A Diagnosis of the Soils, Part 2 (Mark 4:1-20)

We come now to the Word of God and what a
privilege it is. And we’re looking at the fourth chapter of
Mark again and the parables of the soils that takes up the first twenty verses of this fourth
chapter. So open your Bible to Mark chapter 4. This is message number three and will be the
last message as we look at the parables of the soils. There is so much actually in the truth of
this parable that I suppose one could do ten, twelve, or even twenty messages just explaining
the nuances of this parable. So by no means are we exhausting it in three
messages. It is a familiar story to all students of
the New Testament, one of the most familiar of all of Jesus’ parables. Let’s familiarize ourselves again with it
by starting at verse 1. “He began to teach again by the sea…that
is the Sea of Galilee…and such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat
in the sea and sat down and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land. And He was teaching them many things in parables.” That’s analogies, stories, illustrations. “And was saying to them in His teaching, ‘Listen
to this,’ and here comes this parable…’Behold, the sower went out to sow. As he was sowing, some seed fell beside the
road and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on the rocky ground where
it did not have much soil and immediately it sprang up because it had no depths of soil
and after the sun had risen, it was scorched and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns and the thorns
came up and choked it and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil and as
they grew up and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty-, sixty- and a hundred-fold.’ And He was saying, ‘He who has ears to hear,
let him hear.'” This is a simple story that was very familiar
in terms of its details to the crowd. Galilee was an agrarian society, everybody
understood this. They understood there was good soil and bad
soil. There was good soil that was relatively better
than other good soil, and there were various reasons why some soil was bad. They got it. It was a simple story, everybody would understand
the story. But what about its spiritual meaning? Well that was reserved, according to verse
9, “For those who had ears to hear,” and not everybody did. Everybody understood the story itself but
not everybody understood the meaning of the story. As in all the parables that Jesus told, they
intend to convey very, very significant spiritual truth. This one has sweeping breadth, sweeping implications,
has great importance. Though it’s a simple story, its spiritual
meaning is totally lost on the huge crowd. They don’t understand what the story means
spiritually. Its meaning is totally obscure to them. They are oblivious to it. And that is by intention. They are unbelievers who follow Jesus strictly
for the miracles. They are thrill-seekers. They’re happy to come along for what is clearly
the greatest show on earth, Jesus healing all kinds of diseases, raising dead people,
casting out demons, presenting wondrous teaching. They are the thrill seekers but they have
no interest in the teaching of Jesus. They have no interest in the theology of Jesus. They’re there for the miracles. For them, Jesus speaking in parables becomes
a judgment…becomes a judgment. This is a turning point in His ministry in
Galilee. From now on, He never says anything to the
crowd except in parables and He never explains the parables so that they hear but don’t understand. They see the imagery but don’t comprehend
the meaning. This is a judgment and that’s what it tells
us in verses 10 through 12, “As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the Twelve,
began asking Him about the parables.” What do they mean? What are You trying to convey? What is the spiritual meaning? “And He was saying to them, ‘To you has been
given the mystery of the Kingdom of God but those who are outside get everything in parables
so that…'” and He quotes an old-fashioned prophecy from Isaiah 6:9 and 10, “‘While seeing
they may see and not perceive, while hearing they may hear and not understand, otherwise
they might return and be forgiven.'” The indication is, it’s too late for forgiveness. It’s too late for comprehension, they have
made up their minds. If you go over to verse 33 later in the same
chapter, it says, “With many such parables, He was speaking the Word to them so far as
they were able to hear it and He didn’t speak to them without a parable, but He was explaining
everything privately to His own disciples.” And so, I say this is a judgment…this is
a judgment. This parable, by the way, and these same statements
about who can understand and who won’t understand, this parable and those same statements appear
in Matthew chapter 13, the parable is repeated there, and also appear in Luke chapter 8. So three of the gospels record the parable
and record it as a judgment and make the distinction between the people who cannot hear because
they have a fixed rejection of Christ and those who will hear because they are believers
in Him. In Matthew 13:10, it’s good to hear His account
of it. The disciples come to Jesus, and they say,
“Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted
to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been granted. Therefore I speak to them…verse 13…in
parables because while seeing they do not see, while hearing they do not hear, nor do
they understand.” Then He says, “This is to fulfill the prophecy
of Isaiah.” Then verse 16, “Blessed are your eyes because
