How many sermons have you heard in your life? Have you changed accordingly? Yes, you may have heard, but are you sure you listened? Have you produced fruit from the Word you have heard? Why should you hear yet another sermon this morning? For a long time in my life I have always found it difficult to understand why some people hear the gospel for the umpteenth time, never respond to it, and yet others have never heard it even once. You who are here are blessed and privileged, to hear the gospel again and again. It is shocking that any of you should bear little fruit.
This parable is the key to the opening of all parables. For this reason Mark starts with it. It is the greatest and the most well-known parable. This parable needs application not exposition because its words are very plain and clear. In fact the Lord told them that if they did not understand this parable, they may not even understand the other parables (v.13)!
Tell me, if you heard this parable for the first time, would be able to understand what it was all about? The disciples did not and I can tell you that I could not. Parables are like pictures, they have to be accompanied by explanations. For this reason one may be hear a parable take it that way and another this way – because they have to be explained.
In this parable the Lord also takes time to explain the purpose of parables. This is the most shocking because it goes counter what many people think was the reason why Christ used parables. Jesus used parables to hide the truth from those who were not meant for the kingdom of God and He proved this to the disciples by quoting Isaiah 6:9-10.
The truth is that, regardless of the faithfulness of the prophet or preacher or even Christ here, the hearers will always respond in four different ways. We cannot guarantee a response just by the message, no matter how faithful the preacher is.
The response to the gospel is fully dependent on God and so the Lord explains that the twelve and others around him, were given the secret of the kingdom of God (v.11). We must never be pragmatic in our approach to the gospel because the results are ordained by God. This is because many will respond to this passage by blaming God that He has ordained it that there those who those who
But what this means is that although they think they see, they do not see spiritual things because they are spiritually blind. Although they hear, with their physical eyes, they do not understand because they can’t. These things are spiritually discerned:
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
We are not to suppose that our unbelieving sons or husbands are the way they are because God left them… they are in the state of sin because they left God, they have gone astray, to their own way.
We ought to pray for them that the Lord will be merciful to them, to open up their eyes that they may see the wondrous things in the gospel of Christ, from where there is the good news of free forgiveness of sin and redemption by the blood of Christ. We must therefore be grateful that the Lord has revealed His gospel to us and take heed.
From the passage note the following:
1. The propagation of the gospel by Christ and His appointed agents is constant.
2. Whenever the gospel is preached, there are people who hear it
3. Sadly, many people who hear it are not profited from it
4. There are many agents that make sure that you do not profit from the gospel:
6) The world
5. Those who profit from it have the following characteristics:
· Have been given the secret of the kingdom of God
· They go back to Christ for insight & understanding
· Have fertile hearts to the Word of God
· They grow and increase steadily
· Yield fruit
Christ is gathering those who indeed belong to His family, who are involved in the building of His kingdom. In doing so, He is sovereignly discriminate, so that He may receive the highest glory, both in His grace and mercy as well as in His holiness and justice. For this reason, we see that in His grace and mercy He has chosen to reveal Himself to His people in order to save them from their sins. In the same way He has hidden some these things: Remember His prayer in Luke 10:21-22-24:
But you may ask, then why does God punish people for not believing when He is the One who has revealed these to them? Who can resist His will? Are sure you want to know the answer to this question? This is what the Lord tells those creatures who are so daring to question His sovereignty and wisdom:
But who are you, O man, to answer back to god? Will what is moulded say to its moulder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God desiring to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory – even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
But clearly, while God is sovereign in salvation, He is not responsible for your faulty listening since He has given two ears to hear, two eyes to perceive, mind to understand and has made you in a manner that if you do not believe, you have yourself to blame when you will find yourself in hell. You are responsible for in attention, you are responsible for forgetting, you are responsible for rejecting the truths of the gospel by ignoring. Surely, when you ignore the word of God, and refuse to apply it in your life, you are rejecting the very instructions that God has given you in order to be a beneficiary of His divine mercy and grace.
