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SOWING THE GOSPEL SEED
Intro: Of all the parables of the Lord Jesus, this is one of the most well known. It is designed to teach the truth that only a prepared heart can and will receive the Gospel message. The Gospel will come to every kind of person, but only those who are ready to receive it when it comes will be saved and produce fruit to the glory of God. Since that is true, this parable answers several questions we have regarding witnessing, preaching and why some people are saved and others are not.
We often ask, “How can a lost person hear a message like that and not be saved?” The soil of their heart was not properly prepared. Sometimes, we see people make professions of faith and then never see them again. We wonder, “Were they really saved?” Probably not! Why? They possessed unprepared soil and they produced no fruit. Others come to our altars and make a profession, then they turn around and go right back out into sin. We look at them and say “What happened? Were they saved?” No, the condition of the soil was not conducive to life! But, then there are those who hear the Gospel message, they come to Jesus and receive Him by faith. Their life changes and they serve the Lord. And, we see them and we say, “Praise the Lord! They ‘ve got the goods!” What’s the difference? The Gospel seed fell into prepared soil!
Now, the main thrust of this passage revolves around the types of soil and what is produced by each. But, in this message, I want to focus in on the sower. I want to look at this person who takes his seed, goes into his field and begins to sow. I believe there are some comparisons that can be drawn between the sower in this parable and those who take the message of the Gospel into the field of this world. As I read this and think about this thought, I believe that there is encouragement, challenge and help for all those who want to be sowers of Gospel seed. Let’s take a few minutes today to look together at this thought: Sowing The Gospel Seed.
I. V. 3 THE SOWER’S MISSION FOR THE SEED
A. The sower has one desire as he enters his field: to get his seed into the soil. He wants to plant his crop so that he can reap a harvest at the proper season.
B. I would just remind us this evening that God did not give us the Gospel just to save us. He did not give us the Gospel so that we could horde it up, keep it to ourselves and shout about the blessing we have. He did not give us the seed so that we might allow it to rot in the barn, Haggai 2:19.
C. God’s mandate to His people is that we take the seed of the Gospel into the field of the world and sow it for His glory. We are commanded to share the Gospel: Mark 16:15; Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8.
D. Is there a burden to get the Gospel into the field of the world? If there is, then honor it and go. If there isn’t, then get before the Lord and pray until He places such a burden on your heart!
II. V. 4-8 THE SOWER’S METHOD OF SOWING
A. As you read these verses, you see this sower casting his seed into the field. As he does, he casts the seed everywhere. He broadcasts it far and wide. He wants to make sure that every square inch of his field has been blanketed by the seed. He wants a big harvest, so he casts the seed everywhere!
B. Such should be the method of our sowing as well. The commands of our Lord’s commission are clear:
• We are to “Go”! Where are we to go? “Into all the world”, Mark 16:15. No place is off limits. No people group is off limits. We are to go everywhere and tell everybody! (Note: The emphasis of “Go” in both Mark 16:15 and Matt. 28:19 is “as you go”. Our going and our telling is to be a lifestyle! We are to be living epistles, proclaiming the Gospel message as we go through life, 2 Cor. 3:1-3.) (Note: This implies that we need to live the right kind of life before the world, Phil. 1:27!)
• We are to “Tell”! Mark 16:15 says “Preach”. Matt. 28:19 says “Teach”. What are we to tell a lost world? Are we to brag and boast about our church? Our preacher? Our choir? No! We are to tell a lost and dying world about the Lord Jesus Christ and what He did for sinners. We are to go into this world and we are to share the Gospel! What is our message? We are to tell them what Jesus did for sinners, 1 Cor. 15:3-4. We are to tell them what Jesus has done for us, Ill. Paul 1 Tim. 1:12-15. (Note: I don’t know what Jesus did for you, but I will never forget what He did for me! I was there when it happened! It is as fresh today as it was then. I may not understand how all of it works, but I know I am saved, and I can tell someone else how they can be too!) (Note: This thing is not just about lifestyle. It is not just about how you live. To tell something, you have to use the facility of speech. You have to open your mouth and speak! The word “preach” means “to be a herald, to publish, to proclaim.” It brings to mind images of the old town criers. We are to open our mouths and declare the truths of the Gospel!)
