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Luther Quotes for Sexagesima – Luke 8:4-15

by pastorjuhl ~ February 3rd, 2010

Luther’s House Postil for Sexagesima is one of his best. Here are a few quotes to stir your heart and mind for sowing the Seed.

Let each of us examine his own heart and determine to which class he belongs. The first three classes of disciples hear the Word without being benefited or bearing any fruit. But particularly troubling are those who belong to the first class. “Those by the way side are they that hear,” says the Lord, “then cometh the devil and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe, and be saved.” Mark these words well.

I never would have dared to presume that the hearts of those who hear the Word and yet pay it no heed, ignore it, and give it no further thought, were possessed of the devil….Here we have the verdict upon people – young and old – who hear the Word preached and walk away as thought they had never heard it, with no intention of giving it heed. These people cannot say that they have the Holy Spirit; they are the devil’s own. He is their master.

The devils, Christ says, who are always around, take the Word from their hearts so that they do not espouse it; they are of the opinion that nothing much is lost when they let the Word in one ear and out the other. But if we want to know what that loss is, then listen to what Christ has to say, for his judgment is better than that of the world, and he states that it is the devil who instigates this. When, therefore, you meet such a person, or you yourself are no more responsive to preaching than a log…you may conclude that none other but the devil is in control of their hearts.

Consequently, the Lord admonishes us earnestly (as St. Matthew writes): Take heed therefore how ye hear: “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given…whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath” (Matthew 13:12). By such Word, Christ gives us to understand that he is not talking about ordinary things but about the Word of God; those who have it in their hearts will be saved and those who do not have it will be damned. A person should, therefore, be steadfastly devoted to it and not trifle with it as though it were an indifferent thing. It is not a trivial matter. It does no good for a person to think he would like to become interested for a while, thinking to himself, I shall study and believe God’s Word after I’ve tried other options and have accumulated all other things that I consider important. Take care; do not deceive yourself.

A preacher serves the church to a greater degree than a workman who devotes himself only to his domestic affairs. And yet both are Christians, redeemed from sin and death through Christ and heirs of eternal life. May we be found in this class, despite it being the smallest.

However, to this, as Christ says, we must add a good and honest heart, that is, a heart which, in the first place, is not listless but really intent on the Word of God. Such a heart must, above all else, have fidelity, if the devil is not to come and snatch the Word away. Second, the heart must be firm and steadfast, not weak and timid, allowing itself neither to be led astray and become frightened, nor swayed by people’s favor or disfavor. For if we do not fear and love God above all else, his Word will not continue long, since it is constantly being assailed. The devil can neither endure nor tolerate it. He is a taskmaster who never lets up, forever and ever driving his servants, never allowing them to be idle, as we see things going on all the time among the papists. Third, the heart must be purged and swept clean so that no thorns remain in it, that is, we must no longer love possessions, money, fame, and pleasures more than God’s Word and the life which is to come, nor be more concerned with secular affairs than with God’s Word, as Christ says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

To be sure, trial and tribulation, adversity and temptation will not be lacking, as St. Paul says (2 Timothy 3:12): “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” May we be ready to meet such eventuality and, as Christ says, possess our souls in patience, and in the meantime take recourse in prayer. For it never fails, we must confess, that we are, unfortunately, assaulted on all sides, with no letup in sight.

We need to be on guard against the weaknesses and infirmities in our nature, against succumbing to false security, but petitioning God for his Holy Spirit…to remove such obstacles, to sweep out those thorns and thistles from our hearts, so that we can continue to hear and retain God’s Word, and bring forth the good fruit, by faith in Christ, through which faith we not only live in obedience to god but also become God’s children and heirs. The main reason this seed is sown, that is, that the Gospel is proclaimed in all the world, is to create and work fruit in us which endures into eternity.

Now, then, this parable also tells us not to be surprised if we see that the Word does not bring forth fruit in every case. For we learn that it is the Lord himself who sets up four divisions of which only one, the smallest group, is truly upright. The other three classes are actually worthless; we must let them go and not become disturbed when we see that there are more who despise than accept the Word. It is in the nature of the Gospel that wherever it is preached, there three types of unworthy hearers appear, while the fourth is good and upright. And yet the fault lies not with the Word nor with the one who preaches, as the blind papists charge, like the ranting crazies that they are. They think they can defame us and make our gospel all the more offensive by charging us with the offenses the devil has stirred up ever since the gospel first was proclaimed. In evidence thereof, isn’t it so that when Christ himself, along with John and his apostles, preached, weren’t there also great offenses and weren’t great sins committed?

We want to let the matter involving our doctrine rest without apologizing for why we hold to it and why we will not be driven from it. We simply call attention to the words of our dear Lord Jesus, who says that the seed is the Word. Now, there is not a single papist so senseless and foolish who would dare say that the Word about which Christ is speaking here is an evil word or is false teaching. What, however, does Christ say about the good, pure seed? What does he explain? That only a fourth of it takes root and bears fruit! Who then can deny that the world is evil, even though the Word and its preaching are upright and good, and that they will bear fruit?

Christ’s Word plainly states that only a fourth part of the seed bears fruit, and  his own experience (to say nothing of John’s and the apostles’ experience) exhibits the fact that not everyone was ready to believe and accept the Word. The majority of the people are and remain evil and without fruit; only a limited number, a fraction, repent and come to faith.

Therefore, to fault the doctrine and say that it is no good, amounts also to saying that the seed which falls by the wayside, on the rocks, and among the thorns is also not good. But we must turn this around and not blaspheme God. His Word is the seed which is being sown. This Word in truth is pure and good, and by its very nature can do nothing but bear fruit. The fact, however, that it does not bear fruit everywhere is not the fault of God and his Word but the fault of the soil which is not good, and in which, as a result, the seed must remain unproductive and decay.

For the blame does not lie with the Word but with people’s hearts. They are unclean and impure, and either despise the Word or fall away from it under duress, or are choked by the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life. So, let everyone learn from this parable that it will always be this way with the gospel: some will be converted but there are probably three times more who will take offense.

Listen to God’s Word while you have it; the time may come when you would like to hear it, but it may not be there for you. Therefore, give ear to it diligently while you have it. For he who despises it is overcome by darkness (John 12:35).

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