Today we come to six verses that easily could each stand on its own and mean many different things. That presents a problem to us Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that He has revealed His truth for our instruction and benefit. IOW we seek to know what God wants us to know, NOT what can we make this mean. So how do we do that?
A - Understand the author. (Not God, but the human writer.) What was his purpose? In this case - Dr. Luke. He wrote 2 books. Addressed to Theophilus, “lover of God.” Explains the story of Christ and early church and what it meant. 27% of NT. He organized (edited) content from multiple sources (Paul, Mary, Mark, Q?) to tell his story of Jesus.
B - Context. Are these 6 verses a random sampling or are they placed here for a purpose? What is the context? Follows Jesus’ Sower/Seed:
"The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and be persevering produce a crop.” Luke 8:15 NIV
When we look at these verses in light of Sower and the Seed, the gospel message of the Word of God in our lives comes to the front of our minds. Purpose, reality, means, measure, and result of gospel in us…
#1 - The purpose of the gospel in my life is __________________
“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed, Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.” Luke 8:16 NIV
Traditionally - especially in the evangelical churches - we have this idea that the gospel message is to be preached, pronounced, told to other people. In other words, the gospel is a verbal message. And it is important that we know how to put words to our actions. This presents us with a problem with this “sees the light.” How does one SEE the words of the gospel in our lives? Answer: BY HOW WE LIVE! It is the actions of our lives that become the light so that people might be able to see the gospel!
How does Jesus describe this in Matthew’s Sermon On The Mount?
”Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand - shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 MSG
This is a complete change of perspective that many have. The purpose of the gospel then in not JUST to save us. Isn’t this what we think? Jesus died on the cross so that we might be saved? True, but only part of the truth. The purpose of the gospel NOT ONLY that we might be saved, BUT ALSO that we might be changed for the better! AND that other people would see this change and desire it for themselves.
Which leads to a challenging question - If I was generous and open with my life before others, would that prompt people to be open with God? Would anyone see my life and say, “I want some of what he/she’s having?" Not just a life without problems, but how we live - with hope - through the problems, challenges, disappointments everyone has.
#2 - The reality of the gospel in my life is _________________.
Is my faith in Christ real? Am I really a Christ-follower or not? There are three audiences for this question.
(1) - Ourselves. This question of reality of faith is a rite of passage for all new Christians. Christ, through His Holy Spirit and through His people and through His Word help us with that question. - Why being in Bible believing / preaching church is so important.
(2) - Other people. Are we putting on a show or is it real?
“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17 NIV
We sometimes suppose these words might refer to a future, God judgment time when all we are will be exposed for everyone to see. But Luke here is referring to the gospel of our lives lived out before others.
Here’s Pastor Mark's translation - “You can’t fake this, so don’t even try!” Be real before others about your faith, including your struggles with your faith. You don’t need to worry about defending God. Really! He was doing fine before you and He’ll continue long after you’re gone. Your very authentic struggle / work / effort / doubts / victories with your faith will win and influence people you know to Christ.
(3) The 3rd audience for your faith is God.
Where / when do you witness:
"These people, says God, honor me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me.” Matthew 15:8 GNT
Our worship is our witness. We worship God, praising Him for His victory in our lives. Most of the time we think of our worship time as church time. The truth is our worship time is all the time! God looks at our heart more than listens to our voices.
Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car!
We go to church as a follow up to becoming a Christian - where we gather with other believers for mutual encouragement and service. God is never fooled!
#3 - The means of the gospel in my life is _____________.
This is a real mind-bender for those who think sharing the gospel - evangelization - means telling (verbalizing) the good news to others.
“Therefore consider carefully how you listen.” Luke 8:18a NIV
Let’s put this in context of the parable of the Sower and the Seeds. What is Jesus telling us? Make sure the soil of your mind is always tilled to be receptive to my Word! Think about how you listen! Continuously. All your life. It’s not just that you heard the gospel once and responded a long time ago. How are you listening now? What are you doing (What are your habits?) to make sure you continue to be open and receptive to the gospel in your life? The life of your faith - the authenticity of your faith - depends on your ability to hear God speak to you through His Word!
“So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.” Romans 10:17 NLT
Remember the enemies of the seed? The hardened path where the devil snatches away the good news? The rocky ground of bad habits? The thorny ground of the busyness of life, when we don’t respond with our best yes? This doesn’t represent other people. This is us. Every ONE of us. Every day. How well I listen is a daily priority for the Christian!
Just how important is #3? Check out #4!
#4 - The measure of the gospel in my life is __________________.
“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” Luke 8:18b NIV
At first reading this seems harsh. Unfair. Like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Nothing could be further from the truth. Let’s break it down on part at a time.
(1) Whoever has will be given more. The gospel good news of the Word of God in our lives is not a static thing. It never stays the same. IT ALWAYS GROWS! So it makes sense that if you really have the gospel in your life - that you are a real deal Christian - you are becoming more real as a Christian every single day of your life.
(2) Whoever does not have, even what they think they have… 2 facts emerge. A person who (A) is not a Christian but (B) who thinks they are a Christian! Our culture is filled with people like this. People who a) grew up in a Christian family, b) go to a Christian church, c) Americans. And what does Dr. Luke tell us that Jesus says about them? “Even what they think they have will be taken from them.” That’s not harsh or unfair. That’s mercy! To let someone see the reality of their own misguided opinion of what a Christian is and who they are.
James, the brother of Jesus, explains this truth to us this way:
“Don't fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! James 1:22 MSG
“Don’t fool yourself.” The greatest tragedy for all of eternal life would be to suppose yourself a Christian only to find out you’re not. That person would - in the most literal sense possible - be a fool, only hurting himself.
“Thinking yourself a listener when you are anything but.” Hey - I go to church every week. I hear the gospel preached just like everyone else. I’m a listener. So I’m a Christian, right? Real listening is marked by real change, real living!
“…letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!” The way you can know if you are a real Christian or not, if you really hear God’s Word or not, is by how it changes your life. By how you act on what you hear.
This is a multiplying effect. The more I hear God’s Word in my life, the more I change the way I live. The more I change the way I live my life, the more (and better) I can hear God’s Word in my life. My Christian life, in other words, is not just marked by THE DECISION I made once to follow Christ. Rather my Christian life is marked by the DAILY DECISION to listen and obey, and then listen more.
#5 - The result of the gospel in my life is ______________.
“My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:21 NIV
Let’s start with the back half of this verse: “who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” That’s exactly what we’ve been talking about with #3 and #4, right? All in the same context. All talking about the same thing.
So let’s not get thrown a curveball by this story in verses 19 and 20 of Jesus’ mother and brothers showing up, not able to get close to him because of the crowd, and Jesus’ response about exactly who his mother and brothers are. Nothing in this passage says that he is disowning his family.
What it DOES SAY is that Jesus’ family is quite a bit larger and different than physical family relationships. It’s not about the gene pool. It’s about hearing God’s Word and putting it into practice. Jesus is simply doing what he often does - taking a current situation and making an example of it as it compares to God’s Kingdom.
Here’s the REALLY GOOD NEWS for you and me, if we are authentic Christ-followers. We are every bit as family to Jesus as Mary his mother and James his brother! You’re a member of Jesus’ very own family!
To finish up this “good news” sermon we want to look at just one more word from verse 21. The verb, “are,” present tense. Now. Not someday. Not after we die. Not when we are resurrected. Not when we go to Heaven. Now! If you listen to God’s Word every day - and put into practice what you hear every day - then you ARE NOW in the family with Jesus at your side!