ONE MORE THING:  HE WHO HAS EARS TO HEAR   

 BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

The current sermon series on the Parable of the Sower being taught by various young men in the church is important for a variety of reasons.  As Pastor Raphael has noted each week, this activity is giving very, very valuable experience in raising up future leaders for our church.  The choice of the parable is also significant, because Jesus is emphasizing a critically important truth for us as Christians — without ‘hearing’ there is no ‘growing.’  

In the parable in Matthew 13, the sower or farmer tosses his seeds as broadly as possible, and some falls on a path and is snatched away by birds, some lands on stony ground but never takes root and dies, some seeds get strangled by weeds and thorns and dies, and some falls on good soil and grows very well. 

Jesus was an expert in his ability to present profound truths in everyday metaphors, like farming.  In Jesus’ day, a gardener would be one who carefully prepares the soil and then plants each seed individually in place.  A farmer, on the other hand, chooses a field and then tosses his seeds about and knows that some will grow and some will not.  

In farming terminology, this was known as “broadcasting” because the farmer was casting his seeds as broadly as possible.  In the early days of radio, the promoters were seeking to find an appropriate term to describe the principle behind radio.  The signal from the station went out based on the power of the output range.  Theoretically, everyone could ‘hear’ it.  However, the signal needed the appropriate receiver and tuned to the right frequency n order to pick up that signal.  They borrowed the agricultural term “broadcast” to describe what the radio signal was doing. 

There is a lot of similarity to “broadcasting” in radio terms and what Jesus is describing here in the Parable of the Sower.  If I do not have a radio or if it is not turned on, then the sounds in the air are lost to me.  The gospel is a universal message, it is in the air all about us so to speak, but Paul said in Romans 10:14, “ How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”  This is yet another important reason why we should invite our friends, relatives, and neighbors to attend church.  They need to get the signal!  

Then, they need to get it tuned to the right station.  This is the gospel, pure and simple.  The ‘seed’ in the story is the imperishable living and abiding word of God that causes us to be repent and be born again (1 Peter 1:23).  We should never think of the seed without thinking of the one who is giving us that seed, the wonderfully good, great, gracious, and glorious sower in the story - Jesus Christ himself.  Christ died for sinners (that’s all of us) so that they might be saved by receiving and resting on Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the scriptures.  This good news - the gospel - is a gracious offering of salvation to all people (Titus 2:11), a “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3), not only displaying His glory but even sharing it with us (2 Thessalonians 2:14)!  

In keeping with the radio metaphor, there are some folks who unfortunately do not receive that message clearly because of some “static” in this signal.  This would be receiving a gospel that emphasizes health and wealth rather than salvation from sin, or implying some righteous works or efforts on our part rather than freely receiving the offer of the gift of grace through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.  At Citychurch, we believe we must jealously guard the truth of the gospel and preach it as Scripture proclaims it because to do otherwise is not only in error, it is dangerous.  Paul called those who falsely proclaim the gospel “accursed” (Galatians 1:8,9)! 

So, listen up, everybody!  Or as Jesus said it so often, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

WHY WE SHOULD NOT JUDGE    

 BLOG BY LARRY STOUT, ELDER  

This past Sunday Pastor Raphael shared on the subject of hospitality last Sunday, based on Romans 15:7 that says “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”  The principle that he was emphasizing was that we as a church should be demonstrating a culture of hospitality to all who visit the church because of the work of grace shown to us through the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

There are other implications that can be seen by this principle, for example, the importance of not judging another Christian.   There are two uses of the word used in Scripture.  One has the sense of “discernment” — being able to distinguish one thing from another.  I can ‘judge’ that a fruit is rotten by the taste and texture.  In 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, Paul writes, “But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Purge the evil person from among you.’”

In this passage, Paul is emphasizing that a person who is claiming to be a believer in Christ but their lifestyle is contrary to the life of faith — the church has the right to call them out and remove them from the fellowship of faith.  This is rarely practiced in the church, but that is the subject for another day.  This act has a redemptive purpose in that it confronts the individual with their hypocrisy to the faith, and also protects the church family itself.  

But the ultimate “judge” is God himself.  Jesus said in John 12:48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”  The book of Revelation describes the Great Judgment Seat where we will all stand, and we are all condemned in our sins.  We are all guilty!  It is only those who sins are covered by the blood of Christ who will be judged as forgiven and accepted into eternal life with God.  Those who refuse to accept the free gift of salvation will be judged as guilty in their own iniquities and will suffer eternal condemnation.  

It is in this context that we are told by Jesus to not judge others.  To take the place of a judge, determining if a person belongs to Christ or not, is to put yourself in an authority position that you do not have.  God and God alone is the judge.  

Which brings us back to the sense of hospitality mentioned by Paul in Romans 14 and 15.  The exact opposite of judging others would be accepting them.  The essence of the gospel is that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  As those who have received this grace, we should thus extend that same grace to others.  The reason is the reason we do everything — to give glory to God! 

Larry W. Stout, Ph.D., MBA, is an elder at City Church. Larry is a former missionary in the republic of Latvia.  He helped start several churches and was a founder and first director of the Baltic Reformed Theological Seminary in Riga. Larry is an author of three books on leadership and human resource management and two novels.  He also is currently a weekly columnist for Lycoming County’s largest circulation newspaper, the Webb Weekly, a Clinton Township Supervisor and a Leadership Consultant & Trainer.