Take Heed How And What You Hear!
By Rodney W. Francis
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER is recorded in three of the Gospels – Matthew 13:1-23 ; Mark 4:1-25 , and Luke 8:4-18 . It is a very timely message that is also prophetic in that it clearly demonstrates the end result of the chaos in a person’s life when they fail to understand what they hear from the mouth of Jesus. Jesus is the Teacher of this parable and reveals that the seed of the Word of God has four different kinds of reception within the hearts of people. The same Word of God received does not automatically produce the same results in all. In fact it is a sobering thought to realize that three of the four places where the seed of the Word was received, it failed to survive the process of being able to come to the place of constantly producing acceptable fruit! It is the fruit that is the evidence that the Word of God has been truly taken to heart. In terms of percentage, 75% of the Gospel seed was rendered ineffective, and wasted by the recipients! The Word of Jesus was unable to accomplish what it was sown for! Surely we have to ask ourselves: “Why? Why is there such a small percentage of fruitfulness within a Christian’s life after they have heard the Word of God?” The problem is definitely not in the quality of the seed of the Word! It was not in the way that Jesus spoke it. It was in the way the Word was received, the way it was heard, and then, accordingly, how it was applied. That demands obedience!
Between the giving of the parable, and the interpretation of the parable, Jesus gave some very important instructions on the way understanding comes to us when we listen to Him speak. He spoke of the importance of seeing and hearing, that the kingdom of God is a mystery (“that which is known only to the initiated; a secret or hidden truth”). That means that the things Jesus speaks – even today – come to us by revelation of the Father and the Holy Spirit, which then gives us understanding of the truth of what He is saying. Otherwise we will be guilty of “seeing and hearing” yet not “seeing and hearing,” because we fail to understand what He really said, and says.
Far too often we Christians do not understand what Jesus taught, and teaches! Like the Apostle Peter in Acts 10 , we are guilty of filtering the words of Jesus through bigoted, religious and narrow-mindsets, that often see us interpreting the things of God totally wrong. What Peter thought had to do with eating certain foods, actually was to do with his taking of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit baptism of power to the Gentiles! In anyone’s language that is a very different interpretation! That’s one reason why we have so many “Christian things” based upon Old Testament principles (rather than New Testament revelation). Far too often we have not really heard what Jesus has taught.
But once Peter got the revelation of the vision, understood, and then obeyed it, millions of Gentiles around the world since have received the benefits of his obedience to God! It’s not Bible knowledge that will impact and change the world, but the revelation of God’s Word heard, understood, and made alive in our hearts! – alive enough to command our obedience to it!
Another reason we fail to understand revelation truth is because we do not have many churches today that are functioning upon New Testament revelation of the five-fold ministries (Ephesians 4:11 ) and the nine spiritual gifts based on love for one another (John 13:34-35 ; 1 Corinthians 12 & 13; 1 John 3 & 4). We don’t “see and hear” sufficiently what Jesus is really saying. And if we don’t “see and hear” what Jesus is saying, we will always come to the wrong conclusion. How sad to base our lives upon a wrong conclusion! But it happens all the time amongst us Christians! If we did understand more of what Jesus taught, and teaches by His Spirit, the “drop-out rate” of 75% would not be so high. They heard the Word, but they did not understand it enough to know how to apply it correctly. (If we do not understand what we are hearing, how can we totally commit to the Message to the point of total obedience – which is what Jesus is looking for.) And that lack of hearing and understanding yields serious results; results that cost us so much in terms of fruitfulness – and the fulfilling of the kingdom purposes of God in our lives.
When Jesus interpreted the Parable of the Sower, He clearly said that all heard what had been said. Let me repeat: they all heard what Jesus said, and received into their hearts (to varying degrees) what He said. But they mostly failed to apply what Jesus said into their day-to-day living. They did not continue on to allow the Word to change them. They tried to incorporate the words of Jesus into their lifestyle, rather than allowing His words to radically transform them into new creations of Christ (where they changed to be like Him). They heard - yet they did not hear. They did not understand the purpose of the Word that Jesus spoke to them. No wonder in Mark and Luke’s version we have this Scripture given to us:
“If anyone have ears to hear, let him hear. Then He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him” (Mark 4:23-25 , NKJV).
“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 , NKJV).
In three of the four illustrations given in this parable, they all had the Word of God taken away – either by the devil, offences, or the cares of this life (one – the thorny ground - even started to bear fruit, but then lost it). The recipients did not guard the precious seed of God’s Word, nor did they recognize who or what the real “enemy” of that Word was. Yet they all had the same privilege to hear the same Word from the mouth of the same Jesus! (See also Jesus’ summary of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:24-29 & Luke 6:46-49 ; the same principle as the Parable of the Sower). The “sorting out” came about by the way in which the recipients responded to that Word. They never took sufficient heed to really hear what Jesus was saying. They did not allow it to go down deep into their heart. They heard – but they did not hear. Their understanding of what Jesus said was not enlightened. Eventually three of the four paid a very high price for their neglect in developing their “hearing skills” when it came to spiritual things. They tried to build on what they had “seen and heard,” but did not have the right understanding of what Jesus said.
How important is the Word and voice of Jesus today? Unfortunately things have not changed too much from Bible days. The human heart still wants “the best of both worlds” and finishes up “master of none”. How tragic it must be to have tasted of the powers of the wonderful things to come, and then to throw them all away because of a neglect of applying that which we have heard from the mouth of Jesus!
This parable still applies to all Christians today. Because we “received Jesus as our Saviour” 1,2, 5, 10, 20 or more years ago (and/or go to church), it does not mean we are automatically on our way to heaven. We have to cultivate that Word of Jesus into our personal lives, and demonstrate our listening skills by producing that good fruit of 30, 60 or 100 fold! That fruit was only produced in the one ground: the good ground that understood what he heard!
“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the Word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23 ).
Only the ground, that understood what it heard, produced! The other three grounds all wasted the Word, and ended up producing absolutely nothing – they were totally fruitless! These statements of Jesus should cause us to be really sure that we know we are hearing what He is saying today, so we will not finish up like the 75% in this Bible parable! Only one type of ground produced, and that one good ground produced varying amounts of harvest - 30, 60 and 100 fold. Let us ask ourselves:
The older I get as a Christian, the more I realize that we have taken far too much for granted. We have succumbed to an “easy believe-ism” that has rendered us pitiful and powerless in many ways. If we fail to step out on the Word of Jesus – and obey what He tells us – we, too, are in danger of becoming one of the 75% statistics! We have to “take heed to what we hear” and “take heed how we hear.” Jesus is looking for a harvest from each of our lives, either 30 fold, 60 fold, or 100 fold. To do that we must understand what we are hearing from His Word and mouth today, then apply it in such a way that it changes our lives to do that which He has purposed for us.
“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the Word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15 , NKJV).
Let us all encourage one another to really “see and hear” what Jesus is saying, to understand what He is saying, and then to follow it through with a commitment to Him that bears much fruit to His honour, praise and glory, Amen.