Opening Prayer Thoughts.
Praise God for the help we receive from the Holy Spirit in both hearing and doing the Father’s will revealed in his Word. Praise God that he blesses those who hear and do his will. Psalm 1, Psalm 119:1,2.
Acknowledge the sin of not hearing the Word of God with attentiveness, leading to careless hearing. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to be merciful and gracious, and to help you as you consider this.
Please read Luke 8:8-18 – Take care then how you hear.
Ask God the Holy Spirit to help you in your understanding of his Word.
I concluded yesterday with the sentence – "The fact that this is serious stuff is clear from Jesus' concluding line." I am sorry if that was a bit confusing, I was referring to verse 8, the last sentence in the parable.
V15. Good soil must first hear!
There are three elements to being good soil. First, there is the hearing of God's Word. The second is the holding fast to it with an honest heart, and the third is producing good fruit with patience. The latter two are not possible without the first. This is the second of four times that Jesus refers to 'hearing' in these few verses. He has spoken of hearing in verse 10, and will do so again in verse 18, saying, "Take care how you hear."
The hearing of God's Word is essential to our lives. Paul writes to the church in Rome, saying that "faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ", Romans 10:17. Earlier in the chapter, he had underscored the necessity of hearing the gospel as God's chosen means of giving the gift of belief – "how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard", Romans 10:14. The reference being to the hearing of Christ through the Word preached. And he goes on to say, "and how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent. As it is written, “how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!"” A quotation from Isaiah 52:7, about the runner who ran ahead of the returning victorious army to tell the wives and children the good news that their husbands and fathers would be coming home. The hearing of the Word of God preached is essential for belief and faith.
But, it is not just the hearing; it is how you hear, that is critical. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus declares that those who do not do the will of the Father, will be cast out of his presence for eternity. This will happen even though they have called him 'Lord', and apparently done good things in the church. The point is simple – 'doing of the will of the Father' is critical to our salvation. Not that we are saved by what we do; we are not. We are saved by grace alone, through the faith granted to us by God alone. But, as we have seen, Luke 6:43-45, our salvation is revealed in the fruit we bear in our lives. The obvious, but critical, point to get is that our 'doing of the will of the Father' is directly linked to our knowing what the will of the Father is. You cannot do, if you do not know what you have to do. In turn, that is founded upon both what we hear and how we hear it. I will continue to do my best to make sure that what you hear is the will of the Father when I preach God's Word each Lord's Day, and teach you through other means. However, you are personally responsible for how you hear that truth. By 'hearing', the implication is not merely the auditory sensory aspect; it is the receiving of the truth into your mind and heart. Belief, faith, come through hearing the Word of God preached, and the dwelling on, considering of, and mulling over that truth for yourself. Of course, there is an instant reaction to what you hear, an immediate receiving or declining of it. But when Jesus speaks of hearing, v8, v10, v15 and v18, he is asking for more than just that immediate engagement. He is calling for thoughtful, meditative interaction. James writes, James 1:22-25, about the necessity of not only being hearers of the Word, but doers of it. He makes the point that those who merely hear are deceiving themselves. Strong language. He drives home his point with a humorous illustration of a man looking at himself intently in the mirror, who then goes away and at once forgets what he looks like. He ends what he has to say with the promise that "the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who does, he will be blessed in his doing." James 1:25. So this matter of hearing, and how we hear, is incredibly important – essential to our lives. In fact, it is the most important thing in your life as a believer and follower of Jesus.
Over time, my ministry has become shaped by a sense of my needing to do what I can to help you to 'hear' the Word of God. It is one of the reasons I follow what I believe to be a biblical practice, and call you to worship twice on the Lord's Day. It is the reason I preach, for the most part, on consecutive passages, Lord's Day morning and evening, as opposed to different texts or passages in a different sermon series. My reason for doing so is to help you get your head and heart into that one passage. There is only so much we can meditate on at a time, and my thinking is, if we are in a vein of truth, let's keep digging in that vein, rather than going back and forth from one vein to another in the same day. Preaching on narrative, i.e. story verses, is easier than trying to gather together doctrinal truth. Listening to narrative sermons is easier than trying to wrestle through doctrinal truth – now, there is a place for both, but you get my point. It is because the hearing of God's Word is so important to your growth in faith that I grant the posting of my sermons on sermonaudio.com. It is interesting when I occasionally look to see the places around the world where people are downloading them. Still, the reality is, I am more interested in providing you with the opportunity to listen to those sermons a second or even a third time, because of exponential benefit you will receive to your faith, as you do so.
I will come back the next time and see what Jesus says in verses 16 and 17, but let's stay with this matter of 'hearing' and consider the reason why Jesus says it is so important.
V18. Take care then how you hear.
Jesus says that you are to "take care then how you hear." He says this because it is easy to hear carelessly, to listen without considering, to hear without meditating upon, and respond with an initial gut reaction. But he goes on to cite another reason why it is essential to take care of how you hear. It is to do with reward. The idea or principle of 'reward' is important in our lives. It is built into our DNA. We may not always consciously process it, but some form of reward or other drives much of what we do. Jesus says that there is a reward for taking care of how you hear. It is the reward of being given more opportunities to delight in and serve him. The reverse is also true; when you do not invest yourself in hearing and doing, you will produce nothing, and what you think you have will be taken from you. As he would later say on the night he was betrayed, "If anyone does not abide in me, he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned." John 14:6. There are those who leave a church for good reasons. It may be due to their relocating. Some come to a clearer understanding of the truth and realize that what they are hearing is not the will of the Father. Others, through earnest study, come to a different doctrinal perspective from what is being genuinely taught. But some leave congregations because they refuse to hear the Word of God. Whether that initially manifested itself in infrequent participation in public worship, or a continuously rebellious, albeit passively expressed, attitude, or both, is unimportant. What is important is that when they leave, they think they are making the decision to do so, and of course, they are, but there is another side to it – what they have is actually being taken away from them. Some by the grace of God may be brought back, and we thank God for his mercy; others will drift, bouncing from church to church, possibly for the rest of their lives, producing nothing of eternal value.
So, this warning from the lips of Jesus is sobering and straightforward – "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." v8.
A Psalm to Sing.
Psalm 135A. Link to the words. Link to it being sung. Sing with joy in your heart to God.
It is a privilege to lay into our hearts and minds the light and truth of God's Word.
"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, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved."
Truth for the Mind and Heart.
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 55 - Which is forbidden in the third commandment?
Answer - The third commandment forbids all unworthy use of anything by which God makes himself known.
This is taken from https://matt2819.com/wsc where you will find proof texts.
Thank God that we have the opportunity and privilege of hearing his Word preached. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you ears to hear in the sense of a desire of the heart to receive; to mull over, to be challenged by, to be rebuked by, to be taught by, to be trained by his Word; so that you will increasingly enjoy your doing of the Father's will.
Take care in Christ,
Rev. Dr. Andrew Quigley