Luke 8:1 15

Have you ever heard a preacher criticized for the manner in which he delivered the Word of God?  This is a favorite
pastime of some people. Having been a preacher for more than twenty¬ eight years I am fully aware that much of
the criticism is justified. But in our parable Jesus brings the hearers of the Word under scrutiny. As a hearer of the
Word we should be more concerned with how we receive the Word.

As the master Teacher and Preacher Jesus made effective use of the parable. They were used to help His friends,
but to hinder His enemies. The parables led His followers into a deeper knowledge of the things of God, but left His
enemies still in the dark. One of the most familiar of His parables is this parable of the soils. While it has been
popularly labeled, "the parable of the sower", it is actually the "parable of the soils". The emphasis in the parable is
upon the reception of the Word rather than the sowing of the Word.

In the language of the parable each of us as hearers is a little piece of a field, a patch of soil. When the Word of
God, which is the seed, is taught or proclaimed, some of it falls upon our hearts. As the Word falls upon our hearts
and into our hearts, we become responsible for our reception of the Word. There are two very sobering truths that
are clearly set forth in this parable.

Let's use our imagination for a moment. As a congregation of hearers this morning, we make up a field. Each of us
is a little part of the field. As the Lord scatters His Word through me this morning, some of it will fall upon you. What
happens to the Word as it falls through your ear into your heart will be determined by the condition of your heart.
This was true even when the greatest Preacher, Jesus Himself, preached the Word of God. It is still true even of us.

In the parable Jesus sets forth four possible conditions of the human heart. Probably each will be represented in this
field this morning.

A. The Hardened Heart will give an indifferent response.
Jesus likened the hardened heart to a path that runs through the field. "Those by the wayside are those who hear;
then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved." (v. 12)
This person has allowed his hearts to become so hardened that there is no place in the heart for any message from
God. He is unconcerned and indifferent to the things of God. The enemy is very quick to snatch away any message
from God before it has had any opportunity to influence them in any way. Such a person is to be pitied! They will
hear, but not hear! Their indifference to the message is not a sign the message is not from God, it is just a sign that
their hearts are in no condition to receive the seed of God's Word.

B. The Shallow Heart will make an impulsive response to the Word.
"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the Word with joy; and these have no root, who
believes for a while and in time of temptation fall away. (v. 13) The rocky soil is that where there is only a thin layer
of soil on top of some rocks. It is characteristically shallow and without the needed moisture to sustain a root system.
Some hearers are like this. Their response is usually very emotional and enthusiastic. They are the kind that can lift
the heart of the preacher to the heights only to shatter him with disappointment. Their commit¬ment to the Word is
so shallow that they fall by the wayside after the first test. They will not be able to withstand a little negative pressure
from the world, or temptation to sin. Their response tends to be all emotion and no will.

This is revelation of what they are in their heart. They respond in this way to the Word because this is the kind of
person they have become. They usually respond to everything in life like this. They are ever changing, and never
coming to a real life commitment to anything

C. The Divided Heart will have the Word choked out.
Jesus likened this person to a part of the field in which the thorns grow. "And what fell among thorns are those who,
when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasure of this life, and bring no fruit to
maturity." (v. 14) This heart is already full when the Word finds a place in it. While an attempt is made to make a
place for the Word, it is in the midst of all the distracting commitments that are already there. Jesus lists some of
these "thorns" as being, “cares, riches and pleasures of this life." By "cares" He refers to anxieties and worries that
characterize the world about us. It is that inner distraction that is caused by giving too much attention to the "things"
of this world. We know what He means by "riches". He is referring primarily to that desire for riches and trust in
riches that is so much with us. "Pleasures of this life" does not necessarily refer to just those gross "pleasures" of
the world. It may be anything to which a person looks for pleasure and delight. Because they are in the heart, the
heart is divided. This person cannot really make a full commitment to God because partial commitments are already
made. While this person will have a real interest in the Word of God, he never quite allows the Word to be the seed
in his life. The condition of the heart deter¬mines how we receive the word.

D. The Good Heart receives the fruit fully,
"But what fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the Word with a noble and good heart, keep it and
bear fruit." (v. 15) In this heart all distractions have been removed. The person has made sure that he is prepared
to receive the Word. His heart is the one that brings such satisfaction to the Sower for there is an abundance of
fruit. But again, the response to the Word is determined by the condition of the heart.

This means that if we are concerned about our reception of the Word, our hearts must become our focus. It is in the
heart that our response is determined. What kind of soil are you? God wants us all to be in the fourth category.

Jesus states this very clearly in the description of the wayside response, ‘‘Lest they should believe and be saved."
The hearing of the Word creates the opportunity to believe and there¬by to be saved. This is the reason that the
enemy is so quick to snatch away the Word. He does not want the Word to find a deep place in the heart. This would
mean a saving relation¬ship with God for the person, and the defeat of the purpose of the enemy.

In His description of these four responses or four types of soils, our Lord really sets forth the essentials for a proper
response to the Word. How are we to receive the Word so that we might be saved and bear fruit for the pleasure of

A  The Word must be received with real interest. This is the opposite of the hardened heart. We do have some
control over the interest of our lives. If the seed of God is to ever find a fruitful place in your life, you must hear it
with openness and readiness. There must be receptivity on your part. You determine whether or not there will be
interest enough to really open your heart to the Word, to really want a word from God. God rarely ever speaks to
those who have no interest in hearing from Him.

B. The Word must be received with real commitment.
There must be a depth to our hearing of the Word. Just a temporary enthusiasm will not do. Some of us will have to
work on this. Some of us have changed vocations about as often as the weather changes. We have difficulty making
a lifetime commitment to anything. If you are to ever know a saving relationship with God you must make a real
lifetime commitment to God. it must be one that no temptation can cause you to renounce, one that will withstand
any storm of trial that may come your way. This is the opposite of that shallow, rocky soil.

C. The Word must be received with a whole heart. If the Word is to ever have a saving place in your life, it must
have all of you. Partial commitment will not do. God will not share you with anything else. You cannot share your
devotion with things, riches, or pleasures. You cannot serve God and mammon. You may try, but it cannot be done.
Is this not the present condition for many of us? Our loyalties are so divided that we are not enjoying anything
anymore. About all we get out of church are guilt feelings. We do not find the kind of ful¬fillment we know we should
have in life out of the things we have been able to accumulate. Our pleasures are not that much of a pleasure any
more. This is the curse of a divided heart. You can and you must determine to seek the Lord, and to respond to His
Word with a whole heart.

D. The Word must be received with a lasting commitment.
All of them have said this, but Jesus emphasizes it in the fourth type of soil. "With patience" is the word. This means
with endurance. It is a reception of the Word that holds on to the Word and will not let go. It is the kind of reception
that those early followers made. Simon Peter voiced it when he said, ''To whom shall we go. Thou hast the words of
eternal life." Even though others were turning away, they would not leave because they had found in Jesus the One
they had been seeking in life.

The lesson to be learned is that our reception of the Word determines our relationship with God. The coming of the
Word to us creates the opportunity to know God and to have eternal life. How will we respond to the Word?

This is an important moment in the worship service. It is not a time to compare opinions about the performance of
the preacher, but rather it is the time for us to determine what we will do with the message. Will we respond to the
Word, or will we cast it aside. Many of you have been receiving the Word from God for years, but yet you have not
responded to it.   You have been delaying any public response to the Word. This is the day for you to act upon what
you have been hearing since your childhood. I am going to give you the opportunity to
do it now.