"And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance. And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundred-fold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring forth no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth much fruit with patience. No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have."
"Father we settle our hearts as we continue, Lord, that your Word, by the power of your Spirit would continue to bring about those changes within us, Lord, that we both long after and that you have promised to us to conform us into the image of your Son. Lord, every one of us, as we settle our hearts before you, we are aware of those sins that so easily beset us, Lord, we are aware of those things that we acknowledge are right, and so desire to have part of our lives, and yet find ourselves failing at so often. And yet Lord, all of the hope and anticipation that we have is because of your grace and your love, Lord, because you have promised to present us faultless before your throne with exceeding joy. Lord, that you would bring that work you've begun in each of us to completion. How wonderful, Lord, we thank you for the hope you've given us. As we have opportunity to gather and sing your praises and study your Word, Lord, and fellowship, as these days of blessing, Father, continue. Lord, whenever we gather our hearts are filled with anticipation. We are looking, Lord, for your coming. Lord, we are looking for you to pour out your Holy Spirit, Lord, on your Church, if you tarry. Father, because of your love and because you have demonstrated your love by giving your Son for us, we anticipate great things, Father. And we look to you again this evening, in Jesus name, amen.'
The Parable of the Sower
What is a Parable?
Chapter 8 says, "And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him, and certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,"---now we're not, by the way certain of what Mary of Magdala was like before he healed her. A lot of people assume that she was a harlot. We don't know that. She had company, says that here. And whatever her condition, she spent the rest of her life dedicated to Christ. How grateful that she was delivered, as all of us no doubt are, and should be---"and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward [married to an influential man], and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance" (verses 1-3). So there were those who traveled with him that supported and encouraged his ministry as he was with the twelve. It tells us that it was at this time that many were growing weary of listening to the things that he had to say, there began to be hostility from the religious leaders of Israel [Judah] because more and more folks, the common folks were following him and listening to him. And the Lord at this point in time, it says, began to speak to them in parables. Now, you want to take note of that, because a parable is not a doctrine, it is not a proclamation of a doctrinal truth. A parable is an illustration of a truth. It doesn't mean that in the parable everything is to be taken literally. It means that there are literal truths that are communicated by the parable. Ah, para, which means alongside of, and balo, which means to cast. A parable is, Jesus would take a truth he desired to communicate to people and cast it alongside of some thing that they understood. Now, a parable will do two things. It reveals, and it conceals, and that is determined by the condition of the hearer, those who are hearing. And the whole idea of these parables is, the response of the hearer to revealed truth. That's what we're looking at here. What are those who are hearing, how are they responding to the truth that Jesus is revealing? And Jesus now began to take truths of his kingdom and of his Word, and place them within the confines of common experiences of the people of the land. Now if he wanted to hide the truth from them he'd have just kept his mouth shut, he wouldn't have said anything. But he is desiring to communicate to those who are listening. Now, he does that by taking the most common things of life, and by the way, those things that they saw and understood. Jesus doesn't say 'Now there are certain things of the kingdom I want to communicate to you, I'm taking the Pythagorean theorem, and I'm aligning it withÉ' Because if he'd done that, you know, we see the disciples in other places, because they don't want to look dumb, they just said 'Hmm, I'm following you, ok, keep goingÉ' And there were times when they said to Jesus, 'Yes, they understood,' and it says they didn't understand what he was talking about. If Jesus would have said, 'Now let me take, you know, Einstein's Theory of Relativity [which are now proven to be Laws of Relativity], and let me try toÉ' like all of us, we'd have gone 'Hmmm, uhmmm.' And then we'd sit there like we do in church sometimes, and you know, you wake up and open your eyes real wide and you look interested, and you shake your head like you've been listening the whole time, and I see some of you shaking slowly this way, and boung! back up again, 'Hmm, yes.' [Pastors notice these things J ] And God bless you, I'd rather have you sleep here than somewhere else [laughter], the Lord gives his beloved sleep. But the Lord takes the most common things that they were completely familiar with, and aligns truths that are life-changing with those things, because he loves them, because he wants those things to go into their hearts and he doesn't want anyone to be excluded. And I think sometimes in the Church today, people argue about things that are so heady and intellectual, and there are those things, but they forget that the Gospel, the Good News is for human beings and for broken hearts, and for people. I had a tape of J. Vernon McGee speaking to a graduating class of seminary students in a Presbyterian seminary, and he chose as his text 'What is your beloved more than these' from the Song of Solomon, and he said to them, "You might as well now forget about everything you have learned all these years, because you are going out into a world where there are broken hearts and broken families and broken lives, and drug addiction, and discouragement, and abandonment, and abuse. And the only thing that's going to matter to those people is 'What is your beloved more than these.'" He said, "The only thing that is going to matter is Who you know, not what you know." And Jesus, addressing the heart, addressing any listener whose willing to hear, he takes the most common things of life that they all understood, and then takes life-changing truth, divine truth, and places it alongside of those things. And again, I think you should all have your own personal systematic theology. I think you should be able to defend your position, as it were. [The 3rd Freedom of the Believer, in the Believer's Bill of Rights, is the freedom of Christian conscience in the secondary areas of belief. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Prayer-groupGuidelines.htm and scroll to near the end of that article.] I think there's a lot of people who don't know how put the sword away "in the camp," but I heard Warren Wiersby tell a group of pastors, "You need to remember you're feeding sheep and not giraffes." And I think truths should be down where we can feed on it. And Jesus is the Master of that.
