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.
1 John 2:19, Heb 3:6, 14, John 8:31,
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.
The Divided Heart (v. 7, 22)
This kind of soil is full of foreign seeds. Jesus implies that these other seeds are strong and vigorous. He says that they are weeds of cares of the world and riches. They choke the life out of a profession. The prevent fruitfulness. They deprive the good seed of needed resources. These things don’t necessarily have to be immoral things. Anything that usurps the position of God in your life is idolatry.
2 Tim 4:10,1 John 2:15-16,
Illustration: “A person who comes to church, but never becomes committed to serving, who is continually occupied with money, career, fashions, sports, and everything but the Lord’s work is a person with a weed-infested heart.” –JM, I heard of a young man who came to a pastor and confessed all these sins in his life, and the pastor led him to Christ, then began to talk about what next steps needed to be taken, and the guy didn’t realize that Christ would mean all that.
This is a person that never makes a clean break with worldly things. These things don’t necessarily have to be immoral or illegal, (in fact, they could be good things) but simply more important than Christ. These are people that are too concerned about what others will say, or what a decision for Christ will cost them. These are people that love sin too much to get rid of it. They love money more than Christ, sex more than Christ, power or work more than Christ, family more than Christ. These are people who are not committed to the Lordship of Christ in their lives. And we serve a jealous God! He will not take second place to a relationship, a possession, an idea, or a goal. This is the person who allows business to drown out time with God, service for God, and love for God. And again, no fruit is produced.
The Contrite Heart (v. 8, 23)
The soil produces a plant with deep roots and much fruit. The difference in this soil and all the others is the fruitfulness. This is how Jesus says we can determine genuine faith. Spiritual fruit over the long haul. These are simply people who heard the word, been convicted of sin, repented, and followed Jesus. These are people that gave all. And the harvest is spectacular! Eight-fold would have been a super crop.
Gal 5:22-23, Philip 1:11, Col 1:6, John 15:6, Ps 1:2-3, Tit 3:14,
Illustration: tell about the immense conviction that I was under as I read Bill Bright’s Witnessing Without Fear in college as a new believer, “Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.” –Ryrie
If there is no fruit, profession may have no foundation. It will be because repentance has been true, the cost has been counted, and the value of Christ is nothing less than preeminence. We must warn those that do not show fruit that their profession is lacking. However remember a few things. Christians will produce varying amounts of fruit, but we don’t see any that produce no fruit. There will be a life change that accompanies salvation. The fruit may be internal as well as or in lieu of external fruit for a season. Our list of fruit is not all-sufficient or necessary; God is ultimate fruit judge. Fruit can be character, actions, or the results of ministry.
Closing illustration: And hearing of a resurrection of the dead, some indeed mocked; and others said, “We will hear you again concerning this.” And so Paul departed from among them. But certain men joined themselves to him and believed; among whom were Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Acts 17:32-34
Invitation to commitment
The results are God’s responsibility
So, go forth sowing the precious seed, and coming again reaping the harvest--Ps 126:6