they see and your ears because they hear.” And then over in verses 34 and 35, “All these
things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables and He didn’t speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through
the prophet, ‘I will open My mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the foundation
of the world.'” Words borrowed from Psalm 78 verse 2. Luke 8 says essentially the same thing. So in understanding the ministry of Jesus
in telling parables to the crowd, you have to understand this is a divine judgment. This is a moment which freezes the rejection
of Jesus. These people who have rejected Christ under
the leadership of the apostate Pharisees and scribes and rabbis and the rest, these people
now are past the point where they can return and be forgiven. This is a tragic moment in the history of
Israel. So in Galilee where He is ministering, He
never again speaks in any teaching without parables and for the crowd, He never gives
them an explanation. This is a divine judgment on their fixed unbelief. On the other hand, however, our Lord gives
a full explanation to His followers…the disciples, the Apostles, the believers. They are preeminently privileged to know the
mysteries of the Kingdom of God. They know the divine spiritual truth that
the Lord has revealed to them in these wonderful stories. This is critical for them because how are
they going to be used to build the Kingdom? How are they going to be used to proclaim
the gospel? How are they going to be used when the church
is established to build the church and strengthen the church and carry the message of the church,
the gospel to the ends of the earth if they don’t understand these things…they must
understand them. One of the most beautiful portions of Scripture
is John 15 where Jesus says, “You’re My friends and I call you My friends because I have revealed
all things that My Father has disclosed to Me to you.” If you’re a friend of the Lord Jesus Christ,
what marks that friendship is full disclosure, complete revelation. So, on the one hand, our Lord speaking in
parables is a judgment to the non-believers who are fixed in their rejection. On the other hand, it is an invitation to
revelation to His friends to whom the great mysteries of the Kingdom will be disclosed
in full so that they can have the privilege of knowing this truth and carry out the responsibility
of proclaiming it. Now this particular parable is a foundation
parable. It’s just one of those parables that is absolutely
critical to all believer’s understanding of spiritual responsibility. The greatest spiritual responsibility we have
is the fulfillment of the Great Commission, right? That’s why we’re here in this world to take
the gospel to the ends of the earth, to proclaim the gospel to every creature, to go to all
the nations to teach men about Christ, to come to Him in faith and repentance. We understand that. Every other mandate in Scripture works toward
making us better able to fulfill the Great Commission, that’s our ultimate goal. Well, with that in mind, this parable of the
soils is the most detailed instruction our Lord ever gave us on evangelism. We know the Great Commission, we’re familiar
with the Great Commission in Matthew, we’re familiar with the one in Luke. We’re familiar with the commission in Acts
chapter 1, the Lord sending us to the ends of the earth to proclaim the gospel. But this goes beyond that and describes what
we should expect. This tells us how to get ready for the responses
that we’re going to have as we carry out this commission. It is an absolutely critical parable to be
understood. Sadly, it is not really understood by the
church, I’m afraid. If it is understood, it is ignored. If it isn’t ignored, it is misinterpreted
and even in some cases where it is rightly interpreted it is un-applied. It is so definitive, as I said earlier, I
would not be remised to preach twenty sermons on this parable. But I wouldn’t do it for fear I would wear
you out with this one story. But it is so critical, it is so foundational,
it must not be ignored, it must not be misinterpreted, and I have heard many frightening misinterpretations
of this. It must not be left un-applied. It has implications on how we do evangelism. Failure to understand this, failure to interpret
it correctly, failure to imply the truths in this parable has blighted the church in
a very serious way. It has allowed the church to engage in all
kinds of foolish and illegitimate strategies for evangelism that are very effective in
producing false converts. Maybe never in the history of the church has
it been any more efficient as it is now in producing false converts. The church is really good at making hypocrites
and even apostates. False conversions abound in the church. The church is very adept at sowing its own
tares in the midst of the field. And if you go back to this story and get it
right and make application of its truth, the church would become insulated against that
kind of folly. The last thing you want to do, the last thing
you ever want to do in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is produce a false conversion
by using some illegitimate means of manipulating people. So I cannot stress how important the instruction
of this parable is because it regulates our understanding of evangelism. Back to the explanation. The explanation comes then starting in verse
13, “Jesus says, ‘Do you understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?'” The point is, “No, we don’t understand, how
