This is Robbie Dilmore from The Christian Car Guy and Kingdom Pursuit, where we hear how God takes your passion and uses it to build a kingdom. Your chosen Truth Network Podcast is starting in just a few seconds. Enjoy it and share it. But most of all, thank you for listening and for choosing the Truth Podcast Network.
This is the Truth Network. Do you feel like you're on a religious treadmill? Do you feel like Christianity is just a system of rules and regulations?
I can do this, but I can't do that. Do you feel like your efforts to reach God, find God, and please God are futile? Do you feel like your faith is dead or alive? Today, Pastor Russ Andrews will walk us through Scripture to answer these questions. Join us on Finding Purpose, glorifying God by helping men find their purpose for living. For more information and to connect with Russ Andrews and Finding Purpose, you can visit us online at findingpurpose.net or connect with us on Facebook. Now let's listen to Russ Andrews as he teaches us how to be a Christian without being religious.
Today's episode features guest speaker, Professor Jim Briggs, Associate Director of Finding Purpose. They have the effect of blinding eyes and deafening ears and hardening hearts. Now, you all know this. You've heard this many times. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly message. Sometimes it can be said it's a story with a sting in the tail. Jesus uses a straightforward story here, using very familiar ideas and imagery.
The story itself is not really all that complicated, but its meaning and purpose is a little less clear. Thankfully, Jesus provides his disciples with a clear interpretation, and he explains for them and for us the various responses people had to the message. Now, as we read this parable, we discover that the sower is actually an evangelist. This is the one who is spreading the gospel, spreading the word. The seed is the word of God.
And I think it's interesting that although Jesus calls this the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, it's interesting that he makes no effort to describe the sower. There are no adjectives. There's no descriptive words. He doesn't say what he's wearing. He doesn't say anything about the bag.
He doesn't say anything about his technique. He doesn't say anything about his methods for seeding the field. It's just the sower. The sower simply scatters seed across the field, hoping that his work will yield a harvest. Some seeds land on a path. Some land on rocky ground, and some land among the thorns. But some will find the good soil.
Some seed is in the good soil. This picture here is of God's word as it hits a receptive heart. This is a picture of an evangelist, though, going about declaring the word of God with little discrimination, hopeful of a harvest of souls. Now, from another parable, Mark 4, 27 through 29, it's clear that the sower actually has little control over his crops at all. It says that he sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows.
And he knows not how. Paul picks up this same idea in 1 Corinthians 3, 6 through 7. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. Now, neither he who plants or he who waters is anything, but God who gives the growth.
He's the only one who gives the growth. The point is that the crop's success depends on God, not the sower. The sower casts the seed.
The evangelist proclaims the good news. God gives the growth. Well, like the sower, the seed is constant in this parable. Jesus says nothing about a special hybrid or genetically modified seed manipulated for a greater harvest.
God's Word doesn't need to be altered in any way to be effective. What is true about the seed, though, is that it's only useful when it's planted. Also, like the seed, the Word of God is packed with power. You ever thought about how much power is in a little seed? You plant that seed and the big plant comes up.
If it's an acorn, I mean, you've seen the results of the acorn here in the city of Oaks. Paul says, it is the power, the seed is the power for salvation to everyone who believes. That's Romans 1 16. And in 1 Corinthians 1 18, he says, to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.
But to unlock this power, it must be implanted. And the result is determined on the condition of the soils. So we've seen the sower, we've seen the seed, now let's take a look at the soils.
Since the sower and the seed do not change in this parable, the only variable is the type of soil onto which the seed falls. And four soil types represent the conditions of the hearts of those who are in the crowd listening to Jesus speak. Jesus gives us a soil analysis to help us determine which type of soil will produce the healthy and fruitful crop. I don't know if you know this, but if you're a gardener or if you just want to know these kinds of things, you can actually send off to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture for a soil test. They'll take a look at it and then they'll send you your results and they'll tell you what needs to be done to your soil so that it might sustain healthy plants.
Well, Jesus is kind of doing the same thing here. He's given us this soil analysis and I want to briefly look at each sample to see if we recognize some of the characteristics maybe in our own hearts tonight. So, the first soil. Now, the fields in Jesus' day were not fenced in. They were often very long fields and they were surrounded and divided from each other by walking paths.
