(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)
We are in Luke Chapter 8 where Luke tells us about how true faith affects us.
As we study this, the question it poses is: Do you really believe? Remember that
the Bible makes it clear that real faith will be conclusively demonstrated by
our actions. Luke shows us that as followers of Jesus, as believers, there are
several behaviors that we should be exhibiting, behaviors that Jesus exhibited.
We will see that:
|C.||Believers Tell Others||(v.26-39)|
|D.||Believers Trust Jesus||(v.22-25,40-56)|
We also discussed Jesus’ reasons for using parables. One was to use physical world examples, to help us understand spiritual matters, which we cannot really comprehend. The second reason He used parables was to sift the people who heard them. Those with a seeking attitude, could understand what he was teaching while those who were not open would just be confused.
Today we will continue our look at B. Believers Obey.
As we listen to the parable again, remember that the parable is not about the seed or the sower, it is about the condition of the ground on which the seed falls, and that is the condition of the heart of the people who hear the word of God.
When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: “The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great.” As He said these things, He would call out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those beside the road 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. Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.” And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:4-21(1) The Hardened Heart
Jesus says that the condition of the human heart (the soil in the parable) falls into four basic categories. The first condition is the hardened heart. Last week we looked at that first condition.
The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. Luke 8:5The hearts of some people are like the hard-packed dirt along a path. God's Word isn't able to take root in their hearts. We saw that we harden our hearts when we resist God, when we pursue what we know is wrong. This condition exists where religion is without a relationship to Christ
Those beside the road 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. Luke 8:12
Jesus points out the spiritual battle that's going on here. Satan is at work. He doesn't just wait on the sidelines; if we let him, he'll snatch the Word away from our hearts.
(2) The Shallow Heart
Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. Luke 8:6The “rocky soil” doesn’t mean soil with some rocks in it. Jesus seems to be describing areas where there is a thin covering of soil but underneath is a layer of rock. Matthew’s record of this parable gives us a little more detail concerning this soil:
Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:13
Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. Matthew 13:5For those without Jesus, this doesn't mean they become Christians and then lose their salvation. It means they move toward salvation (maybe they pray a prayer or start going to church) but they never really give their lives to Jesus. These people are heart-breaking to know because they start out so well. They seem sincere in their response to Jesus. Notice three characteristics of these people:
John MacArthur, the Christian writer and Theologian warns,
"Sometimes shallow acceptance of the Gospel is encouraged by shallow evangelism that holds out the blessings of salvation but hides the costs - such as repenting from sin ... and turning from the old life."
What are some things we can do to help “seekers” avoid this condition?
This is why one of the best things we can do for spiritual seekers is get them in an evangelistic Bible study, like this class, or Navigators or BSF. The Holy Spirit can use the Bible to break through these rocky layers of the heart. But this takes time. A person may be in Bible study for weeks, even months, before coming to a point of saving faith in Christ.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John 3:5When Jesus was telling the Disciples that He would return to the Father and would send a helper, referring to the Holy Spirit he said:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. John 6:63
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. John 16:8
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. John 16:13
As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. John 6:66Helmut Thielicke, a German theologian before and after the Nazis, says:
In all three accounts of this parable, in all three of the synoptic Gospels, Jesus emphasizes that a crucial test of faith is how we respond to “times of testing.”
Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. Luke 8:13That’s why it’s so important that we make it clear (as Jesus did) that following Jesus doesn’t mean we are exempt from adversity. Jesus clearly taught that those who follow Him will go through their share of hard times.
Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. Matthew 24:9-13Viktor Frankl, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor says:
We don’t have to respond like that. We can choose to trust Jesus in the hard times, relying on His character and His promises. We can choose to rejoice, to be thankful as we trust Him to take us through these times even if He doesn’t deliver us out of them.
(2) The Worldly Heart
So our heart may be hard, or it may be shallow, or it might be the third condition, Worldly.
Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. Luke 8:7For those of you that are gardeners, why is it important to get rid of the weeds from your garden? Weeds use nutrients from the soil and soak up water intended for the garden plants. If left unchecked, they can “choke” out the other plants so that they fail to ever bear fruit.
The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. Luke 8:14
There’s an important principle here salvation and discipleship are not just a matter of adding Jesus to our lives; they also involve subtracting (abandoning) the ungodly desires of this world.
