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Put On Your Listening Ears- Part #1

Finding Purpose / Russ Andrews
The Truth Network Radio
April 27, 2022 12:30 am

Put On Your Listening Ears- Part #1

Finding Purpose / Russ Andrews

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April 27, 2022 12:30 am

Today Associate Director of Finding Purpose Jim Briggs brings us another exciting lesson in the book of Luke.

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I can do this, but I can't do that. Do you feel like your efforts to reach God, find God, and please God are futile? Do you feel like your faith is dead or alive? Today, Pastor Russ Andrews will walk us through Scripture to answer these questions. Join us on Finding Purpose, glorifying God by helping men find their purpose for living. For more information and to connect with Russ Andrews and Finding Purpose, you can visit us online at or connect with us on Facebook. Now let's listen to Russ Andrews as he teaches us how to be a Christian without being religious.

Today's episode features guest speaker, Professor Jim Briggs, Associate Director of Finding Purpose. Well, last week we were having a dinner party with Simon and we met two characters, one of those being Simon himself, a Pharisee. And we saw also at this dinner party, along with Jesus and many others who had come to eat and also to hear what was going on, to see what was going on, we saw a sinful woman. And one of the things, I don't know if you took this away as I did, certainly as I read this this week, I thought back on how Luke had placed this just before what we're studying tonight. And we see these two remarkable responses to Jesus' words. These two people have had a personal encounter with Jesus and they've had two very different responses to it. And we find as we begin tonight that Jesus is now back in the countryside.

He's going from town to town and he's preaching. But before we get there, I want to just tell you that this study tonight is really about hearing. And my mom used to be an elementary school teacher and one of the phrases she used to use in our house, and I'm sure with all the kids she taught over the years, was, I want you to put on your listening ears. And I always thought that was a funny thing to say, because I already had ears on, but she would say, I want you to put on your listening ears. But then as I read this, I thought, well that's actually something I think Jesus might say.

And so tonight as we begin, I want you to put on your listening ears as we begin. Now, as we observe the crowds that have been gathering as Jesus has gone from town to town, we would probably come to the conclusion that his ministry is an undeniable success. Not only did the crowds flock to Jesus in great numbers as he went from one little village in one town to the next, but his entourage also, as you notice in these first few verses of chapter 8, his entourage is starting to grow too. Not only does he have the 12 hand-picked disciples, but it also says that there were a number of women and many others, it says.

And so, it's clearly, he's gaining traction here. And at each town, Jesus not only performed miracles, and I think that was one of the main reasons that people were coming out to see him, but he was also proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. And you recall, back in chapter 4 in Luke, that the fine people in Calpurnium had tried to actually keep Jesus from leaving their town. They didn't want him to leave, and they tried to keep him, tried to prevent him from leaving, and he declared that, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns. And then he says, for I was sent for this purpose.

That's chapter 4, verse 43. So Jesus gives us his purpose statement here. This is the reason that Jesus had come. He's proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.

He's saying, the King has drawn near. And Jesus was bringing good news to everyone who he spoke to of who he was and why he came. And now, as news is spreading across the countryside, impressive crowds had come out to see him. Now, Jesus at this point is at the high-water mark of his popularity. It's likely that his disciples, those that were surrounding him, were also pretty excited about this fame that their leader had suddenly started to enjoy. But you know, Jesus wasn't impressed at all with these large crowds. He wasn't impressed with the growing popularity, because his only concern really was that the people that heard the gospel, he was concerned that they would hear the gospel and repent and believe and be saved.

That was his primary concern. So as he's looking at the crowd, and if you go and look at Matthew and Mark's account, you know that Jesus is in a seaside town, probably Calpernium again, but he's in the seaside, and the crowd is so large that in order to keep from getting crushed, he gets into a boat. He shoves off a little bit, and then he sits down in the boat to preach. And Jesus, as he looked at this crowd, he knew that they were likely, many of them were going to openly reject what he was saying. Others, I think he knew, were going to merely put up with what he was saying for a time, and still others he knew would probably enthusiastically embrace it. Witnessing the different responses to Jesus' message and thinking about the size of the crowds, I think many of his disciples were probably wanting to urge him to maybe reshape his message a bit to appeal to a broader audience. Now this, as you know, is current thinking among many in churches today. Seeing that many people are turned off by Jesus' words, they try and make them culturally relevant and appropriate. Foolishly, they offer a watered-down gospel, one that's a little friendlier. The topics such as sin and judgment and repentance are pulled from the Bible, pulled from the sermon, and they are avoided so as not to offend non-believers.

