The Parable of the Soils, Part 1 (Mark Sermon 15)
May 08, 2022 | Andrew Davis
Fruit of the Spirit, Sowing and Reaping , Evangelism
Pastor Andy Davis preached the Parable of the Soils, Mark 4:1-20, and expanded on the central issue of how God's word is received and the responses to the truth of the Gospel.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
The Central Work of the Rest of Our Lives: The Great Commission
Turn in your Bibles to Mark chapter 4, we’re going to be walking through it today. In Luke 19:10, Jesus declared the central calling of his life, the reason that he entered the world. There are many such purpose statements that Jesus gives or that are given about Jesus. All of them tend toward the same thing, but in Luke 19:10, he said, “The son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” He’s talking about human beings who have been lost through sin and who are in danger of being eternally lost through judgment and condemnation. Jesus came to save people from that.
He then committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. He committed to us the gospel ministry, as at the end of this beautiful gospel of Mark, in Mark 15 and 16, when he said to them, “Go into all the worlds and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” He came to rescue individuals so that they will be saved and not condemn. That’s the central work that we’re left here on earth to do as a church and as individuals. It’s for this reason that I zeroed in a number of weeks ago, as we moved through the Gospel of Mark, on this marvelous statement, Mark 1:17, “Jesus said to his early disciples, ‘Come follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men.’” That’s been on our minds, and now as we come to Mark 4, we have a tremendous opportunity to learn more about that, what it means to be fishers of men. That’s just one metaphor. The metaphor today is agricultural, and regards what we’re left in the world to do. But now that question comes to us, “What should we expect as we do this work? What should we expect as we preach the gospel?” That’s a vital question.
It may seem strange to us as we look around the world that we live in, the 21st century world, that the gospel hasn’t done better over 20 centuries. That it seems like, percentage wise, the church of Jesus Christ is so small. The overwhelming majority of the people of this world do not believe in Christ. Very, very many of them have never even heard about him. How do we understand that?
In 1993, Christie and I took our two children at that time, Nathaniel and Jenny, with us as missionaries to the country of Japan. We flew into Japan, and we spent our first night in the Baptist mission home in Tokyo. Then we were there for a couple of days in that vast city. 10% of the Japanese population, roughly, lives in the city of Tokyo. It’s a massive city. We got a sense of the scope of that great city, there were over 12 million people living in Tokyo in 1993, closer to 14 million now. However, only 0.2% of the Japanese population are Evangelical Christians, 0.2%. That’s two out of a thousand, and Christianity has been in Japan since the year 1549. That’s almost five centuries, 500 years, 0.2%. If Jesus really is the son of God, then why are so few people in Japan Christians?
Worldwide, the generous estimate of people who do this kind of statistical work is that Evangelical Christians make up about 8% of the world’s population, eight out of a hundred. So when we come to the task of evangelism, we’re faced with the crushing fact that so few people that we share with respond favorably to the gospel.
So as we move ahead in a commitment to evangelism, our expectation is vital. If we assume that almost everyone who hears the true gospel will respond favorably, should respond favorably, and then they don’t - we see a scanty response - we might be strongly tempted to question our whole approach, including the message itself. We might want to change the message and methodology to make it more market friendly. Many so-called Christian leaders are constantly in a pattern, a feedback loop pattern of this kind of evaluation, to tailor the message and the methods to make it more popular for best results. The result often of that feedback loop processing is a synthetic seed coming out of the gospel of their imaginations, truly a false gospel, and all because they expected that the gospel of the kingdom of Christ, if it is the true one, would result in a vastly successful response in the human heart. Today’s text, the parable of the soils, has everything needed to destroy that false expectation. Three of the four soils described here produced literally no fruit, ultimately, for the kingdom. Three of the four result in no harvest, no crop, no fruit of eternal consequence. It doesn’t mean the sower of the seed did a bad job, or that there’s something wrong with the seed. This is Jesus’ expectation for the spread of the gospel, a realistic appraisal of what we can expect, what will happen as we evangelize until he returns.
