Thursday, February 11, 2021

Why Me?

 Luke 8:4-15

And when a great multitude were coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road; and it was trampled under foot, and the birds of the air ate it up.  And other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.  And other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it, and choked it out.  And other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great."  As He said these things, He would call out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

And His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable might be.  And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, in order that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND.  Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.  And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved.  And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.  And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.  And the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."

Sermon for Sexagesima                                                      2/07/21

Why Me?

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

The parable of the Sower presents us with a picture of how the Gospel works and of the Grace of God.  It can be understood by a child, after a fashion, but there are some very challenging thoughts here.  This morning, you will have an opportunity to ask yourself a question that many don't ask, that many are unwilling to understand, and which some people simply refuse to accept.  Our theme, this morning, is "Why Me?"

There is a part of every one of us that doesn't want to hear about God, no matter what.  Generally, people want to hear about something else and to call that something God, but our flesh does not desire to deal at all with the God who exists.  Our Sinful flesh wants to avoid the reality of the holy God because of sin.  It has been that way since Adam and Eve and the Serpent in the Garden.  That is part of what makes this simple parable so challenging.

Even we Christians want our religion to be the way we dream it ought to be.  We want hell to be filled only with people we don't like.  We want our sins to be less evil than the sins we never do.  We want God to be on our side no matter what.  And we really don't want our religion to demand anything from us that we aren't quite eager to give anyhow.  We want the Bible classes to be when we want them, or not at all, and to be at least as captivating as our favorite T.V. show.  We don't want to be bothered by church during the week unless it is for fun or food.  And we don't want to need to give anything we have not already decided to give – not money, not time, not work.

But what we have is the Word of God.  It tweaks our noses and pokes us in our prejudices and crushes our egos.  God is always unexpected to one degree or another, because He is God – and we think differently than He does.  He says so in Isaiah 55:  "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD.  "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts."

So, what is it that I think you won't enjoy hearing?  Most people are not prepared to hear that Jesus spoke in parables in order that some people would not understand, because if they understood, they might believe and be saved.  Frankly, the first time I read that and understood what it meant, I was taken aback.  I had always been told that Jesus taught in parables to be clear.  He was such a good and wise preacher and teacher.  But here Jesus said it Himself, in verse 10 of our text,  And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, in order that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND."  You have been invited to know the grace of God.

The sower who went out to sow is Jesus.  The seed He sows is the Word of God.  The soil types in the parable represent different types of hearers.  We know that because Jesus explains those details Himself.  What is often overlooked are the words of Jesus between the parable and the explanation.  Jesus says to the disciples,  "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God"

You will look long and hard to find a better illustration of grace.  To you it has been granted.  You will notice that there is no suggestion of one's worth or of one's intelligence or of one's decisions.  It has been granted – that is, given –  to understand the mysteries of the Gospel.  That is pure grace.  Who decided who should know?  Obviously, God did.

He granted it to them – to you – to know.  We hear from Jesus, here, that faith is a thing of knowing.  It isn't just feelings.  It isn't just some kind of free-floating credulousness.  It is knowing.  It is specifically knowing the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  Now a mystery, in the Biblical sense, is something that one would not know, except that it was revealed.  These mysteries are things no one would have invented, and no one would have reasoned out, except that God revealed it.  These mysteries are all the blessed realities of the Gospel.

The mysteries of the Gospel – the things we would not have known if God had not revealed them – are things like the love of God.  Sin had us convinced that God was angry, and that we had to appease Him.  That is why so many cultures had human sacrifices – and many others had incredible rules and demands of righteousness to lay upon the guilty heart of man.  But God loves us!

Another mystery is that God Himself is to be our Savior, that He would come into this world as one of us, to live for us, and suffer for us, and die in our place so that we might be rescued, redeemed, and forgiven.  Who would have thought?  But Jesus, the very Son of God, has redeemed us by dying in our place.  And God has forgiven us with the result that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.

