3 Reasons Why It Is Hard To Listen At Church

Text: Luke 8:4-15

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

It has been stated before that there are 37 million churches in the world; however, there are only four types of people who sit in the pews.  That is to say, from pulpits around the world, the Word of God is preached, like a farmer who casts seeds onto the soil.  But once it is preached, it goes into the ears of four different types of soil – four different types of people. 

The first type of person comes quite regularly to church and sits in the pew, often in the back of the sanctuary.  As they sit down, they let out a big sigh while rolling their eyes as they look at the length of the bulletin.  Keep in mind, they are often at church only because they have to be.  Maybe they are pressured to be at church by their spouse, children, or parents.  Regardless of why they are in the church, the fact remains that they are apathetic and cold.  They do not want to be in the church.  It isn’t that it is hard to sit in a padded pew for an hour, for these individuals will sit on a hard bleacher in a gymnasium to watch a basketball game for three hours while eating stale popcorn. The point being, they are disinterested and unconcerned.  So, when the pastor gets in the pulpit, they immediately look to their watch to see how long they have to endure the sermon.  And the sermon?  If it hits a little too close to home, they turn their noses up and cross their arms with disgust.  However, they are careful not to make their protest too obvious to draw attention to themselves. As a result of their apathy, neglect, and disinterest, the Word of God goes in one ear and out the other. They hear it, but their hearing amounts to nothing because the Word bounces right off of their apathetic heart, and falls out their ear onto the floor. 

Satan loves these kinds of people, for they make his job very easy. Once the Word goes in one ear and out the other, Satan can quickly come along and snatch the Word up so that they might not have faith and might not be saved.

Is Jesus describing you?  Are you like hard apathetic soil where the seed does not take root?  Are the birds circling your head waiting to devour the rejected seed falling out of your ears?  If so, beware!  If you have ears today, are you listening? Are you really listening, or is the Word being snatched up by the Devil?

The second type of person comes to church sporadically.  They typically attend during the high points of the church season, such as Christmas and Easter.  Unlike the previous people, they are a bit more energetic and attentive. That is to say, they will hear the Word of God and hear it with joy.  The Word will not go in one ear and out the other with these individuals.  They will hear it with enthusiasm and excitement; however, once they leave the church an encounter the struggles of the Christian life, they quickly throw the towel in. For them, Christianity is a shallow covering. They like the idea of being a Christian and coming to church to hear the Word.  They love being moved to joy, as well as emotional tears. But as soon as the excitement and emotional high wear off, they do not hold on to the Word.  And so, for a time, they abandoned the church - that is until they hear about an exciting new church down the street. Driven by the need to be quickly excited and entertained, these individuals will rush with wild enthusiasm to the new church down the street to try and obtain a superficial emotion… that is until the battle comes again.

Dear friends, the world loves these kinds of people, for they are easily influenced.  They are easily manipulated because they are driven by pure emotion and enthusiasm, and not the Word of God. 

Now, is Jesus describing you? Are you like shallow soil that does not allow the Word to go very deep?  Are you driven by your emotions resulting in a very shallow superficial faith that will not withstand the troubles and temptations of life?  In moments of trouble is the Word of God so shallow in you that you are tempted to leave the Word – to flake out?   If so, beware!  If you have ears today, are you listening? Are you really listening?

Jesus describes a third person from our Gospel reading.  The third type of person comes to church and hears the Word.  Yes, they sit in the pews and hear the Word – they receive it.  The Word finds a place in their hearts and minds.  However, what happens with these individuals is that the Word is slowly and subtly choked out of their life.  This does not happen right away, but gradually. That is to say, very gradually, the love of money and the deceitfulness of life’s pleasures creep into their hearts and minds.  For example, it sounds like this, “We need to skip church because of an entertaining event that goes late on Saturday night.  Sunday is too early!  It is only one time.”  The following weekend, work calls.  And so, to impress the boss and get a little extra money in the wallet, church is skipped again.  And the week after that?  Well, vacation is calling.  So, church will have to wait again.  Now, without even realizing it, months pass by and the pleasures of the world have taken possession of the mind so that the spark of faith is extinguished without even realizing it.  It isn’t that these individuals set out to starve their faith. It isn’t as if they intend to choke out the Word of God by the pleasures and riches of life. But instead, they are gradually and deceitfully seduced away from the Word of God, to the point that the Word becomes squished out of their lives – their faith is choked, leaving them with no faith at all. 

Dear friends, the sinful old Adam loves to play this game. The sinful old Adam loves to gradually deceive us into worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun, so that the spark of faith is extinguished.

Is Jesus describing you? Are you like weedy soil that chokes out the Word of God?  Are you tempted to let the pleasures of the world act like weeds that crush out the Word of God?  Are you even aware of this seductive gradual threat to your faith?  Dear friend, be alert!  If you have ears today, are you listening? Are you really listening?

Dear Baptized Saints, the fact of the matter is this: all three of these different soil conditions describe you and me at different times in our life. While it might be easy to apply these different kinds of soil types to other people, it actually describes how the devil, the world, and our sinful nature attempt to keep you and me from hearing and retaining the Word of God.

So, since this is the case, what shall we do to not go the way of these three different types of soil?   What shall we do to not be hard soil, shallow soil, or weedy soil? Well, it is quite simple - Repent!  Yes, God have mercy on you and me for the times that we are hard-hearted, shallow, and infected with the weeds of sin.  Repent!

Dear Baptized Saints, repent but also hear this most profound news of the Gospel – the Gospel that is 100% for you.  The Lord does not look for good soil to fall into, but rather, He creates good soil for the Word of God to be planted into. What this means is that no matter how rocky, shallow, and weedy you are today, Jesus chooses to cast the seed of the Gospel into your ears today. You, who have ears, hear:

Jesus redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that you might be His own.  He did this for you!

And so, God through the power of the Holy Spirit, not only casts the seed of the Gospel into your ears this day but continually creates a new heart within you as you hear the Word.  He gives us sinners ears to hear.

But keep in mind that God does not just cast the seed of the Gospel into your ears one time and then abandon you.  Heaven’s no!  God – the Holy Spirit – has called and gathered you and me, placed us in this Christian church, and promises to keep us with Jesus Christ.  And as we are kept in the one true faith in Christ’s Church, we are daily and richly forgiven of all of our sins.  From the church, the seed of the Gospel is generously cast into our ears, minds, and hearts week after week after week, despite the attempts of the devil.  From Christ’s church, you are reminded of your baptism, despite the scorching trials of life.  From Christ’s church, you are given the body and blood of Jesus so that your faith may be strengthened, despite the thorns and weeds of the world.   From Christ’s church, you are made into hearers and receivers of God’s gifts until the Last Day when we are raised from the dead and given eternal life.

Baptized Saints, the Word comes forth from this church, from the liturgy, from this pulpit, and from this Holy Table, so that you may embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life that Jesus has given to you! 

You, who have ears, you have heard and received the seed of the Gospel today.  You, who have ears, continue to hear the Word of God, holding it with steadfast faith.  Never stop hearing because the Lord never stops casting the seed of the Gospel into your ears.  The Gospel is meant to be heard by you!  It is meant to grant you forgiveness, life, and salvation.

You, who have ears, hear!

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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