When you don’t take heed, it is not because the Lord told you so, it is because you have rejected the words of life. If a person sinking in a swamp refused to got hold of a rope of
Christ gave four categories of hearers of the gospel:
1) Those hearers whose hearts are like paths – exposed to the devil
As the gospel is propagated, there are many who hear it. It may be from the pulpit in churches, like you are hearing now. It may be from a faithful Christian friend or relative who testifies the gospel to others. Or it may be through the mass media:
TV, radio, Internet, magazine it may be read in books, there are thousands of ways through which one may hear the gospel. These people must be given credit for they attend church, and listen to the preaching of the gospel, however. Clearly, they don’t pay much attention, they don't seem to care much about what is preached – it is just words, names and phrases. Why do they go to the church then? Could it be that they go to church to show themselves as respectable? Or is it because it is fashionable? Is it for the sake of their family? Or is it a place to meet clients? Or could it be to meet with friends, or relatives?
Whatever the reason why these people expose themselves to hearing the word, Satan makes sure that they are not profited by the Word of God. Just like the way seed by the pathway are picked up by the birds of the air, Satan picks up the Word from the hearts of these people and so are left as if they never heard anything. The devil loves companions to escort him to eternal punishment and so die with him eternally.
The devil, as much as he is at work, is not solely to blame for what happens in the hearts of these people. Clearly it is not the bird that made the path! Neither is it the devil who hardened the hearts of these people. Like pharaoh these people make their hearts hard and impervious to the gospel.
You are responsible for making your heart hard and it is you who reject the truths of the gospel. How do you make your heart hard? By thinking of your business and of your job and family, when you ought to be listening to the preaching of the Word. By slacking in attention to the word of God. By being an arbitrary church attender – arriving the last and leaving the first! By not exposing yourself to be examined by the gospel.
FOR HOW LONG WILL YOU REMAIN IN THIS TERRIBLE APATHY TO THE GOSPEL? Change and live, for there is a way that seems good to a man but only leads to the city of destruction. Turn to Christ and live.
2) Those hearers whose hearts are stony & rocky: lack depth, emotion driven
This category of gospel hearers are marked by their lack of depth. They are as shallow as the soil upon the rock. They are liquid and shaky in their thinking. They are people given to emotion and instincts rather than truth and faith. They enjoy hearing the preaching. They speak about preaching with excitement and enthusiasm. They happily receive sermons and can very easily be brought to tears by the appeal of preachers. They talk about their feelings after the sermon.
But as you will soon discover, their hearts are infested with stones, yes, they are stony and rocky. They are as impervious as the first group because their feelings are paramount. They are the ones who come to be tickled, to be moved in emotion. They go to church to enjoy. Sadly there are many preachers who are primarily concerned about moving the emotion of their hearers. They appeal to felt needs. They promise good feeling to those who sit under their preaching. They have made the environment most comfortable to their hearers by music, ambience and an appearance of godliness. “We are seeker-sensitive,” they say. They don't mention sin or hell or blood and so they render themselves useless. For if there is no sin, then there is no need for a Saviour!
Having arrested feelings of their hearers and made them most susceptible, they then exploit them to their own benefit. They demand money from them promising all things in heaven and on earth – prosperity untold and wealth and riches and health and all wishes. They make them to be followers of men rather than followers of Christ.
As the smoke appears and it is gone like the dew of the morning so are these people. These emotional people, as you will expect will not and cannot persevere in times of difficult – their religion is only skin deep. Their Christianity cannot hold in trials of time. Tribulation and persecutions will make them to fall away (v.17). Their faith is only alive when everything is smooth-sailing. They walk by sight and emotions and will soon find that such faith is not faith at all, for it will wither and die out, with nothing to show for it.
This must serve to warn you that, simply because you enjoy hearing the word of God, because you take pleasure in the gospel is not a mark that you have the grace of God. Simply because you come to TBC or listen to Pastor Piper and Washer is not a mark of grace. That you go home saying how blessed you have been is not sufficient. While sermons must elicit some emotion it must never be emotion as an end it of itself, which is emotionalism.
More accurately, sermons must particularly elicit action. While preachers may excite you, it must be that it is exciting you to see the glory of a holy God and rejoice that He is your God. It must move you to tears and sorrow for your sins, leading to repentance to Christ.
