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Sunday, May 7, 2017

posted May 8, 2017, 4:39 PM by Site Administrator

THE SECRETS OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD

 

Luke 8:1-21

Key Verse 8:15

 

15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

 

First, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" (1-8).  Look at verse 1.  In those days, there were no cars or bicycles.  So, Jesus traveled on foot from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  It was not easy to travel everyday on foot and deliver his message everywhere without the help of technology, like microphones.  But Jesus struggled hard to do the work of God in every town and village, day after day.  And the key theme of his messages… “the good news of the kingdom of God.”  Life comes with a lot of bad news; in the world we find it everywhere.  But the news of the kingdom of God is good news; it makes people find rest and peace; it brings joy and happiness, meaning and purpose.  But people must hear the news of the kingdom of God, because it is the good news they have been looking for.  On the day of Jesus' birth, the angel shouted, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people (Lk 2:10).”

 

Look at verses 1 through 3.  We see the Twelve and some women.  The expression, “The twelve were with him, and also some women,” indicates that they were those who were Jesus’ people, partners and coworkers.  Others just came, were blessed by his messages and great teachings, and then, went home; they did not make any commitment to Jesus, but just enjoyed his grace.  But the Twelve and these women, after experiencing Jesus’ grace, stayed with him; worked together, ate together, literally lived together, having life with him, everyday.  Wherever Jesus was, there you would find the Twelve and these women.  They were the fruit of Jesus’ ministry.  And surely as a shepherd, Jesus was comforted as he struggled hard to serve the work of G, with them.

 

Not only so, but this passage talks about how these women, after experiencing Jesus' grace, supported Jesus' ministry out of their own means.  Even his own mother didn't believe in him yet, but these women, young and old, happily followed all the way from Galilee and took care of the needs of Jesus and his disciples.  Because of these women and their support, Jesus and his disciples must have been greatly encouraged to do God's work.

 

Look at verses 4 through 7. While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rocks, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

 

Here, Jesus categorized all of his audience into four groups – 1st, hearts like a path; 2nd, hearts like rocky places; 3rd, hearts among thorns; and 4th, hearts of good soil.  Remember that these four groups of people are not those who ignore the word of God or say that there is no God.  But these are the ones who actually come to Jesus’ Bible study, setting aside their own time to study with Him.  Such are Jesus’ audience in today’s passage.

 

But according to Jesus words there are many who come to him, they believe, and are excited about what he is saying.  Some will even grow up, even a lot, but most, 75%, will fail to produce good fruit in their lives.  Many see Jesus coming to his own people in John chapter one and cannot understand why they did not receive him.  So, they believe that if they were there and attended Jesus Bible study, they would be Jesus’ disciple, because they agree with everything Jesus says.  But Jesus does not want the people to agree but for each person to become good soil that produces fruit, even 100 times more than was sown.  Otherwise they would not follow Jesus to the end, and as a result their lives would not be fruitful.  Do you see why Jesus gave this parable?  It was so that all groups would become good hearts and come to have a fruitful life in the kingdom of G.

 

After giving his audience the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  The possibility of becoming good hearts that bear great fruit is open to everyone.  Anyone who can see what Jesus is talking about - let him/her hear and be blessed. Let him/her bear great fruit, even a hundred times more than was sown.

 

Second, "With a noble and good heart" (9-15).  Look at verse 9.  It seemed that Jesus’ message was simple.  When you scatter seed on bad soil, no plants can grow; no crops at harvest time.  But the seed planted in good soil will produce many crops.  Is there anyone here who does not understand this parable?  Good!  You scatter the seed.  If there is good soil the harvest will be good, if it is bad there is no harvest; it’s very simple.  Jesus was not trying to trick anyone; He told them plainly.