Another mystery is that this is all by grace through faith.  No works are required to be fit or ready or deserving – God knew that we would screw up the simplest demands.  Adam and Eve already proved that!  God simply invites us to know, and then to believe, and then to trust Him to be true to his Word.  And God gives us both the faith, and the power to believe through His Word which teaches us to know, and creates faith in those that believe.

That is what this parable is really about.  God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, so the Sower goes out to sow, and scatters the seed of the Word everywhere.  His Gospel is freely proclaimed everywhere.  But the seed does not all prosper, that is, not all men believe it.  Why me?

Of course, some never hear.  Those people are not even in the parable.  They have no hope and no chance.  This is Satan's finest victory.  These are also our burden, as we are those whom the Sower has chosen to use to broadcast the seed.

Satan stops others from ever believing, even though they hear.  These are  represented by the path, where the seed falls, but Satan – who is represented in this place in the parable by the birds who eat the seed on the path – snatches it away, so that they do not believe and therefore are not saved.  He has a hundred tricks to turns their hearts hard to the Word, and thousands of willing servants to decry the Word as ignorant and superstitious so that others will not take time to hear.

Other people, represented by the shallow soil, come quickly to faith.  They receive the Word with joy!  We have all known such people.  Their faith burns bright and hot – and then dies out.  It has no root, and temptations of sin or fame or success or some other enticement step in and they cannot bear it, and so they soon fall away.  They are among us for a while, and then, just as quickly, we don't see them anymore.  They think they have more important things to do when we try to encourage them to return.  Their hearts were still too hard for the Word to take firm root, so their faith does not endure.

There is yet another group that do not make it to the end.  They are pictured as falling among thorns.  Jesus says that the worries and the riches and the pleasures of this life choke out their faith.  The bills, or their families, or the comforts of retirement, or the boat and the family parties and the millions of things that offer themselves to us simply eat them up, and squeeze out of them the time for worship and the will to do anything to keep them in the Word, and finally, the worries and the riches and the pleasures of this life, choke out their faith.  They may not even know that they stopped believing – they just stop bearing fruit, and you know that a tomato plant that never bears any tomatoes might as well be a weed or dead.  Likewise, a Christian who bears none of the fruits of the Spirit cannot have the Spirit – who always bears fruit.  And if you do not have the Spirit, you are not really a Christian, even if you hang around the church.

Finally, there is that seed that falls into the good earth, and it bears fruit.  That is the believer who finally enters eternal life because he or she held fast and faithful until the end.  The fruit is the life they live.  The good works they do are simply the things they do living out the faith that they have.  Their fruits are numerous, and they are produced by simply being the believer.

Now, those who are hard of heart or who fall from the faith have actually rejected God for something else.  They have spurned the grace of God for something less.  Although God would have all men to be saved, when men firmly reject Him and refuse His grace, these same individuals suffer spiritual blindness.  So Jesus taught in parables, that those who refused God's grace would be without any hope at all.

Of course, these pictures of the various kinds of hearers of the Word is how they look from the end of time, at the harvest, not how things look to us day by day.  We cannot see which hearer is which sort of soil, so to speak.  We cannot act towards others on the basis of these judgments.  Plus, God still desires to save each and every one of us.  But since we have no power even to make ourselves believe, we have to wonder why Jesus tells us all of this.  Why me?

The answer is that to you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.  That means the answer is the grace of God.  This parable calls on us to examine ourselves.  If we see ourselves represented there, we are to repent.  The parable also calls on us to attend to the Word.  Jesus cried out, He that has ears to hear, let him hear!

So, take heed.  If you have ears to hear, then hear the Word of God.  Don't just let the sound of it bounce off of you, but listen, understand, believe, and rejoice!  That is the way of the grace of God.  He uses His Word – it enters through the ear and goes right to the heart.  Then it passes from the heart to the life and the lips.  The parable calls out to you to hear, believe, and repent, because, to you it has been granted.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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