August 20, 2006
Defy the pull of the world, the flesh, and the devil and fly as high as you can for Jesus.
I. Are you saved? (Luke 8:11-12)
II. Have you crashed? (Luke 8:13)
III. Are you stunted? (Luke 8:14)
IV. Are you flying as high as possible? (Luke 8:15)
MessageOnce, a church choir director was frustrated with the unfaithful attendance of all the church choir members for rehearsals for the Christmas Choral Concert. At the final rehearsal the day of the Christmas Choral Concert he announced, "I want to personally thank the pianist for being the only person in this entire church to attend each and every rehearsal during the past two months." At this point the pianist got up, bowed, and said, "It was the least I could do, considering I can’t make the Christmas Choral Concert tonight."
That is a funny story, but I wonder if the Lord feels like the choir director. For many do not cling faithfully to Him their whole life. Often we give into the gravitational pull of the things of the world, the schemes of the devil, and our own fleshly desires so we not fly to the extent God wants us to soar.
Is there someone here, who has been grounded by the world, the flesh, and the devil? Is there someone here, who is propelling others above the pull of the world, the flesh and the devil?
This morning we look at Jesus’ parable of the soils, a neon moment in which Jesus will yell to us to rise above the natural forces of sin, Satan, and His world system.
While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.
This morning will put our binoculars on Jesus’ interpretation of his parable. Jesus revealed the secret that the seed is the word of God in verse 11. The word of God for Jesus’ audience would have been the Old Testament and whatever Jesus had taught them.
The message from God being emphasized is eternal salvation and day-to-day spiritual growth. We will see salvation discussed in verse 12. Notice in verse 12 that the seed never comes to life. The devil, who the birds represent in the story, takes away the truth from the hearts of those who heard. When he takes away the word it is not that Satan gives them amnesia, but he discredits the message. It is just like in the Garden of Eden when Satan told Eve, "Did God really say you shall not eat fruit of every tree?" And he said, "You won’t die if you eat the fruit." Today, he tries to cause those who hear the message of "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved," to respond, "Huh", or "Boy I better start working real hard," or "that’s a bunch of malarkey." The devil hates people so badly that he pulls the wool over their eyes so that he can drive them down the bobsled to his home in hell.
Recently we saw the devil working his game, using the DaVinci Code. Dan Brown gave it the old college try to say the books put into the Bible are not the right ones, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene, and that the Council of Nicaea made Jesus into God. His theories are easily debunked. Many books have been written to expose the falsehoods. Yet many people will never access these resources, but will have the word taken out of their heart, not believe, and not be saved.
Jesus said the road that leads to heaven is narrow and only a few will find it and most people will choose the wide road that leads to Hell. So when we are sowing the Word we can’t expect the narrow road to become a twelve-lane highway—most will reject it. Nevertheless rejection is usually the number one reason for us not to scatter seed. I know it is for me. I gladly accept Jesus being spit on, mocked, beaten and rejected in order to save me. However, I don’t want to even figuratively accept anyone spitting on me, mocking me, or even figuratively jamming a crown of thorns into my head.
Can you relate? So what is the answer? Try some self-thought, Scripture memory, and prayer. In your mind walk next to him on the road to Calvary, and then pray "Lord help me to carry your cross, give me your love, your compassion." Then get up and talk to your neighbor, to your friend at school, or talk to a stranger.
Moving on let’s look at the next soil, which is a slight progression up.
Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
Here we see the seed cast on to a thin layer of soil on top of rocky ground. When the seed came to life it started to grow, but as it grew it had no soil for the roots to sink into and therefore withered and died. Jesus revealed that this person, heard the gospel, received the message with joy, they believed it, but it was only for a period of time. When the waves of life got rough and time of trial came this person called it quits and stopped believing in the message of salvation.
A modern day example is Bart Ehrman. Bart Ehrman is the chair of religious studies department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ehrman attended Moody Bible Institute and graduated from Wheaton College, another Christian university. Then he graduated from Princeton Seminary with a masters and doctor of divinity. He says that he believed the gospel at Moody and Wheaton in its entirety and tried to persuade others of his beliefs. But when the waves of liberalism hit him at Princeton he became agnostic and now highly doubts the resurrection of Jesus. He has written a N.Y. Times bestseller book, "Misquoting Jesus," which argues that Christians changed the Bible on purpose.
Now put your theology hat on for a minute. Christians have different understandings of this passage. Some will say this person really did believe and was saved from Hell, but lost their home in heaven when they stopped believing. Others say this person never really believed and this short-term faith was really false faith or pseudo faith. They believe true believers never stop believing, but also they believe once you are saved from Hell you are always saved.
I would like to humbly offer a third alternative. Both are correct on some points. The first understanding is correct in that the text says that they believed for a while. "A while" is a time qualifier not a quality qualifier. It seems unlikely that Jesus would use sarcasm—they believed for a while (not!)—in His interpretation.
Yet Jesus will not take back their salvation. Jesus promised in John 10:28: "I give them eternal life (when we believe), and they shall never perish, neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand." You say, "Mike does that mean God will keep someone saved even if they stop believing?" I believe the answer is "yes." One of the examples found in the Scriptures are the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea in faith and then fell into unbelief.
Hebrews 11:1-2, 29, 39-40
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for …  By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned … [39-40] These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Thus the Israelites who crossed the Red Sea were praised for their faith at that time, but according to Hebrews 3 God brought them all to premature death in the desert for falling into unbelief. Nonetheless, the writer of Hebrews said that they would be made perfect together with us—that is they would have resurrected bodies along with us in Christ’s future kingdom.
