This was the phrase that stuck with me in the morning message, along with the observation about Christ using it many times in His ministry. As I always seem to get the most from a message when I latch onto some one thing and break it down, I researched the phrase. I found it in a limited number of places, always said by Jesus, and in a very specific order with only two instances repeated for emphasis. I t seemed that these instances provided an "if" followed by the phrase, to wit:
"If you want to believe.."
"If you want to bear fruit..."
"If you want to know why..."
"If you want to share..."
"If you want to deal with your sin..."
"If you want to be a disciple... He who has ears, let him hear."
The first instance (and as usual, I'm not reprinting text, to encourage you to look it up) was in Matt. 11:13-14. This is where Jesus deals with the prophecy of Malachi 4- the return of Elijah. But like the other spots we'll visit, it also has two complimentary messages. The first is in the first line- "All the Prophets and the Law prophecied UNTIL JOHN (the Baptist)." The lesson here is, that everything in the Bible from the OT to John LEADS UP TO this moment in time- when Christ manifest on earth begins His ministry. AKA all you need to know is in the Bible; and everything in the NT is backed up by everything in the OT. The second half of the meaning is carried in the second line: "AND IF YOU ARE WILLING TO RECEIVE IT, he is Elijah who will come." The complimentary lesson is- you have to be willing to receive it. Joshua, our friend, often says how he's read the Bible "and knows it as well as I do." What he never understood, is that he was never willing to receive it. You need both to move on to the next step.
And the next step comes in Matt13: 4-9. as well as in Mark and Luke- the parable of the sower and the seeds. First half of this lesson is, you need good soil to bear fruit. But what constitutes good soil? It's all right there. First, you have to get past our first part, being willing to receive it. If you are unwilling, you are the seed on the wayside. Second, you have to let it take root. We've discussed this before. Read. Apply. Listen. Without this long and constant process, you are doomed to wither. Third, avoid the thorns- don't let everyday life distract you from the first two. This was the one lesson important enough to be repeated in all three "synoptic" Gospels.
The next of our stops is just over a bit in Matt 13: 43- the parable of the wheat and the tares, as well as its later explanation. Jesus answers two of the most asked questions in all Christianity. First, why does He allow a world so messed up? Why it's messed up we've covered before. Why he allows it, according to this, is so not to harm the wheat. Before you say, "Huh?", consider: Each person is allowed to reach their ultimate fruit, whether it be good or bad. To pull bad fruit out before its life is over would remove its chance to become good. We live just as long as our opportunities to repent hold out. Once we exhaust all those God-given opportunities, we're done. You wondered why they say "the good die young?" There you go. Second, Is there really a judgement/hell/punishment? Yes, and it waits for the end of the age for this very reason.
Next comes Mark 4:23- the light under a bushel passage. This gives us two lessons. The first- if we have that light of faith, we are meant to share it. The second comes from the line that follows- there is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed. I know I have hidden things, things that corrupt me and makes me less than what I could be. But I do not delude myself that they are hidden from God. I confess them- constantly, it seems- and He allows me to deal with them so that I will remain dependant on Him. Some "ministers of Light" hold these secrets in hope that they'll never be exposed. But they poison their ministry, and God makes sure that, in the end, they always come out. So the second lesson is a constant call to repentance- and a warning.
Which brings us to Mark 7:16- That which enters a man does not defile him, only that which comes out of him. The Disciples didn't get it. What it is is a lesson on responsibility. In this morning's message Ed Bousman quoted a missionary who said that he never wanted to return to the USA for fear of losing his soul. Yes, temptations are everywhere, the more as the Day approaches. But in the Wheat and tare parable, we saw that God does not intend us to live apart. Rather, in this passage we should see that the temptation is not the sin- the CHOICE is. And the choice leads to sins of thought (evil thoughts, adulteries-in the sense of "mixing" doctrines- ,ccovetousness, pride, and foolishness) and deed (fornications, murders, thefts, deceits, licentiousness, the "evil" or roving eye, and blasphemy). In other words, if we want to deal with our sins, we have to take responsibility for them. Is it any wonder this world is full of, "it's not my fault, it's the way I was brought up," and "I was born this way"? To deal with sin, we need to accept that the only way "we were born" was sinful. Everything else- EVERYTHING ELSE- is a choice.
And the final stop is at Luke 14:33, the salt losing its flavor passage. Most people have trouble with this for two reasons- a) they don't read the passage prior, and b) they can't figure out how salt can lose it's flavor. First, look at what goes before- the things that can occur that can disqualify one from being a Disciple. Now, I'm figuring that while this passage applies at varying levels to all of us, it is specifically directed at those who believe they have a call to ministry. And it gives a set of rules that need to be in place before you serve.
#1. You have to be willing to put relationships- family, friends, lovers, whatever- on the back burner and make that ministry your focus.
#2. You have to put thought of your own comfort out of your mindset.
#3. You have to impartially count the cost to you of what you intend to do- financial, societal, spiritual, and physical.
#4. You have to look within yourself to see if you have the emotional and physical resources to do the job.
Secondly, if you can't figure it out that way, consider this- a spice is added to food because it is able to stand out from the food and change it for the better. A spice with no flavor would be like a sprinkle of, say, flour. If you cannot stand out- and you can't if concerns of friends and family, desire for a comfortable life, a worry over the cost, or inability to hang in there get in the way- then you are no good as a minister. The higher the commitment you're called to, the more extreme these restrictions become.
So, if you see the title of this piece and say, "Hear what?", here are your answers:
How to believe and receive;
How to bear fruit of that belief;
How to understand why things are the way they are;
How to effectively share your faith;
How to deal with YOUR sin;
How to be a Disciple.
And if you don't wish to hear, that's your right. Don't listen. A bird will be along shortly.