The Gospel of Luke - Part 33: Believers Obey - Luke 8:4-21 (concluded)

(These notes are based on lesson notes prepared by Rob Mahon for connection class leaders at Hoffmantown Church.)


Review:

We are in Luke Chapter 8 where Luke tells us about how true faith affects us, and we continue our look at Believers Obey.

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:

A.   Believers Partner(v.1-3)
B.   Believers Obey(v.4-21)
C.   Believers Tell Others(v.26-39)
D.   Believers Trust Jesus   (v.22-25,40-56)

Last week we continued our study of Jesus’ parable of the seeds, which is found in Matthew, Mark and Luke. This parable deals with obedience.

Today: — 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

Jesus says that the condition of the human heart (the soil in the parable) falls into four basic categories. Over the last three weeks we have looked at the three conditions of the heart in which the gospel message never takes root.

(1)   The hardened heart
(2)   The shallow heart
(3)   The worldly heart

“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. —Luke 8:11-14
People may just reject the Gospel, or they may not have enough spiritual depth to weather the storms around them to persist to a true understanding, or they may be too busy, too distracted by the world around them. All three conditions prevent the Gospel Message from reaching fruition.

(4)   The ready heart.   But then there are those who are open, and ready — the fertile soil.

Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great. —Luke 8:8

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. —Luke 8:15

And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. —Matthew 13:23

And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold. —Mark 4:20

It’s interesting to see the slight variations among the three Gospel versions:

Matthew  —   hears the word and understands it
Mark   —   hears the word and accepts it
Luke   —   hears the word and hold it fast (retains it)

"But" — The first word of verse 15 is important. It tells us that there is a contrast between this soil and the first three. This soil is not like any of the others. The difference is a difference of the heart. It’s not readily apparent to us; but it can be clearly seen by God.

Jesus does mention three indicators of a heart which is good soil:

The test of response, what do they do with it?
“They hear the word and hold it fast...”

Maybe we would say that this person really takes the message to heart. He embraces the message without reservation. There are no conditions or qualifications on his part.

This phrase also shows our responsibility when we hear God’s message. It’s our responsibility to listen (“hear”). And it’s our choice what we do with what we hear. We can ignore or reject God’s message. Or we can “hold it fast”.

This hearer holds fast.

The Greek word for “hold fast” here is  κατεχω  [ kat·ekh·o] — hold fast to, possess, keep firm possession of.  This Greek word is also used in other passages:

...by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. —1Corinthians 15:2

For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. —Hebrews 3:14

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. —Hebrews 10:23

None of these verses have any implication that we can “let go” after holding fast.

This hearer perseveres:

Another proof of salvation is the test of time. The person who perseveres, the person who holds to his faith in Christ over time in spite of adversity, that person shows that he has genuinely put his trust in the Lord. Perseverance here is in contrast to v.13, where the person, “in times of temptation”, falls away.

This hearer bears fruit:

How do we know those in which God's Word really takes root?

Well, Jesus teaches us in this parable that we know every heart by the fruit that it bears. The ready heart not only hears the Word, these people "hold it fast" until it finally bears the fruit of a changed life. Whenever anyone genuinely comes to faith in Christ, the result will be genuine life change.

There are other passages where Jesus also emphasizes the importance of fruitfulness in the lives of His followers. One of the most important of these is John 15.

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. —John 15:5

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. —John 15:8

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. —John 15:16

Remember what Jesus said back in Luke 6:44?
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. —Luke 6:44
At this point in the teaching of Jesus he says:
“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 8:16-21
If that is not a statement of obedience, I have not heard one. His family are those who “do it.”

This section seems to be a natural follow up to the subject of fruitfulness that Jesus has just been talking about. In these verses, Jesus speaks of two results of fruitfulness:

a.   The fruitful life bears light (witnesses):

Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed. —Luke 8:16
One result is the witness. People should see the difference Christ makes in our words, our actions, our attitudes. As Jesus was/is the “Light of the world”, so He expects His light to shine through us:
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. —Matthew 5:16

For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light. —Ephesians 5:8

...so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world. —Philippians 2:15

William M. Woodfin said:
The proof of Christianity is not a book but a life. The power of Christianity is not a creed but a Christian character; and wherever you see life that has been transformed by the grace of God, you see a witness to the resurrection of Jesus. (William M. Woodfin)
b.  The fruitful life is obedient:
“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” —Luke 8:21
Jesus continues this theme that believing is more than just hearing, more than just knowing — believing means obeying. I don't think Jesus intended this statement as a snub against His own family. What He is saying is that every true disciple, every true believer has the opportunity to be as close to Him relationally as His own flesh and blood. That's pretty good. Even though today we live 2,000 years later, we have the opportunity to be as close to Jesus as His own family. In fact, that's what we are.
For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. —Hebrews 2:11

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. —Hebrews 2:17

We need to pray that our hearts continue to be "good soil". We need to allow God to soften the rocky places in our hearts. We need to work with Him to "root out" the weeds and thorns. We need to hold fast to what Jesus says, obeying Him and letting Him change us to be more like Himself!

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