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Fruitfulness: Allowing God's Word to work the Soil of our Hearts

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Fruitfulness:  Allowing the Word to work the soil of our hearts

Matt. 13:1-23

Date: Aug. 06, 2000

Place: Faith EBC, Winkler

Introduction

        We are just about to enter harvest season.  In fact several farmers have already begun swathing.  The fields look ripe. The crops look plentiful.  How did this all happen.  Simply with a small seed.  This morning we handed each of you some wheat stalks.  Just take a moment to count the number of grains on the wheat head.  Please realize that each grain head was produced by one grain of wheat.  How many of you have at least ten heads?  How many of you have twenty grains of wheat?  How many of you have more than thirty grains?  Forty?  Wow, how did that happen?  Warren Wiersbe asked the question “Did you ever wonder what happens to all the preaching and teaching that goes on in this world?...Has God’s Word lost its power?”  - Wiersbe, Window on the Parables, p. 20

        Jesus told this parable on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-10) after the choosing of the twelve in the midst of rising opposition to His ministry.  This is the first of eight parables recorded in Matthew 13.  What is a parable?  “The word “parable” comes from two Greek words (para and balloµ), which together mean “to throw alongside.” A parable, like an illustration, makes a comparison between a known truth and an unknown truth; it throws them alongside each other.”[1]  It is a word picture which you can imagine and in turn understand the truth of what the author is seeking to teach.  This wasn’t the first parable Jesus told.  “The parables already mentioned in Matthew include the salt and the light (5:13–16), the birds and the lilies (6:26–30), the splinter and the beam in the eye (7:3–5), the two gates (7:13f.), the wolves in sheep’s clothing (7:15), the good and bad trees (7:17–19), the wise and foolish builders (7:24–27), the garment and the wineskins (9:16f.), the children in the market places (11:16f.).”[2]

        What would be the primary purpose of this parable?  You may have read this parable many times and wondered ‘what am I to learn from this?’.  ‘Does it mean that I need to do more sharing of the gospel?  Is this about me or about others or is it about something else?’

        Having read the parable earlier, you may have noticed the fact that different kinds of soils were mentioned.  In fact because of this, the farmer should expect different results in terms of the crops he will reap.  Jesus spoke this parable to the many people who listened, but the interpretation was given only to the twelve later on, vv.  18-23.

I.      The Seed is the Word of God, v. 4 cp. vs. 19 Mk 4:14; Lk 8:11

A.      The Word of God has the power to produce spiritual life.

B.       The Word of God has the power to produce spiritual fruit.

C.       The Word of God has the power to work in all people.

II.    The Sower is God who shares the Word, vs. 3

A.      God commissions believers to be sowers, 1 Cor 3:9

B.       We are to sow the seed irrespective of what we think of the soil.

-          The Lord is the one who is in charge of the harvest.  Our responsibility is to sow the seed, pray for workers and leave the results to the Lord.

-          We need to be sure that we are sowing for the purpose of building the kingdom, see Gal. 6:7-8 cp. Prov. 6:19.

III. The Soil is the hearts of people in response to the Word of God, v. 19 cp. vs.  Lk 8:12

A.     The soil needs preparation in order to receive the seed.

1.        The soil needs cultivation, in other words we need to become familiar with the heart conditions of people if we hope to share the gospel with them.  This will require patience, because often people are hard and difficult to get to know.

All soils when compared with the heart have potential.  “If you ever visited Victoria, British Columbia, you may have seen the Butchart Gardens….And to think that the gardens were once an abandoned gravel pit.”  - Wiersbe, p. 24              

                 2.    The soil needs water

3.        The soil needs weed control

B.      Types of soil.

1.        Hard soil, vs. 4 cp. vv. 18-19.

- Morris calls this soil an illustration of a “careless hearer.”

The hearer knows that there is some spiritual truth here intended for his profit, but since he does not act on it, he soon finds that what he heard is lost. The failure to attend to the message and to find out what it means results in total loss, first of the message and ultimately of the hearer.

The person’s lack of understanding points up individual responsibility. [3]  It isn’t because the sower wasn’t faithful in spreading the message.  It isn’t because the message itself is unclear, but rather because of the hardness of heart the person simply refuses to allow the message to penetrate the soil of his heart.  The person who hears the message and refuses to receive it is obviously unsaved.  We should not be surprised if people don’t respond to the message. 

