Intro, Purpose & Plan
Are our hearts downtrodden, like a well-worn path? Are our hearts hard, lacking stick-to-it-iveness or thorny, laden down with worldly cares. How can we learn to become like rich soil that receives the word of the kingdom and produces a rich harvest?
Let us understand where we find genuine Christianity deeply within people’s hearts.
We will look at Matthew 13:1-23 and the Parable of the Sower.
Matthew 13:4, 19 Superficial Christianity
In Matthew 13:4 and 19 the message of the kingdom is snatched away by birds. What happens? If we are careless with the message of the kingdom, it can be taken away. When the word of the kingdom comes, we should take time to understand it, because it is easily lost. We may even call ourselves Christian, but is it only a label, superficial, just on the surface? Is it only an outward show and not a deep Christian life? There is no substitute for the word of the kingdom as a lamp to guide our path (Psalm 119:105-112). Do we take time to understand the word of the kingdom?
Matthew 13:5-6, 20 Shallow Christianity
In Matthew 13:5-6, and 20 what happens on rocky soil that causes the seed of the word of the kingdom to die so quickly? The seed that fell on the rocks did take root, but it was shallow. It had no deep root and died when hard times came. Shallow Christianity focuses on good times and materialism, but not deep spiritual things. For example, health and wealth are a focus of shallow Christianity. Suffering and persecution are rarely or never preached in such circles. The Bible teaches: blessed are those who suffer and are persecuted for righteousness. Shallow Christianity cannot handle the truth and avoids it. But deep-rooted Christianity lives on.
Matthew 13:7, 22 Anxious & Deceived Christianity
In Matthew 13:7, 22 what happens in the thorns that causes the word of the kingdom to be choked? How do anxiety and wealth suffocate us? Why do we receive the word, and circumstances soon strangle it? Like thorns, worldly cares and affluence suck the life out of us. We are enticed to waste time and effort on worthless materialism. Worldly success becomes all-consuming. Then, important things suffer, like family life and the word of God. The result is that our lives become spiritually dead. On such a treadmill, we have less time to even think about the word of the kingdom. How do we escape our prisons to freedom?
Matthew 13:8, 23 Fruit-Filled Christianity
In Matthew 13:8, 23 what happens in good soil that causes the seed of the word of the kingdom to grow so well? After describing superficial, shallow and worry-filled lives, Jesus described fruit-filled Christianity. What is the difference? One difference is understanding. The Greek implies being “put together” as in the God-given ability to synthesize the word of the kingdom into a whole picture. The Holy Spirit helps us to put spiritual ideas together producing a fruit-filled Christianity. John the Baptist understood this when he chided the Pharisees about repentance. As a genuine change of heart is seen by its fruits, so does authentic Christianity produce a fruit-filled life.
Matthew 13:9 He Who Has Ears
In Matthew 13:9 is a familiar saying of Jesus, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” What does that mean? It means, Pay attention! It does not mean hearing outwardly only, but deep down inside. It means to comprehend. It means to put to use the parables Jesus taught. It is an invitation to think about the deeper, hidden meaning. Why did Jesus paint such familiar farming pictures? Are there morals to His stories? His parables require more than ordinary powers of superficial thought to understand. Jesus said this proverbial conclusion more than once, perhaps to indicate which of His teachings were of greatest importance. Do we hear?
Matthew 13:10-18 Why Parables
In Matthew 13:10-18 Jesus revealed why He spoke in parables. It was because, “whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” So, those who have no interest in learning to obeying God will not understand. Not everyone has ears that desire to hear, but those who have the desire can ask God for understanding. A parable is a story, an allegory that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson. To those who really learn to understand, Jesus says, “blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.”
Lesson: Sow Indiscriminately
In the Parable of the Sower Jesus spoke of the kingdom of heaven being like an indiscriminate sower. This contradicts theories surrounding church growth of targeting certain statistically measurable demographics. There is no such target audience in this parable. The seed of the kingdom is sown with wild abandon. I like that. It’s more like spreading of the Gospel with faith instead of using man-made formulas. A well-known leader in the church growth movement once said that he could build a church a mile wide but only an inch deep, only a pastor can build depth. Jesus said something quite different. He said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18).
Lesson: Fail in Order to Succeed
An old axiom says that failure is the stepping stone to success. Are we afraid of failure? The road to success is paved with failures. Before the farmer in the Parable of the Sower had a successful crop he failed in three areas. We fail in these same areas. We allow the devil to snatch the word of God away from us. We allow the deceitfulness of wealth to choke out the word of God. We are shallow in faith and quit too easily. Paths can be plowed up, thorns can be uprooted and rocks can be pulverized into good productive soil. All our failures can be stepping stones to success.
At times our hearts may have been downtrodden, like a well-worn path. Our hearts may have been hard because we lacked stick-to-it-iveness or thorny and laden down with worldly cares. May we all learn to become like rich soil of genuine Christianity, allowing the message of the kingdom to root deeply in our hearts producing a life filled with wonderful spiritual harvest.