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Matt. 13:1-9; 18-23
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR HEART?
"A buddy and I were assigned to a boxcar. Inside were human corpses stacked in neat rows, exactly like firewood. The Germans, ever meticulous, had planned out the rows, alternating the heads and the feet, accommodating the different sizes and shapes of bodies. Our job was like moving furniture. We would pick up each body--so light--and carry it to a designated area.
"Some fellows couldn't do this part. They stood by the barbed wire fences retching. I couldn't believe it the first time we came across a person in the pile still alive! But it was true. Incredibly, some of the corpses weren't corpses. They were human beings. We yelled for doctors and they went to work on these survivors right away.
"I spent two hours in that boxcar; two hours that for me included every known emotion: rage, shame, pity, revulsion. Every negative emotion, I should say. They came in waves...all but the rage...it stayed, fueling our work.
"After we had taken the few survivors to a makeshift clinic, we turned our attention to the Nazis: the SS officers in charge of Dachau. Our captain asked for a volunteer to escort a group of a dozen SS officers to the interrogation center, and a guy named Chuck...his hand shot right up. Chuck claimed to have worked for Al Capone before the war, and not one of us doubted it.
"Well, Chuck grabbed his machine gun and prodded the group of SS prisoners down the trail. They walked ahead of him with their hands locked behind their heads, their elbows sticking out on either side. A few minutes after they disappeared into the trees, we heard the rattling burp of a machine gun and three long bursts of fire.
"Soon Chuck came strolling out, smoke still curling for the tip of his weapon. 'They all tried to run away,' he said with a kind of leer.
"It was that day that I felt called by God to become a pastor. First, there was the horror of the corpses in the boxcar: I could not absorb such a scene. I did not even know that such absolute evil existed! But when I saw it, I knew beyond a doubt that I'd spend my life serving whatever opposed such evil...serving God. Then came the Chuck incident. I had a nauseating fear that the captain might call upon me to escort the next group of SS guards; and even a more dreadful fear that if he did, I might do the same thing that Chuck had done! The beast that was in those guards was also in me. The beast within those guards, the beast within Chuck, the beast was also in me."
[Descending Into Greatness by Bill Hybels, Zondervan, 1993. Pages 144-145.]
Phillip Yancey understood something that many people never quite get. He understood the fact that his heart was wicked and full of all manner of evil. Men can't quite grasp this despite the clear teachings of the Bible. In Jeremiah 17:9, God tells us the absolute truth about our wicked hearts. Notice, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Even though few men ever grasp the awful reality of their heart's condition. God already knows all about it. He tells us this in Jeremiah 17:10, "I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." He knows everything there is to know about us. And, as one reads this Parable of the Sower, it becomes clear that this is one of the lessons that can be gleaned from this passage.
You see, Jesus knows you heart! The question for you is this, "How well do you know your own heart?" In the course of this message, the Word of God will speak to every person in this building today. God will reveal to you your condition before Him and He will tell you what to do if things are found to be lacking. There may be many things about yourself and your life that you do not know, but you need to know the condition of your heart! It is the most important information you will ever learn about yourself. Please, allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you today as we ask, and answer this question, "How well do you know your heart?"
I. V. 3 A SOWER
(In the work of the Sower, there are three lessons that become clear.)
A. There Is A Lesson In Devotion - The Sower must be absolutely dedicated to his work. He knows that if he doesn't sow, there will be no harvest. In the work of the Kingdom, it is imperative that those who sow the Gospel seed be devoted to the work. Without witnesses, there will be no harvest - Rom. 10:13-17!
(Ill. There is a desperate lack of good, devoted witnesses who are willing to go out and sow the seed of the Gospel! Notice, this man sowed as he "went forth." When was the last time you went forth in the spirit of Psalm 126:6, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."?)
B. There Is A Lesson In Discipline - The Sower must discipline himself to the work of sowing. There will be days when he doesn't feel like going into the field, but he goes anyway. He knows that without him going forth and sowing that the field will never become the harvest.
(Ill. We can sit here in the church while the world goes to Hell and act as if we do not care. But there will come a day of reckoning before the Lord and there will be an accounting if the seed is found to be still in the barn! Hag. 2:19a, "Is the seed yet in the barn?")
