Well, obviously with the birth of our child last week we spent a few days in the hospital. Thank you all for your prayers, cards, calls and support. We are very appreciative of being a part of the SPBC family. One of the things I have noticed either by spending time in the hospital or by going to visit others in a hospital as a pastor is that on occasion people bring a token gift to express their support for you. I know it is the thought that counts, so stay with me on this one. A lot of people like to bring a plant or some sort of flowers to patients. In theory, these sorts of gifts are to represent “new life” or “growth and healing physically, spiritually or emotionally”. This is a great idea and again, the meaning is in the motivation and spirit of the gift. The only problem is that after about 7-10 days the plant or flowers typically fade and die. Then what does this say about the near result of one being in the hospital?
Many people who claim to follow Jesus are like these hospital flowers or plants. They start off so well. They have the promise of growth. They have engaging and interesting pots or vases in which they carry themselves in. They express themselves in new found ways – maybe they carry a Bible, attend church events more frequently or other visible religious indicators. However, after a few weeks their Bible gets left on the shelf, other priorities rise to the surface and their “Christian” walk becomes a stand-still if not a complete collapse.
What happened? Why wasn’t their any growth? Jesus gives answer in parable of sower in Mark 4.
In past messages of this series we have seen that God has removed His 400 year silence with Israel by sending Jesus as His fullest revelation. God speaks through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). As Jesus lived, the people were amazed that He spoke and acted as one with divine authority. Wherever He went crowds gathered around Him.
In Mark 4, we see the same. The crowds are so large that Jesus got into a boat so there was breathing room. In addition, this allowed Him to communicate more clearly to the crowd as more could see Him as well as the sound of His voice would resonate over the water. His teaching included parables (earthly stories with heavenly meanings) to capture the attention of people. This parable is meant to explain why some grow spiritually while others are frustrated and fail.
Mark 4:1-20 In this parable we see that Jesus and His followers are the sower, casting seed. In this story the sower would have a bag of seed from which he would draw from and then cast the seed “broadcast style” in a very liberal manner. The seed would fall on various soil types and the farmer could only wait to see if the sown seed would grow.
This is true of Christians today. We are to sow the seeds of the gospel as liberally as possible. It is our responsibility to proclaim, teach, tell and share the good news; we have been authorized to do so (Mark 3:14-15; Matthew 28:18-20). In fact, this is the mission of the church, the why we exist idea! Unfortunately, many churches get distracted from this focus. They become busy, filling the calendar with lots of meetings, committees, social events, etc. All of these are not necessarily bad, it is just that if these things are not connected to the Great Commission then the church is missing its purpose.
SPBC seeks fulfill the GC through 2 methods:
1. Come & See: As Jesus called disciples to come and follow, we do the same at SPBC. We invite people to check out what we do and get to know us in relationships. We want people to attend and become a part of 2 “programs” – our worship service and our small groups (SS). We believe that if you enter and engage in these 2 programs that these will aid in your journey with Jesus. Our goal is to keep these 2 programs real (authentic with God) and relational (authentic with others, sense of community).
2. Go & Tell: As Jesus trained disciples He sent them out to do as He instructed. Disciples are to follow Jesus by going and telling others about the gospel. At SPBC, we attempt this relationally. Our challenge is for each person to have a “High 5” – 5 people who you are investing in relationally, inviting to church & Christianity and incarnating the gospel with your lifestyle. This is our main form of “evangelism” because this is the way the early Christians spread the gospel. As you read the book of Acts and other NT letters you do not see flashy programs or evangelistic events. That being said, as a church we do utilize some attractional events to help your efforts in bringing unsaved friends to faith.
So far, all of this is introductory to understanding Jesus’ parable. The emphasis is on the various soils and responses to the sown seed. By examining the 4 types of soil we can better understand why some do not grow spiritually and others do.
Seed among path or wayside (4:4,15). This is seed that remains on the surface and never takes root. In fact, people and animals trample on the seed so it fails to gain any ground to sprout or grow. This person can be described as a Callous Heart. God’s Word can never enter this person’s heart and become nurtured because they are cold and callous to the things of God.
Even more, Satan steals the seed before it can take root. The callousness brought by sin gives Satan a foothold in a person’s life. When most people hear “Satan” they think of a mythical man wearing a red suit and pitchfork in hand. This cannot be farther from the truth. The Bible presents Satan disguised as an angel of light yet he only brings darkness and callousness.
Satan possesses 3 individuals in Scripture all appear attractive: Serpent, Judas, Anti-Christ
Seed among stony or rocky ground (4:5, 16-17). This seed appears to take root but only superficially. When the heat and pressure of the sun comes the seed is withered away. This person can be described as a Counterfeit Heart. God’s Word stays on the surface in this person’s heart and they never mature spiritually. When trouble or persecution comes their true spirituality is shown. The point is that the test of time, hardship and challenge prove spiritual growth.
Seed among thorns (4:7, 18-19). Again, this seed seems to take root. However, its environment hinders its growth and effectiveness. The thorns choke the ability for the seed to develop. This person can be described as a Cluttered Heart. God’s Word enters a person’s heart but the priorities, commitments and other environment factors of life prevent them from really growing spiritually. Things like the friends you have, priority of activities, choices we make all effect our spiritual growth. The “thorns” of life cause us to choose whom and what is our ultimate master.
It is important to note three additional characteristics in each of these soils
– There is an initial positive response. The word is received but something happens that hinders its growth. In the modern era of Christianity we see too much of this. People start but fail to finish. Their spiritual growth is only momentary – they prayed a prayer, walked an aisle, joined a church, made an initial decision but there was no journey. The Christian life is about a journey. It is day in and day out walking with God, struggling and in the right season fruit is produced.
– Each response appears progressively longer. Spiritual growth is always a process but it is one that endures not fades.
– Each response is external. The changes that take place are from the outside, without internal rooted change. God wants to transform and regenerate our hearts more than mere external behavioral change. When the gospel takes root in our heart then change happens but it is out of response to God’s love not out of attempt to earn favor with God. Even more, inward gospel change makes external behavioral change lasting and meaningful.
One of the most common mistakes people make is viewing God as a means to an end. They think God is relative to Walmart where He becomes a one-stop shop for a good life, high paying job, nice house, great marriage, well behaved kids… you ask, what’s wrong with these things? Nothing, unless you mistake the fact that the point is not your happiness but your holiness. You see, what happens when these things are taken away or never come; does this mean that God is to blame or God has failed you? The answer is no. We must get to the point in our lives where we understand that nothing, nothing, nothing can satisfy us but a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is at this point that we learn to grow spiritually.
Seed among good soil (4:8, 20). This seed takes root with great productivity. It not only grows but it multiplies with extraordinary results. This person can be described as a Compliant Heart. God’s Word enters this person’s heart because they are humble enough to listen and learn. They persevere learning from difficult circumstances and trying times (James 1:2-4). They allow and rely on God to produce the results instead of doing so on own.
ð Have you received the seeds of the gospel? Christ Died, Christ Raised, Christ Reigns
ð If you have received seed; which soil are you? What will it take to become a compliant heart?
ð How have you grown spiritually? Discuss this with your small group, pastor or friend. If there has been little growth have someone hold you accountable for your faith walk.
 This is Jesus using the technology of His day in effort to communicate to the masses.