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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Parable of the Sower (Part 4)

How is it that we, as Christians, are able to understand, discern and apply the Word of God in our lives?

Text: Mark 4:1-4:20, also Matthew 13:1- 23

How is it that we, as Christians, are able to understand, discern and apply the Word of God in our lives? Do you know? By the Holy Spirit. I hear and understand the Word of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit I am unable to fully understand Scripture. By not being able to hear the Holy Spirit, I become distant from God, and my heart slowly becomes hardened and the good soil I once lived in becomes shallow or weedy.

We must be able to hear the Holy Spirit. Spiritual maturity it is not about intelligence, education nor the ability to analyze. Sometimes little children have a far greater understanding of biblical concepts than we do as adults.

Spiritual maturity is not the length of time you have been a believer, nor is it about the vast biblical or theological knowledge you have obtained, and it most certainly is not about a position obtained in the church such as deacon, elder or pastor. It is about hearing the Holy Spirit.

Well, what in the world are we to do? Because, the truth is that most of us are in rocky or weedy soil, aren’t we? Remember, we are not bound by fate, placed in one type of soil and destined to live out our fate. No, the condition of the soil can be changed, for the better. We need to build up our soil adding to the depth so we can have a full root system. We need to focus, remove the weeds of distraction. We can do this, we can make it happen. How?

How Do we Cultivate our Hearts For A Spiritual Harvest?

First, We NEED TO PLOW THE SOIL. (Matthew 13:3-4, 18-19). Remember, the first type of soil described in this parable is ‘the path’. Jesus is referring to people whose hearts are so hard that the truth of His word cannot penetrate their lives. Just as a seed cannot grow unless it penetrates the ground, so the seed of God’s word cannot grow unless it can penetrate the heart. Farmers can remedy this problem in their fields by plowing them. The plow breaks up the hard ground so that when the farmer plants, the seeds will be able penetrate the soil. Just like those farmers, some of us need to plow the soil of our hearts so that God’s word can enter in. We need to prepare our hearts to receive the word of God.

In 1 Peter 1:13 we are told that we need to “prepare your minds”. If you are going to get anything out of going to church on Sunday mornings, you must prepare your hearts and minds prior to the service,
just as the farmer must prepare his soil prior to sowing.

There are a few simple and practical things that you can do to prepare yourself for church.

First, get a good nights sleep. You’re not going to learn anything if you are too tired to stay awake and pay attention.

Second, ask God to open our hearts and give us understanding.

Third, seek to learn how what is being taught applies to your life and not the life of the person sitting next to you. Anytime you walking away from a message and thinking, “That was great. I hope so and so was listening, because they really needed that”. Anytime you walk away from a message thinking something like that, you have missed the entire point. The point of going to church and listening is to hear from God personally.

If you’re taking a look at your life today, and you’re realizing that you haven’t been growing spiritually, maybe it’s because you have been hardening your heart to what God has been trying to teach you. Just like the farmer and the path, God has been sowing seeds, but your heart has been too hard to receive them. It’s time to let God plow the soil of your heart today.

And, as you can well imagine, plowing is not always a pleasant experience. God needs to break up the hardness in your heart and it might hurt a little, but the results are well worth it.

Second, YOU NEED TO PUT DOWN ROOTS. ( Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21). The next type of soil that Jesus speaks of is rocky. It is important to understand that the real reason the plant dies is not because of the trial of the scorching sun, but because it doesn’t have deep enough roots to deal with the trial.
The same trial that destroys one plant will prove the quality of another plant. Everything depends on the roots. If the roots are shallow, the plant will be scorched and die. However, if the roots are deep,
the plant will survive and its very survival proves that it is a strong, healthy plant.

We need to put down roots so that we can persevere in the face of difficulties. The reason that so many Christians wilt when they face the scorching heat of trials and tribulations is that they have shallow root systems. The Bible teaches us that it is very important that we “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith” (1 Timothy 3:9).

That is why Paul prayed that the Ephesians would be “rooted and established in love” (3:17). A shallow Christianity simply cannot survive times of trouble.

Is your Christianity shallow or deep? Are the troubles of life knocking you out or making you stronger?

Let me share a secret with you : You cannot go too deep. No matter how much you have grown in the faith, you still have more growing to do. There is no such thing as having arrived spiritually.

So, a quick review…

The first thing is to go to church. The Bible actually tells us to not skip…“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing...” That's from Hebrews 10:25. We are not to skip church because God knows that we can’t grow alone; we cannot flourish in isolation. We need each other’s love, encouragement, and support. We need to follow in the footsteps of more mature believers as they follow Christ. We need to experience corporate worship and hear the Word of God proclaimed.

Next, read the Bible and pray every single day. God is a person, and you can’t grow in a relationship with a person without spending quality time with them. Prayer and Bible study are having a conversation with God. God speaks to you through the Bible and you speak to Him through prayer.
There has probably never been a divorce in history in which one of the key problems wasn’t communication. When communication is cut off there can be no meaningful relationship. We must communicate with God every single day. And, do what God tells you to do. There is no quicker way to stunt your spiritual growth than through a lack of obedience.

And, remember, disobedience isn’t only doing something wrong; it is also not doing what you know you are supposed to do. If you have not been growing spiritually, and God’s word has not been producing fruit in your life, then you need to plow the soil and put down roots.

But, there is also one more thing you need to do. And that is that YOU NEED TO PULL THE WEEDS. (Matthew 13:7, 22). The third type of soil that Jesus spoke of was thorny or weedy. The thorns grow up quickly and they choke out the plants. The weeds consume the water and nutrients that should be used for the plants nourishment and so they die.

These thorns represent the cares of life and the desire for wealth, which choke the Word of God out of the lives of many people. The pursuit of worldly wealth consumes the energy that should be used in the pursuit of spiritual wealth and we die spiritually.

There was an interesting article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It was an interview of six top executives, all of them making six-figure salaries. That means, that they made somewhere between $100,000 and $1 million a year. Most of us would think, “If I made even $100,000 a year, I would be in great shape. No worries, and no problems.” But in the interview each was asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Each of them answered pretty much the same way, using different words. Their greatest fear was that they would not have enough.

Then they were asked, “How much is enough?” they always answered, “a little more.”

Hmmm... How much is enough? How much is that? What do your fear?

[conclusion tomorrow...]

1 comment:

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