Getting Good Reception
June 25, 2023

Parables to Live By

“Getting Good Reception”

Luke 8:14-15

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We’re beginning a new series entitled, “Parables to Live By.” For this series we’ll be looking at the parables Jesus taught as brought out in the Gospel of Luke.

Today, we’ll be looking at one of the best known of all the Parables, “The Parable of the Sower,” which I am entitling, “Getting Good Reception.”

Back in 2002, Verizon began a marketing campaign they entitled, “Test Man.” It showed a guy having a cell phone to his ear in all these various locations saying, “Can you hear me now?” And it became the catchphrase, not only for Verizon, but it took off like wildfire across America.

It was a phrase that all cell phone users, not only back then, but today as well, can relate to as we desperately try to find a place that will transmit our conversation.

But I think that the phrase, “Can You Hear Me Now?” also relays what the Lord is trying to get across as He tries to get through to all of us. Jesus said it like this, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9; Luke 8:8) And then to several of the churches of Revelation He said, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Revelation 2:17, 29; 3:22)

This then got me thinking about how well we hear. My daughter, Danielle, when she was young always had problems hearing, but we didn’t know it at the time. We just through it was cute how she would say a word and it would have a sort of odd sound to it, like balloon was “a boo.”

When we took her to the doctors, he found a blockage in her ears, and he inserted some tubing to keep the opening from closing and fusing together. When we asked the doctor how she was able to hear, he said she was hearing as if she were under water. And I wondered, “Is this the way we hear God,” that is, since we are under sin, do we hear a distorted message?

Now, as Danielle was growing up, I realize that her hearing was fine, even though whenever I said some things, she would just ignore me, as if she didn’t hear. But she could hear just fine. The problem wasn’t with her physical hearing, but what we call today as “selective hearing.” She selected to tune me out because she didn’t like what I was saying.

When it comes to God and His word, we are either hearing a distorted message because we are under sin and Satan is distorting God’s message, or we are having selective hearing, that is, we don’t like what we’re hearing so we tune God out.

But this is not all, there is also when we get so busy that we kind of space out during our time with God thinking about something else. That is, we’re too busy with our own thoughts and plans for our lives that we don’t have time or take time to listen to God.

Now, to address this issue, Jesus used parables, that is short simple stories that the people could easily relate to and learn valuable lessons from, which is what we’ll be looking at today known as the parable of the Sower, as it addresses this very problem, and how people respond to the truth of God’s word.

Now, the parable or story isn’t really focused on the Sower, which is Jesus, nor on the seed, which is God’s word. Rather it emphasizes the types of soils that the seed falls upon. And so, I think a better title for this parable is “The Parable of the Soils.” And the soils represent a person’s heart.

This parable communicates a simple but very critical truth, and that is, “How we receive God’s word will determine how productive it will be in our lives.” This parable describes the level of effectiveness God’s word has upon our lives based upon the condition of our hearts.

So, let’s take a look at this story as written by Luke, starting in Luke chapter eight verse five.

“‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.’ When He had said these things He cried, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” (Luke 8:5-8 NKJV)

Or, “Can you hear me now?

Now, this is no ordinary story Jesus told. So important is this parable that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all record it. Further, it is only one of two parables that Jesus took the time to explain, giving us a model by which we can interpret His parables.

The story Jesus tells is one that would have easily resonated with his listeners. Israel was an agricultural society, and the fields around the Sea of Galilee were some of the most fertile in Israel. We could say that it was the bread basket of Israel. Now, when someone went out to plant their crops, they would carry the seeds in the fold of the outer garment and scatter the seed upon the tilled ground. But in the process, some of the seed fell on three other types of soils, all familiar to those listening.

But the disciples knew that Jesus meant more than merely explaining farming techniques; and seeing that this was the first time Jesus used parables, they wanted to know what it meant.

Then His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘What does this parable mean?’ And He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’” (Luke 8:9-10 NKJV)

Jesus basically questioned the people’s motives as to why they were there in the first place and were they really listening. Were they there to hear God’s word for their lives, or was it to get something from Jesus? So, Jesus was separating those who wanted to hear God’s word from those who were merely posing. He was saying that there will be those who will hear God’s word, but they will have no understanding, and it all has to do with the condition of a person’s heart, as Jesus goes on to explain.

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:11-15 NKJV)

Every person can find their place in this parable, and for most of us we fit into all four of these categories at certain junctures in our lives. And so, what Jesus is doing is challenging the disciples and all of us to ready ourselves to receive God’s word in hearts that are open to receive. And when we do, then we’ll live productive lives for the Kingdom of God

So, let’s look at each of these four soils and the four types of human responses to God’s word.

A Hardened Heart

The first condition is a heart that is hard, that is, it is a heart that is hardened to God’s word due to a lack of preparedness to receive it.

“The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.” (Luke 8:12 LB)

Jesus used unwelcoming and unproductive soil to describe those who are unprepared to receive God’s word. Like the seeds that fall on the hardened path, God’s message has no place to implant itself with a person’s heart that has grown cold and hard.