And these paths were well traveled and they were baked every day in the hot sun. And over time, the soil became really compacted, hard packed, and baked by the sun. And the seed, when it was cast by the sower, would bounce off the surface of this soil.
It would just rest there, exposed to the elements. And then it was trampled on by feet and, as we read, eaten by birds. Now, this soil represents a person with a stone-hard heart who hears the Word of God but is completely resistant to it. The Word of God just bounces right off of him. Sin and unbelief has made his heart solid, stone, and unreceptive to God's truth. So he shows no sorrow for his sin, he shows no repentance, and he shows no fear of God. And this person, it says, the Gospel is completely veiled to him because in 2 Corinthians 4, and you know this passage well, the God of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers. And he does that to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. This person's heart is at the mercy of Satan, and Jesus says in verse 12, the devil comes and takes away the Word from their hearts so that they may not believe and be saved. This person listens to the Word. They may even come to church.
In fact, if you're one of those people here, welcome, it's great to have you here. They listen to the Word, but they're completely indifferent to it. Even what they receive is quickly snatched away. Well, that's the first soil. The second soil describes a shallow heart.
Throughout Israel, there is a limestone that runs under much of Israel, and it's under a thin, typically a thin layer of soil. And as the seed lands on this particular type of soil, sometimes maybe a few inches if not an inch deep, it will root, but there's no room for the roots to grow downward. It comes in contact with this hard, hard rock. The only thing the plant can do is grow upward, and so it quickly grows upward. It leafs out. It's green. It's leafy.
It looks healthy. But with shallow roots, when the moisture evaporates in the heat of the sun, the plant withers and dies without producing any fruit. This soil illustrates the shallow-hearted person who responds to the Word immediately, perhaps even joyfully, but only superficially. He may, in verse 13 it says, he may believe for a while, but in time of testing, in times of trials, he'll fall away. This person has all the outward appearance, just like that plant.
Big leaves, green, looking healthy. They have all the outward appearances of a true believer. But when trials arise, it becomes apparent that his faith is merely superficial. Jesus says in John 8.31, If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine. So if he's fallen away, that shows that he's not a true disciple. A person's initial response to the Word of God ultimately doesn't matter if his faith is not rooted in Christ.
When trials find him, he falls away, having never truly believed in the first place. Well, the seed may also land in the thorns, in the third soil. So we've seen the first two soils, the hard soil, the shallow soil, this third soil. This third soil actually looks pretty good. It's deep, it's habitable soil, and the seed quickly takes root and grows.
However, there's a problem. The bigger thorny plants block out the sun, and their roots rob this young plant of all the moisture and nutrients in the soil. The plant is choked out by its prickly neighbors, and it's left fruitless. The third soil represents the person who receives the Word, but his heart is so preoccupied with, as verse 14 says, the cares and the riches and the pleasures of life, that the Word is actually strangled to death. Now, Jesus describes in that verse three things that choke out the Word, the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of life.
These things preoccupy all of our minds from time to time. But what Jesus wants to put his finger on here is the fact that if they take the place of God, then they'll strangle anything that we believe, anything that we have been drawn to. These things preoccupy the mind of the heart of the person, crowding out the very truth of God's Word. Luke, in chapter 18, gives a great example of a person just like this.
The example that he gives there is the rich young ruler. Remember, he came seeking eternal life from Jesus. He has this remarkable encounter with Jesus. He's all in. He appears all in. He's heard the things that Jesus has to say, and he says, I want to be a follower of you.
Tell me what I have to do. But then he's unwilling to leave his riches behind. His mind, his heart are preoccupied with the things of this world.
This person makes a profession of faith, and for a time, even seems to be growing spiritually. However, something else comes along and draws attention away. This could be a new relationship. It could be a favorite pastime.
Perhaps it's a favorite getaway spot, a new career. It could be something that you're really struggling with, finances, relationship problems, how you're going to make payments on the house or the car, your kids trying to get into the right college. Those are all things that we deal with, that our minds focus on from time to time. Now, the things of God, when our minds are preoccupied, over time, they start to become a little less interesting, a little less important. This person stops making time for God. He stops making time for studying the Bible.
