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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Prescription For A Healthy Heart

Robert Jeffress - Prescription For A Healthy Heart

Robert Jeffress - Prescription For A Healthy Heart
TOPICS: Parables of Jesus, Heart

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Whenever you share the gospel with somebody, there's no predicting how they're going to respond. Some people welcome Jesus with open arms, while others flat out reject him. Why do people react so differently to the same message? Today, we're going to learn an important lesson about the Kingdom of God from the parable of the sower. My message is titled, "Prescription For a Healthy Heart", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

One thing we preachers learn very quickly, is the power of a good story. In fact, we often learn the lesson that long after people forget the sermon, they remember the stories in the sermon. They remember that more than they do the sermon points. It's been more than a month, and I'm still getting letters about my cat story. People remember those stories very, very well. Jesus understood the power of stories, which is why he told them in such number. Of course, the stories he told were called parables. And today, in our study of the life of Christ as told by Luke. We have come to the first of the parables that Jesus told. And it's a story that answers a question, perhaps you have wondered about. Why doesn't everyone who hears the gospel, respond to the gospel? Or put another way, why is it you can have two people listening to the same message from God's word, one responds enthusiastically to that message and the other turns away from that message? Well, Jesus answers the story in the first parable we're going to look at today.

If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Luke 8, as we look at Jesus' prescription for a healthy heart. Now, since this is the first of the parables we're going to look at, it might be helpful to remember a few things about parables. First of all, the definition of a parable. The word parable comes from a Greek word that means to lay alongside of. A parable is an earthly story, a story from everyday experience, that Jesus lays alongside a deep spiritual truth, to illustrate that truth. Now, there are four characteristics of parables that will help you understand them when you read them. First of all, parables teach only one truth. Now, if you remember your English classes, allegories. Remember an allegory? An allegory was a story where everything in the story represented something else. Every person had a symbolic meaning. Every object, the door, you know, the grass, whatever, had a special meaning. That's not true in parables. There's only one truth that a parable teaches.

Number two, parables must be understood in the terms of the culture. Parables have to be understood in terms of the culture. As we go through Luke's gospel and read some of these stories, they're going to just seem plain weird to us, or they seem unfair. They're strange. And the reason they seem strange to us is because we're reading these stories through the western 21st century mindset. We have to travel back in time to understand the culture in which these were written. As one writer says, "We need to be able to smell the aroma of the Jewish villages". We need to feel the dust of the Galilean roads, as we try to understand what Jesus is teaching.

Number three, and this is key, parables are meant to both clarify and obscure God's truth. You know, I hear people say, "Well, you know since Jesus told so many stories, pastor, you need to tell more stories. We need to hear more stories, because stories help us understand God's truth". Well, as we're going to see, Jesus did use parables to clarify God's truth for some people, but he actually used parables to also obscure or hide God's truth from other people. Jesus isn't trying to make God's word clear to everyone, only to some people. You say, "Well, now, that sounds kind of strange". Well listen to what Jesus himself said. After telling the story we're going to look at in just a moment.

Notice in Luke 8:9, the disciples begin questioning him as to what this story, this parable might be. And Jesus answered, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God, but the rest it is in parables in order that," and then he quotes from Isaiah, "Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand". This first parable occurred at a very critical time in Jesus' ministry. The Jewish leaders had rejected Jesus as Messiah. They were plotting to destroy him. And so, Jesus is now speaking this truth only to those whose hearts are receptive. Jesus uses parables to actually hide God's truth from those who have rejected his truth already.

And number four, parables must be read in context. Each one of these stories can't be ripped out and looked at on its own, it has to be looked at in context. Parables were given to illustrate a certain spiritual truth or to answer a specific question, and that' certainly true about this first parable. You've turned to Luke 8. Let's remind ourselves of the context of Luke 8. Look at verse 10 again, "And Jesus said, 'to you, disciples, it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of God'". Jesus told this parable to illustrate one of the mysteries about the Kingdom of God. The majority of people will not respond to this offer of the kingdom, but some will.

And that brings up the question, why do some people respond to God's word, and other people reject it? That's the story that Jesus was going to tell about the Kingdom of God. By the way, don't you wonder that same question? Why doesn't everybody respond to God's word in the same way? Well, Jesus answers that story in this parable we call the parable of the soils. Look at verse five. "The sower went out to sow his seed". Now again, that seems strange to us. We're not used to this, but remember, this was an agricultural culture in which Jesus spoke this story. And in Jesus' day, if you wanted to plant seed, you didn't buy a machine from John Deere tractor to do the seed spreading, individuals would do it. They would place a nap sack around their shoulder filled with seed and the sower would walk up and down the rows of soil and just casting the seed, spreading as much of it as he can, as widely as possible. That is what the sower did. And the sower, as much seed as he scattered, the seed fell on four different types of soil, Jesus said.

