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Jack Graham - Hearing with Your Heart

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    Jack Graham - Hearing with Your Heart
TOPICS: Why Believe?, God's Voice

The story of Jesus is the most powerful story of all! And interestingly enough, when God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, God's Son came, telling stories, and they're known as parables. And if you'll recall in our first message... what is a parable? A parable is, as a little girl said, "An earthly story with a heavenly meaning". But parable, the word parallel is in that word, parable, and it means to lay aside something that is known along side something that is unknown, so that you could understand the truth. And so these stories that Jesus told, and there are approximately 40 different stories that Jesus told known as the parables, the stories that Jesus told, 35 percent of His teaching is in the form of parables.

And so that's a powerful link to what we're going to talk about today. The majority of the parables that Jesus told are recorded in Luke's Gospel. Dr. Luke, the author of the Gospel that we're studying, was particularly fascinated by these stories that Jesus gave us, and so the most vivid and memorable stories are found in the book of Luke. Again, to lay aside... to lay along side that which is unknown with something that is known so we can make the connection and understand spiritual truth. And so we come to this parable in the eighth chapter, and we're going to begin reading in verse 5, the Parable of the Sower: "A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold".

And as he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear". Verse 9: "And when the disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, 'To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that 'seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.'" Now what's this about? First, the mystery of the parable, and of parables in general. The mystery of this whole thing because there's something about parables that reveal and there's something about parables that conceal. A parable is insider information. It is a sacred secret, a divine mystery. A mystery is not a "who-done-it" in the Bible, but a mystery is a divine revelation of God. Something that was not previously known that is now revealed, only by God.

You see, it is impossible to understand the truth about God apart from God speaking through His Spirit through the Word of God. And so God reveals Himself through His Word by His Spirit to the responsive heart. And so Jesus spoke in parables and His true followers, His disciples, they would get it. They would be on board with the ideas that Jesus was sharing. But others were unresponsive, particularly the religious system of His day and those who practiced religion without true relationship with God, they didn't get what Jesus was saying. Now to the insider this is an open secret, this Gospel. We get it! But to those who do not know, who do not understand, the Bible says the natural man... the human doesn't understand the things of the Spirit.

To those who don't know... Maybe you share the Gospel with a friend or share something of the Bible with a friend and they say, "You know, I just don't get it; I don't see what you Christians are talking about". They're not lying; they're telling the truth. It's just right over their heads. They don't get it. It doesn't connect. And it may seem like a puzzle... a riddle... a parable that cannot be understood. Because the Bible, the Word of God is a savor... the Scripture says 2 Corinthians 2:16, "a savor of life... a taste of life unto life to those who believe but a death unto death to those who do not believe". Or to put it in an old proverb: "the same sun that melts the ice, hardens the clay". Some people hear the word of God and are resistant, others hear the word of God, the good news of Jesus, and are responsive.

So Jesus spoke these parables to reveal truth to all who were responsive, to all who are ready to receive it, and yet to those who are unresponsive, to conceal because their hearts are hardened and they say, "You know what, I just don't get it". So there's the mystery of the whole idea of parables here. But let's look at the meaning of the parable that Jesus gave us in this instant. It was a common scene for a farmer to sow seed, plant his crops, and expect a harvest. And this is the case here where Jesus when He's teaching, and He's teaching right now a large group of people and He's endeavoring to separate the followers from just the fans; you know, the groupies who liked to follow Jesus around and the real disciples. That's what He's doing here.

You know, it's interesting, isn't it, if you're an athlete? I was talking to Brett Wallace, a professional... He's the first baseman for the Astros. He's here this morning and we were talking about the ups and downs of an athlete. And you can be a great athlete and the fans love you and cheer you, and then you fail a time or two and they'll boo you. That's what fans do because fans are fickle. Now real fans don't do that! But fickle fans do that. I mean the same kind of people that cheered Jesus when He was on His way into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, jeered Jesus and booed Him on His way to the cross! And at His trial. So Jesus is separating, you know, the fickle fandom from the real followers of Christ, the real followers of the Gospel. And so He gives us this parable and He says a farmer goes out and he takes seed, he throws the seed out, and what is the seed? We don't have to wonder about the nature of the seed. What is the seed?

Verse 11 says the seed is the word of God. So the seed is the word of God; the seed is the Gospel. The Scripture... the nature of the Bible's, it's called a Lamp, it's called a Light, it's called a Sword, it's called milk, it's called meat. But the word seed is descriptive of the Bible because it speaks of the miracle of the Bible, the miracle of God's Word. There's... You think about a seed. A seed in and of itself is a miracle thing. Life is in the seed. You can plant a small seed and it produce a mammoth plant. You can plant a seed and it will... it will grow a tree. So the seed has life and the Word of God which is the seed is filled with life. The life-giving, life-changing, transforming power of the seed... the Word of God! This is why we preach the Bible; this is why we teach the Bible.