Well, such a compromise really does only one thing. It leads to churches filled with unrepentant sinners. It's a mistake to believe that large crowds, the ones that Jesus was witnessing, the ones that you see in many churches even today, it's a mistake to believe that these large numbers are actually an authentic sign that God is at work in that community. Still, we, you and I, know how difficult it can be to share the gospel with family members or friends or co-workers and strangers alike. At some point, most of us have even willfully hidden our faith for fear of rejection or those difficult questions that they might ask. And this is precisely what Jesus' teaching of Luke 1-18 was meant to address. He provides us a model for evangelism, and He sheds light on why some people, when they hear the gospel, they respond and they believe and are saved, and yet others completely reject it.

Why is that? Well, we discover tonight, as we look at this, that the reason that people respond differently to the gospel is, as they hear it, it has more to do with their hearts than their hearing. Now, in agricultural terms, what this looks like is a seed, when it's planted, has more to do with the condition of the soil than anything else. And so, for a seed to take root and grow and become fruitful, it has to be implanted in good soil. Well, Jesus begins in verse 4, and by the way, if you don't already have your Bibles open, go ahead and turn to Luke 8. We're, as you know, looking at verses 1-18, and as you look at verse 4, you see that Jesus begins to teach them, with a parable, about the sower, the seed, and the soil. And if you read along with me, again, starting in verse 4, you see that the 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, and it choked it, and some fell in the good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold. And that's the end of the parable.

Simple, short, sweet. But Jesus also admonishes his listeners in the next verse by saying, He who has ears, let him hear. Mark's Gospel, the same story in Mark's Gospel, Jesus actually commands the listeners, Listen!

The words of my mom come to mind. Put on your listening ears. He was not simply interested that his audience hear the words he was speaking. He wanted to make his listeners understand that the message that he gave demanded a response. The parable of the sower is perhaps the most well-known of all the parables that Jesus delivers. In fact, it's foundational to all parables. When his disciples questioned him about the parables in Mark's Gospel, Mark 4, 13, Jesus asked, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand other parables? So you see, the key to other parables lies in the understanding of this particular parable.

Now, the question that you might have, and I have, is Jesus, up to this point, has been speaking very clearly, very plainly to everyone who he's spoken to. So why was Jesus now teaching only in parables? Well, Jesus uses parables to produce a particular effect in his listeners.

His warning, He who has ears to hear, let him hear, speaks to the great importance that we must place on how we listen to God's Word. Jesus has a dual purpose for using parables before explaining the meaning to his disciples. Jesus told them that the secrets of the kingdom of God had been known to them. That is, God had revealed divine truths through the parables that they wouldn't have discovered all by themselves. That's what the secret of the mystery, depending on your version, is all about.

So the next thing, though, is remarkable. For others, the parables were used so that, verse 10, seeing, they may not see, and hearing, they may not understand. Now, could this be right? Were parables meant to prevent others from seeing and understanding?

Well, as you studied this week, you probably dug a little deeper like I did to find out, you know, what does this mean? Jesus here is quoting a prophecy from Isaiah 6-9, and he recalls a time in Israel's history when the people of God willfully rejected the words of the prophet. They actually closed their eyes and ears to the truth.

They didn't want to hear the Word of God, so God concealed it from them. In fact, the more they heard the Word of God, the harder their hearts became. I think John Piper covers it quite well when he says, listen to this, even when preaching the Word of God does not soften and save and heal, it is not necessarily ineffective. This preaching of the Word may be doing God's terrible work of judgment. It may be hardening people and making their ears so dull that they will never hear again. Don't be cavalier in hearing of God's Word week after week.

If it's not softening and saving and healing and bearing fruit, listen, it's probably hardening and blinding and dulling. So, while parables reveal truth to believers, those same parables also conceal truth from unbelievers. Parables themselves are often a judgment against unbelief.

