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

Our sinful self…

sin

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9

Sin is an ugly thing…  There are no doubts we can see the ugliness of sin in the lives that have been ravaged by its illusion.  The examples abound don’t they; aren’t they everywhere you look?

If you could see the outcome would you make the same decision?

What is sin?  Hamartia (ham-ar-tee’-ah): to miss the mark; to miss or wander from the path of uprightness.

Sin is deceitful and we can quite easily convince ourselves of our own goodness.  It’s easy for me to see how well I’m doing, how “holy” I’m becoming…  Pride goes before destruction… (Proverbs 16:18)

God has provided a way out of sin for His people and we need only embrace them, but there must be effort, there must be a war waged against sin.  The adversary will not give up easily.  Below I’ve highlighted six essentials that are God given defenses in the battle against sin.

The Word

2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that they man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

God’s Word is absolutely essential for knowing and understanding God, and what He says about dealing with sin and all things concerning life.  To neglect God’s Word means you will easily succumb to sin.  The Sword is meant to fight off the attacks of the enemy and give us a victory over sin.

The Church

Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as we see the day approaching.

The preaching and teaching of God’s Word as we assemble with other Believers is one of the most important avenues to holiness.  Anybody left isolated is easily subject to sin.  Preaching should consistently bring conviction leading to life change.  Do you walk out of your church feeling good about yourself more often than you feel the weight of your sin?  There should be a heavy dose of life saving medicine delivered from the pulpit in a healthy church.

Believers

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

All Believers are called to be concerned about brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are to have influence and impact in the lives of those near us.   Husband and wives, parents and children, those that we are close to and know their lives.  This is not always popular so the Apostle Paul calls us to do it in gentleness; lest we also be tempted, but yet we are to do it.  Do not neglect this if you truly love them.

Those in Spiritual authority

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.

This is very challenging for most that profess Christianity.  We naturally rebel against authority and there are so few churches that practice this well.  However, it doesn’t release you from this command.  Did you notice it was a command and not a suggestion?  If the leaders of your church live this out you can be grateful for God’s grace.

The Spirit of God

John 14:15-17 “If you love Me, keep My commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit is consistent in the lives of Believers and will convict of our sins.  The biggest question today is will and do you receive Him when He shows you your sin?  Believers are responsible for sin and God hates sin, so there must be accountability.

Prayer

Romans 12:12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer,

Prayer is our conduit to God.  Without a consistent and willful prayer life we will flounder in this ongoing battle.  Have you ever stopped communicating with your wife?  How does that go for you?  When Jen and I are not communicating I’m proactively creating distance between us.  I may not always do this intentionally but it happens none the less.  It’s unhealthy for our marriage.  Why would we think this is any different with God?  When I’m most vulnerable is when I’m on my knees the least.

I’ve read that the great evangelist Leonard Ravenhill spent hours and hours praying each day.  He spent more time in prayer than he spent preparing for his sermons, and the result of this was an effective ministry for Christ.

“Oh Lord may we be a people broken in our sinfulness and a people that seek You diligently.”

Kevin

Is church membership Biblical?

belong

Recently I wrote about some friends that had left our church.  I continue wondering why, mostly knowing the answer, but have come to the conclusion they were not willing to pursue church membership and felt some pressure to do so.  The pressure didn’t come from a desire to have them under a thumb or somehow repress their freedoms, although they might believe that.  No, I believe the desire for membership came out of a biblical call to be under authority and willingly submit to church leadership.  I’ve written about this subject once before so I won’t rehash but here is the article authority, obey, submit

Many people want church to be a part of their life, at least on Sunday, and then they want their own life, their independence and freedom to do as they please when they please.  The author of Hebrews tells us this is unprofitable for them (Hebrews 13:17).

Why would it be unprofitable for them?  People really get upset when their lifestyle is being challenged, especially when they are very honorable, lovely and exceptionally moral people.  Possibly and probably they are saved.  It really comes down to one of two things.  They either are saved and in rebellion to God’s Word or they are not saved.  I’ve tried to figure out some middle ground so I could think “good” thoughts, but I don’t see it any other way.  Biblically I mean.  This is why it’s unprofitable, whether unsaved or in rebellion, neither is a good place to be.

The simple act of rebellion certainly calls me to consider their salvation.  Disclaimer: I don’t determine salvation.  God will do His good pleasure and He may use this circumstance to do remarkable work in someone.  That’s not my call, but if an apple tree produces thorns, it’s not an apple tree.  So I must challenge them, in love, to consider their testimony.

I’ve recently commented on another blog that I follow, and really like, about church membership.  I see lots of people calling it things that I don’t believe it is.  I believe God designed us to be in fellowship and He clearly calls us to be under the authority of the church.   Not to oppress us but to free us and to protect us.

Below are two well respected pastors that are of like mind.  These are both short and very powerful.  If you are struggling in this area, consider how God will work in your life when you willingly submit to His will.

Alan Cairns – Is church membership Biblical?

John MacArthur – Importance of church membership 

Kevin