To Heed or Listen?

alisten

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise. – Proverbs 12:15

The life of a Christian can be marked by certain signs or fruits that give validity to their claim of Christianity. We live in a time and in a culture that many will say they are Christians. People will say things like, “I was born into a Christian family”, “I’ve always believed”, “I was baptized as a child”, etc, etc…

The Bible gives us instruction for Christian living and last week I talked about the role of Scripture in the life of a believer. If you don’t have any sort of a relationship with your Bible, no matter what you think or what you say, then Scripture says you most likely are not. Of course there are some extreme exceptions to that rule, such as the Thief on the Cross, but for most it’s not the case.

In the time since my conversion to Christianity I’ve seen and experienced a lot of people in the church world and in particular in our local gathering that bear fruits of salvation for a season. They experience life change, they come to all the meetings, they fellowship and do life together, but then something happens. It’s consistent that one thing drives them away.

My experience is that they will “hear” counsel, but they won’t “heed” counsel.

Many will hear…but the difference is do they listen?

The word (shama`) – to hear, to listen to, obey, yield to.

This is not very common in this day, because most of us think we’ve got it all figured out. We live in a world of rugged individualism, a world of autonomy, we desire our own freedoms and to be our own “man” or “woman”.

We might listen to someone and then weigh it out to see if it makes sense, but to obey is a completely different subject. Only if it makes sense for me will I do what I’m being asked to do.

In the book or Proverbs we see this message repeated over and over again, and I’m guessing this was done purposefully to get our attention.

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. – Proverbs 19:20

The word “listen” is the same word as “heed” in the previous verse; its meaning is far deeper than just hearing what someone has to say, it means that you will be convinced by the speaker with a desire to obey.

A wise man will “hear” (shama`) and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. – Proverbs 1:5

This surely begs the question who is the wise counsel?

In most cases this is where the church has failed to teach properly. I use the word “church” in a broad sense, but I’m in particular referring to a true church, a gathering of God’s people that places the authority, sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture as the rule by which we must live our lives, where the holiness of God is exalted and the sinfulness of man is exposed. A place where Jesus Christ is the focus of the only hope sinful man has for salvation and they attempt to live a life wholly pleasing to God and use Scripture as their guide.   There is certainly more to a true church, but if these are not in the forefront the gospel has no teeth.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Here we see the New Testament argument for Believers and this points us to who should be our primary line of wise counsel. This is speaking of the Elders in the church, and the word “obey” (peithō) means to be persuaded, to suffer one’s self to be persuaded; to be induced to believe.

The Elders should be persuading and most importantly we should be persuaded and not only persuaded but then listen to and obey.   Yield to them. “Wise” counsel should be informed and persuaded using the Word of God. This is the lynch-pin by which this must hinge.

Unless you are being asked to sin, you should be persuaded. It’s pretty simple, and if you are being asked to sin, from that you should flee. Elders have been placed over you as protection for your soul, and when you disobey, it’s unprofitable for you and it grieves them.

By today’s standards this is completely counter-cultural and hated by most professing Christians because most want to be in control which by definition is wise in our own eyes.

Many good Christians don’t have churches that practice this, nor do they even have good churches, and in that case you should seek out the godliest counsel you can obtain given your circumstance, but don’t use it as a crutch and an opportunity to sin. If you are given good counsel, listen to it, and obey it, because someone truly loves your soul and wants what is best for you.

 

Kevin

The Terrors of Hell – Part 3 – Is God just?

Golgotha

Is God just in damning men eternally to hell?

Don’t pass over this question, because this is one of the hardest questions the Believer and non-believer will ever wrestle with.  I admittedly struggle with it myself, because I know people that, unless God pours out His mercy, will spend eternity in hell.  It really comes back to a fairness question in most people’s minds.

One of God’s attributes is justice and we can’t have a complete God without Him being just.  I will not be able to completely cover this subject in one post and if you are bothered by this writing I’d encourage you to dig deeper, this writing is meant to arouse sleeping souls, and stir up Believers to preach the good news.  Without the remedy of Christ we are all without hope.

As many question the validity of a place of judgment, Love asks, “Is God just in damning men eternally who sin temporarily in this life?”  Even if someone lives only a brief time on earth, Love claims that such divine action is just for the following reasons.  First, our punishment is not based on the amount of time that we sin, but on the fact that we sin, as when a thief is sentenced to prison for much longer than then the time it took him to break into a house.  Second, we commit sin against an infinite God and so deserve infinite punishment, just as the penalty for striking a public person, such as a prince, is much greater than for striking an ordinary man in the street.  Third, if we lived forever we would sin forever, or “as long as” we can, while we are alive.  Fourth, we continue to sin in hell even after we leave earth, and so further provoke the wrath of God.  Finally, even a momentary lapse into sin shows that we reject the infinite kindness of God and so deserve infinite punishment.  That momentary sin justly brings eternal punishment ought to cause us to avoid “slight thoughts” of sin against an infinite and just God who imposes such torments, and any accusations of severity against Him for imposing them.  Apart from His secret work of grace in salvation, He may even choose to do so in an infant who lives “but a minute in this world.” [1]

Most people will reject this.  Most people that consider themselves Christians will reject this, and we must not shrink from the discussion.  It will be unpopular.  The question will always turn to the fairness of God.  Friends, we do not want fair, we want grace and mercy.  If God dealt in “fairness” we’d be without hope.  It wasn’t fair that Christ suffered the wrath of God, the just for the unjust.

In connection with just in general comes a question related to the impartiality and universality of judgment; “Will most men and women in the world be tormented in hell?”  Love believes that most will, and his confirmation of it he consider to be “one of the most dismal Doctrines” that a pastor can preach.  First, most will go to hell because most do not look to Christ to deliver them from such a torment—whether Jews, Muslims, heathen, or Papists.  Second, even among those who “profess Jesus Christ,” many are called, but few are chosen (Matt. 22:14), as most are “either profane in life, or hypocrites in heart.” [2]

Love cites four additional reasons that most are destined for hell and in conclusion says “If most are to be damned, we must see the folly of allowing the opinions of the majority to lead us in life and should try our hearts to know whether we are of the few that will be saved.  We should not be offended at the “fewness of the number of believers,” but lament over the majority that will face such torments, rouse ourselves from delusions of the great number of believers in the world, and not hold “any ill thoughts against the mercy of God” that most men perish. [3]

These words are painful for me to write, and humbling for me to consider.  Many people that I know, many people that I love, many people that you know and love will spend their eternity under the wrath of God.  Anything good we have now will be vanquished and only misery and torment will remain.   No waking up the next day and a better day is on the horizon, only pain and suffering.

Today there is hope if you are in Christ.  Are you a new creation?  Have you turned to Christ for salvation and forgiveness of sin?  Don’t fight against God and despise His truth, but turn to Him and be saved.

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  then Peter said to them, “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sin; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:37-38

Kevin

  1. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 280-85. Cf. WCF, 10.3 and the Canons of Dort, 1.17.
  2. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 286-300.
  3. Love, Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1671), 300-304.