Life Changing Listening

Understanding The Importance of Listening To God And His Word.

George Wright
Mar 7, 2021    34m
Who do you listen to for guidance in your life? This message reminds us of the importance of listening to God and His Word. If we listen to culture and our desires, it will lead us far from God, but if we spend time in God's word and seek godly counsel, we will live according to His will. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

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This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 What an incredible gift it is. Hey, would you just give the Lord another round of applause and ovation for what he is doing and what we've seen here this weekend, thirty-nine students trusting their life to Jesus Christ. If you could've seen yesterday, as exciting as it is right now, if you could have seen yesterday, when these students started popping up around this room, to stand up in front of all of their friends, in front of all of their peers, and say, I'm following Jesus. Man, it was a move of God as the spirit was in this place, and is in this place today. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to celebrate what God is doing here, we're so grateful for each and every one of you who've been involved in Impact Weekend. Students, we love you, would y'all cheer for our students here at Shandon for Shandon students? We love you.

George Wright: 01:01 And students, it's important to me that you know this, that you hear this from me specifically on this day, we love you, you have a place here. We believe in you, we see God at work in your life. And I want you to hear me say this, I don't believe you're just the future of the church, I believe that you are the church right now, God is at work in you, and he wants to do even greater things, if you will trust him and wherever he leads you and wherever he guides you, listen to what he says. We love you! Church, cheer for our students again, this is good. In culture that we live in today it is unusual, it is unusual, to have a group of students come together for a weekend and cry out to the Lord, it is unusual to see a group of students turn their lives to Jesus Christ, it is a privilege to be a part of it.

George Wright: 01:57 I also want you to know we are celebrating today, what God has done over the past few days here at Shandon. Last Sunday, we had a special offering as a part of our Live Sent focus, many of you gave very generously to that offering. We had a $100,000 goal for the Live Sent that offering in the month of February, and I'm thrilled to be able to tell you that in the Lifts that in offering, we had over $102,000 come in, we surpassed that goal. So there is much to celebrate here today, we are so grateful at what God is doing. And I can honestly say, as your pastor, over these past couple of weeks, there have been many challenges, many difficult days, and to have a weekend like this, where we get to see God at work so tangibly in front of us has been such a beautiful, beautiful gift, and we're grateful to get to celebrate.

George Wright: 02:55 Let me encourage you now, grab your Bible, turn with me in the Old Testament, right to the middle of the Bible. If you have one of those old Bibles, we actually turned the pages, you know, turn to the middle of your Bible to the book of Proverbs, Proverbs chapter 2. If you have the Bible app on your phone, students, adults, whoever it may be, pull out your Bible app. We're also going to put these verses up on the screen for you, Proverbs chapter 2.

George Wright: 03:22 And here's what I want to talk about to you this morning is students, I know you're tired, I know you've had a lot of excitement. I want to ask you to stay with me the best you can, because this morning, I want to talk to you about life changing listening. Life changing listening, are we willing to listen to God. Proverbs chapter 2, beginning in verse 1, and I'm going to read through verse 6, this is where we'll spend some time here this morning. I'd like to invite you, if you're willing and able to stand with me, we stand at the reading of God's Word to be reminded that the Word of God is our authority, the Word of God is the foundation that the people of God stand upon., and the Word of God lays before us what God says is right and good and true.

George Wright: 04:17 So this is the word of the Lord. Proverbs chapter 2 verse 1, "My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding."

George Wright: 04:58 Let's ask the Lord, as we pray, to speak into our lives what we need to hear. Would you pray with me? Father, as we stand before you now, as we come before you, those who are with us here in person, and those who are joining with us online, Father, we need to hear from you. We are so grateful for what you've done in our midst. We're so grateful for the life change that has been on beautiful display here this weekend. And Lord, we recognize that you are moving among us. And so I pray that our hearts, right now, would be open and in tune to whatever it is that you desire for us to hear. Use this time for your glory. In the name of Jesus', I offer this prayer. Amen. Amen. You may be seated, thank you for standing.