can we understand? There’s only one way, You have to explain
them to us.” So He does in verse 14. “The sower sows the Word.” Pretty obvious that He doesn’t say anything
about the sower, there is no adjective in front of sower. He doesn’t say, “The good sower, the clever
sower, the adept sower, the savvy sower, the culturally acute sower,” He doesn’t say any
of that, “The sower…” no description, this is every believer, folks, this is us. This is you, every believer, every believer…we
proclaim the gospel. Nothing more needs to be said about the sower,
it’s not about the sower. It’s not about the technique of the sower,
the skill of the sower. Then it says, “Sows the Word.” Well the Word is the seed. There’s only one seed. That’s the gospel. Paul says, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel
of Christ,” Romans 1, “it is the power of God unto salvation to whoever believes, Jew
or Greek.” The power is in the gospel, the gospel is
the seed. Faith comes by hearing the Word concerning
Christ, Romans 10. First Corinthians 15, “This is the gospel,
that Jesus died and rose again.” We understand the gospel. The gospel simply summarized is preaching
Christ. The Great Commission at the end of Luke, our
Lord says, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, and all
the things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms
must be fulfilled.” So He opened their minds to understand the
scriptures. The gospel starts in the Law, the prophets
and the holy writings, the Hagiographa, the Old Testament. You start with the story of Christ all the
way back with the Law and with the prophets and the Psalms. And then He said, “Thus it is written that
Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day and that repentance for
forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You’re a witness to these things, so go do
it, preach Christ, preach Christ, preach the whole history of Christ.” As is connection to the Law and the prophets
and the Psalms is the beginning of it all and the fulfillment of it comes in the New
Testament, preach Christ, that’s the seed, it’s the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ,
the one who fulfills all Old Testament prophecy. So there’s really no discussion here about
the sower. Every believer is a sower. And there’s no discussion about the seed,
there’s only one possible seed and that’s the story of Christ. That’s the story of Christ. It is Christ, the gospel is Christ. We preach Christ. Paul says, “I’m determined to know nothing
among you except Christ and Him crucified.” And they said about Paul his speech was contemptible,
he lacked personal charm, he had nothing going for him. He was boring. He didn’t get in to any of the philosophical
elaborance that teased the minds of people. He had this consistent simplistic message
about a crucified Jew, that’s all he preached. He didn’t try to embellish it, it was the
pure gospel. And as we all know, God used him mightily. So all of us are sowers and we have the seed
which is the gospel concerning Jesus Christ. Just a footnote. I was reading some of Spurgeon this week and
Spurgeon, he was very insightful even in his day, and he hated the invitation system that
was popular in his day where preachers would say, “Come forward to this altar,” or “Come
into this inquiry room and talk to this counselor or talk to this person.” And he said, “Drive everyone to Christ. Drive everyone to Christ. Drive everyone to Christ. The only hope of salvation is found in Christ. Don’t offer a counselor, don’t offer the byproducts
of Christ, offer Christ and Christ only…that’s the gospel, preach Christ.” And so the sower is every believer, the seed
is the gospel of Christ. So the issue left for us is the soils, right? This is the key. Soils represent the human heart. Matthew 13:19, the parallel passage refers
to the seed going into the soil as the gospel being sowed in the heart…in the heart. So here we have hearts that we’re going to
face as we go to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth. Very, very important. First of all, verse 15 is the roadside heart. These are the ones who are beside the road
where the seed is sown, when they hear immediately Satan comes and takes away the Word which
has been sown in them. This is the seed that falls on hard beaten
path, it’s like concrete, no response at all. They’re described in 2 Corinthians 4, as we
read earlier, whose minds are blinded by Satan. Satan comes along and snatches the truth away
before it can ever penetrate. This is not some oblique group of people,
this is Israel. They are the hard-hearted and stiff-necked
just like their ancestors. You remember when Jesus went into the synagogue
in Nazareth and preached one sermon, according to Luke 4 they tried to throw Him off the
cliff and stone Him to death because He attacked their hard-heartedness. He reminded them of the story in the past
that God wanted to benefit a widow in Israel but couldn’t find a righteous widow so He
had to go and take care of a Gentile widow, and He wanted to heal a leper but there were
none worthy of being healed in Israel, so He went and healed a border terrorist who
pillaged and raped the Jews by the name of Naaman. They were so infuriated by being reminded
of how stiff-necked and hard-hearted they were that they wanted to kill Jesus. But that was the way they were…hard, impenitent
heart. So He’s describing the vast population of
Israel. The Jews and the religious leaders who had
rejected Him for whom it was now too late and He was speaking to them in stories without