It says, "And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:" and he said, and you know it, "A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear'" (verses 5-8). He screams out loud, cried. "And his disciples asked him saying, What might this parable be?" Now, they're afraid, you know, by the way he cries out at the end 'Let he who has ears to hear, hear!' The disciples think, 'What is he talking about?' So they have no problem to just walk up to him and say 'Lord, show us. Lord, make this plain' and neither should we, to say, 'Lord, what is this all about?' And he said, "Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand." So he is defining for us, first of all, hearing, seeing, they don't see, and hearing, the don't understand. Jesus equates hearing, he equates it with understanding. He deals directly with the heart. If you have ears to hear, and we talked about this before, the idea is, 'What are your ears for?' It says in Revelation over and over again, when the Seven Letters are written to the churches, 'The Spirit says, Let him who has ears hear', now it's not the church, the church doesn't have ears, you go outside when you leave tonight, look on the outside of the building, you'll see there's not ears. "Let him who has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit sayeth," present perfect tense, "is saying, today, to the churches." So, here, Jesus tells this parable. Now you're familiar with it, those of you who have been to Israel with us, you've seen this, the field and the man is sowing, he's throwing the seed with his hand. In Israel, what usually divides the fields, even today, is either a pile of rocks or a path, or maybe today a tractor drives down it, but it's either a path that is hardened by traffic or by the tractor, not in Jesus day, it was by walking. Or what divided a field was a pile of rocks, because you have to clear the rocks off the ground before you can plow the field. So there's piles of rocks between the fields. [He's talking about stone walls. In New England all the fields were divided by stone walls, everywhere you go in the woods today, there are these stone walls that used to be field dividers on farmers' fields.] They're hearing something they understood completely, that a man goes out and he sows seed. As he sows seed, some of that seed will naturally fall on the path that has been hardened by traffic, by people walking through the area. And as soon as the sower gets past that, the birds of the air come down, they pick it up, because it's laying on top, it was on but not in the soil. He said then there's other soil in the rocks, and if you've been to Israel you know it is a rocky place, and some of those rocks have little pits in them that fill with dirt or sometimes under the soil, there's a rock-base. And what happens is that seed, he says, goes in and down, but not up. Because as soon as the season changes and there's no rain, the seed doesn't have enough depth to get any moisture, and it becomes dry and it dies away. He said there's other seed that falls in a place where thorns spring up along with it, so evidently the ground looked good there, but again it's around the perimeter of the field, and as the thorns spring up along with the seed, they choke the life out of it. And then of course, other seed falls on the good ground. He says, 'Anybody who has ears to hear, let him hear.' The disciples say, 'What are you talking about?' He says, 'OK, it's given to you guys to know the mysteries of the kingdom. I'm telling it in parables so the antagonists might see and not see, and that they might hear and not understand.'
The Seed is the Word of God
"Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God" (verse 11). And I love this parable. The remarkable thing about seeds is what is encoded in them. Jesus doesn't bother to talk to them about any of that, because they just see it visibly, the seed hit the soil. The largest seed is a coconut, and I think the smallest one is from an orchid. We've discovered seed in the Pyramids that's [over] 2,000 years old, and you take that seed and you put it in the ground, you put it in the dirt, put it in a moist place, that seed has been sitting dormant for 2,000 years. Encoded within the seed itself is the information, which all of a sudden it begins to respond when it gets in the dirt, like the dirt of our heart, and it begins to put down a root, and it begins to send up a sprout towards where the light will be, it has a sense of direction, it responds to moisture [and light]. Remarkably it's in the seed [this encoded information]. Now the Word of God is the same way. Encoded within the Word of God is that which will produce Life. Peter picks up on this in his Epistle and said that "You are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible seed, which is the Word of God." And Peter acknowledges what he heard Jesus teach, that the Word of God itself has such power. And it's a shame today to look around the world, and see how many churches have turned away from the Word of God. [Those are the churches you want to "turn away from."] It's a remarkable thing to see how many have come here and said, 'What is going on? What is the secret? Is it the Hawaiian shirt? [laughter] Is it the drums? Is it the sound system? You know the Inquirer in Philadelphia wrote an article saying, 'It's the music.' 'This is what the rave is in churches today in these Calvary movements, it's contemporary music that's drawing the crowds.' They haven't got a clue. They haven't got a clue. It's the Word itself. If you are a seminary or Bible school student, take all that you can learn, but remember, some day you may graduate and put a seed sowing certificate on your wall, but the power of all this is not in the Seed sower, it's in the Seed. You can annunciate your Seed and you can sow your Seed this way, and you know I like to sow my Seed that way, but when it hits the dirt, the miracle is in the Seed itself. The miracle is in the Seed, in the Word of God, and how it changes our lives, and how refreshing it is to look at it in its simplicity. "The seed" he says, "is the word of God." Not politics, not Republican, not Democrat. We [at Calvary Chapel] have been pigeon-holed and put into a category, and they all think we're the same. It's the politics of another world. I think we should vote, I think we should pray and use our wisdom and our God-given right. Men have shed their blood to pay for the freedom that we have here. And I think as Christians we should vote our conscience and be a good steward over those blood-bought freedoms. And how I appreciate patriots, the ones that might be left. And I appreciate the men and women who have fought and laid down their lives for us. But they've taken us, you know, and they've put us into a category. And I don't think that category represents all Christians, and if that's all they know about us, we have not done our job.
