Monday, 20 May 2013

Listen Up

It is a dangerous thing to come to word of God but not be prepared to listen to Him speak. This is one of the things that the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4 teaches us.

The word of God is the good news of the Kingdom, and the good news of the Kingdom is about a person, Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God.

Each soils shows a different reaction to Jesus. But there is always a reaction meaning it is dangerous to not be ready to listen and be changed by Jesus.

Jesus commands people to “Listen!” in verse 3. Then in verse 9 “he who has ears to hear, let him hear”.

He is speaking to a mixed crowd, including His disciples. So this is for everyone, not just those who don't believe, trust or follow Jesus.

The fours soils give the 4 kinds of reaction to the word. This parable is the key to all the rest in many ways. Jesus is saying that the message of the soils is for every time you hear the word.

The first is the hard ground. This is a heart that is not bothered and Satan takes that opportunity to steal the word away. We might quite easily look at the leaders and teachers of the law think they were useless and blind to what was in front of them in chapter 3. But, if we come to God’s word with indifference, or in a way which shows we think we have got Jesus nicely boxed up and understood, we are in danger of being hard soil. The word can’t do its work because we think it is not relevant or we choose not to seek to understand.

Do we have desire for the word of God or has it become mundane listening to it on Sunday never mind reading it or going to a home/gospel group during the week?

In our society we are so used to listening for the sake of absorbing information, or just listening to/watching TV to "switch off" after work, that we treat the word of God in the same way. That’s why asking questions and chatting with one another about the word, inviting people to encourage and challenge you is key to breaking up the hard soil and letting the seed sink in. We need to keep one another going. We need to fight the apathy and routine, we need to fight just being at the church to tick a box.

The second is the rocky ground. The word is heard and it is even received with joy (v16). But there is no root and it dies off with no fruit produced.

This might be when we hear about the wonderful forgiveness we have in Jesus and we are amazed again at the grace shown to us but we still can’t spend time with or speak to someone who hurt us. We need to broaden or view of how the word applies. The first step is not suddenly being their best mate but keeping reminding yourself of what Jesus has done for you, praying the Spirit would change and help you begin to show that same love for the person who offended you.

The third is ground where thorns and thistles grow. The pleasures and troubles of this world muscle in and choke the joyful reception of the word.

For us this might look when we hear about the goodness of marriage and sexual purity and get really excited by God’s vision for it but then the attraction of pornography muscles it’s way back in offering an alternative instant pleasure. Knowing when you’re weak, preaching the truth of God to yourself, having someone you share and pray with will help you to root out the weeds so that the soil is good.

It can be easy to see Jesus as cool, good, exciting, even satisfying, but He needs to be all satisfying, He needs to be our everything, we need to say with Paul that we consider everything a loss compared to knowing Jesus, or we will not keep on keeping on with Jesus when the riches of this world come calling.

Or maybe a stormy time in life comes along you need the joy of the gospel and knowing Jesus deeply to survive and come through the other side bearing fruit.

That leaves us with the final soil. It’s good and there is great fruit from it. How can we practically cultivate the soil of our hearts so that it’s ready to receive the word and bear fruit?

If you don’t yet know Jesus, are you going to be like those who sought out Jesus for a further explanation? Will you do something about the things you have heard about Him? Or maybe you think you have now heard enough to come and trust Him. That’s what being good soil would be like for you I believe.

All of us can pray for the Spirit to speak to us. The Holy Spirit speaks of and shows us Jesus and changes us to be more like Him. He longs to take the word, bring it to life and work out in our lives.

Have your Bible open on a Sunday morning. Follow along with what is being by the preacher. Make notes. Ask questions of the preacher at the end. Chat with the person next to you about things you didn’t understand or have been challenged about. If you’re the person that someone has shared their challenge with, why not encourage them during the week or follow it up with them in a couple of weeks time.

Why not listen to Sunday’s sermon again during the week so that the seed is not lost in busyness life?

Saturate yourself with the Bible. Not so you know lots of verses, facts or doctrine, the Pharisees could recite the scriptures better than anyone. Do it so that you get to know Jesus better and become more like Him. Our knowledge of the written word should always be to that end, to enjoy and deepen relationship with the Living Word.

If you don’t learn well by sitting and reading, maybe get an audio Bible and listen. If you find it easier when some explains as you go, get some good books or listen to good sermons. If you need to talk things through with people to really understand and think what they look like in practice why not go to Home/Gospel Group, or arrange to meet someone from church for a coffee and chat about some things you have read in your Bible or heard at church.

Do you see how these things all actually draw us closer together? They make us more of a family and our growth is not an individual project, but a corporate one.

And remember there is abundant grace when we mess up. Continuing to sit under the word and listen to it will help us not to feel guilty or down in those situations, but actually continue to repent and believe which is what being part of the Kingdom is all about (Mark 1).

As you go into this week then, expect God to speak, trust God by asking Him to bring His word to bear fruit in your life and others. Work out what are the best ways for you to listen and put those into practice so that the seed of the word grows in your life.

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