Hearing, But Not Listening

I preach mainly to believers to call them to repentance, and back on the right path. God is calling you to stay on His holy path.

You say, 'I just don't understand why people won't give themselves over to God.' You think, 'I seek the Lord with my whole heart.' Do you? I've seen so many. Let me correct that, 'too many', who live very religiously, but close their eyes to condemnation of things in their lives. What kind of commitment is this? If you really love God, you'll be willing to sacrifice opinions, beliefs and life-styles that are not His truth. We are to worship God in Spirit and in TRUTH (John 4:23,24)! If we don't love truth, no matter what its cost, we're turning our backs on God.
Spiritually speaking, I've seen Christians who will swear that 2+2=5. You can show them the science of math. You can give the clearest examples with rocks, but no matter what, they will not accept that 2+2=4. The truth doesn't really matter to them. What does matter? Whatever makes them happy. As long as they are content, they refuse to be plowed up by honest, hard-hitting, scripturally undeniable facts. They feel better with their selected answer, and refuse to consider evidence.

In the face of such math haters, I ask, 'What good is my preaching?' Ezekiel had this same grievance:

32 And, lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.    
Ezekiel 33:32
The people enjoyed the 'prophetic' ministry of Ezekiel. They enjoyed the fiery speech of rebuke. They loved those, 'thus saith the Lord's'. Unless they hearkened, their 'church attendance' with Ezekiel was just a fantasy game! Are you doing the same? Do you love most of the words, but those you can't accept just overlook? Will all reasoning, all scriptural proof, fail to ruffle you? If I show you challenging passages, do you take leaps of added man-made doctrines to come about with the justification you need? The result is still the same. The smiling crowd around Ezekiel. The smiling people that file past Ezekiel out of the synagogue, shaking his hand with a, 'Great sermon Ezekiel!'

What good was Ezekiel's preaching? The good it did wasn't for the benefit of his listeners. It served as a witness against them before God. In the Day of Judgment, they will not be able to deny they heard. They just stuffed cotton in their ears when he got to the parts they didn't like.
 Are you doing the same?


2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.    
Proverbs 21:2

From this proverb, we can see Solomon knew this too! When our hearts are corrupt, we lie to ourselves. Oh, what will it take? How much beating before we'll listen? Look at this verse. It shows we convince ourselves as to truth and righteousness of actions and decisions we follow. We lie very well to ourselves! We are convinced its right. It is right in our own eyes.

The second part brings up our innermost being, our heart. This is another way of pointing to our spirit (Proverbs 20:27). This is where God looks. If our motives aren't totally pure and honest, it manifests itself here. God knows, we can know, but we choose not to. Why? It hurts. It means dying to ourselves. It means standing alone against family and friends. It means having people misunderstand our motives. It means having the rest of Ezekiel's congregation hold you in contempt and ridicule. Oh, our wickedness is so great! Our deceitfulness is so vile! I want to give an example. You might be incensed, yet not see the same in yourselves. Don't be a hypocrite! Don't feel incensed, wondering how they could be so hypocritical. Look deep in your heart. Let God's Spirit reveal what's hidden. Let the living water flow out of you and open your eyes (Psalms 36:9).

I will purposely remain vague here. (Just one note: I'm not referring to where I went to school.) I heard of a Christian college that called for high-sounding conduct in its students. The image was sparkling white, but the standard faltered and fell when it came to the conduct of the college. It openly lied to its students, and was reported to break certain phone tapping laws, to help insure all their rules were being obeyed. They must have felt the ends justified the means. Many students put up with this. They finish their training and head out into the world.

Look at what has happened to these students. They've learned to compromise a pure spirit. They 'put up' with iniquity for the goal of their degree. Is that degree worth this compromise? They obviously feel it is, but what kind of spirit have they learned from? The college has an underlying iniquity that chokes its spirit. All their teaching is under a dark cloud. It can be intellectual learning, but the Spirit will not flow out through a corrupted vessel (Luke 6:39).