The Seed That Fell By The Wayside---Satan Understands the Power of God's Word
The seed is the Word of God. 'Those by the wayside,' now the first group of listeners and how they respond to the truth is revealed. "Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (verse 12). Now, the first thing he says, 'There are those who hear God's Word, they are those by the wayside. And like that seed that's sown on the pathway where people walk, where the traffic of this world is, that seed lands on them, but they are hardened by being in the wayside. That's the way their heart is, just like the place, where the field's daily traffic goes, the place that is most frequented by humans. And because of that it's hardened. That's the place that can be in our hearts, as we seek to follow Christ. Are we influenced by the things of his kingdom, or are we influenced by the things of the world? Do the things where most people walk and where most people tread, are those the things that make pathways into our heart? And you have to guard your heart, it says, with all diligence, because it's from the heart the issues of life flow forth. The mind and the intellect is a wonderful gift. But the heart will always make a convert of the mind. And you can know, the Scripture says in one place, 'My people, they worship me with their lips but their heart is far from me.' We can say Christian things and we can do Christian things, but if we allow our hearts to be attracted to the places that worldly people find their popularity and they find their music and they find their morals, you know, those places that are hardened by the traffic of this world, the seed doesn't penetrate there, it lays there.
Satan likes to steal the Word of God away
Satan, it says, is not indifferent towards the Word. He knows the power of it. From Genesis chapter 3 we see when he twisted it, and he changed it. All the way through the Bible he is not at all indifferent towards the Word. The Bible tells us that those people in your family who don't believe, it says 'the god of this world has blinded their minds, that they won't believe the glorious gospel of Christ.' Just think about that. Because what you tell them, when you're with your relatives and your friends and people who you'd like to see saved, what you're telling them, is you're saying, 'Look, God loves us, he sent his Son into the world, there's life beyond the grave, and he'll forgive you, and you can have peace, and you can have joy, and you can have hope, and you can have a future. And all the things you try to fill your life with that the world puts on the menu, whatever music it is, or drugs it is, or pleasure it is, or alcohol it is, all of those things that are handed to you, you're not making your choice, it's on the menu. You didn't write the menu, Satan wrote the menu, and he hands it out to the world.' Because when the world is hardened by that, and filled by that, the Word of God doesn't penetrate. And he's not indifferent towards the Word, the first thing he does is he steals it away. You can come, you can listen to a Bible study, 'Ah, that's pretty cool, let's go there, it's pretty cool, pretty cool, worship, sound system, it's warm.' As soon as you walk out the building, is it gone? Is it [i.e. the Word of God] getting on, but not in? Because the Bible says the human heart is like soil. The human ear is attached to the heart, and as the seed falls down onto the heart with the hearing, this evening as you hear the Word, it falls upon your heart. And Satan himself steals away the Word. That's all he steals away. He doesn't come and steal the theory of relativity away from your heart. He doesn't come and steal your thirst for your favorite TV program. And see, we allow those things to penetrate us, we allow certain things to penetrate us. You know that, again, last time I taught this, I said, you know one word will give you the idea, irkle. Now that means something to you, because you've allowed it to penetrate. I like that shirt, by the way. But you've allowed that to penetrate you, you've allowed it to penetrate. Satan doesn't steal irkle from my heart. [laughter] You know, he esteems the Word of God greater than many denominations and churches do today, who are willing to twist it, and shave away at it, and make it less than it is, so that they can be popular or non-offending or build self-esteem. No, Satan understands the power of God's Word, and the power that it has to produce life in the heart of an individual, and to transform life. And he doesn't steal other things away, he doesn't steal so many things that the world puts there on the hardening path that it goes on. It's the Word of God that he steals. Some people are like, it says they're out where the traffic is, they hear the Word of God, it doesn't really make an impression, it lays on them, they hear it, they might even be able to quote it back. 'Yah, we were here, we were there, Creation Festival, Harvest Crusade.' But then they're gone. And sometimes you maybe see them come forward at an altar call, or you see them respond, and then there is no fruit, there's nothing afterwards. Well the Bible says Satan comes and he takes the Word away, because he knows what it will do.
