June 11 - How are you hearing?

Opening Prayer Thoughts. 
 
Praise God.
Praise God for the power of his Word to penetrate the minds and hearts of men by the power of the Holy Spirit, and bring new life. Praise God for the sanctifying power of his Word. Praise God that the Lord Jesus prayed for his bride, that our lives would be made holy by the truth. Romans 1:16, John 17:17.
 
Acknowledge sin.
Acknowledge and confess the sin of not receiving the Word of God as God's Word, but as the words of men. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to help you to be open in your mind and heart to receive his truth and be blessed by, and called to, obedience through it. 


Please read Luke 8:4-15 - How are you hearing?
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
 
Jesus is surrounded by a vast and ever-growing crowd of people when he speaks to them about how they are hearing what he is saying. It is a parable that addresses the fact that each one of them falls into one of four groups when listening to his preaching on the Kingdom of God. So, the parable is not about the seed or the sower as often presented, it's about the 'soils'. 
 
The Palestinian sower sowed by hand and then ploughed the seed into the ground. The patch of land Jesus is envisaging is typical of the region. It is minuscule by Canadian prairie farmland standards. There's a path running along its side, probably separating it from the next 'field'. The ground isn't flat, and the soil isn't perfectly smooth. There are areas of it where the underlying bedrock is breaking the surface and has just a covering of soil. There are other areas either just under the surface, or breaking it, where thorny shrub seeds are waiting for the right climatic conditions to spring into life and take their place on the surface. It's all real and natural. 
 
What Luke writes is an abbreviated version of what Jesus says. Matthew is more detailed, Matthew 13, and even the highly concise Mark gives us considerably more than Luke, see Mark 12. We are in Luke, though, and will concentrate on the points he makes, drawing on the explanation of parables given by Jesus in verses 11-15 as we do so.
 
V5 and V11. The Sower is God.
God is the one who sows the seeds of his Word in the person of Jesus, the Mediator King. Matthew says it is the 'Word of the Kingdom' (Matthew 13:19); we can't escape the idea of the Kingdom. This sowing is done through preaching, and it results in the seed falling on four different types of ground, leading in turn to four distinct results. 
 
V5 and V11. The seed on the path.
When some of the seed falls on the path, it gets no time to nestle into the ground and form even the barest connections with the hardened soil before people trample on it. If some of the seed does manage to avoid being trampled, the birds quickly devour it. The seed doesn't have a hope of taking root and germinating. It might as well not have left the sower's hand.
 
So, when the Word of God is preached, the enemy of Christ is active and would, if he could, steal the Word from the hearts of every human being. But he has been granted neither the right nor the power by God to do so. When they have been granted, though, he takes and uses them highly effectively. The power of the gospel has no impact on the hearer's heart because the hardened heart's impenetrable barrier, allied with the devil's swift action, means that there will be no response.   
 
V6 and V13. The seed on the bedrock.
Then there is the seed that falls where the bedrock is poking up out through the surface. There is a smattering of soil that gives life to the seed, and dramatically so, but the rock means there is no moisture, and the sapling plant quickly dies through dehydration.
 
When the gospel is preached, there will be people who will react with great joy. They will tell the minister that they have never heard anything like this before. With excitement, they will say they cannot get enough of the way he preaches the Bible. They may write a note or send him a card, telling him just how pleased they are to have come to 'his' church – at last, they have found a spiritual home suitable for them. Members in the congregation will see the joy in the person and be encouraged by their response; but then one day, probably within the space of three or four months, they won't appear at worship on Lord's Day; and within a matter of a few weeks they are gone, saying to those who will listen that the minister is too harsh, too demanding, too overbearing in his preaching. They thought they had come to a church where they would hear about God's love in a way that would let them live as they please, but that's not the case. They don't like the fact that they are being challenged in terms of how God requires them to live, and so they'll go elsewhere. (Of course, that's not how they will express it.) 
 