I. The Context of the Parable
Let’s begin by talking about the parables. This in Mark’s Gospel, this is where we begin. In Mark’s look at some of Jesus’s teaching ministry, you find that you get far more in the other Gospels than you do in Mark. Mark’s more of an action Gospel, but this is the chapter where you get a good extended look at some of Jesus’s teachings. The context of the parables themselves, as a manner of teaching, is the apparently poor response to the gospel even then. From the beginning, the response was less than we might have expected. Of course, there are huge crowds. I mean, you get it right away. Look at verse 1, “Again, Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around and was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out in the lake while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.” But the more you look closely and you read other key passages of the scripture, analyzing what’s really going on in the hearts of those people, most of them weren’t there for the teachings, actually had very little interest in the teachings. They were near Jesus for the good stuff, that being the healings, the exorcisms, the miracles, and occasional feeding is nice, and a pretty dramatic show. I mean, there’s never been anyone like Jesus. Not to mention the feeling of desperation that comes on individuals that are hurting, physically hurting, and they’re in pain every day, or they’re incapable of working because they’re paralyzed, or they’re blind, or something like that. Or their loved ones, their caregivers, want that problem solved, and if somebody can address it, that’s all they care about.
So the question was pressing, “If Jesus really is the Son of God, then why are so few people really believing in him?” To the insiders who are in the house that Jesus is in at the end of Mark 3, he says, “Here is my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” It’s just a very, very small group of people. So the answer to that question, “Why are so few people responding spiritually to the actual teachings Jesus was giving?” This parable, and the parables in general, look at verse 2, it says, “He taught them many things by parables.” Later in this chapter, it’s going to say, “He did not say anything to them without using a parable.” This was his teaching methodology.
What is a parable? The word comes from the Greek “para” + “bole” which means “to lay alongside this”. The concept is to teach something about the invisible spiritual kingdom of God by something that we do know in the physical realm of this world, and to lay the physical thing we are familiar with alongside the spiritual thing being illustrated, so we can understand the invisible spiritual kingdom of God. That’s what parables are. It’s a “laying alongside”. You’re taking something practical, something physical, something you do understand, and then from that, you can understand something about the invisible kingdom of God. That’s a parable. Basically, fundamentally it’s, “This is like that.” You can compare the two and you can get some aspect of the kingdom of God.
Parables both conceal and reveal. We’re going to talk about that more later in this very chapter in Mark 4. Now keep in mind, Jesus is surrounded by enemies who oppose him, who actually hate him. Not everyone hated him, not at all, but he has some key leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, who come down from Jerusalem who are evaluating his miracles. They don’t deny in any way he’s doing amazing miracles. How could they? But they believe that the explanation, the source of his supernatural power, is Satan himself, as we talked about in the last couple of sermons.
So Jesus begins now in Mark 4 to act in judgment, in judgment against those of his own generation for that evaluation. The parables are clearly portrayed as a work of judgment from God on the hearers. The judgment is the concealing aspect of the parable. He’s hiding things from them by teaching them only in parables. Look at it in verse 10-12, “When he was alone, the twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside, everything is said in parables so that they may be ever seeing, but never perceiving, and ever hearing, but never understanding. Otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven.’” That’s the language of judgment.
