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GOSPEL FARMERS

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My dad’s passion as a young man was for farming. He loved farming. When he was 19 yrs. old he went in with his parents to purchase a 120 acre farm in Lapeer, Michigan. By day my dad was a farmer, but by night he was a factory worker for General Motors. He once told me that he took the job in the factory so that he could have the money to farm.
When I was a young lad my dad had to give up most of his farming venture. He developed an allergy to ragweed — hay fever is what we always called it. And this was always the worst during the time of the grain harvesting. Without being able to perform the work himself it was not profitable to continue as a grain farmer.
But once thing my dad never gave up was his garden. His ragweed allergy still bothered him, but he figured that his young boys could handle things in the garden during the time when his hay-fever was the worst.
Dad put a lot of planning into his gardening. We raised up to 3 acres of vegetables each year. He was a big believer in rotating the crops and letting certain section of the garden lay fallow for a year. In the fall, after the harvesting was completed he would plow under the garden. Then in the winter months he would order his seed for the coming harvest. For some of the plants, tomatoes especially, he would plant them in our basement with a heat lamp over them for part of the day. This would give us a head start on them. In the spring, if my memory serves me right, we would begin by spreading manure on the garden — using a manure spreader along with our friend chicken manure — to fertilize the garden. That was definitely NOT a highlight of my spring! Then he would plow the land that he intended to plant for the year. After plowing he would disc the garden, and then drag it. (Please don’t ask me to tell you the theory behind the various steps). He had a piece of equipment that was called a harrow but I have long since forgotten the distinction between the various operations. Finally it was time to plant. Most of the vegetables were planted by hand, but the two acres of sweet corn was planted with a corn spreader.
Up to this point each year, with the exception of the spreading of manure, my dad did almost all of the work. My brother and I were charged with keeping the garden weeded, and with helping with the harvest. And the harvest was always plentiful. And according to my brother and I, the laborers were always way too few!
My dad was pretty meticulous about preparing the soil to receive the planted seed.
If you have not already done so, please turn in your Bible to . Our passage this morning is the private explanation Jesus gave to His apostles regarding the meaning of the parable of the sower. As we go through our passage we are going to briefly look at the methods of farming in the first century, the sower, the seed, and then we will spend the bulk of our time looking at the soil.
In order to refresh our memories let’s read the parable first, ; and then the explanation found in .
FIRST CENTURY FARMING
R.C. Sproul, in his commentary on this passage points out that the method of planting seeds in first century Israel was quite different than it is in modern times. Like my dad, modern farmers prepare their soil ahead of time. But in first century Israel they “sowed their seeds first, the plowed the seeds into the earth.” (R.C. Sproul; MATTHEW; 2013; Crossway; Wheaton, IL; pg. 415.)
THE SOWER
Let’s talk about the identity of the sower. Most commentators seem to believe that the sower of the seed represents Jesus. In the explanation of the parable of the tares among the wheat Jesus does identify Himself as the sower in that parable. Of course that is a different parable, and we should not mix the two of them together. In order to truly identify who the sower is, we must first identify what the seed is that is being sown.
THE SEED
Unlike the sower, Jesus does identify what the seed is. Look at . The seed is identified as the word of the kingdom. The Greek term logos which is translated word, could also be translated as message. The message of the gospel is what is being referred to hear. So the Word of God (especially the Gospel)is the seed that is being sown.
It would do us well to remind ourselves of what the gospel message is.
The Word of God (especially the Gospel)
Ruler/Creator
Rebel
Redeemer
Receiver
Therefore, the sower is anyone who shares the message of the gospel. This includes Jesus, obviously, but it is not limited to Him. All of the apostles were sowers of the seed. And you and I should be sowers of seed as well!
THE SOIL
Let’s turn our attention now to the soil. Jesus identified the soil as being The People Who Receive the Gospel Message. Included in His explanation for four distinct types of soil, which represent four different ways in which the gospel is received. It is very important for us to understand that only one of these types of reception of the message brings about true conversion to Christ.
The Roadside Soil — a Heart That is Impervious to Biblical Truth
Luke 8:12 NASB95
Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
Notice that the goal of sowing the seed or sharing the message of the gospel is that people might be saved. Notice also that salvation is the result of believing the message of the gospel.
