What does it mean to have an ear to hear?

At the end of the Bible we find letters from Jesus to seven churches. At the end of each letter, he says this: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (see Rev. 2:7a).

We like to think that we have heard Jesus. But how do we know we have? How can we be sure?

What does it mean to have an ear to hear?

It means spiritual truth comes by revelation.

“He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit is saying” is one of Jesus’ favorite expressions. It’s the punch line to each of the Revelation letters as well as several of his parables. He’s saying, “Don’t just hear my words; receive the Spirit of revelation.”

Did you know it’s possible to hear the words of Jesus and not hear what the Holy Spirit is saying?

Think of it as a choice between earthly and heavenly wisdom. The former originates in our minds, while the latter comes from the Spirit.

An example may help: If you read the Bible and come away with a list of things you must do to earn God’s favor, then you have received earthly wisdom based on human understanding. Since your understanding comes from within, the focus will be on yourself. But if you come away with a revelation of Jesus—who he is and what he has done—then you have received heavenly wisdom. You have heard what the Spirit is saying because the Spirit always points to him.

What stops us from hearing the Spirit?

An unbelieving heart.

Imagine you were one of the Ephesians hearing the letter from Jesus as it was read out in the assembly. Would you receive it as Christ’s words? Or would you dismiss it as something John wrote? “Who does John think he is telling us we’ve left our first love? We don’t need to repent. Look at all we’re doing for the Lord!”

Close your heart to the message, perhaps because of the messenger, and you won’t hear from the Spirit. You’ll reject the truth that could set you free.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but how are you receiving the words of this article? Do you receive them as Holy Spirit-inspired? Or do you dismiss them as something written by a confused author?

Do the words on this website stir up anger? “I’ve invested too much of my life into ministry to heed all this nonsense about rest and receiving.”

Or do they release grace and healing? “Now I know why my walk with God has been so lifeless. I’ve wandered from my first love. I need to drop everything and return.”

For as long as the Holy Spirit speaks through imperfect people, we will be tempted to ignore what he is saying. If only there was a definitive way to tell whether the message we’re hearing is from the Holy Spirit. There is!

How do we know we are hearing what the Spirit is saying?

We grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit will always seek to reveal Jesus (John 15:26). If the message you are hearing directs you to Jesus, you can be sure that you are hearing from the Spirit of Christ.

When Jesus says, “He who has an ear, let him hear,” he’s saying if we really listen we will hear more than a letter written for dead Ephesians. He’s saying we can hear what the Spirit wants to say to us today. This is worth bearing in mind as we read the letters from the Lord. If we come away feeling condemned or proud, we’ve missed him. But if we come away praising God and established in the grace of Jesus, then we have heard what the Spirit is saying.

A message for all churches?

Jesus is the leader of the Church with a capital C. His words to the Ephesians, Smyrneans, Pergamenes, etc. are for all churches. It’s a mistake to think that wandering from your first love was a uniquely Ephesian problem. Every worn-out believer needs to hear from the Lord among the lampstands. We all need to hear what the Spirit is saying through these letters.

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17 Comments on What does it mean to have an ear to hear?

  1. I can’t speak for others but it took me years before I finally got to a place of resting in the finished work of the Cross. Having a revelation of 1 John 1 and finally understanding that the sin issue is no longer an issue to God, Jesus dealt with it completely helped set me free. The Lord gently pointed out to me, I was relating to him according to my performance rather than his. I would fast twice a week without fail (sound familiar) sometimes for weeks, I would read my Bible through at least five times a year! I memorised entire books of the Bible. I would get up at 5am every morning with out fail to spend time with the Lord. I thought all this was pleasing to the Lord and I would somehow gain his favour. How foolish! I had the Father’s favour and full acceptance the moment I accepted his Son as my Lord and Saviour!

    • Wow, William. Welcome to freedom in Christ! I can relate to the need to perform, but I was no way near as diligent as you. Since I couldn’t live up to my own expectations, I always felt condemned and that I was never good enough. Praise God for “The Gospel in Ten Words.” It set me free!! I now look to Christ and what’s He’s done. What a Savior, what a plan!!!

      • William, your story really speaks to me. Twila, I was the same – I felt condemned and unworthy of God’s love because I didn’t fast every week… I didn’t wake up early to spend two or three hours reading my Bible every day… all these “spiritual works” that some people say you have to do to be in God’s will. And the sad thing is I ate up everything these churches and preachers said, tried to do these things in my own strength, and then felt like I wasn’t measuring up to God’s standard. But now I’m praising God that I’ve “heard what the Spirit is saying” and that He has given me His grace that doesn’t have anything to do with any works I could ever do.

