Be Careful How You Listen
Open up your bible to Luke 8:16-21. It's actually two little sections that are combined for one message. Let me read verses 16-21, “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.”
18 Therefore be careful how you listen. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him. 19 Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.”
21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Now the message this evening is in verse 18, "Therefore, be careful how you listen." This is a warning from our Lord. Good listeners make good company and good friends. Good listeners also make good learners as well as good teachers. And good listeners make good counselors.
On the other hand, poor listeners only want to hear themselves talk and even while forced to listen are only planning what they're going to say as soon as you take a breath. Just from a human standpoint, learning how to listen is important. It determines an awful lot about our relationships to others. Far more important, however, is how we listen to the Lord. How good are we at listening to God?
What kind of listeners are we? How are we to understand the kind of listening that the Lord would have us do? In the Bible we are commanded to listen appropriately. The command, "Hear the Word of the Lord," is about thirty-five times given in the Old Testament. The command, "Hear, O Israel," appears about a half a dozen times in the Old Testament. God says, "Listen to Me."
When God speaks, listen. Deuteronomy 4:36 says, "Out of heaven God let you hear His voice that He might instruct you." God has allowed us to hear Him speak out of heaven through Scripture. How good are we at listening? What kind of listener are you? Do you only come occasionally or regularly? Do you hear the Word of God being proclaimed? What do you do with what was proclaimed?
Now the subject of hearing is important in this context. In Luke 8:8, Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Those of you who can listen rightly, listen because I'm going to explain to you a parable. You remember the parable of the soils? Verse 15 says, "The seed in the good soil, are the ones who have heard the Word with an honest good heart and bear fruit."
The whole parable has been a story about how people hear. Some hear superficially, like hard ground. Some hear emotionally, psychologically, like the rocky soil. Some hear temporarily, like the weedy soil and become distracted by other interests. Some hear in a good and honest heart and the Word takes root and produces a hundred fold. In that parable then comes this statement, "Be careful how you hear."
Many people profess to believe in Jesus Christ. But how they listen proves whether they are really saved. So Jesus told the parable and then His disciples came to Him, and they asked what the parable meant. Jesus said in Luke 8:10, "To you it's been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables in order that seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand."
So Jesus said, "You asked for an explanation, I'm going to explain it because you came, and you affirm your discipleship and I'm going to tell you what you need to know. The rest, they're not going to understand and I'm going to continue to speak in parables as He did for the rest of His Galilean ministry, both to explain to the disciples and to hide the truth from those who were rejecting Him.
That was an act of judgment on His part. They wouldn't hear, so now Jesus pronounces a judgment on them, and says, "You can't hear. You will hear without understanding." It's how you hear that's critical to discerning your spiritual condition. We know from John 6 that there were many disciples of Jesus who walked no more with Him, who walked away after following Jesus.
When you hear somebody teach the Word of God, you listen. But the question is: How do you listen? There are four ways in which a true hearer hears. First, evangelistically; secondly, authentically; thirdly, fruitfully; and finally, obediently. The people who don't hear the way they should hear don't respond evangelistically or authentically or fruitfully nor obediently. So look at your life.
First of all, let's look at the fact that true hearers, having honest soil properly plowed by conviction and repentance and a proper understanding of the gospel and embracing and hearing God's Word evangelistically. Now, if you're looking for that word you're not going to find it. But here comes Jesus with another parable. It's a simple little parable. And it is very enlightening.
Jesus here is giving a story that anybody could understand. It's what we call an axiom because it's self-evident. Verse 16 says you light a lamp to give light. What’s He talking about? Hiding the light of God, the gospel, from those around us. Nobody in whom God has lit the light is going to want to conceal it. That's why true Christians listen evangelistically. They hear with a view to tell others.
And Jesus is saying you're going to spread it, aren't you? You're going to take it in and the immediate response is going to be that you want to take every opportunity God provides to tell others. We are told this is the Great Commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. We're not in the position of judging others. That's only for God to do who can see your heart.
The light of the gospel, let it shine, not only through what you are, that is the way you live, but through what you proclaim, that is the good news gospel. Jesus said in Matthew 10:27, "What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light. What you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops." What I'm telling you in secret, you proclaim from the housetops. Don't make any spiritual judgment.
