I was a teaching a theology class this week, and I made a comment that Jesus didn’t just stand up and lecture on theology, a lot of the time, he just told made-up stories about farmers.
It sounds odd to say right?
But Jesus was this prolific teacher…but he tended to use a lot of illustrations about farming, because the people of the time could easily relate to them.
A good section of the Gospels (which are the 4 stories about Jesus) are what are called Parables.
Parables are fictional stories or depictions of everyday earthly life that illustrate a spiritual truth…and ask you to respond to that truth”
They’re like allegory in that they’re symbolic, although not every single detail is necessarily symbolic.
If you take our Mining God’s Word Theology class, we actually teach you about Parables and the different genres you can find within the Bible.
And this morning, as we continue “The Kingdom” series, we’re going to look at one of Jesus’ parables.
We’re actually going to do a number of parables this summer.
And they’re pretty fascinating to study.
Who doesn’t like a good story right?
So, let me bring you up to speed on where we are:
In our “The Kingdom” series, we are working our way through the Gospel of Matthew, a story of Jesus’ life.
We’ve seen his birth, the beginning of his public ministry, the calling of his disciples, some miracles, and last week some opposition with the Pharisees.
And now, we’re going to look more closely at some of Jesus’ teachings.
And where this particular parable comes in Matthew’s Gospel is kind of telling.
There are a ton of crowds following Jesus. We’re talking thousands here.
But, not really a ton of actual disciples at this time.
People who’ve dedicated their lives to follow him.
And it’s in that context that Jesus tells them his famous “parable of the sower.”
Before we read it, let me explain the main characters or symbols.
Jesus is the Sower (the farmer)
The Seed: It’s the Word of God. It’s God’s truth.
We’d call it the Gospel. The Good News.
That God sent his one and only son Jesus to earth to die on the cross for your sins, and if you believe in that and follow Jesus, you will be completely forgiven, given new life, and will spend eternity with Him.
Then, there are going to be FOUR soils. And the soils are different states of the human heart. How we respond to the Gospel.
We’re going to read it all at once first, and then break it down.
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I REALLY want you to have the Bible in front of you today.
I’m going to make a lot of references back to it, and you most assuredly are going to want to check back on it.
It’s helpful to learn this way.
We are visual learners. You will learn the Scriptures better if you do it this way.
Also, Jesus does something unique with this parable:
He tells it, and then a few verses later, he interprets it.
Which is unique. Lots of times he doesn’t give us a straight up interpretation.
So I’m going to skip around and connect the telling with the explanations.
Jesus is going to talk about a farmer sowing seeds into 4 different types of soil. Let’s take a look:
(Matthew 13:1-4) – NIV
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.
Now, let’s look at Jesus’ explanation of that seed that fell on the path:
(Matthew 13:18-19) – NIV
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.
Now, let’s go back to the 2nd type of soil
(Matthew 13:5-6) – NIV
Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.
And now Jesus’ explanation:
(Matthew 13:20-21) – NIV
20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Now, let’s go back to the 3rd type of soil:
(Matthew 13:7) – NIV
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
Now, what Jesus meant by that:
(Matthew 13:22) – NIV
22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
And finally, the 4th type of soil:
(Matthew 13:8) – NIV
8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
And Jesus’ explanation:
(Matthew 13:23) – NIV
23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
And as we talk through those 4 types of responses…4 types of soils…today..
I want you to do a soil test on your own heart.
Take a personal assessment.
And I want you to ask yourself: “Which one am I?”
It’ll be like taking a Facebook quiz…
Except it won’t be on facebook and won’t be annoying…
But otherwise like a Facebook quiz J
So, let’s call the first soil…the hard soil.
The hard heart. You can write that down, if you’re taking notes on our bulletin or somewhere else and want to make sections.
It’s the seed (the good news of Jesus) that was scattered, but it fell on the hard path.
This would actually happen by the way.
They would scatter seeds rather broadly in those days, and some of it would inevitably fall along the hard paths along the fields that people walked on.
The “hard soil” is the people that hear the message of God…they HEAR it…but they don’t understand it…Jesus says.
And the evil one, Satan, snatches it away, because it doesn’t sink into their heart.
It’s a hard heart. A hard soil.
Nothing can take root and grow here.
But it’s crazy because the Good News is right in front of them, they’re just not getting it.
It reminds me of the modern day parable (not from the Bible) of the customs officer.