Notice what he says in verse five. First of all, some of the seed that the sower spread fell on the hard soil. This was the soil closest to the sower's feet. This was the soil that had become very hardened and compacted, almost like asphalt, by the constant pounding of human foot traffic. And so, when the sower's seed fell on this hard soil, the seed couldn't penetrate the soil. It would just lie on top of it and the birds would soon come, and they would eat that seed. It was a nice breakfast or brunch for them. They were happy to see it, because it had not yet penetrated the soil. This was the seed that never took root. And then some of the seed that the sower spread, spread on a second kind of soil, the thin soil. Look at verse six. "And other seed fell on rocky soil".

Now, underneath the top soil in Israel, there is a layer of hard limestone, and many cases that limestone is several inches, just several inches beneath the top soil. So in this instance, the seed would fall on the soil. The soil was loose. It would take root in the soil, but when the seed began to grow roots, the roots would press against that limestone and they couldn't go deep. And because the plant had nowhere else to go, it would go upward above the soil, and many times this plant would be the first to bloom and it would produce foliage that was more brilliant and larger than the rest of the plants. That sounds good, right? But when the hot sun came out, this plant was the first to whither away. Why? Because it had not developed a deep root system that could derive the nutrients and moisture it needed from the soil. That's what happened. "As soon as this grew up, it withered away because it had no moisture".

The third kind of soil Jesus mentioned, was the weed infested soil. "And other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out". Here is seed that falls on soil that is loose. It is deep. It starts to take root and grow a root system, but as soon as it begins to grow that root system, it is strangled out by a vast network of weeds underneath the soil, that have been there long before the plant ever took root. And these weeds overpower the roots and they strangled the life out of the plant. Finally, there is the good soil. Verse eight, "And the other seed fell into the good soil and grew up and produced a crop 100 times as great". Here is seed that falls on what Jesus called the good soil. It is loose, not hard. It is deep, not thin. It is free from the infestation of weeds. It grows deep roots and as a result it produces fruit 100 times as great as what was planted.

Now, what's the meaning of this parable? Jesus says in verses nine and 10, "Let him who has ears hear". That is, the one who's really interested in what Jesus has to say, listen to his explanation. What does this mean? Obviously, this isn't a story about soil conservation. Jesus tells us, beginning in verse 11, what this parable means. He said, "The parable is this. First of all, the seed is the Word of God". Now that's key to understanding this. What determined whether the seed produced fruit, was the condition of the soil on which it fell. Now remember, Jesus is answering the question, why is it that people respond differently to the Word of God? Some accept it, some reject it. Why is that? It all has to do with the condition of the human heart that receives that truth. And Jesus points out that these four kind of soils represent four conditions of the human heart. First of all, verse 12, the hard soil represents the impenetrable heart.

Look at verse 12, "And those beside the road are those who have heard, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they might not believe and be saved". Remember, this is a soil that the seed just would lay upon. The birds would come and snatch it away. Jesus said, "This represents the hard heart". The heart that hears the Word of God, but the Word of God never even is able to penetrate the heart. Why? Because the heart has become so hardened. How do people develop a hard heart? Listen to this. It is by a constant rejection of the Word of God. That's why it is so important, that we not reject the truth that God has revealed to us. That's the hard heart. Secondly, there is the thin soil that represents the shallow heart. "And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy, and these have no firm root, they believe for a while, and in time of temptation, they fall away".

Remember this thin soil, it had the limestone underneath it. The plant would try to develop a root system wasn't able to, and so it flourished above the ground, but the sun came and caused the plant to wither away. He said, "This represents people who respond initially with enthusiasm to the gospel". You know people like this. They're so enthusiastic about their faith. They have some dramatic encounter with God. Maybe they're at a revival service. Maybe they have a near death experience. Maybe they have an illness from which they are miraculously healed. Something big in their life happens and they embrace the gospel. And they are so excited. They are here every time the church opens, they are so enthusiastic.

And frankly, people like us feel guilty around them. You know, why can't we be more like they are? But that initial enthusiasm lasts for just a season, then something happens. They run into opposition, they face an illness, or the loss of a loved one. They have unanswered prayer in their life. Something happens and they fall away from the faith. Their faith just withers up and dries away and you never see them again. That's why it is so important that we have that deep spiritual foundation if we're going to grow. The third kind of heart Jesus talked about is the strangled heart. That was the weed infested soil. Remember, that was the seed that took root, started to sprout a root system, but the weeds overtook it and strangled the life out of that plant.