C. There Is A Lesson In Discouragement - As the Sower scattered his seed, he must have known that only about 25% would grow up to bear fruit. Yet, he continued to go forth and sow the seed. The Sower knew that even though 75% of his seed would never bear fruit, he had to sow it anyway. Else, the harvest would never be! Our duty in the church is to go forth and obey the Lord's command to spread the Gospel, Matt. 28:19-20. Growing the church is the Lord's obligation. If we will do our part and sow, He will do His part and bring the harvest in its time! (Ill. 1 Cor. 3:6) By the way, sowing isn't just for the preachers and other paid workers. Every Christian is to be a sower of the Good News - Matt. 4:19; Acts 1:8.
II. V. 4 SOME SEED
(Ill. There are three quick lessons to notice about the seed.)
A. Its Worth - The seed is the Gospel, Luke 8:11. When we go forth and bear the precious seed of the Gospel, we are caring the most important message the world has ever heard. It is a living, powerful message! It is a message that the world needs to hear!
B. Its Weight - The message of the Gospel has tremendous power! Just as seed can transform a barren field into a place of live and blessing, the Gospel can transform a dead and dry life into something that can bless men and glorify God. Anyone who hears the Gospel and meets the Master will be forever changed - Ill. Bartimaeus, Zaccheaus, the 10th leper, Paul/Saul, Alan Carr, etc.)
C. Its Work - When the Gospel seed lands in good soil, it will do it work! It will change every life it touches! By the way, it will work the same for every man!
III. V. 4-8 DIFFERENT SOILS
(Here is where we get to the heart of the message and the heart of the message is a message about the heart. One of these soils mentioned represents your heart. You are on display here in the Word of God)
A. V. 4, 19 Hard Soil - As the Sower sowed, some of his seed fell on the hard packed pathway. This seed was never allowed to get into the ground where it could germinate. It lay there exposed and was eventually carried away by the fowls of the air.
(Ill. The picture here is of that person who hears the Word of God, but refuses to allow that Word access into his heart. It isn't that this person can't receive the message, rather, it is that he won't! He has hardened his heart against the call of God for repentance and salvation. And, just like the birds in the parable, Satan is more than willing to help this person go forward in their hardness by stealing away the unheeded Word from their hearts.)
(Ill. This is a very serious condition in which to find yourself! A heart that is hardened against the Gospel is a heart that, if unchanged, will eventually find itself in Hell! God's advise to the hard hearted is this: "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." Hosea 10:12. If you have allowed your heart to become hard, please listen afresh to the call of Jesus. He loves you and died for you. He desires, more than anything, for you to be saved. If you will open your heart to Him, He will give you eternal life and He will save your soul, washing every sin away forever! Are you hard hearted this morning?)
(Ill. This type of life produces no fruit! The hard hearted person is not a child of God!)
B. V. 5-6, 20-21 The Rocky Soil - This is soil that is shallow and filled with rocks. There is no depth here. The seeds fall on the shallow, rocky soil and quickly germinate. However, before they can produce fruit, the sun beats down upon them and because there are no roots which can tap into a source of life, they die.
(Ill. This type of soil pictures the heart of a person who hears the Gospel, understands it and desires the benefit of it, yet they are shallow in their commitment and never truly believe unto salvation. It seems that they respond not out of conviction, but from some other motive. Perhaps it is a desire to belong, or just wanting to bear the name of Jesus supposing that it brings some benefit or the other. Whatever the motive or reason, the results are the same! When the sun rises, that is when persecution or trouble comes into this person's life, he/she will flee from their profession and will go back to the world. Sometimes, there will a call to sacrifice or to follow Jesus without reservation and this type heart cannot stand the heat. The false professor will then wither away and drop out. This seed never produced any fruit and without fruit, there is no salvation.)
Ill. This is a common event! There are many who start out gung ho, but never make it to first base. The reason? They never really got saved! My friends, you can't tell how much gas is in the tank by how loud the horn honks!)
