The Parables Series #1
"GROUNDING THE GOSPEL!"
TEXT: Matt. 13:1-8; 18-23
INTRO: How well grounded is the Gospel in your life?
Your walk with God is determined by what kind of receiver you are and how prepared you are to let the Gospel establish itself in your life. The Gospel itself is never the issue; it is the quality of the reception and what happens after it is received that is always the determining factor of what quality or what life springs from that Gospel.
ILLUS: My garden has taught me to think ahead. For it to be fruitful, I must plan. I must build soil, plant, and nurture what I have planted. It has also taught me to hold the harvest lightly. Over the course of a season I can lose a crop to spring rains that rot the seed, slugs that eat new shoots, rabbits that eat everything, hail that breaks the strong, and drought that withers the weak. I can lose a crop because of my ignorance or my carelessness. Until I have the fruit in storage, where it can also spoil, I live with uncertainty. I do my best, work faithfully, and hope. -- John Leax in In Season and Out. Christianity Today, Vol. 35, no. 1.
The farmer who plants a field of corn is responsible for what condition the ground is in to receive the seed of corn, as well as the continued care that field of corn gets. The corn will sprout, but the crop will be determined by the ground and how it is readied for the seed.
PROP. SENT: This parable of Jesus teaches us that we are responsible for the way we receive the Gospel, and that how we receive it will determine how well grounded we become in God's Kingdom; how productive our faith is!
I. SOCIAL CHRISTIAN Matt. 13:1-4; 19
A. Convenience Matt. 13:1-4
1. The “way-side” (KJV) (“path” NIV) was part of the landscape too.
a. This was the “hard” ground.
b. This was material so hard that nothing would grow on it.
c. This is part of the landscape of human culture too. There are those that are unreceptive to the Gospel of Christ even when they receive the truth about God; no matter how much they receive or hear, they will not experience any life from it. They are hardened to eternal things.
2. Not interested in receiving the Gospel or God.
ILLUS: Dial-A-Prayer has been around for years. The Tampa, Florida, chapter of American Atheists installed a 24-hour telephone line called "Dial-An-Atheist." We wonder if anyone burdened by guilt, anxiety, or fear will seek comfort from "Dial-An-Atheist." Most churches in the area are not worried about the competition. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
3. This does not necessarily mean this person is out right evil in their actions, they may even desire the benefits of the Christian lifestyle.
a. To be thought of as a moral person.
b. Thought of as a good citizen.
c. Maybe even thought of as a religious person.
d. Thought of as an unselfish person.
e. Good social standing in community.
4. But for some reason their hearts and minds have shut down to accepting God’s Gospel completely.
B. Condemned Matt. 13:4,19
1. No life therefore can sprout ... it never gets the chance!
2. The fowls in Jesus’ story represent the devil & this world.
a. Attention is drawn away from the truth of the Gospel thus this person never thinks about the sermons he/she hears, God's Word, etc.
b. They don't feel a need of God or church except as a social status issue.
ILLUS: The meaning of earthly existence lies, not as we have grown used to thinking, in prospering, but in the development of the soul. -- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 3.
c. The Devil tricks these people into thinking they are good enough without the Gospel, thus they never feel their need of God.
3. The ground of their existence is condemned to be barren of eternal fruit ... their life is truly empty of real meaning, they live just a barren existence.
II. STONY CHRISTIAN Matt. 13:5-6; 20-21
A. Contented Matt. 13:5,20
1. Content with the Gospel as long as things don't have to change or life doesn’t become too big of a challenge!
2. Sees church as existing for own benefit, instead of existing for the church's benefit.
a. This kind of Christianity rises and falls on temporal things, not eternal things.
b. As long as temporal things are well this person’s faith is ok; but if earthly matters become difficult they don’t see value to spiritual truths or living in a spiritual way, and they thus abandon their faith … there is no depth to their faith.
ILLUS: I prayed for Faith, and thought that some day Faith would come down and strike me like lightening. But Faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, "Now Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." I had closed my Bible, and prayed for Faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and Faith has been growing ever since. -- Dwight L. Moody, Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 4.
3. Faithful while things are going smooth, but when problems come develop their commitment is gone!
a. Ironically there are 2 extremes to those whose focus is this way; one group gives us easily their faith. (Lack of Faith movement)
b. The other group denies earthly problems and simply confesses positive faith and wealth in order to deny all problems and difficulties … they will do this as long as possible until it can’t possibly work any longer! (Hyper-faith movement)
4. Jesus clearly identifies that this kind of “grounded” Christian won’t survive the “hot” times that come. When the pressures of life come crashing in, when the heat is on, these “shallow rooted” Christians will not endure … they have no depth to their faith and relationship with God.
B. Callous Matt. 13:6,21
1. Weak hearted ... no depth to the commitment to Christ.
2. These believers are committed as long as they are doing well and conditions are favorable. Any pressures and they can’t handle them.
3. They have a root problem! Though on the surface things appear good there is no strong foundation to support them in a time of crisis. These Christians have never set down deep enough roots to establish themselves for the storms of life.