In my back yard, which I had to replace with fake grass and rock, there were just certain places that no matter what I’d do, the grass just wouldn’t grow. It was tilled and fertilized but the seed just wouldn’t take root, and it wouldn’t be long before a bevy of birds, would show up for a free meal.

Well, that’s what happens to a heart that is unprepared to receive God’s word. It just won’t take root, and the enemy of our souls, Satan, won’t let it sit long enough to give it a chance to sink in, just as Jesus said, “to preventthem from believing and being saved.”

Now, here’s where it gets a little dicey because there are a lot of people who look good, who look as if they believe. They are religious, they belong to a religious group and attend church religiously, but appearances can be deceiving. You see, a pathway is necessary to get the farmer around to the various fields, but these pathways produce nothing. Even though they see lots of action, and looks beneficial, it produces nothing and has no life.

There are many ways that people come to God’s word unprepared to receive.

  • First, lack of preparedness happens because they’re indifferent to the truth that is presented within the Bible. They say, “It’s just one of many books, and God speaks through other religions and their religious materials.” Or they say that the Bible has been rewritten and retranslated over time, so that it is no longer God’s word, but only promotes someone else’s religious agenda. And then there is the classic that says the Bible was written for another time and to another culture therefore it is no longer relevant for today.
  • Next, the lack of preparedness is because of our busy schedules. Our frantic pace hardens us. We rush into church, or into our time of reading God’s word, without preparing our hearts to receive what God wants to say. It’s where coming to church is only about doing our religious duty, or paying our get out of hell tax. And usually, we come thinking about what’s next after church is over, like the game on TV, or what’s we’re going to have for lunch.
  • Unpreparedness also comes from having a familiarity with God’s word and truths. Just like our message today. There are some that are listening that have heard this parable taught before, and on several occasions, and so we say, “Been there and heard that,” and so we tune out what is being said.
  • Our unpreparedness also stems from a lack of expectation. In other words, we come to church and to God’s word with our minds already made up before one thing is said, and if there is anything we may disagree with, we completely turn off everything that God is saying. In essence we’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

And while there is more, I think that this is representative of hearts that have been hardened through a lack of preparedness. But there is also something here that we shouldn’t overlook.

Notice that the pathway is hardened because it has been trampled upon. There are many who’ve had their lives trampled upon by circumstances and situations where they’ve become hardened to God’s word and the message of hope contained within. They want hope, but their hearts have been trampled through abuse, addictions, divorce, betrayal, financial disaster, and illness, and they’re afraid of making any kind of move or commitment. And so, when God’s word of promise comes there’s no place for it to take root and grow.

A Superficial Heart

The second type of soil is rocky soil. It describes a heart that receives God’s word, but there’s no depth of heart. That is, the heart has been so given over to emotionalism that it acts upon the emotion rather than the truth.

“The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.” (Luke 8:13 TLT)

There was this young couple who were madly in love and had been dating for some time. Finally, the young man asked this vision of loveliness to marry him, and she enthusiastically said yes. They went to premarital counseling and planned and prepared for this special day.

However, a few weeks before the wedding, the soon to be husband stopped by to visit his true love unexpectedly. Now, he didn’t find her in the arms of another, but rather he found her in curlers and without makeup. Upon gaining his composure he called off the wedding blessed that he discovered this fatal flaw. This you might call a superficial heart.

There really isn’t anything wrong with emotionalism, but emotions aren’t enough to build and sustain a relationship. To stand during the storms of adversity, a more substantial foundation must be developed through our trust and belief in the Lord.

It is this same problem that Jesus is pointing out here with those who receive God’s word with joy, but don’t take the time to put down their roots into the faith and become a disciple. They don’t go below the rocky soil, below the emotions. The initial response to hearing God’s truth is excitement and enthusiasm, but it doesn’t go down deep into their hearts. And so, when life interrupts with its trials and tribulations, they leave for what seems to be greener pastures.

For faith to work, there must be both an intellectual connection developed along with an emotional one, or else the joy will be short lived. Jesus tells us this in the Great Commandment, and that is to love the Lord God with the whole of our being, this includes our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

So, what are some of the rocks that prevent the word from going down deep in our hearts.

  • First there are failed expectations, that is, when God doesn’t meet our expectations of how we think our lives should be, or when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want Him too. A loved one dies, a sickness isn’t healed, we lose our jobs, our marriage fails, our bills pile up, our children are out of control, or any number of things.
  • Another rock is a lack of spiritual discipline. We don’t want to put any work into our relationship with God. And so no biblical foundation is built, no spiritual muscle is developed, and soon our faith topples at the first sign of hardship.
  • Then there’s a stubbornness on our part to give up certain things or areas in our lives that are against God’s word, and that will stunt our growth. In other words, there is an unwillingness to give up that which we know is sin.

