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The Parable of the Sower: the application

Matthew 13:18-23, Mark 4:14-20, Luke 8:11-25

Luke puts it plainly and clearly, “The seed is the word of God.”

The beginning of all things was the Word of God (Genesis 1:3; God spoke and it was) and the end of all things will be the same Word; when we each will stand before His throne and hear either, “Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” or “Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:34 & 41).

 For me the power of God’s word is wrapped up in two parts of Scripture. Firstly in Genesis 1 where He spoke and it was and then in Psalm 119, especially verses 9 and 11. In this psalm David states that the Word (in us) will keep us from sin. When you realise just how much hold sin currently has on us, you will begin to understand the true power of God’s word.

What a brilliant analogy a seed is to the Word. In the same way as a seed (in the right conditions) naturally just grows, our understanding of The Word and thus a relationship with God will grow too. We need simply read and meditate on it, or more correctly put, on Him (John 1:14). All we need to do is draw near to Him and He will give the increase (James 4:8).

This leads to the next point. What is the condition of my heart? Not the fleshy muscle that keeps me alive, pumping the blood through my veins, but the attitude of my will and character; to what are my thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections or purposes aligned?

In this parable, Christ compares people to different types of soil.

First the hard soil; even though Matthew compares this to a person who has no understanding, the imagery of hard soil also reinforces the idea of a stubborn heart. While hearing this Word, this person stubbornly resists it, hardening their heart and thereby gives Satan the opportunity to steal the Truth from them. In reality rather than having the Truth stolen from them, the person willingly surrenders it to Satan who then “takes it away” (Luke 8:12). In short, they reject the Truth that was sown in their very heart.

Why this is so sad is because there is no reason why anyone should not understand. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that God is not willing that any should perish. And Jeremiah 29:13 says that if we seek Him, we will find Him. The whole heart and desire of God is for all mankind to be able to find their way back to Him. At the very least, God reveals Himself to all people through nature, making all without excuse when it comes to knowledge of Him (Romans 1:20).

On to the shallow, stony ground; this speaks of a shallow relationship with the Lord. Once again I see the stony part referring to stubbornness or harness of heat. Here God’s Word is received with joy and it almost appears that there is resulting growth but with temptation, hardship or persecution the hearer rejects the Word and departs from Its direction. Matthew and Mark take it one step further by saying that the hearer is actually offended by the very Word that they initially received with gladness. How often don’t I have the same attitude? When hardships happen in life may my actions (or words) not declare that God’s word is insufficient, or untrue. May my heart not be hardened so that I turn around and say, “This is not for me” or “God is not fair”. Luke states that this attitude will result in me falling away.

It’s so easy to dwell or quote my past experiences but it’s not the past the matters, rather it’s the here and now. Hebrews 3:14 says that me must “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end”. And then in verse 15 goes on to say that “today”, we must not harden our hearts. It’s how we end the race the matters and not how we start it (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Revelation chapters 2 and 3 refer a number of times to “him that overcometh”. While salvation is in and through Christ alone, I can only enter into its fullness if I “endure unto the end” (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13). As far as those difficult applications of God’s word into my life goes, I need to allow Christ to break and then rebuild me, rather than land up being destroyed (Luke 20:18).

The third soil is one infested with thorns. What is interesting here is that while this person hears the Word, there is no reference of them receiving it. Instead maintaining their focus on their own desires for wealth and happiness, they continue on their way directed by the cares and stresses of life. No attention is paid to what the Word says. To all intents and purposes they may as well not have even listened. Going through the motions of prayer, reading the Bible and attending Church are nothing more than vain, repetitive religious exercises if I am not going to take notice of what they minister into my life and then live accordingly. Listening might fool the preacher but it won’t fool God.

The final soil is the type of person that I need to be. I need to hear God’s word, understand it, apply it and then allow the fruit of it to work itself out in my life. Luke adds that we need to bring forth fruit with “patience” which implies an on-going continuance (even when times are tough). What is encouraging is that the focus in all three gospels in not on the quantity but rather the action of bearing fruit. While I should desire to bring forth “much fruit” (John 15:5 & 8), a fruit tree doesn’t plan for a particular crop. Rather based on the nutrients it has received and the condition of soil in which it grows, it simply bears as much as it can.

So what part of “bearing fruit” is dependent on me? Well nothing really. Outside of Christ there exists no good thing in me (Roman 7:18); nothing producing life and nothing acceptable to a pure and Holy God. Fortunately in Christ we are new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is not the case for all people but only those “in Christ”, those who have confessed with their mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). So while God will tend me, keep me and bring the increase in my life, I have the responsibility of letting my roots draw deep from Him, of submitting to His pruning and direction for my life. And the fruit that comes forth from my life will declare plainly to all where my roots are drawing from. This is illustrated best by Acts 4:13, (“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus”) and begs the question, “Who am I spending time with and how much time is that?”.

Two things are not only clear to me from this parable but also challenge me:

  1. There is no half-measure when serving Christ. I am either for Him or against Him.
  2. The fruit of my life will confirm or invalidate my confessions.