Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

10-7-04

What Kind of Ground Am I?

 

 

Text: Luke 8:4-15; Hebrews 5:11-14

 

Our text is Luke 8:4-15, and later we will use a passage in Hebrews; Hebrews 5:11-14.

 

Listen as I read God’s Word.

[4] While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: [5] “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. [6] Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. [7] Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. [8] Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
[9] His disciples asked him what this parable meant. [10] He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’ [Isaiah 6:9] [11] “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. [12] Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. [13] Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. [14] The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. [15] But 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.”

What kind of ground are you?

 

I believe that’s the question that is being asked of us today in this parable Jesus tells us.

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

 

Jesus said this several times on several occasions.

 

For instance, Revelation uses this phrase 8 times: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

 

Why did Jesus say this?

 

After all, don’t we all have ears?

 

What could he have meant?

 

Chuck Swindoll told this story: An Indian was walking in downtown New York City alongside a friend who was a resident of the city.

 

Right in the center of Manhattan, the Indian seized his friend’s arm and whispered, “Wait! I hear a cricket.”

 

His friend said, “Come on! A cricket?  Man, this is downtown New York.”

 

He persisted, “No, seriously, I really do.”

“It’s impossible!” was the response.

 

“You can’t hear a cricket! Taxis going by. Horns honkin’. People screamin’ at each other. Brakes screeching. Both sides of the street filled with people. Cash registers clanging away. Subways roaring beneath us. You can’t possibly hear a cricket!”

The Indian insisted, “Wait a minute!”

 

He led his friend along, slowly.

 

They stopped, and the Indian walked down to the end of the block, went across the street, looked around, cocked his head to one side, but couldn’t find it.

 

He went across another street, and there in a large cement planter where a tree was growing, he dug into the mulch and found the cricket.

 

“See!” he yelled, as he held the insect high above his head.

 

His friend walked across the street, marveling, “How in the world could it be that you heard a cricket in the middle of downtown busy Manhattan?”

The Indian said, “Well, my ears are different from yours.

 

It simply depends on what you’re listening to.

 

Here, let me show you.” And he reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of change--a couple of quarters, three or four nickels, and some dimes and pennies.

 

Then he said, “Now watch.”

 

He held the coins waist high and dropped them to the sidewalk.

 

Every head within a block turned around and looked in the direction of the Indian.

It all depends on what you’re listening for.

Do you suppose there are times and phases in our lives when we don’t hear?

 

[illus. Our children listening selectively]

 

There are times when we CAN’T hear what the Spirit is saying to us?

 

[I hope you heard Him and I hope you said “yes.”]

Are you hearing right now?

 

Or, are you drowning out the voice of the Lord?

 

I’ll ask you the question Jesus asked his disciples in Mark’s recording of this same parable.

 

Jesus said: “Do you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?”

 

In other words, if you don’t get it here in this parable, how will you “get it” spiritually anywhere else in your life?

I want to ask you a serious question for your life right now: Do you really understand spiritual truth?


I think most of us would not want to say we don’t understand spiritual truth.

 

I certainly wouldn’t!

 

I’m a teacher!

 

I’ve been trained at the feet of some very good preachers!

 

You don’t want to say that either.

 

Why, you’ve been a Christian since Shep was a pup.

 

You cut your spiritual teeth on the Bible.

Listen to me as I read from the book of Hebrews, chapter 5.

 

Well, the writer of Hebrews told the folks he was writing to they weren’t as slick as they thought they were.

 

He said, “[11] We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. [12] In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! [13] Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. [14] But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

 

That’s God’s Word!

The real truth of the matter is that if you aren’t reading and studying “the teaching about righteousness,” the word of God, and constantly training yourself with that word, you cannot distinguish good from evil.

 

I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian or how smart you are, “…solid food is for the mature, who by constant USE have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

So, back to His parable, Jesus asks us the same question, “Do you really understand spiritual truth?”

 

And, by implication he asks us in this parable to ask ourselves, “What kind of ground, soil, am I?”

So, he explains the parable, the spiritual truth, to us.

 

Mark’s version says, “The farmer sows the word.’

 

Through whatever means he chooses, God sows his Word, his truth, into our lives.

 

The seed is good; it has great potential.

 

Now, will our ground receive it like it should?

 

How receptive am I?

That is one of the key components of growth, you know.

 

“How receptive are you?”

 

Over the last several weeks, I have asked myself this question in several different ways.

 

I wonder how open I am to spiritual growth.

 

How open I am to allowing the Holy Spirit to do his work in me, and in my Nursing Home ministry, and in my church.

 

If I am not able to RECEIVE truth, I cannot change and grow.

It’s the same with you.

 

I pray that some of you would really hear me right now.

 

I am asking you to consider before God how open you are to him...to the work of his Spirit in you.

 

Please don’t assume that because something special happened to you at some distant point in your life, whether it was 20 years ago, or 2 years ago, that you are able to hear the voice of the Lord in your heart and life right now.

This walk with God is not just a matter of accepting with your mind a belief that sounds right to you.

 

God wants YOU.

 

He wants your heart.

 

He wants all of you; body, soul, and spirit, mind, heart, and will.

 

And He wants your time, money, and resources.

 

I’m tellin’ you, until you do this, you will always struggle with the same sins and shortcomings you’ve always struggled with.

