Who Shall Be Saved?
April 16, 2000 Luke 8:4-21
What is the Subject: The Big Question of the passage?
What are the characteristics of those who bear the fruit of saving faith as part of the family of God?
Introduction: (secular, personal, biblical, textual)
In last week's message about the sinful woman in Luke 7:36-50, we learned that it is possible to become friends with Jesus when we trust the genuineness of his friendship to attract us, the power of his friendship to protect us, and the forgiveness of his friendship to transform us. Those that became his friends, like that woman, followed him and served him and ministered through him. They were indeed transformed into a family following. Jesus was, and is, the friend of sinners. His fame grew far and wide.
In the beginning of this morning's passage in Luke 8:4-21 we find a large crowd gathering around him from town after town. Many of these people were just curious, some would respond at various levels of faith, at least for awhile, and some would remain with him and become true disciples as family members. It was time to separate the men from the boys (so to speak) and the women from the girls. Here is the issue of maturity. But how was Jesus going to accomplish that? And who is it that will be saved? What are the characteristics of those who bear the fruit of saving faith as part of the family of God?
I know that when I first attended ISU, the story was common there, as I'm sure it is in all colleges, that they try to flunk you out as a freshman. The reason for this is so that they don't spend their resources on dead wood over the next four years it takes them to instruct you, or attempt to do so, to get you a degree. Now, I don't believe this is specifically true in any place of learning or profession. But by default it does take place. No one wants you to flunk, but by virtue of the requirements involved, some will flunk because they can't meet them. If everyone could meet the requirements without effort and sacrifice, there would be little challenge or accomplishment. Every profession or job has its beginning stages where you either prove out or you don't. It is no different with God's kingdom (place of employment). But no wonder the requirements are stiff – you can't beat the personal relationship with the boss or the tenure, among other things. Many will want a piece of the action.
Luke 16:16 "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.
He doesn't want anyone to perish, but it is inevitable that some will perish because they still hold allegiance to the prince of this world (devil), are too weak to pass the test, or ultimately loved the world more than its rightful ruler. They thought the kingdom was just plain stupid, found it harder than they imagined, or that it was inconveniently opposed to their real desires for this present world. Like anything worth doing, we must start by learning. And so Jesus teaches this crowd in his characteristic style of parables. Who is it that would become part of his family? He wanted to tell them. Who is it that would listen? How would they listen? How do you listen?
Now many people in the world seem to have selective hearing. A hundred people can listen to the same message and come up with a hundred different understandings. I remember my great grandfather who was in his 90's when I knew him. The subject of his hearing was the brunt of many family jokes. Whenever you wanted to talk to him you had to yell and scream to make yourself barely heard. But it seems that whenever anyone was talking about him, even in the lowest voice in the next room, like about sending him to a nursing home, his hearing was near perfect. Then I remember my grandfather whom I later had many more conversations with, and found that this was a family trait. I fear that I may get there myself someday. I beg your patience with my imperfections. But in some ways, isn't this just like it is with so many people? They hear what they want to hear. What is it that makes a difference what you hear, especially about the Word of God? This parable and Jesus' explanation of it will tell us. What are the characteristics of those with saving faith –that is, about who they are and how they listen?
I. Cycle One – The Parable of the Sower, the Seed, and the Soil
A. Narrative (8:4-15)
Note here in this parable that Jesus tells to the crowd, and then explains privately to his disciples:
The farmer who sows the seed is God – here it is Jesus as God in the flesh.
The seed is the Word of God that goes out – here it is Jesus who speaks.
The soils are the hearts of those in the crowd, and our own hearts as well, who hear the teaching of Jesus.
Note that there are four kinds of soils upon which the seed of his teaching falls:
Note that there are four kinds of responses by the soils to his teaching – which illustrates the deeper conditions of the hearts that the soils represent:
Note that there are four kinds of causes that impact these hearts who hear:
Soil Heart Cause
Road/Hard Impacted Devil
Rocky/Thin Doubtful Testing
Weedy/Overgrown Compromised Worldliness
Fertile/Productive Good Love for God's Word
Note that it is only the good soil that keeps the Word of God and raises a mature crop.
