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11. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.
13. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
14. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
15. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
I’m only going to be reading verses 11-15. That is the passage that has to do with the story that Jesus told of the different kinds of responses to the word of God that he calls the soils, different kinds of soil. We’re continuing in our study of the gospel of Luke. I deliberately passed over the last story about the woman who anointed Jesus. The pastor preached on that Sunday and did a marvelous job, so I passed over it. We may come back to that later at another time, so as not to be so fresh on the heels of his great message about it. Look on with me now in Luke, chapter 8, beginning at verse 11. Here, Jesus gives an explanation of the parable that he has given of the sower going out to sow in the soils and the different kinds of soils that do indeed represent different kinds of people and hearts in response to the word of God. Let’s look now at this parable and the message that is involved here.
I think the main idea that we should get from this parable and the story and message of Jesus is that our Christian experience, our faith, our life, is in direct proportion to the way the word of God grows in our lives. Your faith is in direct proportion to hearing the word and being rooted and grounded in the word. Your power and authority that comes from Jesus Christ is in direct proportion as we understand the word and receive it into our own hearts. It think Jesus is illustrating this great truth and showing us that success and productivity in God’s work in the Christian life is directly related to how we receive the word of God and how it grows and abounds in our hearts. In studying the book of Acts and looking at it through church growth eyes, it suddenly dawned on me one day the Scripture in Acts 6 where after they had settled upon them that would keep the apostles from giving their full attention to prayer and the ministry of the word, after that was settled, the report came and said ‘Then mightily grew the word of God. And as the word of God grew mightily, numbers believed and became disciples and were added so that in direct relationship to the growth of the word in the hearts and lives of people, growth in other ways – spiritually, numerically, every way you can imagine and talk about church growth – it is directly related to the way the word of God grows in the hearts and lives of people. I think this parable illustrates it because Jesus is going to talk about four different kinds of soils, which he will liken to four different kinds of hearts of people and how they react to the word makes all the difference in the world for their lives.
That’s what I want to talk about tonight. I’m giving it the title “How About Your Heart?” That’s what we’re zeroing in on tonight. What about our hearts? Are we open to the fullness of the influence and power of the word of God in our lives? As we look at these different kinds of lives and the way they respond to the word, I think we will understand exactly this parable and the relationship of real growth and development to the word of God. Jesus talked about, first of all, the seed that was sown by the wayside on the hard-packed pathway. To him he said this represents people that perhaps lived trampled lives. They probably had grown hard like the ground along the path, along the field where people walked and looked at the field to see what’s happening. And, of course, when the sower went out to sow in those days he just scattered the seed and some fell over there. But they didn’t necessarily plow that part under and there was very little chance for the seed that fell on the path to have a chance to be covered with soil and germinate and grow. But instead the birds of the air, the fowl of the air came and began to take it away.
Now those of you who may have had the great opportunity of spending just a little bit of your life on the farm, you understand the illustration that Jesus is using here, because when garden planting time comes each year, one thing you have to do is almost ride shotgun on what you do to keep away the crows and blackbirds. The birds will come and eat the plant as soon as it breaks forth through the ground. You have to keep shooing them away or they will eat your whole crop and you have to replant. It would be nice if we had a way to arm ourselves with shotguns that would drive the fowls of the air that come to snatch away the word out of people who are hard and who are cold and indifferent and who have been trampled on and been abused and hurt, so they’ve grown hard and indifferent at the church, at people and no telling at what all. They are so wrapped up in that until the word doesn’t get through to them. They try to reach out and grasp it, but before it can take root and begin to form any kind of life in their hearts, it is snatched away. That’s Satan’s business. Not only does he want to keep the lost person away from the word, he knows that the word of God, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. He knows that and that’s the reason he hinders the preaching and teaching of the word. He hinders if he can, the living out of the word and your sharing your testimony of the word as to what Christ has done and the power of God through the word of God. And so he wants to snatch him away. I’ve seen people like that. So hard, so indifferent, maybe you couldn’t understand them, but in 30 years of pastoring and in some times since, I can remember people in my own memory that the devil snatched away the word of God from their hearts and kept them from believing somehow.
