Take Heed How You Hear!

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 De 7:9 "Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
 10 "and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. (By hate here, we mean, the absence of love, which is demonstrated by all who disregard God’s Word!)  11 "Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.
 2Ti 2:19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor.
 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, (from iniquity) he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
 Mr 4:21 Also He said to them, "Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand?
 22 "For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.
 23 "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."
 24 Then He said to them, "Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.
 25 "For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him."
Principle #4 of the Fundamental principles of the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations:

“Members of the organized congregation are not, in every instance believers, and such members often derive false hope from their external connection with the congregation. It is therefore the sacred obligation of the congregation to purify itself by the quickening preaching of the Word of God, by earnest admonition and exhortation, and by expelling the openly sinful and perverse.”

Kind of a startling statement isn’t it? Not all who is on the membership roles of a congregation are going to heaven! The Bible testifies often of the sobering truth that there will be imposters in the church of Jesus Christ. People who have an external connection to the congregation, but no personal connection to Jesus.  Jesus spoke of it in Mt 13:

 Mt 13:24  "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;  25 "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.  26 "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.  27 "So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'  28 "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?'  29 "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.  30 'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

Tares are weeds that in the early stages of growth resemble wheat, but when fully grown are easily distinguished from wheat. So these tares look like members of the church, (the Body of Christ) but they are not and will be gathered up and tossed in the fire of eternal damnation at the end of the age.

In explaining this parable to His disciples Jesus said that His angels “will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, (no concern for the moral Law of God, in effect, they hate God) 42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 13:41,42)

Maybe you’ve driven by a golden ripe wheat field. As it was growing you really didn’t notice the weeds, but come harvest time the weeds stand out like a sore thumb. The wheat in it’s purity is solid gold, but you see an ugly patch of brown or green weeds and the field of gold has some obvious impurities. But on the last Day, the Lord’s angels will remove those impurities and v43 gives us a picture of what the field will then look like:

  43 "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

Paul wrote to Timothy and said, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."

The solid foundation of God stands having this seal....this twofold proof. The Lord knows the heart, (He knows the presence of faith) AND, there is more to this seal.....those who are His, depart from iniquity, instead of seeking to please their own flesh, they seek to do the will of the Father and thereby, produce works.

Elsewhere the Lord says,

 Mt 7:19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 "Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  22 "Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'  23 "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
In the Book pf Revelation we read:

 Re 11:1 Then I was given a reed like a measuring rod. And the angel stood, saying, "Rise and measure the temple of God, the altar, and those who worship there. 2 "But leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the Gentiles. And they will tread the holy city underfoot for forty-two months.

The meaning of this passage is that those who are true believers are included in the measurement of the temple, and the altar, but those in the court outside the temple, though attached to the temple are not included in the final measurement for heaven because they are unbelievers who have an external connection, but lack the true personal, yielded, relationship with Jesus Christ.

The question, that our texts bring to mind today is this, “Are you an external member of the church or an internal member of the church of Jesus Christ? This is a vital question that each one of us must ask ourselves.....pastors included, because in the end, it will not be well for those who have derived false hope from a mere outward connection.

It will not be pretty for the baptized actor.

Such hypocrites, as our OT lesson stated,  will be repaid on the Last Day, “face to face” with a holy and just God. This will not be an impersonal judgement, making it even worse if such a thing is possible.

In our epistle lesson, this truth is brought out again. “The Lord knows those who are His.” And if you are going to name Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you better depart from iniquity. Will all connected to the church depart from iniquity? Unfortunately....no.

This is Paul’s point in the next verse. “In a great house, (the church of Jesus Christ) there are not only vessels of gold and silver (Believers) but also of wood and clay (unbelievers) some for honor (eternal life for the gold and silver) and some for dishonor (damnation for the wood and clay)

Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter ( the iniquity named in v19) he will be a vessel for honor. (He will be saved)

How do we do that? How do we cleanse ourselves? How do we move from being a hypocritical vessel of wood and clay to a true vessel of gold and silver? The answer is to return to your baptism with godly sorrow over your sins. Be cleansed from your iniquity daily! Be broken over your penchant for iniquity, your disregard for the commands of God. Receive that washing from your sins, die to the old man in you and arise and live in Christ!