It is the Word of God that raises a mature crop in the good soil.
Jesus looks at the reaction people have to the Word of God over time, since it always takes time to grow a crop from seed – it is a process.
1Cor. 15:35-36 further explains the process and the end result.
35 ¶ But someone may ask, "How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?" 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38 NIVUS)
The seed is the news of the Kingdom of God that goes out into the world to reap converts to eternal resurrection life.
We are changed because of the seed.
The fruit of faith is eternal life.
Jesus gives the reason for speaking in parables.
It is so they will be a blessing for those who understand and a judgment to those who don't understand.
He is doing some weeding before hand, some gardening work in the Kingdom of God.
He is doing a soil survey.
The ground "speaks."
Genesis 4:10 The LORD said, "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground.
The parables have a purpose of revealing soil.
It is a method of farming.
He is making room for those with good hearts.
He doesn't want to waste his seed.
And he spends his seed wisely upon his disciples to whom he gives his personal instruction.
The first characteristic of those who bear the fruit of saving faith as part of the family of God is that they have a good and fertile heart, ready to receive and retain and persevere in the Word of God.
Soil Heart Cause
Road/Hard Impacted Devil
Rocky/Thin Doubtful Testing
Weedy/Overgrown Compromised Worldliness
Fertile/Productive Good Love for God's Word
Satan is only one cause here.
The other two failures are due to our response to the Word and the circumstances of life.
There are a lot of things that can happen to seed.
It is the same seed but not the same soil.
All of us are accountable to God for how we respond to his revelation.
It can fall upon hard ground and the birds of the air will eat it up (devil).
The seed never got covered – it never went into the heart.
Illus.: Seagulls on freshly plowed farm ground.
A feedlot kills trees growing in it.
A plowed roadway produces little.
A chisel plow breaks through hard-pan soil.
It can fall upon rocky soil and barely produce roots.
The seed barely got covered – little soil to hold moisture and roots (testing).
Illus.: Glen Eyrie mountain pastures – short plants.
Sandy spots in fields that dry out.
Stunted coffeetree in yard in Denison – due to soil (saw it years later).
It can fall upon weedy soil and get choked out (worldliness).
The seed got covered but the plant couldn't make it to maturity.
Illus.: The edge of a field along the fencerow near the forest.
The lilly in the back yard planted in the ivy bed.
The little seedling trees planted in the open field.
It can fall upon good soil and produce a crop by a hundred fold.
The seed got covered, germinated, grew strong, and multiplied.
Illus.: Selena's tomato patch garden produced well when we eliminated the weeds and the junk.
The Word of God is rich.
It is highly developed seed (like hybrid seed corn) produced from years of research (so to speak) by God into the human heart.
It is appropriate only for the best soil.
But are you cultivated and ready to receive it?
Are you "grounded" in the Word?
Or is the dirt in your ears?
Jesus leaves us with the message, "Don't be dirt poor."
It basically comes down to how you listen.
As we remember this Palm Sunday when Jesus rode into Jerusalem as its rightful priest and king, even of the whole world, we see many examples of these soils.
Some who cheered him, left him before the week was out, and screamed for his crucifixion, crying, "Let his blood be upon our heads and upon our childrens' heads."
Matthew 27:25 All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"
Their hearts were impacted, doubtful, and compromised.
They didn't really believe in him.
The question for us is whether we have let his Word make a triumphal entry into our own hearts.
Do you relish the Word of God?
Do you live for it?
Indeed, you will live by it.
Who is Jesus to you?
Are you his intimate friend?
Is he your Lord?
If he is, you are saved.
His crop of righteousness is being produced in you.
II. Cycle Two – The Teaching about a Lamp
A. Narrative (8:16-18)
Jesus continues his teaching with another illustration.
He talks about the purpose of light.
If someone lights a lamp, it is for the purpose of being able to see.
He doesn't hide it, he exalts it by putting it on a stand for all to see.
The darkness is exposed.
The place where seed is planted is a dark place – the heart – the soil.
The Word of God convicts of sin.
The good soil desires truth and righteousness.
It wants more of the same where the seed came from.