The necessary principal for our lives should be Christ first in His holiness (1 Peter 1:15,16). If we walk in a pure spirit, we will learn things that can be used to bring life to others, even though we may lack education in 'Greek' and 'Hebrew'. If we sell out that pure spirit, we may learn 'Greek' and 'Hebrew'. We may learn all about 'How to preach and minister', but our ministry can only spread the death of a fleshly religion.

I want you to look at these verses in Psalms:

9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
    Psalms 119:9-11
This is powerful! It speaks of how we make sure we don't lie to ourselves. It tells us to fall back on the Bible. We have to be willing to take a hard look at ALL things in our lives. We have to be willing to let the scriptures condemn us. We can't depart from it, (in a gymnastic leap of human reasoning) wherever it's convenient, then come back to scripture to make our leap look acceptable.

Verse 10 deals with our self-deception. The first part, 'With my whole heart have I sought thee:' speaks of the testimony most Christians will confess. We sing, 'Yes Lord!', but look again at the second part. 'O let me not wander from thy commandments.' The person who sang this, was well aware of his own weakness. He stood trembling before God's throne declaring his commitment, while confessing his fleshly weakness that could pull him to destruction.
In verse 11, he gives us the anchor that keeps us properly grounded. Absolute commitment to following the clear road map we've been given.

There was an illegal Christian gathering somewhere in Korea. The police, or military, broke in on the meeting. They said that whoever would spit on the Bible, would be set free. Whoever wouldn't, would be shot. The pastor went first. He prayed the Lord to forgive him and spit on the Bible. The rest of the congregation followed suit. Finally, a teenage girl came and picked up the Bible. She wiped off the spit and said, 'What have they done to you?'. They put the gun to her head and killed her.

This demonstrated how many in the church today are only surfacely committed. Now, mind you, their going to the meeting showed a certain amount of determination and religious commitment. Their hearts couldn't stand the test. This is what we're seeing today. Many seem very devout, and are involved in multiple church activities, but the heart is never really checked out. It's not honest with the Word. We may think we'd be willing to die, but are we? If purity in daily living is more than we're willing to face, this is a sure sign we're fooling ourselves.

I want to look at the following words of Jesus:

10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.    
Luke 16:10-13
This passage takes us to the heart. If there is any darkness hiding there, we become totally corrupted. For this reason, we need to be diligent to be Biblically sure of our stands. If we become negligent, the fall has begun and the defilement is great. We fool ourselves thinking the slack we give, in some iniquity, is no big deal.

Oil and water don't mix. That's how iniquity and righteousness don't mix. When it comes to the church, we often try and keep, or allow, certain iniquities and abide them. Just like oil and water, you can't mix the two unless you add the extra ingredient, the emulsifier. The emulsifier of compromise. How do we do this, and fool ourselves about whole-hearted commitment?

In the 13th verse, here in Luke, we find it declares that the oil and water do not mix. They are totally separate. There is no real gray. To compromise, is to sell out. It matters not how much you walk the straight and narrow in the other areas, if some areas are after the wide road that leads to death (James 2:9-12). I'm not talking about ignorance here. I'm talking about compromise.

When we begin compromising, a spiritual pillow covers our head, because we can't face our shouting conscience. We purposely desensitize our conscience in the hope we can claim ignorance. (Remember Proverbs 21:2.) God knows if that ignorance is because we'd really rather not have to deal with it. This is where God looks at the heart, while we convince ourselves our way is right.

Pulling out the emulsifier of compromise, let's see what happens:
Jane and John Smith live in a little town with its community church. They're zealous for Christianity. They are active in their church, and always try to appear gentle and loving. They go to Bible studies. I'm sure you get the picture. Let's pull out a few special areas in their lives to see what it reveals. (I've written messages covering the specifics I'll look at. For in-depth analysis of each, you'll have to look at those studies.)

