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Preparing the Soil for Growth

Here are my sermon notes from Sunday 27th June 2021

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.
5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and prodced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matt 13:1–9).

Then the disciples come to Jesus and ask Him why He teaches them with parables so Jesus explains that these parables would only be understood by those who were genuinely responding to Jesus. He then explains the parable to them...

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.
22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” (Matt 13:18–23).

One message but different responses.

  • So Jesus uses an image from farming (very familiar to this society) to teach them some spiritual truths about our hearts.

Seed on the path - Stubborn Hearts

  • Seed on the path will never grow because the ground is too hard.

  • This speaks of a kind of hardness or stubbornness to the things of God.

  • Those who don't know God may just downright refuse to respond to the Gospel.

    • We often see this - no matter how hard we try - nothing penetrates.

  • It's not just unbelievers though,

  • Christians can be hard and stubborn to the things of God.

  • We may know stuff about the things of God but we are resistant.

  • This could be because we have been hurt before.

    • Other Christians, churches, leaders.

  • Or we have been disappointed - perhaps we went after something in God and it didn't work out the way we hoped or expected - so we retreated and became hardened.

  • If we become hardened as a church then we will be resistant to God's plans, we will become safe, sticking with what we know to avoid further disappointment or pain.

  • One thing I am praying regularly is, don't let the pain and hurt of the last 15 months harden me to what God wants for us.

  • What about you? Do you see any hardness, resistance to God in any areas of your life?

Seed on rocky ground - Shallow

  • The next soil type was rocky ground.

  • The layer of topsoil would cause the seeds to germinate and grow but the rocks underneath make it difficult to put down proper roots so it withers and dies as soon as the sun comes out.

  • Many people respond to God. And initially, it looks great. They are all enthusiastic and keen to get stuck in.

  • But if they do not take the necessary steps to put down deep roots in their faith they will fall away as soon as life gets tough.

  • Spiritual disciplines like prayer and Bible reading help with that.

  • Getting fully involved in a local church where you can learn with and from others, be discipled is really important too.

    • Being able to serve and develop your gifts.

  • Without that, we also end up with a shallow church.

  • If we don't put down good roots in the church then we won't survive the difficult moments.

  • We mustn't chase after the next trendy church initiative at the expense of the things that really mature us in the faith.

Seed among thorns

  • Then there is the seed that fell among thorns.

  • The problem with this soil is that it is shared with competitors for the nutrients in the soil.

  • The seeds sprouted but they grew alongside the thorns which eventually choked the life out of them.

  • I challenge anyone to say they don't relate to this!

  • We will always find things competing for our attention.

  • Things that will try to pull us away from working on our relationship with God.

  • Busyness is a huge danger to our faith and effectiveness for God - if we allow the busyness of life to compete with our walk with Jesus then we risk our faith literally having the life choked out of it.

  • By extension, this busyness impacts the health of the church.

  • If we have no time for each other we will gradually become less like a family and more like a club.

  • The life of the church (which is found in community) will be choked out of us.

Seed on good soil

  • Then, of course, there is good soil.

  • This is the only soil that Jesus says is ‘good’.

  • This soil represents the person whose response to God is genuine.

  • They allow it to take root in their lives and do not allow anything to challenge it.

  • This person, like good soil, produces fruit.

  • This is the genuine follower/ disciple of Jesus.

  • That's the kind of disciple we want to be. That's the kind of church we want to be.

  • Jesus told a story about a farmer who sows some seed.

  • The seed contains all the potential for growth. The seed has life in it.

  • But for that seed to germinate and produce the best crop then we must make sure we put the effort in (with God's help) to prepare the soil.

  • The Words of the Bible, the message of the gospel, the Words of Jesus - these are the seed.

  • They are packed full of power, potential, and life.

  • If we want to grow in God, if we want to be fruitful for God then we must tend to the soil of our hearts.

  • So how do we do that?

Evaluate the condition of your soil (your heart)

  • Remember it’s only good soil that produces the right kind of fruitful growth.

  • So think about how you need to respond to God at the moment.

  • What kind of soil do you see in your life?

    • Are you resistant to the things of God?

    • Are you immature in your faith - you need to grow deeper roots?

    • Are there things that are choking the life out of your faith?

  • Don't panic - we can bring it to Jesus and he will help us change the soil.

  • The Holy Spirit, like rain, can soften the hardness.

  • Rocks can be identified and removed, so we can grow roots.

  • Thorns can be got rid of as well.

  • Let's pray.

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