an explanation because He was hiding the truth from them. He was no longer going to cast pearls before
swine. Then you remember the rocky here in verses
16 and 17. In a similar way, they’re the ones on whom
the seed was thrown in the rocky places who when they hear the Word immediately receive
it with joy, they have no firm root in themselves but are only temporary. Then when affliction or persecution arises
because of the Word, immediately they fall away. Get ready to expect temporary converts. These are shallow responders, false converts,
who respond emotionally without counting the cost, selfishly seeking personal satisfaction. This rises, frankly, out of self-love. There are people who say, “Oh yeah, I certainly
want that. I want Jesus if He can take care of my life
and forgive my sin and take me to heaven.” But it’s all very self-centered. Jonathan Edwards was well aware of this when
he wrote a treatise concerning religious affections in 1746. He said that “Fallen humiliation is fertile
ground for fleshly religiosity, impiously spiritual but ultimately rooted in self-love.” Folks, that dominates evangelicalism today,
a self-centered, self-love, fleshly religiosity, an impious spirituality that wants Jesus only
because Jesus will deliver what this person emotionally needs. High emotional experiences, Edwards said,
effusive gushy religious talk, even praising God and experiencing love for God in feelings
can be self-centered and self-motivated. This is aided and abetted by the Charismatic
Movement and all its tentacles that go everywhere, driving people emotionally to do things that
have nothing to do with a real conversion. In contrast to this, Jonathan Edwards talked
of experiences of genuine salvation from the Holy Spirit as always being God-centered in
character, based on worship, having an appreciation on God’s grandeur, divorced completely from
any self-interest. Edwards pointed out that genuine conversion
creates humility in the convert rather than pride, a spirit of meekness, gentleness, forgiveness
and mercy and leaves the true believer hungering and thirsting for righteousness instead of
being satisfied with some kind of self-congratulation. This happen constantly where there is an emotional
appeal or an appeal to people’s will, divorced from clear instruction regarding God’s holy
hatred of sin. Who does the Lord seek? He seeks those who are of a broken and contrite
spirit who tremble at My Word, who literally shudder under the authority of God. Now false conversions happen all the time
and the issue is not that people don’t believe in Jesus Christ. That’s not the part that creates false conversions. There are lots of falsely converted people
who will tell you Jesus lived, they believed Jesus died, they believe Jesus rose again. That is relatively easier to accept. What makes a false conversion is a failure
at genuine repentance…at genuine repentance. The quote/unquote Christian church is full
of all kinds of people who believe in Jesus Christ. The devils believe, James 2:19, devil faith. But it’s about the holy hatred of sin. It’s about brokenness. It’s about self-denial. It’s about repentance. Spurgeon said, “There are people who come
forward under an emotional appeal and then immediately go backward into their sin. They go into the inquiry room and get converted
in five minutes and have nothing to do with godliness the rest of their lives. So he was dealing with the same kind of false
conversions in his day. It’s always this temptation in the church
to cheapen evangelism and all it does is create superficiality. Look, false converts are going to happen any
way, aiding and abetting them is not acceptable. There’s going to be rocky soil even under
the correct presentation of the gospel. Accommodating the gospel to that is a gross
sin. Mere emotion has nothing to do with evangelism. Look, they had seen that too. They had seen the hard-hearted populace, they
also knew there had been disciples as recorded in John 6:61 to 71 who followed for awhile
and then turned around and left. And Jesus gave a reverse invitation. “Will you also go? Why don’t you all leave?” There’s a new approach to an invitation. Why don’t you all just reject Me? All of you leave. The ones who remained stood up and said, “We’re
not going to go anywhere, You’re the one with eternal life. We know who You are, the Holy One of God.” So they had seen the kinds of people who when
there’s any kind of pressure or anything they don’t believe, or anything they don’t want
to submit to, or any kind of persecution arising on the horizon, they disappear. And they’re still with us. We don’t aid and abet that by superficial
emotional approaches in evangelism. If someone’s confession of Christ doesn’t
come from a deep inner contrition, a broken and contrite heart, a desire to be delivered
from sin and come under the holy Lordship of Jesus Christ in a life of self-denial and
sacrifice and service and even suffering, then you have no root…you have no root. All right, that’s a review, gets us to the
third kind of soil, thorny hearers, verses 18 and 19. “And others are the ones on whom seed was
sown among the thorns. These are the ones who heard the Word but
the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things
enter 8in and choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful.” Thorns is a Greek word, akanthas , that’s
actually the name of a thorny weed, very common in the Middle East, found frequently in cultivated
soil. It’s the same word used in Matthew 27:29 to
