Listening to Christ Only When He Agrees With What You Already Think 

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One bit of wisdom about reading the Bible is that if you only read the passages you like or agree with, then you are not really hearing God in the Scriptures but rather are really only listening to yourself.  You are not trying to discover God’s will but want to find confirmation that God agrees with you.  Instead of humbly listening to God in order to be His servant, you want God to conform His will to yours and thus serve you.   The spiritually deaf can only hear their own thoughts and voice, and they delude themselves into thinking the voice they hear is their god’s.  One can see this kind of thing in Luke 4:14-30.

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And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”  

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Initially, those in the synagogue were eagerly willing to listen to Jesus speak, especially if they felt He was reconfirming their own beliefs and practices.  Immediately, they “all spoke well of him.”  But quickly, doubts begin to emerge – isn’t Jesus simply Joseph’s son?  We know Joseph, just a regular guy, and his son, well just one of us and nothing special, so why pay much attention to him?

And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself; what we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here also in your own country.'” And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land; and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and put him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong. But passing through the midst of them he went away. 

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As Jesus continues to speak and begins pointing out painful and inconvenient truths to them, they rapidly turn against Him.  They wanted Jesus to be as nationalistic as they were, to proclaim Jewish exceptionalism, and promise to make Israel great again.  Instead, He reminds them that God’s grace is freely given by God to those whom God chooses.  Even though God is Israel’s heavenly Father, Israel alone is not the automatic recipient of God’s blessings:  “… your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).  On hearing these things, the people of God are so enraged that they want to murder Jesus, the man of whom only a moment ago, all were speaking well.  As long as He was willing to tell them what they wanted to hear, they would praise Him, but as soon as He spoke the truth and it stung, they wanted to kill Him.  It is all very human, and we see this same behavior in American politics today.  “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings…” (2 Timothy 4:3).