 

So after his message, the huge crowd of people left and went to Starbucks to get a latte for the long walk home.  But, some were different.  They sensed that there was something more profound in Jesus’ parable, but, unlike the crowd they remained to figure it out.  So, they came to Jesus and asked him about it.  What was Jesus’ reply to them?  Look at verse 10.  Let’s read this verse together:

 

10 He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'

 

The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of G has been given to you!!!  It was sad for Jesus to see that so many did not pay attention and left.  These people, who remained, must have made Jesus so happy, but they were in the minority.  Jesus was saying that those who listened to him physically heard every one of his words, but they didn’t learn anything; everything was said in parables.  Most come, think they understand everything but never really understand anything.  So many came, listened to Jesus intently, but they did not hear or see the secrets of the kingdom of G.  Why?  We are shocked that this occurred when they World’s Greatest Bible teacher gave his message.  We are alarmed and want to know why, why did this happen even to Jesus?  People came but they thought they quickly understood.  They thought what Jesus said was good, it was amazing, they said, “Amen.”  But what Jesus said did not change their lives, and so they ended up going back to their lives.  To Jesus – they saw, but never perceived.  They thought they were spiritual for attending Bible study with a great man of G, like Jesus.  They heard, but they never understood that the word of G was actually talking about them.  They message was good, but it was talking about their sin problems, which in Jesus eyes, kept them from being fruitful.  The words – ‘ever seeing’ or ‘ever hearing’ – means that they heard or saw many times, over and over, but their lives did not change to bear fruit for G.  In that way they missed the whole point.  They understood so they simply left.  So Jesus said, they ever see, but never perceive.  They ever hear but never understand.  So, the majority, 75%, think they are good to go, but they never learn from Jesus, they never bear fruit; they are deceived, and Jesus gave this parable so that they would, not just agree with him, but really repent.

 

       After the majority left, Jesus said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you.” Let’s check out the secrets, so listen very carefully, ok.

 

       The farmer is God’s servant, and the seed is the Word of God.  The kingdom of God starts with a servant going out, scattering the seed in the hearts of people.  Then, in accepting the Word of God, there are different responses.  Some are like the seed sown along the path.  What happened to these people?  They hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts; no chance to be rooted and grow; G cannot influence their heart and life.  People come to Bible study and worship service.  They hear the Word of God and think about it, but something comes up; there is a lot of traffic, like: politics, Hollywood scandals, technological developments.  They read many articles and search through the internet for many hours.  They talk about Iran, North Korea, Syria, smart phones, snap chat,...  Even during worship service, they check out Facebook.  Their interests go after many things and their hearts are preoccupied so that the word of God has no chance to be planted in them.  They are actually not sincere; they are thoughtless.  What is the secret of the kingdom of God?  Secret number one – DO NOT BE PATH-LIKE PEOPLE (Get rid of the traffic)!!!

 

       Secret number two: people are like the seed sown on rocky places.  Different from path-like people they hear the Word of God with great joy, saying things like, “Hallelujah.  God loves me!”  But the problem is: they have no root.  Look at verse 13; Jesus says, “13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.”  The person has a rock, so the roots remain shallow.  In the time of testing, when the sun grows hot, they simply fall away.  Col 2:6-7; 6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  ‘Rooted’ and ‘built up in him,’ shows that we must continue to live in Him.  The world and Satan work hard with persecutions and temptations to uproot and pull up young believers who come to Jesus Christ.  It is inevitable that any person who wants to remain in Jesus, must take down deep root in the Word of God until their value system, way of thinking, hope, future, and all of their life is lined up with God’s word.  When they take down deep root in the Word of God they will not be shaken or uprooted by anything; neither poverty nor success; neither hallow philosophies of the world nor pleasures of the flesh keep them from remaining in Jesus.

 

In our efforts to take down deep root in Christ, there is a rock that has been embedded in our hearts for so long.  To some this rock problem is their secret desire or love.  They do not want to let it go, so even if they hear the Word of God it cannot take down deep root.  To the rich young man in Mark’s gospel it was the love of money.  To others it is their doubt about God’s will because they have had some painful experiences.  It is not easy to take away this rock.  We have carried it so long, it’s natural.  It must be removed so the Word of God can take down deep root in our hearts and lives.  Secret number two – REMOVE THE ROCKS!!!

 

       Secret number three: seed sown among thorns.  These people receive the Word of God and they even grow up.  They are far better than those sown on rocky places.  Rocky-place people grow for one or two years, but quickly wither due to persecutions or hardships over the Word of God.  However, people who are like the seed sown among the thorns, receive the Word, enjoy it, grow up, and produce many leaves.  They look like good Christians, dedicated to God, who know the Word of God very well, and love God.  Their words and actions are very spiritual, even becoming leaders.  But the problem is thorns have grown together with the Word of God; the thorns will eventually choke their spirituality.  In this passage Jesus talks about three kinds of thorns that grow with them: life’s worries, riches, and pleasures.  These thorns begin to grow faster and bigger and choke out the plants; choking out the Word of God.  Practically it chokes their spirituality, they stop growing and, later, wither and die.  We have seen many who were zealous for God become strange because of life’s worries.  They worry about their rent, job, future after graduation; so many things.  With so many concerns they do not know how they can serve God.  For this reason eventually they are choked out and fall away.