Seed That Fell On The Rock---Fair-Weather Christians
Then it says there's another group of hearers. And the Scripture tells us how they respond to truth. "They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away" (verse 13). 'These have no root' because there's not depth, one of the other Gospels tells us. Isn't it interesting "which for a while believe" and in time of temptation or tribulation or pressure they fall away, they don't just fall, Christians fall, they fall away. The second group, it says, are those who, they hear the Word, 'Yeah, that was a great Men's Retreat, that was really cool! Oh yeah, we went to the church, they had a rock concert, you know we went forward, we got our little Bible, Believer's Bible, and we accepted Jesus in our heart,' but then as soon as it says any pressure arises, they really haven't given their heart and will to God. They get out amongst their friends and their friends say to them 'Oh, don't tell me you're a Bible thumper now! What are you talking about?' or as soon as any pressure comes 'You need to be honest when you fill out your income tax return' or however that pressure might come, it says 'immediately' because there's no depth, that they fall, not just fall, they fall away. No fruit, there's emotion, but there's no devotion. And by the way, in my life, and I suspect in yours, that is our struggle here. You know, those of you who have been to Siberia or you have been to China, or you have been somewhere where Christians are persecuted and struggle, it's a different kind of warfare they deal with there. Sometimes I think, you know, there is a hardship that is endured. You know, DL in Chechnya, we are going to pray for some of our folks going to Chechnya over the holidays. And there are Christians there that were slaughtered, they were put to death. And then there is the struggle of 'Well if God really loves us, if he's really entered into our lives, why was my father killed?' a child may ask. Or 'Why have I lost my wife?' or 'Why is there no food?' or 'Why am I thrown in prison and forsaken, and I've been here for fourteen years?' It's a different kind of struggle, it's a struggle against all of the things that would cause doubt and deny the love of God. Here in America, I think it is a war in regards to devotion, and that will be the next "seed ground", there are so many things that surround us that we can be devoted to, and the pressure that you and I have come against us is not really considerable when we think of what our brothers and sisters in the faith are facing in the rest of the world. But we get pressure, we get pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn't want to hear about Christianity, 'You're not going to do what anymore?' 'You're not going to be where Friday nights, instead of me, you're going to a concert where? You can hit the road.' There's pressure that comes that way. [Comment: I might say that our Sabbath-keeping brethren in the faith endure a lot more of that for their observance of the Sabbath and Holy Days of God. This tends to separate the fair-weather Christians out of their fellowships pretty fast. They almost see what it is like to be a Jew, and often suffer from an anti-Semitic sentiment Sunday-observers don't often experience. It's really tough in the area of employment and explaining to employers too, that you can't work on a Saturday. And yet Sabbath-keepers are sincerely following God in obedience to all of God's Ten Commandment code of law, as they believe are enumerated and commended in the New Testament. This carries with it a level of persecution Sunday-observing believers in Jesus don't often see or experience in the United States. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/Has%20the%20Sabbath%20Been%20Abrogated.htm to read about why they believe this way.] There's pressure that comes in a university or a school, a high school, they're telling you 'You're an idiot, you believe in Creation?' Pressure can come in a thousand different ways. And it says one of the evidences of a hearer, where the Word of God has fallen upon their heart, but there's not real depth, it says, that as soon as pressure comes there's a falling away. And again, sometimes I think we're stumbled by that, we see people that we know that seem so excited, they seem to make an initial profession of Christ, and maybe we get excited too because somebody we've known for a long time does this, and then we see all of a sudden it lasts a little while, like it says here, and all of a sudden it's gone. And I think sometimes, you know, we can struggle with that. Well I think the Lord is giving us some insight into what happens.
