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                       "HOW WELL DO YOU LISTEN?"


INTRODUCTION

1. During His earthly ministry, Jesus often concluded a lesson by crying
   out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
   a. E.g., concerning John the Baptist - Mt 11:15
   b. E.g., the parable of the sower - Mt 13:9
   c. E.g., the explanation of the parable of the tares - Mt 13:43

2. In His letters to the churches of Asia, Jesus concludes each with a
   similar saying:  "He who has an ear. let him hear what the Spirit
   says to the churches." - Re 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22

3. What is the point of these sayings?
   a. It is akin to saying "What is being said is very important, so you
      had better pay attention and listen!" - cf. Mk 4:23-25
   b. It illustrates that Jesus had a problem that often exists today
      1) Many people simply don't listen
      2) Or don't listen so as to understand

4. I am convinced that many today don't appreciate the importance of
   listening well...
   a. It concerned Jesus...
   b. So I believe it is appropriate to ask, "How Well Do You Listen?"

[It might be profitable to begin by pointing out there are...]

I. THREE TYPES OF LISTENERS

   A. THE "DULL OF HEARING"...
      1. Some of the Hebrew Christians were like this - cf. He 5:11
         a. Note that when a person has this problem, it is hard for
            others to explain things to them!
         b. The fault is not with the "subject" material, nor the
            "presenter", but with the "listener"!
      2. Isaiah wrote of such people, and Jesus applied it to many in
         His day - Mt 13:13-15
         a. People are this way because they are dull of heart!
         b. This prevents them from:
            1) Understanding God's truth
            2) Turning from sin to God
            3) And being healed (saved) by God!
      -- Who would want to be this type of listener?

   B. THOSE WITH "ITCHING EARS"...
      1. Paul describes these in 2Ti 4:3-4
      2. Such people listen only to that which is pleasing
         a. So they don't like "sound doctrine" (which often requires
            the kind of preaching mentioned in 2Ti 4:2)
         b. They will find the teachers they want...but then they turn
            from the truth to fables
      -- Many today are often afflicted with this "hearing" problem!

   C. THOSE WHO HEAR WITH "A NOBLE AND GOOD HEART"...
      1. Jesus speaks of these in Lk 8:15
      2. The Bereans were listeners of this kind - Ac 17:11
         a. They were "fair-minded" (NKJV), thus willing to give Paul a
            fair hearing
         b. It showed in how they "received" (or listened to) the word:
            "with all readiness"
      -- This is the kind of listener we all should be!

[Why is it so important to be this kind of listener?  There are several
reasons...]

II. THE IMPORTANCE OF GOOD LISTENING

   A. ESSENTIAL TO BEING BLESSED...
      1. For those willing to listen properly, there are wonderful
         things to learn - Mt 13:16-17
      2. Many things which great people (David, Daniel, etc.) did not
         have the opportunity to learn
      3. Things pertaining to wonderful blessings that are now available
         in Christ! - cf. Ep 1:3
      -- We miss out on these blessings if we do not carefully listen!

   B. ESSENTIAL TO SAVING FAITH...
      1. God has ordained that we be saved through faith in Christ - cf.
         Ro 1:16-17
      2. Such faith comes through proclaiming the gospel, often
         involving listening to a preacher - cf. Ro 10:14,17
      3. While one can certainly gain faith through reading God's Word
         (cf. Jn 20:30-31), the fact remains that many are often
         dependent upon what they first hear proclaimed
         a. One reason faith is often lacking is because people simply
            are not good listeners
         b. They miss out on the evidence in God's Word which produces
            faith!
      -- Does your "listening" hinder the development of your faith?

   C. ESSENTIAL TO BEARING FRUIT...
      1. In the parable of the sower, the only kind of soil (heart)
         capable of bearing fruit was the one which listened properly
         - Lk 8:15
      2. That is because bearing fruit comes from "understanding" the
         grace of God! - cf. Col 1:6
         a. Note that the gospel was bearing fruit in the Colossians
         b. But that was "since the day you heard and knew (understood,
            NAS) the grace of God in truth;"
      -- Only by listening well can we "understand" God's grace, and be
         thus motivated to bear fruit to His glory!

   D. ESSENTIAL TO PREVENTING APOSTASY...
      1. There is a real danger of drifting, by neglecting "so great a
         salvation" - He 2:1-3
      2. The only solution is to "give the more earnest heed to the
         things we have heard"
      -- Poor listening is often the first step to apostasy!

