Luke 8:4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Observe what Jesus said to this large crowd which had gathered to hear him. He urged them to listen very carefully to his words. So why did he speak in mysterious parables? Modern day preachers, standing before a large crowd, certainly would not give such a cryptic message. Instead, they would assure the crowd that God loves them and wants to bless and prosper them. Then they would give an altar call to accept Christ, and then after that take an offering.
But Jesus did not say or do these things. He knew the hearts of people. He knew that even though a large crowd had assembled to hear him, only a fraction of them would actually understand and retain what he said—perhaps only one out of four. He did not want to give to dogs what is sacred or throw his pearls to pigs (Matthew 7:6). In Matthew 13 Jesus describes these people in the following way.
Matthew 13:13 “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ”‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’
Although Isaiah’s prophecy was originally meant for the Israelites in the time of Jesus, it can also apply to many people who have been brought up in church or have been going to church for many years to hear the word if God. The crowds in church can simply stop hearing. The Lord does not want to heal them. Scripture applies to God’s people today just as it applied to God’s people the Israelites two thousand years ago. Heaven and earth will pass away, but Christ’s words will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). Let’s now return to Luke 8 and listen to what Jesus said next, this time to his disciples in private.
Luke 8:9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. …11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
There are four classes of people who come to hear Jesus Christ, and these can be those who go to church. There are those for whom the word of God is immediately taken away by the devil after they hear it. Then there are those who are very enthusiastic initially when they hear the word of God, but they do not last and they fall away. The third class consists of those who hear the word of God and want to obey it, but are ultimately overcome by the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of earthly riches. They fail to mature and to produce good fruit. They may in fact be drawn to the gospel and want to enter life. But because they do not bear good fruit, they are cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
But the last and fourth category of hearers of the word is those who have a “noble and good heart.” Jesus calls them “good soil.” They listen to the word of God very carefully and they understand it. They successfully resist the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. They persevere. They grow to maturity as disciples of Jesus Christ and they bear good fruit for him. Only one out of the four hearers of the word is the right kind of soil and succeeds in entering life. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:14).
This is not the kind of message one hears in church today. Almost all messages heard in church today appeal to nearly everyone in the crowd. “God loves all of you, and wants to bless all of you,” the crowd is told in so many words in one fashion or another. They feel encouraged and will certainly be back for more comfort on the following Sunday. But Jesus did not preach such messages to the crowds who came to hear him. On one occasion, “as the crowds increased, Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation” (Luke 11:29). Jesus, unlike most of today’s preachers, did not come to please man with sugary words. If we study the words he spoke as recorded in the New Testament, we are in fact left, in general, with the very opposite impression.
If modern day preachers spoke as Jesus did in the New Testament, churches would be far smaller than they are today. But since success in the eyes of man is measured in numbers, preachers are forced to change the message to please the people and to bring in the crowds. When questioned about the validity of this, preachers will say that it’s for “the sake of the harvest.” Times have changed, and we need to change the message to fit the culture in order to reap a harvest for the kingdom of God.
Really? Is it right to change the word of God in the way that they do? It is not simply a cosmetic change in the packaging, it is a change in the central message of the New Testament for believers. Does the message revolve around how God wants to bless His people on earth? Or does it rather focus on what His people should now do for Him in light of what God has already for us through His Son Jesus Christ and in anticipation of his glorious appearing?
Could it be that we are simply tickling people’s ears in order to fill our churches and win the praise and recognition of man? If so, we will have already received our reward here on earth. But Jesus did not come to please man, but to please his Father. He did not compromise the message which the Father had given him.
Listen to what Jesus then said to the disciples back in Luke 8 after he explained to them the meaning of the four types of soil.
Luke 8:16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
We who are disciples of Jesus Christ are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We are lamps providing light which should be seen. “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible…” (Ephesians 5:11-13). As light, we are to expose that which is hidden and concealed, even in the Church, and bring it out into the open. The fruitless deeds of the Church must be disclosed and made known.
We must also be sure there is no hidden darkness in ourselves as we gaze intently into the word of God—the mirror in which we can see any darkness in ourselves (James 1:23).
In order to do this, Jesus commands us to consider carefully how we listen. We must listen to the pure word of God, and listen very carefully. We must be very serious about the word and divide it correctly. In light of what is taught in many churches today, it would be best to sit down with the word of God and prayerfully study it for ourselves.
Our teacher is the Holy Spirit. “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all thingsand as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (1 John 2:27) This verse takes on greater urgency in light of the unbalanced teaching so widespread in the Church today. The Holy Scriptures are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15).
If we have a noble and good heart and consider carefully the words of Jesus Christ, we will persevere and bear fruit for him—thirty, sixty, or one hundred times what we had at the beginning. And we will be given more. But if we do not have, even what we think we have will be taken from us. If we are the first kind of soil, the second kind, or even the third kind, we will lose even what we think we have. Many “Christians”—to their dismay and disbelief—will be weeping and gnashing their teeth at the end of the age.
If we are serious about eternal life, we must consider carefully the pure word of God and how we listen to it. Many people go to church to hear the word of God. But for most of them, even what they think they have will be taken from them. They listen, but hardly hear with their ears. This is the reality behind the crowds in some churches.