Summary: Being changed by God’s word requires an appropriate response from its hearers.
Transformed by God’s Word
Mark 4:1-20 INTRODUCTION
Our passage implies that Jesus’ desire was to see a transformed life as a person hears the Word of God. He wants to see our transformed character and conviction as a result of learning God’s Word. Every Sunday morning millions of people listen to the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. But why are the majority of people’s lives remain unchanged despite of being bombarded by the teaching and preaching of God’s Word? Mark 4:1-20 will reveal to us the reasons for having minimal number of changed lives. Let us read the passage.
Our parable shows that 75% of people who listen to the teaching and preaching of God’s Word will remain unchanged in their lifestyle. Jesus explained that how a person respond to the preaching of God’s Word determine its influence in one’s life. The Seed represents the Word of God and the Sower is the teacher or preacher of God’s Word. What kind of response to God’s Word would have a significant effect in a person’s life?
1. Not by indifferent response to God’s Word (vv. 4, 15)
The Pathway soil is the segment in the field where the farmer walked as he sows and plows the field. Obviously this soil is hard and the seed will not penetrate in it. When the birds come, they will just eat up the seed.
Spiritually speaking, there are men and women who hear the Word of God but indifferent or unresponsive. Thus when the Devil comes, he will just take away the message sown in their heart and leave them empty-handed. Indifferent response will make no difference in the life of a listener of God’s Word.
Why are they indifferent or unresponsive? Maybe they are not interested or unwilling to give up their tradition and previous knowledge. Others think that God’s Word is irrelevant and unrealistic. Or maybe they don’t want to get out of their comfort zone and they don’t new challenges and responsibilities. In some cases, they are unresponsive because they were discouraged by others who hear the message and yet irresponsible.
2. Not by superficial response To God’s Word (vv. 5-6, 16-17)
The Rocky Soil is the soil over a rock stratum. When a seed is sown in this type of soil, the seed would quickly germinate. But because the soil is shallow, the seed will not develop deeper roots. Thus when the sun is up, the plants were burned up and they withered.
Some hearers of God’s Word are similar to that soil on top of a rock. When they hear the Word of God, they were so excited and received it with joy. However, the reception of God’s Word is superficial and emotional that it has no roots. Thus when troubles or persecutions come because of the Word, they quickly fall away.
Troubles/tribulation means pressure--the distress that comes from being caught in a crushing squeeze. You know the Word of God may sometimes places us in a situation where we are being squeezed from both sides by the principles of the world and the principles of God’s word.
Persecution means harassment, to be pursued or chased by someone. Meaning, one’s commitment to God’s Word may result to harassment by the world. The people around you will begin to bother and criticize you because of your commitment to God.
The Word of God is only attractive to them as long as it is beneficial. They immediately affirmed gospel and appear to be promising citizens of God’s kingdom and yet totally unprepared for the challenges of God’s Word.
Now, if we are a type of hearer where God’s Word does not sink deep in our heart or is not rooted in our heart, we may eventually give up our Christian conviction. It appears that our convictions are superficial and temporary. In Pilipino we call it, “ningas cogon.”
The question is what makes the reception of God’s Word superficial? Why didn’t the Word of God sink deep in the heart of its hearers?
(1) Lack of Understanding -- we may never have the total understanding of God’s message. We are only looking at the promises and not on the responsibilities. We may be focusing on its prestige and not on its consequences.
(2) Lack of Consistency -- occasional application may not have a lasting effect. Like exercise, if we are not consistent, it will not do us any good. It will not have a lasting effect. After a while, the fats are still there growing.
ILLUSTRATION If a farmer doesn’t plant seeds, he will never harvest a crop. It doesn’t matter how weed-free his ground is; he must also plant and cultivate good seed.
In the same way, we can only reap a harvest of purity and integrity by planting the good seed of God’s Word into our lives. I’m not talking about merely reading the Bible. I’m talking about allowing the Holy Spirit to plant the truths of Scripture deep into our hearts and minds through consistent Bible reading and memorization, meditation and prayer. To be effective, and to remain pure, truth must be planted in our hearts daily. --Gary Oliver, clinical director of Southwest Counseling Associates in Denver.