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Sermon: Sowing the Seed Matthew 13:1-23 Rev.

Brian Bill 7/12/09 An 80-year-old grandfather went to his daughters house for Sunday dinner. When the meal was over, he announced that he was going to take a walk through the neighborhood. Ill be back in twenty minutes, he said. But two hours had passed before he finally returned. Sorry Im late, he said. But I stopped to talk to an old friend and he wouldnt stop listening. One of the keys to living the Christian life is to never stop listening to the Lord. Were continuing in our summer series called Practical Parables and were focusing today on one of the most well-known stories of Jesus called, The Parable of the Sower. Actually, we could call it the Story of the Four Soils. Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 13. We see in verses 1-2 that so many people crowded around Christ that he had to get into a boat in order to speak to those who stood on the shore. He sat down and in verse 3 we read: Then he told them many things in parables. This is actually the first recorded parable of Jesus and kicks off a whole series of simple stories in the rest of Matthews gospel. These stories, while easy to understand on one level, were sometimes difficult to grasp for those who werent prepared to ponder them. The word parable means to lay beside and has the idea of placing two things together in order to teach a spiritual truth. These super stories are like mental time bombs designed to be unforgettable and then to explode into meaning for those who are serious about listening to the Lord. Drop down to verse 10 where we read that the disciples asked Jesus a question about this particular teaching method: Why do you speak to the people in parables? Jesus answers them in verses 12-13: Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In other words, the purpose of a parable is to both reveal and to conceal. To those who dont stop listening and want to understand, the parables reveal amazing truths. On the other hand, parables are perplexing to those who refuse to listen. Notice verse 9: He who has ears, let him hear. Fortunately, we dont have to guess about the meaning of this message because Jesus provides an interpretation for the disciples beginning in verse 18: Listen then to what the parable of the sower means Before we begin, lets put this text in its cultural context. While Hes teaching, it was quite possible that there were some farmers out in their fields doing some planting. Jesus starts with something they can understand and moves to something they cant comprehend. Look at verse 3: A famer went out to sow his seed. Everyone back then understood how seed sowing worked. A farmer would have a leather pouch across his shoulders filled with seed and would walk down paths in his field slinging the seed out, much like we do when planting grass seed. This seed would end up in all sorts of soil, some good, and some not-sogood. Because we have a lot of farmers at PBC and many who are into gardening, lets take a few minutes to discuss what conditions are best for getting a high yield. Ill put two columns up here on the white

board. Lets start by talking about what leads to bad crops and then well focus on how to have a good crop. [Go to white board] Heres how well proceed today. Well take each soil in order in verses 4-8 and read what happened when the farmer sowed the seed. Then well bounce over to verses 18-23 to see how Jesus ties each soil type to a soul type. These four soils represent four different responses to the Word of God. Well work at

