As I concluded my previous post, I could fairly hear the deacons in the audience shouting, “Just because the hair on the back of your neck stands up, how do you know it’s right?”
That’s a good question. There has to be some norm, some standard by which to measure.
There is. It’s called the Bible, and one of the things it teaches us is this: who the hearer is will determine what he hears. If this sounds subjective to you, that’s because in a sense, it is. But it’s entirely biblical: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” as Jesus often said. This saying teaches us that there is such a thing as having ears to hear, and such a thing as not having ears to hear. The person with ears and the person without ears are both standing in front of Jesus, and both hear the same parable…but only the one with ears to hear really hears it, after all. The same propositional content for both, but one understands and the other does not.
Nor is understanding, or failing to, the full range of outcomes. The same content can convey two opposite messages to two different people, as Paul tells us:
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
We carry the gospel on our lips and in our lives, and this bespeaks death to those who are perishing, but life to those who are being saved. It’s the same content, but different messages are received because the hearers are different. This is obvious with a little reflection: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion” is gospel to God’s people, but chains and a rod of iron to those who will not kiss the Son.
This is to say that there is no substitute for walking with God and being conformed to the image of His Son. As we do this, we will find that He makes us able to see and hear what would otherwise be invisible and inaudible to us. All of which returns us to the question: how will we know when this is happening?
Two blind men are standing on a hill, looking out at a sunset. Suddenly, one of the blind men is healed entirely, and the sunset bursts in on him. “I can see! I can see!” he shouts.
“How do you know?” asks his still blind companion.