What Kind Of Soil Are You?
Series: Encountering Jesus (in the Gospel of Luke)
Brad Bailey – May 12, 2019
This week I took our new dog to his first day of dog training. He’s a wild… free spirit. So I was nervous. Seriously. I really thought he was going to get kicked out of school…on his first day.
Started off okay….then the trainer said… we’re going to do an exercise focused on having their attention. Attention. Well…by this point my dog had seen birds in the bushes alongside…so as she asked each of us to speak our dogs name and reward his attention… he was turned and looking intently at the bushes.
Like the student sitting in the classroom staring out the window…but there were only 4 dogs total. Needless to say… it was the longest hour of my week.
I have hope. I’ll keep you posted. But it was a reminder that…
Truly hearing is more than mere physiology.
Hearing involve attention… inward attention.
There is an aspect of hearing that is dispositional… that is, how we actually take in what another communicates… is related to our inner disposition.
My dog may hear the sounds of my voice…but the effect depends on his disposition.
What kind of relationship does he want with me?
What other sounds have got his interest?
Many mothers come to know this. There is a difference to how that infant responds to the sound of your voice… with that sweet smile of joy…and how the 14 year old child responds to your voice…which may seem tuned out…at best. The 14 year old’s disposition is in a state of exercising independence…. Highly attuned to other voices… even, while I might add, still with a deep connection to yours.
Today…God asks us … what is our inner disposition?
As we continue in our extended series Encountering Jesus through the Gospel of Luke… we find Jesus speaks to a deeper form of hearing….and attention.
We come to was has been marked at the eighth chapter of Luke.
Luke 8:1-3 (NIV) ?1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
In these words that lead us into the next encounter… we see Jesus is on the move… “travelling from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.” He is breaking powers of evil.
And this breaking the powers of evil includes that of the social structures that divide and denigrate people. We see this in who is with him.
His twelve core disciples are with him… but along with the Twelve, who else is with Him? “And also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager” - so the Gospel has even gotten into the very courts of the wicked king Herod now — “and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.” Why?
These women had been so deeply affected by Jesus’ ministry, their lives had been so profoundly transformed by Jesus’ ministry.
This inclusion of women is offensive. Adult co-education was not the order of the day in Jesus’ time. Having these women following Jesus around with men…reflected a freedom to women never allowed.
But is it surprising to you at all that these women would have had this response to Jesus? If you were here last week and can recall the encounter just previous to this… a religious seeks Jesus to come as a guest at a big social dinner…and in the middle of the event a women comes in…uninvited…unwanted… a prostitute whom all would have looked down upon…and she weeps on His feet and she anoints Him with perfume and ointment and dries His feet with her hair. And Jesus was judged as you may recall…with the thoughts: — “If He was really a prophet and knew what kind of a woman this is, He wouldn't let her touch Him.”
Do you see what Jesus is doing? This may well have been the first time ever, or at least the first time in years, that this woman had ever touched a man who respected her and loved her and cared for her and wasn't interested in using her for his own pleasure. He is treating this woman who is so despised and so spurned and so condescended to and so cast out from and so excluded from her community and her society, this woman who has come to faith in Him, He's treating her with dignity. It is no wonder that that woman did not care what anybody else in that room thought of her because she had finally been treated with dignity, with love, with genuine care and concern. She wasn't being used, she was being cared for.
And what is perhaps even more striking is that Jesus doesn’t care what others think. He is treating them with respect… at the expense of his own reputation.
On this Mother’s Day…I hope every woman in this room…listening online… can take a moment and take that in. Jesus… as the very representation of God’s very nature… will defy all the social powers of this world…to love you like you should be loved.
No wonder these women were following Jesus.
Luke 8:4-8 (NIV)
4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown." When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
What’s at hand? Well…there’s a large crowd gathering… people coming from every nearby town. His core team must have thought…
“Look at how everyone is responding.”
But Jesus knows that it is not merely a sea of equally receptive souls. Jesus sees different types of ground into which he is sowing.
And he thought it would help his core followers understand what is really at hand.
It would help them understand the diversity of what to expect. 
It may also help them to understand the significance of their own hearts.
As Jesus completed the parable in verse eight he called out to the crowd,
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Such hearing means listening with spiritual receptivity. Jesus is revealing that the condition of one’s heart determines whether there is any receptivity to the truth or not.
Luke 8:9-10 (NIV)
9 His disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, "'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'
What is Jesus saying here? He says that the revealing of God’s kingdom…his reign and rule…has been given to them… but to others, his use of parables confounds them.
We may naturally wonder of he is saying he is simply excluding some…and doing so arbitrarily. It may sound as if he is using parables like riddles to hide the truth.
But if we look at what is actually doing… it becomes clear that this isn’t a matter of playing tricks but of addressing the heart… the disposition of those who hear.
