Have You Heard the Word (3): Real Pearls
Intro – A very rich lawyer was showing his new Lexus to his friends. As he opened the door, a truck hit it and tore it off! When a cop arrived he was screaming hysterically that his car would never be the same. The cop said, “I can’t believe how materialistic you lawyers are. You’re so focused on things you don’t notice anything else.” The lawyer replied, “How can you say such a thing?” The cop replied, “That truck tore off more than your door! Did you notice that your left arm is missing from the elbow down?” The lawyer looked down and screamed, “Oh no! My Rolex! Where is my Rolex?!”
Some of us are like that spiritually. Our arm is gone, and all we’re thinking about is the Rolex. That is Jesus’ concern in the 3rd soil of Luke 8. He knows many following Him are only in it for the temporary thrill of a new experience – a great preacher who also heals – pretty good entertainment in a world before TV and movies and video games. But as He looks at the faces He sees mostly lost people who do not realize they are in jeopardy. Looking for their watch when their arm is gone.
Jesus’ concern in v. 8 is “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” So far we’ve look at 2 soils representing hearts – the outright rejecter (Wayside) and the experientialist (Rocky) who grabs the gospel as the latest trend, but is gone with the wind when tough times arise. Today we look at the last two hearts.
III. Thorny Soil – (The Materialist)
V. 7, “And some (of the seed) fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it.” This ground looks good, but lurking beneath the surface are fast growing Palestinian thorns. They look beautiful in red, blue and yellow hues, sometimes reaching 6 feet in height. But they grow faster and stronger than the good plants and soon choke them out. Jesus interprets in v. 14, “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” This is the materialist. His response is not emotional, but intellectual. He concurs with the message, but as with the experientialist, his will does not follow. He values Christ too little. More immediate concerns soon choke the word out. Getting an education, rearing a family, making a living, advancing at work, getting to little league games and PTA meetings. Then it is spoiling the grandchildren, then enjoying a well-earned retirement. Christ is crowded out. One of these days – but the day never comes. They are focused on the Rolex, caring nothing for their lost arm. The immediate chokes out the eternal. Like the frog in the pan of water oblivious to the rising temperature until he literally boils to death – they are hopelessly lost and don’t even know it. Jesus identifies 3 thorns – 3 characteristics of the materialistic mindset.
A. Cares (Worries)
Also translated “anxiety” or “worry.” This person never thinks beyond “now.” How do I make a living? How can I advance my career? How do I make sure people accept me? How do I prepare for retirement? Are these important? Yes! Are they top priority? No! They’ve moved one notch too high on the scale – fatally above Christ! To concentrate everything on the first 80 years of our existence is one eternity too short!
Peter addresses this issue in I Pet 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” That’s right, but you can’t cast your anxieties on Him if you don’t know Him. Peter got this from Jesus in Mt 6 where He targets our anxiety about food and clothing – pretty basic stuff! But Jesus final word is Mt 6:33, “33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Is Jesus saying forget about this life? No. Elsewhere the Bible instructs if one doesn’t work, he shouldn’t eat. But Jesus is saying there is a priority and I will not be second best. Don’t let daily concerns crowd Him out! He promises care for those who care for Him!
Jesus cares about your job, your family, your career, your retirement. He does. But they are second level priority. Better to die of starvation than to put the cares of this life above Christ. He will not settle for second place. He will not take a place behind our career, our family, our ambitions. He is worth more than that. Maybe you’ve seen the great statue of Atlas in NYC in front of the Rockefeller Center. There he is, beautifully proportioned, muscles straining to hold the world on his shoulders, barely standing under his burden. That’s one way to live – burdened by cares. Directly across 5th Avenue stands St. Patrick’s cathedral. Inside is a stained glass window that among other things depicts Jesus in His youth easily holding the whole world in His hands. That’s our choice – to bear the cares of the world on our own, or to give our life, our world and our eternal destiny to Him. Those who hear choose Him.