understanding with our heads and then listen with our hearts. Because this is such a popular parable, were in danger of just skimming over the surface. Take a look at this visual Scripture reading. [Play video] 1. Spoiled Soil: A Hard Heart. Look at verse 4: As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Fields in Palestine were small and were separated from one another by paths where the ground was beaten flat by all the people and animals that used them. The seed that hit this hard ground just laid there until the birds gobbled it up or was ground into the soil by sandaled feet. In our culture it would be like throwing grass seed on the sidewalk. As Jesus interprets the first soil in verse 19, ask yourself if this describes your soul, or someone you know: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The problem here is not a lack of understanding, but an unwillingness to receive. We could call this the unheeding hearer. Satan loves to bring confusion when the gospel is communicated and according to 2 Corinthians 4:4, he has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ The devil loves to distract people so that they wont respond to the word. In Luke 8:12 were given more insight into the wiles of the devil who comes and takes away the word so that they may not believe and be saved. According to Hebrews 3:13, sin also has a way of hardening our hearts: But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness. Procrastination, pride and stubbornness can also lead to a hard heart. Sometimes when youre sowing the seed it will feel like the message just bounces off some people. It could be because the individual is so steeped in sin and so blinded by Satan and so wrapped up in self, that he or she does not want to understand the message. Incidentally, hardness can happen in the hearts of children who are raised in Christian homes when they hear the word but would rather heed the world. Are there any hard hearts here today? Any spoiled souls? 2. Shallow Soil: Emotional Enthusiasm. We see the second soil in verses 5-6: Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. This type of soil was very shallow and the rocks on the surface had to be cleared every year. In Palestine, much of the land was solid rock with just a thin layer of soil on top. The crops would spring up quickly but because there was no root system, they would wither and die. Jesus explains the shallow soul this way in verses 20-21: The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. This individual responds to the gospel with great enthusiasm and emotion but because he or she didnt count the cost of being a Christian, quickly falls away. This superficial person lasts only a short time but in actuality was never converted in the first place. We could call this convenient Christianity because this person likes the idea of forgiveness and heaven and receiving Gods favor, but doesnt want any difficulties. Would you notice that it doesnt say if trouble or persecution comes, but when it comes? Trouble and persecution will strengthen true believers and it also reveals those who have only had an emotional experience. The Lord reminded me this week that this has always been the case for people to bail on Christ when things get hard. Listen to John 6:66: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Does this describe anyone here today? Did you have an emotional response some time ago but now youve fallen away? 3. Strangled Soil: Worries and Wealth. A third kind of soil is described in verse 7: Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Thorns and thistles and weeds rob the soil of water and nutrients and can cause the crops to fail. Jesus moves from the weedy soil to the worried soul in verse 22: The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. This person is so attached to this world, with its worries and wealth, that the word is choked before conversion can happen. In Lukes account of this parable, we read in Luke 8:14 that these people are choked by lifes worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. Worry, wealth and the pleasures of the world can strangle the seed. When gardening, have you ever wondered why weeds grow so quickly? Its because they are native to the soil. In a similar way, the weeds of worry and the deceitfulness of wealth and the pursuit of pleasure are endemic in our hearts as well. Its like the young woman who received a proposal from her boyfriend: Darling, I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in the world. I want you to marry me. Im not rich. I dont have a yacht or a Rolls Royce like Johnny Brown, but I do love you with all my heart. She thought for a moment and then replied, I love you with all my heart, too, but tell me more about Johnny Brown. Have you ever seen someone start out with a strong spiritual interest and then go into the tank due to distractions? I have. This happened to the apostle Paul, when a man he thought was a believer, revealed that he really wasnt by his behavior in 2 Timothy 4:10: Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me Are you attracted and yet distracted today? Are you trying to have it both ways? 4. Spiritual Soil: Fruitful Faith. Only the fourth soil actually bears fruit in verse 8: Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Back then, if a farmer had a yield that was seven times what was sown it would be considered a good crop. To have yields of a hundred, sixty or thirty fold would be unheard of, unnatural, even astonishing. Jesus saves the best for last in verse 23: But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He hears and understands. Luke 8:16 says that he holds the word. He listens to the Lord, then He loves Him, and then this leads to living it out. Faith produces fruit. Fruit-bearing is the mark of a disciple according to Jesus in John 15:8: This is to my Fathers glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. In Galatians 5:22-23, we see that believers are to be fruit-bearers: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Hearing and Heeding Lets go back to verse 9: He who has ears, let him hear. Our Lord is wondering what kind of listener you and I really are. The word hear is used 19 times in chapter 13 alone! Do we hear and heed what He says? If youre not willing to heed what God says, you wont hear what He says. To say it another way, if youre willing to love God, then you will listen. Spiritual illumination comes to those who are personally committed to follow Jesus. Here are ten truths I hear in this story. See if these resonate with you so that together well heed them.

1. The Word of God is the only thing that produces lasting growth. We will unashamedly continue to preach and teach the gospel here at PBC because as Romans 1:16 says, it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. On a personal level, make sure you are sowing the seed of Gods Word into hearts, and not just your own thoughts and opinions. 2. Sow the seed of Gods Word in your children through formal Bible reading times and informally as you do life together (see Deuteronomy 6). Pastor Jeff told me this week that he gave out packets of seeds to all the student leaders, asking them to carry this in their pockets to remind them that their job is to sow seeds. 3. A small percentage of what is planted actually grows to maturity. To use the figures from the parable, only about 1 out of 4 actually bears fruit. Dont despair. Just keep sowing. 4. Dont be misled by emotional responses to the gospel. Time will tell if the seed landed in good soil. 5. If youre serious about growing, then its time to start sowing. Listen to Philemon 6: I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Our job is to scatter the seed all the time, in every place we go. I take great delight in 1 Corinthians 3:6: I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. Thats one reason we have about 500 sermons posted on our website. Did you know that these are accessed by people from over 100 different countries? 6. Pray that God would plow up hard hearts. Ezekiel 36:26: I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stoneAnd I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 7. While God is ultimately the one who prepares the good soil, sometimes He uses us to cultivate hard hearts and pluck weeds from worried lives. Jeremiah 4:3: Break up your unplowed ground 8. People often move between different soil types depending on their stage of life, their response to truth, and perceived needs. This movement can be forward (toward spiritual soil) or backward (to spoiled soil). A person who may have been hard-hearted the last time you spoke with him or her may be open today. 9. This parable must become personal. It forces us to ask some tough questions like, What kind of soil am I? Am I just a fan of Jesus or am I a full-fledged follower? Am I truly converted or did I just have an emotional experience? 10. Our goal at PBC is not just to have people make decisions for Christ; were serious about making disciples of Christ. Our mission is to connect people to Jesus and equip them to be growing and faithful followers. This takes effort and time. Well be kicking off a new discipleship emphasis this fall and I hope each of you take full advantage of what will be offered. Pastor Dick will share more when he preaches in August. Id like to ask Josh Marchetti and Brian Tumbleson to come up front right now. I invite you to listen in as we have a discussion that relates to this parable today. Closing Song: By Your Side (Dan Ucherek)