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A Study in Soils, Part 2 (Mark Sermon16)

Series: Mark

A Study in Soils, Part 2 (Mark Sermon16)

May 15, 2022 | Andrew Davis
Mark 4:1-20
Exalting Christ, The Power of Sin, Two Ways to Live

Pastor Andy Davis returns to the Parable of the Soils in Mark 4:1-20 to discuss further the one Jesus implied the most important of his parables.

             

- sermon Transcript -

 

Turn in your Bibles now to Mark 4. It’s the second week we're going through this passage.  Psalm 139 ends with these words, "Search me, oh God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there's any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting." I'll never forget the events of June 21st, 2020, Father's Day, almost two years ago now, as I woke and got dressed for church that day, a Sunday, getting ready to preach. I had no idea that by the end of the day, my life would be in the hands of a cardiologist, that I will have had a heart attack. I had no feeling, no sense of the danger within. One of the significant arteries in my heart was 90% blocked. Another lesser artery, a hundred percent blocked. I had no idea. I had no sense, no feeling of that. I thank God for the skill of the cardiologist and also the diagnostic tools that are available in this day and age, to probe the inner workings of my physical heart to let me know what was actually going on. Actually, to let the doctor know what was going on, so that my life would be spared. Do you know what's going on in your spiritual heart? Are you aware of where you're really at spiritually? Jesus is presented in the New Testament as a physician of the soul. He said, "The healthy do not need a doctor, but the sick. I've not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

How does this physician of the soul, probe and diagnose our spiritual hearts? I think essential to our salvation is that we would want him to do so. That we will want to layout on his diagnostic table and say with Psalm 139, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart.’ Show me what's really going on in the core of my being.” How does he do that? He does it by the ministry of the word, by the power of the Spirit. He does it by every scripture, that's been inspired by the Holy Spirit. All of it has the ability to search us and probe us and show us our true condition. That's the attitude I want us to take as we come for the second week into the Parable of the Soils, for these soils represent different heart conditions, different people, and different heart conditions, as they hear the word.

The most significant moment of our lives is the moment we hear the Word of God. What do we do with it? What happens when we hear the scripture proclaimed? Our eternity depends on what we do with the Word of the Gospel. Whether we spend eternity in heaven or hell, all comes down to that one moment in our lives. I understand we have many such moments to hear the Word, but that singular moment of the Word coming in, what happens with the Word of God? I believe it's vital for us to understand each of these soils and to use each one, to say, "Search me, oh God, and know my heart." I think also just as a Christian parent, I think it's beneficial for parents who are raising their children in the nurture and admonish of the Lord from infancy up through the various stages of life, that you would prepare your kids. That they would be able to hear the Word of God. That they would know what's going on in their hearts. That they would understand how hostile the world is to our faith. For you as parents, as evangelists and disciples of your own kids, that you would understand these various soils and what could be happening in the hearts of your kids as they grow up, so that's in my mind as well. 

Soil 1: The Path 

Let's walk through these for the second time.  I'm not going to read over the scripture because we're going to walk through it, soil by soil. Let's look at the first soil, the hardened path.  Look at verses 3-4, "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up." Then the interpretation, verses 14-15, “the farmer sews the Word.” Some people are like seed along the path where the Word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the Word that was sown in them. This first soil is the normal response to the Word of God worldwide, every day, sadly. Every single day, the gospel message is preached. Paul summarizes it in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, "What I received, I passed on as a first importance, that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures." That's the basic facts of the gospel and there's many other aspects beside. Every single day, that Word, the Word of the Gospel, is proclaimed all around the world by messengers. Millions of people hear that message and utterly reject it. They reject it out of hand. They reject it without hesitation. They reject it instantly. Jesus liken them to seed that falls on a hardened path, a path beaten down, day after day, by traffic and by the heat of the sun. That path is like concrete. We would understand it like a concrete sidewalk. The seed falls and bounces, no penetration at all. Because of their hard hearts, the people feel no fear at all concerning the coming judgment of God, the Judgment Day, that is most certainly coming. They have no concern about spending eternity in hell. These terrifying topics mean literally nothing to them. They hear the words of warning with arrogant confidence. I think about wicked King Jehoiakim, who heard the terrifying words of prophetic warning from the scroll of Jeremiah, his prophecies, and he cut the scroll, line by line, and burned it in a fire pot to warm his hands. Jeremiah 36:24 says, "The king and all his at attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes," a sign of repentance. 

