How Well Are You Listening?
In middle school, my parents diagnosed me with a common disorder: selective hearing.
I couldn’t hear my dad telling me to do the dishes or take out the trash, but I could hear him whispering about my upcoming birthday presents. I don’t think I’m the only one with this problem. Selective hearing, also known as disobedience, is banned in the kingdom of Christ. Disciples must always be dialed in to the voice of our Lord.
Listening to Jesus is vital to the Christian life. Discipleship demands non-selective hearing from Jesus. I’ve never heard his voice with my ears, but the risen Christ does speak to me: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). He speaks via the Scriptures.
Hear His Voice
Today, we can hear Jesus speak with our eyeballs. In the red letters? Yes — and in all the black ones, too. We hear and behold his glory from Genesis to Revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“The Scriptures are more than ink printed on a forest of dead tree bark. The Bible is living and active.”
As Puritan John Owen says, “To behold it [the glory of Christ] is not a work of fancy or imagination; it is not conversing with an image framed by the art of men without, or that of our own fancy within, but of faith exercised on divine revelations. This direction he gives us himself, John 5:39, ‘Search the Scriptures; for they are that which testify of me.’”
Genesis to Revelation is filled with the words and glory of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, drawing his sheep to follow him. The Scriptures are more than ink printed on a forest of dead tree bark. The Bible is living and active.
Open it up. Listen.
The Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). The Father’s love for the Son calls us to action. He wants us to listen to Jesus — to obey Jesus, to submit to Jesus, to follow Jesus. The Father invites us to view Jesus like he does — as the beloved Son with whom he is well pleased, and as the voice who is worth hearing.
Your love for the Lord is expressed in how you listen to the Lord (John 14:6). Your view of Jesus is revealed in how you hear him. There is a direct connection between our ears and our hearts. Worship is more than Jesus listening to what we have to say about him; it’s also our listening to what Jesus has to say, what he wants, what he commands, what he promises. And we must listen without selectivity.
Jesus gets our full attention. We can’t say we love Jesus while we tune him out.
Don’t Edit While You Hear
Are you listening to Jesus in a non-edited manner? Selective listening is rebellion. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Do you find yourself reading the Bible and thinking, “Well, that’s not what he really meant,” or, “That’s just asking too much,” or, “I can’t do that”? If we find ourselves tweaking and diluting the Bible to fit comfortably around our desires, hunches, sins, and idols, the apostle John warns us: maybe you don’t know Jesus after all.
And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:3–6)
Hearing Jesus, the Word of God, in the word, is ground-level discipleship. How can we follow Jesus if we don’t hear from Jesus? Every time we crack open the Bible, we are sitting down to hear Jesus. Like sheep with the Good Shepherd, we are listening to his direction. Listening is for discipleship, direction, comfort, rebuke, correction, training in righteousness, and encouragement — all of which Jesus speaks to us from the Bible.
“How can we follow Jesus if we don’t hear from Jesus?”
There is no more refreshing voice in the universe than Jesus’s. Why not go to him? There’s a lot of voices in this world, but only one that commands our soul, our life, our all. We listen to Jesus, the beloved Son, because we love Jesus — and because he loves us. He has nothing bad to say to us.
Next time you open the Bible, offer a simple prayer: “Speak Lord. My Bible is open. Your servant is listening.” He promises, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).