Sermon delivered February 10, 2001 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Jesus' First Parable

I would like to speak to you this morning about a continuing series on the life of Jesus Christ. We're talking this morning about His first parable which is found in Matthew 13. I like parables. In fact there is a whole book written called: Christ's Object Lessons (by EG White), and that's exciting. I've read that book all the way through.

And, David liked parables. In Psalms 49:4 (KJV) David said: "I will incline mine ear to a parable..." We all like stories. Jesus used many sermon illustrations. Each parable is like a mystery novel with certain clues given to guide us to the real meaning.

So, let's get started with Matthew 13. Let's begin with verse 13 where Jesus explains why He used parables in the first place. "This is why I speak to them in parables:

Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand." One time a dog that belonged to a blacksmith and spent his days in workshop. He enjoyed sleeping there beside the mighty smith as he would heat up the iron red hot. And then he would put it on the anvil and bring that mighty hammer down on that iron and the sparks would go flying and the dog got used to that. Other neighbor dogs would occasionally come in to visit and when the sparks flew they'd high-tail it out of there. They didn't like it. But the blacksmith dog was used to it and he loved the place/ He would even stay there nights, guarding the blacksmith's shop. One night the blacksmith's shop caught on fire. As the flames grew higher and higher, the dog slept right through it. He was used to all this happening. In fact, he died. He lost his life in that fire.

I think many Christians are so hardened to the warnings of the gospel that they sleep on amid the sparks which will destroy them. We are the Laodicean Church. We get sound asleep, and the sparks are flying all around us. Have you listened to the news? You know what's going on out there, don't you? Terrible things are happening. The sparks are flying, and here we are, the church is sound asleep, so Jesus told parables to help wake us up, to help point out the true conditions so that we would know. And that's why He used them.

His first full parable is about the generous farmer who sows seed. And I want you to come on down to Matthew 13:3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed." Now, the seed is the gospel. The farmer is Jesus Christ. And Jesus goes out to sow His seed.

Now, farmers are strange folk. They take valuable seed and bury it in the ground. One day a little boy helped his grandfather dig potatoes. Now, I enjoy digging potatoes. They were out there digging. After an hour of hard work the boy looked up and asked: Grandpa, "Why did you bury all these things in here in the first place?" Every spring, good farmers bury millions of dollars of precious seed in the ground. They just bury it. Why? Because they are optimists. If they weren't optimists, they'd go out of business. They believe that by putting that seed in the ground are going to reap an entirely much bigger, generous, rich harvest. That's why they put it there.

A wise farmer, before he begins farming, he tests the soil. Now, Louis, you're a farmer, you have a great garden every year and you know what your soil is like. If you had a brand new garden you must test the soil because you don't know what that soil is like. So you run it through tests. You don't want any surprises. Farmers get a lot better quality and quantity as they test the soil. They can increase the productivity. They know what crops can be planted on that ground and do its best in that place. He doesn't want any surprises. Soil samples help a farmers knowledge of the nutrient status of the soil in his field. He can increase soil productivity. He will know what crop will grow best on his farm. The quantity and quality of the harvest will be vastly improved. No wonder Jesus made wide use of the agricultural world in illustrating His sermons.

In Jesus' day, they didn't have big John Deere grain drills like they have today. They took a bag and filled it with seed. Then they walked across the field, back and forth and as they went, they took handfuls of seed and scattered it or broadcast it out on the land. Naturally some of the seed would fall onto good soil, some of it would fall on a path, maybe, and or among thorny ground. You just don't know where it's going to fall. He just scattered it everywhere.

And Jesus described four types of soil. Now this is where we are gong to spend the bulk of our time this morning. There are four types of soil and I want you to notice this. Matthew 13:4 (NIV) "As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up."

Soil # 1- HARD HEARTED

Have you ever walked on a soft path. If so, you're walking on a path that is not walked on very much because most paths are very hard. The soil gets tramped down and that represents a hard heart because this soil is descriptive of our heart. When this good seed lands on the path, it gets stepped on, and it gets crushed, and it doesn't do so well. You know, when a Christian gets stepped on, it's sort of discouraging, and, spiritually we probably won't amount to a hill of beans. Besides, we are told that to the seeds that fell on the path these nit-picking birds, these starving starlings are hungry and they devoured the seed before the seed had had a chance.

Last Sunday morning I took a walk. I enjoy walking. I went up Grindstone Mountain and spent two hours on that mountain. One time I went out for a walk far from a mountain. I went through a cow pasture. Believe it or not, cows are creatures of habit. Have you ever walked in a cow pasture? Cows always walk on the same path. I don't know how they ever get anything to eat. They make paths through that field: The cow paths. I think some of the people that laid out the roads in Hamilton County just followed a cow path. I noticed that nothing in that pasture was growing on those cow paths. Why would that be? Do you suppose that the soil on the cow paths is different than the soil beside the cow path? No! It's the same soil. Well then, what makes the difference? It was hard from being stepped on. That's all.