There’s this customs officer who observed a truck pulling up at the border.
Suspicious, he orders the driver out and searches the vehicle.
He pulls off the panels, bumpers, and wheel cases but finds not a single scrap of contraband.
He’s still super suspicious of the guy, but at a loss to know where else to search, so he waves the driver through.
The next week, the same driver arrives.
Again the official searches, and again finds nothing illicit.
Over the years, the official tries full-body searches, X rays, and sonar, anything he can think of, and each week the same man drives up, but no mysterious cargo ever appears, and each time, reluctantly, the customs officer waves the driver through.
Finally, after many years, the officer is about to retire.
The driver pulls up and the customs officer says, "Listen, I know you're a smuggler; don't bother denying it.
But I simply can not figure out what you've been smuggling all these years. I'm leaving now. I swear to you I can do you no harm. Won't you please tell me what you've been smuggling?"
“Trucks,” the driver says.
Right in front of him….but he never got it.
It’s like, I talked to a guy once who told me that he had been sitting in church for the last 30 years, and he couldn’t tell you a single thing he learned.
Jesus is right in front of him, but the seeds are just bouncing off.
That’s someone who knows OF Jesus, but probably doesn’t KNOW Jesus.
If you’re truly a Christian, Jesus can’t be just an intellectual concept to you.
Think of it this way:
Here’s a good method for your soil test:
Have you ever really experienced God before?
I don’t mean do you believe he exists? I mean have you experienced him?
And it doesn’t have to be the audible voice either.
Have you ever read the Bible, and felt like God was talking to you?
Have you ever been praying (or maybe just driving or walking) and felt like God was talking to you…guiding you about something?
Have you ever felt like Jesus was really in your life changing you?
Again, it doesn’t’ have to be crazy.
But you could look to your life and say, “See, look at this…God is in my life. I’ve experienced him.
OR, at minimum, I’m DIFFERENT now because of Him.
If not, maybe you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus yet.
Yet…being the key word.
Because you CAN have one.
And He wants to have one w/ you!
The next soil we see is the Shallow Soil. Or the Shallow heart.
It’s the soil Jesus talks about in verses 5-6 and 20-21.
It’s the one where the soil was so shallow, that it was mostly rock under a thin layer of soil.
Which wasn’t all that uncommon in Palestine where Jesus was.
And Jesus says, the person who lands here in the soil test, is the person who at first gets really excited about God…but it doesn’t take root…
When the hot sun comes out, when trouble of persecution comes, they quickly whither.
And they whiter because they never took root, they don’t become true Christians (which means follower of Christ), they don’t become followers, because they didn’t ultimately want Jesus, but the things they heard Jesus could give them.
There’s a whole generation of Americans who are looking to Jesus (not for Jesus’ sake), but for their own sake.
They’re looking for Jesus to give them “their best life now” as Joel Osteen says.
But then when the sun is at its highest, and life gets hot…it gets tough. I’m talking…trouble, persecution, suffering, loss, tragedy, even death…
They don’t have any roots in God.
So they say, “I’m not interested in Jesus if THIS is what He gives me!”
THIS is supposed to be “my best life now!?!”
Jesus is a joke!
And they throw him away.
And hear me…this is a real danger in America.
Do they want what Jesus can give them, or do they want Jesus?
Which is it?
It’s a lot like the crowd of thousands that’s following Jesus around.
They’re following him out of curiosity, or maybe because they’re hoping he’ll GIVE them a miracle or something.
But they don’t really want to follow Him just to FOLLOW him…no matter what.
One of the most curious things in the Bible to me has always been the thousands who saw Jesus do miracles…and the hundreds he did miracles directly for…and yet at his death…he’s almost completely alone!
Where’d they all go?! Where’d they go!??
What happened is….so many of the people…just had an emotional experience with God.
They didn’t actually become followers of God.
They just wanted the gifts, not the giver.
Timothy Keller, one of the great thinkers of our time, says it this way:
“They thought that they were entering Christ’s kingdom, but really they were trying to get Christ to enter their kingdom…
“they wanted a blesser, not a savior”
They wanted relief, not a King
They wanted a service provider.
And this is why it’s hard to see if people are really making authentic decisions to follow Christ or not.
Because it can look real at first, but sometimes it’s just emotion, it’s not someone truly trusting in Christ to be their Savior and their king.
You know, we give people a lot of opportunities to make decisions to follow Christ with their life.