refer to the crown of thorns placed on our Lord’s head. It was made out of those same thorny weeds. So this is what occupies this heart. This is not the response of shallow emotion. This is not the response of self-will, driven
by self-love and self-interest. This is a double minded person whose repentance
is not complete. This is the person who wants salvation, wants
Christ, wants the Kingdom but wants the world and wants riches and wants things. Pretty obvious. This is the double minded. He wants to serve God and money and Jesus
said, “You can’t serve God and money.” This is the rich young ruler, remember him
in Luke…in Matthew 19? Comes to Jesus, “What do I have to do to enter
the Kingdom?” And He says, “Give up all your money because
that’s obviously the idol that rules your heart.” And he was not willing to do that. And he was also not willing to admit his own
sinfulness. He wanted to hang on to the illusion of his
own pride and his own riches. Literally when it says at the beginning of
verse 19, “worries of the world,” it is literally the distractions of the age…the distractions
of the age. Whatever they are, whatever occupies the age…this
is the preoccupied heart. This is the heart that unfortunately loves
the world and all the things that are in the world, according to 1 John 2, and therefore
the love of God is not in him. This is the heart that is the enemy of God,
James 4:4, because it loves the world. This is the kind of heart that says, as Jesus
points out in Luke chapter 9, “Yeah, I’m going to follow You, Lord, I’m going to follow You
but I can’t follow You now, you know, I’ve got to go home and wait till I get my inheritance
from my father so I have some money. Well I can’t follow You now, I’ve got to go
home and say goodbye to everybody so I can raise some money to take with me.” And Jesus says, “No, no, no, if you look back
you’re not fit for the Kingdom.” These are those who are under the terrible
temptation of the love of money becoming the root of all kinds of evil, 1 Timothy chapter
6. These are people consumed with the stuff of
the world. Now let me tell you something that you need
to know that’s very, very important. The gospel calls for a break from the worries
of the world, or the distractions of the age, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires
for other things. This chokes out the true seed. Is it not amazing to you that the prosperity
gospel promises all these things and Christ? Isn’t that what it does? Doesn’t the prosperity gospel say, “You can
have all the world has to offer, you can have riches and you can have all the other things
you want, and Jesus?” That is a lie right out of hell. Let me tell you something about the gospel? The gospel does not promise to you what your
unconverted, corrupted, fallen, wretched, sinful heart already wants. That’s not what the gospel offers you. The gospel doesn’t say it will give you the
world, it will give you riches, it will give you every other thing you desire, it will
give you a new house and a new car, etc., etc., etc. That’s a lie. That’s saying it’s fine to have weeds in the
soil. Great…Christ and weeds can coexist, thorns. This is a horrendous perversion. When you come to Christ, you have to let go
of the world and the love of riches and all the other things this world has to offer. You deny yourself. You deny all that you are, all that you possess. You hate your life, your family, your father,
your sister, your mother, perhaps. And you come and follow Me, take up your cross,
it may mean your death. Oh they were going to become familiar later
on with somebody who never could make that break, follow Jesus, said he believed in Jesus,
preached, but he loved money and he loved the world and he loved all the things the
world offered and his name is Judas. And then in 2 Timothy 4:10 there was Demas,
the associate of the Apostle Paul who abandoned Paul because of his love for this present
age. There are people like this. They want Christ but they don’t want to let
go of anything. It isn’t that you won’t have anything, the
Lord will give you whatever He chooses to give you in blessing you. The Lord will give you food to eat and a place
to stay. You don’t see God’s people begging bread. He’ll be your provision. But the distinguishing mark of a true believer
is not the love for those things and the desire for those things but a consuming love for
God that’s borne out in the testimony of Scripture in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says
seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be…what?…shall
be added. It’s a matter of what your heart desires. So what is the chief evidence of conversion? So far we’ve seen emotion, we’ve seen quick
response, we’ve seen interest. Speed of response doesn’t prove anything,
people can respond because their wills and emotions have been moved superficially. Joy isn’t the evidence. There are many people who have an emotional
experience, a temporary emotional satisfaction because they have some feeling induced. It’s not a desire to be blessed. Oh there are a lot of people who want to be
blessed. They want everything God can possibly give
them. That’s the devil’s message, that prosperity
gospel. What is the distinguishing mark of true conversion? Well it’s not any of these things. Jonathan Edwards said it is this, “Humble,
broken-hearted love for God. Humble, broken-hearted love for God.” Salvation is a regeneration, it is a real
transformation, turning a person from loving self to loving God, from pride to humility,
