1 John 4:5,6 “They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
Have you ever listened to someone and think to yourself; ‘What a pile of garbage! I’m not listening to that crap!’ And then quickly remove yourself from the ‘conversation’. Or maybe in anger told them to stop talking ‘crazy’ because you’re not going to listen. The most common response is to appear to listen politely and ignore everything that is said. Whatever way, you decided not to hear their message and so didn’t. Depending on the message this can be a good thing or a bad thing.
We evaluate any message that comes to us. It’s filtered through our likes, desires, and proclivities. What we accept must be acceptable to us. Hearing is a lot like eating. We tend to spit out stuff that doesn’t taste good and avoid it in the future. Yet, we need to learn to swallow bitter stuff – like medicine. We have to acquire the taste for nutritious stuff – like vegetables. Childish tastes run to sugary, sweet stuff. Too much sugar makes you fat and lazy. This is common knowledge, yet few ever think to apply this principle of training to their ears.
Matthew Henry tells us; “Christians who are well acquainted with the Scriptures, may, in humble dependence on Divine teaching, discern those who set forth doctrines according to the apostles, and those who contradict them. The sum of revealed religion is in the doctrine concerning Christ, his person and office.” There is the training – read the scriptures. It’s all about Jesus and everything else is secondary. If any doctrine doesn’t point to Jesus, lift Him up and give all glory to Him it’s not worth listening to no matter how many agree with it and praise the fake message up.
Matthew Henry goes on to say that false teachers know this and profit from being fakes; “The false teachers spake of the world according to its maxims and tastes, so as not to offend carnal men. The world approved them, they made rapid progress, and had many followers such as themselves; the world will love its own, and its own will love it.” This shouldn’t surprise us. It doesn’t surprise Matthew Henry; “And what wonder is it, that people of a worldly spirit should cleave to those who are like themselves, and suit their schemes and discourses to their corrupt taste?” We in the church have to listen carefully to any message that comes to our ears and accept only what lines up with God’s Word.
We have to grow up. Being born again starts a person on a maturing process that follows just as naturally as a baby growing into an adult man or woman. Real birth is always followed by real growth. Scripture describes this maturation; “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 11:11,12) Becoming an adult lets you see behind the message to the face of the author. We learn to recognize the message because we recognize the face of its author be it His or the world’s.
Jesus often spoke of having ears to hear with and cautioned against childish ears; “He who has ears to hear, let him hear. But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates . . . ” (Matthew 11:15,16) Barnes’ Notes makes the following statement about this scripture; “Christ proceeds to reprove the inconsistency and fickleness of that age of people. He says they were like children – nothing pleased them.” A desire for sugar be it a taste or in a message makes for childish demanding ways. Everything is wanted yet nothing satisfies. The devil loves the play ground!
We live in a world of childishness, even secular observers of our culture agree. Benjamin Barber writes; ” Beyond pop culture, the infantilist ethos also dominates: dogmatic judgments of black and white in politics and religion come to displace the nuanced complexities of adult morality, while the marks of perpetual childishness are grafted on to adults who indulge in puerility without pleasure and indolence without innocence. Hence, the new consumer penchant for age without dignity, dress without formality, sex without reproduction, work without discipline, play without spontaneity, acquisition without purpose, certainty without doubt, life without responsibility and narcissism into old age and unto death without a hint of wisdom or humility. In the epoch in which we now live, civilization is not an ideal or an aspiration, it is a video game.” (The Fate of Citizens Under Capitalism Triumphant: Consumerism and the Infantilist Ethos)
The Bible tells us that the world’s demanding childishness would encroach upon the church as well. Paul cautioned Timothy; “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths . . . ” (2 Timothy 4:3,4) What can we do about it? Paul’s very practical advice to Timothy in the preceeding verse will serve us well: “. . . preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. ” (2 Timothy 4:2)
The rest is up to the Holy Spirit; “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:8,9,10)
Come Lord Jesus!