I’m going to give you one today.
And even though we’ve seen 175 people make first-time commitments to Christ at Renovation….Do I think that’s 175 new Christians?
Probably not. Just being real.
That doesn’t mean it’s as low as 50, but it’s probably not 175 either.
Now…I don’t think that we should….as so many churches have wrongly inferred from this…stop sharing the Gospel and asking people to make a decision.
Absolutely not…but the evidence will take some time.
George Whitfield, who’s one of my heroes, was a famous 18th century evangelist, who preached the Gospel in front of millions (think the Billy Graham of the 1700’s)
He was most famous for his loud voice
In fact, Benjamin Franklin once heard him preach, and estimated that he could speak to 30,000 people at once…get this…without a microphone.
But Whitefield was a central figure of the Great Awakening in Britain and America and would always give people a chance to respond to whether or not they wanted to follow Jesus.
Yet, people would ask him, “Hey George, how many people were saved tonight?”
And he would often say, “We’ll see in a few years.”
We’ll see if the seed actually takes root.
The third type of soil is a divided soil. Or a divided heart.
You could also call it an occupied soil.
Something’s already there.
This is the one in verses 7 and 22 where the seed falls among thorns, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it…making it unable to bear fruit.
This 3rd soil is a really interesting one.
The first two, it’s obvious…those people aren’t really Christians…followers of Christ.
But here…that’s not the case. Jesus even says the seed has become a plant here.
But it’s not bearing fruit.
It’s more like these people are Christians, but nothing’s happening in their life.
If this is you…and you’re taking the soil test today (trying to figure out where you are)…
It’s likely that you don’t see a lot of fruit in your life.
You can’t look to your life and say, “Whoa! Look at all of these things God did!
You probably can’t look at yourself in 2014 and say, “Here’s how God has changed me from 2013. See, here’s the FRUIT to prove it!”
You probably don’t have a list of people’s lives that have been positively changed through you.
YET…YET…you believe in Jesus. You’d even call yourself a follower.
But you’re being choked out by other things in this world…so you’re not seeing any fruit.
And that’s because you’re not living like Jesus is your King.
See, when He’s the King…it’s HIS Kingdom.
Think of it this way…Imagine it’s the 1600’s and you live in England.
And you get informed that the KING of England is going to come and stay at your house for 3 nights as he passes through.
His servants come through a few days beforehand and tell you that the King will be staying in your room.
Please clear it all out for the King.
You wouldn’t say, “But…but…that’s my favorite painting! It’ll have to stay! And my collection of Shakespeare…that’ll need to stay too”
No, you’d just clear it all out.
Make way for the king!
And that’s the problem with non-fruit bearers.
We don’t really clear it out for the King.
He doesn’t get top priority.
We just try and squeeze him in with the rest of our life.
“Hey, King…just sleep right there next to my Romeo & Juliet Poster!”
Jesus isn’t Lord of our life, he just gets added to our life.
Right along with everything else.
But unfortunately, a lot of “everything else” is just thorns.
See, because Jesus died on the cross…taking your punishment for you, he wants it all.
And to give him anything less (after he gave his life), would be silly.
He’s ready for you to surrender the thorns in your life.
But we say, “Sorry Jesus…this thorn is going to stay!”
We say, “Jesus…you can’t have my sex life…I’m still gonna have sex with my girlfriend…even though we’re not married.”
“Jesus…you can’t have my finances…I need them. What do you need them for?”
“Jesus…you can’t have my time. I don’t have time to study the Bible…be in a house group…serve at church…I’ve got stuff to do!”
And we, whether knowingly or unknowingly, decide to live with thorns.
Rather than letting the master gardener kill them and remove them.
We let them…We LET THEM…choke out our spiritual lives.
And that’s why you feel sort of spiritually “blah,” or maybe even almost spiritually dead these days.
You’ve got a divided soil. You’ve got a divided heart.
And just like a real thorn, it’s slow…so maybe you didn’t even see this coming.
But listen to me, Jesus is quite the pro gardener.
Surrender these thorns to him.
Tell your girlfriend or boyfriend that you’re not gonna live like that anymore…you want to honor God
Some of you are like, “David I can’t do that”
I didn’t say letting Jesus pull out thorns was going to be easy.
But I did say it’s the only way to bear fruit.
Start giving God your finances…give him back your time…
And I believe you are going to start to see fruit again.
