“Taking Responsibility” – notes on sermon preached 10 April 2011 at Poole Christian Fellowship
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Jesus is on His preaching tour accompanied by the twelve and others, including many women.
As He is observing the crowd gathering he tells those who can hear Him the Parable of the Sower – one of the best known stories in the world. It is interesting to note that Jesus appears to be well aware that what He says will not be accessible to most of His hearers. There are some things that are only for Jesus’ disciples, and there are some things that he says to the masses. This is one of the stories that are primarily for those who belong to Jesus.
The challenge to us is: will we take responsibility for our response to the word of God that is fed to us? The main assertion in the talk today is that God wants us to take responsibility for the way in which we respond to the word of God, and that that response will impact our present and eternal destiny and well-being.
As Jesus says: “Consider carefully how you listen”
1. The Seed
A parable is not an allegory in which every aspect of the story relates to something else. It is a story usually telling a single point. But there are metaphors for us to note. Here, the seed refers to the word of God. We have to understand that the means the Holy Spirit uses to achieve His aims on earth is His word. In Genesis 1 the Spirit of God was hovering over the water, but nothing happened until the word of God was released on the situation. As charismatic evangelicals we believe in both the Word and Spirit. Jesus achieves things in His world by His word. Therefore “consider carefully how you listen”.
You are not responsible for the quality of preaching that you hear, but you are responsible for how you respond to it.
There is no shortage for us today of opportunities for us to hear the word of god – from preaching to books to CDs and DVDs to online sermons and conferences.
2. The Sower
The one who puts the seed into the ground is none other than Jesus. Like every marketing campaign, Jesus does His work by indiscriminately sowing the seed – not where it will have most impact, but wherever it is needed. Jesus gives every man woman and child the opportunity to respond to the Gospel . They have to take full responsibility for the way in which they have responded. And those who have trampled it underfoot will have to face Jesus to account for it.
For those of us who are believers there is another responsibility. We are now the arms and legs, eyes and ears of Jesus. Are we taking hold of our responsibility to share the word of Jesus wherever we go?
3. The Soil
This is the heart of the message that we are looking at today. What Jesus is pointing out here is that the outcome of sharing the word is determined by the nature of the soil that it lands on. The word will do its work, but ultimately the effectiveness of the work of God is dependent on the soil – not on the preacher, the culture, the family- but the nature of the soil. You are that soil. What kind of soil are you?
Jesus splits the types of soil into four
- Not Believing – here the word falls on the path – somewhere where it can never be fruitful. It is trampled on and is totally ineffective as seed. For believers the challenge is to keep sowing. We are not responsible for the quality of the soil, but we are responsible to keep on sowing.
- Not continuing – here the word falls on stony ground. We do not know whether or these people have truly entered the kingdom of God. What we do know is that they believe for a while, but then come tests. Every new Christian has their faith tested and the sad reality is that there will be some for whom the cost of following Jesus, which comes to light when there is a test, is just too much and they do not continue. There is little that is more demoralising in Christian ministry than when this happens. But Jesus warns us ahead of time.
- Not persevering – here are people who become Christians and seem to start off very well. However the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, and it is where you finish, not how you run the first mile that counts. By the end of the race these people are down and out. So what has gone wrong?
What has happened is that as they go along the seed is “choked” by life’s worries, riches and pleasures. Not that Jesus is saying here, or indeed anywhere that there is anything wrong with any of these. The problem comes when they stop God’s word from having an effect in our lives. Worries will come – but we can choose how to respond to them. All of us have experienced something of life’s riches, or pleasures – but how so we respond to them? Elsewhere Jesus talks about making sure that everything in our life comes under His Lordship – “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his Father and Mother…even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” These are awesome words! Only wholehearted submission to Jesus is consistent with Christian discipleship.
4.Not giving up – the fourth category are the people who keep going, they hear God’s word, they feed on it and they never give up in applying it. Note the use of the word “by persevering”. It is those who persevere through difficulties, through trials and through discouragements that please God.
The overall picture is clear. The effect of the word of God is determined by the ground on which it falls. You are that ground. How do you respond?
4. The Sting in the Tail
David Pawson says that a parable is like a scorpion – it has a sting in the tail! That is certainly true of this parable.
Jesus talks firstly about the lamp that is put under the bed – an extraordinary picture. Surely it is saying that a lamp put under a bed is pointless. In the same way a Christian who does not persevere in obeying God is pointless – like salt without its saltiness.
Jesus then changes the application of the picture to point out that everything that is hidden will be brought out into the open. When we choose to not continue in obedience to Jesus we are very good at justifying it. But Jesus brings everything out into the open. There will be a day when every believer will stand before the judgement seat of Christ and give account for the things done in this life. What an awesome experience that will be! Jesus says “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open”
Excuses on that day will be pointless.
And there will be consequences:
“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”
Those who have persevered in the word of God will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings, and those who have not…well Paul describes them in 1 Corinthians as those who are saved “through fire”
What will be Jesus verdict on our lives, and how will he deal with us on that day. It will depend on the way in which you have taken responsibility for your response to the word of God.
So Jesus, with great seriousness says “Consider carefully how you listen”.
5. The Surprise visit
In the middle of Jesus preaching there is an interruption. Jesus mother and brothers and sisters are there! As He often does, Jesus uses the circumstance to teach a key lesson. It is not being related to Jesus that will determine you eternal blessing, but your response to God’s word. It is those who obey Jesus and His teaching who are the true relatives of Jesus.
So finally, how are we to respond to the parable of the Sower. Well, it depends upon what kind of soil you are:
Are you like the path – you have trampled on the word of God and rejected it? There is still opportunity today to hear the word of God and respond to it.
Are you like the stony ground – you once heard the word of God, but it only lasted a short time? There is the chance today to come back to Jesus and respond to his word.
Are you like the thorny ground – you are a believer – but the fruit has been choked by life. Those people were those who made up the church in Laodacea that Jesus spoke so firmly to. He accused them of being neither hot nor cold, and threatened to vomit them out of His mouth. However that passage, intimidating though it is, contains a marvellous promise. To those who choose to re-commit their lives to him Jesus says “I will come in and eat with him and he with me” What a wonderful promise to the backslider.
Or are you the fruitful ground – with a lifetime of hearing God and obeying Him? Obviously you are not perfect, but you have persevered and kept the faith. The encouragement to you is to keep persevering. As we close consider the words of one who persevered right to the end and determine that it will be your choice to continue to the very end.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. “
Let’s take responsibility for the way in which we respond to the word of God and pray that those thoughts of the apostle Paul will be true for us too.