Parables are not mental riddles…they are simple stories or analogies which most often reveal the different postures… those who can hear the good news of grace…and those who are bound in their pride and self-righteousness. The parables are not complicated… but they often reflect the heart issues of those who can’t identify with their own problem. The parable explains a problem…that they can’t see.
He confounds the problem perspective…to reveal the heart.
What becomes clear is that…
• He is not arbitrarily sharing truth with the disciples…but that he chose the disciples because they had receptive hearts. And many others do too.
• But those who believe that they are righteous on their own merits…morally superior… are always in conflict with his grace because they do not see their own problems.
It’s important to see how the farmer sows. Does he describe that which places the seed carefully only in the best soil?
No …he “scatters” it.
Jesus shares that the sower scattered seed (the Word of God) on all types of ground. It didn’t say that he was meticulously planting the seeds in designated ‘good soil’ areas – it says he was scattering the seed everywhere.
And as for the different categories he described and now will explain… it’s important to understand that…
These are not simply some predetermined condition …which cannot change. This is not a matter of some unchanging condition at all…Jesus is always calling out the heart to change… the heart is what we are responsible for. Every condition he speaks to is one which his own disciples were vulnerable to…and those who were initially his adversaries could change.
Again… he is not hiding truth…he is exposing the heart.
Now he goes on to explain the challenges of hearing God…challenges we do well to face within ourselves.
Luke 8:11-15 (NIV) 11 "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Jesus begins by explaining that, “The seed is the word of God.”
The seed is a powerful picture of the word of God; within each seed there is an infinite potential for life.
Is this referring to the Bible… yes…but not the mere words or book…but work of God to speak to the human heart.
It is helpful to realize that this is a living Word… because it is a living God speaking to us. Reading the Bible… listening to a message… is more the means than the end itself. It is ultimately about listening to God… hearing God.
Hebrews 4:12 (GNT)?The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. It cuts all the way through, to where soul and spirit meet, to where joints and marrow come together. It judges the desires and thoughts of the heart.
In each case the seed is the same, but the soil into which the seed falls is what makes the difference. In this story four different responses are given, along with four different causes and having four distinct results.
“Heart” refers to our inner disposition…and it effects our hearing.
The simple but significant truth is that we are not simply rational beings… and what we believe is not simply a rational process.
It includes a rational process…but it also includes our heart…our desires…and will…what we CHOOSE to believe.
Jesus understood the rational process…he showed people…connected what had been written… but our receptivity is not merely a rational nature. Two people can have the same facts before them and respond differently.
The purpose is not to define people in categorical ways…but to recognize the different conditions of the heart… different ways in which our inner disposition can affect our hearing.
Three types of soil will not serve the seed.
Conditions of the Heart
…The Soil of Our Hearts
The Hard Unreceptive Heart (Vv. 5, 12)
The first soil is descriptive of a hard and unreceptive heart, verse five,
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.”
Jesus explain this part of the parable by saying in verse twelve,
Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
Notice with me the characteristic of this ground. The ground was unbroken and hard. Because it landed on the pathways and road between the fields the soil never really received the seed at all. The seed just bounced off the hard surface and lay on top of it, just trampled on…and easily carried away by the bird.
The heart that becomes callous…hard… can become unable to receive anything.
What is striking…is that the heart is so exposed to the enemy…so given to the influence of spiritual deception.
It may come from spiritual deception … a deep spiritual pride that presumes to know everything…or refuses to acknowledge it’s own condition. 
Such a condition may feel outwardly tough and independent… when in fact it is just being trampled on and plucked from.
The Shallow Superficial Heart (vv. 6, 13)
In verse six Jesus says,
Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.
In His explanation in verse thirteen Jesus tells the disciples,
Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
The stony ground is not just ground with rocks in it, but rather it describes ground that is only a few inches thick with bedrock underneath. So when the seed is sown it quickly germinates but is unable to put down any real roots. When the sun comes out it rapidly scorches the plant which came up quickly, but because it is without roots it cannot get the water it needs to survive.
The shallow superficial heart will be initially receptive to the good news which God speaks… in fact…the with real notable joy…but it is only being engaged on a shallow level.
Such a condition of the heart is vulnerable to having emotions stirred more than a real commitment.
Such a condition of the heart is vulnerable to following Jesus only so far as it makes things easier for them, make things happier and more prosperous.
Most people don’t want to be thought of as shallow… or superficial. But in truth we have created a culture that trains us to live as merely impulsive creatures… to merely seek what satisfies the immediate.
And in that sense…we are all vulnerable to never engaging our true nature.
When God speaks to us…he is speaking as the very source of our life and existence…offers the substance and satisfaction that serves our true nature.
The body may enjoy the taste of sugar…but it will only be ultimately satisfied by the substance of real food.
This is why Jesus speaks to greed…and lust…and contempt for others…because they all satisfy only the shallow impulse… not our true identity.
God’s Word lays claim to our true identity… not simply our impulses.