If we’re ever going to allow God’s word to go deep into our hearts to produce a life of fruitfulness, then we have to get beyond the emotions and allow the truth of God’s word to be established firmly in our minds and in our hearts to produce real and lasting change.

A Worried Heart

The third soil is full of weeds and thorn bushes. A worried heart is a heart that is filled with distractions.

“The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” (Luke 8:14 NLT)

Jesus equates this thorny ground to the cares, riches, and pleasures of this world. And it is these that choke out the truth of God’s word. Now, this is not a quick erosion of God’s word, but rather it’s something that happens over time.

I always picture a garden that is well tended. The bushes are pruned back, and the weeds are pulled and the garden overflows with both fruit and flowers, but then I picture a garden where the bushes grow wild and the weeds overrun it, there are little or no flowers, and that’s because the weeds are sucking most of the moisture out of the ground before they can get to the plant’s roots. So, the plants suffer. They don’t produce any fruit, or as Jesus says, “They never grow into maturity.”

What this doesn’t say, however, is that the plant dies, although one can get that impression from the word, “choked.” But if you do any gardening whatsoever, what you will find is that once the weeds are pulled, the garden will start making a comeback. And it’s the same with our lives and with God’s word, that is, it isn’t allowed to grow into maturity because we have got all this other stuff growing up along with it, sucking the life giving nutrients of God’s word away from our lives.

What are some of these distractions that crowd and choke off God’s word?

  • It begins when God’s truth, God’s word, is just one of many loyalties, interests, and passions that we hold onto in life. It should never be a slice of the whole, but the whole, our everything.
  • Or it may be that we accept other things as equal to God’s word without making differentiation, such as cultural norms, popular opinions, or the moral downfall of God’s Biblical standards for living.
  • Then there is the amount of attention we give to such things as entertainment, hobbies, advancements, investments, or even our health, over that of strengthening our relationship with God through listening, reading, and studying His word. I know some who workout for one to two hours a day, but don’t spend a single minute in God’s word strengthening their soul and spirit. 1 Timothy 4:8 says the physical exercise, profits little, but godliness is valuable in every way.

Up to this point, Jesus has described what keeps us from fully receiving God’s word, what keeps our antenna from being fully extended towards God, but the good thing is that He doesn’t leave us there. He tells us what it’s going to take to be fully receptive and open to God’s word.

An Open and Receptive Heart

“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15 NKJV)

How are we to have an open and receptive heart to produce such wonderful results?

1.  A Noble and Good Heart

The word, “noble,” means to be free from defects. The word “good” speaks to those things that are right and thus beneficial. What Jesus is saying is that those who are receptive hearers of God’s word have a character that is pure, who follow what is right.

But if our character is impure, morally corrupt, and defective, then the ground of our hearts is not prepared to receive the seed of God’s word.

The Apostle James says, “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21 NKJV)

Now, to lay aside is the same word that the writer of Hebrews uses when he tells us to lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. This is a term of changing our clothes, but that violently. It is to tear them away. It is to strip off everything that hinders and contaminates our souls, because it’s stopping our growth and maturity in the Lord.

2. Retain God’s Word

Jesus said that we are to “keep it,” that is to retain God’s word in our minds and hearts. It means to hold fast and guard the truth of God’s word. The Psalmist calls God’s word a treasure, and what is the natural response to finding such a treasure is to zealously guard it.

“I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.” (Psalm 119:162 NKJV)

In other places the Psalmist says that God’s word is so wonderful that it is something that his soul desires to keep. Therefore, what Jesus is saying is that if we are going to live productive lives, not only do we need to hear God’s word, but we need to retain it as well. And this is through taking time reading and meditating upon it throughout the day. Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word, O Lord, have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin againstyou

3. Willingness to Wait

This is how Jesus ends this section by saying, that we are then to “bear fruit with patience.”

We must be willing to wait, to hang in there at all costs and wait for the promises of God to materialize in our lives. Far too often we give up right before the blessing comes.

Jesus says, however, that if we are willing to wait willing to hang in there at all costs, then there will be a great blessing that follows, even up to a hundred times over.


So, who is ready to hear God? Jesus tells us that it is those who have a pure character, who won’t let go, and who are willing to wait.

For me, there is great power in this parable, because it has the power to jolt us out of our comfortable cruise-control existence, so that we can be the type of hearers of God’s word that Jesus desires for us to be. Where we, according to Jesus, “Go and do likewise.”

And the productiveness of our lives for the kingdom of God depends upon how we receive God’s word, so, let’s examine our hearts today and see what sort of hearers we are. Are we ready to hear what God has to say? Are we getting good reception? Are we receptive to God’s word? Don’t let there be any impairment in our hearing of God’s word that keeps us from living the type of productive lives that God has intended.

Is God saying, “Can you hear me now?” or is He saying, “Hey, it’s good talking with you today


Ending blessing:

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of your understanding would be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance really are, along with the exceeding greatness of His power toward you who believe, all in accordance to the working of His mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

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