Jesus says, look at verse 14, "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, but as they go on their way, they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and they bring no fruit to maturity". This is a person who initially embraces the gospel. He even starts to bear fruit, but his relationship with God is strangled out by three things. Notice the three things that will destroy your spiritual life. First of all, worries. Some translations say, "The worries of this world". He's not talking about anxiety. He's talking about a preoccupation with the things of this world. I mean, we all have responsibilities. Students, you have a responsibility in school, and we have responsibilities at work and we have family responsibilities. Those are very real responsibilities, but there's a danger of allowing those responsibilities to overwhelm us and choke out the time that we have to spend with God.

Secondly, he talks about riches have a way of strangling our spiritual life. When he talks about riches, he doesn't mean necessarily having a lot of money, he's talking about a preoccupation with money. First Timothy 6:10 says, "For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many a pain". Did you know, poor people can love money just as much as rich people can? Poor people can think, "If I just had more money, it would solve every problem I have". You don't have to be rich to be preoccupied with money. He's saying that a preoccupation with money can strangle at your spiritual life. And then the third thing he mentions is the pleasures of this life. Again, there's nothing wrong with pleasure.

In Ecclesiastes 2:24, Solomon said, "What is better than for a man to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good? For this, that is pleasure is from the hand of God". God meant for you and me to do more than just endure this life. He wants us to enjoy this life. But he also said in 2 Timothy 3:4, and warned against those who become lovers of pleasure. That's what he's talking about, pleasure, entertainment that is out of balance. Do you know people? Maybe you're one of these people who is just obsessed with pleasure. Maybe you're thinking about you know, the next trip you're going to take. You're retired and you're just traveling around all the time just trying to entertain yourself to death.

Some people get overwhelmed and preoccupied with television and video games. The average American watches eight hours of television a day. Some people become obsessed with sports. All they can think about is that next game and then the game after that and the game after that. And Saturday and Sundays are all days, one game after another. It's not that any of these things is wrong, but any of these things can strangle out our love for God. The only type of soil that produced fruit repeatedly was this fourth kind of heart, the responsive heart, that is the good soil. Look at verse 15, "And the seed in the good soil. These are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart and hold it fast, and bear fruit," and underline this, "With perseverance".

In these final minutes today, I'm going to close today's message in a completely different way. Instead of leaving you with two or three timeless truths from the passage or closing with a story, I want to instead close with a question, a question for you. What is the condition of your heart right now? Is your heart, your spiritual heart producing real, tangible spiritual fruit? Your answer to that determines whether or not you are truly saved, not you appear to be saved, whether you are truly saved. What is the condition of your human heart? Perhaps I'm speaking to some of you right now. If you're honest, you would say, "Well, I'm suffering from a hard heart. The Word of God doesn't even penetrate my life anymore. I can hardly concentrate in listening to a message. Reading the Bible is no more exciting to me than reading a dictionary".

If that's true for you, you're suffering from a hard heart, let me prescribe for you spiritual exercise. That is, instead of trying to take in any more information about the Bible, why not exercise what you already know to be true? Maybe God is speaking to you about something in your life you need to stop doing. Or something in your life you need to start doing. God has already revealed that to you. For you, the best thing you can do is to exercise what you know to be true already. There are some of you who are suffering from a shallow heart. That is you can look back to a time when you were enthusiastic about your relationship with God, but then you fell away. Something happened, a disappointment with God, a broken relationship, an illness, a loss of a loved one. You have fallen away from God, but you want to come back to God.

You know for you, if you're suffering from a shallow heart, what you need to do is to improve your spiritual diet. And by that I mean, instead of trying to live off some past experience from 20 or 30 years ago, what you need to do is develop a spiritual root system right now, where you can draw the spiritual nutrition you need to grow in your faith. That's the prescription for a shallow heart, a change in diet. And there are some of you right now, who are suffering from a strangled heart. You've received the Word of God, you've received it enthusiastically, but your spiritual arteries are blocked. They're filled with spiritual plaque, if you will, that are strangling off the life-giving spirit from your heart.

You've allowed some things to block your relationship with God, because they've become preoccupations with you. It may be your work, it may be school, it may be a relationship, it may be a hobby, but there is something that is blocking the free flow of the Holy Spirit in your life. It may be your possessions. For you, what you need to do is remove that spiritual plaque. You know what it is in your life that needs to be removed, so that the spirit can freely flow in your life. You know I read, last year 15.3 million Americans died from cardiovascular disease. But the real tragedy is millions of those people died separated from God for all eternity, because of the condition of their spiritual heart. You and you alone are responsible for your heart. The condition of your physical and your spiritual heart. That's why Solomon said in Proverbs 4, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from your heart flows the issues of life".
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