Take Heed How You Hear
“And the disciples came and said to Him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ He answered and said to them, ‘Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.’” (Matthew 13:10, 11)
In what sense are disciples given the ability to understand?
The Bible teaches that God can affect our understanding:
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:5, 6)
However, the Bible often connects what God does to affect our understanding with our response to Him. Notice that the strong delusion that Paul wrote about was sent after truth was rejected; James went on to say that asking God for wisdom is only effective when we ask in faith; Jesus described the hard-hearted who did not perceive the mysteries of the kingdom as people who had closed their eyes. (Matt 13:15)
We said that the Bible often connects what God does to affect our understanding with our response to Him because these brief thoughts are not intended to consider every passage that might deal with this concept. A passage could very well be presented that would describe God affecting our understanding without commenting on our response. Would such a passage negate what the Bible says about our ability to respond to God? The Bible also teaches us that sometimes God does what He wants in spite of what men are thinking or doing. (Acts 3:17, 18) Did God's plans to sacrifice Jesus absolve the guilt of those who crucified Jesus?
We may not understand everything about how God affects our understanding, but we should know that He works for us or against us based on how we respond to His word. Notice that the parable of the sower deals with people who hear the word of the kingdom (Matt 13:19). “…the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)
Let's be careful not only to listen to God, but to listen with the intent that we will believe and practice whatever He says.