Sowing Seeds of the Gospel - as part of our Seeds of Change Initiative and especially our goal to become more of a risk-taking church, we’ve been looking at sowing seeds of the Gospel.
We’ve been making our way through Jesus’ parable of the sower and seed, and how seed (Word of God) grows - or fails to grow - depending on type of soil it falls on.
Seed that fell along hardened path, got snatched away before it could sprout. This represented word of kingdom that falls on person whose heart is hardened, won’t receive it.
Seed that fell on shallow or rocky soil - sprouted quickly but withered just as quickly as soon as sun began to beat down. These are those who receive word with joy, but when trouble or persecution comes, quickly fade away.
As we looked at these types of soil, I invited us to consider our own hearts as they respond to God, his truth, how is it planted in us?
How open is my heart to Jesus, to really knowing him, face-to-face (is my heart hard or soft?)
And what about my willingness to receive Jesus, his love, in depths of my heart, is it my desire to go deep with Jesus?
All of this we talked about with an eye to how we might sow seeds of the Gospel, investing in relationships with other people, engaging them in spiritual conversation
When we talk to people who are unreceptive, their hearts are hardened - we would begin with simply building genuine relationships: Chat & Relate
When we talk to people who are receptive to Gospel, we want good news of Jesus to go deep, so we would Share (sharing stories of God’s work in our own lives) & Connect (connect God to everyday life)
This morning, we’re going to talk about third type of soil, this is soil that is infested with thorns and weeds - seed that falls here sprouts, but gets choked out and fails to bear any harvest
What does that mean for our own hearts?
What does this mean for how we might sow seeds of the Gospel with others?
Prayer / Matthew 13:3-9, 18, 22-23
Years ago, when I had just begun doing youth ministry at church in Plano, Texas, we were on youth retreat, doing a hayride, and I was trying to get to know one of other leaders, Jeff, better, so I started asking him some questions, chatting, how’s life, family?
Jeff: “well, my wife just asked me for divorce.” Needless to say, I was not expecting that!
Over the months to come, I had to watch Jeff endure divorce and try to manage being single parent.
Years later, he and his ex-wife, Cheryl, actually reconciled and got remarried. And they wrote book about it called, “I Do - Again.” Book goes back and forth with each of them writing about their experiences - when they were first married, what led to divorce, what God did in their lives afterwards - amazing story!
One of things that struck me about Jeff’s experience was how shocked he was when Cheryl told him she wanted divorce. It blindsided him. He had no idea she was so unhappy. He thought they were doing fine.
It wasn’t until later, as God worked in his life, he began to see more of why Cheryl was so unhappy - and how he had played role in that.
Their marriage is vastly different now than it was first time, and one of things that’s most different is how intentional they are in their marriage. Jeff now pays attention. They both do. They are both proactive about that marriage relationship.
That dynamic plays out in our lives all time - problem “suddenly” appears - but really problem had been there for long time, but we weren’t paying it enough attention, minimizing it.
Woman I did some financial coaching with had that exact experience - she’d been neglecting oversight of her business, not keeping careful track. She was going through tough time, her dad was nearing his end and she was primary caregiver…but, “all of sudden”, she’s in bad shape financially, accumulated bunch of debt.
How’d my house get in such terrible condition? How did I slide into this depressive lifestyle, just sitting around watching TV all time?
It’s not as if these things weren’t important - they had just become less important, not worth time and attention we really needed to be paying them.
exactly point of this part of Jesus’ parable - seed that is sown among thorns, or the weeds.
Seed takes root, it sprouts, it grows, but it doesn’t get all nutrients - the time and attention it needs. Instead, plant gets choked out by other things.
As result, “it proves unfruitful.” Never bears harvest it was intended to.
Jesus is talking here about our spiritual lives, our heart-to-heart connection with God.
Problem here isn’t that we don’t have some sort of relationship with God - or that we don’t want to have one.
Problem is that we don’t tend to it. We let other things become more important and we get distracted by them. And these distractions “choke out” any fruit - life we would normally and naturally experience in face-to-face relationship with Jesus.