It must indeed cause you to praise the Lord for His mercy and for His grace. But this emotion has to be an enduring emotion, leading to a persevering action and culminating to a godly living. If all you do is enjoy and not persevere then you are as good as the ground that did not receive the gospel at all.
HOW DEEP IS YOUR FAITH? HOW DEEP IS YOUR CHRISTIANITY? IS IT WITHERING RIGHT NOW? Call Christ for help.
3) Those hearers whose hearts are crowded with weeds – overtaken by cares so that they don’t bear fruit
There are many others who hear the preaching of the gospel and obey it to a certain point. They understand the word of God and receive it. Their consciences are affected by the gospel and so they change their ways to abide by the Word to certain point. These are men who adopt the habits prescribed in the Word and abandon the conducts condemned in the gospel, for a time. These may even be given places of leadership and will show themselves to be making good spiritual progress, up to the point where everything seem to be going well with them materially. They never go the full way – but the crown belongs to those who persevere to the end… those who hold fast to the finishing line. The downfall of this category of hearers comes from the world – the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires of other things enter in and choke the Word (v.19).
It is said that while poverty may have killed its thousands, prosperity has killed its ten of thousands.
Most of us will concur with me, that we have made better spiritual progress when were under difficulties and in trouble of life than when are materially prosperous. I remember twelve years ago, when I was invited to take beer by a friend, but said that I don’t drink because I am saved, he retorted, “No, it is not because you are saved, it is because you don’t have money yet, wait until you get money!” and he had evidence of a person we both knew. I may not have money even right now but I still insist that I don't drink because Christ is in me and I would not want to make Him drunk! I’m sufficiently drunk with the Holy Spirit!
Now I want to ask you, ARE YOU AMONG THOSE WHO GO SO FAR SPIRITUALLY AND YET NO FAR?
To see so much of the glorious riches of Christ and yet not see at all?
To change so much in conduct and yet not permanently transform and conform to Christ? Be warned that this is as good as those who never began.
To change so much in conduct and yet not permanently transform and conform to Christ? Be warned that this is as good as those who never began.
4) Those hearers whose hearts are fertile, bearing exceeding fruit.
There are also those who give attention to the Word of God, they listen and obey it to the letter. They give themselves to obey it thoroughly. Whether it is the law or the gospel they believe. Whether instructions or doctrine they will heed. Whether indicatives or imperatives they will apply to their Christian living. As a result they come to hate sin and abhor it and so they flee sin, resist sin and are fully engaged in the business of killing sin. They renounce sin, confess sin, and repent of all their sins.
They truly come to trust in Christ and so depend on him, trusting Him, submitting to Him, following Him day by day and every day, following Him closely, serving Him with sincerity, patience, humility and closely.
In them is the Holy Spirit at work, producing ripe fruit in them. You will definitely know their religion by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They crucify flesh with its passions and desires.
These people are steadfastly growing up in grace and in godliness. They are increasing in fruitfulness. These are constantly making effort to supplement their faith with virtue and to their virtue knowledge,
to their knowledge self-control and to their self-control steadfastness and with steadfastness godliness and with godliness brotherly affection and to their brotherly affection they are increasing in love for God and for His people.
Because these qualities are theirs and are increasing, they keep them from being ineffective or unfruitful in their knowledge of Christ. For whoever who lacks in these qualities is so short-sighted that he is blind. But with such effort one makes His calling and election sure by practicing these qualities so that he does not fall.
They may have different degrees of fruitfulness but the fruitfulness is certain and of the same kind – it is the fruit of the Spirit. There those who yield thirtyfold and others sixtyfold and others hundredfold. The secret is that they
Whatever you might forget today, please remember this:
There are three ways of hearing without benefit
There is only one way of hearing fruitfully.
What kind of hearer are you? what kind of hearts do you receive the Word of God that is constantly coming to you. This church has to be transformed into what we ought to be in this city. We have to get hold of the purpose of God for us as church and be fruitful in making Christ known, and trusted and loved and trusted. This we must do by both word and deed so that Christ in us will be seen, the hope of glory for all who are in Him.