Hearing more than just what we want to hear

Hearing more than just what we want to hear

Just a reminder that the congregational meeting to call Shiv Muthukumar as associate pastor will be immediately after worship this Sunday. The meeting will be brief. Please stay and use the opportunity to keep those words you spoke when you joined: “Do you promise to support the Church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?” Thank you.

Certain books change the way we think. For me, a recent example was Sinclair Ferguson’s The Whole Christ, which (among other things) was about how the grace of God and the Gospel can be understood very differently by people who confess all the same truths and use all the same words. I suppose God brought the book at the right moment—when I was noticing the same-but-different phenomenon in the Church around me. So I began to consider more carefully the importance of nuance and discernment, not to mention culture and “vibe” (a Luke Morton favorite).

Yesterday I read Heb. 5:14—“…those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Constant practice! There’s an old Simon & Garfunkel song that includes the line, “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Who knows how much of life I’ve gone through obeying the principle in Simon & Garfunkel rather than Hebrews 5. I suspect I’ve gone years and years hearing things in a way that made them fit what I already believed, or wanted to believe. It takes time and a certain willingness of character, a willingness or even a longing to be changed, to discern what the Word is actually saying. If your devotional life, or your faith, is flat and dull, you may want to meditate on all this. The Holy Spirit can be grieved and quenched.

This morning our son Luke emailed a prayer from Hillary of Poitiers. Hillary was a 4th-century leader and thinker who fought Arianism all his life, the view in trinitarian theology that the Son is subordinate to the Father (we believe the Son is of one substance and equal with the Father). Here’s Hillary: “Our minds are born with dull and clouded vision, our feeble intellect is penned within the barriers of an impassable ignorance concerning things Divine; but the study of Your revelation elevates our soul to the comprehension of sacred truth, and submission to the faith is the path to a certainty beyond the reach of unassisted reason. And therefore we look to Your support for the first trembling steps of this undertaking, to Your aid that it may gain strength and prosper. We look to You to give us the fellowship of that Spirit Who guided the Prophets and the Apostles, that we may take their words in the sense in which they spoke and assign its right shade of meaning to every utterance.”

I love that last phrase, “assign its right shade of meaning to every utterance.” That’s my desire as a preacher and teacher. Mere oratory can deliver an emotionally powerful message, but faithfulness to the Word honors the Holy Spirit and results in growth (sanctification) in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Please pray this discernment for Shiv, Casey, and me. Thank you!