from the reigning power of sin to the reigning power of righteousness. Jonathan Edwards said, “The desires of the
saints are humble desires, humble hope, humble broken-hearted joy that leaves the Christian
more poor in spirit, more like a little child, more disposed to a universal lowliness of
behavior.” He said, “True grace reaches to very bottom
of the heart. Counterfeit heart never dispossess sin of
its claim on the soul, nor destroys its reigning power there.” That’s the bottom line. “A holy life is the chief sign of grace.” That’s what Edwards said. “A holy life is the chief sign of grace and
the chief representation of a holy life is holy love.” The chief sign is a holy life and the chief
manifestation of that sign is a holy love. Edwards goes on in A Treatise On Religious
Affection to say, “They that are converted are new men, new creatures, new not old within
and without. They’re sanctified throughout in spirit, soul
and body. Old things are passed away, all things are
become new. They have new hearts, new eyes, new ears,
new tongues, new hands, new feet. They walk in newness of life and continue
to do so to the end of life.” And Edwards went on to say, “There are plenty
of people who have false affections for self-interest, but the saved have true and deep affections. They are marked by a holy life manifested
in a holy love. They love God, they love Christ, they thus
are pursuing the fulfillment of the greatest commandment, to love the Lord their God with
all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Holy love out of a holy life directed at the
Holy One is directed at the chief affection of the redeemed. How sad it is that contemporary evangelism
lowers the standard so terribly…so terribly. You know, it all comes down to the sinner’s
pride. Just to help you a little bit with that, the
garden, Satan comes to Eve and what is the temptation? “God said, Don’t eat, I’m telling you, you
can eat and if you eat you will be as God.” That’s it. You’ll be as God and what will happen when
you are like God? You will know good or evil.” Not in terms of information but you’ll be
able to choose. You’ll become the sovereign of your own life. You can get out from under this…this leadership
you’re submitting yourself to in the Garden to God. You can take over. You’ll be as God and you can determine for
yourself good and evil, you can choose to do good, you can choose to do evil, you will
be the master of your own life, you will do whatever you want. That was Satan’s temptation and it was true
to his nature because why did Satan get kicked out of heaven? Why did he fall? Because he wanted to be equal to God. He would no longer submit himself to the sovereign
rule of God, he wanted sovereign rule himself and so that is what launches the great Fall
and sin into the universe. All sinners then are the sons of Satan, they
manifest the same need to be sovereign over their lives. They will not submit themselves to God. They will choose their own good and their
own evil. Now that has a problem, folks, because once
those two made that decision in the Garden, they were thrown out of the Garden and a flaming
sword was placed at the Garden to keep them from ever going back because nobody who lives
like that can have any relationship to God. You can’t get back into the fellowship of
God if that’s how you live, no possibility of reconciliation because according to the
words of James, God resists the proud. Man’s only hope is to humble himself because
God gives grace to the humble and so God is looking for the humble and broken and contrite
heart that trembles at His great authority. Salvation only comes to the humble. The sinner renouncing his own independence,
his own will, his own wisdom and totally submitting to the lordship of Christ. And for sinners, such submission and such
abandonment of self-will is far too much to ask. That’s why there are people, Jesus said, who
want to get into the Kingdom and they go at it but they can’t do it because they can’t
make the sacrifice of their own sovereignty. The only sinner who comes back to God and
is reconciled is the one who stoops, who hates himself, confesses Jesus as Lord. Failure to do that dooms and damns the sinner
to hell, partial commitment is useless. There are people who do respond that way,
the right way. They’re indicated in the final kind of soil. Verse 20, “Those are the ones on whom seed
was sown on the good soil and they hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty-,
sixty- and a hundred-fold. They’re willing to humble themselves. They’re willing to be broken and contrite
in heart. They desire heaven…yes, they desire salvation..yes,
they desire forgiveness. But underlying all of it is, they desire to
be delivered from the dominating power of sin, they want a life of righteousness and
holiness. That’s the good soil. That’s not natural. Good soil is not natural. Hard soil is natural. Just leave the ground and that’s what it will
be. Rocky soil, that’s natural, leaving it the
way it is. Weedy soil, that’s natural that’s the way
it is. Something has to happen to this soil. To make it good soil, the stone has to be
broken up. The hard ground has to be broken up. The weeds have to be taken out. Who can do that? Only God can do that. He alone can do that. Deuteronomy 30 verse 6, “The Lord your God
will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God
with all your heart that you may live. Proverbs 20 and verse 9 says, “Who can say
I have made my heart clean, pure from sin?” Nobody can do that on his own. So what does this good soil sinner do? He cries out to God like David in Psalm 51:10,
