By William C. Sexton
No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me (John 6:44-45).
At times learning is not perceived properly. As the passages show, it is essential that one hears the word of God in order to be drawn to Jesus by the Father; when one really hears and learns, he comes to Christ.
Learning is often perceived as just hearing or taking in some information. However, a meaningful definition of learning in learning theory is a change in behavior. If there is not some change in behavior, then, in reality, there has been no real learning. The following definition seems good:
Learning is the process by which an activity originates or is changed through reacting to an encountered situation, provided that the characteristics of the change in activity cannot be explained on the basis of native response tendencies, maturation, or temporary states of the organism (e.g., fatigue, drugs, etc.) (Theories of Learning, Ernest R. Hilgard and Gordon H. Bower, p. 2).
With that definition in mind, let us see how much learning takes place in us and as a result of our teaching activity. I recall that back in Kansas City some years ago, as we were having some discussion on training efforts, we concluded and emphasized that “teaching is more than telling.” I truly believe that such is the case. However, telling is perhaps about all that takes place in some of our “teaching efforts and situations.” This short article is designed to challenge us to consider what is essential if learning is really to occur!
1. Listening is something that only I can do. You can’t do it for me nor can I do it for you. Listening is an active participation, however; it is not a passive presence when something is being said.
However, . . the mere presence of a message receiver does not guarantee that communication will take place – the listener must be “tuned in” to the speaker before communication can be successful (Listening Behavior, by Larry L. Barker, p. 2).
Preachers and Bible teachers should have this in mind as they try to communicate effectively the word of God. We, as disciples (learners and followers), must ever keep this in mind, if we are to avail ourselves of the riches before us -in taking in and assimilating the “power of God.” Let us see the model, the process, and the factors which can either interfere or enhance reception of the message.
Communicator — (* *) — Message — (* *) — Receiver
As I grow older, I’m becoming more and more aware of the fact that there is a lot more talking than communicating; a lot more is said than received, as will as that much which is received was not sent – it was picked up along the way.
2. Understanding is the aim or end of the message sender’s effort. Yet, often the attempt to communicate is a failure, for various reasons. The sender can be careless, ignorant of the process, or use poor judgment in choosing precise terms to convey the message. Look at the explanation of Jesus, “When one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which receiveth seed by the way side” (Matt. 13:19).
How many times have we been as the “wayside” receiver in regard to a particular message? As I look back, I see many things which I did not receive at the time they were sent to me by a communicator; often I feel that I have received the message fully, only to find out later than I have not! Have you ever had the experience? Can you not remember times when you indicated that you have heard, understood, and would carry out the direction, only to find out later that you had missed an important part of the message or perhaps “thought” that one thing was meant, when something different was. meant! I have and I suspect you have too.
3. Movement or change in one’s behavior or conduct results when real learning takes place. When one hears the message that Jesus is the Christ, that he is lost in sin and the consequences of that sin is eternal ruin, and that all who will come to God by Jesus will be saved, if one really learns that message, he will run to Jesus!
Many things interfere with the reception of that message, however, both externally and internally (Acts 13:8; 28:2627). Things which interfere may be people, concepts, and circumstances. False concepts, having been accepted, close the door to true ideas which go contrary to basic parts of the held concept. People holding wrong ideas can and often will seek to influence us so as to pay inadequate attention to truth, “new ideas,” etc. (“That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them,” Mk. 4:12).
What made such possible? “And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them” (Matt. 13:14-15).
The people’s preconditioning had rendered them capable of mis-treating the message from heaven which was designed to save them. Is that same process operative today? Surely such is the cause for many being unreceptive to the salvation message today. Are you allowing such to close the door to heaven for you? Please don’t. Christians, how about you? Hear Paul’s recorded words: “But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24).
As children, people who have learned and been taught by Jesus, we see how inappropriate it is to claim the relationship with Him and at the same time be living under the domination of the “old man.”
So, if we have really learned the lesson, it manifests itself in our behavior. Our conduct reflects the extent and source of our learning. Using that as an indicator, what have we really learned and from whom?
Also, brethren, what are we really teaching?
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 17, pp. 530-531
September 6, 1984