The Cares, Riches and Pleasures of This Life Can Choke the Word of God Out of Our Lives
Now verses 14 is something that I think should keep us all on our toes. "And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection." Three things here, it says "the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this life" contrasting the one to come, and it says 'that the Word in their lives is thronged or choked.' Now, it's the same thing when it says 'Jesus was in the press, or he was thronged', that's the idea. What's it's talking about, a heart that's busy, a heart that's full, that we can come to Christ, and we can receive his Word, but sometimes in our lives even as Christians there are so many things that crowd in on our hearts, that we can let the important things slip. And it's very interesting, because the other Gospels say "they become unfruitful" as though they had been fruitful at one point. I think ultimately, as we look at the parable, we are looking at those who are born into the kingdom through hearing the Word [in the spiritual sense of being given the Holy Spirit, not our literal birth into the Kingdom of God at the time of the 1st Resurrection, cf. 1st Corinthians 15], but I think in application for you and I, the warning is about all of the things in this world that would crowd our heart. And the reason is, is because your heart is not infinite, it's finite. And the human heart can only contain so much at a time. I find my life, you know, it's so busy with so many things, and I find an inability to keep up with everything that goes on. And then I find myself sometimes scrambling to find that time alone with the Lord, or scrambling to find a genuine time to sit in his presence to study his Word, because life is so crowded. And yet, you can only contain so many things at a time in your heart. It's not infinite, it's only finite. And I think the things that we look at here, "the cares and the riches and the pleasures of this life" are things that surround all of us. And I think the thing that we have to watch ourselves, look, there are people who just simply get caught up in the cares of this life, the kind of cares that worldly people give themselves to. But even as Christians, it says, that if we take a wife or a husband, that we end up caring for the things of your wife or for your husband. That's not prohibited [and actually it's a real opportunity for a Christian to learn to show Godly agape toward that individual], it's expected, it's a responsibility. [Men, to understand a bit more about what it takes to fulfill some of those responsibilities, log onto: http://www.HOWMARRIAGEWORKS.COM] I think it says that we should cast all of our care upon him [Jesus], taking all of our cares to him, with prayer and with petition. I think a lot of the things that I care about are good things. But they're not all expedient things, they're permissible things. I'm not living in open rebellion that I know of. No doubt there are many areas of my heart that God is still working in. But as I do measure my life, and I look at it, there are many things in my life that are not harmful and they are good things. And there are things that I even care about that not expedient. And sometimes I need to weed some of those things out. And you know what? The interesting thing is this, if you've ever grown a garden, you don't have to plant weeds. You ever noticed that? I read that in Jesus day, it took sixty pounds of grain, of wheat or of barley, to seed one acre, sixty pounds of grain. I was reading in the Encyclopedia, and it said in the average acre of farmland, close enough to the surface to sprout is a ton and a half of weed seeds. Three thousand pounds of weed seeds per acre that are already there, and only sixty pounds of grain to sow the same acre. And don't you find that in your heart? You don't have to try to grow weeds. Don't you have a weedy heart, or you don't understand what I'm talking about? I'm not talking about breakfast, where I talk about Wheaties, I'm talking about what happens naturally in us. And the interesting thing about weeds too, is I look at them come up in my garden and I think, 'You know, I just see the tops of them, I'll get it next week.' You know, it isn't like I plant a tomato plant and turn around and hear Ahhh!, and I look back and see it getting dragged under the ground, you know, the weeds have come and got it. They come up a little bit at a time, and I watch them, and then I think a week later, 'Ah, well I think I can still distinguish my tomato plants from the weeds at this point, they're getting taller. You know, they grow so slow that it's easy to put it off. But the cares of this life, the marimna, literally it means to be torn in different directions or to be pulled in more than one direction, that those are the kinds of things sometimes that choke or throng God's Word. And because our hearts become so crowded, that then we become unfruitful. Even sometimes maybe when we have been fruitful, we can be warned of this, and be careful. The cares of this life. Some people are so care-ful, it means full of care in the King James, that fear or worry chokes the Word of God, we worry about everything. They're afraid of everything. 'Aah, a pain, one of the seven signs, heart attack, I knew it!' You see people that worry about their hair till it falls out. [laughter] I'm not saying everyone without hair has worried about, genetics, it plays a part, it's not what I'm saying. The cares of this life, and there are responsibilities that we have as Christians that are enjoined upon us, that we have to meet. If we don't as men and as husbands and as heads of household provide for our own house, the Bible says, we're worse than an infidel, we've denied the faith. That is a concern, and should be met in a Biblical way. So the cares of this life, it says, sometimes steal or choke the Word.
The riches of this life
"The riches of this life" can be something that press us so far that we forget about the riches of the Kingdom. Now, there isn't anything wrong with riches. Abraham was rich. Joseph was rich. Daniel, no doubt was rich, and David was rich. Lydia in the New Testament was wealthy [she had two homes, one in Macedonia, near where she met Paul, and another one in Thyatira, Asia Minor, where she had a purple cloth manufacturing company]. It seems that James and John had a decent fishing business [with their father Zebedee]. There isn't anything wrong with riches. The Bible says it's the love of money that's the root of all evil. When what drives you is the love of money, not money, money is a great thing to have, handy, a great tool to use against the devil. Money is a good thing to have. Don't you wish you could have lots of money you didn't love? [laughter] Or just try it, give me a million, let me see if I can not love it. I'll just love the things I'll buy with it. I won't love the money, I'll get rid of it. You know, I think what sometimes happens is, and one of the great things about going to a third world country is we see the way other believers survive with so much less. I think one of the things here that drives our nation and our elections is just what drove the people in Jesus day, that when Jesus fed the multitudes they were going to make him king, he was the bread-king, that's why they were going to make him king. And they promise lower taxes, and more money, and more jobs, and they'll vote for him, we don't care, this nation cares little about what else might come along with that package. And sometimes it's the care of riches that drives us. And one of the things, and it's a flaw I can see in my own life sometimes, as we earn more, we need to be careful that our standard doesn't just keep rising along with that, because money is a great tool to use against the devil. I think the Lord, I think he blesses us, I think he wants us to enjoy the fruit of our labour, the Bible says a lot about that. That's one of the things in Ecclesiastes that man has under the sun is to work and to enjoy, and God doesn't deny that. But I think when, like the rich young ruler, I think when we are possessed by our possessions, instead of possessing them, and we are driven by them, and we see the heart again, the desire of the heart can drive us, then I think that we need to take heed.
