< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Matthew 13:18-23

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Matthew 13:18-23

I’m going to talk about each of the verses separately, looking at the different soil types in two ways. The first more general and then I’ll go back and show how to apply this parable to yourself.

Matthew 13:18 -19 – The wayside soil.
18Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

This is a shut mind. The people who don’t want to hear. The birds are invisible emissaries of Satan and evil who snatch away the message so that one doesn’t even realize what it was about. This hardness of the heart can be the result of pride or a gross immorality that rejects changing one’s life in the way that is necessary.

Matthew 13:21 – The stony soil.
20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.

This is the shallow mind. People who run after anything new and different. They may start with wild enthusiasm until the first difficulty or opposition or requirements for personal discipline occur.

Matthew 13:22 – The thorn congested soil
22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

This is the hearer with the overloaded heart. Again they seem to receive the seed, but their life is so full of pleasures or cares, their time so cluttered, that there isn’t time to pray or read the Bible. They may sit in church, but their mind is elsewhere. They have no energy left for a relationship with Christ.

This type of soil is the most deceptive of all. Unless our works and good deeds are fruit from our relationship with God, they are hollow.

In the book of Revelation Jesus speaks to the Ephesian church, a 2nd generation Christian church at that time, with strong leadership, both Paul and John had pastured this church. Jesus said, “I know your deeds, your hardwork and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles, but are not, and have found them false. You have preserved and endured hardship for my name and not grown weary.”

Anne Graham Lotz, in her book, “The Vision of His Glory” which is about the book of Revelation, said, “The Christians in the Ephesian church were doing many things right. As a matter of fact we have the impression they were doing many things!” She talked about visiting a mega church one time and reading the bulletin which listed aerobic classes on Monday called Jumping for Jesus, Bible studies and planning committees on Tuesday, Sunday School representative’s visits to rest homes and prisons on Wednesday, etc. etc.

She said first Jesus acknowledges their deeds. He said, “I know your deeds, your hardwork.” But, then he adds in Revelation 2:4, “Yet I hold this against you: you have forsaken your first love.”

Jesus wants our love and He wants it to stay fresh and new and strong like it was when we first became Christians. Anne says we need to ask ourselves if somewhere along the way our work for Jesus replaced our worship of Him. When we read the Bible is it just to prepare for a Sunday School lesson or Bible study? Or are we really looking to see what God has to say to us personally? Do we ever open the Bible just to hear what He has to say?

In Revelation 2:5 Jesus says, “Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first.”

Anne asks, “What were the things we did at first?” “When we were first born again?”

And she suggests we need to return to Calvary where we first realized how great the burden of our sin and guilt was and confessed it and turned it over to Christ’s cleansing. That we need to take a good long look at what it cost Him to take away our sin and bring us into a right, loving relationship with Him. To get back to our first love with Him may mean different things for each of us:

It might be daily prayer, where we talk to Him, not just hand Him our wish list.
It might be daily Bible reading, on our own, not just for an organized class or lesson.
It might be witnessing or fellowship with other believers.
And yes, it might even be church involvement.

We should also be aware that some sin or habit may have crept into our lives affecting our relationship with Christ and ask Him to show it to us and take it away as we repent.

So what are some barriers to our hearing? Let’s go back to the birds eating the seed that fell on the road. Jesus explained this as Satan taking the word before it has a chance to germinate. This is when we are distracted while listening or we have preconceived ideas. The message never registers in our brains.

The Pharisees are good examples of this. They had a preconceived idea of the Messiah; so what Jesus was, what He said and did, just didn’t register.

Do what it takes to hear, really hear, God’s Word. Sometimes it helps to not depend on 1 person or thing: a sermon by the minister. Maybe it takes; Christian radio, Christian books, Bible study too. But, we do have to spend time thinking about the message and let it change us.
Tomorrow I’ll share more about the different soil types.

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