Jesus names two distractions in particular: worries of this life / cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches / lure of wealth. These are two grave dangers to our spiritual lives.
Worries are difficult to grapple with - because it’s difficult to make yourself stop worrying.
We offer it all time, but it never seems like helpful advice, for someone to tell you to stop worrying.
But it’s helpful, I think, that this is sometimes translated as “cares” - because worries really reflect what we care deeply about. What matters to us.
Why parents worry about their children, because they care for them.
We are in time where there is much to be genuinely concerned about - coronavirus pandemic is causing great havoc - it is claiming lives and destroying jobs.
We worry whether we’re going to find cure (will it ever be safe to go out), we worry about economy, we worry who’s going to win Presidential election, we were worrying about toilet paper - now we’re worrying about meat!
We worry about a lot more than that: We worry about what other people are going to think about us. We worry about our appearance. We worry about crime in our neighborhood. We worry about our pets. We worry about getting older. We worry about our church. We worry about...
I was worried about getting to Home Depot before they closed last week. Turns out, there was no need to worry, they aren’t closing at 6:00 anymore.
Other grave danger to our spiritual life is wealth. Actually, not wealth in and of itself - but deceitfulness of wealth. Lure of riches. In other words, we become tempted to believe all promises we think wealth offers.
There’s reason why Jesus references dangers of wealth so often - because he knows how dangerous it is! He knows our hearts, he knows how we’re tempted - how it lures us in.
“I know money can’t buy me happiness but I’d sure like to try.”
We like idea of having money, and more money would always be better - because we think of all possibilities of what it can do for us - buy experiences, go where we want, there’s security there, enjoy comfort, convenience - foolish to not want mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money.
of course, we can’t look greedy. that would be wrong. Not crazy amount of money. But little more.
Here’s thing - Jesus knows deceitfulness because he knows what our hearts really need, deepest desires - what brings authentic, abiding joy. What makes our hearts truly secure. Deep contentment.
John Mark Comer was describing ads that we see all time: Ruthless Elimination
Brilliant insight: what these ads are selling is Sabbath. Rest. Relaxation.
We think we can buy what God offers us freely - if we would only stop and come to be with with. Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest, rest for your souls.
Point of parable is that when our attention to drawn to these things - when worries of this life consume our thoughts, when lure of wealth sucks us in - our hearts get distracted from Jesus.
they are like weeds that choke out plants. We can’t get nourished in love and strength and grace of Christ because our focus is elsewhere.
Solution to Distracted Heart: Matthew 6:25-34
We Seek - keep proper attention
Weeds are insidious! They never stop growing.
My terrible weeding strategy...
It only works if you weed regularly, if you tend to your garden on a regular basis.
Have to make it a priority, actively seek after it.
Or in words of Jesus, Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.
By way, there are some verses in Bible that highlight verse, big bold verses - verses that you could well make life verse (great commandment, ???)…this is definitely one of them.
Dallas Willard on Kingdom of God
Seek this first
Seek first Kingdom of God because it is worth our seeking, worth our all
Seek because we trust
Wealth is deceitful, but God is not. He is trustworthy. You can literally bank on him.
Your Father - you hold great value in eyes of your father
This father who values you so much knows what you need
pagans chase after these things because they can’t trust their gods, so they run after them
But we can trust Father, we don’t need to chase or worry or be anxious - all because of Him.
He is powerful and present and values us deeply.
By way, one of deceits of wealth is that we need more - newer, nicer, more
Truth of matter is that we can be content - joyful - with far less then we think.
Jesus is perfect example of that - he was deeply joyful.
Sowing Seeds of Gospel
When we become seekers of Kingdom, puts us in perfect position to sow seeds of Gospel
unreceptive to receptive to actively seeking
Two basic strategies: Explore & Clarify
Explore - questions
Clarify - pros and cons, costs and benefits
There is cost to following Jesus, when we seek him first, put other things second, third...
But anyone who has done so will tell you there is no better choice
Like my friend, Jeff - we don’t want to wake up and be surprised
Is your attention in right place?
Or are you distracted?
Invest in relationship, sow seed of Gospel