Jesus highlights Satan's activity in all this. Satan's active in this. In the parable, the birds eating the seed represent Satan's activity, snatching away the word. The Gospel of Matthew uses that exact term, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.”  This is a seed sown along the path. This shows the power that Satan has over the hearts and minds of unbelievers. Satan seizes this Word. He removes it powerfully from their minds. They do not think on it at all. Perhaps they mock it. Perhaps they twist it or pervert it. Others blaspheme it and resolve to war against it, like Saul of Tarshish did before his conversion. He said in Acts 26:9, "I was convinced that I should do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth." But others, I think just disregard it. It's like, they'd never heard it. It's like the whole encounter never happened. Moments later, they don't think about it, take it to heart. This is part of the way that Satan seeks to thwart the advancing kingdom of God all over the world. 

Some years ago, I read to my kids a very powerful biography of Adoniram and Ann Judson, missionaries to Burma, called to the Golden Shore. There's a very powerful moment in that account. On January 27th, 1820 Adoniram Judson, missionary to Burma, and one of his fellow missionaries, James Coleman, traveled up the Irrawaddy River in Burma, to the Royal city of Ava, to secure an audience with the Emperor of Burma, King Bagyidaw. They went to ask for religious toleration so that they could preach the gospel in Burma, but Judson's deepest desire was to lead this man, this king, to faith in Christ. The Royal palace and Ava were overwhelmingly ornate. The hallway they went down was covered with gold leaf. The audience chamber, where they met with the king, covered with gold leaf. It was overwhelming and radiant. When the king entered the room, all of the Burmese people fell down on their faces as if a God had entered the room. Missionaries just knelt with respect, and Judson gave the king his petition for religious freedom in Burma so that they could preach the gospel unhindered. But then, he gave him a tract, explaining the gospel in culturally understandable, relevant words, good language, so he could understand it. The tract is still used apparently in Burma. As he hands him the tract he prays, "Oh Lord, have mercy on Burma. Have mercy on her king." Bagyidaw read the opening lines of the tract. "There is one being who exists eternally, who has exemption from sickness, old age and death. Who is, and who was, and who will be, without beginning and without end. Besides this, the true God, there is no other God." That's how the tract begins. King Bagyidaw read the first few lines and then just let his arm fall to the ground,  drop the tract out of his hand, stepped across the paper and out of the room to go review some troops. They never saw him again. There's no evidence that man ever came to faith in Christ. Satan does this kind of work, snatching away the seed, as soon as it's sown, all over the world. 

 I need to stop right now and ask all of you, what is happening in your heart concerning the gospel? You've heard the basic elements already this morning from me, that Christ died for our sins and that he was buried and that he was raised. Then if you have repentance and faith in him, your sins will be forgiven and you'll spend eternity in heaven, not in hell. Those are the basic facts. What are you doing with that? What's going on in your heart with the gospel?  I want to say something to Christians. I'm going to do this for each of the four soil types. Is Satan at work in the hearts of Christians too, in a similar pattern? That's a question. A possible interpretation of the soils is not just that this is permanently representing four different categories of people. I think that's standard interpretation. But also occasions as well, at times we hear the Word, and Satan is at work. In that case, Satan can snatch away the Word as though you never heard it on that particular day. Before you go on and say, I just don't think that's a proper hermeneutic or approach, let me ask you a question. As you look at the other soils, for example, the rocky soil in which persecution comes and the seeds don't respond well to the persecution, and wither and die. Or the other one about the danger of wealth, worldly wealth, and the danger of that crowding it out. Can you look at those soils and say, "Well, thank God. I don't have to worry about those. I know I'll be fine with persecution. I've got a good deep root system." Or, "I have no problem with wealth. I'm fine in that regard." Can you speak that kind of blessing on yourself, so you can exempt yourself until you get to the final soil type? I would say, no. Don't do that. "Search me, oh God, and know my heart." So I'm going to extend it to all of them. I think it cannot do us any harm.