Jesus was dividing this vast crowd into two categories: outsiders and insiders. Both got the parables, but the outsiders only got the parables. The insiders also got Jesus’s personal, clear explanation of the parables, so that you can see what’s laid alongside what. This was to fulfill this work of judgment that God had spoken about centuries before through the prophet Isaiah, who is sent again to a stubborn and obstinate people who are not going to listen to him. Isaiah in Isaiah 6 wants to know how long does he have to do this ministry. You have these same words, which are quoted of many times in the New Testament, “Be ever hearing, but never understanding, be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make this people’s heart callous, make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears and turn with their hearts, and I would heal them.” It’s a work of judgment. By giving parables with no explanation, it fed the attitude of the hardness of heart of his opponents who thought he was crazy and demon possessed. So you actually do see this response to his teaching, like in the parable of the good shepherd in John 10. It’s a beautiful parable with lots of details. Unexplained, it is just a good shepherd and his sheep coming in and out, and finding passion and all this. In John 10:19-20, the Jews were getting divided, and many of them said, “He’s demon possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”
"Jesus was dividing this vast crowd into two categories: outsiders and insiders. Both got the parables, but the outsiders only got the parables. The insiders also got Jesus’s personal, clear explanation of the parables…"
Try this out, go to a non-Christian person this week. Memorize a little parable here. Say, “I want to tell you a story.” “A farmer went out to sew his seed. And as he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the bird…” All that, the whole thing. Then finish and say something like, “He who has ears to hear, let them hear.” What do you think’s going to happen? They’re going to look like you’re out of your mind. “What’s wrong with you?” That’s what was happening back then. But then the insiders, they get the explanation. They get the details of the parables explained from Jesus’ own perfect lips, and then the parable becomes an incredible teaching tool that makes certain aspects of the kingdom incredibly clear and memorable. That’s the power of the parables. Look at verse 13. “Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?’” In other words, it seems like he’s saying, “If you get this one, I mean, you really understand it, you’ll understand all the parables.”
It’s foundational, because it has to do with hearing God’s word and understanding it in your heart. This is foundational, dear friends, to our salvation, to God’s strategy for saving our souls from our sins, that we would be justified by faith and not by works so that no one can boast. So foundational to that is hearing with faith and believing to the forgiveness of your sins. As Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing the word,” and the word comes through the word of Christ. The message is heard through the word of Christ. As we will see, this parable has to do with the key moment in our entire lives, the moment of hearing the word of God. Do we hear it with faith, with a soft yielded heart, submissive so that we bear fruit for the kingdom? Or do we ultimately reject the word we hear and bear no fruit for the kingdom? Our eternity depends on that question. If we don’t understand this parable, how will we understand any parable?
II. The Parable of the Soils
Let’s walk through the details of the parable of the soils. Look at verses 3-8, “A farmer went out to sew his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places where it did not have much soil. It 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. Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying 30, 60, or even a hundred times.” First of all, just the agricultural nature of this parable would’ve been very familiar to them. Many of Jesus’ parables were agricultural. Jesus’ first century hearers were perhaps, many of them, farmers, and if they weren’t, they knew farmers. They were close to the soil. The Promised Land itself was called the “land flowing with milk and honey”, rich in agricultural blessings. It could be that you could even see some farmers scattering some seed while Jesus was telling the parable, off in a distance. The focus of this parable, the key with parables, is there’s generally a central idea. It’s not that details aren’t important. They are, but there’s usually a main central idea to the parable. The focus here is the soils, really and ultimately nothing else. The parable does begin with the sower. It literally says, “The sower went out to sow,” but then nothing else has said about the sower or his technique, whether he uses the overhand technique or the underhand technique. It doesn’t say anything. He’s not a wise sower, a faithful sower, a hardworking sower, an anything sower. He’s a sower. Also, nothing is said about the seed. There is only one seed, and we learn it’s the Word of God. In this parable, nothing’s said about it either. The focus is on the soils and the outcomes.
The soils fall into two categories, or four categories, or six categories, it depends which commentator you read. This is the joy I get of reading commentary. So what is it, two? Is it four? Is it six? First of all, simply it is two: bad soil and good soil. That’s the easiest categorization of the soil. It’s either bad soil or good soil. The whole thing depends on is their eternal outcome, harvest. If there is, it was good soil. If there isn’t, it’s bad soil. It’s a simple, clear way of understanding the two categories. Or you can break into four categories, which is the way we usually would read it. You’ve got the hardened path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and then the good soil, that would be breaking up into four categories. Six categories would be to take the last, the good soil, and break it into three categories of its yield: 30, 60, a hundred. So three categories of bad soil and three categories of good soil. All of that I think is helpful, but especially the basic breakup of bad soil versus good soil.
