How often have you been listening to a sermon or reading a book and been convicted, encouraged, or excited, only to walk away and not change or do anything about it? Or have you ever said to yourself, “Man, so-and-so REALLY needs to hear this,” but you’ve failed to apply the message to your own life? I am so guilty of both of these issues that I almost don’t want to talk about it.
I have been reading Mark lately, and the other day I got to the part when Herod kills John the Baptist. I have read it before, but one part struck me on this particular reading that had not struck me before.
Mark 6 : 20 says,
Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
What is that last word again? Gladly? Herod heard John the Baptist gladly? Wasn’t John the one who had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife”? (Mark 6:18) And isn’t Herod the one who later had John the Baptist killed because of a request from his stepdaughter? (Mark 6:26-28)
It seems crazy to me that Herod would hear John the Baptist gladly and yet change nothing about his own behavior. But do I not do the very same thing? I can sit and listen to sermons and think, “Amen! I love this!” and then walk out like I never heard it. I can read a blog post that should easily convict me of my own sin and yet only think of all my other friends who really need to read it. I can receive truth gladly but fail to apply it to my own life.
Jesus warns us of having this kind of heart. When explaining the Parable of the Sower, He says,
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
(Mark 4 : 16-17)
James similarly says,
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(James 1 : 22-25)
These warnings are sobering, for sure, but as a friend has so wisely told me, “Warnings in the Bible are FOR us just as much as promises are.” They are not there just to scare us or make us feel bad about ourselves. They are not meant to make us pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, trying harder to do better. And they are certainly not there for us to just breeze over thinking, “This does not apply to me.” These warnings help us to persevere by pointing us to Jesus. They make us realize our need for Him. They make us realize how impressive He is for not being just a passive hearer of the word but a doer and ultimately the Word become flesh.
When we see the hardness of our own heart, we also see how desperate we are for Jesus to change it. When I realize how much I am like Herod, my only option is to cry out for Jesus to forgive and change me. May the Word truly take hold of my heart and transform me from the inside out.
See y’all in the Round,
“Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."