George Wright: 05:59 So I want to lay out right up front what we're going to unpack here in Proverbs chapter 2. And here's why I want to do this, number one, I know many of our students are tired and so you may struggle to stay with me. So I want to tell you right up front what we're going to walk through just in case you miss something. But number two, I know that any time the preacher stands up to talk about listening, there is a very real enemy of God that wants to do everything he can to distract us from hearing what God desires for us to hear. So I want to say right of front, here's what we're going to see in the scripture, just in case you miss something later, look at what the Word of God reveals.

George Wright: 06:43 Number one, life-changing listening, this is what we see in Proverbs 2. Live changing listening is not just listening with our ears, it is listening with our hearts. This is a heart issue, listening is a heart issue, that's the first thing we're going to see. Number two, we're going to see that wisdom comes from listening to the right voice. There's a lot of noise in our culture, a lot of voices fighting for our attention, wisdom comes not just from listening to anyone, but from listening to the right voice. And the number three, and this is so important, we're going to see this in the Word of God, there is a huge difference in listening for what we need to hear versus listening for what we want to hear. Huge difference, listening for what we need to hear is very different from listening for what we want to hear.

George Wright: 07:44 So let's go back to Proverbs chapter 2, look at verse 2, and we see here, listening is not just simply a hearing issue, it is a heart issue. It says, "Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding." Now think about this, every time you enter into a conversation, and every time somebody starts to talk to you, every time you turn on your device and you start to listen to things that are coming your way, be it through your phone, or your tablet, or TV, or whatever the case may be, every time we enter into one of those conversations, there is something that begins to happen in our heart, whether we realize it or not.

George Wright: 08:27 Let me give you an example of this, there are times when I enter into a conversation in my mind is elsewhere and I'm thinking about all the things that really matter to me, or I'm thinking about the things that I want to say to this person who's talking. And so all of a sudden, I realize that even though they're talking, I have no idea what they're saying. It's like, they're Charlie Brown's teacher, right, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, wah, I have no clue what they've just said. Because in my heart, in that moment, I have concluded, there's something far more important than what they have to say. That can be a problem. Maybe there are people in your life that have things you need to hear, but quite honestly, you just don't want to hear what they have to say. And so you see them coming, or you see their number on your phone, and you just ignore it all together. There's something happening there in your heart, what is it that's happening? When every conversation that we enter into, and every opportunity that we're given to listen or to refuse to listen, there is that epic battle that is waging war in our heart between pride and humility. The battle between pride and humility is always actively being fought in our heart, as it relates to listening.

George Wright: 09:51 Here's how it plays out. If I feel like I'm more important than you, or I feel like what I have to say is more important than what you have to say, then I'll just ignore what you're saying, I won't listen, and I'll even maybe talk over you or try to fill in the space with my words so that your words don't matter at all. That's an issue of pride, to believe that I'm the only one that has something good to say, to believe that you've got it all figured out, so you don't need to listen to what somebody else has to say, that's an issue of pride. And the reality is, to be a good listener, students, you need to understand this, to be a good listener, requires humility. You cannot be a good listener without humility. In fact, the Word of God is laying this before us, we cannot grow in wisdom without becoming a good listener, and you cannot be a good listener without growing in humility.

George Wright: 10:52 Let me give you another example of this in Proverbs, Proverbs chapter 12 verse 15, this verse is so powerful. It says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes." That's that issue of pride, I've got this all figured out, I don't need to hear what you have to say. I already know what I need to hear, and it doesn't come from you. "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but the wise man..." The wise man, what does it say? "...listens to advice." It takes humility to be a good listener, pride is simply one of the greatest, if not the greatest barriers, that prevents us from hearing what we need to hear. Not only just pride cut off our ears, but pride hardens our hearts. We can't hear what we need to hear, when pride is reigning and ruling in our heart.