Faithful witness then to the gospel is a proof of true discipleship. 1 Peter 2:9 says, "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” In other words, you all are a people for the purpose of proclaiming the praises of the light, Jesus Christ.
John the apostle was obedient to that. That is what John proclaimed in 1 John 1:1-2, "What was from the beginning, what we heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled concerning the Word of life, 2 the life was manifested, we've seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us.”
That was Paul's great commission when he was stopped in his tracks by the Lord. The Lord said to him, in Acts 26, that He had called him to open their eyes, both Jewish and Gentile, so that they may turn darkness to light, and receive the forgiveness of sin. So the mark of a true Christian is this passion for proclamation. To be a faithful gospel witness identifies a true disciple of Jesus Christ.
Second, a true believer hears authentically. And this is about you as an individual. Look at Luke 8:17, "For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light." What the Lord is talking about here is what's on the inside. Matthew 10:26 says, "Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known."
The whole idea is that there is a difference between how people conduct themselves on the outside and what's going on in their heart. And in the end, you can't hide it. Jesus said, “know this, the light of God is going to shine on your heart to reveal its true condition." Ecclesiastes, the last verse says, "For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden whether it's good or evil."
Jesus is talking about hypocrisy. In Luke 12 He says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” which is hypocrisy. He warned those who followed Him repeatedly don't be hypocrites who follow for a while and then fall away. Beware of being a hypocrite because, verse 2 says, "There is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”
Verse 3, “Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.” The truth about you is going to become clear in the judgment. As you look at yourself as a disciple, as one who professes Christ, as one who sort of stepped out of the crowd and come to learn from Jesus, examine yourself.
Thirdly, true listeners hear fruitfully. Am I hearing fruitfully? We're back to the statement that is really the thesis of the passage, verse 18, "Take care how you listen, for whoever has, to him shall more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him." Whoever is good soil in whom the seed has found its life and fruitfulness, more shall be given.
How can you tell who has salvation? Because there is for that person more and more. There are some people who think that you can be a Christian, believe at some moment in your life, and that's all that's required. And if you never obey and if you never are blessed and if you never are fruitful, it doesn't matter. But it does matter, because if you're for real, you will have salvation and much more.
In the parable, Jesus said that good soil produced a hundred fold. That's ten times what anybody would expect in any kind of harvest. It's what Jesus meant when He said in John 10:10 that He would give life and give it more abundantly. In John 1:16 it says, "Of His fullness we have all received grace upon grace." It's not just grace at salvation. It's grace upon grace upon grace.
How do you know when somebody is a true believer? Because their life is filled with blessing, grace upon grace upon grace, fruit multiplied. Ephesians 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heaven in Christ." We are blessed with all spiritual blessings, the riches of His grace, in all wisdom and insight.
Whoever does not have," that is whoever doesn't believe, even what he thinks he has, whether it's religion or works or whatever it is that he thinks he's been successful at, it's all going to be taken away from him. In the end, the unsaved person loses absolutely everything. What you think you have, you lose and you go into a place of judgment where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Finally, the true hearer hears obediently. Verses 19 - 21, Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. 20 And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” 21 But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
Why did they come? Everywhere Jesus went there was a massive crowd. And when His own family heard of this, they went out to help Him. Mary believed in Him from the start. She also knew she needed to be saved. That's why in her Magnificat in Luke 1:46 to 55 she talks about “God, My Savior.’ She knew that Jesus' name was Jesus because He would save His people from their sins.
So Mary didn't believe what the Catholic Church believes about Mary. Jesus is not indifferent to His mother, as His statement caring for her on the cross makes clear. There He's still concerned about His mother. He also loved His half-brothers since later on He redeemed them. But His response is important. Verse 21, "He said, 'My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.'"
Jesus kept going back to the fact that the spiritual relationship, hearing the Word and doing it, is most important. James echoes that, "Be not hearers only but doers of the Word." Jesus says in John 15:10, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” You have to do what the Word says.
1 John 2:4 says, “The person who says, “I know Jesus,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” And John repeats that in John 3 and in John 5. The Lord says that the people who have a relationship to Me hear the Word of God evangelistically, they hear it authentically, they hear it fruitfully, and they hear it obediently. Be careful how you listen. Let us pray.