Summary: A sermon dealing with the different types of "soil", or hearts, in which God plants His Word, and the evidence of faith the seed produces.
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 Title: Four Soils and the Gospel Date/Place: NRBC, 1/29/12, AM
Opening illustration: the college Physics profession and the student’s responses.
Background to passage: Only instructional passage to the crowds. Palestinian farming practice of sowing seed, then plowing. Jesus assumes that the seed is being sown. Seed same, soil same comp, sowing same.
Main thought: Jesus depicts four responses to the gospel message.
The Hard Heart (v. 4, 19)
Property and fields were not easily demarcated and fenced in as they are now. Roads and paths might have gone within feet of harvest-able earth, and sometimes right through it. It was strategic for gleaners and travelers to be able to get a bite on the way. It was per-modern drive-thru. And so these paths were much like a cattle trail on the hillside. Jesus pictured seed that fell on this ground. It could not penetrate the earth because of the impacted soil. Thus it was vulnerable to the birds and other creatures for food.
Ps 14:1, 2 Cor 4:4, Rom 1:21, 23, 25
Illustration: tell about Tommy telling Kimmy that cows in TN had one side of legs shorter than the others. You meet these people all the time in your witnessing encounters. In his book The Stranger, Albert Camus tells of a man living his life without caring about anyone or anything. Just before he is to be executed, the chaplain says to him, "Don't you believe in God?" The man says, "No." The chaplain says, "How do you know God doesn't exist?" The man replies, "Whether he exists, I don't know. I do know that I don't care either way."
This describes a person who is unresponsive to the gospel. They are not necessarily hostile to it, although they could be, but simply apathetic. Spiritual things are just not on their radar map. They may think that spiritual things are unnecessary, unknowable, or simply uninteresting. These people could be atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, intellectuals, or the guy next door who just continually refuses to come to church with you. This can even be people who profess religion, but obviously never got it. They may have had bad experiences in the past with religion. They may have had tragedies in their lives about which they are angry at God about, or feel that disprove His love and power. They may be self-satisfied, self-sufficient, or self-righteous. But they simply do not respond to the gospel. They have hardened their heart toward the things of God to the point that they are unwilling to believe. And because of this hardness they afford themselves an easy target for the evil one with all sorts of assault toward the Word in their lives. But take comfort, faithful sower; God can soften the hardest of soils.
The Superficial Heart (v. 5-6, 20-21)
Jesus next speaks of soil that is rocky. Not rocks in it, but rock bed under it. Enough soil to cover the rocks and germinate the seed, but ledge underneath. So that when seed is sown on it, the roots cannot penetrate the rock. Since the soil is shallow, it heats up quicker than other soil, thus sending the young plant flying up taller, faster than anywhere else. So it is not obvious that the necessary root is not there. That is why Jesus says that this person receives the word with joy. There is a big emotional response. But then during the dry season when plants need the deep roots to survive the heat, the superficial heart dies. Jesus calls them temporary. He is offended, and feels trapped, and falls away from Christ.
Illustration: One of the best examples is Ted Turner, I read several testimonies of 9/11 family members who recounted their own experiences and decided that they didn’t believe in a god who would allow such things, Charles Templeton lost the battle to persecution about the word,
This is why emotions are not a good test of genuine faith. It is not the start of the Christian walk that is indicative of true faith, but the end of it. This is a person who may have responded to God for the wrong reasons. They believed that Jesus would be a quick fix, solve their problems, make life go happily ever after. And when He didn’t deliver, they called it quits. They may not have really counted the cost of following Christ, or been instructed. Because they were really in it for themselves. These people make be faithful for days, weeks, months, or years, but sooner or later they will face a trial that Jesus can’t fix or satisfy for them and they are out, because they were not deep enough in the faith to draw on Christ’s life-sustaining water in times of dryness. Suffering and persecution strengthens and perfects true believers, and pushes false ones out.