C. V. 7, 22 Thorny Soil - This is soil that is unprepared for seed and is covered with weeds. There is ground here, and the seed is received and germinates, but as soon as the plant begins to grow, the weeds overpower the plant and destroy it.
(Ill. This soil represents the type of heart that responds to the Gospel in a positive manner and gives every indication that it is sincere and valid. However, it isn't long until the desires of the flesh or the cares of the world cause this person to turn from their profession and to return to the world they were to leave behind. This is the type of person who claims Christ, but demonstrates no change of life. Again, this is a life of an unbeliever, there is absolutely no fruit being produced for God!)
(Ill. There are many all around us, many who have passed through this altar who fit this profile. They come in, come down, make a profession and than they hang around fro a while, but after a time, you look around and they are gone. It becomes abundantly clear that they love the world, our their pleasure, or their money, or their freedom, whatever their excuse is, more than they have ever loved God. In truth, they do not and cannot love God because they do not know Him. They are still dead in trespasses and sins and a dead heart loves only dead things!)
D. V. 8, 23 Good Soil - This is soil that has been broken up, plowed under and tilled in preparation for the seed. When the seed lands in this type of soil, it finds a fertile place in which to germinate. There are no hard spots, they have all been broken apart. There are no rocks, they have been removed and the soil is deep. There are no weeds, they too have been plowed away in readiness for the coming of the seed. When the seed germinates here, it produces a plant that grows strong and one which in the end, produces abundant fruit. This is the kind of soil every farmer longs to plant his crop in.
(Ill. This soil represents that person who's heart is soft and yielding to the call of the Spirit of God. This heart has seen the vanity of riches and the flesh life. This heart responds because it wants to be right with God. It comes because it knows it is wrong and the only way to be right is to yield to God. When the Gospel enters this heart, there is a life change and there is an amazing difference. This life produces fruit in abundance. This is the life of a saved individual!)
(Ill. Does this type of soil picture what your life is like? Are you truly saved today? Now, I am not trying to make anyone doubt their salvation, but I am trying to get you to be absolutely certain of where you stand before the Lord. Are you good soil today?)
(Ill. I have spoken about bearing spiritual fruit today. Now you may wonder what spiritual fruit is. If you are really saved, there will be some things that will be evident in your life. Notice, v. 23, not all plants yielded the same amount of fruit. Some were far more abundant than other, but the point is, that all of them were fruitful to one degree or another.)
(Ill. This is an encouragement to the sower! Of the 25% that bore fruit, all of it was abundant! 30 fold is a 3,000% increase, 60 fold is 6,000% and 100 fold is 10,000%. What this tells the sower is that if we will do our little part. Just sow as we go and scatter Gospel seed everywhere, God will take that effort and will produce a harvest that only eternity itself will begin to unfold for us! (Ill. One corn seed can grow a plant that will bear thousands.) Therefore, go with the Gospel and share it joyfully with a lost and dying world!)
(Ill. Let me say a word about the reason for all this talk about fruit be so important to proving our salvation. Notice the words of Jesus - Matt. 7:16-20. What kind of fruit will a Christian produce?
1. A Changed Life - 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:7, 13
2. Righteousness - Heb. 12:11; James 3:18
3. The Fruit of the Spirit - Gal. 5:22-23
4. Praise unto the Lord - Heb. 13:15; Rom. 8:15
5. Reproduction - (Ill. The law "after his own kind" introduced in Genesis 1:11-12. The saint of God will reproduce!
The bottom line is this: If there is no fruit, there is no salvation! Is your life bearing fruit for the glory of the Lord.
Conc: Have you had a glimpse of your heart today? What kind soil are you? If you have allowed you heart to become calloused and hard, then you need to let God do His work in your life. If you have made a shallow profession in the past, but have never brought forth fruit and you know you are still lost, then come to Jesus and receive Him into your heart. If you made a profession and never really turned lose of the world or the flesh and you stopped short of a total commitment to Jesus, now is the time to come to Him and get that settled today. If you are found to be good soil, then rejoice in the saving grace of Jesus and come before Him with a thankful and grateful heart this morning. However God has dealt with you, I encourage you to respond to His call. He will meet your need today. How well do you know your heart?