B. Riches (Wealth)
How many people have missed the kingdom of God because they were too busy pursuing the wealth of this world. That’s like spending years digging up nuggets of pyrite, fool’s gold, because it looks pretty, when a real gold mine lies just across the river. How foolish. But no more so than making worldly wealth the focus of one’s existence. Solomon wrote in Prov 30: 8) “ . . . give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9) lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” Many blow eternity over riches.
It’s a wonderful thing if God gives us wealth. It is equally wonderful if we have barely enough. What makes either an anchor to our soul is when we focus on it. Focus on getting money bc I don’ t have it is just as foolish as pursuing more tho I have plenty! Either way I am worshiping at the shrine of one of the most deadly idols known to man – the god of money.
Mark 10:17 “17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” (I’m good enough!). 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Could there be a sadder story? Why didn’t Jesus say, “Sell half and give to the poor?” Why all? Bc Jesus doesn’t do double occupancy with idols! That young man wanted to hang on to Jesus with one hand and his money with the other. Jesus refuses. Beloved, that is how demanding the gospel is. “Easy beliefism” has taught us Jesus anxiously awaits any move toward Him. It’s a lie! Listen – Jesus loved that young man. He loved him – but he let him go! He didn’t beg him to come back. He allowed his riches to take him to hell. “He who has ears, let him hear.” He refused to hear. He wanted to do, but the idol of money won out over Jesus.
Is wealth, or the lack of wealth, keeping your from God today? Are you worshiping at the altar of money – either because you don’t have it, or because you don’t have enough? Someone once asked the John D. Rockefeller, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “Just a little bit more.” That’s looking for the Rolex and paying no attention that your arm is gone.
An elderly Quaker put up a sign on a vacant piece of land: “I will give this lot to anyone who is really satisfied.” A wealthy neighbor saw the sign and thought, “I might as well this land. I have all I need, so clearly qualify.” So he applied to collect. The Quaker asked, “Art thou really satisfied?” The man replied, “I have all I need and am well satisfied.” The Quaker replied, “Then what dost thou want with my lot?” The question revealed the covetousness hidden deep in the man’s heart. Money must not be the issue of our lives. Yes, we need it to live – but let how much be in God’s hands. Jesus made it really simple in Matt 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” So, what do you treasure – God or riches? How many people have missed heaven in pursuit of money? We consider it the key to everything when in reality the key to everything is Jesus. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Kill the idol and take Jesus.
C. Pleasures (Whims)
Is God anti-fun? No! He reminds us in Jas 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” He further says in I Tim 6:17 that it is “God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” God made Eden. He gave us the ability to enjoy. Jer 31:5, “the planters shall plant and shall enjoy the fruit.” Lu 8:14 speaks to the pleasure that leaves God out of the equation –pleasure for pleasure sake. Making a God of hedonism, so that all of life revolves around the next “high.”
This word (ηδονη) is used 4 other times in the NT, always with a negative connotation – sensual pleasure. Maybe money’s not your thing, but you live for some recreation, some hobby, some game, fantasy football, social media addiction, sensual gratification, some secret pleasure that drives your life. In free time, God is the last thing on your mind. This pleasure, which may or may not be morally wrong – is where you will be found. You’ve little thought beyond satisfying that desire. You’re hooked. It has choked the Word of God out of your life. Your heart is not His; it belongs to pleasure. Examine carefully. This is common. It can be anything from horseback riding to evenings spent in the bar to on-line pornography or video games. If it comes before Christ, you’ve been sucked in. You are not hearing Him. You’ve got an idol where He belongs.
The problem with pursuing pleasure for the sake of pleasure is that you are pursuing a lie. It promises to satisfy forever, but it cannot. Like the world’s greatest optimist who fell from the 79th floor. As he passed the 20th floor he hollered, “Doing okay so far!” That’s who you are if pleasure is your god. Promising yourself that everything is fine, now, but never looking forward to that day when you must give account. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
IV. Good Soil – The Receiver
V. 8: “And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” Jesus interprets in v. 15: “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” Here is saving faith. It comes from a repentant heart. This person hears the Word, holds it fast and bears fruit. Those are present tense verbs indicating that for these there is a new lifestyle – one that continually holds fast the Word and bears fruit. We will vary in how much, but all believers bear fruit. Holding fast the Word and bearing fruit. It’s His agenda, not mine. This defines saving faith. You say that sounds pretty radical. Beloved, saving faith is radical. It costs you everything – but you get even more!
