E63: The sower, the seeds, and the state of your heart – Parable series

Jesus taught many lessons using parables and the first one that He told was what we know as “the parable of the sower.”

The parable of the sower: Be a doer of the word (Christian Podcast)

Be a doer of the word

Jesus taught many lessons using parables and the first one that He told was what we know as “the parable of the sower.” Kathy and Milenko kick off our series on parables with a discussion about this lesson and how it boils down to one simple thing – to be a doer of the word. There are many ways to receive the word that we hear, but it is up to us if we receive it on good ground or not! 

Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 63: The sower, the seeds, and the state of your heart – Parables series

Welcome to ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we talk about how we can “live the gospel” every day, no matter who we are, where we live, and what our circumstances are.

Kathy: Hi everyone and welcome to another episode of “Living the Gospel.” I’m Kathy.

Milenko: And I’m Milenko. And now we’re starting a new series on the podcast about the parables of Jesus. And the word “parables” is something we don’t hear so often these days. Maybe you can explain what it is.

Kathy: Well, to be honest, I had to look it up. I mean, I know what a parable is in the kind of Biblical context, but what the word parable actually means, I just thought, it would be interesting to “google” it. And here’s the first result I got. “A parable is a succinct, didactic story in prose or verse.” So I was like, OK, now I have some more words to look up. But then eventually, lower down, there was a little bit more everyday language definition. So here it says, “A parable is a short, fictitious story that is presented to teach a religious principle, simple truth, or moral lesson.” So Jesus did speak in a lot of parables.

Milenko: He does it for a reason, obviously. So I think it’s really good to sit down and think it through. What does this mean for me? Why is He saying this to me? He said it to His disciples; if I’m one of His disciples I also need to know what He’s trying to get out of it. So today’s theme is the parable of the sower. Which is actually described in a few of the gospels. But maybe we can read the first one ...

Kathy: Yeah. So Matthew 13:3-9: “Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: ‘Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!’” 

Milenko: So there He’s actually saying, at the end there, “Listen to what I’m saying, because I’ve got a message to tell you!” But I don’t think the disciples understood it straight away, did they?

Kathy: No, they sure didn’t understand it, so He actually then explained it to them. So if we look at verses 18-23 in Matthew 13, He says, “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” 

Milenko: Jesus’ explanation here that the seed is actually the word of God which gets sown. And it can be easy to think, when you read this about stony ground and thorns and so on, that it’s the situations, our circumstances that He’s talking about. But the ground is actually a picture of our heart, which is another picture in the Bible. It’s got to do with our attitude, our mind, our willingness to be saved.

Kathy: So, the state of our heart, kind of?

Milenko: Yeah.

Kathy: Should we kind of go over these different kinds of ground though, Milenko? And talk about like ... maybe just kind of unpack a little bit, what these different things sort of mean?

Milenko: Yeah!

Kathy: So the seed that fell by the wayside. Jesus said that it’s those who hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand, and then the wicked one comes and snatches it away. So how does this happen?

Milenko: Because that can seem a little bit harsh, right? I don’t understand, so then it gets taken away from me. So again, the ground here is the key. Why don’t I understand the word? And it’s got to do with my willingness to accept it, willingness to do something about it, my willingness to be saved, you can say. That’s what the word of God is. It’s there for me to be saved. And if I’m not interested, well, then it just lies there, and nothing happens, and it just gets blown away. But what we’re talking about here is the word that’s been sown. So, something that God is actually working. And the Sower here is God, who uses His word to speak to me during the day in my circumstances. And He could be using words that I’ve read before. He could be using words someone has said to me. It can be things that come up in my thoughts, my conscience even. God is speaking to me. And there I have to understand, what does He want to do with me? What does He want me to do in my life?

Kathy: So, we need to be receptive to that word that He’s planting in my heart.

Milenko: If I have that open, willing heart, then God can work in me. I want to be a disciple. I want to please Him with all of my heart. And then I can’t be described as being that ground by the wayside.

Kathy: So then it talks about the seed that fell on stony places.

Milenko: This is actually quite similar ground to that by the wayside. It’s hard, it’s stony, it’s not very fertile. Further there It says that it’s he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. So I think this is descriptive of very many of us. Very many Christians who have heard the word of God, they love the sound of it. The word of salvation, the word of freedom, you know, forgiveness, Jesus who loves us. It’s really a fantastic gospel! So we receive it with joy. And that’s that little plant growing up. But it says it has no root in itself, but endures only for a while. And when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. It shows our attitude. We really want the good parts of the gospel. We want salvation. We want to be saved. But when something is required of me, that’s when it becomes a problem.

