There is hearing that is quickly sabotaged by the devil and thus never amounts to anything (v. 12). There is hearing that is marked at first by joy, yet pitters out in times of testing (v. 13). There is hearing that begins well, but is eventually choked out by the cares, riches, and pleasures of life (v. 14). And finally there is hearing that “holds fast” to the Word, in an “honest and good heart” and bears fruit with patience (v. 15). This, and only this, is the kind of hearing that is pleasing to God, having its roots in a sincere and Spirit-wrought faith.
With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. (Psalm 119:145–146)
One of the hallmarks of genuine faith is an express intent to do what God commands: “With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.” Faith, in other words, does not stop short at mere admiration of God’s Word. It doesn’t settle for bare recognition of the truth or rightness of His testimonies. Rather, faith sees all of these things, and gladly gives voice to them, but is nevertheless incomplete until it has been manifested in the world through action.
Just as a groom will not be content to admire his bride-to-be for very long, but at some point must actually marry her, so the same is true of faith. Faith, unconsummated through obedience, is in the end no faith at all. In order for faith to be true, it must produce doers of the word, not hearers only (Js. 1:22).
The reason this is important to say is because we live in a time where it has become acceptable — even normative — for Christians to experience the Word of God washing over them week after week while remaining substantially unchanged. Sure, we tell ourselves, our lives may not look all that different on the outside, but our hearts are being encouraged! Our “love,” as intangible and ethereal a thing as Casper, is warm and fuzzy and brimming over with good intentions!
The trouble is, the Scriptures use pesky phrases like “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5) and “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).