In Sri Lanka where I was born and raised the people living in the Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces grow Rice for a livelihood. Rice is in great demand in the local market because it is our main diet. To grow Rice you must sow the seeds called Paddy. The sowing is carried out by professional Sowers. Hence the Sower is a common sight in my country. This reminds me of the Parable of the Sower.
There are 46 Parables in the New Testament. The Parable of the Sower is one of the few parables that appear in all three Synoptic Gospels. Let’s consider the narration in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 8. We will read from verses 1 to 15.
This parable has three ‘S’s. The Sower, the Seed, and the Soil. The Sower is the Preacher preaching God’s word without discriminating. The seed is God’s Word. The four types of soil are four different responses to God’s Word. (In a nutshell, Jesus is warning not everyone who hears God’s Word will understand and believe.) Tonight my message will help you understand the level of your responsiveness to God’s Word and turn your life around if necessary.
The Hard Hearted Sinner
“Surrender your heart and soul completely to your Savior, Herr Reichsmarschall,” – “I can’t do that. This Jesus you are always speaking of – to me, he’s just another smart Jew.”
This conversation happened between Hermann Göring and Capt. Henry F. Gerecke at the Nuremberg Prison. Göring was a powerful Nazi Military Officer convicted of war crimes during World War II. He was awaiting execution when the US Chaplain Capt. Gerecke ministered to him. Göring committed suicide in his cell the night before the day of his execution.
The Parable of the Sower mentions four types of ground on which the seeds landed. The wayside with no soil, rocky ground with little soil, the thorny ground, and the ground with good soil. The wayside was the path where people walked. There was no room for growth because the ground was hard and the seed was devoured by the birds. It represents the hard-hearted sinners like Hermann and the devil’s work in them.
What happened in the wayside is a reflection of the events transpiring in the spiritual realm when God’s Word is being preached here on the physical realm. God’s Word cannot bear fruit in us unless we understand it first. The hard heartened sinner hears God’s Word without understanding. (Jesus likened the Birds devouring the seed to the devil snatching the Word away.) One of Satan’s chief works is to keep men in darkness regarding their understanding of the word through means of distraction, (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
In the case of Göring, the Devil used pride as a distraction which prevented him from understanding God’s Word. (The Nazis believed they were of Aryan origin and superior to every other race. They condemned Jews as the worst race of all. Therefore they taught Jesus was not really Jewish. Rather an Aryan who fought against Judaism.)
Jesus wasn’t preaching to heathens here. He told the Parable of the Sower to Jews God’s chosen people. Pride often hardens our hearts and renders them unresponsive to God’s Word. Satan uses pride as leverage to prevent us from understanding the Word and become disciples. The Desiring God Blog lists seven symptoms of pride.
The dictionary defines fault finding as ‘continual criticism, typically concerning trivial things.’ Jesus addressed this in the Parable of the Mote and the Beam in Matthew 7:1-5.
A Harsh Spirit
Spiritual Pride makes us speak of others’ sins and flaws with contempt, irritation, frustration, or judgment. Jesus condemned this attitude in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18:9-14.
Someone said reputation is who people think you are. Character is who you really are. Pride believes reputation alone matters and character is not. Jesus stressed the importance of character in his teachings about giving, prayer and fasting in Matthew 6:1-18
Humble people don’t defend themselves when they are attacked. Like Moses, they cry out to God and the Bible says he was the most humble man, (Exodus 15:25; Numbers 12:3).
Presumption before God
This is two-fold. Some of us are overconfident in God’s presence we forget that He is God. Others become fearful to the point of believing their sins are greater than His Grace. Both approaches are sinful, (Luke 23:39; Jude 4)
Desperation for Attention
Pride longs after attention. It craves recognition. John rebuked this sinful trait in his Gospel, (John 5:44).
Prideful passes over the weak, inconvenient, and unattractive, because they don’t seem to have much to offer. Pride is biased and entertains favoritism. God forbids favoritism, (James 2:1-13).
Maybe more of us seated here tonight struggle with pride than we thought. But there’s hope. Jesus revealed the meaning of the Parable of the Sower to his disciples so that we will gain understanding and change. Change comes when we confess. The act of confession unleashes God’s grace in us, (Proverbs 28:13).
Remember, all of us are either rocky ground or the thorny ground unless the Holy Spirit of God transforms us into good soil. Tonight let’s pray in accord with Psalm 139:23–24 and ask the Lord to pinpoint even the hint of pride in us.
2. The unrepentant Sinner
Looney Tunes is an animated series of comedy short films I still enjoy. One of the episodes originally aired in the year 1953 features Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam and a Widow who inherited $50 million (about $468,000,000 today). Sam learns about the Widow’s fortune and plans to take advantage of the woman by marrying her.