George Wright: 11:57 Jesus actually gives a pretty incredible example of this in a little thing that he says as he's telling a story in the gospel of Matthew. The gospel of Matthew chapter 13, Jesus tells a very famous parable, it's called The Parable of the Sower. But he realizes as the crowd is listening to him tell this story, some of them just aren't understanding it at all. He's talking about a farmer that goes to sow seeds out in a field, and the seeds fall on different types of soil. And Jesus is going to go in and explain this parable in its entirety, and explain the different types of soil, but he makes this very interesting statement in verse 9 of Matthew 13, he says simply this, "He who has ears, let them hear." He who has ears, let him hear. Now, I remember as a kid hearing this story, and seeing that little statement and going, is there something about the area that Jesus was living that I don't understand? Like a long time ago, were there people that just didn't have ears? I mean, is this like some weird parts of the world where people are just born without years, is that what that's saying? Or maybe Jesus is just biased against deaf people, and so he's saying, hey, sorry, if you're deaf, you don't get no. That's not what this is at all, Jesus is talking about the heart, and you see Jesus has this incredible gift that you or I don't have, Jesus could see the heart of someone that he was interacting with, he knew what was going on behind the layers, he knew what was going on in their heart. And he's looking out at the crowd, because a large crowd is listening to him, and he knows there are some in the crowd whose heart is so hardened in pride that no matter what he says, they will not be able to hear, because the ears of their heart have just been closed. But at the same time, he knows there are some people listening that they're wide open, they're hungry to hear what they need to hear, they have a heart of humility. And so he says, "He who has ears, let him here." I'll just ask you here this morning, students, parents, do you have ears to hear? For true listening, as it relates to the wisdom of God is not simply a hearing issue, it is a heart issue.

George Wright: 14:30 Let's go back to Proverbs 2 now, as we think about our hearts, and let's see again, what the scripture says. Look at verse 6 now, we're going to jump down and then jump back up. Proverbs 2:6 says, "For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity." Here we're being reminded of the importance of listening to the right voice. True wisdom comes when we listen to the right voice, so let me just ask you, who are you listening to? I'm not just talking about right now, today, I'm talking about in your life, who are you listening to?

George Wright: 15:22 It could easily be argued that we live in the time in history, where there is more noise fighting for our attention, more voices fighting for our attention, than any other time in human history. We are being bombarded with noise, bombarded with voices all the time. In fact, I recently saw some studies about this, and the studies are showing that teenagers today in America, on average, are spending eight to nine hours a day on their smartphone, that's a lot of listening. I know some of you students are going, hey, I'm way above average. Hey, we're proud of you, but you really need to hear this, okay? Parents are really not that far behind, the typical adults in America spends five to six hours a day on their smartphone, that is a lot of listening. What voices are we listening to? What voices are you listening to?

George Wright: 16:31 While it is true that there are more voices fighting for our attention than ever before, it also is true that this is as old as time itself. In fact, I want to take you real quickly back to the very beginning of the story in scripture, back to the Book of Genesis, the first book. If you're new to Bible study, it's at the very beginning, let me help you out there. Go back to Genesis chapter 3, as we see Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and we see sin enter into the equation for the first time, Genesis 3 records for us the fall of man. And I just want to draw your attention to the first verse of Genesis 3, as sin is entering the scene for the first time, listen to what the scripture says, "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say?" Students, did God actually say that? Did God actually say that there's a certain way to live? Did God actually say that there's some things you should do and shouldn't do? Did God actually say that Jesus really is the only way to the Father? Did God actually say that there's things about sexuality that you need to understand? Did God actually say? Because there's a lot of voices that want to say to you, I don't think you need to pay attention to what God actually says. And if he really, really said that, I mean, come on, he's old fashioned, he's the oldest dude around. He doesn't know what's really going on in your life. I mean, did God actually say? This temptation is the temptation we fight every day. Will we believe the right voice, or will we believe the voices that are speaking into our life and pulling us away from what God actually said? Will we listen to the voice of God, or will we listen to the voice of the world around us as we seek to walk in wisdom?

