Saturday, March 30, 2013

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Part 5 - The Soil That Bears Fruit — “Hearers, Doers, Fruit-Bearers, and Persevering in Faith”


Introduction:
Jesus has gripped his hearers as He tells them a real-life story that they can all relate to. In fact, Jesus has utterly cornered His hearers. None can escape this story. The point of the story is to show how a true believer hears and responds to the Word of God. Every single hearer that Jesus speaks to must therefore ask and honestly answer the question of how he hears the Word that Jesus sows.

Masses have crowded around Jesus. In fact, so many people have gathered that He had to get into a boat and preach from the Sea of Galilee because the crowds congregated on the shore and on the nearby hills of northern Israel (Mark 4:1). Having such a large audience, Jesus began to teach them spiritual truth with a common to life, everyday illustration about a farmer who cast his seed to the ground in hopes of producing healthy crops.

Jesus notes that the sower who sowed seed is likened to the Word of God which goes forth. There are three groups of hearers that Jesus has spoken of already.

First, those who hear the Word and yet immediately forget what they heard are those who are unbelieving, unsaved, and fruitless.

Second, there are some who hear the Word and immediately receive with joy. Yet because they have no firm root in good ground they fall away when persecution or hardship befalls them because of the Word. They are temporary. They are not lasting, not healthy, not prosperous, not living. They also are unsaved and fruitless.

A third group that Jesus speaks of hears the Word of God and yet the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lustful cravings for other things enter in and choke the Word as it is sown just as the seed that is sown can be choked by the thorns which come up near it.

In His story, Jesus concludes with a final category of people who respond to the hearing of the Word.

Explanation:
As the sower sowed his seed, many seeds fell to the ground and for a host of reasons did not produce a good, healthy, prosperous crop and thus proved to be useless. However, there are other seeds that fell into the good soil and as they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold (Mark 4:8).

When those who followed Jesus asked Him to explain what He meant by this portion of the story, He said that the seed that fell on good soil are akin to the people who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit — thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold (Mark 4:19). Matthew adds that this person not only hears the Word but he understands it (Matt 13:23). Luke provides other truths about these hearers. These hear the Word in an honest and good heart and they hold it fast and thus bear fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15).

All of Jesus’ hearers would have certainly understood that this seed that fell on the good soil is the only kind of seed that lasts, bears fruit, and produces good crops. The differentiation between this seed that fell to the good soil and the other three seeds which produced no good crop is unmistakably clear. Everyone would have affirmed this. No farmer would want a seed that falls by the road where the birds immediately swoop down to devour. No farmer would want seed to fall to the soil with an initial, partial sprout that immediately withers and dies when the sun rises and scorches it. No farmer would desire seed to fall where the thornbushes are where the sprouting plants would be choked to death by the thorns that are intertwined with it. This would be completely unproductive, worthless, and ineffective in producing any good crops.

Every person who hears the Word of God must ask and answer this question honestly: what do I do with what I have heard? What is it that characterizes the good hearers of the Word of God? How does a person know if he is saved? What characterizes the saved person who hears the Word of God?

A number of essential facts describe the good hearers of God’s Word.

First, a saved person hears the Word and receives the Word. Jesus first shows that a person who hears the Word (just as all the other kinds of people) will also receive it. The idea is to “welcome” something (cf. Acts 15:4). It can even speak of “entertaining” in the sense of giving thought to, giving credence to (1 Tim 5:19). This kind of person hears the Word of God and receives it as if he were receiving a welcomed guest into his home. He would eagerly anticipate the visitor’s arrival, spend time with him, talk with him, care for him, and dialogue with him. How this kind of hearer does the same with the Word of God as it is preached into his ears! Also, this hearer is one who gives careful thought, attention, and entertaining thoughts to what he hears. This is the antithesis of hearing the Word and immediately forgetting the Word. This is not those who hear the Word but fail to be doers of the Word! Like a host who looks out the window and eagerly awaits the arrival of an expected visitor, so this kind of hearer of the Word eagerly looks forward to the coming and arrival of the Word as it is preached so he can entertain the Word, receive the Word, dialogue with the Word, apply the Word, implement the Word, and be changed by the Word!

Second, a saved person bears fruit with what he has heard from the Word. An essential mark characterizing every Christian is that of fruitbearing. No Christian lacks godly fruitbearing. Every nonChristian produces no Christ-honoring fruit. Jesus describes those who hear His Word and rightly respond to it as those who bear fruit. Every single Christian has died to the law through the body of Christ so that he may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead in order to bear fruit for God (Rom 7:4). Those who receive the gospel bear fruit and grow (Col 1:6). In order to walk in a way that is pleasing to Jesus Christ — that is, to be fully pleasing to Him — a believer must bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God which proved to be Paul’s prayer for the Church in Colossae (Col 1:10).