It wants to listen – to hear more.
It loves the light.
The Word of God is the seed of faith, but after its sprouts, it needs light to grow.
Whoever has it will receive more of it.
Whoever doesn't have it will lose even what he doesn't have.
He only thought he had something.
The world has many lies that make us think we have something.
Whoever loves the light also fears the darkness in one sense.
They would never want to go back to the darkness they were once in.
The second characteristic of those who bear the fruit of saving faith as part of the family of God is that they have a love of light (fear of darkness).
A germinating seed will go to any length in search of light.
Underneath our porch are some long, pale branches that somehow got started growing in the wrong direction.
It is dark under the porch and there is light at the stairs.
These branches have grown several feet on literally nothing just to reach the light. They need light to live and they want to live, no matter what they look like.
Children are often afraid of the dark, and for good reason.
They are vulnerable, can't see anything, and don't know what is there.
Light is comforting because it reveals truth.
Little plants like to be talked to, and the light speaks.
It is the truth of God – his Word.
It takes more than hearing the Word, retaining it, and persevering in order to produce a crop.
It takes light.
We must continually bring ourselves into the light in order to grow.
And we must hate what the darkness represents.
Those who hate the light will be cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
They will recoil at what they once loved.
10 When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 8:10-12 NIVUS)
III. Cycle Three – The Teaching about Family
A. Narrative (8:19-21)
Now we come to the best part of all.
It is Jesus' teaching about family.
His own family comes to see him but the crowd is thick.
A messenger relays their desire to Jesus.
Mark 3:21 tells us more about their reason for coming.
They think he is out of his mind.
His brothers do not believe in him yet.
But it gives Jesus another opportunity to teach truth.
He says his family are those who hear the Word of God and practice it.
The third characteristic of those who bear the fruit of saving faith as part of the family of God is that they have a desire to grow into the family of God.
The seed of faith can only take good root in a good heart.
Despite all other appearances, a good heart is one that responds to the seed.
The seed germinates, takes root, and searches for light.
It is called to come out of the dirt and into the light.
It rises above the level of the dirt around it to find that there are others like itself who are forming a harvest of righteousness.
They lift their heads of grain to the wind and reach out to the hand of the harvester who has chosen them for the storehouse of his kingdom.
They are his wealth, his delight, his inheritance.
They are his.
Their desire to grow has met his desire to nurture them.
They have put his words into practice because they are his family.
They are his family because they put his words into practice.
Illus: Plants like to be talked too.
Jesus likes to talk to his plants.
It is a beautiful thing to be a part of a family.
Some families are a little more fallen than others, but it is still good to know you have some people with whom you can relate – a people you can call home - although we don't choose our earthly families.
We are born into them without choice.
If it is usually a blessing to be a part of an earthly family, even in which we have no choice, it is an even greater blessing to be a part of the family of God.
We can choose to want to be in it by hearing and obeying the Word of God.
But the best part is that Jesus has chosen us, and he will never forsake us.
He calls us who believe in him to be his family.
Who shall be saved? You can. It depends upon how you listen. How you listen determines how you respond. How you respond determines your destiny in the kingdom of God. His triumphal entry into your heart has born your allegiance. In this passage we have moved from soil to light to relationship. A saving relationship with Jesus continues in faith. Will faith that lasts for a little while and does not endure save us – faith that never matures (like soils #2 & #3)? In those soils, the goal of sowing was never reached – gathering a crop. Faith that appears for a short time is not faith. True faith never lets go of Jesus (John 15:1-6). As you look at your spiritual walk today, which soil are you? Is you soil becoming more fertile?
What is the Big Idea: Subject plus Complement of the passage?
The characteristics of those who bear the fruit of saving faith are a fertile heart, a love of light (fear of darkness), and a desire to grow into the family of God. This is a picture of a seed being planted, germinating in search of light, and growing in harmony with the rest of the crop in the likeness of the one who sowed the seed.
Timeless Truth: If you listen to the Word of God – really listen – you won't be dirt poor, blind-sided, nor abandoned. Blessed are those who choose to hear and see and belong to Jesus by continuing faith as part of his family.