He no longer has time for a quiet time. His church attendance starts to slack off, and his prayer life fades away. John writes in 1 John 2, 15, Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. As we love the things of the world, the love that we have, if we had any for the Father, fades away. To be clear, material wealth is not inherently evil, nor is pleasure, for that matter.
However, it is evil if the things of this world take the place of God in our lives. Now, did you notice the one thing in the stony heart and the shallow heart and the strangled heart, the one thing that they all have in common? They are all unfruitful. All three soil types represent an unbelieving heart. One of the marks of a true disciple of Jesus is that he is fruitful.
And so this question comes up all the time. Well, there are a lot of things about those soils that sometimes I feel like I'm in that camp. Well, the real question is, is there any fruit in your life?
We have tendencies to go back, but the real question is, how are you moving forward? And so Jesus says in John 15, 8, This is my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples. So if you are a follower of Christ, there should be evidence of fruit. So we've seen the first three soils. Now the last soil, the good soil, it's neither stony, it's not shallow, it's not spoiled by thorny weeds.
When the seed falls on this well-cultivated and well-properly prepared soil, it flourishes and it produces an astounding crop, 100 times more than what was sown. This soil, it symbolizes the person who comes with a soft heart that receives the Word, and according to verse 15, holds it fast in an honest and goodness heart to bear fruit with patience, or in other words, perseverance. This person, his heart is open. It's receptive to the Gospel. Moreover, he seeks to understand it.
He seeks to want to put it into practice. This person is not just a hearer of the Word. This person is a doer of the Word. And he lives out his faith, and as he lives it out, he begins to produce spiritual fruit. Now, every true disciple, according to the Bible, will consistently bear the fruits of the Spirit in his life. Listen, there are no fruitful Christians.
So, and this is probably a good thing to check out. We should all be, at some point, not just soil inspectors, but also fruit inspectors, taking a look at our lives and say, is there any fruit in my life? You know, it's interesting, in Mark and Matthew's account, it tells us that not all Christians are equally fruitful.
Remember, it says that some produce 30 fold, some 60 fold, and some 100 fold. So there are different amounts of fruit. The key is not the amount of fruit.
It's only that it's evident. And spiritual fruit should be obvious in the life of you and me. Fruitlessness is only power, fruitfulness rather, is only possible in the soft and receptive heart.
Only in a well cultivated, a well prepared heart, that receives the implanted Word of God. But here's the problem. Here's the problem. This is something we can't do ourselves. We can't dig up our own soil. We can't amend the soil.
We can't add to it. We can't do anything about the soil because the Bible tells us that our hearts are naturally stubborn. They're hard, they're shallow, and they're strangled by sin. Jeremiah 17, 9 says, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it? Who can understand it? We're helpless to do anything about our hard and sick hearts.
But here's the good news. God alone plows and prepares the heart to receive His Word. That shows that we are utterly dependent on Him to do the work in our hearts to make them soft and receptive and fruitful. Well, we've seen the soil, we've seen the sower, we've seen the seed.
Now I want to look at the product. What comes as a result of this, and we've talked about it already, this fruit. Jesus follows this parable though with another parable that helps maybe help us to understand a little bit what does this fruit look like played out. He shows us that it's crucially important to listen. Again, verses 16 through 18, He begins, Consider carefully how we approach God's Word, whether we listen to a sermon, whether we read Christian books, whether we read the Bible, whether we attend discussion groups, whether we meet people in coffee shops, we need to be careful about how we approach God's Word.
In this parable, the second parable, agricultural imagery is now replaced with that of an oil lamp that shines a bright light. Light helps us to see what was once hidden in the darkness, and it would be foolish, wouldn't it, to hide the light that we've been given under our bed or under a cooking pot. That's what we do when we hear God's Word and then we put it away for later. We hide it sometimes in our workplaces or maybe even in a family gathering or with our neighbor. We hide it because we know it's going to lead to difficult questions and conversations. We're going to be put on the spot. We may even be rejected as a result. So we hide it.
