Summary: The parable of the four soils applied beyond spiritual rebirth to spiritual growth & life change. (This message is from Luke 8, but could be adapted to the version of the parable in Matthew 13 or Mark 4.)
INTRODUCTION: [READ LUKE 8:4-8]
1) How many auto mechanics does it take to change a light bulb? One, but he thinks he’ll have to replace the whole socket.
2) How many procrastinators does it take to change a light bulb? One, but she’s gonna wait until the light in the room gets better.
3) How many government bureaucrats does it take to change a light bulb? Two: one to assure everyone that everything possible is being done, while the other screws the bulb into the water faucet.
4) How many drummers does it take to change a light bulb? One … two, and a-one-two-three-four.
5) How many brewers does it take to change a light bulb? About one-third less than for a regular bulb.
6) How many women with PMS does it take to change a light bulb? OH, WHAT DOES IT MATTER?!?!!
7) How many psychotherapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the bulb has to really want to change …
Which leads into our parable today:
Okay, let me ask you a real question: Is the gospel enough to change a life? According to Jesus, it depends. It depends on the particular life and how the gospel is received.
Now let me ask a personal question: Do you really want to change?
Those of us who preach operate under the assumption that the answer to that question for most of us most of the time is yes—that I desire to see growth and change in my life; I want to always be better and more like Christ. So maybe what I need from God's Word today is some new information, an insight, or some encouragement. But this parable gives me pause, so I need to ask: Do you really want the Word of God to change you? To keep on changing you? Do we really want the gospel to make a significant, lasting, noticeable difference in our lives?
Today we’ll examine some factors that thwart lasting change in our lives. In this story Jesus told, I have always read it in the context of spiritual rebirth, and rightly so. But in meditating on this parable, I came to wonder why its principles wouldn’t apply beyond just the point of salvation. Isn’t it true from the first type of soil that the biggest reason people don’t experience change in their lives is this:
SOMETIMES CHANGE ISN'T WANTED (v.5) [READ LUKE 8:11-12]
Crops won’t grow in compacted soil. It lacks air, moisture, and other nutrients that crops need to take root. The seed on the path never has a chance, since Satan comes along and picks up whatever hasn’t already been trampled.
At first glance some don’t experience change because the instrument of change is snatched away by the devil or another force acting on his behalf. But the devil is actually the second problem. The first problem is the type of soil the seed lands on: It’s compacted, hard, impenetrable. It is unable to receive the change agent, which is the seed.
What’s the seed? Jesus says it's the word of God. (In Matthew it's “the message of the kingdom.”) Which means by implication that the sower is Jesus, coming with a word from God as the Living Word of God.
But who farms like that? Ancient farmers farmed like that, via broadcast sowing—scattering seeds in all directions by hand as they walked the stony paths that divided their fields. And Jesus the sower farms like that, spreading His word widely among all kinds of people because He is merciful and gracious and wants everyone to be saved and bear fruit. But to receive the Word requires us to have attention of mind and intention of will. If any couple goes to marriage therapy but one or both don’t want to stay married—no matter how skilled or dedicated the therapist, if the couple doesn’t want to work on the relationship, there won’t be any change.
A few years ago there was a cell phone ringtone that junior high and high school kids used to keep teachers from discovering that they were using their cell phones in school. The pitch of this ringtone, called the "mosquito tone," is too high for people over 25 to hear. So the kids would send and receive text messages during class without the teacher hearing them. The mosquito tone was first developed in Britain to irritate teenagers who were loitering around convenience stores. Some kid simply figured out how to use that sound as his cell phone's ringtone and—voilà—kids are downloading it by the millions.
How does the mosquito tone go undetected by adults older than 25? Inside our ears we have tiny microscopic hairs that move with the impulses of incoming sound waves, and those hair movements send electrical signals to our brain. As we age, those hairs get worn down, actually damaged, so our hearing becomes less sensitive. We first lose the ability to detect the sounds of high frequencies. People over 25 can't hear sounds above 16 kilohertz. (The highest note on a piano is 4 Khz; the mosquito tone is 17 Khz.) There’s a parallel here to help us understand the common difficulty of detecting communication from God. The Bible says the reality of God can be perceived in the wonders of creation, and all people—including nonbelievers—can detect this information. But if they fail to respond, they gradually lose the ability to sense God altogether … they lose their “spiritual ear hairs” so to speak. The same principle holds true even for Christians. Just as unbelievers can lose their ability to perceive God in the macro-messages of nature if they don't respond appropriately to what they detect, we can lose our sensitivity to God if we don't respond appropriately to His promptings. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”