Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This follows up Part 1 in the 5-part series on: The Parable of the Soils:

Part 1 - An Overview of the Parable of the Soils
Part 2 - The Soil Beside the Road — “Hearers But Not Doers”

In this real life story that Jesus gives to his hearers who crowded the hillside as he taught on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, he commanded his hearers to listen to his teaching (Mark 4:3). In the illustration, Jesus speaks of a man who sowed seed and some of it fell beside the road. This may have happened as some seed may have dropped out of the pouch as the sower walked through his fields. Others may have been cast out of his hand onto the ground and it fell not on rich, good, fertile soil but next to the road without any root. Luke 8:5 notes that as this seed fell beside the road, it was trampled under foot. And, of course, as these seeds fell beside the road and lay on the surface of the ground, the birds quickly swooped down and ate the seed up.

The Explanation:
Jesus helpfully takes the time to explain the meaning of his story so that his hearers would properly look at their own lives as to how they “hear the Word.” In providing the interpretation, Jesus says that the seed that falls beside the road and is quickly eaten up by birds is tantamount to those who hear when the Word is sown and immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them (Mark 4:15).

In Matthew 13, the parallel account includes a few other points that are helpful. When someone hears the word (the sown seed) of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart (Matt 13:19). Luke 8:12 clearly identifies these as the “unsaved” since Luke says that these are those who have heard. Then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart so that they will not believe and be saved.

All hearers of God’s Word must ask themselves this question: what do I do with what I have heard? There are those who hear the word preached and who do not “understand” it (Matt 13:19). This is so because the natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him (1 Cor 2:14). The unsaved man cannot understand the deep truths of the gospel because of his depraved nature that affects even his will and understanding. Furthermore, he does not receive the Word and apply it to his life since it is utter foolishness to him. They are not able to abide in God’s Word since they do not belong to God. But they are still those who hear the Word as it is sown.

This is someone who hears the Word preached and when he hears it, the devil immediately comes and takes the Word away from their heart so that they do not believe. That is, the devil comes and literally “snatches the Word” away from their hearts (Matt 13:19). How amazing is it to realize that in every setting where the Word of God goes forth, the devil and his minions wait to take the heralded Word and take it out of the hearer so that he will not believe. Of course, this particular hearer is unsaved and is not able even to hear, understand, apply, and fully incorporate the preached Word to his life (Luke 8:12). Nevertheless, how sobering a thought it is that Satan snatches the Word away from the hearts of some hearers. Those that do not hear, respond to, apply, and understand the Word as it is sown are those who fit into this category.

These are hard-hearted hearers but not doers. These people have deceived themselves if they think that their hearing of the Word somehow earns them favor with God. James writes that if someone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer of the Word he deludes himself; that is, he is deceived (James 1:22). This idea of being deceived in James 1 is in opposition to “abiding in the Word” (James 1:25). That is, one who does not abide by the Word that goes forth is one who hears the Word and does not do the Word and thus he has deceived himself.

Many faithfully proclaim the Word of God and yet the Word does not dig deep into their hearts. In fact, these people are invaded by Satan himself who takes the Word away which had been sown in their hearts. How does this happen?

Perhaps many hear the Word as it is sown and they outright reject the truth of the gospel. They reject it because it is too radical. Perhaps they refuse to submit to the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ over their entire lives completely. They may not want to leave a pet sin. They may cherish the alluring draw of science and reject the truthfulness of Scripture in all it affirms, says, and declares concerning the omnipotent work of God the Creator and the sovereign work of the Spirit in salvation.

This category may describe many who sit week after week in church and hear the Word as the preacher heralds and yet they leave “wowed” by the sermon, captivated by the speaker’s creativity, and intrigued by a particular nuance. Yet the situation is the same with all of these folks. They go home with no intention of changing their lives. The Word has not impacted their hearts so as to produce conviction, conversion, contrition, and commitment to increase in Christlikeness. They left no different than when they arrived. These are those who sit through sermon after sermon unchanged. The Word is ineffective to them. They reject it. They refuse to obey it. They take no deliberate action to apply the Word to their own lives. They act not when the Spirit prompts them to repentance and confession. These are those who hear the Word but do not apply the Word.