When we share the gospel we will often run into people whose hearts are as hard as stone. The O.T. refers to such people as being “stiff-necked.” God, speaking to Moses in the context of the golden calf incident in said this:
Exodus 32 NASB95
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear.” It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it. Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’ ” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.” On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.
Exodus 32:9 NASB95
The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.
Exodus 32 NASB95
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.” Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ” So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people. Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of triumph, Nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; But the sound of singing I hear.” It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it. Then Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought such great sin upon them?” Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf.” Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control—for Aaron had let them get out of control to be a derision among their enemies— then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered together to him. He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’ ” So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.” On the next day Moses said to the people, “You yourselves have committed a great sin; and now I am going up to the Lord, perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.
Exodus 32:9 NKJV
And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Speaking to Jeremiah God said:
Jeremiah 19:15 NASB95
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to bring on this city and all its towns the entire calamity that I have declared against it, because they have stiffened their necks so as not to heed My words.’ ”
In the N.T. Stephen, as he was about to martyred on behalf of Christ, said this to his persecutors (which included the man who come to be known as Paul):
Acts 7:51 NASB95
“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.
John MacArthur, in his book titled Parables (2015; Nelson Books; Nashville, TN; pg. 29-30) wrote:
“What’s interesting here is that Jesus is not describing atheists. He is speaking to people in a highly religious culture, and the hardest of all hearts in His audience this day are the religious aristocracy — the top scribes and Pharisees, the same ones who had so recently blasphemed the Holy Spirit, cutting themselves off from grace altogether.”
Rocky Soil — Shallow Hearer
The next type of soil/reception that Jesus referred to was in regards to seed that fell on rocky soil, which represents a shallow reception of the gospel message.
As I mentioned earlier, we had a three acre garden. We lived on a 10 acre plot of land that had been farmed for many years before my parents purchased it in 1971, and then built a house on it. On that plot there were three huge rock piles that a previous farmer had collected in order to better farm this land. The section of our garden in which we grew a variety of vegetables, with the exception of sweet corn, was located in between two of these piles. Every day before heading to work at Pontiac Motors, our dad would leave a note for my brother and I as to which portion of the garden he wanted us to weed. We had to finish that work before we could have free time to do whatever it was that we wanted to do. My brother would finish his portion of work in a half hour or less. But it took me several hours to finish my section. This was not because I was assigned more work, but because I was easily distracted (I probably still am!). One of my favorite distraction was to add rocks to these piles — well actually they were probably more along the line of stones. The reason why it took me so long was that I would pretend that the stones were baseballs, and that I was a pitcher. And of course the rock piles were the catcher. Since the rock piles provided such a large strike zone, I constantly struck out 27 batters every day! Then there were the times in which I tried to use the hoe for a bat and hit the rocks — I wasn’t nearly as successful in this endeavor.
But what is being referred to in this passage is a field of dirt that is layered over a shelf of lye stone, or some other such thing. The dirt was deep enough to evade the detection of the farmer. And since there was dirt, and even water, the seed sprouted up very quickly. But then it would wither away before ever producing any fruit since the roots of the plants could not go very deep.
I think we have all known folks who have seemed to respond to the message of the gospel in a positive way. There may be a period of profound joy for them. But this period of time does not last very long. And soon they give up on church or even the Christian life altogether.
As I write this I am reminded of my many attempts to learn to play the guitar. When I was a freshmen in H.S. after a trip to a music store with my brother who had recently gotten his drivers license, I came home one day with a brand new acoustic guitar. I had spent $100 of my own money on this instrument, and my mom was beside herself for my doing so without asking permission from my parents. I think she made me try to take it back but the store said that all sales were final! Anyway, I love to listen to a good acoustic guitar player and I wanted to learn that instrument. So I began practicing like crazy. But then a physiological change began to occur in my fingers — they started to hurt because of the steel strings that were pressing into them. Eventually I gave up trying to learn the guitar — at least for a couple of decades!
But that is like those who receive the message in a shallow way. Persecution — represented by the pain from the guitar strings — drives them away. They do not produce any fruit, and so we know that it was not a true conversion for all who truly come to faith in Christ will bear fruit.