    • William, you took the words right out of my mouth. Thanks for speaking for both of us. Now Paul, look what you have done – showing us to rest in Christ’s finished work rather than our “righteousness”. Thanks for an eye-opening article.

    • Indeed, Jesus is saying listen with your inner ears and you will gain an understanding of what the Spirit is saying to the Church. The Spirit is unique in the Trinity in that she is not interested in being in the spotlight… not one bit. The Spirit is more akin to the spotlight itself, illuminating the character and nature of Christ on the stage of our hearts. And Jesus himself is and always has been about showing us what the nature and character of the Father’s heart toward us has been all along.

      As we attempt to engage in fellowship with God using only our intellectual understanding of creation and our place in it (the matrix of the fallen world perspective of Adam we are born into), apart from Spiritual revelation (the world perspective the Spirit reveals to us), we will always end up with a performance that is outwardly impressive to the flesh (that is, impressive to the fallen world perspective of Adam), but inwardly unfulfilling and void of true relationship and participation with God – living water.

      Love your testimony, William. I think so many of us can identify with your journey. For me and my journey, I would have to take your final sentence further into the depths of Grace and revelation and say, How foolish I was! I had the Father’s favor and full acceptance ALL ALONG! The moment I accepted his Son as my Lord and Savior is the moment I started to believe what had always been true and I began to participate in fellowship with God on his terms – love and Grace. He saved me! Until that point, like you, William, I was trying to appease the God of my fallen imagination… but he never existed in the first place.

      Thank you, brother Paul. What joy unspeakable! – the revelation of the Spirit concerning Christ our Lord! May the Church hear (on the inside) what the Spirit is saying that we may be made whole and go forth praising God, being established in the grace of Jesus!

    • Well said, William, me too. Great comment. Thank you

  2. Very good and very helpful! “If we come away feeling condemned or proud, we’ve missed him. But if we come away praising God and established in the grace of Jesus, then we have heard what the Spirit is saying.” Thanks, Paul. 👏

    • George Portier // May 21, 2020 at 12:13 pm // Reply

      Hi Sandra,

      Yes indeed. Feeling condemned or proud was something I endured in the past after visiting church. I thought that was normal in the christian life. Thank goodness for the message of Grace and His finished work on the cross. More of my friends have also accepted the revelation of Grace and it has set them free.

      Cool to ‘see’ you here! Too bad your conference in the Netherlands had to be canceled. Me and my wife were looking forward to it. Would be awesome if you two would team up and do conferences all over the world! Greetings from George & Alexandra

  3. GRACE ! Such a misunderstood misapplied TRUTH! I was just like William. DO Do Do and if I let up even a little…. GUILT CONEMNATION and SHAME!! The sad thing is that it took me so long to really understand Grace rest and TRUST in HIM! ( 60 years of bondage) and also sad to see many of the people I love so much (family and close friends) bound by the same performance based mentality. Thank you “Hyper-Grace” teachers!

  4. William God bless you my brother! All the things you were doing of course were good but as I often have, we just had them backward, as I should do them because of His favor rather than to earn it. Thank you for this precious reminder!

  5. florry1962 // May 21, 2020 at 5:02 am // Reply

    Blessed be the name of the Lord Jesus Christ 🙏 🙏 🙏

  6. Amen. Here are some things that I think contribute to us not listening to the Holy Spirit when we read. 1. We didn’t know we were supposed to. 2. We “already know what that passage means,” so we don’t expect fresh insight. 3. We read through our presuppositions. I don’t see the Bible as an instruction manual; it’s a portrait. If you go in looking for a list of rules to follow, you will find it and it will lead you away from Jesus. I’m sure there are more, but when you think about it, these are all, in some way, unbelief.

  7. I have been always asking myself the same question: How do I know when I am hearing from God? I like what you say about reading His words: “If we come away feeling condemned or proud, we’ve missed him. But if we come away praising God and established in the grace of Jesus, then we have heard what the Spirit is saying.” Amen to this. This is encouraging to me. Thank you Paul for sharing your thoughts on this.

  8. I love reading your articles because so often while I’m reading the Holy Spirit will speak to me. Thank you

  9. Mongu Aoge // May 22, 2020 at 2:30 am // Reply

    Thanks so much, but I need help from you. Am teaching that women should keep silent in churches, 1Corinthians 14:34-40.

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