Sermon: Responding to God's Word
I have developed the knack of scan-reading. I can very quickly assess whether some document is worth reading or not. That is why I have a paper-shredder in my study!
But if I receive a letter marked “On Her Majesty’s Service” I don’t scan read it, let alone reach for the shredder! This is something important, something I must read, something which could get me into trouble if I ignore it.
Similarly, I was a witness in court a few months ago. It brought home to me the authority of a judge. What he says is law and you ignore at your peril.
If we react like that to a human monarch and a human judge, how much more should we honour the word of the King and Judge of the Universe!
Jesus speaks about this in his Parable of the Sower. The “seed” is the “message about the kingdom [of God]” (verse 19), i.e. the message about the rule of God in our lives. The “soil” is our heart attitude towards that message. Jesus teaches, firstly, in verse 19 that
The message of the kingdom needs to go into our hearts
Do we take God’s word to heart? Do we let it “get through” to us and challenge us?
In the Bible, the “heart” is centre of personality, just as we sometimes use the word today, for example “I love you with all my heart.”
Is the word of God dominant in my thinking? Is it at the heart of my personality?
Or is my religion simply a tradition I follow. I was brought up to be religious and I am in the habit pattern now. It’s a tradition. I like Christian symbolism and ritual. It gives me comfort. I enjoy the friendship of the other church people. Also being religious is an “insurance policy” hopefully guaranteeing my acceptance into heaven.
All of these attitudes are inadequate and can effectively shield us from taking the message of the kingdom to heart.
Secondly, Jesus teaches that:
The message of the kingdom needs to go deep into our hearts
In the parable Jesus teaches that some “seed is sown along the [hard] path.” Like the birds taking the seed lying on the path, the “evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in [people’s] hearts.” These, says Jesus, are the people who “Hear the message about the kingdom and do not understand it” (verse 19).
Do we meditate on the message of the kingdom? Do we think it through so we understand it? Do we discuss it and ask questions about it? Do we let it go deep in our hearts or are we hard-hearted in our response to it?
Then Jesus refers to “The seed falling on rocky ground” which “refers to people who hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (verses 20-21).
Jesus is talking here of shallow people who make a superficial positive response to the message of the kingdom but when obedience to the message threatens to cause suffering, trouble or even persecution they quickly give up and cease following Christ in any depth. They didn’t take it to heart. Do we give up on our obedience when things get difficult?
Then Jesus speaks of “the seed falling among the thorns” which “refers to people who hear the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (verse 22).
These are people who receive the message of the kingdom positively, even enthusiastically, but then the busyness and stress of life, especially financial worries, obliterate the message. They didn’t take it to heart. Do we allow the pressures of life to take over our hearts and minds, eliminating the message of the kingdom?
Thirdly, Jesus teaches that:
The message of the kingdom needs to go out of our hearts into our behaviour
The whole purpose of sowing seed is to produce growth. Good soil will produce a better crop than poor soil. In his parable Jesus says: “The seed falling on good soil refers to people who hear the word and understand it. They produce a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown" (verse 23).
What sort of soil is your heart - good, mediocre or poor? It all depends on your response to the message of the kingdom. If you hear, understand and obey it (with God’s help) then you will produce a good crop of righteousness which will please God.
Judgment Day is not a Scripture exam to see how well you know your Bible.
Judgment Day is not a check on how much bread and wine you have consumed.
Judgment Day is not a test of how many services you’ve attended or hymns you have sung.
Judgment Day won’t be a re-examination of your Baptism or Confirmation Certificates.
Judgment Day won’t be a totalling up of all the donations you have given.
These things are not bad but they will be of no significance if we don’t love Jesus and show our love by letting him rule our hearts and lives, i.e. let the seed produce a crop: the crop of an obedient life.
How are you responding to the message of the kingdom?
© Tony Higton: see conditions for copying on the Home Page