You might as well You know, some people plant marbles and expect a harvest when it comes to preaching the Bible. In other words, they never preach the Bible and they wonder why they don't have a harvest. God's promised to bless His word! The word is the seed... the word is the life-giving power of the Gospel. And so we preach it, we teach it. I can't even imagine what I would say week after week without the Word of God. And notice there was nothing wrong with the seed here. The seed is the seed. The seed is the Word of God. The Word of God is pure. But as we'll note, there was something wrong with the soil that received the seed. But first, the sower. A sower went out to sow.

Again a common occurrence. Maybe Jesus would have even pointed to a farmer who was doing this. Taking a real life story and illustrating this spiritual truth. So He said here is a farmer. He goes out and these men would have bags around their necks and they would reach in and just indiscriminately and vigorously and actively and just throw the seed everywhere generously, liberally. Now the sower initially is Jesus Himself who came to earth to sow the seed of His own life. And like a seed He was buried and on the third day He rose again. And He is the one on mission, sharing the Word of God. And Jesus said "as the Father has sent Me, so do I send you".

So the call of Christ upon every church and every Christian is to sow the seeds of the Gospel. If we want a harvest... if we want to produce then we must sow the seeds of the Gospel! This is our business. We're in the agricultural business, we're in the farming business! It is to sow the seed of the Word of God! This is why evangelism and missions is the heartbeat of this church! And it should be the heartbeat of every Christian! God puts that desire in your heart to share the Gospel with others, to make a difference in other people's lives, to scatter the seeds on all kinds of soil. And we live in the most amazing time of opportunity! And the online opportunities, and the media opportunities! We literally can fulfill the Great Commission in our lifetime! And we should because Jesus is coming soon!

We're to sow the Gospel, but not everyone responds positively. I was reading a paper, a research paper this week by Pew Institute or Pew Research. Thirty five thousand people in America were surveyed regarding their attitudes towards faith and no faith, and religion and no religion, and kinds of religion. It was the most in-depth comprehensive study of religion in America in a long, long time. And the report came out and some were shocked by it when it indicated that people are becoming less and less religious in America. More and more eclectic in religious experience, more people are checking no religion and no belief in God and no faith as never before. Some people got all excited about that, frustrated about that, but I just said ah! Jesus took His own survey 2000 years ago. It's called the Parable of the Soils. It's really not the Parable of the Sower; the focus is on the soils, the kind of conditions that either reject the Gospel or receive the message.

And so, one of my preacher friends preached a message on this parable one time and he called it "Why do some preachers have crop failure"? And sometimes you look at the world and the way the world is going and some churches are emptying and declining and so on and you wonder is the Gospel failing? Is the Gospel on the way out? Are we going to look up one day and see no Christians? Well, Jesus told a parable about that and He said when the sower sows the seed there are four kinds of soils, and that's the soils. Four soil samples, and He explains the parable in verse 12. He says: "The ones along the path are those who have heard; when the devil comes and takes the word from their hearts".

When a farmer would sow the seeds, again I say, lavishly... just everywhere. People would often walk through the farms and the villages... still do today in Israel... taking shortcuts. You ever seen that? A nice piece of ground some... where somebody puts up a "Don't walk on the grass" sign and people walk on it and wear a path... right? Well, paths would get worn and beaten down and hardened. And so some of the seed, he said, was sown on this hard ground. And, of course, the seed could not penetrate the hardness of the soil. And then along comes the birds. Now this isn't Big Bird! These are bad birds, and bad birds come along and they eat the seeds. And Jesus is giving us this vivid picture of what happens in church! Not in the streets. Oh, it can happen in the streets but it happens in church. And you know what? It's happening right now.

And here's what's happening. The word of God's going out, I'm throwing it as hard as I can, I'm scattering the seed across this building, I'm broadcasting... and the word sowing there literally means broadcasting. We're broadcasting the seed. And some of it's falling on deaf ears, hard hearts, calcified hearts because what happens if you hear and you hear and you hear, you can become Gospel hardened. Some of you have heard and heard and heard and heard and heard and heard, and your heart is now hard and resistant. God says Genesis 6:3, "My Spirit will not always strive with a man". The Bible says Proverbs 29:1, "He who is often reproved and hardens his neck, bows up his neck will suddenly be cut off and that without remedy". That's what Jesus is saying.

So the seed falls on hard ground and then the birds... the devil comes along and snatches it away. So the devil is alive and well and working and he's not in hell shoveling coal; he's here, snatching away the seeds of the Word of God! Don't harden your heart! This is why in so many instances the church in America has become a field for evangelism rather than a force for evangelism! Cause people hear sermons but don't know Christ. That's why it's so refreshing to go to a mission field. Many of you have been to mission fields and isn't it wonderful to see the responsiveness to people who have never heard? That's why a child, you know, is so responsive.

One of my favorite things to do is about once every month or so I bring in the children who have recently received Christ. They've been through our new Christian's class. We make sure that our boys and girls get the Gospel and hear the word of God and understand who Jesus is and why they need Jesus, and how He came to save us. We go through all of that. And then I get to meet with them and talk to them about following through in their baptism. And it's just a... and to see the excitement and the eagerness in a child's eyes! Jesus said, "Unless you become like a little child and be converted, you'll never see the kingdom of heaven". That's why 85% percent of the people that come to Christ, come before the age of 18.