They have the effect of blinding eyes and deafening ears and hardening hearts. Now, you all know this, you've heard this many times, a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly message. Sometimes it can be said it's a story with a sting in the tail. Jesus uses a straightforward story here using very familiar ideas and imagery.

The story itself is not really all that complicated, but its meaning and purpose is a little less clear. Thankfully, Jesus provides his disciples with a clear interpretation, and he explains for them and for us the various responses people had to the message. Now, as we read this parable, we discover that the sower is actually an evangelist. This is the one who is spreading the gospel, spreading the word. The seed is the word of God.

And I think it's interesting that although Jesus calls this the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, it's interesting that he makes no effort to describe the sower. There are no adjectives. There's no descriptive words. He doesn't say what he's wearing. He doesn't say anything about the bag.

He doesn't say anything about his technique. He doesn't say anything about his methods for seeding the field. It's just the sower. The sower simply scatters seed across the field, hoping that his work will yield a harvest. Some seeds land on a path.

Some land on rocky ground, and some land among the thorns. Some will find the good soil. Some seed is in the good soil. This picture here is of God's word as it hits a receptive heart. This is a picture of an evangelist, though, going about declaring the word of God with little discrimination, hopeful of a harvest of souls. Now, from another parable, Mark 4, 27 through 29, it's clear that the sower actually has little control over his crops at all. It says that he sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, and he knows not how.

Paul picks up this same idea in 1 Corinthians 3, 6 through 7. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. Now, neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but God who gives the growth.

He's the only one who gives the growth. The point is that the crop's success depends on God, not the sower. The sower casts the seed.

The evangelist proclaims the good news. God gives the growth. Well, like the sower, the seed is constant in this parable. Jesus says nothing about a special hybrid or genetically modified seed manipulated for a greater harvest.

God's Word doesn't need to be altered in any way to be effective. What is true about the seed, though, is that it's only useful when it's planted. Also, like the seed, the Word of God is packed with power. You ever thought about how much power is in a little seed? You plant that seed, and the big plant comes up.

If it's an acorn, I mean, you've seen the results of the acorn here in the city of Oaks. Paul says it is the power, the seed is the power for salvation to everyone who believes. That's Romans 1.16.

And in 1 Corinthians 1.18, he says to those who are being saved, it is the power of God. But to unlock this power, it must be implanted, and the result is determined on the condition of the soils. So we've seen the sower.

We've seen the seed. Now let's take a look at the soils. Since the sower and the seed do not change in this parable, the only variable is the type of soil onto which the seed falls. And four soil types represent the conditions of the hearts of those who are in the crowd listening to Jesus speak. Jesus gives us a soil analysis to help us determine which type of soil will produce the healthy and fruitful crop. I don't know if you know this, but if you're a gardener or if you just want to know these kinds of things, you can actually send off to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for a soil test. They'll take a look at it, and then they'll send you your results, and they'll tell you what needs to be done to your soil so that it might sustain healthy plants.

Well, Jesus is kind of doing the same thing here. He's given us this soil analysis, and I want to briefly look at each sample to see if we recognize some of the characteristics maybe in our own hearts tonight. So, the first soil. Now, the fields in Jesus' day were not fenced in. They were often very long fields, and they were surrounded and divided from each other by walking paths.

And these paths were well-traveled, and they were baked every day in the hot sun. And over time, this soil became really compacted, hard-packed, and baked by the sun. And the seed, when it was cast by the sower, would bounce off the surface of this soil.

It would just rest there, exposed to the elements. And then it was trampled on by feet and, as we read, eaten by birds. Now, this soil represents a person with a stone-hard heart who hears the Word of God but is completely resistant to it. The Word of God just bounces right off of him. Sin and unbelief has made his heart solid, stone, and unreceptive to God's truth. So he shows no sorrow for his sin. He shows no repentance.

And he shows no fear of God. And this person, it says, the Gospel is completely veiled to him because in 2 Corinthians 4, you know this passage well, the God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. And he does that to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. This person's heart is at the mercy of Satan. And Jesus says in verse 12, the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts so that they may not believe and be saved. This person listens to the Word. They may even come to church.