What happens every time we hear the Word of God? Do we take it to heart or does Satan snatch away that Word, so that it has no effect on us. We are a distracted people, we can be inattentive.  Therefore I think we need to be aware of times in which the Word of God has made no impact on us at all. Evangelists and missionaries, pastors would do well to pray in light of this normative response to the gospel. Say, "Oh God, may the gospel work that we've done today, not be like the seed sown along that hardened path. May you take the word and plant it deep in people's hearts." Pray knowledgeably. Christian parents,  pray that your kids would not be hardened in their hearts toward the word of God. Pray knowledgeably. Pray for yourselves, "Oh God, that I would not develop a hardened heart that doesn't hear your word." 

Soil 2: The Stony Ground

The second soil type, the stony ground. Look at verse 5-6, "Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil, sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched and they withered because they had no root." Then he interprets it in verse 16-17. "Others like seed sown on rocky places hear the word and at once, receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word they quickly fall away." Even though Satan is not mentioned in this soil by Jesus, I think we know in a broader teaching, Satan is very active in this matter of persecution around the world, bringing trouble on Christians because of the Word. He is active so we need to see his activity in this and in the next soil as well. Satan is battling against the Word of God, all over the world. In the stony ground, Satan keeps working on people after they've initially responded with great joy and passion, so that's noteworthy in this. The initial response is with joy, with passion. It's often surprising to people when they see individuals who at one time were extremely emotional and passionate about the Word of God, who are filled with joy and energy and commitment, who say all the right things and have the right facial expressions and the body language and the right emotions, but then who later renounce the faith and apostatize it. How could that even be? Is that even possible? 

We're enamored with passion, as like absolute evidence or proof that God's Word is at work in that person's life. We think on the other side of the equation, a more reserved, cold, calculating thinker who makes a verbal ascent to Christ, who speaks accurate doctrines, but who seems to lack passion, we're not surprised if that person later walking away. But if someone's face is lit up with joy, if their whole demeanor is crackling with passion, if they sing the songs loudly and they put their hands in the air, we think all that passion proves God is at work in that person's life. No doubt about it. Not so, necessarily. Maybe. Passion's a good thing. We need to have it. As a matter of fact, if you are passionless, you're not born again. I believe that, but just because there's an outward show doesn't mean necessarily that the person's regenerate, that they're born again. This stony ground here, it says, they sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. They had nowhere to go but up. Remember that stony ground talks about a sub-layer, sub-strata of impenetrable limestone or something like that. Not just individual rocks that the farmer can take out. This is almost like the hardened path of which we spoke. The rock itself is heated up with the sun. There's a lot of warmth and as I said, the seed has nowhere to go but up, and it goes up quickly, like a weed. They seem to make amazing progress in Christianity but the real test is about to come. The shallowness of this person, the shallowness is comprehensive. They're shallow in their doctrine, they're shallow in their conviction of sin, they're shallow in their relationship with Christ. Shallow. They have no root system. 

Then the sun comes up in the parable. Jesus says the plant lasts only a short time. He doesn't specify how long that is. That's kind of the terrifying point. He doesn't say after one day it withers and dies, or after a week it withers and dies. So if you make it past a week, you get to eight days, you're good. After a year, it withers and dies. If you get to a year plus one day, you're home free. He just says a short time. What's a short time to the Ancient of Days? I don't know, but at any rate he says a short time, but doesn't specify. It could even go on for years in this shallow pattern. But the individual has up to that point, never had to pay a price for his or her faith in Christ, and there's been no need to count the cost because life as a shallow Christian has been comfortable. But Jesus said, there's a time when trouble or persecution comes because of the Word. At that point, they quickly fall away.


"This is a warning to comfortable Christians in America. Biblical Christianity and American culture are on a collision course."

This is a warning to comfortable Christians in America. Biblical Christianity and American culture are on a collision course. For many years, America, some in America, claimed that America's a Christian nation. It's nothing of the kind, never has been, but it is true that Christianity affected the national politics and government, and culture and media, and entertainment, perhaps debatably more than almost any other nation in history; a tremendous leavening effect in a positive way. That is true, so that Christianity in American culture've had somewhat of a comfortable relationship.