Kathy: So really, it’s that willingness to do, not just to rejoice over the word, but to do it, for it to become a reality in my life, right?

Milenko: Exactly. The word of God is not just promises, but it also requires something of me. And this is what Jesus says, that if you love Me, you keep My commandments. So there’s a commandment in the word. And that means that when I come into a situation and something is required of me, I have to suffer. That is my will, my self-will has to suffer. We’ve spoken about this many times in previous episodes as well. The lusts in my flesh that want something, that’s against God’s will. Then the word of God comes and tells me: “Here you have to deny yourself.” That’s Jesus words for a disciple. Take up your cross, deny yourself.

Kathy: And that causes a lot of people to stumble. When actually, there’s a cost. Now obedience is required.

Milenko: That’s right. That’s another parable Jesus said, that when you, He used this example of someone building a tower who doesn’t count the cost. And when he starts building, and suddenly it becomes more than he expected, he just has to abandon it. And it’s the same here. I want to serve God, I want to come to this life, I want to be saved. But I didn’t count what it costed. And what it costs is my life. That I have to deny myself. My own will. That I can’t just give in to my lusts. I have to be obedient to God. And if I’m not willing to do that, then I have that stony ground. I’ve received the word with joy, but I don’t have any roots. I don’t actually want to pay the cost. And then I wither away when the tribulation comes. And that’s actually very serious when you think about it. I’ve seen the glory of it. But I’m not willing to pay the price.

Kathy: Yeah. So then I really have to come into that love for Jesus that’s going to drive me to actually pay the price.

Milenko: Yes.

Kathy: So then the next one He talks about there is the seed that fell among the thorns.

Milenko: Well, here again, it speaks about choking the word, so the word has started to grow, it’s something, like the one by the wayside, we’ve received the word, we want to do it, it’s starting to grow. But then something comes that overshadows it, chokes it, takes away all the light and the air so that that plant dies. And Jesus says here that it’s got to do with the deceitfulness of riches and the cares of this world.

Kathy: To me that comes back to that there’s something that you’re thinking of above Jesus in your life. Does that make sense?

Milenko: Yeah, you’ve got other interests.

Kathy: And I think too, a lack of faith in God. You know, all these cares of this life. We all know the different things in life that cause us to worry and be anxious, to kind of focus our attention on these different things. But I thought of the verses in Matthew 6 where Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33.) So, if I believe in that word, if I have that trust, that faith in Jesus, then I think that’s how I balance out this, having these cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, right? So that faith it actually what’s going to make sure that doesn’t happen to me.

Milenko: Right. You either love God or you love the world. You can’t love both. And if I do have this attachment to things in the world, then in some way, God’s word can’t do anything in me. It’s impossible. That’s those thorns coming in and choking it.

Kathy: OK, so now we’ve talked about all these seeds that have fallen on bad ground, but I think what we should really focus on now is this seed that fell on the good ground. When Luke tells the story of this parable, in Luke 8:15, he wrote it like this, that the ones that fell on the good ground are the ones that having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15.) So how do we make sure we have that noble and good heart?

Milenko: I can quote another verse here that actually Paul writes in Colossians 3:1-3. He says then, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” And here we see this ground, that fertile, good ground where God’s word can grow. And that is this seek those things that are above.”

Kathy: Yeah. So it’s not something that just either I have a good heart or I don’t have a good heart. It’s an active work for me to prepare my heart to be this good ground, right?

Milenko: Exactly. And it says here then, “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” And that’s the whole point, that my interests, my lusts, the interests in this world, that is put to death. And then God’s word can start doing a work in me. You can see that God works with hope. He sows His seed, also in these hard places, on the rocky soil and so on, and why does He do that, if there’s not going to be a result? Is God just doing random work, you know? That He sees what happens? I don’t think that’s the case. The case is that all that soil, all that ground can be worked on. It can be made fertile ground. It can become fruitful. And the way that’s done is that my attitude of mind is changing. That I’m seeking that which is above. It says here that “you died.” So before there was something else there. You know, I was seeking the things of the earth, I was seeking my own will. That’s human nature. But by this conversion, I’ve started to seek that which is above. And then something can happen in me. And that’s something that God actually does. He actually works in me so that that ground becomes fruitful.

Kathy: Mmhmm. What does that mean, to bear fruit? What actually is happening?

Milenko: It’s not something that I produce myself, but it is God who creates that work in me. If we work with ourselves, if we work with the word and let ourselves be worked on, then God can actually produce something new in us. That’s a new creation. There, where before there was self-seeking, where earlier there was selfishness and there was anger and there was impatience and all that, when that actually gets put to death according to God’s word, then God can create something new. He can create patience. He can create love, He can create generosity, He can create this attitude that you want to serve the others. That’s the fruits, as Paul writes. The fruits of the Spirit. Fruits of what the Spirit can do in me.