• We are to tell everybody - Mark 16:15, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” We ought to make sure that everyone in every circle of our lives hears the Gospel from our lips. It doesn’t matter who they are, what they do for a living, where they live, what color their skin is, etc. if they are a living, breathing human being, then they need to hear the Gospel and it is our duty to tell them! (Note: Some folks never witness because they are always waiting on the Spirit to “Move them”, or to tell them to tell somebody about Jesus. Friend, He already has! When He said “Go!”, He was talking to you! You will never find yourself on the wrong side of God by telling some lost soul about Jesus! (Ill. My daughter and her witness to a Roman Catholic priest in Mexico.))
• We are to all be involved in the going and the telling. (Ill. “Ye”, Matt. 28:19) The Gospel is a message that can be shared by children, adults and anyone in between! It isn’t just for the preachers and evangelists, but it is a command for all of God’s children. If you have been saved, then you have a message to share. Remember, sheep produce more sheep! How long has it been since you told someone else about Jesus Christ?
C. I think that the level of the harvest we receive will correspond directly to the amount of seed we sow in the field. Do you want you church to grow? Then sow! Do you want to see people saved in these altars? Then sow! Do you want to be involved in your Father’s kingdom work? Then sow the Gospel seed everywhere in all kinds of soil and He will give the increase, 1 Cor. 3:6-8.
III. V. 4-9 THE SOWER’S MEASURE OF SUCCESS
A. As we read this parable, it becomes apparent that this sower lost some of his seed. Some of it fell on soil that had been unprepared and that seed produced no fruit. Since that is true, was the sower a failure? No, he was successful in his work, because he fulfilled his mandate. His mission was to sow the seed, and that is what he did! He had no control over the soil and he had no control over the amount of fruit each plant produced. He was successful because of two truths:
1. He sowed all his seed.
2. He sowed all his field.
B. As a sower of Gospel seed, you and I are not responsible for the kind of soil our seed falls into. We cannot even judge the condition of the soil, because we cannot see into the heart of it, 1 Sam. 16:7. Three of the four soils in this parable looked good on the surface. Notice:
1. The Hard Soil - v. 4, 19 - The “wayside” refers to the narrow footpaths that ran beside and through the fields. These were the roads of the day and the soil on them had become as hard as concrete from the feet of the travelers that had walked upon them. When the seed fell on the footpath, it could not penetrate the soil and it remained there in the open, only to be devoured by the fowls of the air.
We are told that this speaks of the person who hears the Gospel, but who doesn’t “understand it”. That is, they cannot make the connection between the claims of the Gospel and their own life. Maybe they are steeped in sin and refuse to believe. Maybe they are calloused and cold toward the things of God and refuse to hear. Maybe they have hardened their hearts for years against the call of the Gospel and like a path trampled underfoot for centuries, they have become hard hearted! Whatever their need, they are hard hearted and the seed of the Gospel cannot penetrate the soil of their heart. When this happens, the devil and his minions will snatch away to Gospel seed by diverting the mind and helping the person become even more hardened against God. This person has a heart that is not prepared for a work of grace leading to salvation.
2. The Stony Soil - v. 5-6; 20-21 - These stony places are common in Palestine. Often there will be an outcropping of limestone rock covered by a thin layer of topsoil. This soil looks like it is ready to be sown. This ground looks good and productive and seed cast here will germinate and quickly spring up into a promising plant. But, because there is no depth of soil, as soon as the sun beats down on the tender plant, it withers and dies without producing any fruit.