It won’t be easy …but it’ll be worth it.
The fourth type of soil is the good soil. The good heart.
It’s the soil and heart that decides that Jesus is worth every thought I can give him…every minute I can get my sinful, messed-up nature to turn over to Him.
He’s worth it all.
And when we surrender, and we start living in His Kingdom, like He IS king…the Bible promises you’ll see fruit.
That you’ll produce a crop.
That you’ll be a world changer.
You’ll influence people around you for God’s glory.
Now, we can’t actually get in there and change the composition of another person’s soil….Only God can do that.
That has to be a supernatural change.
Our job…is just to spread seeds.
And spread the Word of God…the Gospel…that Jesus loves messed up people like you and me…
And spread it amply.
Spread it all over the place.
And remember…not everyone is going to land on good soil at first.
But just keep spreading.
To your spouse who doesn’t believe…to your children who don’t believe.. your coworkers…your neighbors.
This is our job Renovation Church. To change the world.
Keep inviting people to hear about Jesus. Keep talking about Jesus. Keep loving like Jesus.
Let’s change the world! Keep dropping seeds. Keep asking the Lord of the Harvest to change the world.
So where’d you end up on Soil Test?
What if you were #1 or #2?
Like you believe Jesus exists…or you’ve maybe had an emotional experience with God in the past, but you wouldn’t say you were a follower of Jesus.
But do you want to be a follower of Jesus?
Of this amazing God.
Jesus is trying to speak to your heart today…and past all of the noise:
That’s why he simply says this in verse 9:
(Matthew 13:9) – NIV
Whoever has ears, let them hear.
He speaks in parables to you (he says in the rest of the chapter)…because he’s seeing…not just if you’re listening like the crowd…but because he’s trying to get deep down to your spiritual ears: Your heart.
Because listen to me, this is what life is about.
Life is not about the American dream.
Life is not about getting married and having kids.
Life is not about picket fences and the perfect family.
It’s not about money, being healthy, or looking beautiful.
All of those things will pass.
All of them.
And I don’t just mean someday you’re all going to be overweight and ugly…
I mean, and I’m being real with you here, someday, you’re going to be 6-feet under…and it will be more than clear, that those things were not what life was about.
Because this life on earth is just a BLINK…and then it’s over…and then eternity for us…really begins.
In hell of in heaven.
But Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross to take our punishment.
The rightful justice we deserved for the sins we commit…for ignoring God…for making ourselves King instead of Him.
And the Bible says that if we would believe on Him…believe that he is the Son of God…that he came for us and died for us…
If we decide to follow Him…we can be saved.
Saved. Forgiven. Sins wiped clean. We can spend eternity in heaven with Him.
And…and…he can change your life now.
He can produce fruit in it…now.
That doesn’t’ mean everything’s going to be rosy and perfect. It might be quite messy.
But that’s not why we do this.
We follow Jesus because He is God. Because this is TRUTH. This is what life and eternity is all about.
And so I’m asking you…will you make the decision to make Jesus the Lord of your life? Your King?
Will you surrender your life to Him?
Not to get something from Him, but to give your life to Him?
To be a follower of Him, to the best of your ability, no matter what?
Will you do that this morning?
In fact, let’s do this: Let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to start this incredible relationship with Jesus…. ….and believe in what He did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver) and to become a FOLLOWER of Him… and to spend eternity in heaven w/ Him and NOT in Hell.
If that’s you…and you’ve never done this before…in just a few moments, I’m actually going to ask you to stand up. As a symbol…to say…this is what I’m living for now.
A symbol to say: This isn’t just something I mentally believe and this isn’t just an emotional experience…I WILL FOLLOW JESUS.
Everyone is going to have their eyes closed (no one’s looking), so this is just between you & God
So wherever you are, all across this room right now. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to just, courageously, stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this… …that’s Him. Answer this time. It’s TIME! This is what life is about. It’s why you’re here. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…again, the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life. Amen
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do 2 things for me
Right after the service today, I want you to go to the back of the room …for just a moment.
In the back there is a sign that says “FOLLOW-UP”
There will be some incredibly nice people there (they have lanyards on) who want to give you some extremely helpful tools to help you get started in your faith
Won’t take you very long. But absolutely go back there.
Also, if you stood up today, we wrote you a letter. It’s under your chair, and we’d love for you to read it before the service is over.
Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
JUNE 8, 2014