John 8:31 NASB95
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
Hebrews 3:14 NASB95
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,
The Thorny Soil — The Worldly Hearer
The third type of soil/reception that Jesus mentions is thorny soil, which refers to what has been described as a worldly hearer.
Many of you know that we have a small garden in our back yard. Last year I gave up on keeping the garden weeded because my back would hurt so bad after I weeded the garden that I couldn’t hardly walk for an entire week. Because I didn’t keep the garden weeded, between the rabbits eating all of our beans and peas, the weeds kept the rest of the garden from being very productive.
That is the type of condition that Jesus was referring to when He spoke of the thorny soil. Just as weeds, especially thorns and thistles, can keep a garden from being fruitful, so can the cares of this world — especially the deceitfulness of wealth.
Often people are just too busy with living life to take the time to reflect on the message of the gospel. They may hear the message and even have their interest peaked, but they determine to reflect on the message at a later time. But then they get busy with life and forget to take the time to reflect on the life-giving message. We know that once again Jesus is referring to those who have not truly embraced the message of the gospel because He stated that such folks are unfruitful.
John 15:5 NASB95
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Sadly this is the case with believers as well as unbelievers — the distinction being that all true believers will bear some amount of fruit. But how often do you listen to a message on Sunday morning, and determine that you are going to take time to reflect on that message at some point during the coming week, only to get so busy with life that you forget to reflect on the message? I’ve been there. It has happened to me too! If it is hard for those of us in whom the Holy Spirit resides, just think of the impossibility for those in whom He is absent!
In Matthew’s account Jesus stressed that it was the love of money that deceived these hearers of the message of the gospel.
1 Timothy 6:9–10 NASB95
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
The Apostle John wrote:
1 John 2:15 NASB95
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
It is important for us to understand that material wealth is not inherently evil. MacArthur wrote:
“When properly prioritized, wealth and pleasure should be received with thanksgiving as gracious gifts from the hand of God, who is generous with such blessings. But it is evil to love the gifts more than the Giver, or to value tangible and temporal benefits more highly than spiritual blessings.”
(Parables; pg. 34).
The Good Soil —The Fruitful Hearer
The last type of soil that is mentioned is the good soil. Because this soil is fruitful we know that Jesus was referring to those who had truly embraced the message of the gospel. The fruit here mentioned includes various types o fruit which are mentioned in the N.T.
Galatians 5:22–23 NASB95
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Philippians 1:11 NASB95
having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Hebrews 13:5 NASB95
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”
Romans 1:13 NASB95
I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.
HINDRANCES TO RECEIVING THE GOSPEL
As wee draw things to a close this morning, lets briefly reflect on the hindrances to a proper reception of the gospel message.
Satanic Opposition
Satan uses deceit to hinder the gospel.
John 8:44 NASB95
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Satan transforms himself and his cohorts into angels of light.
2 Corinthians 11:14–15 NASB95
No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
Satan confuses people through false teachers.
Satan exploits sinful human passions.
Satan appeals to man’s love for the pleasures of sin.
Satan knows that people love darkness rather than light.
John 3:19 NASB95
This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.
Persecution
Worldly Concerns
All of these hindrances to the reception of the gospel message can also become a hindrance for the believer in sharing the message of the gospel with the dying world that is around us.
Perhaps you are here today and realize that you have not fully embraced the message of the gospel. I invite you to embrace it today. Do not put it off until later, for you do not even know that there will be “a later” for you. D.L. Moody once dismissed a crowd who had come to hear him preach in Chicago on a Sunday evening. He told them to think about what he had said and then to come back next week. That very night the tragic Chicago fire occured and many who had heard the message perished in that fire. Though I do not usually have an altar call, know that you can speak to me after the service and I would love to sit down with you and pray.
Believer, perhaps the Lord is convicting you of being too consumed with the cares of this world. If so, simply confess it to Him for He is faithful and just to forgive and to cleanse from all unrighteousness. If you feel the need to talk with me or someone else, please don’t be afraid to do so.
Let’s pray.
Closing Song: No. 596 — I SURRENDER ALL
Benediction:
Numbers 6:24–26 NIV84
“ ‘ “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” ’
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