If you became a Christian after the age of 18 you are a rare soul because life can trample us down. Just like these pathways were made with people walking on them... the world walking on them, people's hearts can get hard, they can get embittered when the world walks on you and when sin walks through you and your heart gets hard! Jesus said, "Don't be that kind of heart"! Be the kind of heart that is different. Ask God to give you the heart of a child that is soft and pliable. And pray right now as I'm preaching for the Spirit of God to open hearts, to be responsive to the Gospel.

Second kind of heart is the seed is sown on the rocky, sandy soil... the rocky, sandy soil. You see it there? This is verse 13: "And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But they have no root; they believe for a while, and in a time of testing fall away. These are shallow hearts, superficial hearts".

They represent people who like it soft, like it easy, like it sugar-coated; shallow. Literally in that day there would be limestone underneath the ground at places and there would be just a small topsoil. And so Jesus said the seed would go in the topsoil... soil just an inch or so down, but when the sun came out, when the heat was on it withered and died for lack of moisture. So this is the illustrative of the people who may make a decision... an emotional decision... Now there's nothing wrong with emotion in the decision for Christ! In fact, if you don't have passion about your relationship with Christ, something's wrong. But emotionalism... just making an emotional decision without counting the cost and the consequences... and we're wrong to tell people, "Oh, you come to Jesus and everything's going to be great"!

It may not all be great! You may face new persecution; you may face new struggles and difficulties that you've never known before. So it's wrong to tell people, come to Jesus and everything's going to be just great. You're going to be healthy, wealthy, happy the rest of your life! There are challenges and we're called to a cross! But some people like it soft, some people like it sentimental. Don't ruffle any feathers. Don't go too deep. You know, I've been hearing about the dads at school. They get to have donuts with dad. And Saturday morning we had Ian over and I'm thinking, "Why can't we have donuts with granddad"? And I've been trying to get off sugar. And I've gotten off a lot of sugar in my diet, really have, been working on that and it's good and feels good and so I hadn't had a lot of sugar. And so I said, okay, today's a sugar day.

So Ian and I go get the donuts and they're good ones. Now you know I had to look it up on my little phone to find a donut shop. It'd been so long since I'd been. But I found it, I got some donuts and boy, were they good. They were still hot, melted in your mouth! Just so good. Loved it, tasted just right. A little coffee and milk to slush it down. Felt great for about an hour. But donuts are sinkers. You know what I'm saying. They ball up and sink on you. That's what they do. And the next thing you know, I go from this high to what? Low! It's a sugar low. And I felt bad the rest of the day!

Now church is a lot like that for people. They want donuts kind of messages. Something sweet, something tasty, something easy. "Don't ever confront me with my sin. Don't ever challenge me with being a better man, having a better marriage! Don't ever challenge me to live a holy life! Just tell me something where I can go away smiling". Jesus said that kind of message never gets through. Because when the heat's on, the sun comes up, and the moisture goes out, the plant dies. And there will be heat, and there will be horrible circumstances in our lives when the heat is on, and you better have something more than a shallow faith when that happens. Well, quickly, quickly, and more quickly.

The third heart is a preoccupied heart and distracted heart. He said other seeds went on the ground and it was rocky soil and there were weeds and thorns there and this choked the life out of the seed, choked the life out of the plant. It couldn't grow! And Jesus tells us there are three kinds of weeds here. Anxiety, the cares of this world, riches, and the pleasures of this life. People that are so caught up in themselves in selfish pursuits and sinful pleasures that ultimately even though they may have professed faith, they've never possessed faith and the pursuit of things and wealth and idols in their life ultimately choke out their souls! When you allow possessions to possess you, they poison your soul and keep you from Jesus! Jesus had a young man who's described as wealthy. He was rich, he was young, he was a ruler, he was a dazzling young man who came to Jesus.

Jesus challenged him to the core of his being to follow Him, but he could not, he would not follow Jesus because he had great possessions and he walked away and he never came back as far as we know. Pleasures... sinful pleasures, selfish sinful pursuits will choke the life out of your faith. Sometimes students grow up in church and then they go to college and turn everything loose and they party hard. You feel so liberated but it's actually life altering for so many. Middle-age adults try to rediscover their youth. Grown men acting like frat boys who haven't grown up. The sinful, selfish pleasures! And that will keep you from responding and receiving the word of God and will strangle and suffocate your spirit! Your ability to connect with Christ. Jesus told him... us to follow Him first. Matthew 6:33 "To seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness".

The fourth heart is the good soil, but it's soft and pliable. He spoke of this good soil in verse 15: "As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast; they're an honest; they have a good heart, and they bear fruit with patience". The fruit is the fruit of the spirit which is the character of Christ in us. The Gospel goes down deep and strong; it penetrates the inner recesses of the heart. This is not the clueless heart... goes right over their head because their heart is hard; this is not the careless heart; this is not the casual heart who wants something shallow or easy. This is the committed heart that follows Christ regardless of the cost and regardless of the consequences.
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