Therefore hear the parable of the sower: (Matthew 13:18, NKJV)
If you are not familiar with the parable of the sower, please read it, and Jesus’ interpretation of it in Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23. Take time to “hear” the parable and learn its lessons, some of which are these: 1) The condition of one’s heart determines whether he or she will understand and accept God’s word. 2) The same word of God will be believed by some, and rejected by others. Therefore, we dare not try to change the message of truth in an attempt to entice people to accept it. 3) Satan is at work hardening hearts against the word of God. 4) Truth cannot thrive in the shallow soil of the emotion-based heart. We must have an abiding commitment to God’s word, come what may – not to how we feel about it. 5) Hearts that are distracted and filled with concerns for the things of this world do not have room for the word of God. A person cannot serve two masters with one heart (Matt. 6:24). 6) Good and honest hearts hear, understand, and follow the word of God. So, did you listen to the parable? Which heart do you have when you hear the word of God? Is your heart the hard, wayside soil? Is it the shallow, emotional heart that easily falls away when tested? Is it the overgrown heart that has no room for God’s word? Or, is it the good heart that receives truth, holds it fast, and patiently bears fruit? Make no mistake: You decide which soil describes your heart.
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19–20, NKJV)
Instead of listening to the urgings and enticements of sin (see Jas. 1:13-16), we should be swift to hear “the word of truth” (Jas. 1:18-19). Instead of speaking rashly and letting anger boil up and spill over in angry words, we must keep hearing the word of God. When God’s word is heard and obeyed it produces “the righteousness of God” (v. 20). This controlled spirit avoids sin, but the angry heart spews out transgressions (Prov. 29:22). Don’t give in to the temptation to be ruled by angry passion. It never brings you closer to God.
21 Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ 22 And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” 23 Then, as they cried out and tore off their clothes and threw dust into the air… (Acts 22:21–23, NKJV)
Paul had told the crowd how Jesus appeared to him, commissioned him to be His apostle, and saved him from his sins (Acts 22:1-16). He told them how Jesus appeared to him again, warning him to flee Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-20). The people of Jerusalem continued listening to Paul until he said the word, “Gentiles” (v. 21). Their hearts were so filled with hatred and contempt that they would not even consider the thought that Gentiles could be in the kingdom of God. Their hearts were closed to the gospel, being hardened by prejudice. They were ready to kill Paul rather than hear the truth he preached. Have you already made up your mind about some Bible teaching without considering what the Scriptures actually have to say? You cannot learn and follow the truth unless your heart is open and receptive to examining the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Be willing to listen and to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4).
Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:18)
It is not enough simply to listen to what Christ says in the Scriptures, we must hear with understanding to do His will. To achieve this, be careful how you listen to the word of Christ. Be cautious not to listen with your mind already made up about what is right and what is wrong. Such a closed mind will not help you find the truth and accept it. Truth is snatched from the closed mind even as it thinks it knows the truth (the wayside soil, Matt. 13:19). Instead, be like the Bereans and have a ready, willing mind to receive the word of Christ, examine the Scriptures to know the truth, then believe it and do it (Acts 17:11-12). With such a “noble and good heart” you will bear fruit for Christ and increase in His blessings (Lk. 8:8, 15).
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:9)
Someone said since God gave us two ears and one mouth, we ought to listen twice as much as we speak! In today’s verse Jesus calls on us to use our ears to listen carefully to what He says. The Lord calls on us to pay attention, to have great interest in what He says. We can easily be distracted from listening to and following the Lord’s word by life’s cares and the enticements of sin (Matt. 13:22). Jesus wants us to hear His word “with a noble and good heart” and “understand it” so we will follow it and bear good fruit in our lives (Lk. 8:15; Matt. 13:23). Are you listening to the word of Jesus? Or, does it have no place in your heart? Make today (and every day) the day you will pay attention to what Jesus says and keep it.
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” 12 Then His disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (Matthew 15:10-12)
One insults Jesus by saying His word cannot be understood. Sometimes, when one is offended by the word of God, he tries to deflect the force of truth by saying, “that’s just your interpretation”. That leaves the impression that God’s word is open to multiple meanings on any given topic. Thus, we cannot “hear and understand” the word of God; the best we can do is have our own interpretation of His word. That is very wrong. (How would you feel if someone said your word is open to many different interpretations?) When the Pharisees heard Jesus teach they understood Him. They were offended by His teaching (see Matt. 15:1-9). We are commanded to “not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Instead of being offended by God’s word, believe it, obey it and be set free from sin (Jno. 8:32).
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household. (Acts 16:30-34)
Too many people stop at verse 31 when telling the lost how to be saved. Clearly, one must “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” to be saved. But since “even demons believe–and tremble”, there must be something more to believing than mental assent (James 2:19). Verse 34 says the jailer and his house “rejoiced, having believed in God”. So, how to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” is found in verses 32-33. Faith was produced by hearing the word of God (v. 32; Romans 10:17). Repentance is implied in the washing of the stripes that were faithlessly applied and ignored (vss. 33, 23). With believing repentance they were immediately baptized (v. 33). After hearing, believing, repenting and being baptized came the rejoicing of salvation; now they “believed in God” (v. 34).
11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that ‘SEEING THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND HEARING THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND; LEST THEY SHOULD TURN, AND THEIR SINS BE FORGIVEN THEM.’ ” 13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:11-13)
The same parable would both reveal and conceal knowledge of the kingdom of God. The condition of the hearer’s heart determined whether or not the parables of Jesus were understood. A ready mind continues to be vital to understanding God’s word (Acts 17:11-12). Notice that Jesus expected His disciples to “understand this parable” of the sower. Knowing it unlocks all of His parables, since it explains the condition of the human heart (the soils) toward the word of God (the seed). You are in this parable; we all are. How do you react to the Scriptures, the word of God? Which soil are you? Read the parable and Jesus’ explanation to find out (Mark 4:3-9, 14-20).