Jesus said that following Him meant making a choice:
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. Matthew 6:24Verse 14 says: " ...they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life ... Luke speaks of these three things being of “this life”. In Mark 4:19, they are called “of this world”. These three “weeds” are three basic characteristics of this world. John tells us:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16Notice how John also emphasizes that we have to choose to love the world or to love the Lord.
Notice that the things that Jesus warns against are all related to affluence and materialism. As Christians, we need to be careful that we don’t get caught up in the endless pursuit of what is called “the good life” in our society.
Someone has observed that “being better off isn’t always better.”
Jesus identifies three factors that can "choke" out our response to God.
What we worry about shows what is really important to us. In Mark 4:19, Jesus specifically warns us against “the worries of the world”.
But the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Mark 4:19What do you think the “worries of the world” refers to?
Charles Wesley, the great Methodist hymn writer who lived in the 1700's is reported to have said that: "It would be just as inconsistent for me to worry as it would be to take the Lord's name in vain."
What he had in mind, no doubt, was the fact that both are sinful. To worry is to show little faith in God. "God can’t handle it, so I have to."
There are many passages in the Bible that warn us against worry.
Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. Matthew 6:31-32Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch survivor of the Nazi holocaust, turned missionary. When in a concentration camp Corrie vowed that if God allowed her to live, she would tell as many people as possible about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. She also promised to go wherever He led. After her release from prison, she spoke in over 60 countries. Corrie said: "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap. Luke 21:34
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Graham, Billy’s wife says:
"I have learned that worship and worry cannot live in the same heart: They are
There are many warnings about the dangers of wealth. Remember the story of the rich young ruler who was told to give up his wealth to gain salvation and he decided the price was too high? After His encounter with this man, here is what Jesus said:
And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” Mark 10:23Why do you think wealth makes salvation and discipleship more difficult?
Wealth is not intrinsically evil. There are many godly people in Scripture who were wealthy. But First Timothy 6 helps us understand the dangers connected with wealth:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10Verse 17 says:
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. 1 Timothy 6:17Billy Sunday said,
Robinson, Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
and a renowned professor of preaching from several other seminaries, said:
“For every verse in the Bible that tells us the benefits of wealth, there are
ten that tell us the danger of wealth, for money has a way of binding us to what
is physical and temporal, and blinding us to what is spiritual and eternal....
When the flypaper says, "My fly," the fly is dead. It is one thing to have
money, another for money to have you. When it does, it will kill you.”
Here in Luke 8:14, Jesus warns us against pursuing the “pleasures of this life”.
...they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life ... Luke 8:14Pleasures of this life is translated from the Greek word ’ηδοναι [hay·don·ay] = “pleasure” three times, and “lust” twice, pleasure or desires for pleasure. This same Greek word is used in Titus and James:
For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. Titus3:3This Greek word, “hedone” is where we get our word “hedonism”. Webster’s Dictionary defines hedonism as the “pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses.” In Mark 4:19, Jesus calls this “the desires for other things”. The word “desires” can also be (and sometimes is) translated “lusts”. God wants us to enjoy His blessings, the good things of this life. But we need to beware of an excessive desire for these things. We need to be careful that the pursuit of God’s blessings doesn’t replace our pursuit of God.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. James 4:3
John Piper, senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, a widely published theologian, and a graduate of Wheaton College says,
"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18–20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable. Jesus said some people hear the Word of God, and a desire for God is awakened in their hearts. But then “as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life” (Luke 8:14). In another place he said, “The desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). “The pleasures of this life” and “the desires for other things”—these are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God." (John Piper)
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:15-16The danger of these three spiritual “weeds” taking root in our hearts doesn’t end when we come to faith in Christ. We continue to be susceptible to all three of these spiritual "weeds".
Which one do you most struggle with?
What is something you can do about it this week?
We have looked at:
(1) The hardened heart - (where the seed fell on the hard path)
(2) The shallow heart - (where the seed fell on the rocky soil) and
(3) The worldly heart - (where the seed fell among the thorns and weeds). The only condition we have not looked at is
(4) The ready heart - (where the seed fell on the good soil). That is where each of us needs to be. That is what we will look at next week.