Gather ten people into a room and have them listen to the same thing, and they will likely come away with ten separate conclusions and perspectives on it. And this can be seen most apparently if what they are listening to is scripture. Countless differing messages have been preached on the same verses of scripture for years upon years, and the listeners also have come away from the message with differing interpretations of it as well.
Most people don’t seem to have an issue with any of this. Jesus however had a very specific warning when it comes to both the messages that we listen to (what we hear) and also the interpretation that we get from them as well (how we hear). Jesus gave us this warning for a very good reason… because He knew that as time when on, the genuine message of the Gospel would be distorted, and many people would be robbed from hearing the genuine truth that makes people free. So this is what I want to share with you today.
Now the first scripture we will look at today is Mark 4:24-29:
“And he said to them, Take heed what you hear: with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you: and to you that hear shall more be given.
For he that has, to him shall be given: and he that has not, from him shall be taken even that which he has.
And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;
And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knows not how.
For the earth brings forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.
But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”
Notice right in verse 24, that Jesus says Take heed what you hear, so precisely what we hear is important. I have spoken with many people within inside the walls of church buildings, who think that as long as a sermon contains the words Jesus, Bible, and God, that everything is okay and it’s a good Christian message. However that is simply not the case. It is entirely possible to hear a message containing the words “Jesus”, “Gospel”, “Grace”, “God” etc. but still have it not be the genuine Gospel message of Jesus Christ. It happens all the time, in church buildings all across the world. This is why Jesus here says “Take heed”, listen, pay attention to precisely what you are hearing… Now why does He say this? Why is this so important? Well, He continues that the measure (or the standard) that you use, will be the standard that you receive, and more will be added to it. In other words, if you receive bad seed from bad teaching into your soul, that bad seed will eventually produce bad results – and there is certainly a lot of that going on today.
Likewise though, as you receive good seed from good teaching that seed will produce good results. This is why Jesus goes on to explain precisely this idea of seed and harvest in the next verses. Many people have turned the whole seed and harvest principle into a doctrine of money – motivated by greed – but Jesus is not talking about money here, but something far more important and vital, spiritual foundation and truth that can totally transform every part of our life!
I have actually watched people die, physically, because they received bad teaching into their lives telling them that God doesn’t heal today, and so they outright refused to receive healing in their body, all because of a bad seed that was planted in their soul and it produced a harvest of doubt.
I have watched people live their lives in guilt, shame, depression and despair, because they received a bad teaching that God (for one reason or another) was angry with them and that He would not forgive them. Again, one small seed, produced a deadly harvest that ruined entire lives.
So Jesus is not playing around here when He says “Take heed” pay attention to the message that you are hearing, because many messages today are not the true Gospel, they are not the good news of Jesus Christ, but they are the false message of bad news, and of an angry and demanding God that would sooner strike you down than lift you up – and that message is destroying lives. Jesus says, take heed, watch out for such messages. You might not think that it’s a big deal right now, it may seem like just a small thing or a little mistake… but that small seed can take root if you let it, and produce an entire forest of doubt when it grows that may end up destroying someone’s life, maybe even your own. Jesus warns about this, because He cares for you and He cares about your well-being; not just sometime later in the afterlife, but right now here in this life.
Now turn over to Luke 8:18:
“Take heed therefore how you hear: for whoever has, to him shall be given; and whoever has not, from him shall be taken even that which he seems to have.”
Again we have the words of Jesus, but this time He is focusing on the other side of the matter. In Mark, He was addressing what we hear, and now here in Luke, Jesus is addressing how we hear the message. Once we are hearing the right message, it becomes a matter of what ground we present. If we notice the parable which Jesus had just shared in the previous verses of Luke chapter 8, we notice that it is the parable of the Seed and the different types of ground. This is the context of our verse 18 here.
Just as it’s possible to receive bad seed from a false message and have it produce negative results, it is also possible to fail to receive good seed from the true message, for all of the reasons which Jesus lists in His parable (and we have a detailed study on that parable here).
Now we must again ask the question as we did before, why is this important? Why is it important to take heed and pay attention to how we hear the message? There are some who would think that as long as the right message is being preached, then that’s enough, right? Well, without going on too much of a rabbit-trail here, take a look at what Jesus says in Mark 4:8:
“And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.”
There will be some people that produce thirty-fold, sixty-fold and some hundred-fold… now I can’t speak for you, but I want to produce the maximum amount of fruit possible, and this has nothing to do with works, or striving or performance but this is all connected with how we hear as Jesus said.
Some examples of this which I have personally witnessed and experienced are as follows. There are many people who seem to have no trouble at all believing that Jesus can save them spiritually from hell to heaven – but they deny that He also saves them physically from sickness, disease and infirmities. And by failing to hear, they do not produce that harvest.
There are those who believe that the Spirit of God is not even in operation today and no longer give gifts, and by failing to hear, they fail to produce that harvest.
Then there are also those who still translate everything in the Bible as a checklist of do’s and don’ts instead of translating it the way that Jesus did… as pictures of Himself. And this really goes right to the heart of the matter.
It is possible (as the disciples demonstrated, and as the pharisees demonstrated as well) to read scripture as a rule-book and miss Christ. It is possible to read the very words of Jesus Himself and miss Him in it if you have the wrong lenses on. For example, a friend was telling me about a recent study that his church did on Nehemiah, and instead of focusing on the pictures of Jesus in Nehemiah, the entire focus was on how people should behave based on the content of the book. As we were discussing it I simply said, there are two ways to read Nehemiah, the first way is to read it dead, as a set of rules and come-away with a works-based checklist of what we need to do. The second way, is to see Jesus in it and realize that you were the broken wall, and Jesus rebuilt you. And to realize that those two ways are radically different!
That is a simple example of the distinction of how to hear. One way is man-centered and works-focused, and the other is Jesus-centered and Spirit-focused, because He did the work, and you simply exist and live in that truth. And if you think that is an empty life, then respectfully, you have never experienced it!
One way is dead, and leads to destruction, and the other is very much alive and leads to the abundant life of Christ. This is precisely why Jesus said to pay attention to the message and what you hear, and also when you have found the good message, pay attention to how you hear it. He wants you to receive the full measure of what He has paid for you to have. He wants you to have the full hundred-fold produce of every good gift which He gives.
It is yours, right now, today in Christ. And as Jesus says many times, Those who have ears, let them hear.