George Wright: 19:02 I want to read a quote from another pastor, Pastor Rick Warren, I love this quote, it's very, very helpful. He says, "You're never going to hear God, unless you want to hear God, it's just that simple. God speaks to those who decide in advance they're going to do whatever God tells them to do before he even tells them, he does not play games. He wants you to desire communication with him, and for you to say, God, you tell me what to do and I'll do it." That's the posture of a humble listener, God, you tell me what to do and I'll do it. I don't know what to do right now, but God, I'm looking to you, and if you say whatever you say, I will do it. And students, you need to understand this, God never speaks against what is in his word. If you want to know what God says, it always lines up with his word. His word is right, His word is good, His word is true, God speaks through his word, and anything that God speaks that might be outside of his word will always point back to his word. He never contradicts himself, he never goes against what he has said, are you willing to seek his wisdom? Are you willing to seek his wisdom with a heart that says, I will do whatever you tell me to do?

George Wright: 20:39 For as Proverb says, the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth comes understanding. His wisdom is a shield to those who are willing to listen, meaning his wisdom is always for our good. Here's the best part about this, God wants us to have his wisdom. Students you need to hear this, this is really important, James chapter 1 verse 5 says this, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach." That is an incredible thing to hear, if you lack wisdom, you can ask from God, he's not holding out on you, he's not stingy, he wants you to ask him. And when you honestly ask him, with the heart that says, I will do whatever you say, he will give you his wisdom. So seek him, ask him, he wants you to have his wisdom. Are you listening to the right voice?

George Wright: 21:45 Students, I know what's going to happen in your lives this week. I know I don't know all your stories, I don't know everything that you're walking through, I don't know everything that's happening in your home. In fact, I don't know many details about most of your lives, but I do know what's going to happen this week. You're going to leave Impact Weekend, you're going to go back to school, or back to online school, or wherever you're going, you're going to start to interact with your friends. And all the sudden there's going to be voices speaking into your life, saying things very differently than what you've heard this weekend at Impact Weekend. So who are you gonna listen to? Who are you gonna listen to? Are you going to listen to the voices of your friends, or the voices of the world, who, oh, by the way, were made by the creator? Or are you going to listen to the creator himself? Who will you listen to? True wisdom comes from listening to the right voice.

George Wright: 22:49 And then number three, this leads to the final point, and this is so incredibly important. There really is a huge difference in listening to what we need to hear, versus listening to what we want to hear. Hey, you can find somebody to tell you what you want to hear, but it's hard to listen to what you need to hear. Next Sunday, I'm going to start a new sermon series on the Book of Second Timothy, and I'm really excited to walk through this book together as a church. We're going to go from the beginning to the end of Second Timothy over several weeks, but there's a sobering passage of scripture in Second Timothy 4, we're going to get to this like weeks down the road, we'll spend more time on it then. But I just want to read it right here because it's so appropriate to the context of this message, and the reality that there is a huge difference in listening to what we need to hear versus listening to what we want to hear. Second Timothy 4 says this, the apostle Paul talking to young Timothy, "I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (this is what Paul says to Timothy) preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." And here's why, listen to this, 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 passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths."

George Wright: 24:34 If ever that time has come, it is now. We're living this right now, this is right where we are living. And the apostle Paul is saying to Timothy, you must preach the word because the Word of God is what the world so desperately needs to hear. But Timothy, you got to understand, there's going to be a lot of people who just don't want to hear it. Because the Word of God shows us that our sin is actually far worse than we truly want to admit. But at the same time, Timothy, don't miss this at the same time, the Word of God shows us while our sin is far worse than we'd ever want to admit, our savior is far greater than we could ever have hoped for. Please don't miss this, you see, people are going to want to hear that they can do this all on their own, that they can pull themselves up from their bootstraps, that they can figure out this whole thing called life on their own, and that they could eventually just save themselves because they're so great. That's what people want to believe, but the Word of God shows us that we are nothing apart from the grace of God, that's what we need to hear. People don't want to hear the reality that sin always destroys, every single time. Sin always destroys, we don't get away with it. We want to think we can get away with it, but sin always destroys. Nobody wants to hear that, but we need to hear it. And as we hear it, we need to hear that while sin always destroys, God, in his love and grace toward us, has the power to build us back up into the gift of new life through his forgiveness and mercy towards sinners. That's what we need to hear, so will we listen to what we need to hear, or will we listen simply just to what we want to hear?

