Preached October 3, 2004
I love the Word of God! When I say “the Word of God,” I mean by that the Holy Scriptures. Some denominations such as Roman Catholicism say that the Word of God is the Scriptures plus their Sacred Traditions that they have acquired over the centuries since the time of the apostles. Those traditions, they say, have been just as revealed by the Spirit and are just as binding as Scripture. I do not believe it because Jesus gave the Apostles that special authority as eyewitnesses of His ministry to write down and preach His Word.
Some believe that they receive a ‘word from God’ through their own experiences, even if those experiences contradict what God has revealed in the Bible. If your notions that you believe are from God contradict what He has said in His Word, then those notions are not from God — for God is not one to contradict Himself.
So I just want to be clear by what I mean by the Word of God. And I will never forget the time I was very convicted by its power. During one of our Wednesday services in a church where I used to serve, I remember being asked to do the regular Scripture reading during one of the services. As I stood behind that pulpit to read, I was so overcome with the sense that I was reading the very words of God — the very Word that God inspired. That conviction has never left me. And God used that to grant me a love for the work and power of His Word.
This morning we will be looking at what as been called both the Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Soils. Both apply. This parable deals with three angles: the seed (the Word of God), the sower (the one who spreads the word of God), and the soils (the ones who receive God’s Word).
God’s Word is powerful and can overcome any type of soil to where seed can grow. But what we are seeing here is snapshots of four different types of soils which represent four different types of spiritual heart conditions. As we look, I pray that you will allow the Holy Spirit to move and work and to ask yourself this one question: what is my spiritual heart condition?
Do you have a stony heart?
Jesus taught the crowd about the condition of the four soils in which the seed fell. He said, “And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path and the birds came and devoured it” (Mark 4:4). This is pictured as a path that was hardened by travel — hardened like the pavement on a sidewalk or the road on the Interstate.
Jesus went on to explain it to His disciples in Mark 4:15: “And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.”
The comings and goings of life have so calloused them that the seed of God’s Word does not penetrate. R. Kent Hughes puts it this way: “Life for them may be no more than the sports page and a beer, or a movie magazine and an hour at the beauty shop. There may be no gross sin, but there is no interest in God whatsoever” (105).
A young and successful executive was traveling down a neighborhood street going a bit too fast in his new Jaguar. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something.
As his car passed, no children appeared. Instead a brick smashed into the Jag’s side door! He slammed on the brakes and drove the Jag back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.
The angry driver then jumped out of the car, grabbed the nearest kid and pushed him up against a parked car shouting, “What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing? That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost me a lot of money. Why did you do it?”
The young boy was apologetic. “Please mister. . . . please, I’m sorry. I didn’t know what else to do. I threw the brick because no one else would stop” With tears dripping down his face and off his chin, the youth pointed to a spot just around a parked car. “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.”
Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”
Moved beyond words, the driver tried to swallow the lump in his throat. He lifted the handicapped boy back into the wheelchair, then took out his handkerchief and wiped at the fresh scrapes and cuts.
Too shook up for words, the man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk toward home.
It was a long, slow walk back to the Jaguar. The damage was very noticeable but the driver never repaired the dented side door. He kept the dent to remind him of this message: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention. God whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts. Sometimes when we don’t have time to listen, He has to throw a brick at us. Listen to the whisper. . . or wait for the brick.
Others get hardened by their own ideas and philosophies and their own experiences of how things began, how things are, and how things will and should be. Some read the Scriptures, but then they look around them to ‘real life’ and say, “Well, my senses and experiences seems to speak something different than what the Word says. I can’t believe it — I’ll believe what I see!” The evolutionist who says, “I cannot believe in God — where else can I go but to evolution?” The media representative who hears our message about the one way of Jesus and calls us a bunch of right wing fundamentalist fanatics. The academic professor who calls Christians a bunch of superstitious idiots who believe what unsophisticated men centuries ago believe and that we have advanced beyond the Bible to things more learned.
What needs to happen is that hardened ground needs to be broken up. Hosea 10:12 says:
Sow for yourselves righteousness;
reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground,
for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.
And God may send adversity to do so. I remember watching the World Series in 1989 between the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A’s. Joe Morgan was doing an interview, then everything started shaking and the television feed went out. When the feed returned, they showed how bridges were collapsing, fires broke out, and even the roads were splintered and cut into pieces.
Sometimes God will send an earthquake of adversity that will shake up that stony ground of your heart. Just like that pavement that no one thought would be broken up, so God may use those circumstances to break up your heart so the word of God may be planted there.
Do you have a shallow heart (v. 16-17)?
Jesus tells the people that “Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away” (Mark 4:5-6). Jesus explains this to His disciples in verses 16-17:
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while. Then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
In most of Palestine, a very thin layer of soil covers limestone. As a result, not much vegetation can grow — and the land there stays quite barren. Often that is how many of our hearts are. We have a thin layer of soil for the seed of the Word to be planted, but just underneath that soil is hardness — it’s not a soil that runs deep. So the word cannot take hold in our hearts because it is not deep enough for the roots to dig in and give the plant strength!