It is very easy to slip into iniquity, (lawlessness) and stay there, and that’s one of the points of our gospel lesson. As we look at the gospel lesson, It’s important to note that Jesus had just finished explaining the parable of the sower to His disciples.

Do you remember what the seed represented in that parable? It represented the Word of God. Jesus is saying here that you don’t receive the Word of God and stuff it under a bed. You need to let it shine forth in word and in deed in your life.

It is this Word of God that will reveal all things on the last Day. The Word of God brings light into every situation.

 Heb 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Jesus said this about the Word of God:

 Joh 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.

What you do with the word that is preached to you on Sunday, or wherever or however else you may hear it.......matters. No wonder Jesus says, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” No wonder He says in v24, “Take heed what you hear,” Luke’s Gospel says, “Take heed how you hear.”  Either way, we see hearing and heeding is vital.

Why would He say, take heed “how” you hear? Because, remember, He just got done with the parable of the sower, and the parable deals with degrees of hearing. And there is only one degree that matters.

In the first instance, you can hear this Word in one ear and simply allow it to move out the other. But before you do that, I suggest you look at Mark 4:15, and see who is at work in that situation.

 Mr 4:15 "And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.

Did you know that he has that kind of power? Right now in this building today! Oh. he will try to influence your mind in every way possible to reject the words you hear from this pulpit, or anywhere else the truth is proclaimed.  Resist his attempts to get you to ignore and disbelieve this Word. Understand where your rejection of this Word is really coming from. It is a huge spiritual battle that is won by perseverance in resisting the devil on your part.

Secondly, don’t listen like those who initially receive it with gladness, but when there is any kind of difficulty associated with obeying it in real life situations, they immediately give up on it. Tithing may require a personal sacrifice, and when that reality hits home, the Word associated with tithing and all it’s blessings is thrown out.

Thirdly don’t listen like most of us listen in this materialistic culture we live in. We hear the Word, wresting it away from the devil, we even cling to the Word during trials and temptations, but eventually, the material things and the cares of this world, get to us, and the word is choked out, and we become unfruitful.

And the unfruitful are cut off and thrown into the fire, because the truth is the unfruitful are unfaithful.

 Joh 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Finally, those who hear the Word and accept it, (that is put it into action in their lives, they in fact depart from iniquity) will bear fruit  some thirtyfold, some sixty, some one hundred.

Take heed then “how” you hear, because with the same measure you use, (how you hear) it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given.!

Please note, the only ones who are given anything, are those who hear, because those are the only ones with genuine faith.

Is your faith genuine? Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security. Seriously and honestly evaluate your own life and how you respond to God’s Word. And if you find that you are falling short, that you are allowing disbelief, or trial, or the cares of the world to interfere with a passion for following Christ, then return to your baptism, and start all over again.

One of the verses we looked at in our men’s Bible Study this week was from Galatians will be helpful here.

Gal 5:6 says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”

What that means is the only thing that avails us in Christ Jesus is faith (God knows those who are His) working through love. (Departing from iniquity) In other words the real test of whether or not you are in Christ is “faith working through love.” The Greek word here for “working” is energeo. What word do you suppose we get from that? .....Energy!

And one of the laws of energy is, “for ever action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” As we see here in Galatians, this is a spiritual law as well. The action of true faith in Jesus Christ must produce a reaction of love, or it is not faith at all. . .  . So Paul says in Gal 5:13,14 “through love serve one another.” For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Faith without works, without ergo, (another word associated with energy)  is dead!

And so we say in our mission statement at Living Word, that we are going to seek to learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.” That the energy of true faith will produce loving works toward others in and out of this congregation.

These are sobering words from our Lord this morning. Some of you here today maybe like those tares in the wheat field, some of you may be like those wooden or clay vessels, some of you may be measured on the final Day and found outside the temple.

As your shepherd, I don’t want to see that happen to any one of you. And so I will continue to baptize, and I will continue to preach the Word of God. And I will pray that you will take heed how you hear it. And I will continue to encourage all of us to look for ways to express the love of Christ to others. For without that expression, our faith is dead....and if our faith is dead....well, let’s face it.....so are we.