Let’s just walk through certain details. Soil number one is the hardened path. Farmland in Galilee was bordered by paths and roads that enabled people to travel by the farms without trampling on the crops. The paths and roads would’ve been hardened by constant travel, all the more since the climate was hot and arid. The road would’ve been hard as concrete. Any seed that fell on that hardened path would stay on the surface, right on the top, and within a short amount of time, Jesus said, the birds are going to come eat it up. It’s gone, like it was never scattered there. Or as Luke 8:5 says, “the seeds would be trampled under foot,” like by horses or cattle, or carts, or people just walking, trampled. In any case, no impact whatsoever. Soil number two is the rocky soil. I grew up in New England and everywhere you look, as you get into the rural areas, you see stone walls, everywhere stone walls. Why? Because the farms “grow” stones. Every year they grow them. They come up with these subterranean pressures, and before the farmer can do anything, he’s got to clear his farmland of these mini boulders that come up. Jesus is speaking about that, because the ancient near eastern farmers would’ve had the same problem, and they would’ve cleared their land of it. However much work it took, they would’ve gotten rid of them. That is not the problem. The problem is a subterranean layer of limestone, let’s say, really hard and like concrete, somewhat similar to that path only it’s a little bit down below a very thin layer of top soil. That subterranean layer of rock is not going anywhere, so the seed can’t probe down and find water or nutrients. The seed springs up quickly because it just needs the sunlight and all. But when the sun comes up, the small plant scorched and withers and dies because it have no root, because the rock below doesn’t permit it.
Soil number three is the thorny soil. Unlike the last two soils, clearly this soil is capable of supporting a crop. Everything’s there, the nutrients are there, the water is there. The conditions for growing are good. But the problem is that there are other plants. There are weeds that are there competing with the good seed for the nutrients and the water and the sunlight. Because the weeds grow up faster than the good plants, they block the sunlight, steal all the nutrients and they win, so the good seed can’t produce any crops. The plant that he talks about here is the acanthus plant. It has thorns, the same thorns that the Roman soldiers would viciously weave into a crown of thorns for Jesus to wear when they were mocking him. It reminds us also of the cursing of the ground that God gave Adam back in Genesis 3:17-18. “Cursed is the ground because of you. Through painful toil, you’ll eat of it all the days of your life and it will produce thorns and thistles for you.” That’s the thorny soil. Then the good soil, soil number four. There’s a powerful contrast between this soil and the others, in that this soil is called good. The seeds that fall on this good soil produce a staggering harvest. Jesus says, “30, 60, even a hundred times what was sown.” Now this is remarkable. Research into the ancient near Eastern expectations of a harvest is, at best, eight fold. That would be good, if you could get eight fold out of it. Maybe five was normal. Jesus is talking about a stunning level of fruitfulness in every case. Stunning level, 30 times what was sewn. Others even double that, 60 times, or even a hundred, unheard of, staggering levels of fruitfulness.