I remember one Sunday evening preaching while I was pastoring in Illinois. A young man was there. He was a rowdy kind of young man, disrespectful for his family who were Christians and some of them belonged to my church and some belonged to the Assembly of God. But he was disrespectful. Often he would pull up in front of the church and rev his motorcycle. He had one of the big Harley’s and when he would rev that thing up, I love a Harley and all that, but I’m telling you, not when you’re having church! He would disturb and then peel out and everything stopped until he got through the stop sign and revving his motor. But one night he was in church and I was preaching on the text “Be sure your sins will find you out.” I was saying that it will find you out in time while you live now. It will find you out in eternity. Somewhere along about the middle of that sermon he got up and deliberately stomped out. That same week he was helping his brother to install air conditioning and drilling with a huge drill, lying on a damp ground under a house, drilling in order to make way for wires and ducts. He drilled into an electrical wire and was just electrocuted right there. Satan had snatched away. I felt a heavy burden for him as I preached that night, but somehow Satan snatched it away – the word of God.
We don’t know why people become hard and indifferent and unresponsive, and sometimes even hostile. But it happens. It’s Satan’s business to keep them from having the word lodged in their hearts. He knows that once a person opens up his life to receive and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, he knows what kind of power that is going to start to have in that person’s life and he does everything he can to prevent it.
Jesus went on, then, to talk about another kind of person who hears the word of God, another kind of soil. It’s kind of a thin, shallow soil, a thin, shallow kind of person. It is represented by what he refers to as the rocky ground. It’s not just little pebbles in soil; that’s not the kind of rocky ground we’re talking about. We’re talking about ground that has huge ledge rocks underneath it, just underneath the surface. If you were to plow very deep the plow would strike these huge rocks that are underneath there. So, seed that are sown there, you know when the sun comes down and warms the soil and also the rock is warm and it sends back some heat, right away the grain germinates and it comes to life and begins to grow. Very quickly, it springs up. He said this is the way some people are. They hear the word of God with joy and they get all excited and they think this is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Overnight it looks like they have just been transformed and they are growing. But, the time comes for discipleship. The time comes for spiritual discipline. The time comes for sinking down roots deep into the word. Listen, friends, that is the secret of stability and standing is sinking down roots down into the subsoil of the word of God.
Then he said they can’t sink very deep. Right away the roots strike the rock. Then they begin to wither and dry. They can’t go on to the moisture. Especially in that climate in Palestine, they would understand that very clearly because there is so much of the land there that is like that. Then he says when temptation comes, they have no depth, they have no root. They can’t stand the pressure. They can’t stand the heat, the drought. They are easily offended and in time of temptation, Jesus said they just fall away.
You know, as teachers in the church, as preachers as pastors, as people who lead, we all are utmost to try to help people get established and to receive depth in their life so that they will flourish and grow and they will be productive for the glory of God. It’s a never-ending task. But there are some. They make these great starts, but because of the lack of depth, they can’t stand the pressure when it comes. The pressure of real temptation.
One of the men that I admire a great deal, or at least his book – it has to do with preaching, he says that every sermon ought to begin way down deep in the subsoil of the word of God. The sermon ought to grow up through the needs of the people. When you put those two things together, oh God can speak to us. When we start with the word and we grow deep and it has to do with our needs, whatever they are, whether it is cleansing or purging or correction or inspiration or information, or whatever it is, when you put those two things together, that is the prescription for successful Christian living.
Then Jesus talked about the soil where there were thorns and it represented people whose lives are just tangled up. Tangled lives. They are so mixed up, the thorns have come up. And those of us who garden every year and been raised on a farm, we know all about this, too. If you’ve ever had to half wear out a goose-neck hoe in your life fighting grass and weeds in the cotton patch and some other places and in your garden, you know what this is like. Because you know if you don’t get in there and get it out of the way, indeed it will grow up and choke the life out of your plants and then there will never be any maturity in the fruit that comes on. We’re going to face that right now I tell you right now with all this rain. We used to say that when we had these rainy seasons on the farm and the grass just grew up and you couldn’t get in there to work it out, we would just say ‘Well, we lost the crop.” Any of you understand that expression? They lost the crop. That’s what happens to people. Thorns and thistles and weeds and all the other stuff spring up and choke out and what they don’t get well the Japanese beetles do. Beetles and everything else come against what you’re trying to produce and grow. That’s the way the devil works, Jesus said. People like this, their heart is all crowded in. They are totally distracted, preoccupied with so many things. He even makes a list here; the cares of this life, riches, pleasures of this life, crowd in. Some people are so busy trying to get pleasure that they just knock themselves out and lose all their joy and happiness and peace of mind and everything working so hard for pleasure. He said that’s the way they are. They get so involved in all this until it chokes out the very life of faith that the word is trying to produce. How many people do you know whose lives are just tangled up with all these kinds of things? I dare say there are some people on your prayer list who you are praying for that that’s what is wrong with them. They have given such attention to cares, pleasures, riches, things of this world until they are being choked. Their spiritual life is being choked. Sometimes people even get stripped so that God can get their attention and they will put top priority back on following Jesus and growing in his word. So he says they bring no fruit to perfection. There is no maturity. There is no complete harvest. Something has choked the growth out.