I believe I perceive this is coming to a screeching end. More and more, Christian convictions on sexuality, on gender, on the exclusivity of Christ, on the inherency of the Bible and many other vital theological topics, will be in direct opposition to American culture. Christians more and more will have to choose between their convictions and their jobs, or their friendships, or their extended family relationships, or their ability to participate in the public square, or to be accepted at certain colleges or programs or continue in those programs and on and on. It's going to get worse and worse. It's going to get hot.

So the warning to all of us is to develop a root system, as soon as you possibly can. Develop a root system in God's Word. Many verses speak to this. Colossians 2:6-7 says, "So then, just as you receive Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith,” [that's Christian doctrine], “as you were taught, overflowing with thankfulness." Steep your mind and your heart in God's word. Develop a root system doctrinally. Develop a root system of intimacy with Christ, of closeness with Christ, of a love relationship with Jesus. Ephesians 3 speaks of that in verse 17-19 when Paul prays, "I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. And that you would know that love, that surpasses knowledge. That you would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." That's a root system of love that you would know how much Jesus loves you. Those two together will keep you in good stead when heat comes. Deep doctrine and deep, deep intimacy with Christ. Again, Christian parents, please get your kids ready to suffer. Don't presume that their experience in Christianity will be the same as what it's been for you over the last few decades. It's going to be harder. Prepare them to be counter-cultural on the issues I listed earlier. Get them rooted with biblical truth on those things. God's never changed his mind on any of them and he never will. Get them ready to suffer.

Soil 3: The Thorny Ground 

Soil number three, the thorny ground, verse 7, "Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plant so that they did not bear grain." Jesus interprets it in verse 18-19, "Still others, like the seed sown along the thorns, hear the word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things, come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful." Again, each of these soils represents heart conditions, as people hear the word of God. Here we get to the dangers of the world's allures and enticements. Whereas the stony ground here wilted at the world's abuse, the thorny ground here dies at the world's allures. Jesus lists the world's allures in sweeping terms; the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things. Why not commit those to memory friends. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things. All of these have to do with immediate worldly concerns. Some of them are positive things the person desires. Others are negative outcomes the person fears, but they all have to do with the comfort of life in this world. They have a vision for a comfortable, prosperous, successful life in this world, and they're worried that's not going to happen or they're running after that to make it happen.

The problem in this scenario is these weeds grow up and choke the Word, making it unfruitful. They block the sunlight so they don't get the needed sunlight, they steal the nutrients from the soil. Those weeds, they're greedy, and they take the nutrients from the soil so the plants don't get it. They steal the water and the moisture in similar fashion, so that the seed doesn't get what it needs to bear fruit. But the weeds do not bear fruit, but grow. This is one of the greatest dangers for us in prosperous America. This is a warning. I think I find it haunting. The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things. What other things? Anything other than the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. Anything other than that. It could be good desires, like a single person wanting a spouse, or a childless couple wanting a child, or an unemployed person wanting a job, or a person beginning time in college, wanting a career. All of those are good things. There's nothing wrong with any of them but if they grow to idolatry proportions, they become the dominating theme of that person's life. Or it could be bad desires that the Bible condemns, such as wanting to get rich.  At any rate, the issue is these other things, these worries of this life and deceitfulness of wealth, grow up and choke the Word. They block out the Word so that the inner life with Christ withers and dies. 


"These worries of this life and deceitfulness of wealth, grow up and choke the Word. They block out the Word so that the inner life with Christ withers and dies. "

 Specific warnings concerning wealth are found in 1 Timothy 6. These are Paul's warnings to rich Christians.  First of all, lesson one, seek godliness with contentment. 1 Timothy 6:6-8, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing in the world and we can take nothing out of it but if we have food and clothing, we'll be content with that." That's advocating for keeping your life simple materially. Lesson number two, watch out for the love of money, which equals greed, which equals idolatry. 1 Timothy 6:9-10, "People who want to get rich, fall into a temptation, into a trap, into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin in destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Is that not a perfect description of a thorny ground here? It's exactly what Jesus is talking about. I'll read it again, 1 Timothy 6, "For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 

