20190210 Sunday worship Sermon
Listening Heart (Zephaniah 3:17)
You probably all know this parable from Jesus, “The parable of the sower.”
In this parable, there are four different types of fields.
The farmer scattered the seeds and the seeds fell on these different types of fields.
Of course, the results are different.
On one place, the seed was not able to root, on the other place, the seed was able to root but not sprout, and the other field, the seed was able to root and sprout, but it was not able to fruit.
But on the good soil, the seed was able to fruit.
In the end, the important thing is the type of the field.
Interpreting this parable, many people think of the field as of our “heart.”
Our hearts are like the 4 different types of field.
When the seeds of God’s word are scattered, for someone who has hard hearts, the seeds of God’s Word are not able to root, but for someone who has a good heart, the seed of God’s Word are able to root and fruit.
Therefore, it is said that the listening hearts are very important.
Adding on, I believe that the ears, which are listening to God’s Word, are very important.
The role of the ears is to listen.
Even though we have ears, some people may close up their ears, or some open their ears, but do not listen.
But there are those who open their ears and listen carefully.
“Let he who has ears to hear, use them”
Jesus said this more than once.
We are reminded that it’s not enough just to have ears, it’s necessary to use them.
We all have ears to hear.
However, many times, we don’t use them.
We don’t listen.
It seems that we don’t want to listen.
The Bible has always placed an importance on hearing God’s voice.
The great command from God through Moses began with the words, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deut. 6:4)
And Proverbs 8:34 says “Happy are those who listen to me.”
And, Jesus teaches us to learn to listen like sheep.
In John 10:3 Jesus says “The sheep recognize his voice… they follow because they are familiar with the shepherd’s voice.”
And the seven churches in Revelation is addressed in the same manner: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
There are many instances when people actually do not listen even though they are hearing.
Let me re-phrase this: their ears are opened, but they don’t listen.
Pontius Pilate didn’t listen either.
He had the typical case of ear’s, that didn’t hear.
He didn’t hear the warning from his wife, “Don’t do anything to that man, because he is innocent.” (Matthew 27:19)
He didn’t even hear Jesus’ voice.
Pilate inclined his ear only to the crowd and away from Jesus and ignored Jesus’s words.
“Faith comes from hearing…” (Romans 10:17), and since Pilate didn’t hear, he never found faith.
“Let he who has ears to hear, use them.”
How do you listen carefully to God’s voice?
How do you concentrate God’s words?
Now, I would like to re-think how well we hear the voice of God.
Due to testing how well we hear God’s voice, I would like to ask you a question:
“How long has it been since you let God have you?”
In other words, “how much do you give God an uninterrupted time listening for his voice?”
Jesus always tried to spend time with God.
Jesus spent regular time with God, praying and listening.
In Mark 1:35 it says, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
Luke 5:16 tells us, “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16)
If Jesus considered it important to clear his calendar to pray, wouldn’t we do the same?
Not only did Jesus spend regular time with God in prayer, but also spent regular time in God’s Word.
Jesus was so familiar with Scripture that he not only knew the verses, but knew how to use it.
If Jesus considered it right to grow familiar with the Bible, shouldn’t we do the same?
If we are to have ears that hear God’s voice, we need to develop two habits; the habits of prayer and Bible reading.
If we want to be like Jesus, we should have a regular time of talking to God and listening to his word.
But some of us may say, “Oh, you are talking about daily quite time? You are considering Bible study or prayer meeting? If so, those are nothing special. I have known well and tried them. But I have not been successful in them. And I am very busy. So I don’t have time to spend with God. I don’t have much time to attend the worship service or prayer meeting. There is no time to meditate with the Bible and pray to God. So rather than spend time directly with God and listening for his voice, I will let others spend time with God and then benefit from others’ experience. Let them tell me what God is saying”
What about you?
Do you agree with this approach?
If that is your approach, your spiritual experiences are secondhand and not firsthand.
I would like to challenge you with this question: “Do you do that with other parts of your life?”
I don’t think so.
What about vacation?
You don’t say, “Vacations are such a hassle, packing bags and traveling. I’m going to send someone on vacation for me. When he returns, I will hear all about it and be spared all the inconvenience.”
Would you do that?
No, that’s nonsense!
You want the experience firsthand.
You want the sights firsthand, and you want to rest on vacation, firsthand.
Certain things no one can do for you.
What about romance.
You don’t say, “I am in love with someone, but romance is such a hassle. I am going to hire someone to enjoy the romance in my place. I will hear all about it and be spared the inconvenience.”
No, it’s ridiculous.
You want the romance firsthand.
You don’t want to miss a word or a date.
Certain things no one can do for you.
What about eating?
You don’t say, “Chewing is such a bother. My jaws grow so tired. I am going to hire someone to chew my food, and I will just swallow whatever he gives me.”
Of course not. It’s disgusting!
That’s right. Certain things no one can do for us.
One of those things is spending time with God.