George Whitefield was the great 18th century open-air evangelist. While preaching in England a group of detractors, the “Hell-fire Club,” stood off to the side and mimicked him. Their ringleader, Thorpe, was brilliant at it. He got every facial expression, every nuance of speech perfectly. But one day while entertaining his cronies, but he not only got the expressions right, he got the words right. And even as he poked fun, the Word penetrated his hard heart and turned it soft. He heard the Word as though for the first time and he knelt right there and gave His heart to Christ. There’s power in the Word, Beloved.
Has the Word penetrated your heart? Has it changed you? Is the fruit of repentance evident in your attitudes and actions? True believers hold fast the Word and bear much fruit. Like that hardened jailer in Philippi in Acts 16 who found his prisoners safe and sound when they could have easily escaped after the earthquake that opened the jail. He asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved?” Before that night ended, he had been saved, had brought his whole family to the Lord, and they had all been baptized, the first evidence of the fruit in their lives. Have you heard the Word? Has it changed your life?
Conc – Look at the end of v. 8: “As he said these things, he [Jesus] called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” “Called out” is also used in Luke 14:12 to depict inviting someone to a banquet. This is Jesus invitation, issued with urgency to this fickle crowd. It is the same invitation He issues to us this morning. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Is your heart open to the gospel? Or is it so hardened by unbelief that you cannot hear? Maybe you have been moved emotionally in the past, but then someone said the wrong thing, or some trial came and you gave up. The Word took no root. You were a fair-weather hanger-on, but never a true believer. Are you ready like Job to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That’s what He is asking. It’s what He deserves. Or perhaps the cares and riches and pleasures of this life seem more real, more immediate, more important, more enticing than Him. They have effectively crowded out any consideration of eternal things in your life. You’re looking for the Rolex, oblivious to the fact that your arm is missing! To all of you – to all of us, Jesus cries out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” For the sake of your “forever”, open your heart to Me.
A young girl was very taken by a pearl necklace she saw at the store one day. She begged Mom to buy it, but was told she’d have to earn it. She got paid for certain tasks at home and her neighbor paid her for certain chores. She went to work with her goal in mind. It took many months, but at last the day came when she had enough money to make her purchase. Mom took her to the store and she came home proudly displaying the necklace and bracelet that she had purchased. She wore them everywhere except when she was taking a bath or shower. They tended to turn her skin green when bathing since they were not real. But otherwise, she wore them constantly.
One evening her father appeared at the doorway of her bedroom and asked, “Jamie, would you give me your pearls.” The little girl loved her Daddy, but she began to cry and answered, “Oh, Daddy, I would give you anything else that you asked, but please don’t ask me for my pearls. Please let me keep them.” And so she did. A couple of nights later, Dad was back again. Again he asked, “Jamie, would you give me your pearls?” She answered again that she loved her father dearly and would part with anything else, but she just had to keep her pearls.
A week later, Dad came again and asked, “Jamie, would you give me your pearls?” Jamie had been thinking about this for days, and this time she answered with tears in her eyes, “Daddy, I love my pearls, but I love you more. Here are my pearls.” And she took them off and gave them to her Dad as she hugged his neck. With that, Dad reached into his back pocket and pulled out a small package. “Unwrap it,” he said to Jamie. She couldn’t believe what she found. Real pearls. Dad had replaced the fake ones for the real thing.
That’s what Jesus is offering. The real thing to replace whatever idol will eventually kill you. Do you have the real thing? Do you know Jesus? Have you heard the Word? You can’t lose when you give Him all that you are to get all that He is. Let’s pray.