Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Parable of the Sower

One of the great opportunities about ministering in a University town is getting to interact with students and being asked to speak at campus ministry meetings. Last night I spoke at the Navigators weekly meeting on Jesus' parable about the sower, which is really a parable about soils (= how people respond to the Gospel). I was asked to talk about the good soil from Luke 8 (also in Mark 4 & Matt 13).

This is an important parable to study because it is one of the few where Jesus gives us the interpretation. In the context he also explains why he spoke in parables. So check out the parable in Luke 8:4-15, then consider these observations:

The speaking of God's Word (i.e. sharing the Gospel) comes with mixed results.
  • Some people reject it outright
  • Some people seem to receive it, but fall away because it's just too hard
  • Some people seem to receive it, but fall away because life is too good
  • Some people genuinely believe, as evidenced by their fruit
This truth can really help us as we share the Gospel and minister God's Word to people. Remember that Jesus got mixed results and so will you. More people rejected Jesus than accepted him. Don't be discouraged. Your job is to spread the Word and pray for God to make it rain. Always trust that he will make it rain. Trust that he can and often does save the most unlikely people (The Apostle Paul wasn't exactly a prime candidate when he was converted to Christianity), but don't be discouraged when many people reject the truth or fall away.

True Christians bear fruit (v. 8, 15).

You've maybe hear it taught that the thorny soil is a Christian that just doesn't grow. But that teaching just doesn't square with Jesus' teaching in the rest of the Gospels, and it's not true to the parable (see Luke 6:43-45; John 15:5-6). True Christians bear fruit. And what is fruit? Fruit is what your life produces. What comes out of you mouth, your attitude, your priorities. It's the process of growing to become more like Jesus, which means you begin to spend your time more wisely, sin becomes less appealing to you, your patience grows, etc.

Now this process is not instantaneous. In fact, producing fruit is often a very long process. There will be failure along the way. There will be periods of struggle, which leads to a final observation.

Fruit producing is hard work (v. 15).

Notice that verse 15 says that those who hear the word and "hold it fast...and bear fruit with patience." Fruit producing is not easy. It takes a lot of had work. It takes hard work because we must battle against our emotions, against "not feeling like it," against an Enemy that wants to keep us from growing, against distractions, or even against persecution at times.

Have you ever thought like this:
  • "Why is reading the Bible so hard?"
  • "Why don't I feel like praying?"
  • "Why is sharing the Gospel with my family so tough?"
  • "Why do I have to be depressed, fearful, or keep struggling with the same sin?"
If you have thought this way, you're probably on the right track. The struggle usually means God is seeking to produce fruit in your life. And producing fruit is not easy.

It can help you to know that this is normal Christian experience. Even for people who have been Christians for 25 years. Even for pastors.

Fruit producing is hard work. But it's not your work alone. Ultimately, our role is to yield ourselves to Jesus and rely on his grace and power to produce fruit in us. Remember, you can't produce fruit on your own - it only comes about as we work hard through the grace which he supplies.

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

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