This kind of soil speaks of that heart that makes an emotional response to the presentation of the Gospel. Perhaps this person heard the Gospel and said, “That’s what I need!” Or, perhaps they come because a friend came. Whatever their motive, they make a profession, but it is a shallow one at best. They may even show signs of life in the Lord, but when Christianity doesn’t turn out like they thought it would, they quickly fade away and disappear! They shrink away from the radical claims of Christ and the cross, Matt. 16:24. These are the people who make a profession, go like gang busters for a short time, and then wind up right back in the world. Were they saved? No! How do we know for sure? No fruit!
3. The Thorny Soil - v. 7; 22 - This soil looks like it is ready to be sown also, but underneath the surface are the living roots and seeds of thorns and weeds. When the seed falls here, it also quickly springs to life and gives every indication that a good harvest will follow. However, the same ground begins to produce the thorns and weeds that were already there and they soon choke out the tender plant. This plant withers and dies without producing any fruit at all.
This is a picture of a heart that tries to have the benefit of the Gospel while still clinging to the thorns of sin. Without a conscious break from the old life of sin this person does not have a chance of being saved. The seed of the Gospel cannot survive to produce fruit in a heart filled with other things. The seed must have the ground or sin must have the ground, but it cannot be shared! Jesus said it was the cares of the world and the quest for earthly riches that spelled disaster for this kind of soil. This kind of person begins well, but soon fades away, having their profession choked out by sin and the world. Were they saved? No! How do we know for sure? No fruit!
4. The Good Soil - v. 8; 23 - Finally, some seed fell onto good ground. This ground had been worked and prepared. It had been plowed and tilled and it was ready to receive the seed when it came. The seed germinated within the heart of the soil and the plant began to grow. When the plant reached maturity, it began to produce fruit that brought honor and gain to the farmer.
This a picture of the heart that has been plowed deeply by the Word of God. It is a picture of a heart that has been tilled and prepared by the grace of God. When the seed of the Gospel hits this kind of heart, it germinates, grows up and bears fruit to the glory of God. This heart alone pictures that kind of life that can truly call itself saved!
(Note: The only difference between these types of soil was fruit. On the hard soil, the seed never penetrated the hard ground and was carried away. On the other three soils, the seed penetrated and disappeared, but only that which fell on the good soil produced fruit! I would caution you to not get hung up on fruit bearing. If you are saved, the you will find out that “Fruit happens”. As you abide in Jesus, He will produce His fruit in your life, John 15:1-8.)
C. Sure, we may cast our seed into soil that is unprepared, but we are to cast that seed and leave the harvest in the hands of the Lord. After all, He is the “Lord of the harvest”, Matt. 9:38.
When we have sowed the Gospel seed into the field of this world, and when we have sowed the field as completely as possible, we have done all that we have been commanded to do and we can consider our work a success. What if we never lead a soul to Jesus personally? I truly think some people are sowers, some water that which has been sown and others harvest. From time to time, you may get to sow, water and harvest. At others only one of the three. Our duty is not to fret over the results. Our duty is to get out into the field and sow! God never called you to be a “soul winner”, but He has called you to sow the Gospel seed!
Conc: Did you know that there will never be a harvest unless the seed is actually sown into the ground? The farmer can have the most fertile soil, the best of seeds and the best intentions, but if he never actually gets out into the field and sows the seed, no crop will ever be produced!
Friends, we can sit here in this fine building and we can preach the Gospel, we can gather and pray for sinners, we can have the precious Word of God in our hands and in our hearts, but until we actually go into the world and tell lost, dying sinners about Jesus Christ, we will never see a harvest.
Oh, we might see one here and there saved by grace in the church, but we will never see multitudes come to Jesus until we go where they are, and we tell them about Him. May God help us to see the harvest through His eyes this evening, John 4:35-38. Whether we sow or whether we get to reap, does it matter? All that matters is fulfilling the great commission and telling a lost world about a loving Lord.