 

Also, riches are thorns.  In Mark’s gospel Jesus calls this the deceitfulness of wealth.  Money can never make you happy.  And never believe money will allow you to serve God and be fruitful.  This never happens.  Do not be deceived.   In Mark’s gospel Jesus talks about the desire for other things or pleasures!  There are so many ways that people pursue pleasures, but there is no need to talk about them.  In the last days Paul says – People will be lovers of pleasures rather than God (2 Tim 3:2-4).  Now, today, society advertises fun and more pleasures, with less sufferings and hardships.  As a result all people are pursuing pleasures.  This is also the trend of God’s people; Christians, so they are choked and fail to produce any good fruit.  So, secret number three – REMOVE THE THORNS.  The secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you.  Jesus said - For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.  So, instead, trust in God.  Instead of worrying about such things seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:32-33).  Do you understand secret number three?  What is it – remove the thorns?

 

Look at verse 15. Let's read this verse together:

 

15 “But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

 

The last group is characterized by good soil; those whose hearts are noble and good.  Everything is about the heart, not about understanding, excellent skills or talents.  What kind of heart is a noble and good heart?  The Bible says - The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it (Jer 17:9)?  So, what kind of heart is a noble and good heart?  The passage shows that the noble and good heart retains the Word of God.  Those who hear the Word, retain it, and by persevering, produce a crop.  The word ‘retain’ implies a certain period of time during which there may be many difficulties and challenges, like wind, cold weather, or sometimes bugs - Ouch!  But after bearing and going through these difficulties a person still remains to produce a crop.  This means perseverance.  Some people remain in God when things go very well, or are exciting, but when things do not go well they simply go away.  They do not retain the Word of God, but live by feelings and ever changing emotions.  Surely you do not call these – noble and good-hearted.  Some run away when they are asked to make certain sacrifices, so you wouldn’t call them noble.  But some people struggle to live by the Word of God even if it means sufferings, sacrifices, and persecutions.  Even if they have to offer Isaac to God as a burnt offering, like Abraham, they still retain the Word of God.  They may suffer financially, but still they hold onto God’s Word, and are identified as Jesus’ people, people of God; like ‘the Twelve and also some women.’  Surely, when you see these people, you can say they have noble and good hearts.  Those faithful to live according to the Word of God through persevering have a noble and good heart.  They render glory to God by producing much fruit.  Secret number four – HAVE A NOBLE AND GOOD HEART BY PERSEVERING!!!

 

Third, "Consider carefully how you listen" (16-21).  Look at verses 16 and 17.  “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.”  In those days, there was no electricity; no light bulbs.  At night, it was very dark, so people kindled lamps to light the house. Then, where did they put the lamp?  Everyone put it on its stand so that the light might shine to the four corners of the house.  No one put the lamp in a jar or under a bed.  If they did so, then, the light would be hidden and the room would still be in darkness.  It would be nonsense to put the lamp in a jar or under a bed.

 

What is Jesus talking about?  Jesus is talking about the reason why he used the parables. Jesus’ teaching was given to the crowd in parable form.  It seemed that because Jesus taught the crowd in a parable or because he had not given the explanation of his parable immediately, the majority of the people lost a chance to be blessed; they ever heard, but never understood.  Why did Jesus teach them in parables instead of using plain language?  Was it to hide the secrets of the kingdom of God so that the majority of people might not be blessed, but only a small number of people?  No way!  Here, he tells us that his method of teaching people in parables was like putting a lamp on its stand to enlighten the room.  Jesus knew the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God - how it grows, what is necessary for its growth, and he knew peoples’ problems.  His concern was how to help these people effectively so that they could recognize their problems, remove them from their hearts and grow in God continually to bear fruit.  If Jesus called people to him one by one and pointed out their problems, that kind of method wouldn’t be effective.  So, Jesus chose to use the parables in teaching them the word of God; the parables sound plain, easy to understand, but they contain deep truth behind the natural phenomena they seem to explain.  So, if anyone finds the real message, it is like finding secret treasure in a field – it provides an eye-opening moment, then, so inspired by the truth, people can accept the message and turn to God decisively.  Jesus’ parable was like the lamp to people who come in that shines through the darkness, giving them clear direction for life, and showing them the secret to live a fruitful life, a truly meaningful and fulfilling life.  It was the best way to enlighten their dark hearts and help them turn to God in repentance, be forgiven, and bear fruit.