Lesson number three, do not put your trust in money, but in God. 1 Timothy 6:17, "Command those who are rich in this present world, not to be arrogant, prideful about their money, or to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." Paul's not advocating an aesthetic life in which you never enjoy any of the things we can enjoy in America, but  you're in danger. All of these things put us in danger if we're not careful, spiritually. Lesson number four, give away lots of money. 1 Timothy 6:18, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous and willing to share." The more you sacrificially give, the less money will have a grip over your heart. That I think, is the remedy. If you want to know what is the remedy to thorny ground, 1 Timothy 6 is your chapter. Christ also gives clear commands against the worries of this life in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6, “Do not worry saying, 'What shall we eat? Or what should we drink? Or what shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well." As a pastor, out of love for you, I would consider this to be one of the greatest dangers that faces our flock. We are wealthy Christians, we are, therefore, in danger, biblically. I'm not saying you can't be saved as a wealthy Christian. I'm not saying that. I'm just saying you're in danger. It's hard for rich people to be saved, Jesus said.

The book of Ezekiel says, "If I don't warn you, your blood is on my head." So I'm warning you to not be  thorny ground here. Is anything distracting you from the kingdom of God? What is distracting you from the kingdom of God? We are, by electronic devices, almost constantly immersed in the world. I was at a stoplight the other day and I looked around me and every stopped driver, thank God they were stopped, every stop driver was on their device. I'm not saying whether they stayed on their device once they hit the gas pedal, but all the stopped ones were on the device. All of the people crossing, the crosswalk were on devices. All of the people waiting on the sidewalk were on devices. Everyone's immersed all the time, like we're on a pic line, an IV line of the world, flowing into our blood vessels. Beware. Just look at this soil type and beware and don't speak a false blessing on yourself saying, "I don't need to worry about this. I know I'm not a thorny ground here." The worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things.

Soil 4: The Good Soil 

Soil number four, the good soil,  Mark 4:7,“Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop multiplying 30, 60, or even a hundred times." Jesus interprets it in verse 20, "Others like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it and produce a crop, 30, 60, or even a hundred times what was sown." This is pretty straightforward. The interpretation's almost exactly the same as the original statement. I think we know what this is, but we didn't know  what Luke tells us. The good soil, as I mentioned last week is clearly described Luke 8:15. "The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart who hear the Word, retain it and by persevering, produce a crop." Hallelujah. A noble and good heart. This is quite stunning. Jesus himself said to the rich young ruler, "Why do you call me good? No one is good, but God alone." Jesus also said this in Mark 7:21-23, talking about the natural human heart, “For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thought, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly." All of these evils come from inside. That is from the heart and make a man unclean.” That's the native state of our heart. How then do any of us get a noble and good heart that accepts the Word, understands it and by perseverance, produces a crop? I'll tell you the answer to that - only by the sovereign power of God through the Holy Spirit. Amen. If you're a Christian today, Luke 8:15 says, "You have a noble and good heart." You should be in awe. You should fall down in thankfulness to God saying, "How did I get one of those?" How it happened is the Holy Spirit took out that stony heart of yours and put in a living heart to respond to the word of God.

What is the essential attribute of that noble and good heart?  I zero in on this one statement in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, "When you receive the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but as it actually is the word of God, which is at work in you who believe."  That's what a noble and good heart looks like in this issue. When you hear the word, you know you're hearing God speaking to you, not a man. God is telling you this and you're taking it seriously. You know this is important for you. It says by persevering, you produce a crop. Perseverance really in the end, perseverance in the gospel, is the greatest single mark of being born again. You persevere year, after year, after year, in Christ and you produce a harvest. 

 Now, what is the harvest? What is the crop? The living and active word of God always produces fruit. That's what we're talking about here. Good fruit is the test of genuine Christianity. Jesus said  in Matthew 7:16, "By their fruit, you will recognize them." He also said, importantly, in John 15:2, "He cuts off every branch of me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."  Hold on to that because I'm going to circle back to that one more time. What is fruit? One pastor divided it into two categories; attitude fruit and action fruit. I like both. Both of those will be part of a true Christian life. What is attitude fruit? It's like heart fruit, stuff that's inside you. It begins with the transformation of our heart, so that we obey the law of God. We love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and we love our neighbors ourself. That's internal heart affections, flowing out into actions, a transformed heart that loves God and loves neighbor. That's fruit. Also, of course, you could go to the fruit of the spirit, Galatians 5:22, "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." You look at that. Do I see that cluster of virtues in me by the Holy Spirit, do I see that fruit inside me? Or again, the beatitudes, "Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they'll be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they'll inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful for, they will be shown mercy. Blessed of the pure in heart for they will see God.” The Holy Spirit works this cluster of humble virtues in a genuinely converted person. They know that they're spiritual beggars. They have no chance to save themselves. They mourn over their sin. They are meek, essentially meek, not arrogant, boastful people. They hunger and thirst for righteousness. They yearn for it and they're merciful to other people. They see suffering in the world. They want to alleviate it, and they do seek to alleviate it, and they're pure in heart. They have a yearning for internal purity of holiness of heart. That's all attitude fruit.