The pleasures of this life
Lastly, it says "the care, the riches, and the pleasures of this life." And I like pleasure. I don't know about you. Pleasure is not a bad thing. I like the way flowers smell. And God gave us that ability to enjoy that. I think that Eden was a great smelling place. I like to look at something that is beautiful. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I understand that. But I enjoy my wife. I enjoy our home. I enjoy a cheese-steak [laughter]. Pleasure in itself is not, God doesn't want us here like a bunch of robots without any zest for life. I think Christians, of all people, should enjoy life. Again, I think if you're saying, Do you want to hear about the gospel?' You know, come on! They should be able to see something about you that is desirable. But it says that the care and the riches and the pleasures of this life, in contrast to eternity, it sets up a contrast, or to the life to come. Are we keeping our lives in light of the eternal, because as God sows his Word, as he takes spiritual truth and puts it along side of a man sowing seed in a field, and he does that so the truths he's trying to speak to us about the things that fall upon our hearts, he wants that fruit to come forth unto eternal life. He's drawing us onward, and he's giving us spiritual things through the lens of, or sifting it through earthly things so that we'll understand. When he tells us that he loves us like a groom loves the bride or like a father loves his children, or like a shepherd cares for his sheep, he's giving us things that we understand, and he's trying to phrase his love, which is a much greater love, within experiences that we understand. And when he's telling us here that his Word is like seed that falls upon our hearts, and then it will bring forth life. Unless we allow Satan to steal it away immediately, and we make fun of it, or we don't want anything to do with it, well then we end up with nothing to do with it. He says 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear, to him who has will more be givenÉto him who has ears to hear, more will be given, to him who has not, even that he has will be taken away.' If you don't have a heart to hear, even the things that you were excited about initially, even the things that, you know, you received the things with joy, and then when pressure arises it's gone, or you let the things of this world choke it out. You may hear it, and you may receive it, but if you don't really have a heart to hear it and to receive it, it says then sometimes it's taken away.
The Seed That Fell On Good Ground
Now for you and I that are here that are believers, that have been born-again of God's Spirit, obviously the Word has taken root, and has produced life within us, and in the ultimate and most important sense, we've been born-again, by God's incorruptible Word, by the Word that has come to us and changed our lives. And Satan hasn't stolen it away before it's done its work, and we haven't turned away from Christ, and we've all had pressure. And the cares, and the riches, and the pleasures of this life are the field that we all struggle in, we all have to weed our hearts. But I believe if you're here this evening, and you know Christ as your Saviour, you're in this last group, "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (verse 15). Don't you wish he hadn't put this on the end, "with patience"? [laughter] It says those who hear the Word where it hits good ground are those who "keep", that word means "to guard" or "to garrison", it's a military word. It means, you know, some of you, the whole picture here, and you have to remember that Jesus doesn't mention it, in the beginning, the field was plowed up, and how we came to Christ plowed up. How the Father was faithful to drag a plow, some plow of life over our hearts to leave us empty and turned over and plowed up. And the Word fell upon our hearts. And if you're anything like me, you took hold of that and said, 'Lord, I will never let go, I will guard this. Yes, this life has pleasures, and this life has things that drive me, but I will not let go of a Kingdom that's coming, where the streets are gold, and the walls are made of jewels, and the angels are gathered around the saints, Lord, and where you sit in the center, and where a stream of life flows from your throne in your presence. Lord, I will never let go of that. Lord, I will guard it, and I will hold on to it.' [cf. Revelation 21:1-17, he just described the coming of the New Jerusalem to earth, where it and we will ever live with the Lord in this New Jerusalem.] And how wonderful that becomes to us. I think sometimes in times of testing how that it comes to the surface, and we realize what God's done in our hearts. I think how wonderful his Word is, when it falls there. "No man," he says in verse 16, "when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light." Not 'may hear.' Now you can see verse 15. You can see a man throwing seed on a field, you can see the plant that grows to maturity and produces fruit. You can see it in someone's life. The Bible says "Let those who name the name of Christ depart from iniquity." It's easy to talk the talk, but what about walking the walk, that's what it's saying here, you can see it, it's light, people should see light in our lives. Talk is cheap. And you know people like that, they talk about Jesus, they talk about the theology, this position, that position, and meantime they're living in sin, there's something going on in their lives. You know, the Bible says you can see it in the life of a Christian, and he says that, 'Nobody lights a light to hide it or put it under a bed or under a bushel basket, but to put it where they may see the light that comes from it. "For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have" (verses 17-18). "take heed therefore how ye hear", now it's in light of the parable, it's in light of what he's just said here. Nothing, he says, is secret. Everything's going to be brought out into the open, so "take heed therefore how ye hearÉ" He's talking about the relationship between the hearer and how he responds to the truth that's revealed. If you have a heart for God's truth, and that's why he's telling it in parables, because the parable either reveals the truth, or it conceals the truth. To those who wanted to hear and were hungry in their hearts, it became plainer, 'Oh yeah, Lord your Word is just like seed, and it has within itself tremendous ability to produce life, and when it falls on a heart that's hungry and broken and plowed up, Lord, and it produces there life, and it springs forth, and it produces thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. But Lord, sometimes if it falls, we see what you're saying, on somebody where their heart is hard, or they don't really have any depth, or they're all caught up with the things of this world, how your Word can be strangled and choked and ineffective. And sometimes even if there's a person who mocks your Word or doesn't want anything to do with it, they don't hear anything at all, even what they have is taken away.' That's what he says.
