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On Hearing and Hardening

James 1:21-25 urges people to be doers of God's word and not hearers only. He warns that "hearers only" are like a man who looks into a mirror and sees a real mess. But instead of taking immediate action, he goes away and forgets what kind of man he was. The church-going and Bible reading man and woman who does so, says Brother James, deceives himself/herself. The greatest need for many of us is not to hear yet another sermon about the gospel, but instead to obey the gospel we have heard so many sermons about. Too often our problem is not that we don't know what to do but that we don't do what we know. Like the guy in this story. Enveloped in a cloud of dust, the county agricultural agent drove into the farmyard and bounced onto the old farmer's porch. The farm looked pretty much run-down, and the farmer sitting in the creaky old rocking chair did, too. The agent, enthusiasm running high, began sharing what he thought were exciting ideas for improving the farm, but the old man stopped him in mid-sentence. "Simmer down, sonny. I know how to farm twice as good as I'm farmin' already."

Hearing God's word but not obeying it never leaves us the same as before. The gospel always makes some kind of impact, and we always make a response to it. You can't sit in a pew where the word is being preached and escape making a response. Don't believe that? Read 1s` Corinthians 1:18. Some people convince themselves they can just tell God, "I'm going to wait awhile" when they hear the invitation but don't respond. Sunday after Sunday goes by and nobody "goes forward," and we think there have been "no responses" to the gospel. But you can't hear God's word and tell God, "I'm waiting awhile." No. Every time you hear the gospel and do not obey it, you are responding to it. You are not telling God, "I'm not responding today" if you don't obey. You are telling God, "No, I won't obey you today." And that is a response. You have heard, but at least for the moment you have hardened your heart to the heavenly call. Hebrews 3:7-19 speaks to this very point. The writer is encouraging Christians (of Jewish background) to continue in their obedience to God and the gospel. To do so he quotes Psalm 95:7-11 and reminds them that Old Testament Israel heard God's word for 40 years (Hebrews 3:9). But in spite of having heard God's word and having known His will, they hardened their hearts in unbelief, rebellion, and disobedience! Three times in the Hebrews passage (verses 7, 13, and 15) the writer calls on them to obey "today" or face the danger they will "harden" their hearts. The original generation that left Egypt never made it to Canaan. Not because they didn't hear God's word and know the way, but because they hardened their hearts and kept telling God, "Not today." A hymn challenges our tendency to hear

God's voice but not obey — "Why do you wait, dear brother? The harvest is passing away; Your Savior is longing to bless you: There's danger and death in delay" (4th verse of Why Do You Wait? by George F. Root). Have
you heard God's word? Do you know God's will? Don't harden your heart and delay. Obey God today!

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