Jesus knew that many would initially follow…but when faced with the heat of the choice… would fall away.
Maybe our soul is grabbed by the truth of God’s forgiveness…and love… and it really sets off something in us….but then we tell our family or friends…they scoff… begin to turn away… and we begin to wither…because our receptivity hadn’t been deep enough to find water… hold us in place.
The shallow and superficial heart is vulnerable to circumstances. And maybe some of us can feel that.
Culture seems hostile to what we have found in the grace of God.
Maybe we thought we’d always feel victorious… but we find we are weak in areas… we are having to face aspects that are not easy.
Jesus’ disciples would all face this…when they realized that Christ would suffer… Jesus explained that anyone who wanted to follow should count the cost…like a builder who sets out to build something great. 
When they couldn’t understand…and some who had initially begun following walked away… his own disciples had to engage this calling more deeply.
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68
He has that which offer connection to the only true and lasting life.
So we do well to consider…is the soil of our hearts shallow and superficial?
And then Jesus speaks of…
The Entangled Heart (vv. 7, 14)
Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
Later Jesus explained in verse fourteen,
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
This type of ground has a more hidden challenge. The seeds can land…and may even form root that allow it to initially grow.
But something else is there. There are weeds within the soil …and they are freely growing alongside…and in time…will choke out the plant.
This is the divided heart… it is bound by other attachments.
The thorns, Jesus explained represented “life’s worries, riches and pleasures.” These three things that destroy what God is planting in our lives.
The reference to worries may seem odd. After all … we don’t think of worries…or anxiety as something someone wants to have. But it can refer to that which is being given control of us… something we are not willing to trust God for.
Some of us may be all too aware that we have something we worry about that reflects an attachment…we haven’t given up… that competes with life with God.
And many of us may find this with riches… or pleasures. It’s not that riches or pleasures cannot exist …but that they have been given as much a place in our hearts as God…we are divided by them… we will serve them.
And as Jesus said: No one can serve two masters… both God and the world’s riches.
Some of us may realize that we are living with divided hearts… trying to have the best of two loves…but never flourishing. The joy of hearing God is also a threat to something else we have allowed to grow.
We do well to ask ourselves: What are the weeds that are choking the spiritual growth is us?
But there is another soil…for Jesus goes on….
The Receptive and Fruitful Heart (vv. 8, 15)
Finally the Lord outlines in verse eight, the receptive and productive heart,
Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. (v. 8)
Jesus goes on to explain in verse fifteen,
“the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (v. 15)
They receive it …keep it… let it transform them over time… with the fruit of a new life with God.
Heart is open… not impulsive…prepare for the consequences…and bear them.
The fruit… like all seed… what will come is exponential… a hundred fold.
This is the potential in all of us. That is why Jesus would then say…
Luke 8:18 (NIV) ?Therefore consider carefully how you listen.
Consider how you listen. What the condition of your heart soil is.
And hear what Jesus is saying… you can work that soil.
Left to itself… it simply will be shaped…by outside influences playing on it’s most basic nature… good and bad…but when it connects to a better way…it can develop.
We can shape our souls in response to our higher nature.
God spoke through the prophet Hosea saying…
Hosea 10:12 (TLB) ?"Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will reap a crop of my love; plow the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower salvation upon you. 
What is God sowing? His love. To those who receive… the Spirit of God will sow the life of belonging to that love. The eyes of the only one in the universe who matters most… loves you….and has come to save you. So plow the ground and receive His Word.
James 1:18, 21 (TLB) ?It was a happy day for God when he gave us our new lives through the truth of his Word, and we became, as it were, the first children in his new family.
…So get rid of all that is wrong in your life, both inside and outside, and humbly be glad for the wonderful message we have received, for it is able to save our souls as it takes hold of our hearts.
How? As it takes hold of our hearts.
As our hearts become centered and satisfied in His love.
To form such a heart… and fruitful life… we may need to clear away…and restore humility.
Resources: John Hamby (“Are You Ready To Listen?”), Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
(“Have You Heard the Word?”)
1. As Jesus’ ministry progressed, it was evident that each of these groups surfaced: (1) The hard hearted Pharisees and religious leaders refused to believe. (2) Some people rallied around Jesus because of His miracles of healing and feeding but the sallow-hearted refused to stay with His message (John 6:66). (3) The distracted-hearted, such as the rich ruler (Luke 18:18-30), were interested in Jesus but would not accept Him because of the strong pull of the materialistic world. (4) The good-hearted followed Him and were committed to His Word regardless of the difficulties (e.g., 8:1-3). [Walvoord, John; Zuck, Roy. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983, S. 225]
2. Zechariah 7:11-14 says, "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry. ‘When I called; they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.
3. Luke 14:27-29 (NIV)
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him..”
4. Also…Jeremiah 4:3, “This is what the LORD says to the people of Judah and Jerusalem: "Plow up the hard ground of your hearts! Do not waste your good seed among thorns” (NLT).