I ask you, dear reader, what do you do with what you hear? Does what you hear every week affect your desires, passions, will, words, and life? Is your zeal for God and His preeminent glory ignited afresh in your soul? How do you drop to your knees when you return home after hearing a convicting sermon and beg for God’s tender mercies to forgive you for your faults? Do you? Does the sermon change you? Does it grow you? Has it converted you? Does it cause you to commit yourself to more fervent holiness with greater zeal, ferociousness, tenacity, and intentionality?

Does the gospel change you? Does the theology of the Scriptures entice you to study it more during the week? Do you apply the sermon? When you hear about prayer in a sermon, do you pray more? When you are told in the Word of God to evangelize, do you apply it? When the sermon application reminds you of your complaints, your lack of trust in God, your quick-temper and anger, your pet-idols that you honestly cherish more than God, your fear of man that consumes your thoughts rather than an all-consuming fear of God, how does it change you? Does it?

If what you hear does not affect your heart, mind, will, and life, then it shows you do not understand the Word, the evil has come and snatched away the Word from you, and there is nothing left but unbelief. Conversion is still needed for this person. Change has not happened. The Word has not worked savingly yet for this individual.

With the myriad of opportunities available via media, one can almost listen to good, faithful Bible teaching from the Word of God constantly. Do the sermons and lectures you hear change you? Do they change your walk? Do they change the way you talk? Do they change the way you read your Bible? Do they cause you to commit to better prayer habits? Do they prompt you to love your wife more sacrificially and selflessly? Do they remind you to submit heartfully, tenderly and quietly to your husband? Do they convict you about the way to point your disobedient children to the glory of Christ and the salvation that only He provides in every occasion of discipline? Do  the sermons affect your love for the Father in his predestining of you out of His furious wrath and into His glorious love? Do the sermons you hear give you a greater awe of Jesus who died in the place of sinners bearing the full weight of punishment for His people so that they may receive His perfect righteousness by faith? Do the truths that you hear prompt you to worship the Spirit and rely on Him for His sustaining grace, strength, and filling every single day? How do you hear the Word as it goes forth.

No wonder Jesus said in this same setting: “so take care how you listen” (Luke 8:18).

May the Lord convict us of the times we hear but do not heed the Word as it is sown. O may God forgive us for being slothful hearers. How lazy we can be! How ineffective we can be at taking the preached Word and increasing in zeal for it in our hearts, applying it to our hearts, and implementing it to our lives. May we run to the cross of Jesus Christ for an abundance of mercy, grace, and pardon. He quickly forgives the contrite and the penitent. May we resolve in our hearts to listen to each sermon and apply and implement what we hear. May we refuse to hear the Word and be unaffected by it.

For those who have had a life of hearing the Word and yet the devil has come and taken it away immediately upon the hearing of it, recognize your sin! Recognize your condition! Recognize that you must receive the Word and believe the Word! You must receive the Word, believe the Word and be saved (Luke 8:12)!

Perhaps there are some reading this essay who have sat in church for years — perhaps, decades. Yet there has never seemed to be any real, lasting, heartfelt, joyful change. Perhaps you are trusting in your religious tradition of sitting and hearing the Word preached every week to save your soul from perdition! O be warned of your lost state! Hearing the Word without applying the Word is like looking at yourself in the mirror and seeing the work that needs to be done and yet you take no action! O beware of your condition before Holy God! Every sermon a lost sinner hears without applying it to his life is like adding another log to the fires of eternal hell. How pitiful is the sinner who falls to hell with many sermons in his mind. How sad is this case! And how many people now reside in hell who have heard sermons in church, online, or in schools and yet have refused to believe it and be saved!

May God graciously awaken any who may be likened to those by the road who hear the Word and yet the devil snatches it away so that they do not believe it to be saved. O may those who are hearers of the Word but not doers repent today and find the grace of God ready to pardon and eager to forgive based upon the sole merit of Jesus Christ and His saving and substitutionary work accomplished at Calvary’s cross. Repent! Believe! And come to Christ today!

Part 3 will come tomorrow as we examine the seed which falls on the "rocky soil."


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