Kathy: So it’s obedience, really, that leads to results. And I thought of those verses in James 1:22-25, and I thought they actually fit perfectly here. He writes there, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” So I thought the way that he writes that there is actually ... he’s kind of reiterating what Jesus says there in the parable of the sower. So it’s about when we receive that word and it’s planted in us, then obedience is actually a must. That we become doers of that which we’ve heard. And that’s what makes us bear that fruit, right?

Milenko: Right. And obedience, that’s that attitude that I have, that good ground. That I’m willing to pay the cost, I’m willing to do what Jesus says. I’m willing to be saved. I’m willing to let myself be saved. Then I’ve got good ground that’s been worked on, that’s fruitful. Something can start growing out of that.

Kathy: And I thought too, like, when something new is going to grow, then you actually have to nourish what’s been planted, right? And you have to take care of it. It has to be watered, it has to be really, like, cared for in order for something new to grow up. So I thought, how do we do that? Once we receive the word, how do we nourish that? And then I think that goes back to what you read there in Colossians 1; it's that we seek first the kingdom of God, and our whole interest is in that actually, our whole interest is in something happening with what’s been planted, right? So then I spend my time in God’s word and seeking those things which are going to nourish that, instead of letting my interest be taken by this and that and like we read about, being worried about the cares of this world and getting entangled with different things. My focus and my desire is for the good and then that’s where I spend my time and my thoughts, is in nourishing that seed.

Milenko: Yeah, exactly. And I just thought of a verse in Isaiah 55:10. “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Those words there, that shows the power of God’s word.

Kathy: It’s transformative.

Milenko: It’s really transformative. It’s this power, we can call it the power of resurrection. Where the seed goes into the ground, where my life dies, something new grows up. Something new. And that new thing, that is the creation that God creates in me. It’s the life of Jesus. It’s divine nature that we’ve been promised.

Kathy: And how much ... how your life just flourishes, actually, with that. Like, when you think about how much better your life is going to be if you can meet your situations with patience and with kindness and with longsuffering and all these virtues instead of impatience and irritation and getting bitter and getting offended and all these things. Then actually, your life flourishes when you get the virtues. And it’s because of how much better my life is when sin is overcome, when I don’t allow these lusts of the flesh to rule me, it’s because of that that He sends His word to us and He plants the seed in us. So that our life actually becomes good, and we get to experience how a life in which sin and our lusts aren’t ruling us, how that actually becomes a good, free, blessed life. That’s why He does it. Right? It’s because He loves us and He wants us to experience how rich life can be.

Milenko: Right. So I think what we can learn from this is that we really have to work on ourselves, let God work on us, that that ground is receptive so that God’s word can do a work in us. And there’s nothing wrong with receiving the word with joy. On the contrary, it is a really joyful message. The glad tidings; the gospel. But it shouldn’t remain being just that start, with a little plant growing up with no roots. But there should be ground for it to grow and increase and flourish. And that only comes that when I meet those tribulations that I go into them and let that word do its work. The word is the message of the cross, the message that Jesus gave us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. And the results of that? That is His virtues, that His life comes forth. Whatever situation, whether I’m rich, whether I’m poor, whether things go well for me, whether things go against me, all of these are situations where the ground is being worked and where I am receptive to it and I am using the situations, not seeking the things on the earth, but seeking the things above.

Kathy: And then God is actually glorified by my life, right, when people taste the goodness of God in my life. It’s an exciting life to live, to experience that transformation and to experience that God’s power can do a work in my life. It’s a really exciting life to live.

Milenko: Yeah. And the others around us, they also, it’s a real blessing for them. They can eat of this fruit. They can enjoy it. So let’s really live such a life that God can make this happen in our life.

Kathy: Yeah, absolutely.

Milenko: But that promises for a very exciting week ahead, so I think we’ll leave it here so we can get on and do it. So thanks very much for this talk Kathy, I’ve really enjoyed it.

Kathy: It’s been a good one, for sure. If any of you want to read more about parables, we have a topic page on our website all about parables. So you can go in there and read about the parable of the talents, and the good Samaritan, and there’s a few different ones there. So you can read some more about what Jesus has to say in these parables. And we’ll put a link for that in the episode description, as always.

Milenko: So thanks for listening everyone, and remember to tune in next week as well.

Kathy: Yup. Have a great week everyone. Bye.

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