Listening to God is a firsthand experience.
When God asks for your attention, God doesn’t want you to send a substitute.
God wants “you.”
God invites “you” to vacation in his splendor.
God invites “you” to feel the touch of his hand.
God invites “you” to feast at his table.
Yes, God wants to spend time with “you”
And, if we have a little training, we can have great and joyful time with God.
There is a young man who married an opera singer.
His wife loves opera concerts.
But the husband has no relationship with opera.
His concern is only about sports.
He loves his wife.
So, sometimes, he attends an opera concert with his wife.
They sit side by side in the same auditorium, listening to the same music.
But their responses are different.
His wife weeps but he sleeps.
I believe that the difference is more than taste.
It is because of training.
She has spent hours learning to appreciate the art of music.
But he has spent none.
Her ears are very sensitive.
But he can’t distinguish between the pitch and tempo.
However, now he is trying to stay awake.
He may never have the same ear as his wife, but with time he is learning to listen and appreciate the music.
I believe that we can too.
Equipped with the right tools, we can learn to listen to God.
And then, what are those tools?
First, a regular time and place.
Select a distinguished time from your daily life and claim it for God.
For some it may be best to do this in the early morning.
Others may prefer the evening.
Some may prefer many encounters during the day.
Some are in the bedroom, others in the kitchen.
Maybe your commute to work or your lunch break would be appropriate.
Find a time and place that is right for you.
How much time should you take?
As much as you need.
The quality is more important than the length.
Your time with God should last long enough for you to say what you want and for God to say what he wants.
Second tool to listen to God is the Bible.
God speaks to us through the Bible.
The first step in reading the Bible is to ask God to help you understand it.
Do not go to Scripture looking for your own idea; go searching for God’s will.
Read the Bible prayerfully.
Also, read the Bible carefully.
Here is a practical point.
It is suggested to read the Bible a little at a time.
The quality is more important than quantity.
Read until a verse “hits” you, then stop and meditate on it.
Write the verse in your note, and reflect on it several times.
For example, on the morning, when you read Matthew 18, you are only four verses into the chapter when you read, “The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child.”
If this verse touches your heart, you don’t have to go further.
Stop there and copy the words in your note, and ponder them on and off during the day.
And ask God, “How can I be more childlike?”
There is third tool to listen to God’s voice.
Not only do we need regular time with the Bible, but we also need a listening heart.
We know we are listening to God when what we read in the Bible is what others see in our lives.
I believe it means that if we have a listening heart we can practice rightly.
Open your ears, give your time and place, and prepare a listening heart, then you can hear the beautiful voice of God.
Brothers and sisters, do you know the fact that God is singing for us?
Let’s look at today’s text, Zephaniah 3:17,
“The Lord your God is with you; the mighty One will save you. He will rejoice over you. You will rest in his love; he will sing and be joyful about you.”
In this verse, who is active and who is passive
Who is singing and who is resting?
Who is rejoicing over his loved one, and who is being rejoiced over?
We usually think that we are the singers and God is the “listener.”
Of course, most certainly that is often the case.
But, it is apparent, there are times when God wishes that we would just be still and let him sing for us.
What a stunning thought!
How do we listen carefully to God’s beautiful songs?
Do we ever try listening to the beautiful voice of God?
Think about it…
I would like to share a story with you.
This story about the people who had to dance without music.
Day after day people came to the great hall.
They brought their wives, husbands and children.
They came to dance.
The hall was prepared for a big dance.
They had a stage on which the musicians could play, but there were never any musicians.
People would arrive and would just sit, yet, knowing they have come to a dance.
But they didn’t know how to dance without music.
This was happening every day.
Someone tried to dance without music.
Their efforts were commendable, but far from compatible.
As time went on, people grew weary, and everyone resumed the task of sitting and staring and wondering if anything was ever going to happen.
And then, one day it did.
Not everyone saw him enter.
Only a few.
His appearance is nothing special to compel people’s attention.
His looks were common, but his music was not.
He began to sing a song, soft and sweet, kind and compelling.
His song took off the chilly air and brought a warm air to the people’s heart.
As he sang, people stood and began to dance.
Flowing to a music that they had never heard before, they danced.
However, some people remained seated.
Some complained, saying “What kind of musician is this who never mounts the stage? Who brings no band? Who has no costume? For musicians, reputation and dignity are important. But why this guy scarcely mentioned his name?”
And then, they asked him “How can we know what you sing is actually music?”
His reply was to the point:
“Let he who has ears to hear, use them…”
But they refused to hear.
So they refused to dance.
Until now many people still refuse to hear.
The musician comes and sings.
Some dance, but some do not.
Some find music for life, but others live in silence.
To those who miss the music, the musician gives the same appeal:
“Let he who has ears to hear, use them…”
Brothers and sisters, I want you to let God have you, and let God love you.
I want you all have the listening heart.
I bless you all in the name of Lord to become the people who can hear God’s voice, the beautiful music of God. Amen.