Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, when your mind totally disconnected until they asked you a question and you had no idea what they were talking about? Most of us have been in that awkward position of letting our minds wander and getting caught when the speaker paused for our input.
Jesus knew His audiences enough to know that He had caught most of them in hearing less than He was teaching. They loved the miracles, the excitement and His fresh new way of teaching, but most were not grasping what He was saying.
In Luke 8:18, Jesus gave this warning: “Take heed therefore how ye hear:” The Amplified Bible says it like this: “Be careful therefore how you listen. For to him who has [spiritual knowledge] will more be given; and from him who does not have [spiritual knowledge], even what he thinks and guesses and supposes that he has will be taken away.”
Those who have spiritual knowledge are the ones who absorb Jesus’ words and allow them to change their lives. Others hear the words with their ears, but never implement them into daily living.
Most of us have learned the basic principles of simple math - adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. But if we never use them in our lives, they will be useless to us and we will eventually lose the knowledge we had. It’s the same with the Word of God.
In John 5:37-40, we read of Jesus’ encounter with some Jewish leaders, the religious hierarchy of His day. These were men who had studied the scriptures all their lives and prided themselves in keeping the Law. They had even committed the words of the Law to memory. Yet Jesus said, “Not one of you has ever given ear to His [God’s] voice or seen His form (His face—what He is like). [You have always been deaf to His voice and blind to the vision of Him.]”
They could quote the scriptures telling about God and His principles, but they didn’t know Him. If we read about someone in the newspaper or read their biography, it doesn’t mean we know them personally. We just know some facts about them.
Jesus went on to say, “And you have not His word (His thought) living in your hearts, because you do not believe and adhere to and trust in and rely on Him Whom He has sent. [That is why you do not keep His message living in you, because you do not believe in the Messenger Whom He has sent.] You search and investigate and pore over the Scriptures diligently, because you suppose and trust that you have eternal life through them. And these [very Scriptures] testify about Me. And still you are not willing [but refuse] to come to Me, so that you might have life.” (Amplified Bible)
When the people heard Jesus say that to these learned men, they probably wondered, “How could they NOT have eternal life?” If they didn’t, what chance did the common people have? It’s not mental knowledge of Scripture that gives us eternal life. It’s Jesus! And the Scripture will lead us to Him if we are careful how we hear. Jesus was teaching them it isn’t just what you hear, it’s how you hear! The way we listen will determine the results we get.
When Jesus warned them to be careful how they hear, He had just told them a parable about the seed and the sower. Most of us know the parable well because we have heard it so many times. But HOW have we heard it over the years? Have His words changed us, or is it just head knowledge?
Here is the parable from Luke 8:4-8. “And when a very great throng was gathering together and people from town after town kept coming to Jesus, He said in a parable: A sower went out to sow seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the traveled path and was trodden underfoot, and the birds of the air ate it up. And some [seed] fell on the rock, and as soon as it sprouted, it withered away because it had no moisture. And other [seed] fell in the midst of the thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it [off]. And some seed fell into good soil, and grew up and yielded a crop a hundred times [as great]. As He said these things, He called out, He who has ears to hear, let him be listening and let him consider and understand by hearing!” (Amplified Bible)
Jesus was talking about the crowd that was receiving seed at that very moment. Many people heard His words. The Bible tells us it was a “very great throng” of people who had come from many towns all around. It wasn’t that some heard and others didn’t. They all heard. But the difference was HOW they heard.
Later, when the disciples were alone with Jesus, they asked Him to explain the parable. That’s a good place to start hearing in the most effective way. Jesus began by telling them the seed is the Word of God. All the people heard the Word, but in different ways. Let’s look at each group separately and see HOW they heard it. And while we are there, we can do a checkup on ourselves.
Luke 8:12 – “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.”
Seed that fell by the wayside is seed that fell on the travelled road. A seed can be sown on the travelled road, but if we want it to grow, we have to turn off that road and ask God to give us further understanding.
When God spoke to Moses, he had to turn aside before God spoke to him: “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.” (Exodus 3:2-4 – italics mine)
What if Moses had simply looked at the burning bush from a distance and then passed on by? He could have testified to everyone about the great manifestation he had seen of God Himself, but he could have only testified as a bystander. He would not have known God personally and would have missed the call to deliver His people. Acknowledging God’s presence is one thing. Turning aside to be in His presence is another.
God didn’t speak to Moses until he turned aside. When we have an experience that turns our hearts to God, do we stop or continue on in the direction we were going? God may allow us to encounter something to turn our attention to Him, but He cannot speak to us until we turn aside to listen. Then He will give us more of His revelation and direction.
If we stay on the travelled road, the noise of the crowd will drown out the voice of God, and we will lose the word He planted in our hearts. If we turn aside, we will experience God.
Luke 8:13 – “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”
Stony ground doesn’t allow for roots to grow down into the soil and it has no moisture to sustain life. That’s how we are when we have no connection to Jesus. We have neither roots nor the water of His Spirit to sustain us.
Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
We can’t be attached part time and bear fruit. We can’t just visit with Jesus on Sundays and Wednesdays and expect to put down roots. We need to know what His Word says and live by it every day, to be connected to Him every moment. If we are not constantly connected to the Vine (Jesus), we cut off our Source of sustenance. When hard times come, we will die. The deeper the roots, the stronger we become. And we are more able to survive stronger storms – not in our strength, but through Christ.
Luke 8:14 – “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”
The thorny ground represents the heart that is being choked by the cares of this life. It places priority on the common, temporal things. Our main focus is to be on Jesus. Our first priority and duty is to God’s kingdom. If we allow the seeds of this world to grow in our hearts, they will choke out the seeds of God’s kingdom.
A desire for the riches of this world will grow and overtake that part of us that understands we are blessed so that we can be a blessing. We are to give and not just receive. When we uproot the thorns with God’s Word, we will bear spiritual riches in this life and the next.
The pleasures of life, pursuing satisfaction through the things this world offers, are thorns that take out nutrients from our hearts (our soil) and leave us unable to bear good, mature fruit. If we want to find true satisfaction that will last, we must allow the seeds of God’s Word to overtake the cares of this life. We cannot serve this world and Jesus.
Luke 8:15 – “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
Good ground is a heart prepared to hear God and set apart to obey what it hears. This ground is just the opposite of all those described earlier.
It is the heart of those who “turn aside” so they can have a better understanding of what Jesus said. Those who stay closely connected to Jesus. Those who don’t see how much of the world they can hold onto and get by with, but surrender everything to Jesus. Those who are determined to have the Word of God alive in them, not just a knowledge of facts.
Good ground is a heart that lives in and for the Kingdom of God first and foremost. Do we have that kind of heart?
HOW DO YOU HEAR?