“Create in me a…what?…clean heart, O God.” This is the sinner who comes to God in the
invitation of Hebrews 10:22, “Draws near with a pure heart, a cleansed conscience.” This is the one of whom Jeremiah writes, “I’ll
make an everlasting covenant with them, I will not turn away from them, from doing good. I will put My fear in their hearts so that
they will never depart from Me.” So James says, “Purify your hearts, you sinners.” How can you do that? You can’t do that on your own, you go to God
and you ask God to purify your heart. You know, when you’re talking about a true
conversion, you’re not talking about somebody who wants an emotional fix in their life or
wants a new direction, or wants what their corrupted flesh wants. You’re talking about someone who wants to
be rescued from the power and the penalty of…what?…sin…sin. You say, “Well…wow, that’s not going to
happen naturally.” No, I just read that from 2 Corinthians 4,
only God can do that. That’s why we say, you plead with Him. If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those
who are perishing, in whose case the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving
so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image
of God. We don’t preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus
as Lord. And then we know that God who said, “Light
shall shine out of darkness is the one who was shone in our hearts to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” If there’s ever going to be any hope for these
people, God has to turn on the light so we cry out to God on behalf of the sinner, behalf
of the sinner’s heart condition. The sinner who comes and says, “I want a clean
heart, I want a pure heart, I want to repent of sin, I want to be delivered from sin will
have the benefit of the great New Covenant promise, “I will give you a new heart, I will
take the heart out of your flesh and give you a heart…stony heart out of your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh.” This is the best part of the story, the last
line. The results are really phenomenal. Verse 20, “They that hear the Word and accept
it and bear fruit, thirty-, sixty- and a hundred-fold.” Remember I told you last week, this is the
shock factor because the average crop in Israel, from what I can find in my research and I
kind of rejuvenated it a little this week is about 7.5, that would be a big time crop. Nobody ever heard of 30, 60, a 100 fold. So the point here is simply this, that while
the results immediately on the surface look pretty bad, pretty bleak as we launch into
this evangelism, the disciples are saying to the Lord, “Why are so few believing?” They see the mass of people who have rejected,
they see the superficial disciples who come and leave. They see those who never break from the world
and eventually turn out to be false converts, their interest in Christ is superficial. They love the world too much. They see the types like the rich young ruler
and they must wonder…Is it ever going to get beyond that? Is it always going to be the little flock? The few? Here’s the great lesson of this parable. The results are going to be supernatural…the
results are going to be supernatural. All the hard ground, all the rocky ground,
all the weedy rejecters of the gospel will not thwart…will not thwart the divine purpose. In the face of very discouraging early results,
very discouraging early response in Israel, they need to know that the Lord was going
to do absolutely staggering and explicable exponential things. There is, in spite of rejection, an irrepressible
empowerment in these lives. They can’t see it. The disciples are timid, hard-headed, ignorant,
selfish. They’re a work in progress. They can’t see it but the results are going
to be exponential. Now this is not trying to convey that if you’re
a thirty-er, you should be a sixty-er. And if you’re a sixty-er, you should be a
hundred. That’s not the point. You can’t determine that, okay? This is not about that. This is simply saying that God is going to
do things through the lives of His people to build His Kingdom. Some are going to be less than others by His
design. Okay? By His design. It reminds me of the parable in Matthew 20
where some people worked twelve hours, some people worked, you remember, nine, some worked
six, some worked three, and some worked one and they all got the same reward. When we all get to heaven, we’re all going
to get the same eternal reward and it’s not about the numbers of people we influenced
with the gospel, it’s about our faithfulness to the calling God gave us. And the calling’s vary…30, 60, 100. That’s God’s to determine. But backing up a little bit, there’s no such
thing as…and it’s important to say this…there’s no such thing as a fruitless Christian. Look at John 15 for just a moment, we have
a few minutes to kind of wrap up with some of these verses. John 15, “I’m the vine, My Father is the vine
dresser. Every branch in Me that doesn’t bear fruit,
He takes away.” So if you have a super…this is a superficial
connection to Jesus. If you have a superficial connection to Jesus,
you’re going to be taken away. And what happens to the ones who get taken
away? Verse 6, “They get burned,” that’s hell. There’s some of that weedy soil, some of that
rocky ground. But if you’re a branch that is in Me and remains
in Me, verse 2 says, “He takes every branch that bears fruit and prunes it so that it
may bear more fruit.” It doesn’t say He would like to do that, it
