The Seed & The Soil, Mark 4:1-20

Understanding means you know with your heart that what you know is true (Luke 8:12). 

Our sermon title this morning is “The Seed and the Soil”.  Jesus tells a parable about a farmer scattering seed. That seed lands on different types of soil.  And depending on the type of soil, the seed may succeed in growing or it may not. The key here is this:  it is the soil type that determines growth. The seed is not the problem. It will work, given the right soil.  The seed is good, and, in good soil it will grow and produce abundantly. The point of this whole parable is this:  You must listen to the word of God the right way for it to do its work.  


How do you listen to sermons?  You may be listening to a sermon, but, are you hearing it?  Do you have ears to hear?  


In order for preaching God’s word to be effective it first requires a preacher to faithfully preach it.  


However, it also requires people to faithfully hear it.  That is to say, we must give attention to how well we are hearing God’s Word.  We are in danger of being less receptive to God’s word if we are not careful.  


But, why is that a danger?  Why is not being fit to hear a message a problem?  Because of fruitfulness.  A fruitful Christian life depends on a regular diet of God’s Word.  And in order for the word to be working in us, we need to be in the right shape to receive it.


Here are 3 ways you become inhibited from getting the most out of God’s word.  These are 3 dangers to you that will prevent you from hearing the Word of God, believing it the way you should, and bearing as much fruit as you could and should.


#1:  Snatched 

The farmer scatters the seed, it falls along the path, and then the seed is snatched up by the birds.  The seed never has a chance to germinate, sprout, and grow before it becomes bird food.  


Now, what is Jesus alluding to here?  He says that these are the kinds of people who hear the word, but, the word gets snatched out of their hearts and so they don’t ever believe the word.  In Luke and Matthew Jesus says that Satan snatches the word from someone’s heart.  


I don’t think this means someone believed it, and, then against their will Satan just snatched their faith out of their hearts.  I think that this means that a person was presented with the word of God, meaning the message was placed in front of someone and they were giving it consideration.  This is the person who has heard, but, they have not yet believed and accepted it with all their hearts. While they are considering the message, if they are even considering it, they get introduced to arguments against the word.  They hear from different people and sources all the reasons why they should reject the Bible’s message. Why they can’t trust it. They were reasoned out of faith. They were told by others that believing that stuff would be for idiots.  The strong intellectual basis for believing was never given to them and so they are easily persuaded not to believe what they heard.  


This brings out the importance of understanding what you hear (Matt. 13:19).  You must be dedicated to understanding what God’s word says. You can’t just simply hear it.  You have a mind, the ability to rationalize and use logic, and comprehend ideas. You can evaluate evidence and make mental assessments on whether what you’re hearing makes sense.  You have a mind. Use it. God didn’t give you a mind and then expect you to not use it when it comes to your relationship with Him. If you don’t understand the word, then, you are dangerously vulnerable to abandoning it.  You may have heard the word for a long time in your life, and you may be familiar with Biblical teachings and themes, but, that doesn’t mean that you understand it with your heart. You’re holding on to the things you’ve heard like someone nonchalantly flipping their car keys around in their hand.  You need to have a kung-fu grip, like my 1 year old does when I try to take her toy out of her hand – she has iron-man strength when she doesn’t want to lose something. You have to have an iron-grip on the truth, so convinced its true that you won’t let it go no matter how hard someone tries to pull you away from it.  Understanding means you know with your heart that what you know is true (Luke 8:12). Your heart needs to be won by the Gospel. You are convinced down in your heart of the truthfulness of what God has said. It makes sense to you and you believe it is “right”. You have to believe that God has given you truth in His word.


#2:  Scared

The key word for the second point is this:  Scared. You don’t want your faith to be overcome by fear.  The reason being that if you’re afraid you will not be fruitful.  Notice now the second type of soil Jesus mentions and how it is explained in verses 16-17 (and Mt.13:20-21; Lk. 8:13)


Now Jesus specifically says that when persecution and trouble, times of trials, BECAUSE OF THE WORD.  In other words when people come after you for your faith in Jesus and your commitment to the Bible. Not generic trials, not usual life ups and downs.  But real people with real hatred for you because you really believe the Bible. This is when the temptation to be scared and run is faced. This is like Peter when he denied Jesus 3 times, or, like the other 10 disciples who ran in fear when He was arrested.  


These people when faced with that “fall away”.  They quit. They disown Jesus in front of their persecutors and they do it so as to escape suffering.  They’ve been singing to Jesus and listening to sermons and going to church when it was easy, dropping Jesus’ name and talking about Him when it was advantageous.  They had an “emotional faith”, meaning they had a faith that was based on how it made them feel emotionally.   