In fact, if you're one of those people here, welcome, it's great to have you here. They listen to the Word, but they're completely indifferent to it. Even what they receive is quickly snatched away. Well, that's the first soil. The second soil describes a shallow heart. Throughout Israel, there is a limestone that runs under much of Israel and it's under a thin, typically a thin layer of soil. And as the seed lands on this particular type of soil, sometimes maybe a few inches, if not an inch deep, it will root, but there's no room for the roots to grow downward.

It comes in contact with this hard, hard rock. The only thing the plant can do is grow upward. And so it quickly grows upward, it leafs out, it's green, it's leafy, it looks healthy.

But with shallow roots, when the moisture evaporates in the heat of the sun, the plant withers and dies without producing any fruit. This soil illustrates the shallow hearted person who responds to the Word immediately, perhaps even joyfully, but only superficially. He may, in verse 13 it says, he may believe for a while, but in time of testing, in times of trials, he'll fall away.

This person has all the outward appearance, just like that plant. Hearted leaves, green, looking healthy, they have all the outward appearances of a true believer, but when trials arise, it becomes apparent that his faith is merely superficial. Jesus says in John 8.31, if you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine. So if he's fallen away, that shows that he's not a true disciple. A person's initial response to the Word of God ultimately doesn't matter if his faith is not rooted in Christ.

When the trials find him, he falls away, having never truly believed in the first place. Well, the seed may also land in the thorns, in the third soil, so we've seen the first two soils, the hard soil, the shallow soil, this third soil. This third soil actually looks pretty good. It's deep, it's habitable soil, and the seed quickly takes root and grows.

However, there's a problem. The bigger thorny plants block out the sun and their roots rob this young plant of all the moisture and nutrients in the soil. The plant is choked out by its prickly neighbors and it's left fruitless. The third soil represents the person who receives the Word, but his heart is so preoccupied with, as verse 14 says, the cares and the riches and the pleasures of life that the Word is actually strangled to death. Now, Jesus describes in that verse three things that choke out the Word, the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of life. These things preoccupy all of our minds from time to time. But what Jesus wants to put his finger on here is the fact that if they take the place of God, then they'll strangle anything that we believe, anything that we have been drawn to. These things preoccupy the mind of the heart of the person crowding out the very truth of God's Word. Luke in chapter 18 gives a great example of a person just like this.

The example that he gives there is the rich young ruler. Remember, he came seeking eternal life from Jesus. He has this remarkable encounter with Jesus. He's all in. He appears all in. He's heard the things that Jesus has to say and he says, I want to be a follower of you.

Tell me what I have to do. But then he's unwilling to leave his riches behind. His mind, his heart are preoccupied with the things of this world.

This person makes a profession of faith and for a time even seems to be growing spiritually. However, something else comes along and draws attention away. This could be a new relationship. It could be a favorite pastime.

Perhaps it's a favorite getaway spot. A new career. It could be something that you're really struggling with. Finances, relationship problems, how you're going to make payments on the house or the car, your kids trying to get into the right college. Those are all things that we deal with, that our minds focus on from time to time. Now, the things of God, when our minds are preoccupied, over time they start to become a little less interesting, a little less important. This person stops making time for God. He stops making time for studying the Bible.

No longer has time for a quiet time. His church attendance starts to slack off and his prayer life fades away. John writes in 1 John 2, 15, Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. As we love the things of the world, the love that we have, if we had any for the Father, fades away. To be clear, material wealth is not inherently evil, nor is pleasure for that matter.

However, it is evil if the things of this world take the place of God in our lives. Being a Christian is not about being religious, but about having a dynamic, alive relationship with Jesus Christ. You've been listening to Finding Purpose with Pastor Russ Andrews, glorifying God by helping men find their purpose for living. You can discover more about finding your purpose in life by checking out the resources at or connect to Finding Purpose on Facebook. Pastor Russ would also like to extend a special invitation for you to join him and over 300 other local men to study God's Word together every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. Find out more at This is the Truth Network.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-26 13:34:02 / 2023-04-26 13:44:31 / 10

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