“A Sower Went Out to Sow!”

Sermon Notes (Sunday September 27th, 2015)

Rev. Mouris Yousef, Pastor

 

A Sower Went Out to Sow!”  

Isaiah 55:10-13; Matthew 13:1-9

 

There is no doubt that Jesus was the master teacher ever lived on earth! He had the unique ability to take scenes from everyday life and use them to teach profound spiritual truths. Such is the case with the Scripture passage we have read this morning from the gospel of Matthew chapter 13. As Jesus sat by the lakeside teaching, He began to talk about an image with which everyone present was so familiar. He talked about a farmer taking seed into a field. He pictured that farmer casting the seed upon the earth. This seed fell upon the ground and landed upon differing types of soils. While some of the seed brought forth fruit, other seed did not.

 

Jesus used this very common image to invite those who heard Him to examine their lives and the condition of their hearts. God continually sows the seed of the gospel of grace in our lives. But you and I know that the soil, the human heart, must be ready and willing to receive the seed. Today and over the next three Sundays, I would like for us to investigate this parable. Jesus talked about four soils in this parable: The hard soil, the stony soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil. These four soils represent four different responses to the seed sown ~ God’s Word. As we move through this parable, I would ask you to examine your own heart to see what kind of soil you are. I do not want to rush through this important Scripture passage, therefore, each Sunday we will focus on one kind of soil, apply it to our lives as individuals and as a congregation, and see what the Spirit has to say to us. Let’s now go to the first kind of soil, the hard soil.

 

  1. The Hard Soil

The first place where the seed fell was “along the path.” In Mathew 13:3-4 Jesus said, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” In order to understand what Jesus meant here, we need to know how did they do pathways during the time of Jesus. Today we have sidewalks made of cement or concrete, but during the time of Christ they didn’t have cement or similar materials. The fields in Jesus’ day were set out in long narrow strips, and the farmers would use the ground between the strips for pathways. These pathways would eventually get beaten down from all the walking. The ground in that path was hard as rock, and no grass would grow there. With many people walking along the same path day after day, the soil will become packed and very hard, just like concrete. That’s what this path in the parable was like. The seeds just lay on top of the path, and so the birds swooped down and ate them up.

 

We do not have to speculate what did Jesus mean by the hard soil because Jesus gave the meaning in the same chapter. In Matthew 13:18-19 Jesus said, “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.” We are told here 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! Procrastination, pride and stubbornness can also lead to a hard heart. Because of sin, pride, stubbornness, and many other reasons, some people have become 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.

 

Do Not Harden Your Hearts

In Psalm 95:8-11 God says, “Today, if only you would hear His voice, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness, where your ancestors tested me; they tried me, though they had seen what I did. For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” The same message is also found in the Letter to the Hebrews chapter 3:12-15 and so many other places in the Scripture. God has issued these warnings because when our hearts are hardened, it makes it very easy for the devil to keep us from responding to the spiritual truth found in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

 

For us as believers and followers of Jesus of Nazareth, I want you today to identify one area of your life where your heart is hardened. Identify it, pray about it, and trust the transformative power of the gospel. This could be as simple as finding a time every day to read God’s Word and commune with your Heavenly Father. It could be as simple as attending church services on regular basis. It could be prioritizing Christ over every and all things. It could be following Him faithfully and closely not at a distance or occasionally. It could be just being honest with the Lord in your giving. It could be cultivating more trust in God and His plans for your life. Whatever and wherever the hardness in your life is, this is something between you and the Lord, what I would like you to do today is to acknowledge it, pray for God’s intervention, and surrender it to the Lord.

 

For us as a congregation, as the Elmer Presbyterian Church, I guess the question is: what do we do when we feel that most of the seed we scatter fall along the path and the birds of the sky eat it up? Do we stop? Do we get discouraged? Do we quit? Absolutely not! In spite of the hardness of the soil, we should not give up on witnessing to people who are insensitive to spiritual things. Even calloused people can be won to God. In St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, there is a tablet in honor of Samuel Barnett (1844-1913), an Anglican pastor who preached to the rebellious, sinful people of East London for a half-century. That was a very difficult mission field! The tablet portrays an engraved figure of the sower, with these words: “Fear not to sow on account of the birds.” Barnett learned that sowing with this kind of people is NOT just for the birds. Even hard, calloused people can be led to the Lord. For hard ground we need to keep working to soften it until in God’s timing, if He pleases, to make it a fertile and good soil. Church, let’s keep giving and never give up on our mission because we are assured that as Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is God’s word that goes out from God’s mouth: It will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish what God desires and achieves the purpose for which He sent it.”

 

Friends, as I conclude, let me ask you one more time: What is the condition of the soil in your life? Have you been hardened to the point that God’s seed can’t germinate in the hardened soil of your life? If so, would you identify the stubbornness in your life, pray for obedience and seek God’s strength to soften your heart? The way to freedom in life is through surrender ~ surrender to God’s call and God’s ways. Surrendering our will to God is the first step in developing an obedient heart. When our pride gives way to humility we experience the sheer, raw faith that grows into maturity and bears much fruit. May God give us a new heart and put a new spirit in us. May God remove from us our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh. In the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!

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