III. The Call to Hear
Those are the details. What does it mean? Jesus begins with the call to hear. Look at verse 9, “Then Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’” The central issue here is how we listen to God’s Word. He begins the whole parable with this call. Look at verse 3. How does the whole thing start? “Listen,” it’s a call to listen. This is almighty God through his Son, calling you to listen to him. “Listen. A sower went out to sow.” Then he says, “If you have ears, who he has ears to hear, let him hear.” Jesus is already judging these people for their hard hearts by stopping the parable with no explanation. He’s furthering their unbelieving assumptions that he’s insane, but he’s calling on them to listen. They have ears, but do they hear? I believe that one of the most helpful insights I’ve ever had concerning Jesus’ ministry and how we should think about it is the statement, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners due repentance.” Jesus is our spiritual physician. That means his physical healings become living parables for the spiritual healing that we need. He healed literal physical blind people, so they could physically see. But what about the spiritual blindness that plagues all of us? He heals literal deaf people so they can physically hear, but there is a spiritual deafness that He really has to address for us to be saved. Psalm 115 speaks about how Israel’s idols represented them spiritually. Psalm 115: 4-8 says, “Their idols are silver and gold made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but they cannot see they have ears, but they cannot hear. Noses, but they cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel. They have feet, but they cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” So it is with all unbelievers that yes, they have physical ears, they have physical eyes, but they cannot see or hear spiritually.
Jesus has a special ministry with his own. There’s a supernatural work going on in the insiders. He deals differently with his own sheep. In John 10 Jesus says, “My sheep listen to my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.” Jesus gives them a private hearing. Along with that is the secret working of the Spirit in them to open up their spiritual ears and to hear it. Look at verse 10-11, “When he is alone, the twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you.’” The word “secret” is also sometimes translated “mystery” in the New Testament. This is something that can only be understood if God, by his Spirit, reveals it to you. That’s what a New Testament mystery is, the mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you. That’s a tremendous privilege. The outsiders don’t get that. Verses 11-12, “But to those on the outside, everything is said in parables so that they may be ever seeing, but never perceiving, and ever hearing, but never understanding. Otherwise, they might turn and be forgiven.” So the purpose of the explanation is perception, it’s understanding, it’s insight, it’s truth.
IV. The Parable Explained
What I’m going to do now is explain the parable briefly. I don’t know if you noticed the sermon title today, it’s part one. In part two, we’re going to go through these same explanations more in depth with more application, with more warnings to us as hearers. We’re going to do that work next week. But just for the time we have left today, I just want to go through it quickly, the explanation Jesus gives for these soils. Look at verses 14-20, “The farmer sows 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 sewn in them. 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. Still others, like seed sown among 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. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop 30, 60, even a hundred times what was sown.” Jesus’s personal, private, powerful explanation. Notice, it’s written down in the pages of the most famous book on earth. Does that make us all insiders now? It could. You could be an insider now, if you’ll listen with the ears of your heart. So we’re invited in. The explanation, it’s available, but you still have to have the working of the Spirit in your heart to get it, even with the explanation, to see it.
It begins with the farmer, the sower, and he sows the word. The first and primary sower in another parable is Jesus Christ himself. In the parable of the weeds and the wheat in Matthew 13, he identifies himself as the sower. “The one who sowed the seed is the Son of Man.” But here, no such thing. Jesus certainly began by preaching the gospel, but he also commissioned the church, and the church goes out and preaches the word everywhere. After he ascended to heaven, Mark 16:19-20 says, “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God.” Mark 16:20, “Then the disciples went out and preached the word everywhere.” They are the sowers there, and as their spiritual descendants, we’re the sowers. Anyone who shares the word of God, anyone who evangelizes, brings up kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, shares the gospel with a lost coworker, we’re the sowers.
"Anyone who shares the word of God, anyone who evangelizes, brings up kids in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, shares the gospel with a lost coworker, we’re the sowers."
The seed is the Word. What Word? I think it’s safe to say it’s the gospel, the milk, the central teachings of the Bible. Paul says in I Corinthians 2:2, “I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Christ and him crucified, that’s the centerpiece of the word, the seed. Also, I Corinthians 15: 3, “For what I received, I passed onto you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures. That he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures.” That’s the seed that is the word. The basic message of Christ, the incarnate son of God, fully God, fully man lived a sinless life, did amazing miracles, taught parables like this, but especially died on the cross as a substitute for our sins and was physically raised from the dead on the third day, ascends sins to heaven. And if you repent and believe in him, all your sins will be forgiven. That’s the seed, the Word, the Gospel. However, beyond that, Jesus doesn’t say it’s the Gospel, He says it’s the Word. So I think it’s anything, any truth that’s taught in the Bible, for all scriptures, God breathed and useful. I actually think that this parable is permanently useful to all Christians, even this very moment, this very morning. Whenever you have the Word talk to you or the Word comes in, what do you do with it? I think it’s helpful. So that’s the sower and the seed.