says He does it. Your life becomes exponentially impactful. Verse 5 says, “He who abides in Me and I in
him bears much fruit. Apart from Me you can do nothing.” Verse 8, “My Father is glorified by this that
you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” The point is, if you’re a true disciple, you
bear…what?…fruit. It’s inevitable. Ephesians 2:10 says, “This was foreordained
by God in your salvation for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which
God beforehand prepared so that we would walk in them.” It’s a foregone conclusion. We’re going to bear fruit. Our lives as true believers are going to have
an impact. You say, “Well even if we’re sinful?” We’re all sinful. We all fail. I’m sure we can diminish our fruitfulness,
of course. But there’s going to be fruit born by the
irrepressible power of the gospel and the dwelling of the Spirit of God that is in us. This is a promise. And it’s not trying to say, “Well, if you’re
30 be 60, if you’re 60 be a hundred.” The Lord knows what He will do to build His
Kingdom. He knows the soil that is going to produce
30 and 60 and a hundred. But mark this, they’re all supernaturally
powerful because they’re all beyond the capability of soil in the analogy. That’s why the only explanation for us is
the power of God. Look at 1 Corinthians chapter 1…1 Corinthians
chapter 1 verse 26, “Consider your calling. There were not many wise according to the
flesh, not many mighty, not many noble.” That’s us, folks, we’re just the common folks,
we’re just the foolish, the weak, the base, verse 28, the despised, the nobodies. You say, “Well how can we have any effect?” Verse 30, “By His doing you’re in Christ Jesus
who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” Here we are in the world, this collection
of nobodies, who of all people in the world alone have the wisdom of God, righteousness,
sanctification and redemption, but it’s all the work of God. It’s by His doing so that it is written, “Let
him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” We can take no credit for it. We can take no credit for it. Second Corinthians 2 says, “Who is adequate
for these things?” Now go back to Mark and I’m going to close
with just a reference to coming parables in this same chapter that explain the exponential
divine empowerment and the impact of our lives. Look at verse 26, “The Kingdom of God is like
a man who casts seed upon the soil, goes to bed at night, gets up by day, the seed sprouts
and grows. How he himself doesn’t know.” I love that. That’s how evangelism works…some sow, some
water and what? God gives the increase. We don’t make it happen, we go to bed and
it happens. Or verse 30, “How can we picture the Kingdom
of God. What kind of parable should we use to present
it. It’s like a mustard seed, when sewn in the
soil, smaller than all the seeds upon the soil, when its grown, it grows up and becomes
larger than all the garden plant and forms large branches so that the birds of the air
can nest under its shade.” The Lord is saying it’s going to start so
small but it’s going to explode and it’s going to do so through you. Well it happened fast, didn’t it? The Day of Pentecost, three thousand…another
week later, five thousand. You’ve got over 20 thousand in a few weeks
and pretty soon it turned the world upside down. And here we are two centuries later and millions
and millions and millions and millions of people have come into the Kingdom of God and
are now either in the church militant on earth or the church triumphant in heaven and the
power of the gospel keeps moving through those who are the sowers. That’s us. God is still using us to turn the world upside
down. This is our great privileged calling. We do what we can do and go to sleep and it
happens. And that’s just a parable way of saying the
power doesn’t come from you, it comes through you, it’s in the gospel itself and the work
of the Spirit. Father, we thank You that You’ve called us
to this…this unique and amazing calling, this, as we said earlier, this condescension
that follows right behind the very condescension expressed in the incarnation of Christ, that
You’ve come down to earth in Christ is the most wondrous, but second to that is that
You have come down to take up residence in us. He was holy, we are not. And through us to bring about a spiritual
harvest that can only be explained as supernatural…supernatural. There’s no human explanation for our influence. We talk to a person here, a person there and
while we go away and do something else, as it were, going to sleep, the seed planted
bursts to life and it grows by Your power and next we know that person talks to someone
else and someone else and someone else and pretty soon the harvest is getting larger
and larger. We won’t even know all the lives that we have
been able to impact until we meet them in heaven and in the glory of the future. Who humanly is adequate for such an influence? The world has its idea of who the influencers
are, they’re clueless. The only people who really have an influence
that lasts eternally are Christians and here we go through this world bearing 30, 60, a
hundred-fold as instruments that You can use. The power is not ours but it comes through
us. What great privilege this is for us. May we eagerly proclaim the gospel, live the
gospel, to the end that You would be glorified and that our faithfulness would cause many
to give glory to You that, as Paul put it, it would redound to Your glory as we see many
come to Christ. We pray in His name. Amen.

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