Nevertheless I must clarify that the Bible does acknowledge people who fake faith. Judas is a prime example.
With all that said we must focus on Jesus’ main point. His most important point was that this soil is not God’s goal for anyone. For what farmer is satisfied with a plant that grows for a short time and then dies? Farmers plant seed to obtain fruit and lots of it.
Therefore, when we plant the Word of God in other people’s hearts we must we do follow-up. That is why in our door-to-door witnessing we keep returning to those who have professed faith in Christ for salvation. We desperately try to do discipleship. So are you following up with those you have shared Christ? Are there people withering on the vine you need to give water?
Now let’s move on to Jesus’ interpretation of the third soil.
The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.
Jesus continued the upward progression in the parable. The seed came to life, grew, and fruit began to grow, but didn’t come to maturity. The NASB translated the end of the verse better with the more literal rendering, "they bring no fruit to maturity." Is immature fruit the kind you want from your garden? Of course not. And this type of Christian is not what God desires. Now you may ask, "Mike, how can you say these are true Christians? They don’t have any mature fruit. Doesn’t Jesus say in Luke 3:8-9:
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
Certainly, true believers—unless they die very soon after they repent and believe—will have some measure of fruit. Fruit is a symbol for good works that follow a change of heart toward Jesus. Somewhere, somehow, and sometime the Spirit will produce some good works in a true believer’s life. Nevertheless, it is God who sees these works for sure even though we may not. And the Scriptures always tell us to put our faith in Christ and His work on the cross for our eternal salvation, not the Holy Spirit’s work.
Furthermore, I suggest that in this parable Jesus used the growth of the plants also as a symbol of spiritual life and some measure of good works. Paul used the growth of a plant as a metaphor of the Corinthian’s salvation—
1 Cor. 3:6-7 - I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
Metaphors in Scripture are not used statically—hence Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah and Satan walks about as a roaring lion. Obviously, the metaphor of a lion is used differently. Thus, Jesus used the tree without fruit metaphor, symbolizing the unsaved crowds in Luke 3, in different way than he did with this parable here in Luke 8. So, from my perspective the second person actually believed, and in the third person faith and spiritual growth are implied because the third person outgrew the second person.
Now what hindered this person’s growth? It was the thorns, which are the worries, riches and pleasures of life. The worries, riches and pleasures of life for the people of that day would have been different, but yet very similar.
Now here is a picture of my brother. If you ever want to catch a monkey all you have to do is put an orange in a bottle that has a long neck at the top. When the monkey puts his hand around the orange he can’t pull the orange through the narrow neck of the bottle. Monkeys will not let go even when their captors come to get them. And that is the way we are when we won’t let go of our worries, riches and pleasures of life to keep doing God’s Word.
The Bible has examples of believers like this. God gave Solomon more wisdom than any man. Solomon strove to please the Lord, yet when he was old—women, riches, and the worship of false gods turned his heart away from the Lord. He did not remain loyal like his father David.
Samson, a mighty judge for Israel, who made the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, yet he often entangled himself with the pleasures of the world.
Jesus said in Revelation 3 he wanted to vomit out of his mouth the church at Laodecia because of their apathy and materialism. He also said in Rev. 3:19 that He would discipline (Greek word paideuo for child train) them if they didn’t repent and become zealous for Him. Thus these Laodecians were true believers because God said in Hebrews 12 that He only child trains (paideuo) His true children.
So, are you being choked out by stuff, pleasures, or worries? What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? If we don’t repent you and I will experience the Lord’s discipline. But also from the sower’s perspective, "Are you trying to lift up other believers towards Christ and away from stuff, pleasures, and worries?"
Let’s move on to the good soil. The kind of soil God wants us to be.
Luke 8:15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Now Jesus described the ultimate goal for the seed to become fruit bearing. For people to hear the Word, believe in it, and obey it until the end of their lives. In Matthew and Mark’s account they included the details of some believers producing thirty, sixty, or a hundred times what was sown. Believers will produce varying degrees of spiritual growth and fruit. And what would a farmer want from his crop? He would want a 100 times. Not just 30 or 60. So it is with Jesus. He urges in this parable to be a hundredfold believer and to try to reproduce hundredfold believer’s.
Some biblical examples of the hundredfold type of believers are Joshua and Caleb. They wholeheartedly followed the Lord unlike the rest of the Israelites, who God brought to death prematurely in the desert. Ruth was the epitome of loyalty and courage. The Apostle Paul at the end of his life said, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
So, let’s be like them, 100 fold believers. Let’s serve like Mark and Karla Bauer serve children. Let’s be hospitable like Jim and Sue Berreth. Let’s be faithful like Bob and Gail DeGray. Let’s share the gospel like Todd and Tisha Cobbs. I could go on and on about people here from Trinity. May God’s love compel Trinity Fellowship to be hundredfold believers. May His love compel us to fill our minds with his Word, to callous our knees in prayer, to move our mouths to share the gospel, and to have our hearts cleanses with holiness. But gravity has pulled many of us down to sixtyfold, thirtyfold, or even to choked out believers, or maybe even down to fallen away believers. Today let’s turn to God, and ask His Spirit to cause us to fly and defy gravity. Let’s close with this song from Shawn McDonald. Pray it along with him in your heart.