Stories with Luke Week 11:

"The Good Heart"

Pastor Terry Inman

05-28-17

 

In chapter eight of Luke’s stories we are on another journey that is picking up steam. This is the second time the doctor mentions Jesus’ tour of the towns and villages in the Galilee region. “After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8.1NIV)   

 

“After this” is a reference to the previous stories involving the healing of a centurion’s servant, the raising a widow’s son and the salvation of a sinful woman with a grateful heart. These are visible demonstrations of the “Good news of the Kingdom of God”.

 

Luke now focuses on the message of the Kingdom and its reception. By this time he has selected and solidified his team of twelve. They are now with him. Here Luke also includes an entourage of professional women.

 

The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means. Luke 8.2-3 (NIV)

 

I say professional women because they were women of influence and resources. On Easter Sunday we talked about Mary of Magdala. There is some evidence that she was a hairdresser. One of her clients and close friends may have been Joanna the wife of King Herod’s chief of staff.

 

Luke also mentions Susanna. These women were loyal to the end. They were present at the foot of the cross, which is more than can be said for most of the disciples who fled after Jesus’ arrest.

 

Luke adds there were “many women” in this campaign. This is a departure from the male dominated religion of the time. These women had been gratefully healed and liberated by the good news of the Kingdom!

 

Luke who often mentions crowd size says, “While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told a parable: Luke 8.4 (NIV) Parables were often a way to separate the crowds from the committed—the spectators from the participators.

Parables are simple stories that illustrate spiritual realities. Jesus was a provocative storyteller. His narratives came right from the landscape or the lifestyle of the people he encountered.

 

Here he paints a familiar image for growers who lived on what they could produce in a small patch of soil. This conversation is typically called the “Parable of the Sower” but it’s really more about the condition of soil.

 

As Jesus clarifies and applies this parable he identifies the soil as the heart. Today we will talk about the “Good Heart”. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, from it flow the springs of life.” Prov. 4.23 (NASB)

So let’s listen to the parable then we will do what the disciples did, we will ask the Holy Spirit for the meaning and application to our own lives.

 

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 rock, 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. Luke 8.4-8

 

This is how Jesus describes the audience on his “good news” tour. They could easy grasp his metaphor. They knew all about the challenges of plowing, planting, and nurturing a harvest. They knew about birds, bugs, hard soil, dry ground, sourcing sun, weeds and thorns. They knew about good and bad soil. But Jesus was sending a deeper message.

 

Luke says,He called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” OK we all have ears. This sounds a little obscure, or even mysterious. The disciples didn’t even get it. They asked him to explain the meaning.

 

He said, The knowledge of the secrets (mysteries) 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.” Luke 8.9-10 (NIV) There is hearing then there is hearing!

 

Jesus is quoting Isaiah, Go and tell this people: “Who are ever hearing, but never understanding; ever seeing, but never perceiving.” Isa. 6.9 (NIV) When my wife says, are your listing to me she is not saying, did you hear something. She is saying do you get it! We filter everything we hear.

 

Spiritual hearing perceives and receives the truth and responds to it. Those who fail to accept God’s good news, become even more insensitive to spiritual reality. The bible says they become dull of hearing.

 

Jesus isn’t messing with us. He isn’t sending encrypted messages. Jesus gives the clear meaning of this parable. There are four soil conditions here that affect the receptivity and productivity of the heart. This parable begins and ends with a reference to the heart. The soil is our heart.

The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Luke 8.11-12 (NIV)

 

Let’s talk about the “heart”. We are not talking about the organic pump that supplies our blood and oxygen. The bible describes the heart as the core or center of the personality.

 

I’m reading, “Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard. He says, “The human heart, will or spirit is the executive center of a human life. The heart is where decisions and choices are made for the whole person.”

 

It’s hard for us to know what’s in our heart. David said, Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Psa 139.3 After his great moral failure he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a rightspirit within me.” Psa 51.10 (NIV)

 

Our heart is our spiritual hard-drive—don’t let it get infected by a virus! Jesus said, “From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.” Matt. 15.18-19 (NLT)

 

In this parable of the sower, seed and soils, Jesus diagnosis four heart conditions. Three are unhealthy. One is good and produces abundantly.

 

Let’s look again at (verse 11) “The seed is the word of God. (the good news of the Kingdom) Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Luke 8.11-12 (NIV)

This is a superficial scattering of seed. Subsistence farmers had small plots of ground divided by narrow pathways. It was easy to drop seed in an unplowed footpath. Birds representative of the devil ate up the seed before it ever took root. This is information without germination!

 

Receptivity to God’s word and work requires some groundwork. Some of us may have hard hearts. “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10.12 NIV)

 

Luke says this soil was “trampled”. Some people are insensitive to God because they have been crushed by life. They have broken hearts. They “see and hear” but don’t perceive or receive. They need some softening before they are ready to “believe” and receive salvation. Do you know anyone like that? Don’t give up keep praying and loving!

 

Next is the shallow or superficial heart. This seed is planted in rocky soil. It doesn’t get enough deep water to sustain growth.

 

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. (v.13) Here belief is short-lived.

 

It’s a shallow planting with an immediate emotional response. The seed sprouts “with joy” but the heat of testing quickly withers it up and there no sustained growth. Again they “hear” the word but belief is emotional and temporal. This heart wilts under adversity. There’s no will to believe.

 

Next Jesus mentions seeds that take root but are strangled by life’s distractions. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. (v.14)

 

Again the hearts of these people “hear’ but “as they go on their way”—as they experience life’s journey—divided interests leave them immature and unproductive. The thicket of life's worries, wealth and pleasures stifle their spiritual maturity. This is epidemic in the western church culture.

 

This is a real heart issue. Jesus said, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. What do we treasure? What do we really value in life?

God wants us to enjoy life but not at the expense of our soul. “Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12.29-32 NIV)

 

Finally a good heart is receptive and responsive to His 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.”

 

These people allow the word to grow in good soil and patiently produce. James 1.22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” The word works for those who work it!

 

The next two stories illustrate this well. Jesus says, “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.

 

Lamps are symbols of instruction. Jesus came to reveal truth. “The knowledge of the secrets (or mysteries) of the kingdom” are no longer hidden.(v.10)But consider carefully how you listen! Heed the seed!

 

“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.” (Luke 8.16 NIV) This is a universal principle. Use it our loose it! With revelation comes responsibility!

 

Listening is observing. It is minding and doing the word. It is living out the good news of the kingdom of God every day, in every way. It is patiently and persistently producing God’s word in fertile soil—our Good hearts!  

 

Again Luke mentions the large crowds. They were hearing but were they really listening? Jesus’ own family couldn’t even get his attention. Luke says, someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” (v.20) Jesus responded, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (v. 21)

 

Here’s what minding and doing the word means. The Apostle Paul writes, “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

 

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” Phil. 4.8-9 (NIV)

 

Good hearts are receptive, not rigid and resistant. They are not superficial. They are tested but rooted. They are not distracted or divided. They are responsive. Good hearts grow what Jesus plants!

 

What’s growing in your heart?