Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Richmond Briefing

A weekly Bible reading for Bridge Builders

The Richmond Briefing has been a weekly feature of the Reachout web site for five years and is now available on the blog. To find out more and read earlier briefings go here

Reading – Consider How you Listen (Luke 8:4-56)

We often in our witnessing talk about planting a seed of truth in a person’s heart, expressing our trust and hope that that person will respond and be saved. In the parable of the sower Jesus shows how planting seeds is no guarantee of a positive response but that the sower nevertheless continues to sow and pray for a good crop. It is our responsibility to sow but there is also a responsibility placed on the person in whose heart we sow to listen and respond and, as we have often said, it is possible to want it for them more than they want it for themselves.

Jesus had spoken plainly enough in his ministry and had amply demonstrated his authority; seeds had been sown. However, there comes a time when a failure to respond to Jesus would result in a failure to understand, or even hear properly the message of the kingdom. Those who did respond however would hear, understand and grow. Jesus said:

“The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables so that,

‘though seeing, they may not see;

Though hearing, they may not understand’ (Lk.8:10 c.f. Is.6:9)

A person’s response to God is a sort of tipping point in either coming to a deeper knowledge of the things of God or increasingly failing to understand at all and this is illustrated in this chapter. Of course there is no excuse for not continuing in our witnessing and God’s grace is held out to people all day. However continued hesitation in responding is the same as rejection and ‘not yet’ is the same as ‘no’. Refusal to respond does not put a person in some sort of holding pattern around the church as they think about things but refusal risks the real danger of having the truth snatched away by the devil, by the trials of life and by the cares of this world.

These things should concern every Christian who cares for those around them and we should be clear about the person of Jesus, the message we bring and the seed we plant. Like Jesus we are to be a light to the world and light brings clarity and vision not vagaries and speculation. What are we offering people in our message?

Jesus said, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (Lk.8:21)

We are not offering a religious system to replace the one they might already have, nor a better list of regulations than the one they have so far failed to follow. We are offering a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that brings forgiveness and wholeness. Those who respond do not become academics, theologians, moralists or pious but family.

When Jesus calmed the storm (Lk.8:22-25) and delivered a man from possession (Lk.2:26-39) he demonstrated his power over nature and over demons and his willingness to deliver and save. The gospel is not simply an invitation to agree with a set of propositions and ideas but to a call to realise who Jesus is and to trust him.

When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter he demonstrated his power over death itself. When people respond to Jesus they are not simply coming to a mystic who will show them a better way to live but to a person who is the Lord of Life.

These are the things people are rejecting when they prevaricate over Jesus. Not fine points of philosophy or doctrine; not inconvenient changes in lifestyle, nor a better plan than the one they have but a relationship with the living God, whose mission is to bring healing and wholeness to a broken world and who is Lord of life. Listeners should, then, consider how they listen because they cannot afford to be careless about the things of God and Christians should be careful how we sow for the same reason.

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