Sermon from May 29th, 2016

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“In the Footsteps of the Master #9 - The Parable of the Ready Heart”

Psalm 95; Mark 4:1-20

By Pastor John Bent

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Sermon Text
Good morning! Its Memorial Day weekend. First, a little civics lesson. Memorial Day is set aside to remember and thank God for the men and women who have died in defense of our country. Veterans Day on Nov 11th celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Let’s pray: “Lord, our battle with evil in this world is unending. It is never easy. It’s never cheap. Thank you Lord for those who have given their lives to preserve the freedoms we so easily take for granted. And thank you for your faithful saints who continue to give their lives for the Gospel. In Jesus name, AMEN”

Today we continue our journey “In the Footsteps of the Master”. Let’s open our Bibles to Mark 4. One of the unique aspects of Jesus’ teaching was his use of parables.  Parables are illustrations, stories taken from daily life that Jesus used to make a point. Sometimes the meaning was crystal clear, other times, not so clear, but in every case, Jesus’ parables made his listeners think, ponder, wrestle with where they fit into the story.

Parables are best understood if we pay attention to the context in which Jesus told them. For example, the context for today’s parable is in chapter 3 where the religious leaders accuse Jesus of being a servant of Satan even though Jesus has clearly been doing miracles of love, grace, healing that only God could do.

The editors of the NIV called this the Parable of the Sower. It’s also been called the Parable of the Soils, I’m calling it the Parable of the Ready Heart. Are you ready to hear God’s Word?

“Listen! 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. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Mk 4:3-6

Whether you are a farmer or not, you can understand what Jesus is saying here.

The parable continues “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain.” Mk 4:7  How many of you grew up hoeing weeds in your mother’s garden? Did you love the job?  Me either! I had a hard time believing those weeds were as big a threat as my mom seemed to think they were.  Maybe she knew something I didn’t.
She told me that God had given her the job of hoeing the weeds out of me. As I look back, as painful as that was, I’m thankful for her diligence in doing that. Jesus continues… “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” Then Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Mk 4:8-9

We were created to be good soil and produce good fruit that matters for eternity. But we have an enemy whose purpose is to vandalize the garden and stunt our productivity.

Let’s keep reading. “When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” Mk 4:9-12

Whoa!  That sounds pretty harsh!  What’s this about?  Remember Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. So we have to interpret this in light of the rest of Scripture. The secret of the kingdom is Jesus and God’s plan of salvation that will be accomplished through his death on the cross for us.

So why doesn’t Jesus reveal this to those who are opposing him? You don’t reveal your game plan to your opponent lest they use that information against you. If the people listening to you are only listening so that can turn your words around and attack, you’re better off being quiet. Jesus said, “Don’t throw your pearls before swine.”

There are times when we must wait for the teachable moment when the soil of the heart is plowed, broken, prepared and ready to hear. Good teachers know this, so do good parents.  In this parable, Jesus is the sower, his Word is the seed, and our heart is the soil. Are we ready and willing to receive his Word and allow it to sprout and grow within us?

In vs 14, Jesus explains the parable to those whose hearts are ready. “The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” Mk 4:14-15

 The men’s Bible study was working on this parable last Tuesday morning when one of the guys said, “The path is hard, it’s packed down by the feet of the crowd. When we follow the crowd, there’s no chance for God’s Word to take root and Satan can easily come and snatch it away.”
Good point! It sounds like Jesus’ parable of the wide road and the narrow road. There’s no way God’s word can take root in our hearts if we refuse to leave the packed down crowded pathways of this world. Would you agree? There’s a reason God calls us apart to a place like this to hear his Word!

Jesus explains the second soil type. “Others are like seed sown on rocky places. They hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble of persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Mk 4:16-17

Sometimes the trauma, the mistakes, the shameful circumstances of our past are can make our hearts like this rocky soil.  These things from the past can prevent God’s word from taking root in our hearts.
The good news is God specializes in picking rocks, breaking up hard pan, fertilizing and sweeting the soil so that his Word can grow in our hearts. Jesus came and died on the cross so that our lives could become fruitful, full of joy, abundance. That’s good news!

 The third soil type involves the weeds.  “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth, and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Mk 4:19

This may be the most destructive issue for Christians in America today.  There is so much competition for our time, talent, treasure. Families and kids are faced with so many opportunities that the Lord and growing in His Word is getting choked out of our lives.

Researchers have found that regular worship for a family used to mean attending church 3-4 times a month. Today, regular worship for the average family has declined to 1.5 times a month. We have the appearance of being religious, but little fruit is being produced.

The word of God is slowly being choked out by things that can never produce any eternal fruit in our lives. The Lord doesn’t take a vacation from us, so why should we “take a vacation” from Him and his Word? Why allow the world to crowd him out of our lives?

We need to take a stand against Satan’s ploy to starve the spiritual life out of God’s people. This won’t be popular. But taking a stand against the flow of the culture has never been popular. Jesus challenged us to take the narrow road, not the wide road.  Why? 

It’s not just for us!  It’s for our children and grandchildren. If we want good fruit to be produced in our lives, in the lives of our kids, we need to make some decisions.
Camping is good, fishing is good, kid’s sports are good, but when these things begin to crowd out the Lord and the spiritual nutrition of his Word that isn’t good. The reality is we must continually be about the task of weeding out the competition for the Lord’s place in our lives if we expect to be spiritual healthy and productive. We will be in this battle as long as we live in this world. Do you understand what I’m saying here?

Jesus ends his interpretation of this parable in vs 20.  “Others, like seed sown on the good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop- thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” Mk 4:20

Last year, I was cleaning my basement when I ran across a 1st place bowling trophy from 1979. Once upon a time, that piece of plastic was important to me.  But on the day I leave this earth it will mean nothing. So finally after 30 years, I tossed it in the trash.

What will matter on the day I leave this world is that I spent my life allowing the Lord to plow me deeply, pick out the rocks, prepare the soil, and plant the seed of His Word in me. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. My purpose is that you bear much fruit, abundant fruit, eternal fruit, fruit that will last.” John 15

Not everyone who hears the Word of God responds to it. Why? That’s God’s business. Billy Graham knew all these soil types were present at every crusade, but he prayed that God would prepare the hearts of those who came to be good soil, receptive to God’s Word.

Do you have a ready heart this morning?  Are you receptive to his Word? Are willing for the Lord to pick the rocks, pull the weeds and plow you deeply? Are you willing to become good soil? It will be painful! Are you ready for the Lord to plant his word deep within you so he can produce a crop that will last for eternity?  That’s the true purpose of your life.

Grace will you and the praise team come up and lead us again in this hymn, “Lord, let my heart be good soil.” If this is your prayer I ask you to stand, open your hands and make this the prayer of your heart this morning and every day for the rest of your life…

Christ Lutheran Church • 5150 River Lakes Parkway, Whitefish, MT 59937 • 406-862-2615

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