Robert Jeffress - Matters of the Heart
Hi I'm Robert Jefferson and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Jesus was no stranger to rejection. Some accepted his message of salvation with praise and thanksgiving, others ignored it or worse had him sentenced to death for his preaching. So why do people react so differently to the Gospel? Well today we're going to uncover the compelling answer in Jesus' parable of the sower. My message is titled Matters Of The Heart. On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
In his book, "The Weaver", Ravi Zacharias recounts a story that comes from the records of the United States naval institute, following the second world war. On August 8th, the USA Historia scored several direct hits on a Japanese vessel. But itself was badly damaged and it sank the next day. About 02:00 hours a young mid westerner signalman 3rd class Elgin Staples who was aboard the Historia, was swept overboard by the blast when the number one eight inch gun turret exploded. Wounded in both legs by shrapnel and semi stock shock, he was kept afloat by a narrow life belt that he managed to activate with a simple trigger mechanism. At around 0600 hours, Staples was rescued by a passing destroyer and was returned to the Historia whose captain was attempting to save the cruiser. The effort failed, and Staples still wearing the same lifebelt, found himself back in the water. It was lunchtime. Picked up again this time by the us sets president Jackson, he was one of 500 survivors of the battle who were evacuated.
On-board the transport, Staples hugging the life belt with gratitude, looked at a small piece of equipment for the first time. He scrutinized every stitch of the life belt that had served him so well. It had been manufactured by Firestone tire and rubber company of Akron Ohio and it bore a registration number. When he arrived home Staples told his story and he asked his mother who happened to work for Firestone about the purpose of the number on the belt. She replied that the company insisted on personal responsibility for the war effort and that the number was unique and assigned to only one inspector. Staples remembered everything about that life belt, including the registration number. There was a moment of stunned silence in the room when he quoted the number on the life belt. And then his mother said "That was my personal code that I had fixed to every item I was responsible for approving".
The one who gave him birth, and whose DNA he bore gave him rescue in the swirling waters that threatened to take away his life. Pretty good story wouldn't you say? Know we preachers learned sooner or later that people may forget our sermon title, they may forget the scripture reference we used, they may forget the points of our sermon or even the point of our sermon, but they always remember the stories. Especially the good ones. I think that explains why one of Jesus' favorite ways to teach was through stories. Jesus would take whatever truth he was trying to communicate, and many times he would wrap it around a memorable story. Or as we call them parables. Parables, the word parable comes from a Greek word that means to lay alongside of. And that's what parables do. They take eternal truth and they lay them alongside of stories of everyday life.
Today we're going to to begin a brand new series of messages based on the parables of Jesus. I'm calling them Jesus' favorite stories. And over the next few months, we're going to look at some great issues about life and eternity that Jesus chose to communicate through every day stories. Now today is we begin this series on the parables I need to just say several things by way of introduction about parable, so that you can understand them as we examine them. First of all, parables are not allegories. You know in an allegory, everything in a story is representative of something else. This means that, this means that, this means that. In a parable there is only one truth that Jesus is trying to communicate to us. Secondly, parables have to be understood in the culture in which they're written. Quite frankly some of the parables we're going to look at in the next few months, they seem strange to us, at times they seem unfair because we're reading them with a 21st century western mindset.
As one commentator said, to understand the parables, you need to be able to smell the aroma of the Jewish villages. You need to be able to feel the dust on your feet of those of those dusty roads. And that's what we're going to try to do in these parables. To give you the culture in which they were written. And then finally, parables have to be read in context. These are not isolated stories Jesus told to entertain. Instead, every parable that Jesus told had a context to it. It was told in order to address an important issue or to answer a question. It's important that we understand the setting of these parables. And that's certainly true in the first parable we're going to look at briefly today.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Matthew 13, Matthew 13 beginning with verse 3. Now this is crucial to understand. In the first 12 chapters of Matthew, Jesus is presented to Israel as the promised Messiah. The one we sang about a few moments ago. Coming Messiah. The Messiah who came to set up his kingdom upon earth. The Kingdom of God, that would be characterized by perfect peace and perfect righteousness. Jesus legitimately offered to setup his reign on earth if Israel would accept him. But the pivotal point in Matthew is Matthew 12:24, when the pharisees representing Israel, the pharisees rejected the Messiah. And thus all Israel rejected the Messiah.