But now they’ve become ashamed of that same Jesus, because now that Jesus is safe to be associated with anymore.  This is self-preservation. This is scared. This is what Jesus was talking about when He said, “Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, but, whoever loses his life for my sake will keep it.”  This is also what Jesus spoke of when He said, “Whoever is ashamed of me and my words before this adulterous and sinful world I will be ashamed of him before my Father in heaven when I come with all the angels of heaven.”  Its as if Jesus is saying, “Are you really going to be ashamed of me in front of this world? Look at this wretched world, look at these evil, God-hating, sin-loving, wicked people. Are you really going to care more about their opinion than mine?” 


The key is that they have no roots.  They have joy, but they don’t have roots.  Their joy is superficial and fleeting. I would say the best description here is that they like the way the Gospel makes them feel emotionally, but, they never actually let the word of God reach any deeper than that.  It’s all about the “feels”. Christianity is supposed to make you feel good. It’s supposed to garner respect from others which feels good. But, if a person is in it for the good feelings they are not in it for Christ.  As long as Jesus makes them feel good and happy then they are committed. But their commitment is to themselves and their own emotional gain. There commitment is not to Jesus first.  


Application:  Feelings are not a foundation for faithfulness.  Do not look to rely on good feelings in order to stand firm for Christ.  


Application:  God is with you and God will be with you.  You are going to face hostility because of your faith in Christ.  Don’t bail because of it. God is with you and He will reward you for your firm stance for Him.


#3:  Strangled

The next key word is strangled.  You don’t want your faith to get strangled.  Jesus describes this with the 3rd type of soil in verses 18-19 (Mt. 13:22; Lk. 8:14).  


The person whom this describes is someone who is excessively worried about their earthly needs, or, obsessed with worldly wealth.  One person is worried there’s never enough, and, the other person is never happy with enough. One worries for security and the other worries for status.  One is fearful, anxious worry, and the other is greed. Both in their own way are obsessive preoccupations with worldly wealth. Both will choke and strangle someone’s faith and make them into unfruitful Christians.  


Obsession with worldly wealth will keep you from bearing any fruit in your life.  A Christain is commanded to live by faith, not by fear, and not by greed. Think about it, fear of not having enough expresses the notion that God can’t or won’t provide.  A heart living in constant fear like this is essentially saying, “I have to worry because God won’t take care of me.” This doesn’t mean someone sits on their duff and does nothing for themselves.  Its the attitude in what they do. People who worry excessively get mad others aren’t worried, they live frantically, and stress others out around them.  


Application:  For the worrier, Know that God provides and that He knows your needs.  Better than you do. He knows needs you have that you don’t even know about yet.  There was always enough oil for the widow. There was always enough meat and water for the prophet in the ravine.  There was always enough bread for the Israelites in the wilderness (and water and meat!). There was enough bread and fish for the 5,000, then too for the 4,000.  God provides. He knows our needs, He has compassion on us for our needs. His compassion engages His all-sufficiency with our insufficiency.  


Application:  For the greedy person:  Christ must become your true riches.  You must find in Him greater wealth than anything you chase in this world.  You must become like the man who found a pearl in a field, and, then sold everything he had to go buy that field and gain the pearl (__________).  


Also, keep in mind that greed is idolatry.  You are worshipping money, not God. Remember Jesus said You cannot serve both God and money.  You love one and hate the other. This is not a good way to go if you are a Christian.  


Good Soil

Finally Jesus ends by explaining the fourth soil – the good soil.  In verse 20 (Mt. 13:23 and Lk 8:15).  


A good-soil heart is not characterized by the previous three conditions.  A person with a good heart is not skeptical or double-minded; they’re willing to face hardships for their faith; and they are neither worried about their needs nor are they greedily obsessed with worldly wealth.


Why is this important?  Because of fruitfulness in your life.  God wants fruitfulness. This is what Jesus portrays not just as the desirable result, but, the expected, normal result:  they “produce a crop – 30, 60 or even 100 times what was sown.”   


This fruitfulness is the result in your life when you listen to the word the right way.  This makes getting a regular diet of preaching and teaching the most important part of your Christian life.  


Its all a matter of the heart.  You must engage your heart with God’s word for the right results to happen.  Notice the descriptors of the right heart: noble and good, hears, understands, accepts, retains, perseveres.  Your heart cannot be far from Him when you draw near to worship Him on Sundays. Your heart can’t be divided in half, believing He’ll answer you on one side and doubting He will on the other.  You can’t be “half-hearted” with God, you have to “love Him with all your heart”.


Conclusion:  Hearing

Jesus says “whoever has ears to hear”.  It is the preachers job to give you something worthy to hear.  It is the hearers job to hear rightly, and respond to God.  

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