What is the soil? The soil represents human hearts in their various conditions. We know this from Matthew 13:19, “When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one Satan comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.” That’s the seed sown along the path. The path equals the heart. Or on the other end of the spectrum, in Luke 8:15, it says, “The seed on the good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart.” Wow, doesn’t that sound good? A noble and good heart who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering, produce a crop. Again, the good soil represents a good heart. So all of the soils represent human hearts in their various conditions.
"A noble and good heart who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering, produce a crop. Again, the good soil represents a good heart. So all of the soils represent human hearts in their various conditions."
Soil number one, the hardened response. Look at verse 15. “Some people are like seed along the path where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and snatches away the word that was sown in them.” Matthew’s Gospel tells us they don’t understand the Word, they just don’t understand it. It makes no sense to them. They have no response at all. This, my friends, is the overwhelming response of those when they first hear the gospel. They don’t get. It doesn’t make any sense, it makes no impact, and it’s gone moments later, like it never happened. Ephesians 2 says of those people that they are dead in their transgressions and sins, even while they live as citizens or subjects of Satan’s dark kingdom. As soon as they hear the word, Satan actively, creatively and skillfully, through his demons, takes away the impact of that encounter, so they do not fear God’s judgments. They don’t rejoice in God’s promises. They don’t marvel at Christ’s work. They don’t take to heart any of God’s commandments. It’s gone, like that moment just never happened. Satan’s activity here is so clever and powerful. II Corinthians 4:4 says, “The God of this age has blinded their mind so they don’t understand.” He’s active, working, doing this all the time, so the sinner mocks the Word or deconstructs the Word, or counters the Word, or forgets the Word entirely. Ultimately, that’s what they do. More on this next time.
Soil number two, the shallow, emotional, temporary response. Look at 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.” So many people are very moved emotionally the first time they hear the Gospel. They’re not like the first category. It’s made an impact on them. Jesus said, “They receive it with joy.” Initial joy at the hearing of the word is a very good thing. So also conversely are tears and a sense of the danger that they’re in and emotions on that side. That can happen too. But the problem is there’s no depth to any of these emotions. They haven’t really grapple with or come to grips with the fact that they are sinners under the wrath of a holy God, not to that level. They’ve not understood that. They have no deep connection with the truth of the word of God. As Jesus is saying here, they have no root system. They may see the Gospel as a life enhancer, something like that, something to improve their life, make things better for them in some way, not as salvation for the eternal wrath of God. When trouble or persecution, Jesus said, comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away. That response is grievous to the evangelist who is so excited about their initial, joyful reaction. “Where are all those people that prayed the prayer?” That kind of thing. You can’t find them. “What happened to them?” When trouble or persecution comes, they quickly fall away. More on this one next time.
Soil number three, the worldly, double minded response. Verse 18-19, “Still others, like seed sown among 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.” The last soil type represents the world smacking around the person who hears the word: persecution, troubles, trials, that kind of thing. This represents the world offering benefits: prosperity, wealth, the positive benefits. This person is consumed by what he might lose or what she might lose if they really follow Jesus. If you really go after Jesus, look what you just might lose. What might happen to you if you become a faithful follower of Christ? These individuals want the comforts of money, possessions, and pleasures. They’re anxious about money, the worries of this life. They’re running after the deceitfulness of wealth, perhaps like the rich young ruler trying to harmonize an inner covetousness and a love for money, money as an idol, with Jesus, a love for Jesus. They’re trying to put it together and harmonize, but it can’t be done. This individual is a double minded person. The world’s siren call of worry and wealth, worry and wealth, worry and wealth, all the time. It crowds out the word of God, and it doesn’t bear fruit. The Word of God doesn’t get the resources, the time, energy, money, resources of that person’s life. Instead, they’re going after the things of this world, and it bears no fruit. More on this next time.