Skeptics verses Believers
And I look at the parable, and I think, certainly I'm not # soil one, and I'm not soil # two, hopefully most of me is soil # four. Is Jesus saying that only 25 percent of people who get saved [i.e. get baptized, receiving the Holy Spirit] go onto to maturity? I don't think he's saying that, it's a parable. This isn't for you to draw mathematical percentages that are exact. No, it's a story, it's a truth laid aside of something they understood, so they could take hold of it. But I think he is saying that as his Word goes out in the world that we live in, we shouldn't be shocked that everybody doesn't respond the way we want them to. You know, we witness to our relatives and to our friends, and sometimes we're thinking 'What is wrong with you?' You ever see that TV commercial with a guy sitting there at a table, and a pretty girl walks by and says something to him, and he starts looking in a dictionary, and a guy walks up and goes, 'Nice pants!' Sometimes you feel like saying to your relatives, you know, 'What is wrong with you!?' You know, they're spending their money at Atlantic City, or they're drunk or their heart is broken, and you're saying 'You need to come to Christ, you can have joy, he'll take all the hardness away from you, the bitterness away, or he'll deliver you from drugs or deliver you from alcohol.' And they're going 'I don't know, I don't know if I'm ready. I want to be miserable for forty more years, ask me again then.' And you're thinking 'What!? What is wrong with you?' It's like you're saying, 'Are you willing to trade in your Hyundai with 300,000 miles on it, for a Rolls Royce, brand new, your favorite color, with an eternal engine, tires that will never wear out, it's like a flubber car, if you want, you can just take off into the air with it.' And they say 'I don't know, let me think about it. Why do you always give me this free Rolls Royce speech, you know, you and your religion.' And you think 'What is wrong with them?' Well it says, the god of this world has blinded the minds of those that don't believe. And it's so that the Word of God, when it falls on their heart, he can come steal it away, immediately. And to be effective, and it says the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much, it means to be on-target, the way you should pray for your unsaved relatives is pray that when the Word of God falls upon them, that it finds a way down into their being, and then they might understand, yes, this Jesus that you're speaking of, is the Jesus that I want to know. I don't want to just know religion, I don't want to just know church. I want to know this One that will lift the burdens off of my heart and set great and precious promises in front of me, that will take my heart and lead me through this life. There will be those who mock, there will be those who make fun of these things. I happened to hear someone talking about the way people respond to God's Word. And I think, if you don't know Jesus this evening, you need to think about what we're saying. As you're hearing the Word of God, how is it falling upon your heart? Are you thinking 'Oh man, end it so I can go to Friendly's and get out of here.' What are you thinking? How is it [the Seed, the Word of God] falling? Or are you broken, thinking 'You know, I wish I could know this is really true.' You can know that it's really true. Francis Voltaire, one of the great minds of his century, was an antagonist of Christ. He said, because of his intellect, he said "In a hundred years, the Bible will be extinct." One hundred years later, Voltaire's home was the distribution center for the Geneva Bible, and he was gone. Don't clap, listen. Voltaire said of Christ, "I will curse the wretch." He said, "With my intellect single-handedly and in twenty years I will dismantle the edifice that took the 12 apostles centuries to build." Great intellect. Upon his deathbed, he said to the doctor and nurse that attended, "Doctor, I am abandoned by God. I will give you half of my wealth if you make me live one more day, and after that I will go to hell, and you can go with me." And then as he was dying, he cried "Oh Christ, oh Christ." And the nurse who was there said she would never attend the death of an unbeliever ever again, because three times as he was passing out he screamed "More light, more light, more light" as he slipped into the darkness. Thomas Hobbs, a skeptic that turned many people away from Christ in England, said to the doctor "If I had the whole world" as he's dying "I'd give it to live one more day. I shall be glad to find a hole to creep out of the dark. I am about to take a fearful leap into the dark." And he died. Thomas Carlisle, who corrupted many of his contemporaries, and some of the greatest men in Europe, when he was dying, he said, "I am as good as without hope. I have a lot of fear. I am a sad old man gazing into the final chasm." And he died. Contrast that with Moody, Dwight L. Moody, who they say, and I never heard him preach, couldn't get one English sentence right. Could hardly speak the language. Murdered it when he went to England. A phenomenon. He said to his son on his deathbed, "If this is death, it's not fearful, there is no shadow here." And his son