“Yeah, Yeah, I’ve Heard It Before!”
While at the dentist’s office some time ago for a routine cleaning, the hygienist asked if I had been flossing, just as she did each and every time I went. I mumbled something about “Not as much as I should” (It’s hard to speak intelligibly when someone has a sharp instrument in your mouth!) and she promptly lectured me on the importance of regular flossing just as she did each and every time before. All the while I thought to myself, “Zeke, you wouldn’t get this lecture if you’d just do what she says!” Still, she continued to remind me hoping that I would put into practice what she kept reminding me about.
God’s people are like that sometimes. We come to services each week while the preacher tries to exhort us into right living, all the while thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard it before!” and it’s almost as though some folks have an “off” switch in their heads that they throw when he starts talking about the same old things. Some may even be thinking that when a preacher starts to repeat himself, the congregation ought to get another!
If that’s so, then the apostle Peter should have gone job hunting, for he wrote, “I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder,...” (II Peter 1:12-13) You see, although he knew that they knew these things, still he continued to exhort, encourage, and rebuke them anyway. He even said that after he was dead and gone, he would make sure that they (we) would be able to recall what he said (II Peter 1:15). No doubt he was referring to the letter that they (we) can read repeating the principles that they (we) already knew. By applying these things, Peter wrote, “... the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.” (II Peter 1:11)
School teachers will tell you that the most effective tool they use is simple repetition, giving the same instructions over and over again. In this way the child learns and then begins to apply that knowledge to the task at hand. It’s the same way for us. The principles and concepts given to us in the word of God are repeated throughout the Bible giving us not only instruction, but also warnings of the consequences of failing to apply that instruction! Why keep rehashing the same old things again and again? Because God desires that we not only learn, but learn and do.
Jesus gives us the parable of the two builders in Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:46-49 to contrast the difference between the one who hears His words and acts on them as compared to the one who simply hears. Jesus infers that doing what we hear is what will give us the firm, stable foundation we need to weather the storms and adversities of life. Why do we sometimes feel that some adversities are harder to bear than others? Maybe it’s because we haven’t built on the firm foundation of hearing and doing the will of God!
James 1:22 tells us, “... prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” To “prove” oneself is to demonstrate what one knows. It’s an action verb and can only be accomplished by doing. The alternative, James says, is to delude ourselves. The deception is in thinking that all we must simply do is show up to services at the appointed times and listen, without ever intending to put into practice what we have heard. To do so and believe we are accepted by God is to deceive ourselves. Let’s all resolve to take more seriously the charge that is set before us every time we meet, even if we have heard it before. There is nothing new that the preacher can preach, it is the same age-old word of God which will always stand and never pass away and the only thing that matters is if we allow it to change our lives and save our souls. (James 1:21).
As for my visit to the dentist, the hygienist told me I had two new cavities, probably because I never heeded her repeated admonitions to floss!