The Sower - Part 4
Seed by the Road
“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 seed was sown beside the road.” (Matthew 13:19).
The word of the kingdom is the good news of salvation in Jesus. The sad fact is, many people don’t enter the kingdom of God because they just can’t be bothered making an effort to get to know Jesus. They don’t care and don’t take an interest in God (Matthew 22:4-6). They neither acknowledge His existence, nor show gratitude to Him as the Giver and Provider of life.
Understanding anything requires knowledge and thought. It takes effort to think and put things together to gain understanding. It takes investigation, research, scrutiny, questioning, and clarification of facts and details. Opinions and information must be weighed, analysed and wrestled with to comprehend. Above all it takes time and attention to the content of the message.
People also have vested interests in the world, making the kingdom of God less appealing. Riches, pride, lust, social standing, culture and ambition. Just some of the baggage we carry that stops us from following Jesus, and sets us on a destruction course in walking away from God, instead of towards Him (Matthew 22:1-5).
The message of Jesus finds no place in the heart of those who will make no effort to understand Him (John 8:37).
Like Pharaoh and Judas, selfish desires make the heart hard against receiving God’s message and salvation. God gave them grace but they chose to disobey Him, and sought their own pleasure and profit instead. As a consequence, God gave them over to their own sinful desires, and made them an example of what will happen to all who rebel against God’s grace and mercy.
If people harden their heart against God, don’t be surprised if God abandons them to their sin (Romans 1:28). Many hear the message but put off following Jesus to pursue their own desires (Matthew 25:1-13).
God is slow to anger and full of grace and mercy, but when people continually and deliberately disobey God’s calling to turn to Him, then God’s punishment involves leaving them to their own sin. It grieves God to see people enslaved to sin, like a father is grieved to see a son or daughter enslaved by drug addiction or any destructive behaviour (Ezekiel 18:32).
But we have a responsibility over our actions; to think, feel and make choices. Jesus places a strong emphasis to be careful how we listen (Luke 8:18), because failure to take Jesus’ instructions to heart and obey Him, will lead down the wrong path of eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Following our selfish and sinful desires always leads away from God, but following Jesus in trust and obedience always leads towards God, who is our greatest good.
The most disturbing truth about those who do not make the effort to understand Jesus, is the Devil comes along and poisons their minds and hearts, so that they become even more enslaved and harden in their rebellion against God (Ephesians 6:10, 1 Peter 5:8, James 4:7).
The Devil places wrong ideas, lies and temptations into the mind, to do things which are against God’s commands, and he does this out of pure evil and hatred towards God and humanity, so that people may not be saved (John 13:2). The Devil’s only purpose is to destroy people’s lives and enslave them to do his evil will (John 8:43-45, Ephesians 3:1-3, 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Jesus came to set us free from sin and become free to serve God (John 8:34-36, Romans 8:1-2, 6:22-23).
Our eternal wellbeing depends on taking the time and making the effort to know Jesus. To gain an understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done. Jesus has risen from the dead and all people will give an account for their lives to Him, therefore, there is nothing more important than to get to know Jesus.
“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).
“Oh that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons forever!” (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Seed on Rocky Places
“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 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” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Some people gladly accept the message of the gospel. They want God’s blessings, but they don’t truly want God. In John 6:26-27, many followed Jesus and wanted to make him King, because He was miraculously providing them food, and they wanted Him to defeat the Romans and get Israel back on top as the dominate world power.
It is the greatest insult to befriend someone for the benefits of their wealth, instead of true friendship and love. So to, those who only want God’s blessings, will have their true colours exposed when they experience suffering and hardship because of Jesus. If their faith is not genuine, they will abandon Jesus and follow Him no more.
Hardship and suffering always reveal our true love and loyalty. If you genuinely love someone in your heart, you will be loyal to them through the difficult times as well as the good. You will support them and be on their side. You will be there for them and put up with difficulties and go out of your way to love them (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
Although we will not always show our love perfectly, our actions and words always reveal what is in our heart and what we value most (1 John 3:17-18).
God wants worshipers that will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He wants people who will follow Him with a genuine and sincere heart (Acts 13:22), and not just engage in religious rituals or good works to manipulate God into handing out blessings (John 4:23-24).
Jesus wants people who will love Him for who He is and what He has done, and not for any other reason. Those who think God will solve their every problem, and place them in a pain-free bubble, will not last long in the kingdom of God. They will walk away from Jesus with great disappointment. Following Jesus is enlisting in a spiritual warfare against spiritual forces of evil and darkness, and the battle is fiercest within our very own heart (Ephesians 6:10).
There is a cost in following Jesus (Luke 14:25-33). There is suffering and persecution (Matthew 5:10-12) because all who are born again by the Holy Spirit are children of God (1 Peter 1:3-7), and no longer a citizen of this world but a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20-21).
The world is in rebellion against God and under the direct influence of the Devil (Luke 4:6). Christians are not welcome here and are rejected as aliens and strangers just like Jesus. Jesus promises all who follow Him will be persecuted unfairly and suffer many hardships, but it is a sign we belong to Jesus (Acts 5:41, 2 Timothy 3:12, Matthew 10:22, 1 Peter 4:12-19).
“As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?" Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. "We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69).
“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
“For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29).
Seed Among the Thorns
“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
Those who receive the message of Jesus but desire the riches and pleasures of this world more than Jesus - will find themselves on the wrong side of eternity. If our desires and pleasures take the highest priority and most important place in our lives; if they are the things we live for, and the things we set our heart on to make us happy, these are the things which will keep us from following Jesus.
Jesus sets out this principle in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth”, and Romans 6 is an exposition of how we either serve sin or righteousness.
Our hearts can only have one master, and we are either predominantly ruled by our sinful desires or Jesus. We can’t have both, and we can’t serve both. The things we are passionate about and the things we pursue, indicate what we love most in our heart.
Jesus must have the highest value and hold the greatest place of admiration and worship in our heart for us to follow Him - “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
People who have an understanding about the message of Jesus but choose to forsake Him are blinded by the temporary benefits and deceitful pleasures of this life; and do not see the greatness and unimaginable value of the promises of God in Jesus.
This does not mean the Christian will never struggle with their sinful nature and experience temptation, but if the heart truly belongs to Jesus, the main motivation and drive in our decision making will be centred in wanting to please God. The leading characteristic of the Christian is a sense of gratitude and obligation to God because of His mercy in Christ.
“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).
“Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).
“For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:7-10).