“In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit . . .”  Ephesians 1:13 (NASB)

One day when my son was around six years old, he was getting into the Christmas spirit by sweetly singing, “We three kings all in a row.” He had the right tune but the lyrics were a bit off. After he had sung that line four or five times I thought I’d better teach him how the song actually went.  

However, before I could say anything, Heather, who was eleven, spoke up in a corrective tone, “No, Buddy, it’s not ‘We three kings all in a row!’ It’s ‘We three kings in orian TAR!’” Trying to suppress a laugh I asked, “Heather, just what exactly is ‘orian tar?’”  She shrugged. “I don’t know, Daddy. I just heard of it in that song.”

I wondered if she thought that was the reason the wise men took so long getting to Jesus. They had to trudge through all that thick orian tar. I had both her and Paul watch my lips as I spoke the words to the song, “We three kings from orient are . . .”

Both Paul and Heather had sincere hearts in their attempts at singing that song. The problem was that they had both heard the song incorrectly. The right words had been played over our stereo but the way they heard the words was askew. As a result, Paul saw the kings waiting in line to see Jesus and Heather pictured them wading through a tar pit.

Our passage says, “In Him, after listening to the message of the truth . . . having also believed . . .” This means that listening precedes believing. The Greek word for “listening” here means effectual hearing or to hear with understanding.

Often, we can miss the truth of God’s word because we “hear” it incorrectly. The right words may be read, spoken, or preached but the way we hear the words is skewed. Sometimes, we need to slow down and read God’s lips. We need to listen in a way that makes the truth practical and applicable to our lives. That is, we need to listen with understanding. That’s when belief happens and the truth sets us free.

For example, a former minister came to me for counseling. He had lost his family and ministry due to a moral failure. We met together over the course of several weeks. One day he said, “You know, a lot of this stuff I’ve heard all my life. I’ve even preached sermons on it. But, I am just now seeing how it actually applies to everyday life.”

There was a woman in her early twenties who was a newly married, but already burned-out, housewife. The impossible expectations she had placed on herself were crushing her. In our counseling sessions she learned the principle of rest from Matthew 11:28-30. She told me, “All this time I had be asking Jesus to take away my weariness but I wasn’t letting Him have my burdens. It’s incredible how simple the truth is once you really see it.”

My prayer is that we really hear with understanding the song of heaven this Christmas. In hearing it, may we truly recognize the greatest love ever expressed in the greatest Gift ever given. And, in our singing it, may others clearly hear its message, and believe.  

© Paul R Downing

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