When Bugs finds out he executes a mischievous plan to stop Sam. In the end, Sam marries bugs imposing the Widow. At the church Bugs’ gown bottom comes off, and Sam, seeing Bugs’ cottontail, not knowing its Bugs, not the widow refuses to marry him, running off.
So while some of the seed the Sower scattered fell on the wayside and were snatched by the birds Jesus said another number of seeds landed on the rocky ground. This was a thin crust of soil on top of limestone. These seeds sprouted very quickly because of the warmth but withered very soon for their roots were shallow and couldn’t absorb water from the ground. It’s a symbol of the unrepentant sinners receiving God’s Word for wrong reasons (like Yosemite Sam in our illustration).
The unrepentant sinner receives the Word with joy because his perception of Christianity is nothing more than a Goose laying golden eggs. He wants the benefits of the Cross without the cost of the Cross. He doesn’t count the cost but the gain, (Luke 14:25-34). Such people existed in the Biblical era also, (John 6:26). They haven’t rooted in the Word and fall away when hardships come.
In our own lives, our motives for being followers of Christ must be correct and genuine. We must not be like some of the 5,000 who followed Jesus because they were only interested in satisfying their fleshly and temporary desires. How do we know whether or not we are following Jesus for the wrong reasons? The Inspired Walk lists five wrong reasons for following Jesus.
In Acts 8:18 Simon offered money to the apostles so that everyone on whom he lays his hands may receive the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 26:35 Peter and the disciples said they will follow Jesus everywhere even if they have to die. Later, Peter denied Jesus three times while others deserted him.
Position and Power
The very people that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem in Matthew 21:6-9 believing he was coming to overthrow the Roman Empire demanded his death in Mark 15:9-15 because Jesus shall not fight against the Romans.
Judas was a thief, (John 12:6). In Luke 22:3-5 he agreed to betray Jesus for a small sum of money.
Signs and Wonders
In John 2:23-25 we read that Jesus did not entrust himself to people for he knew they believed in him because of the signs and wonders he performed.
If you are following Jesus for the wrong reasons today pay attention to what the Bible says. Jesus is warning us not to labor for the food that perishes. He urges us to labor for the food that endures for everlasting life (John 6:27). Repent and pray this prayer with me if you were following him for the material gain.
Dear Lord Jesus,
I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. In Your Name.
3. The indecisive Sinner
One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. “My dear one, the battle between two ‘wolves’ is inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
Next, we read about the seed that fell among the thorns. The seed and the thorns grew together for some time until the thorns choked the plants. It’s a sign of the indecisive sinner. I call him the indecisive sinner because he is in limbo concerning his commitment to Christ. His love is torn between Christ and the World, (Mark 10:17-22).
An indecisive Sinner is a person who hears the Word without fully submitting to its authority. Remember, the seed that fell among thorns actually grew for a season before they were overpowered by the thorn bushes. His love for Christ and for the World grows together for a season. In the end, however, the love for the world crowns over the love for Christ, (Matthew 6:24).
Are you in the limbo regarding your commitment to Christ? Don’t worry. God’s Word can help us to make wise decisions. To do that we must understand three principles of temptation the devil uses to steal our commitment to Jesus. We find them in Genesis 3:6, Matthew 4:1-11 and 1 John 2:16.
The Lust of the Flesh
Gratifying one’s physical and emotional needs through ungodly means, (…the woman saw that the tree was good for food…). Gluttony, sexual immorality, and selfish lifestyle are three major manifestations of the lust of the flesh.
The Lust of the Eyes
The desire to possess what we see or to have those things which have visual appeal, (…and that it was a delight to the eyes…). Human greed and envy are common manifestations of the lust of the eyes.
Pride of Life
A desire to lean on one’s own understanding instead of God’s wisdom, (…the tree to be desired to make one wise…).
The concerns of this world take different forms. But the temptation of Jesus indicates the principles are still the same.
- When Jesus was hungry the devil urged him into turning stone into bread. This is the lust of the flesh.
- The devil got Jesus to see all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor and promised to give him everything for a price. This is the lust of the eyes.
- The devil urged Jesus to cast Himself from the roof of the Temple in order to prove that He was the Messiah by an ostentatious display of power. This is the pride of life.
The devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness the same way he tempted the woman in the garden of Eden. While the woman failed Jesus was victorious. Certain scholars argue that Jesus was impeccable, (inability to sin). This is wrong because the Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way but he did not sin, (Hebrews 4:15). What happened then? Jesus refused to feed the desires of his flesh.
Let’s revisit the elderly Cherokee story about the two wolves waging war within us. The Bible mentions a similar principle. The ongoing battle between the flesh and the spirit, (Galatians 5:17; Romans 7:15-20). The Bible also says the spirit can overcome the flesh if we refuse to feed the desires of the flesh, (Galatians 5:16-26).
We refuse to feed the desires of the flesh by resisting the devil. Jesus stood his ground and resisted the devil all the time and the devil left him, (Matthew 4:10-11; Matthew 6:23). The book of James says the devil will flee if we resist him (James 4:7).
4. The Transformed Sinner
Nicky Cruz (Christian Evangelist, Founder: Nicky Cruz Outreach Ministries, Former Director: Teen Challenge) prior to his conversion was the leader of a New York City gang, the Mau Maus. Nicky met David Wilkerson who witnessed to him, about Jesus. Nickey was a teenager at that time. Initially, he slapped David on the face and threatened to kill him. David, however, didn’t stop persuading Nicky to accept Christ as his savior.
A few days later Nicky finally surrendered his life to Jesus at an outreach meeting hosted by David. Nicky is 80 years old today. For the past 50+ years, Nicky has traveled the world speaking to nearly 50 million people in person. He has authored 17 books so far.
Then we read about the seeds which landed on fertile ground. They came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. Most translations say the fertile ground is the people with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
But how can it be? According to Romans 3:23 all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Besides we cannot say Nicky Cruz prior to his conversion possessed a noble and a good heart! The answer is in the English Standard Version.
The ESV renders this verse in a much understandable fashion. “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”
The Transformed Sinner is the sinner whose life has been transformed by the power of God’s Word. The ESV lists four characteristics of a transformed life.
- They keep the Word: Unlike the hard heartened sinner, the good ground hearer doesn’t allow the devil to snatch the word away (…hold it fast..) They rather treasure it in their hearts so that they will not sin against God, (Psalm 119:11).
- They are Genuine: Unlike the unrepentant sinner, the good ground hearer doesn’t respond to Word merely for his personal gain, (…honest…). He is willing to pay the price of discipleship, (Matthew 16:24).
- They are Righteous: Not because of good deeds (…good..), rather because of the Word of God (Isaiah 64:6; John 15:3)
- They endure and bear fruit: A man of God once said, Persecution and Pressure will prove the power of the word in You. The transformed sinner endures pressure and persecution (…bear fruit with patience…) producing the fruit of salvation, (Matthew 7:17)
Fruit-bearing is a very broad theme I cannot explain in a sermon. Nevertheless, I will cover some of the basic truths for the sake of this message. Fruit means works of righteousness, the external manifestation of a transformed life, (remember, works are not the root of salvation but the fruit of it).
The Bible has many references to fruit-bearing. The Parable of the Vine and the Branches in John Chapter 15 perhaps is the best-known passage of them all. At a glance, it appears to be a different parable. It is not so. It shares a common theme with the parable of the sower. Fruit-bearing!
In short, the parable is about the believer’s relationship with Christ. This is crucial because without Him we cannot bear fruit (John 15:4). In the parable of the sower, the seed that fell on good soil came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown, (Luke 8:8). According to the parable of the Vine God will prune branches that bear fruit to help bear more fruit meaning He removes hindrances to our spiritual growth. How do you know whether or not you are in a relationship with Christ? The GodTube blog lists 7 signs. I have summarized them below.
- You are less angry or irritated when things don’t go your way, (James 1:20)
- You are more likely to pray first before calling on anyone else, (Philippians 4:6)
- You are less anxious and worried over troubles, (Psalm 46:10)
- You are more concerned about your own motives and integrity, (2 Corinthians 13:5)
- You are less doubtful about God’s control over your life, (Isaiah 25:1)
- You are more engaged in God’s word, (Psalm 119:11)
- You are less connected to the things of this world, (1 John 2:15)
Paul the apostle has written down another test in Galatians 5:19. The works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The closer you get to Jesus the works of the flesh reduce and the fruit of the Spirit becomes more evident.
Jesus often used agriculture to teach and preach because he ministered to people of an agricultural economy. The Parable of the Sower is one of those occasions. It teaches us that the sower is always the same. The same seed is sewn onto each soil. It is the soil that made the difference determining the results and how much fruit is produced.
The parable held up before Jesus’ hearers a mirror for them to see where they stood in relation to God in Christ and it does the same for you tonight. So which soil best describes you tonight? Which soil do you want to be?
Image Courtesy: JESUS MAFA. The parable of the sower, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=48309 [Retrieved July 24, 2019]. Original source: http://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr (contact page: https://www.librairie-emmanuel.fr/contact).
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