George Wright: 26:56 Proverbs 2 says it this way, "Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Will you listen to what you need to hear? Please don't miss this, I'm wrapping up, I'm wrapping up. Students, don't miss this, I know many of you are tired, but this is so incredibly important, I want you to think about this statement. Don't miss this, if you only listen to the things you want to hear, it might feel good in the moment, please don't miss this, but it will feel like hell when this life is over. I'm not trying to just like shock you here, I'm trying to say something that's true. If you only listen to what you want to hear in this life, it might feel good in the moment, but when this life is over, it will feel like hell. Because you can't save yourself, and you'll never be right with God, if left to yourself. And the only way that someone can truly be saved, is if they humbly trust in Jesus as their savior and turn from their sin, and listen to what they actually need to hear. So may we be people who listen, who listened to the life-giving reproof of the Lord, and see the beautiful forgiveness of God poured out on sinners like you and me, as we look to Jesus and see what he has done for us, that we could never do for ourselves. Will we listen to what we need to hear, to the wisdom of God? Will we open our hearts to the beauty of the gospel? And will we trust, will we trust our hearts to Jesus, listening to his voice above all others, believing that he will truly give us the wisdom and the understanding that we need to hear? Who will you listen to? He who has ears, let him hear.

George Wright: 29:42 Let me pray for us as we close this time. Father, I'm so thankful for your word, it is challenging, but it is so beautiful. I'm so thankful that your word has come to life for so many students this weekend. I'm so thankful that the beauty of the gospel has been on display through students trusting in you, and students stepping into the waters of baptism to say, I'm following Jesus, my life has changed. I'm so thankful for what we've seen. And Lord God, I know there are some among us who've never experienced that before. There's some among us who have been living their lives, trying to figure out which way is best and what to do, and yet over and over and over again, if they're honest, they're listening to the wrong voices. And today they're hearing a voice speak into their life that maybe they've never paid attention to before, as your spirit is prompting them now, they're hearing a voice, the voice of the savior. A voice of Jesus saying, you can trust me. I've done for you, what you could never do for yourself, I've given my life for you at the cross for your sin. Your sin is forgiven if you will trust in me, you can trust in me.

George Wright: 31:12 And so I pray for whoever that may be today, maybe it's one of these students that's been here all weekend, maybe it's one of their family member, maybe it's a college student, maybe it's someone joining online, maybe it's someone who's just here for the first time or it's someone that's been in church for years, and they're realizing they've not been listening to the voice of God. Because the voice of God has not been able to speak into their hearts, because they've never trusted their life to Jesus Christ. So I pray in this moment, that they would realize their need for the Savior, and they would realize what they need to hear is that the Savior is calling them to step into new life, to be forgiven, covered in his mercy and grace. If that's you today, and you know you need to trust Jesus. We just give you the opportunity right there in your heart to say, Jesus, I realize that I need the Savior, I am ready to trust you. I'm asking you to forgive me of my sin, I'm ready to turn away from my sin in repentance. And I'm ready to follow you, for you are what I need.

George Wright: 32:38 Oh Lord, we praise you for the gift of salvation, we praise you for what you are doing. And Lord, we pray that we would be a people whose hearts would be wide open to listen to what we need to hear, to listen to you, Lord God, and to do whatever it is that you call us to do. May we walk in wisdom as we listen to the Lord. Thank you for this time. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.

George Wright: 33:15 Hey, let me invite you to stand with us, we're going to sing a final song together. I do want you to know though, as we sing, our next steps area in our lobby is open. We've got some people from Shandon that are there that would love to pray with you if God's stirring in your heart in any way, and you need someone to pray with you, go straight to our next steps area. If you want to talk to someone about a relationship with Jesus, go straight to our next steps area. If you know you need to be baptized the way you saw so many baptized in faith today, go straight to our next steps area. We would love to talk to you about these important decisions of faith.

George Wright: 33:54 And if you're joining us online, and you would like someone to follow up with you, just text the word, connect, to the number that you see there on the screen. Let's lift our voices and celebrate what God has done as we worship the Lord.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206