I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. — Philippians 4:11
From which, we learn, that it is not enough for Christians to hear their duty; they must learn their duty. There are two things which keep us from learning:
1) Slighting what we hear. Christ is the pearl of great price. When we disesteem this pearl, we shall never learn its value nor its virtue. The Gospel is a rare mystery, but he that has learned to ignore this mystery will never learn to obey it. He that looks upon the things of heaven nonchalantly and considers other things like work, leisure, or power to be more important, is on the wide road to damnation. Who will learn that which he thinks is scarce worth learning?
2) Forgetting what we hear. If a scholar has his books laid before him, and he forgets them as fast as he reads them, he will never learn. Many Christians are like sieves; put a sieve into the water, and it is full, but take it out of the water, and it all runs out. So, while they are hearing a sermon, they remember it. But, as soon as they leave church, all is forgotten.
You have heard much against sin: are you hearers? or are you scholars?
How many sermons have you heard against covetousness, that it is the root on which pride, idolatry, and treason do grow (I Tim. 6:6-10). There is hardly any sin that doesn’t have covetousness as a main ingredient, but still, men are like the daughters of the leech, crying “Give, give!”
How much have you heard about rash anger? That it is a short frenzy, a dry drunkenness, and it rests in the bosom of fools (Eccl. 7:9); yet, upon the least occasion does your spirit begin to take fire!
How much have you heard against swearing? It is Christ’s express mandate, “Swear not at all” (Matt. 5:34). It is neither sweetened with pleasure nor enriched with profit, the usual lures that Satan uses to paint sin. Do you sport yourself with oaths as the Philistines did with Samson, which will at last pull the house about your ears?
You have heard much of Christ; have you learned Christ?
A man may know much of Christ, and yet not learn Christ. The devils knew Christ (Mark 1:34).
A man may preach Christ, and yet not learn Christ, as Judas and the false apostles (Phil. 1:15).
A man may profess Christ, and yet not learn Christ. There are many professors in the world whom Christ will profess against (Matt. 7:23).
What is it, then, to learn Christ?
1) To learn Christ is to be made like Christ. A true saint is a divine landscape or picture, where all the true beauties of Christ are portrayed in a lively manner and drawn forth. He has the same spirit, the same judgment, the same will as Jesus Christ.
2) To learn Christ is to believe in Him as our Lord and our God (John 20:28). When we do not only believe God, but in God, which is the actual application of Christ to ourselves, and as it were, the spreading of the sacred medicine of His blood upon our souls. You that have heard much of Christ, and yet cannot with a humble adherence say, “My Jesus”… be not offended if I tell you, the devil can say his creed as well as you.
3) To learn Christ is to live Christ. When we have Bible conversations, our lives, as rich diamonds, cast a sparkling luster in the church of God (Phil. 1:27), and are, in some sense, parallel with the life of Christ, as the transcript with the original.
- Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment