Vol. IX — No. 9 March 3, 1968
And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying. What might this parable be? And he said. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
In Christ Jesus, who would have the Seed of the Word produce fruit in our lives. Fellow Redeemed:
In a recent adult Sunday School class we dis cussed the summary of John the Baptist’s preachment, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John was preparing people for the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. All Israel responded to his announcement of the Kingdom, for every Jew was by heritage and training conditioned to respond to the hope of the establishment of the Kingdom. This idea, this hope of God establishing His rule among men was the object and purpose of Israel’s existence as the people of God. The history of the Old Testament with all of its institutions sublimated the idea and the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven among men on earth.
John announced that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand. When his voice was silenced, Jesus took up the theme and developed it. One of the sub-themes that Jesus developed was this that the Kingdom would come, but not without opposition. Viewed from another angle: the Kingdom would come and would continue on despite all and every effort to stop its coming. Our Lord taught this insight regarding the Kingdom, for the most part, in parables.
We have for our consideration this morning the parable of the sower. This parable reveals the way and the means by which the Kingdom comes, is established and continues despite opposition. When our Lord spoke of the sower. He was speaking of Himself and His own Kingdom-establishing activity. Nature reflects Kingdom truths, for the same Lord is Lord of nature and is the Kingdom’s King. A sower sows seeds, some of which matures unto harvest. Some never matures and so never brings forth fruit. So it is in the Kingdom. The Sower, the Kingdom’s King, sows the Seed of the Word. Even as seeds have the power of life within them, so also the Seed of the Word is “the power of God unto salvation.” But yet the Seed is not an irresistible power. It can be rejected even before it takes root in a human heart. It can be ejected from the heart. It can be kept from bringing forth fruit after it has taken root in a heart. There are hostile forces at work at all times opposing, combating, seeking to destroy the Seed. In the parable only twenty-five percent of the seed brought forth fruit. But despite this opposition some seed did take root and did bear fruit.
This morning we would like to apply the truths of this parable to ourselves personally. This is, at times, a painful undertaking, for the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword. It reveals and exposes the thoughts and intents of the heart. But applying the Word to oneself, despite the pain of the process, is always a most spiritually helpful process. We would state the leading truth of the parable and then ask each of you a personal question.
Is the Seed producing fruit in your life?
In answering that question the parable warns each one:
The parable shows how the power of the Seed to bear fruit was frustrated in three different classes of people. These people were not created the way they are by God, but became the way they are through the effects of sin upon their hearts and the judgment of God because of their sin. The fourth class, the good ground, was not good of itself, but rather became fruitful through the power of the Seed. If you search yourself frankly and freely, you will find evidences of all four classes in your own heart. Let us begin this self-examination.
Some of the seed “fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.” The Lord explained this class of people to His disciples in this way: “Those by the way side are they that hears then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” A vast number of people belong to this class. By means of the radio and television and through printing of the Seed of the Word in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, books and Bibles a vast number of people are exposed to the Seed of the Word. In our area it is difficult for people to avoid being exposed to the Seed of the Word. But little happens. In most cases the Seed of the Word never creates faith and its fruits: obedience, love, joy, hope. Why not? We can say that the pace of modern life is so rapid and the competition for the individual’s attention so great that Satan in most cases is able to snatch the Seed of the Word away before it even has a chance to take root in the heart. Haven’t you experienced this? Haven’t you had the experience of being exposed in some way to some Kingdom truth that may have fascinated you at the moment, but that truth never became a part of you, never took root in your heart because it was swept away in the hustle and bustle of every day life. Satan plucked it away from you before it had a chance to take root.
In the second case the seed “fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was spring up, it withered away, be cause it lacked moisture.” Jesus explains that these are the people “which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” We’ve had much experience with this type during the past eight months. Think of the people who came to us, received the Word with gladness, but are now gone. Why? The temptation came in the form of a clash of the wisdom of God with their own wisdom. So many have preferred their own wisdom, turned sour on the Word, and have left to search for a church that will accommodate their own wisdom. How is it with you? Have you experienced initial joy? Are you experiencing doubts because you find that the Word clashes with your own wisdom, your associations, your way of life? Don’t fall away! Combat the temptation! Pray for the Word to have fruit in your life!
In the third case the seed “fell among the thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.” Jesus describes this group as “they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and bring no fruit to perfection.” Think of the many cases of people who are brought up in Christian homes, carried to Sunday School and church by their parents, sent to instruction classes Then when they get on their own, the cares and riches and pleasures of this life begin to choke their spiritual life. They begin to attend Sunday School and worship services less and less. Spiritual concerns become less and less important. Eternal values lose ground to temporal values. The things of this life tend to choke and smother the things of the Spirit. It’s an old, old story repeated again and again. You can name many in your own families and in your own acquaintances. But how is it with you? Are you a part-time Christian? Do you attend Sunday School and worship services on a hit and miss basis? Do you attend to spiritual things when and if you happen to have time? If you are answering “yes” to these questions, then you should realize that thorns are flourishing in your heart. Beware, take care lest the cares and concerns, riches and the pursuit of riches, pleasures and the frenzied chase for more and different pleasures choke off your faith life. If that happens, you’ll be dead while you’re living. And you may not even realize it! How is the Seed faring in you? Is it triumphing over the waysides and the rocky places and the thorn patches in your heart? Let us hope so!
There is another solemn word of warning for each of us in our text. This is the warning;
When Jesus began to teach in parables, that switch in His method of teaching was in itself a judgment upon Israel. The disciples heard the parable, but they didn’t understand it. They didn’t grasp the message. They asked the Lord to explain. Before He did, Jesus spoke a word about the change in His teaching methods: “And he said. Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” The disciples were to learn and grow in the understanding of the mysteries of the Kingdom. But the others were to be mystified by the teaching of Jesus. They would be people who would see, but would not perceive the meaning of what they saw. They would hear the words, but never under stand the meaning of the words. What was happening was that the judgment of hardening was settling down upon Israel. Isaiah had foretold this development. Jesus came unto His own, but His own received Him not. They kept on listening unto Him and rejecting Him so long and so often—until they reached the point of no return, the point of judgment when they could no longer perceive and understand.
There is no more terrible thing that can happen to an individual while he lives than to fall under the judgment of hardening. It can happen that when a per son hears some truth of God’s Word, he will say, “I just don’t understand it.” In such a case the preacher or teacher will explain the matter once again. It may well be that his teaching was at fault. It may also happen that a person finds difficulty in understanding the application of a divine truth to a given situation or a given case. Again, he may say, “I just can’t see it.” In such a case a pastor or teacher will renew his efforts, bring more information, go over the ground once again in an effort to show how that particular truth of God’s Word applies to the situation and what response the Word of God demands in a given situation. The person who is being instructed may see the point, but may be unwilling to accept what he sees. In order to defend himself he may still say, “I Just can’t see it,” when in truth he should be saying, “I don’t want to see it—because the Word of God will compel me to change my accustomed way of life, to replace my wisdom with the wisdom of God, to sever some connection that I find valuable for business or social reasons.” Whenever an individual gets to the point of not wanting to see the truth of God’s Word, he is getting on extremely dangerous ground. For God may get tired of bringing the Word to him. The Lord may get weary of sending His messengers to such a person. The Lord may come with His judgment—the judgment of hardening which will make it impossible for that person to see and understand the Word of the Lord. Let no one ever play with God’s Word! Let no one ever say, “I can’t see the truth of the Word,” just because he doesn’t want to obey that Word, God may get weary of such playing around with His Word and may in judgment close that person’s eyes and understanding to His Word. That means being sentenced to hell while still living on this earth.
These are the warnings of the text, but the text also contains an exhortation:
The fourth class Jesus describes in this way: “Other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.” Jesus explained; “That on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” In Matthew’s account the Lord says that some of the Seed brought forth thirty, some sixty, some one hundredfold. The harvest is never the same.
How is it with us? How much fruit is the Word producing in our lives? The Word of the Gospel that is preached to us is always the power of God unto salvation. It is a power that can make new creatures of us. It has a regenerating power. It can make good ground out of our hearts. It can make us fruitful. Is the Seed of the Word achieving its maximum purpose in your life? Maybe the Word is only producing thirty fold in your life. There may be reasons. Check your use of the Word. Maybe you are not exposing yourself to the Word sufficiently. Maybe you have become Care less in your Bible reading and study. Maybe you are haphazard in your church going. Maybe you are tongue-tied when you should be witnessing. Maybe you are stealing from your God by not returning unto Him according to the amount He has prospered you. Maybe you are weak in love towards the members of your family, your friends and the strangers who cross your path. Well, do something about it! Repent! Cry unto your God for mercy and forgiveness! Pray for grace! Pray for a greater measure of the Spirit! Your prayer will be answered, and you will soon find yourself producing much more fruit. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.