Never does the Bible set, however, a standard that every single Christian has to “attain” in order to be accepted before God. Jesus Christ did this when He obeyed the Father perfectly and died as a substitute for sinners who deserve eternal hell. He attained life for them. He bore hell for them. However, when a person believes in Jesus Christ, spiritual growth comes in different forms, in different degrees, and at different paces. Jesus makes this clear when he says that some will bear fruit to thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. Not everyone will grow and produce a hundredfold. Some will and others may not. However, the point is the same: every single Christian will most certainly bear fruit for Jesus Christ.

Bearing fruit is an essential mark of every Christian. A fruitless person is an unsaved person. A person who professes faith in Jesus Christ who neglects spiritual fruit is deceived and does not possess eternal life. The Bible sweepingly makes this clear. John the Baptist arises and preaches: “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matt 3:8). In fact, John the Baptist said that those who do not bear fruit are those (regardless of their profession!) who will be cut down and thrown into the fire to be eternally burned. (And he was speaking to the most religious people of the day!) Jesus Himself preached and, speaking of determining true believers or not, said that every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt 7:19). Jesus said that every branch that does not bear fruit is taken away, cast into the fire, and it is burned (John 15:2, 6). Every true, on the other hand, that bears good fruit is pruned by God (pruning is by cutting and cutting is often painful [trials]) so as to produce more fruit (John 15:2). Most clearly, Jesus said that the Father is glorified when His followers bear much fruit and thus prove to be Jesus’ disciples (John 15:8). Jesus sovereignly elected His people and appointed them to go and bear much fruit (John 15:16). Thus it is undeniably clear that every single Christian will bear fruit by abiding in Jesus Christ, to the glory of God, evidencing the work of the Spirit.

Third, a saved person understands the Word as it is sown and strives to implement what he has heard. A person who honors God with what he hears is one who is able to understand what he hears. This is more than a simple cognitive and intellectual understanding — although that is involved. A person devoid of the Spirit of God cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him (1 Cor 2:14). Those who do not belong to Jesus Christ cannot — they are not able (note the ‘inability’) — understand the things of Christ (John 8:43). No one can rightly understand God if left to his own fallen, depraved state (Rom 3:11). It is only those who have been sovereignly saved by God’s grace who have the Spirit and who can thus rightly understand the Word of God (1 Cor 2:10-16). The person who hears the Word and understands it shows that he is one who has the Spirit of God living within him. He thus has the capability to know the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16) and apply what he has heard in the truth of Scripture to his own heart, mind and life.

Not only does Jesus refer to mere intellectual understanding but he also speaks of understanding His truth with the intention of implementing what he has heard. An unsaved person cannot please God (Rom 8:8) and they cannot obey God for their mind is hostile to God (Rom 8:7). But the person who has been regenerated by sovereign work of God the Spirit is one who can understand the truth and he can apply and implement that truth to his life. Not only can he, he must! Jesus characterizes the good hearer of His Word as the person who hears the Word and understands it.

Just as Jesus opened the minds of his followers to understand the Scriptures as he spoke with them after he rose from the dead (Luke 24:45), so it is with the believer. He can hear and he does understand the truth of Scripture and he has the ability to mentally comprehend and practically implement what he has heard to his life so as to bring about greater sanctification.

Fourth, a saved person hears the Word with an honest and a good heart. A true child of God hears the Word and comes with an honest, noble, good, welcoming heart ready to receive the truth of God. This kind of hearer hates pride and strives to kill pride when the Word of God is delivered. When the Word is sown, the believer does not close his ears to the truth; he does not permit distractions that attempt to dissuade him; he does not “tune out” because he has heard that sermon before or a sermon on that text before.

This person hears the Word with his inward being — his heart. What he hears in his ears goes beyond his ears to the very heart of his heart. The proclaimed Word is received with open arms, with a welcome embrace, with a humble spirit, with an insatiable craving, with a Spirit-empowered diligence to be convicted, changed, and conformed more to the character of Christ!

Fifth, a saved person holds fast to the Word which he has heard. Jesus further describes the saved hearer of divine truth as one who holds fast to what he hears. This unquestionably speaks of a person actively, intentionally, zealously, and frequently clinging to the truth of Scripture to guide him through all his days and all seasons of life. This word describes the pre-converted state of the person who was held captive, or bound, or enslaved to the penalty of the Law (Rom 7:6). This person holds on to the Word of God as one who is enslaved to, bound to, chained to its precious truth. Paul so clearly says that a person is saved if he holds fast to the word he preached to them (1 Cor 15:2). Believers are to hold fast to that which is good (1 Thess 5:21). Believers must endure and hold fast their confession and hope (Heb 3:6). The author of Hebrews most explicitly says that we share in Christ if we hold fast our original confidence firm until the end (Heb 3:14; 10:23).