4. They don't want to go deep, they prefer life to be easy!
ILLUS: I often visit newcomers in town and find them to be church shopping. They want to know what they can get out of church. Churches are one more consumer commodity. Worship services are not a place for us to serve God and neighbor but a place where people expect to purchase the best: inspiring worship, good music, moving sermons, quality child care. As if we buy God and not vice versa. -- Arthur Boers in The Other Side (May/June 1989). Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 11.
a. And since life isn’t easy these are often frequent casualties in our churches.
b. They are the “up and down” Christians in America.
c. These are the Christians who run from church to church, and ministry to ministry or doctrine to doctrine desperately trying to find something to make their lives and faith something easy to follow … with guaranteed results with the least amount of commitment and work necessary.
III. THORNY CHRISTIAN Matt. 13:7; 22
A. Choked! Matt. 13:7
1. This Christian is interesting … they are deeply rooted, have developed well, but have never thought about the concept of “intrusion”
a. Every gardener knows that you can plant good seed, have great plants, but if you allow weeds to grow alongside your plants they will intrude on them and choke the life out of them.
b. The idea here is the same, these are well grounded Christians who let life’s good stuff as well as bad stuff intrude so much into their way of life that they become “Worry warts.” This kind of intrusion thus stunts their growth and fruitfulness.
2. Energy is consumed by constant worry over matters of everyday life.
a. This plant does NOT die; it fails to become fruitful however!
b. This is the sad reality of many Christians!
c. There is enough solid rooting to stay alive, and the ground is good … but the plant is choked by too many other things to produce the fruit it is suppose to produce.
d. It is a tragic thing to grow wonderful plants in good soil to have them simply exist and fail to produce any satisfying fruit in the end. They fail to live up to their intended purpose when this happens. God must feel this way about unfruitful Christians too.
3. Can't express joy ... even worry about worrying!
ILLUS: Worship and worry cannot live in the same heart; they are mutually exclusive. -- Ruth Bell Graham. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart."
4. Can’t get involved ... too many problems in life, they can’t see or get beyond them.
B. Consumed Matt. 13:22
1. Sees life only in the material realm ... all energy diverted by getting more and more of this life, or worrying more and more about this life.
ILLUS: I once heard of a child who was raising a frightful cry because he had shoved his hand into the opening of a very expensive Chinese vase and then couldn't pull it out again. Parents and neighbors tugged with might and main on the child's arm, with the poor creature howling out loud all the while. Finally there was nothing left to do but to break the beautiful, expensive vase. And then as the mournful heap of shards lay there, it became clear why the child had been so hopelessly stuck. His little fist grasped a paltry penny which he had spied in the bottom of the vase and which he, in his childish ignorance, would not let go. -- Helmut Thielicke in How to Believe Again. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 2.
2. There may be little time for God, or God's people; too many demands, the result is a life choked or consumed, very little life left for God and spiritual development!
a. Growth is retarded, can't be by nature what it should have been.
b. Spiritual growth becomes retarded; we can't be what our new nature in Christ has intended us to be!
c. There will be a noticeable lack of fruit by living this way!
d. A plant that has to put all of its limited energy into just staying alive can't produce any real fruit ... just a stunted life.
IV. GROUNDED CHRISTIAN Matt. 13:8, 23
A. Constant Matt. 13:8
1. Growth happens with normal and natural effort!
2. Fruitfulness naturally occurs with good ground!
3. A strong plant results from good soil conditions, and good care.
a. It is important to note that two things are happening here:
(1. Good soil conditions are necessary.
(2. Good care of conditions around soil on an ongoing basis is necessary also.
b. The seed will naturally grow when the conditions are right.
4. The person who will listen to God's Word and obey it is always on good ground with God!
ILLUS: The fruit of the Spirit grows only in the garden of obedience. -- Terry Fullam, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3.
a. A strong rooted plant can resist many kinds of natural disasters too.
b. It is strong not just because of what is on the surface, but because of the strong roots that have been established!
c. It is also strong because the area around the plant has been kept clean and uncluttered so the plant is not choked.
d. This is also true spiritually!
B. Crops! Matt. 13:23
1. The plant multiplies itself when it is healthy, in God's Kingdom there is no such thing as simple addition ... just multiplication!
a. One seed doesn't produce just another one ... but 30, 60, or a hundred fold!
b. In nature as well as in spiritual things life gives way to multiply many times over itself, not just producing one more of its own kind.
2. It is easy for this kind of seed to grow and give life to another generation of plants, it produces fruit!
ILLUS: "In the early French revolution, the schoolboys of Bourges from twelve to seventeen years of age formed themselves into a Band of Hope. They wore a uniform and were taught drill. On their holidays, their flag was unfurled, displaying in shining letters the sentence, 'Tremblez, Tyrans, nous grandirons!' (Tremble, Tyrants, we shall grow up!). "Without any charge of spurious enthusiasm, we may in imagination hear the shouts of confidence and courage uttered by the young Christians of the future, as they say, 'Tremble, Oh enemy, we are growing up for God!'" -- Mr. S. R. Pattison's Address at the Meeting of the Baptist Union, 1869 -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)
3. The crops are the result of evangelism of strong healthy plants (the result of the church as a whole, not just the Pastor!)
a. There is investment by many to keep the “ground” clean of weeds.
b. There is good soil to work with, the responsibility of the individual.
c. It is the combined forces of good soil and good toil that brings forth good fruit.
CONCLUSION: The Gospel can only flourish in the person who has prepared their ground properly ... and continue to have a clean environment, uncluttered. What kind of Christian are you? Is the Gospel grounded in you, and are you producing fruit?