Now beginning in chapter 13, three changes take place in Jesus' ministry until his crucifixion. And I want you to write these down on the side of your outline. Three changes in Jesus' ministry. First of all his message changes. He had there's a change in his message. No longer does Jesus talk about the visible Kingdom of God on earth. It's not that the Kingdom of God is canceled, it's simply postponed to a later date. Jesus never said, I'm going to give up on the idea of establishing my kingdom on the earth. There is coming a day when Christ will rule on this planet. When Satan will be bound and that this world will be characterized by perfect righteousness and justice and peace. That coming time is the millennium that we've talked about in our study on prophecy.
There is a visible kingdom coming. Jesus is not canceling the kingdom, he is just postponing it to a future date. And instead beginning of Matthew 13, Jesus message was the Kingdom of God occurs right now in the hearts of individual men and women who trust in him. Right now the Kingdom of God is operating secretly in the hearts of individual men and women who trust in Christ. That's the mystery of the Kingdom of God. By the way, you don't have to wait until you die to experience the Kingdom of God in your life. You can experience it right now in a sense, when you allow Christ to rule in your heart. In fact this coming fall, I'm going to do a series on Sunday nights on how the Kingdom of God operates in our life. You don't have to wait till you die to experience the benefits of heaven. There are great benefits right now that occurred in your life when you allow Christ to have the final say in every part of your life.
So in this point in chapter 13, the message changes. Not only does the message change, but there's a change in audience as well. No longer is Jesus going to address the entire nation of Israel. Instead he is offering the kingdom to individual Jews and gentiles. A changing audience. And then finally there's a change in teaching methods. It's at this point that Jesus began to speak in parables. Now there are four parables in Matthew 13, and they all deal with the Kingdom of God. The mystery of the Kingdom of God. What is the mystery of the Kingdom of God? The mystery is this. That right now, God is working in the hearts of men and women who trust in him. And these four parables teach us a different truth about the Kingdom of God.
How it is that the Kingdom of God is secretly at work right now? The first parable we look at beginning in verse 3, answers this important question. Why doesn't everyone who hears the message of the kingdom, receive the message of the kingdom? Why isn't it that everyone who hears the Gospel of Jesus Christ receives the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Have you ever wondered about that? Why is it an a group like this or any group a person can hear the same message, everyone hears the same message. Some receive the message. Others reject the message. Why is that? Jesus explains it in this parable.
Now remember you have to understand the culture and Israel was an agricultural society. And so Jesus uses an illustration from agriculture to explain why it is some people receive the Gospels, others reject the Gospel. Look at verse 3 of Matthew 13. "And Jesus spoke many things to them in parables saying, 'behold the sower went out to sow and as he sowed'". As Jesus told this story, I think his listeners probably sitting on the side of a hill could actually look out and see sowers who were going up and down, sowing the seed. Now notice the four kinds of soil on which the seed fell. First of all, there was hard soil. Look at verse four. "And as the sower sowed, some seed fell beside the road and the birds came and ate them up".
Now this hard soil was the soil that was closest to the road. It was compacted because of the human traffic that would pound that soil day in and day out. It became very hard and therefore it was impenetrable. When the seed fell on this hard ground, it couldn't penetrate the soil, it would just lie on the top of the surface of the soil. And sometimes the birds would come and snatch it away. Or the human feet or the animal feet would decimate the seed. The point is, this hard soil could not receive the seed. And then in verse five there was a second kind of soil, the thin soil. Look at verse five. "And other seed fell upon the rocky places where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up because they had no depth of soil, but when the sun had risen, they were scorched. And because they had no root, they weathered away". Underneath the Palestinian soil, there was a thin layer of limestone. Sometimes in places where the soil was very thin, this limestone would be only a couple of inches beneath the surface. And so when seed fell on this kind of soil, the thin soil, it would begin to take root. But when it started to grow roots, the roots couldn't penetrate the limestone.
Now look at verse seven. The third kind of soil Jesus talked about was the weed infested soil. Verse seven. "And others fell among the thorns. And the thorns came and choke them out". Underneath the soil in many places was a vast network of weeds. And when seed fell on this weed infested soil, it would implant itself. It would start to grow roots. But the weeds that had been there much longer would overtake the roots and strangle the life out of the plant. There is a fourth kind of soil in verse eight. And that was the good soil. Look at verse eight. "And others fell on the good soil and it yielded a crop. Some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30. He who has ears let him hear".