A heart is hardened when a harsh word is thrown upon it. It mashes it down. It compacts it and makes it hard. If you husbands want good wives, you want to speak soft words to that wife. Doesn't that make sense? Life's path can also become hard when it becomes too busy. There's to many cow hoofs on that path. Too many appointments can stifle spiritual growth. I write my appointments in my Palm-5 and when the page gets too full, I will tell you, you have too many appointments. I believe our first appointment ought to be made with God. If you set some time aside for spiritual growth you will do better as a Christian.

God tries to slow us down. God can make a hard heart soft. It could be softened by suffering or broken by conviction of sin. But we pray these things will not come to our path. Maybe we should pray more for power to accept God's will instead of praying for a path of ease and comfort.

The Holy Spirit is in the plowing business. The Holy Spirit wants to plow up those paths. You know, if you plow across a path the soil is just perfect. He wants to soften our hearts. Let's not pray that he will stop plowing. Let's pray that we will accept the plowing process and surrender our lives to the divine Farmer. That's what we need to be doing.

This type of soil, mentioned here by Jesus, represents a person who has a hard heart. The seed cannot take root if it is planted on top of a cast iron heart. Some people live their lives in little cast-iron boxes. When the seed of the gospel, when the truth lands on such a person, it can't take root. There is no way. They are bounded on the north by their work. They are bounded on the East by their bills. They are bounded on The South by the evening TV. And they are bound on the West by ill health or death. They never get a chance to ever do anything.

     Born Into this world to eat and to sleep, 
     And to know no reason why he was born 
     Save to consume the corn, 
     Devour the cattle, flock, and fish, 
     And leave behind an empty dish. 

That's about it. And that's it for the hard hearted hearer. There is no future in their life. When the gospel falls upon that kind of person, it might just as well be consumed by the starving starlings. It brings a temporary idea.

2 Corinthians 4:4. (NKJV) whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. The gospel won't shine on them. The devil hates the potential of the seed for Christ. One of the finest things we can do is keep our heart soft. A seed has a tremendous potential. That seed, one of the finest things that we can do is prepare to receive the seed. The finest thing that you can dow with your life is to keep your heart soft and not hard, to be a soft and gentle person and have an open mind, a receptive mind. That way, when some seed of truth comes your way, it will not lay upon the hardened soil of this life, allowing the devil, that old vulture the opportunity to steal, kill and destroy! (John 10:10) Wake up! Is this the soil of your life?

Pray that God's Word will not lie on the surface of your life but that it will penetrate like penetrating oil to the core of your very being and make you a new person.

SOIL #2 THE SHALLOW

Matthew 13:5,6 "Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root."

If you were to take a soil sample, you would find that the soil is very thin. There are rock underneath. There's a hard pan underneath that needs to be broken up. Otherwise those roots can't get through, so when the hot weather comes in the summer time, that plant is going to die. Oh, there's a lot of initial growth, zealous growth at the very beginning, and we call that the "first love." But there is no potential for those roots to get to a depth that they need for production. And so it dies. They skip out of church. They die. They have an emotional, a shallow experience with Jesus Christ, a superficial commitment. And I think we need to pray that God will bust up the shallow soil of our lives if that is case, that He will use whatever means necessary to make us into the person He needs us to be, to make our hearts soft.

So, don't complain when the plow of adversity comes into your life. Maybe it's there to make you soft. If you have hard pan soil pray for God's deep plowing in your life. Don't complain when the plow of adversity attempts to break up your hardness. Thank God for troubles. The shallow person has surface religion only. No depth. Living for the moment and concerned only with that. This person's life is littered with things they began and never finished. How many books were purchased only to be read in the first chapter or two? Once a task is begun never leave it till it's done. Be it great or be it small, do it well or not at all. We need to pursue. If you're going to have excellence you're going to have to pursue excellence each time. It takes time

The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association makes calls, they have these big meetings and they have hundreds and thousands of people coming down the aisles and they have estimated that only ten percent of those who come forward at the alter call actually become Christians that night. Ninety percent is just a temporary thing. They just did it to do it. They don't follow through. It's a shallow experience. Were they ever true Christians do you think? I doubt if they were.

1 John 2:19 says, They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. They never were Christians to start with. People that have a shallow experience don't have an experience.

Temporary faith is not saving faith.

Soil #3- CHOKED. This is the soil that contains thistles and thorns and green briars.

Matthew 13:7 "Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants."

