Listening Like Your Life Depends on It

expository-listening-ramey-2010Such is the title to the concluding chapter of Ken Ramey’s book, Expository Listening: A Handbook for Hearing and Doing God’s Word , (Kress Biblical Resources, 2010; pp.103ff.). This final section stresses the vital importance of how we listen to God’s Word preached from the viewpoint of Jesus’ closing words to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.7:24-27).

To remind us of Jesus’ words in that spiritual lesson, let’s put those words in front of us:

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

In this light, Ramey makes these comments:

Ask yourself, ‘What could possibly be more relevant than knowing that both those how preach and those who listen must give an account to Christ when He returns?’ At the final judgment, the listeners will stand alongside the preachers and be held accountable for the part they played in the preaching of God’s Word (2 Tim.4:1-3). God’s Word itself will be the solemn standard by which both preachers and hearers will be judged (John 12:47-48). While the preachers are judged by the sermons they preached, the listeners will be judged by the sermons they heard.

…Therefore, whenever you sit under the preaching of God’s Word, what should be in the forefront of your mind is that fearful day when you will be judged based on how receptive and responsive you were to what you heard. …what you do with what God has said in His Word determines not only what kind of life you have here on earth, but also where you will spend eternity. That is the bottom line of the Sermon on the Mount. …Jesus concluded His famous sermon by calling on all those who were listening to act on what He had told them. He challenged them to put into practice everything He had just preached.

…Jesus gave a closing illustration that contrasted two types of builders: a wise builder and a foolish builder. These two builders exemplify the two ways people respond to Christ’s words. The wise builder represents those people who hear and obey His Word, and the foolish builder represents those people who hear but disobey His Word. All of us are in the process of building a house, that is to say, living our lives. We are all like one of these two builders. What kind of builder we are will determine how our life ends up.  How we build has eternal consequences – it will lead to either eternal salvation or eternal damnation. Heaven and hell are on the line when it comes to listening to God’s Word.

And Ramey closes with a quote from Puritan David Clarkson, which ends this subject with utmost solemnity:

Hearing is the provision made for the soul’s eternal well-being, its everlasting welfare depends on it; if you fail here, your souls perish without remedy. For salvation comes by faith and faith comes by hearing. It is an act of eternal consequence. According to our hearing, so shall the state of our souls be to eternity.

Which leads the author to end the book with this sentence: “So listen to every sermon in light of eternity, because every sermon is truly a matter of life and death.”

Shall we not pray for God’s mercy and grace as we listen to the Word today and every Lord’s day?

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