Maybe you don’t struggle any more, eh?

 

“I’m fine. Everything’s all right. I don’t really need anything. Everything is clipping along pretty well for me.”

 

Do you know what Paul, the apostle, said along these lines?

 

Listen to First Corinthians 10, verse 12: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful…”

 

That’s the time you want to watch your back!

 

Be careful, “that you don’t fall!” [KJV:]

 

"Take heed lest you fall!"

 

Pretty stern warning, isn’t it?

 

As one who is called to teach (shepherd) you at this time in your life, I want to warn you: Don’t close your heart and mind.

 

Don’t assume that you are listening to the right voices in your life.

So, now, let’s go back to Jesus’ parable.

 

He describes four types of responses; for ways people respond to the Word of God.

 

"[5] A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.”

 

He explains this type of response in verse 12: [12] Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved."

These folks hear, but they don’t really receive the good news, the words of God.

 

They hear it, but there is really no soil for it to take root.

 

Maybe, it’s more of a lack of interest than rejection.

 

They have no interest in spiritual things.

 

What they DO have is taken away by “the birds of the air.”

 

They are so hard that what they have is trampled on.

 

Useless.

 

I pray that no one here is this kind of ground.

Then we see in verse 13, the second kind of response, those on rock.

 

Verse 6 again: "Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture."

 

Jesus gives the meaning in verse 13: "Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away."

 

How about you?

 

Are you rootless?

 

Those in this category get excited for a while when they hear the word.

 

But, when it gets tough, they aren’t...because they haven’t developed the capacity to hang in there by grabbing onto and holding onto at least what they know for now.

 

They make small-minded decisions.

 

Everything is for the short-term.

 

What pleases me and mine now.

Notice again how Jesus describes these folks: "[6]...the plants withered because they had no moisture."

 

Moisture brings softness.

 

There is an inbuilt hardness to their response.

 

They’ve developed a certain capacity to push truth away.

 

To push the tugging of God’s spirit away.

 

To drown out the voice of God to them.

 

Deaf ears and blind eyes are the result of callous hearts.

The next type of response is the seed that "[7] fell among thorns. The thorns grew up with it and choked the plants."

 

The interpretation by Jesus is verse 14?

 

"The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature."

 

This description is fairly straightforward, isn’t it?

 

"Choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures."

 

So much about life has their attention.

 

So much of what isn’t really God-honoring.

 

Or, just too much of the things of the world to enjoy.

 

Or, the cares and worries of life so consume them that they are literally choked spiritually.

The real stuff God wants to produce is not produced in near the quantity that it can be produced.

 

It may even be pretty appalling.

 

Two crops are trying to grow in the same ground.

 

The bottom line?

 

The result is that they don’t mature.

 

They may think they are mature, but they don’t even have the spiritual capacity at this point to tell that they aren’t mature.

 

They are too suffocated by everything around them, either worry OR pleasure.

 

Those are Jesus’ words, not mine!

Then the last kind of soil…the good soil.

 

"[8] Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”

 

He doesn’t describe the characteristics of this soil, like he does the others.

 

He just says it was good soil and it produced the right amount.

 

We can tell something about it by two things: 1) by what these farmers naturally understood to be good soil.

 

And, 2) by the opposites of what he has just described.

Good soil is rich and moist.

 

It has the right nutrients in the ground that nourish growth.

 

It is not hard.

 

It is free of obstructions and foreign elements, free of other life sucking plants that are really not good for much.

 

Those are weeds.

 

Who is this person?

 

That’s the devil.

 

Jesus says in verse 15, “But 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.”

 

They have a noble and good heart.

 

And, this produces a bountiful harvest.

 

If a crop in Palestine yielded 10% it was considered good; 30 or 40 fold would be the farmer’s dream.

 

This ground produces 100 times.

 

I’d call that a bountiful harvest.

That points to the other part of the interpretation of this parable.

 

It is a parable of the advancement of God’s kingdom.

 

Jesus is telling us that despite the other responses, the kingdom will advance bountifully.

Jesus and the gospel writer stop abruptly after this and move on to something else.

 

The message is very clear, I believe.

 

We are to ask ourselves, “What kind of ground, soil, am I?”

 

Jesus describes YOU one way or the other here.

What can you do about it, specifically?

 

You know what?

 

I’m gonna leave that up to God and you.

 

With a message like this, I’m usually full of advice.

 

Not this time.

 

You stand before God...alone...as I do.

 

You’ve heard it all.

 

Prayer, study, faithful attendance, love, good works.

 

It’s time for the Holy Spirit to nail you.

 

Please let him do it.

I’m gonna close with a story [and then, a song].

 

This story came from a paper in a small town.

 

There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and every once in a while a cow wanders off and gets lost.... Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, “Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of green grass right next to a hole in the fence.

 

It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft.

 

The next thing you know the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.”

I know that Americans are in the process of nibbling their way to lostness.

 

We keep moving from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home or how far away from the truth we have managed to end up.

 

But, what I’m wondering about is YOU.

 

It will be easy for you to walk away from my message today and instantly find a way to skirt the truth about yourself.

 

It will be someone else or some other situation or the nation or your relative.

 

Look in the mirror with me.

 

And ask yourself, “What kind of soil am I?”

 

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