V7 and V14. The seed and the thorns.
The third soil the seed falls into is good in many ways. It has no initial impediments to the seed taking root; it is well watered and provides the ideal basis for healthy germination and growth in many ways. And so, the seed gives life to a plant that grows steadily and healthily over a prolonged period. But then the thorns hit their season of growth, and spring into renewed life. They demand the light the plant is growing in. They crave the moisture the plant is drawing life from. Their demands, their cravings, are overwhelming. They must be fed; they must be watered. Their needs are all-encompassing, and they will not relent.
 
There are people in every congregation who fall within this category of soil. People deeply affected by God's Word; men and women who make a profession of faith, and for years give apparent evidence that their profession is genuine. They are relatively consistent in their attendance at worship. Their 'giving' may not be what the Bible teaches, but it is more than just something. They may find themselves asked to fulfil a role in the church's life, leading to their being mentioned in the annual church reports for the work they have done. There is nothing deceitful or manipulative in their behaviour. They believe themselves to be Christians; others see no reason to think otherwise, but then it happens. An issue comes into their lives, a significant problem, and instead of being like the man in Psalm 112:7,8, who "is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid until he looks in triumph on his adversaries," they collapse, unable to address the matter in a measured, thoughtful, godly way. God has let them down; the church leadership has failed them; the people in the church don't really care; and they're gone.
 
If it is not an issue of a devasting challenge, then it would be about their trying to carry two worlds concurrently. The church is important to them, no one would doubt that, but so are other things in life. The idea of being 'in' the world but not 'of' the world is one that they say they get, but their choices show differently. And so, in time, the ultimate desires of their heart come to the fore. Their desire to be part of what is happening in the church dissipates, and that's it; they too are gone, and all that looked so promising turns out to be a mirage. 
 
V8 and V15. The seed and the good soil.
The fourth and final soil is not perfect because there is no perfect soil, but it is good soil. The seed falls on it and takes root. There is water in the ground to meet its thirst. With time the plant grows and matures. Each year getting stronger, visibly maturing, withstanding some of the onslaughts of the weather and the birds, and in due season it does what it is supposed to do – it produces fruit, much good fruit. It is so good to see the Word of God taking real root in people's lives whose hearts are truly regenerate. To see them weather the trials in their lives, and through them grow into maturity. To see them 'in' the world but not 'of' it. To see their growing hunger for the worship of God; personal, family, and public. To observe over time their increasing obedience to the commands of God in all aspects of their lives. And then to see fruit – real, beautiful, healthy fruit being born with and through patient endurance under trial. 
 
Fruit is never easy to produce. It doesn't just happen. The process takes feeding and weathering, and sometimes that feeding can come with a challenge, and certainly, the trials that come with weathering are demanding, sometimes relentlessly so. But the truly converted believer will, by the grace of God, endure them for the joy set before them as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. And as they do so, they produce some wonderful fruit to the Father's glory along the way. I say this with care. Sometimes we can be too focused on those who come in for a day and leave. On those who are giddy with excitement for a season and then gone. Sometimes we can be too much taken up with trying to fix those who are besotted with the trials of their lives, or their pursuits of the world, and its offerings. Occasionally, it is good just to stop and look around at those who, under trials, are bearing real fruit both in their own and others’ lives. When you see them, take time to thank God that you have the privilege of being rooted beside them in the same field – looking forward to the same day of harvest when Christ returns.   
 
The fact that this is serious stuff is clear from Jesus' concluding line. 
 

A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 135A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.



Memory Verse.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word. 
Ephesians 1:3-6
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace,
 
 
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 54 - Which is required in the third commandment?
Answer - The third commandment requires the holy and reverent use of God's name, titles, attributes, ordinances, Word, and works.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
 
 
Thank God.
Think of and thank God for those in the congregation who are giving evidence of bearing much good fruit to the Father's glory. 
 
Take care in Christ,
Andrew 
 
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley