Take Heed How You Hear
“And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8:4-18)
The message of our Lord Jesus in this parable is searching and solemn. — In this parable our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us plainly that the vast majority of those who hear the gospel of the grace of God preached, even the vast majority of those who profess faith in him after hearing the gospel, are unregenerate, lost and perish under the wrath of God. — “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” the parable of the sower.
The sower is the man who preaches the gospel of the grace of God. Gospel preachers are like farmers sowing wheat. They broadcast the Word of God upon the ground, upon the hearts of eternity bound men and women. This is not a careless, thoughtless process. The preacher, if he is indeed a faithful, gospel preacher, has his heart in his work. He is not indifferent to those to whom he preaches, or indifferent to their response. Oh, no. God’s servants care deeply for the souls of men. They sow in hope of harvest (Psalm 126:5; Ecclesiastes 11:1; 1 Corinthians 15:58). — The sower is the servant of God, the gospel preacher who faithfully sows the seed of the gospel in hope of a great harvest.
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God” (v. 11). — The seed sown is the Word of God, the gospel of the grace of God revealed in the Word. We recognize, preach and rejoice in the glorious sovereignty of our God. I take a back seat to no one in preaching God’s absolute sovereignty in all things, especially in the salvation of his elect. Yet, we recognize that God almighty has chosen to use specific means for the accomplishment of his purposes. — “It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). — “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).
That is Bible language. God declares that he saves sinners through the utility of the Word (James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). God saves chosen sinners only through, or by means of the faithful exposition of the Scriptures. And the Word of God is faithfully expounded and preached only when the gospel of Christ is faithfully expounded and preached. Rolland Hill was exactly right when he said, “Any sermon that does not contain the `Three R’s’ (Ruin by the Fall, Redemption by the Blood, and Regeneration by the Holy Spirit) ought never to have been preached.” God’s servants are not just preachers. They are gospel preachers. They do not just preach. They preach the gospel.
The sower is the gospel preacher. The seed sown is the Word of God, the gospel of Christ.
The results of gospel preaching are always exactly according to the purpose of God. We randomly preach the gospel to all who will hear us; but the results are not random. When God almighty sends forth his Word, his Word always accomplishes his purpose. It either produces life and faith in Christ, or it produces judicial blindness and hardness of heart. Man’s unbelief does not in any way, or to even the slightest degree alter the purpose of God. Rather, even the willful unbelief of the reprobate fulfills God’s sovereign purpose (Romans 3:3-4; 2 Corinthians 2:14-16).
“And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand” (v. 10). — These words are taken from the Savior’s words to Isaiah, when the prophet of God saw the Lord Jesus in his glory, high and lifted up, sitting upon his throne (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Faith in Christ is the gift of God. The seeing eye, the hearing ear, and the believing heart are from the Lord. Faith is not something men muster from within. Faith is the gift and operation of God’s free grace in Christ. If you believe, it is because “unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ to believe on his name” (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 2:12).
To those who will not believe, the Word of God is both blinding and binding. None are so blind as those who will not see; and none are so hardened as those who are gospel hardened. When men and women willfully despise the gospel of the grace of God, when they resolutely harden themselves to the Word preached, the very Word which they despise becomes the instrument by which they are bound over to everlasting judgment, to eat the fruit of their own way (Proverbs 1:23-33)..
Some who hear the gospel receive it as seed sown by the wayside. — “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (v. 12). Some hear with no concern for their souls, the glory of God, or eternity. They attend church because they have to, or because it is the respectable thing to do, or because they think it is their duty to do so. But they really have no interest in the things of God. They try their best not to hear a word the preacher speaks, or at least not to be bothered by what he says. They try to think about other things. And, unless God intervenes and does something for them, the gospel they hear will profit them nothing. Before they get out the door the old black crow of hell snatches away the seed from their hard hearts.
Stony Ground Hearers.
Others are described as stony ground hearers. — “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (v. 13). There are many stony ground hearers. The preaching of the gospel makes very quick, but only temporary impressions upon them. Their religion is all superficial, just a flash in the pan, nothing else. Like burning briars in a fire, they may crackle and pop, and make a lot of noise, but they produce nothing. They appear enthusiastic. They talk a good game. They are sometimes moved to tears. They may even speak about inward conflicts, hopes, desires, struggles and fears. But they lack one thing. They have no root. The root of the matter is not in them. Like seed sown in unprepared soil, the Word of God takes no root in them, because there is no work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Unconvinced, they have no Holy Spirit conviction. Unturned, they cannot and will not repent. Unbelieving, they have no faith!
These stony ground hearers endure for a while; but they will not last. Their religion is like Jonah’s gourd. It springs up in a night and is gone in a night. They are like cut flowers. They look pretty and smell nice for a while, but soon wither and die. They have no root. Christ is not in them and they are not in Christ. A little trial, affliction, or temptation will be too great for the stony ground hearer to endure. Any persecution or opposition, because of the offense of the gospel, will destroy them.
Thorny Ground Hearers
Others are set before us in this parable as thorny ground hearers. — “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection” (v. 14). The wayside hearer has no interest at all in the things of God. He could care less who Christ is and what he did. The stony ground hearer is somewhat impressive. He makes a big splash, but does not last very long. The thorny ground hearer is something else.
The thorny ground hearer assents to the gospel, approves of it, and is moved by it. He appears to make a good start, and seems to go a long way in religion. He feels much, experiences much, and may even do much that appears to be truly spiritual; but he has a basic, fundamental, underlying problem. It is a problem that may lie under the surface, hidden from every eye but God’s. It may even be hidden from his own eyes. But it will eventually destroy him. The problem is worldliness. The world still holds his heart. He loves the world.
Oh, beware of religion without Christ! You may think, “All is well with my soul. No one could ever feel what I feel and experience what I have experienced and yet be lost.” You ought to think again! False faith is a strong delusion, a delusion by which, in this parable, one in four who profess faith in Christ are dragged down to hell! — False faith may be greatly enlightened and knowledgeable of the gospel (Hebrews 6:4). — False faith may greatly reform the outward life, like the Pharisees. — False faith may speak very well of Christ, as the Jews did. — False faith may confess personal sins, like Saul. — False faith may humble itself in sackcloth and ashes with Ahab. — False faith may repent in tears with Esau and Judas. — False faith may diligently perform religious works with the Jews. — False faith may be very generous and charitable, like Ananias and Sapphira. — False faith may tremble under the Word with Felix. — False faith may experience great things in religion (Hebrews 6:1-4). — False faith may enjoy great religious privileges with Lot’s wife. — False faith may preach, perform miracles and cast out devils, like those mentioned by our Lord. — False faith may attain high office in the church, like Diotrephes. — False faith may walk with great preachers, like Demas. — False faith may even be peaceful and carnally secure, like the five foolish virgins.
It is written, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). Sooner or later those who love the world will choose the world. The sad fact is that though they willfully choose the world and turn from Christ, they are so thoroughly justified in their own minds that what they are doing is right that they never even realize they have done it, until they wake up in hell.
If you are one of these thorny ground hearers, the Lord Jesus plainly warns you that one of these three things will eventually destroy your soul: — “The Care of this World” — “The Deceitfulness of Riches” — “The Pleasures of This Life.”
Good Ground Hearers
True Believers are those who receive the gospel as seed sown in good ground. — “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (v. 15). The good ground is a regenerate heart, a heart prepared by God the Holy Spirit to receive the Word of grace. The fallow ground of the heart has been broken up by the deep cutting, sharp plow of the law. The hard clods have been broken by the heavy harrow of conviction, beaten to pieces by the thunderous rain of God’s wrath, and at last softened by the sweet dew of heaven.
The Word of God sown in the regenerate heart, the heart prepared by the grace and power of God to receive it, brings forth fruit unto God. Some bear fruit more rapidly and more plentifully than others; but all bear fruit from God. The fruit they bear is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
Now, read these next three verses as they are given in this context, and hear the Master’s warning.
“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” (Luke 8:16-18)
Take heed what you hear. Make certain that the message you hear is the gospel of God, not some false gospel of free will, works religion. Take heed that you hear. Make it your business to hear the gospel regularly. And take heed how you hear. Ask God the Holy Spirit to enable you to hear the gospel with a submissive, believing heart.
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