We find zealous members who loudly shout their hallelujahs in the Smith's church. Follow these members home. What video games are on their computers? Are they ones Jesus would enjoy? Are they shoot ‘em up, killing games? Would Jesus enjoy playing at the killing and destroying of people? What about the movies? Is the spirit of fear and horror part of it? Would Jesus love these? Do they promote immorality or obscenity? Would Jesus relax watching these? Now take these zealous people who enjoy all the things Jesus would hate. You find them in your typical church. The Smiths go to this church. What are they to do? The Bible clearly talks about not just overlooking sin. It calls for clear rebuke and if necessary, disfellowship (Leviticus 19:17,18; Romans 16:17; Galatians 6:1,2; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15). The average church will not take such a hard stand, except in the most serious matters, such as adultery and homosexuality.

In Jane and John's church, outright confrontation would never flow. That leaves them with two options. The first of biting the bullet, tolerating the ungodliness. The second of disfellowship. They may verbally condemn it whenever the opportunity avails itself, but no more. If they take this course, they begin to put that pillow over their heads. If they don't begin this spiritual pillow process, they'll have their conscience shouting too loudly to live with. It will be working to convict them of their failure to responsibly deal with the problem according to the scripture. This makes them accomplices by not Biblically confronting the sin. The sin now defiles them.

Look at Achan in the Old Testament (Joshua 7:1-26). Achan's sin brought condemnation on the whole nation. They no longer had God on their side, because of one family who had not been dealt with over covetousness. In Achan's case, the congregation was even ignorant of the crime. Even so, God's wrath was still present. With most church situations, we're not ignorant. We can ignore, but we cannot be innocent. If we overlook any unpleasant conflict of lifestyles for the sake of getting along, we compromise the call to holiness. We become defiled!

Say there are those who want women to be authoritatively equal to men in the Smith's church, do Jane and John tolerate their difference of opinion? Paul was clear on this being an intolerable sin (1 Timothy 2:12). If they reach a compromise to maintain some form of union, they join in the sin of Achan, defiling the whole body. To compromise with sin, and not deal with it, puts Jane and John under the same condemnation as that in 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14,15. They're now the ones to be disfellowshipped.

I have given the example of a Jane and John Smith. Now I want to put it in the first person.
I live in a community. I look around at the various churches and want to gather with the believers for fellowship. Others even tell me I have to. Believe me, I really want to! So I begin my search. I try a community church. I talk with the pastor there. During the conversation, I express my concern about women who teach in the congregations. (For in-depth on this see 'Women'.) He tells me that he left his last pastorate for that very reason. He refused to let the women lead in the church. They wouldn't tolerate it. I thought this gathering might not allow that all too common violation. The following Sunday, a woman got up in the church, read from a passage of scripture and commenced to preach a mini-sermon on it. The pastor still preached the main sermon, but she was clearly violating Paul's command. I find that even when the churches say they are opposed to women leading in the congregation, they still allow it.

The issue of women is so great now. Just for an eye opener, on my web site library of many articles, some dealing with curiosity arousers, such as exorcism and Halloween, they got less action than the article on women. In readers, 'Women' far outstripped all the others in just a few weeks. This appears to be one of the top concerns in the churches today.

Now, if I decide to continue going here, I face several difficulties. If I just join in this fellowship, I will join in a direct violation of an apostle's command. If I confront it, usually the group will not listen to a newcomer who finds fault. The pastor evidently considered the issue previously, so this wasn't ignorance. I'd have to face a stone wall of hardness, or compromise in a clear sin. Not much of a choice.