Now what is the purpose of this story? Obviously Jesus was interested in more than principles of soil conservation. He had a reason for telling this story. And Jesus says very clearly, those who really want to know the truth of this parable, I'll be happy to share it with you. Jesus was happy to explain to those who really wanted to know the truth. And so after in verses 11 through 18 in which Jesus explains that God's truth is reserved for only those who want to know God's truth. He gives us the meaning of the parable beginning of verse 18. "Hear then the parable of the sower". Jesus makes it very clear beginning in verse 19. That the seed and I want you to write this down. The seed represents the Word of God okay? The seed represents the Word of God. This is important to understand.
If you try to make seed represents salvation, you're going to to run into all kinds of problems about people losing their salvation, having it snatched away. The seed doesn't represent salvation. It represents the Word of God. And the sower represents anyone who spreads the Word of God. Anyone who spreads the Word of God, don't have to be a paid professional like me. It's anyone who teaches or shares the Word of God, whether it be a Sunday school teacher, whether it be you and sharing your faith with a non believer. Are you sharing a word of exhortation with another Christian? The sower is anyone who spreads the Word of God. Why is it, that the Word of God has such different responses, among different people? Why do some people readily accept the Word of God and other people soundly reject it? It all has to do with the condition of a person's heart. It's a person's heart condition that determines whether he receives the seed or he rejects the seed. And that's the point that Jesus is going to make beginning in verse 19. He says the hard heart, the hard soil represents the impenetrable heart. The impenetrable heart.
Look at verse 19. "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom the seed with sown beside the road". This hard heart, is the result of someone who has rejected and rejected, the truth that has been shared with them. Did you know it's possible to say no to God once too often? It is possible to so reject the truth that you receive, that you come to a point that you are no longer able to receive the truth of God. There are some of you listening to me right now. You have heard the Gospel over and over and over again, and yet you've rejected it. And right now your heart is very dangerously close to that point, that it will no longer be able to receive the truth of God's word, the impenetrable heart.
The second kind of heart Jesus talked about in verse 20 that's the shallow heart. Remember in verse 20, "And the one on whom the seed was sown on the rocky places this is the man who immediately hears the Word of God and receives it with joy". Verse 21. "Yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary. And when affliction or persecution arises because of the word immediately, he falls away". The person who immediately receives the Gospel and has great fruit in his life or at least it appears that way. But then something happens. A trial comes into his life. He or she becomes ill, or they lose a loved one, or they suffer a financial setback. And because they have no foundation, because they haven't developed that deep, underground relationship with God that is built on more than just experience but it's built on the truth of God's word. When trials come into their life, they fall apart. They fall away and you never hear from them again.
And then thirdly there is the infested heart look at verse 22. "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the person who hears the word and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word. And it becomes unfruitful". The infested heart. This a person who is distracted and the word really can't take root in your life. Because spiritual life is being strangled out by the worries of this world. And finally, there is the soft heart or the fertile heart. Verse 23. "And the one on whom the seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understand it who indeed bears fruit and brings forth some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30". Where you notice that in this particular type of soil, this is the climax of the story. This is the only soil that actually bring forth fruit. For as Christ said, you shall know them by their fruit.
What's the significance of this story for us today? May I mention two applications of this message. The significance of the story. First of all, when we spread the Word of God, when we share God's word with others, remember our job is not to manufacture the message. Our job is simply to spread the message. And you're not responsible for the response, only to share the truth. And the second application applies to us when we listen to the Word of God. When we listened to the Word of God. Some of you right now, you've heard the message of salvation over and over again. Yet you haven't responded.
Remember, even if you feel like responding right now, you won't always be able to respond. It is possible to harden our hearts so against God that we can't receive the truth of his word. What can you do to change the condition of your heart? Absolutely nothing. You can't change the condition of your heart, but God can. And he promises to do so if you'll ask him, listen to his words through Ezekiel the prophet. Ezekiel 36 verse 26. "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and I will put a new spirit within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes". God can change your heart today. The heart that is hard ,that is shallow, that is thin. He'll change it. If you'll ask him to.