Soil number four is the eternally fruitful response. “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the Word, accept it and produce a crop 30, 60, even a hundred times what was sown.” Friends, this is the point, the whole point of the Word of God: fruit. Fruit, it all comes down to fruit. Just like last week’s sermon on blasphemy against the spirit, fruit, it’s always about fruit. If there’s fruit in your life, it means you’re alive. The whole point is fruit. The variability of the fruit is noteworthy, but it’s not as significant as three things. Number one, all good soil produces some fruit. Number two, all three soils produce a staggering amount, a stunning amount of fruit. Number three, not all three produce the equal amount of fruit. There’s different levels of fruitfulness. So we’ll talk about all those, God willing, next time.
V. The Central Call: Seek a Noble & Soft Heart
There’s a key statement that I’ve already highlighted. 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.” Now, if I asked any of you if you would say that characterizes your heart, raise your hand or stand up. If you would like to say, “I believe that I have a noble and good heart,” would you stand up in front of everyone here? The Bible’s very negative about the natural state of the human heart. It says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” But here’s the thing, if you are a Christian, you fall under the Luke 8:15 appraisal of your heart as being a noble and good heart, but only because the Holy Spirit made it so. That’s what it means that “the heart of stone has been taken out,” and if we say in Ezekiel’s language, “the heart of flesh put in,” in Luke 8:15’s language, “a noble and good heart,” has been put inside you. The proof of that noble good heart is when you hear the Word, you love it, you delight in it. You want it more, and you yearn that it would produce good fruit in your life. Where did all that come from? To God be the glory, dear Christian brother and sister. More next time. I have that written every time, “More next time.” We’re going to do all that next time, this is just a flyover. So the central call here must be to seek a noble and good heart. “Oh God, would you give me one of those? Oh God, would you work in me a noble and good heart, more than ever before?” In verse 24 of the same chapter, Jesus is going to challenge us. “Consider carefully what you hear.” Consider carefully how you hear, consider carefully the content of this sermon. Consider carefully your mental approach as you’re sitting listening to a sermon. Consider carefully because, friend, it is the most important moment of your life. I don’t mean when hearing a sermon, it’s part of it. But I mean, when you read the Bible, whenever God's word comes into you, it is the most important moment. Consider carefully what you do at that moment, and seek a noble heart from the Holy Spirit, especially to the salvation of your soul.
I cry out to anybody who walked in here this morning unconverted, do not wait. Yearn after this. Say, “Oh God, I don’t want to be like that seed sown along the path or any of the other bad outcomes. I want to produce a crop in my life.” So I want to ask, what soil are you? How would you characterize yourself? It’s not prideful to say, “I believe I’m a genuine Christian producing fruit now. I want to go from 36 to 60 or from 60 to a hundred, but that’s who I am. But to God be the glory.” In any case, this is a time, friends, for deep self-evaluation through the working of the spirit.
Close with me in prayer. Lord, thank you for the power of this parables. It’s powerful. And I pray that as we have a chance over this week to meditate on it and get ready to hear again, details and applications and have it pressed into our heart. So Lord get us ready. But I pray that even now the ministry of the word would not be fruitless in our lives. I pray that we would drink in God’s Word and produce more fruit than ever before. I pray for help, oh, Lord. We are living in a wealthy world here in America. And I worry about that third category, the thorns that grow up and choke the word, making it unfruitful, the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth. Help us to beware of these things so that we can bear maximum fruit for the glory of God. In Jesus’s name, I pray. Amen.