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dog listening October 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Mark 3:31-35; Matthew 12:46-50; Luke 8:19-21; Mark 4:1-20; Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-18; Mark 4:21-25

How Well Do We Listen?

How's your hearing? You may say, “fine,” or you may say, “I don't hear so well anymore.” Many of us have selective hearing. A wife who says, “Honey, the garage needs cleaned,” may not be heard by her husband, even if he is in the same room, but the words, “How about some ice cream?” may bring a sudden improvement in his hearing. In a serious vein of thought, how well do we listen when we hear messages from God's Word, the Bible? Do we gladly receive it or do we just endure it?

In today's Bible reading, Jesus begins to teach about the kingdom of God to great crowds of people who follow him. Is anyone truly listening or are they just following him because of his miracles and popularity? Jesus teaches in parables to distinguish true believers from those who are just crowd followers.

What are Parables?

The word “parable” in the Greek language of the New Testament literally means to “throw alongside.” In a parable, a short story or narrative of a known truth is thrown alongside and compared to an unknown truth. Some define a parable as an earthly story (the known truth) with a heavenly meaning (an unknown or previously undisclosed truth). This definition works and is easy to remember.

Why did Jesus speak in parables? Jesus says he spoke in parables to hide truth from those who will not hear because of their hardened hearts, and to reveal truth to those who will listen (Matthew 13:10-16). When teaching people it is helpful to use stories to gain their interest, and it is helpful to use something familiar to compare it with something unfamiliar. Those who are listening will get it. Those who are not listening will not get it.

Why do some respond to the message of the gospel (the way to the Kingdom of God, i.e., heaven) while others do not? This is answered in the parable of the four kinds of ground upon which a farmer sows his seed. This illustration was effectively chosen because the Jews lived in an agricultural community.

Parable of the Farmer Sowing Seed

On a path. The first kind of ground wherethe farmer throws his seed is described as a path. The seed scattered by the farmer (illustrative of the minister, teacher, leader, or even parent) is not received; it is resisted. Satan has convinced the hearer against the message, so it is immediately taken away. In America we might say it went “in one ear and out the other”. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law of Moses were not listening to what Jesus had to say. In our last lesson we saw them resisting the message and power of Jesus, even saying his power was from the devil. Today, many religious leaders and arrogant people believe the Bible does not apply to them and easily dismiss it.

Stony Ground. The second place where the farmer throws his seed is described as stony. To the hearer, Scripture and principles from the Word of God sound like great ideas to put into practice, and there may be some initial excitement about them, but that is the extent of it. Most ministry leaders and parents are frustrated by this attitude. The Words of Scripture and its principles need to take root, but the hearts of their hearers are too hard to receive it. There is encouragement from the Scripture, however, about continuing to sow the Word of God even with stony-hearted people. God spoke through Jeremiah the prophet: “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”(Jeremiah 23:29, NIV)

Thorny ground. “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19, NIV). People listen because they want an answer to their problems, and initially they may try to obey God, but when faced by the pressures and desires of this world, they do what is easiest, most convenient, or that which gives them the most pleasure. God's answers do not profit them.

Fertile soil. The fourth kind of ground is soft fertile soil. The seed sown here becomes profitable and yields much fruit. This is the person who is ready to hear the Word of God and also listens in order to put it into practice. That person reaps great benefits. Which kind of ground describes how we listen to God’s Word?

James, the Lord's half brother says to believers,

Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-- he will be blessed in what he does (James 1:21-25, NIV).

Those who truly have a relationship with Christ want to obey him. Jesus says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice” (Luke 8:21, NIV). We all sin and make mistakes, but do we try to put God’s Word into practice? The Holy Spirit of God, who lives within us, will help us if we are willing to try. If any of us are not Christians, God offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). He can give meaning and fruitfulness to our lives.

Lessons to Live By

  • Our hearts must be prepared to receive God’s Word.
  • God will bless those who not only hear the Word of God but also do what it says.
  • The person who hears God’s Word and does what it says will be given more responsibilities and privileges (Luke 8:18).

Focus Verse

Luke 8:18 (NIV) “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.”

You can see a video of this lesson from the Jesus film here

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A Look Ahead: In our Next Lesson Jesus talks about Heaven. What Will it be Like? Who will be There?

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