Big Idea: Why is how we listen to God’s Word important? Because how we listen determines whether we will receive more, or whether what we have will be taken away.
How we listen to God’s Word determines our spiritual future.
Purpose: To re-sensitize our hearts to what’s at stake when we hear God’s Word.
We do a funny thing here. Every week, roughly the same group of people (the congregation) come to hear the same person (the preacher) speak.
If the average preacher speaks 100 words a minute, that means you’ll hear 3,000 words a sermon – maybe around 150,000 words a year. What difference does all that make?
Many today question whether preaching works. We become so familiar with it, and even with reading God’s Word, that we forget what’s at stake whenever we hear or read God’s Word.
There have been times for most of us that God’s Word crackled with life. And there are other times that we don’t read it, or if we do, we forget what we’ve read or heard soon after we’ve read it.
There’s a danger that we will forget exactly what’s at stake every time we read or hear God’s Word. For this reason, Jesus tells us a story.
The Parable of the Sower
Luke describes the scene:
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out. Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable… (Luke 8:1-4)
You’ve got quite a diverse group of people following Jesus and listening to him. I’m guessing that those mentioned at the start of the passage – those who had been cured or had demons cast out, or who had recently started following Him – were eager to hear and receive God’s Word. Others in the crowd may have become familiar and less hungry. In this context, Jesus tells a story in verses 5-8:
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
When he said this, he called out,”Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."
The story is about someone scattering seeds. He’s got a sack of seeds and is sowing them in a field that hadn’t been prepared. It had some areas where seed could grow, but it also had rock areas and paths.
I would be fired for preaching like this! It looks like Jesus just tells a story and then pronounces a benediction and dismisses everyone. It seems like nobody was able to figure out what Jesus meant by this story:
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said,”The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
"’though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’" (Luke 8:9-10)
This is our first hint that something is happening below the surface. Jesus is illustrating, even in the way that he tells the parable, that different types of hearing take place when people hear God’s Word. Even when Jesus himself preached, people hear differently.
Jesus explains the meaning of the parable in verses 11-15.”This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:11). God’s Word has life within it, just as a seed does. When it is read and preached, it has power to bring life – but that depends on how the Word is received.
Jesus says that there are four different ways to hear and read God’s Word:
One -“Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved." (Luke 8:12) – Some hear God’s Word and never receive it. Jesus himself says that the devil is active when God’s Word is preached, causing some to question it and reject it even before it begins its work.
Two -“Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away." (Luke 8:13) – I have a book in my library signed by some of my friends years ago. One of of the inscriptions is incredibly sad. It’s written by someone who was the most spiritually alive of my friends at the time. She was a passionate believer, but soon after fell away. It’s possible to hear God’s Word in a superficial way, but to not really hear God’s Word so that it takes root and produces lasting change in our lives.
Three -“The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature." (Luke 8:14) – This happens a lot. We hear God’s Word, but get distracted by life. All of us have at least one of the distractions Jesus mentions: worries, riches, or pleasures. When these things keep us from really hearing God’s Word, we”do not mature."
Four -“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." (Luke 8:15) – Only one of the four ways of hearing God’s Word produces lasting change.
Jesus tells us how to hear God’s Word so that it affects our lives:
- Prepare good and noble hearts – Not perfect hearts, but hearts that are prepared to hear or read God’s Word. The disciplines of preparation are important here: to believe that God’s Word is so important, that we need to adjust our lifestyles so we are prepared whenever we come to read or hear God’s Word. This is your contribution as we come to worship.
- Hear the Word – As we read or listen, actively participate in receiving it. Hearing is not passive! We can work to hear and read God’s Word even in sermons that aren’t well delivered.
- Retain it – To take it home with you, meditate on it, search for ways for that Word to find its place in your heart.
- Through perseverance produce a crop – this takes effort and perseverance!
What’s at Stake
The point of this passage, and what’s at stake, is found in verse 18:”Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Those who have will be given more; as for those who do not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them."
This is a fork in the road. Ever wonder why some people become more spiritually alive and mature over time? Because”Those who have will be given more." Ever wonder why some people don’t mature? This is the danger we all face, the default setting -“those who do not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them."
That’s what is at stake when we hear and read God’s Word.
Gandhi said,”You Christians have in your keeping a document with enough dynamite in it to blow the whole of civilization to bits; to turn society upside down; to bring peace to this war-torn world. But you read it as if it were just good literature, and nothing else."
"Therefore consider carefully how you listen." (Luke 8:18)