For now, let's put aside the problem of denominations, and pretend that sectarianism isn't a sin. (For in-depth on this see 'The Sin of Denominationalism'.) So, I go to another church in the community. In talking with various members I discover they have no Biblical standard that applies to their TV viewing and radio listening. (For in-depth on this see 'Entertainment'.) They enjoy their freedom and feel any standard is legalism. What do I face here? I can keep my view to myself, and pretend such an issue doesn't really matter. In that case, I decide to adopt the philosophy that I'm not my brother's keeper (Genesis 4:9 - the defense of a murderer by the way). I can suggest, but that is all. The problem is that it violates such scriptures as Leviticus 19:17,18, just for starters. If I back off on such, which is almost country wide, I agree to wear the pillow over my head.

Checking out another church, I find there's a member who's living out of wedlock. (For in-depth on this see 'Calling To Repentance - A Bit At A Time?'.) She just became a Christian, so the members don't want to risk chasing her away by laying too much on her. She's planning on marrying this non-Christian she's living with anyway. How far do I go in insisting this be biblically dealt with? Most churches are so tolerant today, the greatest offender isn't the one committing the sin. The greatest offender is the one who is intolerant. My 'crime' of intolerance is more of an offense to the church, than the crime of fornication and marriage of a Christian to a non-Christian. Again, I would have the choice of quieting down and gritting my teeth, or being forced to leave the church.

If a person is to take a Biblical stand in life and hold on in the church, he will be chased out of almost all churches in our society today. The option is to give up strict Biblical adherence, to maintain a peace with those who aren't totally committed to the Bible. I've given three examples, but if you go to most churches, you'll find they will fall into one or more of these three. These three examples are not issues of finding the perfect gathering. They're issues of those seeking obedience to God's word. The church in Corinth was filled with all sorts of abominable conflicts, but it didn't take the stand of finding 'intolerance' to be a crime. They were open to receive rebuke from the apostles. They did not legalize a sin, and forbid anyone to tear it down. That is the state we find so common today.

Now, do you begin to get my point? Do you listen, yet compromise in areas where others won't cooperate? You might even be the person who refuses to put away things Jesus wouldn't have any pleasure in. Do you love the church gathering, but find some areas too picky for your life-style? Do you have the freedom to be so nonchalant? With your nonchalant attitude, you act as an ‘Achan'. You defile the body.

The others may be timid to deal properly with your carelessness. Their timidity is their downfall. Your callousness is both yours and theirs. They have decided to take the course of limited resistance, and so begin to accept the pillow over their head. This pillow muffles their sensitivity to the leading of the Spirit: Seeing, they're unable to really see any more. Hearing, they're unable to hear (Matthew 13:13,14). They learn things about the Bible in their studies, but the life stops flowing. (For in-depth on this see 'It's Revelation, Not Discovery'.) The undealt with sin, cuts off God's victorious hand in their lives. They study and study, yet never come to life. They're unable to see the life of God clearly. Muffled by this pillow, they long for the power house sermons they occasionally tasted. The ones that gave clear vision and understanding. They hear some sermons that are dead and worthless, and think they're wonderful. They get excited about a sermon that's nothing more than psychology or a legalism.

I heard a preacher that brought scathing rebukes to the audience, accusing the guys of secretly looking forward to growing long hair, and accusing the women of wanting to wear pants instead of dresses. He spoke harshly. Some in the congregation got excited over his message. It was sheer legalism, but the fieriness of condemnation was sufficient to make some think they heard a godly message. When we wear the spiritual pillows, we become confused as to what's a really good message. We no longer recognize rebukes from God, but flock to fiery rebukes from a fleshly desire for a hot message. Man cannot create what God should be giving. We try to keep up the same fiery style God gave us in our early days, but it will be dead because of compromise. That true fire can only continue, if we're faithful to all God shows us.

This conflict in our lives and churches, has put a spiritual pillow over our heads.
I asked the question, 'What good is my preaching?'. You determine the answer. I wish I could, but the end product has to result in taking action, which is in your hands. I wish I could make you behave, but you have a free will. So, spiritually speaking, are you sure 2+2=5?

Please Note:
"John and Jane Smith" are fictitious names that I made up, and are not associated with any real people.

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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