Have you ever met that person who seems to have selective hearing? You tell them something over and over again, but it never seems to sink in? It might be one of our own children, a spouse, or even some good friends. No matter how hard we try we can't seem to get through to them. Many people have selective hearing to spiritual things as well. Many will hear the Gospel message over and over again but never respond to it.
Jesus had a way of attracting a crowd. Lots of people wanted to come and hear the teaching of Jesus. He was a popular figure and the people of the day flocked to him. It is in this moment where Jesus tells them the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. In this parable, Jesus lays out the four responses people have to hearing the Gospel. Just like in Jesus' day, people still will have these same four responses to hearing the words of Jesus. The question for us is how have we responded to the Gospel?
Jesus then tells them the parable of the Sower. Now the parable is a pretty simple one, in fact Jesus is kind enough to interpret the parable for us a few verses later. The Parable describes a person who sows seed. The way a person sowed seed was simply by throwing it out and letting it fall where it lay. This seed, which represents the Word of Jesus, is going to fall onto different types of soil. This soil is going to represents different people receptiveness to the Gospel. Jesus tells us that people respond in four diffrent ways.
The Seed on the Road Some of the seed ends up falling on the road. The seeds are exposed and the birds are able to come up and snatch it quickly. Jesus tells us that this represents the person who hears the Gospel, but hardens his heart against it. He is unresponsive to the Word of Jesus and just outright rejects it. The birds, which represent the evil one, snaps up the seed.
Many people respond this way to hearing the Gospel. In fact, some of you might have responded in this way to the Words of Jesus. You might have heard your pastor proclaim the Gospel over and over on Sunday morning, but you refuse to respond. You don't want to have anything to do with Jesus. Some of us have friends who respond this way to the Gospel. They hear the Gospel and the just out right reject.
The Bible affirms that many people have this response to God. This is why in Romans 1 Paul tells us that the wrath of God is being revealed because humanity, who has seen God through creation, just outright rejects God. Our hearts are hardened and unreceptive because of sin. As a result, many people will respond this way to the Gospel.
What hope is there for our friends who respond this way to Jesus? Well we need to keep throwing out the seed, over and over again. Jesus says that the evil one will come and snatch it up. We must pray that God will change their hearts as we continue to show them the Words of Jesus, and then just keep throwing the seed of the Word. Often times we forget that there is indeed an enemy who opposes our work as evangelists and missionaries. The enemy doesn't want the seed of the Gospel to take root and grow, so if he is able he will snatch it up through the power of temptation and the bondage of sin. We must pray that God does a supernatural work to free this persons will so that they can hear and believe the Gospel message!
The Seed on the Rock Some of the seed fell onto the rock. The seed appeared to grow quickly and seemed very healthy, but when the scorching heat of the sun arrived, the shallow roots were unable to stand it. As a result, the plant withered and died.
Many people have hearts just like this seed on the rock. Many people will hear the word of Jesus and begin growing quickly. They had an emotional response to the Word, or they accepted Jesus because their parents forced them down the aisle or because all their friends were doing it. In fact, for a while they seem to be doing pretty well in their life as Christians, but when troubles come they are unable to survive. When a loved one dies or when life gets difficult their faith withers and dies just like that plant on the rock with shallow roots.
My desire as a youth pastor is to give my students a firm foundation of the Word of God. I want them to develop deep roots in their Christian faith. I don't want them to be some superficial Christian who will one day walk away from the church and from Christ.
Would you characterize yourself as having deep faith? Do you know and love the Bible? Do you study it regularly? Do regularly spend time in Prayer? You need to be actively growing in your faith. You must be deep in your faith. However, most of us barely have a basic knowledge of the Bible let alone a deep understanding of it. Go open up your Bible and read it, reread it, and reread it. Spend time daily with the Lord, join a Bible study and actively get involved in the discipleship process at your church. Open up and talk about what God is teaching you with other Christians. Read good Christian books that strengthen your faith. Strive with every fiber of your being to grow in Christian maturity. Be Deeply rooted.
Seed on the Thorns Some of the seed gets thrown among the thorns. The thorns grew up and choked the seed and over powered it. This heart condition is a very common one I see in churches. Jesus tells us that these thorns represent the cares and concern of this life. These earthly concerns begin to choke the life out of the seed. Jesus tells us that this plant grows but is unfruitful.
We know from Matthew 7 that the tree that is unfruitful is a bad tree that will be thrown in the furnace. This third heart, the one crowded by thorns proves to be fake Christians. Christianity might be a part of their life, but it is surrounded by earthly concerns and pleasures. Many Christians say they love Jesus, and they probably do, just not as much as earthly things. They love money, success, and romance far more than they love Jesus. Their earthly idols choke the life out of their faith and destroys the word of Jesus. Many of us have far to many life sucking thorns in our lives.
What do you love more than Jesus? If you want to find out, where does your mind go if you let it wander. What do you day dream about? What do you tweet about? What do you like to talk about with your friends? Examine those aspects of your life and you can see where your priorties are. Examine your life carefully and you will find those things you love far more than Jesus.
Here is the scary reality, that many Christians will live their life in the church as good moral people, all the while never knowing Jesus. They loved those thorns so much more than the word of God. They loved earthly pleasures more than Jesus. That's why in the end, these wolves in sheep clothing will be told, "depart from me; I never knew you."
The Seed on the Good Soil Some of the seed manages to find its way onto some good soil. This represents the heart that is ready and willing to accept toe word of the Lord. As a result, the seed blossoms and blooms and produces a huge amount of fruit. In Jesus' day, a crop producing 10 fold or 20 fold would have been seen as a very successful crop. However Jesus says that this plant on the good soil will produce 30 fold, 60 fold, and even 100 fold! A lot of fruit is going to come from the seed on the good soil.
This good soil represents the one who accepts the Gospel of Jesus and builds his life on its truth. He lays Jesus as the foundation to which he builds his house. He takes the narrow way that leads to life. He is the good tree that produces good fruit. He is the one who does the will of the father.
The question is, how are you going to respond to the Gospel? Are you going to harden your heart and reject Jesus? Are you going to get excited about following Jesus, and the wither out once hard times come? Are you going to love the things of this world more than you love Jesus? Or are you going to be like that good soil that is ready to receive and obey Jesus' word and put it into practice?