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Luke

Mirror Images

Luke 8:1 -- 18

Once during his stay in England, Mark Twain received a letter: “I have had the privilege of seeing you in the street and I was stunned by the amazing likeness between the two of us. To corroborate this I’m sending you my photograph.” The name and address of the sender being on the envelope, Mark Twain expedited a reply. “You are right,” he wrote, “you look more like me than I do, thank you ever so much.  I’ve put your photograph on my bedside table and use it as a mirror each time I shave my face…”

This lesson will present four us four images in the mirror. Look at the pictures, and see which one most closely resembles you.

Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means. When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: "The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air ate it up. "Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. "Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out. "Other seed fell into the good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As He said these things, He would call out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND. "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. "Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. "Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. "Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. "For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. "So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."

(Luke 8:1-18 NASB)

Though this might be familiar ground (pun intended) for most, we must look at the point Christ is making here. It is convenient to divide things into the four types of soil described – but important to take each type and divide it into things internal and things external.

The Soils

The seed on the path

What does this person look like on the outside? It’s rather simple; there is no response to the Gospel. What surprises us sometimes is that the very memory of the word of God does not stay with them. Satan, of course, does his best to remove such memory, but the main thing we see from the outside is this: the word is “trodden underfoot.” You can’t walk on something without being in a position to look down on it; that’s the attitude you get. It is a hard, cynical attitude; like the bumper sticker that said, “Close your Bible and open your mind.” The word is something that is trash under their feet.

The inside is not hard to guess: the hard hearted, looking out for number one type – though if their pride is appealed to, they’re certainly willing to give their fair share. For these people I have a simple warning: God is no fool. He knows you. If I might extend Christ’s parable just a bit, if God wants one of these, he knows he must plow the ground first. God will plow up some like this so that they will receive the word. The plowing is painful, often tragic – but for some it takes something like this before they will listen.

The seed in the rocks

We now come to one who may indeed appear to be a Christian. They grow and blossom; the church around them begins to see some results. It appears that all is going well. Indeed, it appears that they are on fire for Christ. But wait; it is all temporary. You find them afterwards and they’ll tell you that “they did the church thing once.” It’s just a phase.

The inside of such is rather simple: no roots. With no roots, no moisture – the Living Water does not really reach them. (Think of cut flowers; beautiful for a few days, but doomed). What happens? Temptation. Something else comes along; they must decide between it and Christ – and the new always seems more interesting. Most today would not even use the word temptation; it’s the “next thing.” Sometimes the temptation comes through suffering; more often it comes through advertising, in one way or another. These are the ones who go from Zen to EST to exercise. They arrived quickly; they faded quickly.

The seed in the thorns

It is a sad fact, but the bulk of American Christianity fits into this category. Notice that the thorns “grew up with” the word. The thorns are competing with the word for space in their lives. The weeds are winning:

  • There are the worries. Despite Christ’s command to the contrary, everything must receive its share of worries. Now, if you are worrying constantly, you obviously are not trusting Christ. Here’s a test for you: what do you say when your Christian friends quote “take no thought for the morrow?” If your reaction is, “They just don’t understand,” then you don’t understand. The worries have you. Give them up to God; he’s going to be up all night anyway.
  • There are the riches. Riches are a good servant – but a poor master. They need constant attention. If your life is devoted to them, the word gradually falls away – from disuse. Two masters? Not going to happen.
  • Strangely, the last weed, pleasures, is often ignored. But how often have you heard someone say that the reason they haven’t been in church for a month is that last week they were camping at the river, the week before that they were on vacation in Hawaii, and so on? None of these are, in themselves, sinful. When they come first, Christ leaves.
The Good Soil

This is relatively straight forward. You can see these Christians from the outside from two simple characteristics:

  • They are the ones producing. Their impact on other lives – whether teacher, preacher or not – consistently is there. Christ prunes the fruit of such Christians, but they just keep on producing it. Note one thing: this is not “super Christian.” It takes no superhuman effort; it takes only the Holy Spirit within. God uses them; they are his body on earth.
  • They produce their fruit with perseverance. They are not temporary Christians but lifelong learners and doers. Even if their work must be left to the next generation, they persevere.

The inside of such Christians is simple too:

  • They have an honest heart. What you see is what they are. There is no thought of keeping up appearances; they would agree with Popeye the Sailor: “I am what I am.”
  • They have a good heart. Take it how you like, these are people who rejoice when righteousness triumphs, when mercy is shown, when charity blooms.
  • They “hold fast.” Having grasped the one important thing in life, they do not let go. The kingdom of heaven is like a pearl of great price; the main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing. If I may mix my metaphors.
God’s Method

You might wonder why we include those last four verses. It’s simple. We’ve talked about inside and outside the Christian. What you need to know is that the inside is going to be made plain and apparent. The laundry will be aired eventually, dirty or not. God will make it plain, if only on the day of judgment (and usually a lot sooner than that.)

So it is that Christ warns us to take care how we listen. Listen? One more time through the soils:

  • On the path? Not listening.
  • In the rocks? Listening – but not too long and not too well.
  • In the weeds? Listening – but worry, riches and pleasure are listened to even more.
  • In the good soil? Listening to Christ, and Him alone.

The inside determines the outside. So I ask you these questions:

  • What does your outside look like? No growth” Flash in the soil? Somewhere in the weeds?
  • Who is your inside listening to?

The answers to these will be clear some day. But then it will be too late to change your answer.

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