But when the scorching heat of adversity comes, our supposed faith withers away. And adversity has claimed many a so-called Christian. A daughter complained to her father about how hard things were for her. “As soon as I solve one problem,” she said, “another one comes up. I’m tired of struggling.”
Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen where he filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second, eggs, and in the last, ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word.
The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After a while, he went over and turned off the burners. He fished out the carrots and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them a bowl.
He poured the coffee into a bowl. Turning to her he asked, “Darling, what do you see?”
“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied. He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor.
She asked, “Father, what are you trying to tell me?” He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity–boiling water—but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.
The egg was fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside hardened.
The ground coffee beans were unique, however. By being in the boiling water, they changed the water. He asked his daughter, “When adversity knocks on your door, which are you?”
Well, for some young supposed Christians, when adversity knocks on the door of their heart, they wither away and abandon whatever ‘faith’ they had. You see, adversity has a way of showing us where we truly are in Christ. If we are only willing to follow Christ when things are going smoothly, then we forget that our Adversary — Satan Himself — will throw those fiery darts at us and we will flame out. But if we are willing to follow Christ in spite of the adversity we will face, that is the type of faith Christ calls for. In fact, Jesus says in Matthew 5:11-12:
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
You may be that way and know others as well who struggle with this. Your Christian life begins with a flourish. You received the Good News immediately and with great gladness and joy. You may have even started sharing your faith and winning people to the Lord. You may even give an exciting, compelling testimony. But when persecution and tribulations hit because of the Gospel you crumble, wither, and fall away.
And when I say, “Fall away,” I am not referring to a loss of salvation. When we look with our own senses, it sure seems as if this person lost it. They seemed to be doing so well and being a witness for Jesus Christ. To us, it seems that they are legitimate citizens of heaven. But that’s when our experiences and our senses and feelings let us down in a grand way. We must go by the objective standard and authority of what God has spoken to us through His Word. And we must examine ourselves to see what the condition of our hearts are.
Do you have a separated heart?
Jesus gets to the third soil. This seed, He said, “fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. He explained that the thorns are “the cares of this world, the desire for riches and the desire for other things” which choked up the Word that grew, making it fruitless.
Literally the ‘distractions of this age.’ It means that you are so absorbed and consumed by the issues of this age that you have no time nor desire to consider eternal matters of the gospel. And it is clear from this upcoming generation that the ‘distractions of this age’ often affect how they operate in real life.
In the Western Recorder this past week, you may have read about a poll that was taken among teenagers saying that 63% of all teenagers were willing to “bend the rules” in order to get ahead in their careers. It seems as if these Christian teenagers had a faith that stayed to themselves, but when it came to living they took on the attributes and ways of everyone around them, even though they were contrary to what God would have them do.
While many do not seem to take issue with this, this puts how many Christians operate on display. They compartmentalize their lives by saying there is a sacred, Christian part of their lives, then there’s the secular, day-to-day, ‘real’ life that we have to deal with.
He also speaks of the deceitfulness of riches. We mentioned in August from 1 Timothy 6:9-10:
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
You may have known people who see their neighbors get a new and faster computer, so they have to get one even faster; or get a new car because their co-worker got one. Keeping up with the Jones’ is what it’s called. We see it in sports all the time on draft day. The third person drafted get a certain amount of money in his contract, so the one who was drafted second needed to get more money and incentives than #3. That’s why so many hold out because they want what they feel is coming to them.
A ‘spilling over’ heart
Jesus tells them in Mark 4:8 that some seeds fell into “Good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and a hundredfold.” The explanation? Look at verse 20:
But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.
Here is the result of the heart with good soil. You hear the word, you accept the word, and that word bears fruit. When you hear the Word and accept it, then you will obey it. This reminds us of what Jesus told us last week about His true family. “Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).
Paul in his letter to the Colossian church starts by saying:
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth (Colossians 1:3-6).
If your heart is prepared and ready for the Word to be planted, the seeds will grow into abundant fruit that will amaze you. You will not believe how God will use you when your heart has submitted to His Word and will.
Jesus said in verse 9, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” It can be translated even more emphatically. “If you have ears, listen!” Listen to what? His Word! Listen to what this parable means! Listen and see what condition your heart is in.
See, heart disease is the no. 1 killer in America. But that’s a physical heart disease. Many of you in this place have a spiritual heart disease and the only cure is by the Great Physician coming in. And He won’t heal your old heart. No, this Physician knows how to give heart transplants. He will create in you a clean heart.
Do you have ears to hear? Then won’t you come and let him break up that hardened grown, that stony ground, that shallow ground, that thorny ground that is your heart so that he may give you a heart that will receive the goodness and power of His Word so that you may bear fruit for Him?
Copyright © 2004 by Treasuring the Word Publications. All rights reserved. You have permission to reproduce up 1000 copies of this sermon. All we ask is that you give proper attribution to the author and the ministries he represents:
Rev. Matthew Perry, Pastor
Boone’s Creek Baptist Church
185 N. Cleveland Rd.
Lexington, KY 40509
matt @ matt-perry.com . (859) 263-5466
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