes them leave church feeling good about themselves. They successfully insulate themselves from what they consider the offensive truths of the Bible by surrounding themselves with preachers who caress them rather than confront them, who tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. They evaluate preachers based not on whether their teaching lines up with the Scriptures, but on whether it tickles their fancies, scratches them where they itch, and satisfies their craving to always be encouraged and entertained. It seems most people these days prefer listening to light, uplifting, entertaining messages. If given the choice, they would rather hear fictional stories than biblical truths.
Taken from chapter 4 of Ken Ramey’s book, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word , (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010). This chapter treats Paul’s warning to Timothy in 2 Tim.4:1-4 and is titled “The Itching Ear Epidemic” (pp.51ff.). In it the author speaks both to preachers and to listeners.
in light of what Ramey writes here, we may examine ourselves concerning our own propensity for “itching ears.” Have we been affected by this epidemic found in the churches about us? May God give us a hunger for the pure preaching of the gospel according to His Word and make us faithful listeners of such spiritual food.
Taken from “The Three R’s Blog “