Those who hear the Word that is sown among them are those who hold it fast, they cling to it, they bathe in it, they chew on it, they cannot get enough of it. This kind of person loves the Word. He cannot get sick of the Word. He does not get bored with the precious truth of Scripture. He can hear the Word taught, preached, read, expounded, and applied all day long!

A true child of God most certainly holds fast to the Word of God.

Sixth, a saved person perseveres in the Word which he has heard. Jesus provides one more characteristic of those who rightly hear and rightly respond to His Word. This person hears the Word, clings to the Word and perseveres in it. The meaning of the word for perseverance in this context has to do with one who endures regardless of the hardships, afflictions, worries, and temptations that crash upon him (Luke 8:15; cf. the context of 8:13-14). A person who is truly converted will abide with Christ till the end. None whom Christ saves fall away. Ever! None whom the Savior secured can ever forfeit his own salvation by his own falling away. If a person does not endure, persevere, and remain with Christ, then by his own falling away he shows that he never genuinely possessed true saving faith to begin with (1 John 2:19). This is so because Jesus said he who endures to the end will be saved (Matt 24:13). A true Christian is a persevering Christian.

No matter the hardship that haunts, no matter the plagues that pound, no matter the waves that beat and batter and bruise, no matter the confusion and opposition that attacks, a true child of God is one who perseveres because he is clinging to the Word of God and the God of the Word. Moreover, it is not his grip on God that secures Him but rather the omnipotent, eternally-faithful grip of God that holds him. The regenerate person who hears the Word of God and rightly responds to it is the one who perseveres in the faith because God preserves his faith. The one who does not persevere shows that God never gave him a faith. A child of God endures.

Jesus says that the person who hears the word with an honest and a good heart is the one who holds it fast and he bears fruit. And the phrase that further defines how he bears fruit is that he does it with perseverance. So this hearer is one who continually bears fruit even while persevering in hardships. He continually bears fruit while enduring hardship in life. He continually bears fruit even when tempted, tried, troubled, and facing tribulations. A saved person who hears the Word of God and responds rightly is one who clings to the Word and bears fruit while abiding in the Word as he perseveres in the Word.


Conclusion:
The question demands your response: what do you do with what you hear? Does the Word affect you? Change you? Convict you? Conform you? Transform you? Sanctify you? Do you hear the Word and respond to it by receiving it — welcoming it as you would welcome an expectant visitor — and bearing fruit? Do you understand the Word by the power and ability of the Spirit of God? Every saint has the Spirit and can understand holy Scripture! Do you hear and listen to and welcome the Word of God with a good, honest, and humble heart? Do you hold fast to the Word? Has the Word so gripped you that you grip it every day of your life? Do you persevere in the truth? Do you endure in the Word even amidst the world’s waves and the storms of this age? Do you endure? Have you endured? Are you enduring?

O dear reader, he who has an ear to hear, let him hear! O take care how you listen! O beware of hearing the truth of Scripture and rejecting it! Beware of laziness! Beware of religious hypocrisy! Beware of hard-heartedness! Beware of impulsive responses that do not persevere! Beware of troubled, worried, lustful pursuits of this age that choke out the truth of the gospel! Hearing the truth does not save you! Going to church does not save you! Being a member of a church does not save you! Knowing the content of the gospel does not save you! Engaging in ministry does not save you! Only Jesus Christ saves you and those whom He saves are those who hear His Word, bear fruit as they abide in His Word, persevere in His Word, and cling to His Word! Do you?




Conclusion

Concluding Exhortations to the Reader
Take care how you listen (Luke 8:18)! I begin with a question that has been asked throughout this paper, are you saved? I ask not whether you’ve heard the truth. Millions of people now agonizing in the eternal fires of hell have heard the truth of Jesus Christ. I ask not whether you have impulsively made a decision for Jesus Christ. I ask not whether you have prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, signed a card, prayed with a pastor, asked Jesus into your heart, or any other kind of “decision.”

I do ask you this most important question: what do you do with what you have heard? How has the gospel affected you? How has the truth of the Word that has been sown sunk deep into your soul? Has it? If not, then flee to Jesus Christ for salvation before you sink deep into hell’s torments forever! Do not linger! Do not gamble with the sovereign hand of God who gives you every breath and can take away your life at His sovereign prerogative! Kill your procrastination! Slaughter your worldliness! Recognize your lust for materialism, earthly comforts, riches, fear of man, worldly acceptance and run to the Redeemer who has died in the place of His elect! Find a Savior willing and eager to forgive! He loves to take hypocrites who humble themselves and transform their hypocrisy into true holiness. Hear the Word and rightly respond to the Word. Remain in it! Cling to it! Hold it fast! Persevere in it and so prove to be genuine disciples of Christ. Be not deceived! Jesus Christ alone saves! He alone secures! He preserves! But those who are truly His persevere in the Word that they hear and cling to it till they reach the bliss, glory, and eternal rest of heaven!

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