Then there's action fruit, just good works, things you do in obedience to the commands of God, like evangelism. People you win to Christ, that you lead to Christ, will be fruit for you on Judgment Day. You'll have people that you can even call, like Paul does, the crown in which you will glory on that final day. So winning people to Christ is action fruit. Your Christian family, and a well-ordered family, a healthy marriage, godly Christian parenting; these things. Your prayer life is action fruit. Your financial life, actual money that you give to the poor and needs to the church. Your work life, your worship life, all of the works that you do in obedience to the commands of God. Going back to 1 Timothy 6:18, "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and generous and willing to share." Wouldn't you love that to characterizing you, rich in good deeds. It's not long before you look back to the 30, 60, a hundred times, what was sown to say, that sounds like rich in good deeds. That's what I want. 


"Winning people to Christ is action fruit."

Now why the variability of harvest? 30, 60, even a hundred times, what was sewn.  I mentioned last time, one interpreter said, "You need to understand the ancient near Eastern farmer would hope for at best five to seven fold return." This is bumper crop language, no matter what. Even if you're a 30, yield, it's astonishing. Why such big language? Because if you're a genuine Christian, the fruit that you do for the kingdom of God, will last for all eternity and it has the power to multiply in the lives of others, to have a ripple effect across generations. So it's huge, no matter what, but why are there some 30, but some double that 60? Others a hundred? It's just true that not all Christians are equally fruitful because not all Christians are equally faithful. Not all Christians are equally obedient, sacrificially obedient. I love church history and there are some brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives are worth studying centuries after they have gone, just because of how they lived. I think about George Whitfield. I have no idea how many sermons I preached. I can estimate, somewhere around a thousand maybe, in this pulpit, I guess.  George Whitfield preached 18,000 sermons in his life. I can't carry his shoes. I'll be in awe when I meet him in heaven. 18,000 to over 10 million hearers in colonial America, sometimes he preached over a dozen times in a single week. It's like two full sermons a day, seven days a week. Then there's George Müller. Some of you have a heart for foster kids or for adoption. He and his ministries cared for 10,000 orphans in his life. Then there's the Irish missionary, Amy Carmichael, who served in India for 55 years, without ever leaving the field, going on furlough, 55 years of caring for young Indian girls. Hudson Taylor took responsibility for reaching the inland regions of China with the gospel and oversaw a mission agency that placed 825 missionaries in 300 mission stations winning 25,000 converts by the time he died. Those are the heroes of the faith. We're going to honor them forever in heaven. My desire with this last category is to stimulate you to want to have more return in your Christian life, greater return. To give you a holy ambition, a fruitful ambition.

Going back now  to John 15:2 where I'll close. "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, so those branches wither and die and are burned." So those are... they're not Christians because there's no fruit. "Cuts off every branch of me that bears no fruit. While every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." That's that movement from 30 to 60. Lord, I want to be even more fruitful. What do you need, Lord, to cut out of my life so that I'm more fruitful? What do you need to cut out of my life, so that I'm even more fruitful? So that it doesn't draw off time, energy, mental, emotional resources out from the central call of God in my life?

Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the power of this parable. It's a gateway parable. He said, "How will you understand any parable if you don't understand this one?" Help us to understand this powerful message. Help us to put it into practice. Help us to take the Word of God and bear maximum fruit with it. Every word, not just the gospel, but all the teachings that we get in the Gospel of Mark, in the New Testament throughout the Bible. Help us, oh Lord. Help us to bear fruit for your glory. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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