The Parable of the Sower4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
The Purpose of the Parables9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Accompanying John MacArthur sermons: Receptivity to the Gospel Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3
Accompanying Matt Chandler sermon: Be Careful How You Hear
It was such an encouragement to me to listen to MacArthur's sermon (the 3rd one is the only one I went through) on this passage.
The truth is that many people reject the gospel message, but the reality is that it has nothing to do with the quality of the seed (the Gospel is the seed and there's obviously nothing wrong with the message itself!), or the skill of the sower (anyone who is sharing the gospel message), but the heart condition of the one hearing the message.
If you know the gospel well enough to be saved by it, you know it well enough to present it to somebody else. And the message of the gospel is what it is and it isn't anything else and it doesn't need to be altered. And as we're learning in the story, it's not a matter of the sower and it's not a matter of the seed, it's a matter of...what?...the soil. Responses to the proclamation of the gospel are determined not by the skill of the sower and not by the state of the seed, but by the soil. It's really important to know that because that helps us to understand what to do in evangelism, what to expect and what not to expect...
Chandler adds this....
every time the Scriptures are taught, every time the word of God goes out, it has a softening effect on some and a hardening effect on others, because God’s going to display both His mercy and His justice.
Some hear with completely unmoved hearts, or moments after it "lands" it gets snatched away, or trampled underfoot by men, snuffed out before it goes anywhere at all.
Some hear and receive it with joy, but there is no root. This is reminiscent to me of those who are stirred enough to "say the prayer" but there is absolutely no life change. They may even go to church, and participate in cultural Christianity, but there is absolutely no substance to their faith, there is no relationship with God, they have not been transformed by the Holy Spirit - they have not been saved. And so, when any sort of trial comes, it weeds out those with no root. They were never saved to begin with, they were just going through the motions, or accepting Christ for what He could do for them and as soon as that failed, they were done.
Some hear and receive it, but the cares of this world choke out the truth. Basically this is no-lordship salvation which is not salvation. It's when people say they choose Jesus because they don't want to land up in hell, but they haven't understood what they've actually chosen. They have to choose Jesus over everything. They have to understand the sin issue, and they have to be willing to give up their sin and submit to the Lordship of Christ. Hungering after a better life doesn't cut it, hungering for righteousness is what it takes.
And lastly, some hear and receive it in it's fulness. They understand the gospel message in it's entirety - the message of sin and judgment and the message of grace and eternal life. They see the true value of the gospel and are willing to give up absolutely everything in order to receive it.
Quite frankly, we can't always tell for sure whether or not someone is a Christian. They can say all the right things but it may have never penetrated their heart.
But there are signs of real faith, and that is fruit, both in attitude and in action. The true believer will have a regenerated heart filled with love, joy, peace, goodness, self control. They will love God and love people. Times of trial will not cause them to falter. There will be evidence of a transformed heart. And there's also action fruit - a true believer will pursue holiness, they will walk the talk.
You need both. If you have the action without the attitude, you get legalism. Action needs to be the result of attitude.
When it comes to evangelism, we need to remember that we are not the Holy Spirit. We cannot plow the soil of their hearts to make it ready to receive the seed. That's not our job. Our job is to sow the seed and let God take care of the rest.
MacArthur: The Holy Spirit saves sinners but not without the gospel. That's why we have to proclaim it.
And we need to present the bad news before the good news. If we do it the other way around they often don't even hear the bad news and all that produces is superficiality that is not faith at all. You don't want people to want Jesus to fix their life, you want them to want Jesus to cleanse their sin and transform their hearts.
In Hebrews 10:22 and this is a good place to stop, do you want to come to Christ? Here's what it says. You want to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, you want to come into the presence of God, then here's how you come, verse 22, "Let us draw near with a true heart, a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." So you want to come, do you? You want to come to Christ? Then you have to cry out for a cleansing...for a true and sincere heart sprinkled clean and washed. That's the issue, folks. It's about the heart.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Luke 8:16-21