We put it under a jar or a cooking pot. But listen, God's Word must live in our hearts. It's not supposed to stay locked up in our minds. When we come and we listen to God's Word, there are a lot of people that will come and listen and they just hold on to it. They think about it.
They carry it around. It's personal to me. My relationship with God is very personal to me.
I'm going to lock it away. But there must be evidence in our lives that the Word has changed our lives. It's not enough to hear the Word. We must obey it.
We must live it out. And perhaps this is why that the women are mentioned at the start of this passage. Hearing God's Word had changed them.
Did you see that? So we see these women, Mary, and we see Joanna, and we see Susanna, all mentioned by name. And it says that they supported them, provided for them, that's Jesus and the disciples, out of their own means. They gave sacrificially. They ministered. They were living out what they had heard. They had this encounter with Jesus and their lives reflected that.
Their lives shone with the love of Christ. And so the parable of the soils reminds us that these responses of people as they hear the Word vary according to the condition of their hearts. Sometimes the seed is going to fall on stony, shallow, or thorny ground. And when we share faith with others, we can take heart, can't we? That it's really not up to us. There's nothing wrong with the seed that we give as long as we give God's Word as God's Word. We don't need to alter it.
We don't need to give a hybrid. We just present it. We just give God's Word.
And we can rest easy knowing that the result isn't dependent on our style or our methods. If we faithfully sow the seed, we can expect that some of it, some of it, will take root in the good soil and be very fruitful. Now, as a hearer of the Word, how would you describe your heart tonight? Would you describe your heart as soft and responsive to the Word? You know, honestly, there are times when I find my heart a little resistant to the Word. There are times when I feel a little weak in the face of hardship. There are times when I get distracted by the things of this world. My heart cries out to Him to turn over the soil in my heart, to restore it, to amend it, and to drive me deeper into my faith.
What about you? Listen. Today, if you hear His voice, if you hear His voice, you know that your heart is still soft enough to receive His Word. Today, if you hear His voice, you know your heart is still soft enough. If you find yourself resistant to the Word, or if you find the fact that you're chasing after the things of this world, you too can cry out to Him to do some more work in your heart. The good news is, He's already started that thing.
And you can always go back to Him and ask Him to continue. If there's little evidence of fruit in your life, why not ask the Lord of the harvest to implant His Word in your heart and to make it fruitful? Before I finish, I want you to put on your listening ears one more time. One more time. Here is a warning from the author of Hebrews.
I've already hinted at it. Hebrews 3.15. Listen. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.
Let's pray. Father God, as we reflect on Your Word, as we reflect on what we've learned this week, first of all, thank You. Thank You that You are a God who speaks. Thank You that You have sent Your Son to speak directly to us.
Thank You that You've given us Your Spirit that continues to communicate with us and that allows us to speak with You. Father, we thank You that You have already done a work for many of us in this room, hopefully all of us. But Father, I do pray for a man here tonight. If he's here and he's still not sure, if he's been resistant to Your Word, I just pray that You would continue to work in his heart. Help him to see the terrible reality of rejecting Your Word.
And help him to see also the remarkably joyful good, good news that Jesus has come to take care of him, has come to do what needs to be done to restore his heart, to restore the relationship with You, and to keep him from facing Your judgment head on. Father, we thank You that You have done Your work here tonight. We pray for our discussion groups now. We ask that You would help us as we listen, to truly listen, to put on our listening ears, Father, that we want to really hear. We want to understand Your Word. We want to grasp Your Word. We want to live out Your Word.
We want to be not just hearers of the Word, but doers of the Word. We know that only You can help us do that, and so we ask You to do it. Father, help us also as we leave, that we might remember how dark this world is and that we would not be tempted to hide the light that we've been given so that it might not be seen, but to share it with others as sowers to go and cast indiscriminately and broadly with the idea, with the knowledge, Father, that the seed is good, and the seed is powerful, and the seed is effective. And Father, You will do the work. You will do the work that needs to be done. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. for you to join Him and over 300 other local men to study God's Word together every Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in downtown Raleigh. Find out more at findingpurpose.net.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-23 12:59:48 / 2023-04-23 13:09:49 / 10