How do thorns choke plants? Well, weeds do it by robbing that plant of water, nutrients, sunshine. Weeds invariably grow taller that the plants you want to grow and they keep out the sunshine.

Jesus explained what the thorns were. Mat 13:22 "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful."

By this life.

The things of life choke out your Christian experience. Things consume our time and energy. So many things that we just don't have much time left for the Lord. Things choke out our faith. Worry over money, over possessions.

There is no slave like the man who is free to do as he pleases and his choice of what is pleasing is self-destructive. You're a slave. You figure, "I'm free to take drugs." Yes, you are, but you're taking something that's going to make you even a worse slave. Can you see what I'm saying? Whether it be cigarettes or drugs or whatever it is, it's making you a far worse slave than you were to begin with. He goes through life demanding that the world conform to his uncontrolled desires. Modern society furnishes such slaves with so many escape routes that they never have to face up to that which would make them a responsible citizen in the first place.

For instance, they do not have to face up to postponement of pleasure, or disappointment, or the weight of responsibility. They don't have to face those things because society, either through Medicare or Medicaid or some other program provides escape routs and so we never have to face up with reality. And so we never grow. And these are the very instruments that shape character. We avoid those things. We are raising a whole generation, in this land of our here, of pleasure-driven people hopelessly choked by the by the material things, the pleasures of this life as mentioned by Jesus.

The typical American is too Busy. He is interested in the gospel but too many appointments of good things crowd out the best thing. We want everything. We want to keep up with the Joneses. That means that we are buying things that we don't need with money which we don't have to impress people that we don't even like, because most people can't stand their neighbors. And they are trying to keep up with the neighbors. So, what are we doing? We're in a rat-race. What we need to be is on the path that leads to eternal life. Take time to study your Bible. Don't let the things of this world to crowd out the Word of God. Don't let the things of this world crowd out prayer. Ah! That we were not consumed with things but that we were consumed with Jesus Christ!

SOIL # 4- GOOD SOFT HEART

Matthew 13:8 "Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." That's a lot of a crop, isn't it. That's fantastic.

I want to ask you something, now. I want you to think about this parable. Of these four types of soil, do all four of them represent salvation? I don't think so. I think salvation is only with the fourth group, the last group. I don't think any of those others were saved, and lost their salvation. You may say that sprouting is very important, and that's true, but it died. Well, growth is important, but not if it doesn't bear fruit. Apparently not. In fact, John 15 tells us that the branches that do not bear fruit are thrown into the fire and are burned, they are lost forever.

And so the startling conclusion of this parable is that salvation is only realized by the group that produces fruit. Is faith real if it doesn't have any works? We are in business to produce fruit. Why does that farmer plant that corn? To have fruit. Why does God plant His gospel in our hearts? That we might bear fruit. That's the exact reason. We fail when we don't have fruit to meet the divine expectations of the farmer, who is God.

Fruit only appears when the when the seed is welcomed and nourished and acted on and allowed to develop. Fruit comes from a right relationship between the seed, sunshine, water, and good soil.

Jesus says that fruitfulness is proof positive of the new life. In fact, in Matthew 7:20 it says, "Thus, by their fruits you will recognize them." That's how we are known. The true Christian will constantly be producing fruit. And so Jesus' parable is talking about being fruitful.

The seed wants to grow in our life. You can't be a successful Christian unless you get completely entangled in the soil. Unless that seed gets completely intertwined with that soil, you will not have fruit in your life. And I would suggest to you that we need, as people, to be completely enmeshed in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, what is the soil? People. That's you and me. What is the job description of the soil? To be soft. That's all. To be receptive of the seed. Oh, the potential of a soft heart and oh, the limitations of a hard heart.

Some of the good dirt was better than other good dirt. I have a garden every year. Each year I need to build up the soil. I spend time enriching the soil by adding leaves to my garden. I plant cover crops like rye and clover. I try to build that soil up because some soil is more productive than other soil. That's why we fertilize that soil. That's why we enrich it. The better the soil, the better the fruit.

In Matthew 13:8 it says that overwhelming quantities of luscious fruit will be produced. Up to 100 times for each seed, the original amount. Do you know what percent that is? Not 100%. No! That is 10,000 percent! How would you like to invest some money into the stock market and have it grow at a rate of 10,000%? That's what Jesus does when He plants the gospel in our hearts. He gets a return of 10,000%. That's awesome. When the gospel of Jesus Christ finds a soft open-minded responsive heart the possibilities are unlimited. The seed produces an unbelievable product in the soil of a surrendered heart. That's our goal: to stay surrendered.

What type of dirt are you? Are you good dirt? Be good dirt and you will be something great for Jesus.

Hymn of Praise: #12, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
Scripture: Matthew 13:3-9
Hymn of Response: #369, Bringing in the Sheaves

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