 

In conclusion, Jesus says, "Consider carefully how you listen."  Look at verse 18.  Let’s read this verse together:

 

18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

 

       “Consider carefully how you listen.”  In other words we must have a good attitude toward God’s words.  Then we will not just agree with what Jesus says, but we will spend many hours with his words.  Then we will grasp something, the light will turn on, and our perspective will change.  Then when you hear another message, you will come to see a little more.  Then you make more efforts and more is revealed.  Then our life really changes and Jesus says, “whoever has will be given more,” and our hope, desires, vision, and life changes.  But Jesus also says, whoever does not have, even what he think he has will be taken from him.  Later such people have no confidence in Jesus’ grace.  At that time they have no reason to hold on to their superficial Bible knowledge, and so they fall away, losing everything.  When you have the right attitude toward G and his words, you grow as real children of G.

 

Look at verses 19 through 21. While Jesus was teaching, his mother and brothers came to see him, but they could not come in because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”  What was Jesus’ response?  Look at verse 21.  Let’s read this verse together.

 

21 Jesus said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

 

To Jesus, those who have a good heart, in whose hearts the word of God is planted, they are his family members; they are so precious and important, because they are the children of God.  When his physical family members wanted to talk with him, he refused to see them so that he could focus on his disciples.  When we hear God’s word, and put them into practice, to Jesus, we are VIPs; we are those with a noble and good heart.

 

As I worked on this message I came to see more about what Jesus meant when he talked about good soil or a good and noble heart.  My heart or in other words my character has some good parts.  But lately, at home, when things do not go the way I desire, my character unwinds, I am not under control, and my person is no longer pleasant or encouraging.  This realization is what initially brought me to Jesus.  But it is hard and embarrassing that after more than 12 years serving Jesus, this part has not changed much.  It just takes the right set of circumstances to show that my heart is not good and noble.  When I get upset with me wife or children, you would not say that I have a good and noble heart.  But Jesus wanted, not crowd members, but dedicated disciples.  Why?  So he could spend real time with them, reveal the secrets of the kingdom of G; so I might see the deep truth and receive healing from Jesus.  I see Jesus’ grace, through this passage.  He wants to spend time with someone like me, someone who is terrible and does not deserve his attention.  This is very touching to me and so I want to remain like “The Twelve and also some women.”  I want to remain close to Jesus so he can help me to be healed completely, so that I may come to have a lovely character, a truly noble and good heart, so that nothing will overflow that will not be good and righteous in Jesus eyes.

 

But, for this to happen, I must remain with Jesus, no matter what.  Times are more complicated and difficult now with work, a sick daughter, dwindling finances, and bad character traits that come up even as I am trying to prepare the Sunday message.  But I see Jesus’ amazing grace.  He loves me so he wants me to cultivate my heart, to be good soil, which will remain with him, deeply learn the secrets of the kingdom of G, and grow up as a child of G, whose life will yield good fruit, even a hundred times more than was sown.  Jesus wants me to listen more carefully, then before, so that I will not miss the secrets of the kingdom of G, which will heal my heart and change me into a faithful and useful employee, and not only so but a tender father and helper at home.  A man changed from an Apostle of Thunder (Boanerges - Mk 3:17), to the Apostle of love.  I see that this can only happen when I am committed like “The Twelve and also some women.”  I can see that Christian history is not about the crowds.  Rather it is about the few with good and noble hearts.  Those who accepted the Word of God, retained it, and by persevering produced a crop 100 times more than was sown.  Jesus welcomes all of us and wants to bless us by making our lives fruitful.  So He gives us this message.  Let’s accept Jesus’ Word for us, and let’s produce fruit so that He may be pleased.

 

One Word: But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop, even 100 times more than was sown.

 

 

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