2.        Rocky soil, vv.  5-6 cp. vv. 20-21.

The soil condition in Israel is rather rocky in places, a lot of limestone.  In contrast to the person who refuses to listen to the message, this person receives the message with joy (he’s saved) however, his heart has little soil and therefore the seed cannot be rooted solidly. This person doesn’t mature, in fact due to bad choices he is led astray.  “The abs. pass. can also mean let oneself be led into sin, fall away (Passio Perpet. 20, 10 vGebh.; Martyr. Petri 3 p. 82, 22 Lips.) Mt 13:21; 24:10; Mk 4:17; 14:27, 29; J 16:1; D 16:5.[4]” The Lord seeks to toughen us, harden us to the struggles of life.  If ones commitment is shallow when tested through a variety of outward trials, he will fall away. 

The Lord warned believers that they would face persecution for the sake of the Kingdom, Matt 5:10-12, 43-44; 10:16-25.  The Lord expressed the fact that some people will crumble under persecution on account of the Word.

3.        Thorny soil, vs. 7 cp. vs. 22

A government publication on weeds lists 205 species of weeds, but the plant kinds which most farmers and gardeners recognize as serious pests would number less than two dozen and, significantly, nearly all of those so-called “noxious” weeds were brought from other lands.  The Russian thistle’s introduction appears to be an example. The first seed is believed to have been present in flax brought from Russia to South Dakota in 1873. For a few years the menace went unrecognized, but the new plants with unusual low moisture requirements found it easy to adapt to the Great Plains environment and spread rapidly to every part of the United States and Canada where rainfall was light. [5]  This particular thistle has plagued Canadian farmers for years.

The mention of thorns in Scripture, refer to God’s judgment on the nation of Israel, see Isa. 5:6; Jer. 4:3; Hos. 10:8.  The thorns are an illustration of the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth, which choke the spiritual life out of a believer.  “These twin dangers of anxiety and wealth were subjects in the Sermon on the Mount (6:19–34; cf. 19:23–24). “Anxiety (of the age) depresses us away from the Word; delusion (with wealth) impresses us above the Word.”[6]  Someone once said, “In this world there are only two tragedies.  One is not getting what you want.  The other is getting it.”  - Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, p. 237.  I believe that the greatest struggle for North American Christian is that they have become so obsessed with business and profitability that they are left with no energy to serve in the body of Christ.  It is an issue of priority.

4.        Good soil, vs. 8 cp. .vs. 23

The Lord goes on to illustrate the power of the Word when introduced in hearts that have been prepared to receive the message.  A couple of features about this kind of soil should be mentioned.  It was good soil, in that it was prepared.  A prepared heart is a heart that is teachable and wants to understand.  This is the work of the Spirit of God, see John 16:8-11.  “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:  9 in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me;  10 in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer;  11 and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” [7]

The verb for produce is in the imperfect tense, therefore, it speaks of action having begun in the past and continues in the present “where it was producing”.  A prepared heart is one that will continue to produce a crop although the crop will vary.  Some people question whether a hundred-fold crop is possible, cp. Gen. 26:12.   Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundred-fold, because the LORD blessed him. [8]  The kind of fruit that the Lord wants to see in believers is spiritual.  You say to yourself ‘ I thought this parable was teaching me that I needed to do evangelism in order to be fruitful.’  Remember the context, Jesus was being rebuked for picking grain on the Sabbath.  Jesus was rebuking the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.  The kind of fruit that needs to present in our lives is that mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [9]  When you and I bear this kind of fruit we will be like the tree planted by streams of water mentioned in Psalm 1, “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”  [10] In Col. 1:6-8 we read:  “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.  7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf,  8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit. [11]  In Eph. 2:10 we read, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. [12]

                       

                        Let’s look at the day of harvest and recognize that if we want to bring a harvest to heaven with us, we will need to have prepared hearts.  We will need to have obedient hearts to what we already know, then our lives will speak the truth and we will be prepared to share the gospel with our friends, family and co-workers.

                                     


----

[1]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[2]Robertson, Archibald Thomas, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Nashville, Tennessee, USA: Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention) 1998, c1933.

[3]Multiple, Bibliotheca Sacra, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Theological Seminary (Electronic edition by Galaxie Software)) 1999.

[4]Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F. Wilbur, and Danker, Frederick W., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1979.

[5]Tan, Paul Lee, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, (Garland, Texas: Bible Communications, Inc.) 1996.

[6]Multiple, Bibliotheca Sacra, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Theological Seminary (Electronic edition by Galaxie Software)) 1999.

[7]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[8]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[9]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[10]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[11]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

[12]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

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