said, "No dad, you're not dying." And he said, "Oh yes," and he said "I can see the children's faces, this is my coronation day." And he said, "Earth is fading, heaven is opening, Lord take me, Lord take me." That is vastly different than "More light, more light, more light" or "I'm being cast into a chasm of darkness." Polycarp, when the Romans, and he knew they were coming to take him, to kill him, to his martyrdom, prepared a meal. When they got there, he had food cooking there for them. They begged him to deny Christ. He said "He's been faithful to me these 85 years. Why should I deny him now?" John Huss, as they were piling up the wood around the stake to burn him to death, he said, "What I taught with my life, I shall seal with my blood." No fear, and went off into eternity. How is the Word of God falling upon your heart? Because the cares of this world, and riches, and pleasures, all of those seem so related to life. You know, here we are in the prime of our life, and it doesn't seem like life can slip away, like anything can happen. Talk to someone whose on their deathbed, talk to someone who is facing that situation, and find out from them at that time what is important. And find out, you know, the primary thing that sits at the top of all the tears and all the struggle, and we all have that, even as Christians to a degree, is there are those who have hope. Because the Word of God has fallen upon their hearts, and has found a place there. They were the kind of hearers that were listening, saying, 'If this is true, Lord, I need you, I need your forgiveness, and I need your life.' There are those, and some of them the greatest minds of this world who are skeptics, and antagonists, and just read the records of their passing. Because the Bible says, and it's the Word of God, and let it fall on your heart, that life is like a vapour, that is here today, snap! and it's gone. How many of you here are thirty years old, and thought ten years ago, thought that was old? I'm forty-seven [he's 63 now in 2012 when I'm transcribing this, two years younger than I am]. Never thought I'd be forty-seven. I'm still trying to dress like I'm twenty years old, and I'm fighting the inevitable. How many of you here are fifty or sixty? How many of you here are over seventy? How many are over eighty? Be honest with us. How fast did it go? Yes, how fast did those 80 years go? Real fast. Real fast, right? Like this snap! Yup. I'm 47, that means I'm right in the middle of one of these snap! [laughter] Is that a lot of consolation? Chuck Missler when he was here, and you know, he's a 55-year-old, he said "I wouldn't mind people calling me middle-aged much if I knew more 110-year-olds, at 55." [laughter] Life will go by like that. Will you be ready?---that is, if you live it out. That is, if you live it out. If it comes in an automobile accident. We hear that, 'My life was flashing before my eyes.' Where it comes in our city, where over four hundred people have been gunned down in our streets, this year [1996 in Philadelphia, think it's much better in 2012?], already. Just gunned down. I want to challenge you, 1998 is ahead of us, what will it bring, I have no idea, it could change our lives, never to be the same again. But we have lived in America like it will never change. [Check out the prophecy section of this website, and look into the Minor Prophets, to see how things in this world are about to change. See http://www.unityinchrist.com/Prophets_Prophecy.html] I take so many things for granted. I open my refrigerator, there's food there. I turn on my faucet, cold water comes out, I can drink without getting dysentery. Hot water's going to come out of the other side. I'm going to flip the switch and electricity is going to come on. I'm going to take my kids to school in the morning because I have gas in my car. When they get sick I'm going to go to the doctor and get a prescription and go to the drug store and I'm going to get an antibiotic. I take it for granted. There's people all around the world that have never even known the things that we take for granted, let alone an ability to forget them, or take them for granted. And I think, for those of us who believe, and maybe I'm preaching to myself, and I should be I guess, more than anyone, "Lord, let your Word be more important to me now than it has ever been. Lord I got saved in 1972 [I was baptized and received the indwelling Holy Spirit in April of 1970], let 1998 be a year, Lord, where my personal communion with you, and my sense of your leading, and my knowing of your voice, and my love for your Word, and my fellowship with the saints, and my laying down of my life be more real than it has ever been." And for those of you who don't know Christ this evening, I'm going to have the musicians come, if you will comeÉ[transcript of a connective expository sermon given on Luke 8:1-18 by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19116]
Things could change, are going to change in America and the world:
Our Sabbath-keeping brethren have less of an opportunity to be "fair-weather Christians." Why do they believe this way? See:
How Do I Become A Christian? See:
and scroll to the bolded paragraph titled "How to Become a Christian" and read from there.