   E. ESSENTIAL TO AVOIDING REJECTION AND CONDEMNATION...
      1. If we do not listen as we should...
         a. Those who teach God's Word have a right to reject us - cf.
            Mt 10:14-15
         b. We are judging ourselves unworthy of eternal life - cf. Ac
            13:44-49
      2. If we reject the gospel (perhaps by poor listening?), the men
         of Nineveh and the queen of the South will condemn us at the
         judgment! - cf. Mt 12:41-42
         a. The men of Nineveh repented after hearing just one lesson
            from Jonah; will we reject the gospel of Christ after being
            given many opportunities?
         b. The queen of the South went great lengths to hear the wisdom
            of Solomon; are we willing to go just a short distance to
            hear God's Word proclaimed?
      -- The rejection and condemnation is not limited to coming from
         just these individuals...it will come from God, too!

[Hopefully, we appreciate the wonderful opportunities we have to be able
to listen to God's Word, and the importance of good listening!  How
then can we improve our ability to listen? For just as speakers need to
learn to speak so as to be understood, people need to learn to listen so
as to understand!  Here are some ...]

III. STEPS TO BETTER LISTENING

   A. MAKE LISTENING AN ACT OF WORSHIP...
      1. How you listen to God's word being read or preached is as much
         an indication of your devotion to God as to how you pray or
         sing
      2. So when you have opportunities to listen, do it with "a
         worshipful attitude"
         a. Think of how you would listen if some great person were
            speaking
         b. Imagine your rapt attention if you were listening to some
            famous person
      -- Does not the proclamation of God's Word deserve as much
         attention?

   B. LISTEN FROM FIRST TO LAST...
      1. I.e., pay attention all the way through
         a. Do you expect to understand a novel by simply reading a
            sentence here and there?
         b. So it is with listening...sentences, phrases, words, to be
            understood must be heard in light of the context in which
            they are presented
      2. Speakers must follow certain rules of speech so as to be
         understood:
         a. Introduce the subject
         b. Present main points with supporting arguments
         c. Conclude with a summary
      -- So listeners must listen to ALL the parts to truly understand

   C. LOOK AT THE SPEAKER...
      1. This greatly aids your concentration
         a. Looking elsewhere makes it easy for your mind to wander
         b. Closing your eyes makes it easy for you to nod off!
      2. This requires self-discipline, but it is conducive to
         developing a longer attention span
      -- Try it, and see if it doesn't make a difference!

   D. READ ALONG IN YOUR BIBLE...
      1. You remember more of what you both see and hear over what you
         simply hear
         a. Which is why visual aids are often used in sermons
         b. But the greatest visual aid is your own Bible!
      2. Your knowledge of the Scriptures can be greatly improved by
         doing this
      3. It is hard at first to keep up, but persevere and it will soon
         become easier
      -- We encourage our children to do this, shouldn't adults provide
         an example and do the same?

   E. LISTEN WITH FAITH...
      1. I.e., listen with a willingness to accept and believe what is
         shown in God's Word
      2. Notice He 4:1-2; those who died in the wilderness did not
         listen with faith!
      -- If we don't listen "with faith," the same sort of thing will
         happen to us; i.e., fall short of our heavenly rest!

   F. LISTEN WITH A MIND TO ACT...
      1. Are we like the people in Ezekiel's day? - cf. Eze 33:30-32
         a. They loved to hear him, but for the wrong reason
         b. Do we love to hear sermons because of how well the speaker
            presents them?
      2. Hearing must be accompanied by doing to be of any profit - Ja
         1:22-25
      -- As important as good listening may be, the blessedness comes
         only if we are doers as well as hearers!

CONCLUSION

1. To be blessed in what we do...
   a. That is my goal in presenting these thoughts on listening
   b. For it all begins with listening in the proper way

2. How important, then, is listening?
   a. When it comes to listening to God, very important! - Isa 55:2-3
   b. It is essential for the good of our soul!

3. Is there ever a time when GOD does not listen?
   a. Yes, when our sins are between us and God - cf. Isa 59:1-2
   b. But we can take care of that problem by receiving God's Mercy
      - cf. Isa 55:6-7

Today, that mercy is offered through Jesus Christ, God's Son.  And as
God said:

             "This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!" (Lk 9:35)

Have you heeded Him by obeying His word?  Or does the following cry of
Jesus apply to you...?

   "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things
   which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
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