I think as a pastor one of the greatest burdens you can bear is to preach and preach and pray for people, call their names in prayer, and then preach the word where you know it is going directly to certain people and they still are swamped, preoccupied and get choked and begin to lose their vision, and lose their sight on what God wants out of their life.
Then finally, he mentions the triumphant life, the good soil. The word of God comes and much of it falls on good soil. Thank God for that! Jesus rejoiced over it. He said these kind of people receive the word of God and they have a good heart and it is responsive to the word and they are honest and good-hearted. They have a good heart and they are honest. You know, one of the hardest things, I think, in this world for us to do is to really become honest people of God through the word. That’s what it does. There are times when we can mess around and cover things over and dodge issues, and push things aside. But one day if we ever get under the influence of the word of God just right, that sharp two-edge sword pierces and it starts cutting and dividing asunder in the soul and spirit and joints of marrow and it is a discerner of thoughts and intents of the heart. How many of you have ever felt that sharp sword strike deep into your heart and you said ‘Oh, I’ve just been playing. But God has opened up my heart and I’ve got to get down to business and be honest.” Oh my God. What an experience that is. What an experience it is.
He said these kinds of people hear and receive the word of God and right away they begin to grow and they produce fruit. They bring forth fruit with patience. They learn how to live in the word and live in prayer and follow Jesus Christ and allow God to work in their lives. It is God who is cultivating the very soil of our lives. When we allow Him through the word to keep working, then beautiful things happen. Mark says that some – not everybody does the same – some produce 30-fold, some 60-fold, some 100-fold. I’m glad he put that because some of us are just on that 30-fold, and some on 60-fold and I don’t know, we may have seen somebody somewhere who is in that 100-fold level of spiritual reproduction, but listen, when you respond to the word, you set yourself up for tremendous growth and productivity.
I want to close now so we will have time to pray together. You know what the hard heart really needs? I’ve got some ground on my property that when it is dry and you try to put a tiller in it, that tiller just stands there and bounces. You’ve got to wait until it rains and softens the soil. Some people are that hard. They just need the showers of God’s love and grace and blessing until they are soft enough that they will receive the word of God. People who are shallow and have a thin life, they need to let the power of the word of God, as Isaiah says, the word of God is like a hammer that breaks in pieces the rock. They need that word of God to come in until it breaks that old ledge rock out of the way and crushes it and it crumbles and then the seed can be planted and come forth with life. When people who are tangled up, they need to allow the sickle of the word of God to come in and to cut away, and the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn the things that are choking out their life. And when it is cleared away, the beauty of production in God’s sight can be seen. And then finally, the good soil just needs to keep responding to the word to grow to your full potential. Most of us have not reached our full potential in faith and in understanding of the word and doing what God wants us to do. Most of us have not grown to our full stature and what God intended. The potential is unlimited because the word of God is not bound and it has the ability to take you far beyond your own imagination. Paul would say that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you could ask or even think about. He can do this according to his power that worketh in you. I’m telling you there is unlimited potential for the person who opens up his heart to the word of God and allows God to keep speaking to his heart through the word.
I’m going to ask you to pray a special prayer tonight in closing. I’m going to ask you to pray “Oh, God, make me more sensitive and open to the word of God.” If we’re not careful, there are some parts of it we brush aside. Some parts we rejoice over. But let’s pray that we may be open to the word of God. Let us pray.
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