Luke 8:4-8 4 While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
Jesus often spoke in parables to help people understand principles like discipleship, loving our neighbor, being faithful stewards, the Kingdom of God, and salvation as we see here in this passage we have just read.
Allow me to point out a few things from this passage before we look at two others. In this story, Jesus is the farmer. We see Him sowing seed everywhere. It didn’t matter if He was on a path, near the rocks, in the thorns, or on good soil. The farmer scattered seed everywhere.
We read that some that fell on the path was trampled on and was eaten by the birds of the air. We read also that some fell on rock, but there was no moisture for seed to sprout and put down roots. In addition we read that some fell among the thorns and got choked out when trying to grow. And even though seeds didn’t take root and grow in all three places, it still was scattered on those places.
God is keenly aware that although the seed of the gospel is sown in all kinds of places through all kinds of strategies and methods that not everyone will receive it. I’m not going to spend time talking about what the path, rock, and thorns represent when it comes to symbolizing a person’s heart or readiness to accept the Gospel. You can come up with the many reasons that many reject the Gospel and keep Jesus at a dangerous distance.
What I want to point out is that although many won’t accept the seed of the Gospel when it is being sown, SOME will! And because SOME will it is worth making EVERY effort to scatter the seed as often as possible in as many places as possible for the SOME who will accept it and will allow it to be planted firmly in their hearts. Is everyone with me this morning? I said, “Because SOME will receive the Gospel, even in the most unlikely of places, it is worth making EVERY effort ot scatter the seed as often as possible in as many places as possible for the SOME who will accept it.
Rather than think of the path, the rocks, and the thorns as representing the lack of receptivity of someone’s heart when it comes to the Gospel, let’s let them represent the places you and I are called to go in order to make sure the seed of the Gospel falls in as many places as possible.
I am afraid we have become skittish about sowing seed just anywhere. We like to pick and choose the places where we will get involved, where we will get invested if we are willing to sow the seed of the Gospel at all.
Maybe the path represents a hard place for you to think about personally going. How many of you have ever thought about ministering to people in a homeless shelter or to people living on the streets? How many of you could see yourself talking to hookers, strippers, drug addicts or alcoholics about Jesus? Could you picture yourself going into the “rough parts” of Huntington or Charleston armed with the Good News about Jesus? Would that be hard for you?
In what ways is our church committed to engaging people on the path with the love of Jesus and news of His resurrection from the dead? Why even worry about the path? Aren’t there plenty of people who live lives like us who need Jesus? We work hard, make honest choices, and love our families? Aren’t there lots of people like that who we could witness to? Why stretch to minister to those on the path? The path is a hard, sometimes seemingly impossible place to minister. Why seek to witness on the path? Because although some will never accept the Good News of the Gospel, SOME will, and for the some who will isn’t it worth going into some dark places, some hard places in order to make sure they reach heaven? Do it for the some!
Is there anyone here this morning that was on the wrong path, headed on the hard road, walking into the way of darkness and addiction and someone sowed a little seed on your way? Aren’t you grateful this morning that someone came off the beaten path far enough to intersect with your path in order to scatter a little bit of the love of Jesus in front of you? Why not take some Living Water onto the path and start to pour it out at someone’s feet in order that the seed of the Gospel will have a chance to take some root in their lives?
Let’s let the rocks represent a place of great faith and great effort. I’ve only tried rock climbing a few times and I was much younger. It wasn’t pretty, and the helmet I had to wear greatly impacted the shape and extension of my “poof!” Rock climbing was not only a fashion killer, it was exhausting! Not knowing where to step and straining to pull yourself up, never knowing when you will actually reach the top, it can be very fatiguing, very strenuous, very exhausting. When I attempted to rock climb even though I was making progress it always seemed like I was eternally far from the top. I never felt like I was getting anywhere, yet I was expending tremendous energy and at times felt uncertain and afraid. Could I keep going? Would I ever make it to the top?
Maybe you have tried to befriend someone who needs Jesus and you’ve invited them to church. You’ve modeled servant-hood and generosity and the love of Jesus. You’ve prayed for them and started spiritual conversations, and it seems like you aren’t getting anywhere. Maybe there is someone in your life that you know needs saved, but you are uncertain about how to go about bringing the subject up. Maybe they wear you out because it seems one minute like they are getting this Jesus thing and want to make progress in Him, and then the next minute they are back to living for themselves or living to obey the voice of Satan. There are spurts of forward progress but no real long-term commitment.
Why continue to reach and stretch and talk and hope and pray? Because SOME will finally have their rocky, stubborn hearts busted into pieces and will be transformed into pliable people who are filled with the Spirit of God! Keep climbing those rocks looking for some places to scatter some seed! Why not take the Word of God with you and bust up some of those rocks, shatter some of the lies of the enemy, and scatter the Gospel with prayers that even in the rocky places, some will fall into a crack in the rocks where it can take root. Do it for the some!
Let’s let the thorns represent sticky, prickly places, hard to get to places around us. It may feel increasingly hard to represent the Lord in our public schools. It may be difficult in our politically correct workplaces to let our lights shine with the Good News that Jesus makes a difference in our lives. I’m afraid our political correctness has caused us to adopt the philosophy that we are to mind our own business. That’s not what Jesus commanded us to do! He has told us to mind His business, and His business is the spreading of the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus and the love of God! Jesus didn’t say, “I came to mind my own business!” He said, “I came to do my Father’s business. I have to be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49).
We can get hurt in thorny places. It hurts to be pricked by thorns, to be persecuted for sowing the Gospel seed in thorny areas. Why put ourselves in harm’s way? Many in thorny places aren’t likely to receive the Gospel but SOME will! Do it for the some!
The Church of the Living God is supposed to be an army on a mission. The mission is to win souls for the Kingdom of God. The mission is to deliver people from the strong grip of the enemy. Can you picture a soldier telling his or her commanding officer that he would like to skip being assigned to the path because it is too out in the open where he could get shot at? Or he would like to skip the rocks because it would be too easy for him to fall and would just be an exhausting place to serve? Or could he please not have to deal with thorny terrain because he wouldn’t want to rip his uniform or get caught on a briar? Requests like that in the military would not only be absurd, but they would earn you more discomfort than any of the assigned places of service ever would.
When soldiers are on a mission, they are on a mission wherever they find themselves. Their job is to protect and liberate people and to take out the enemy whether on a hard, dusty path, a jagged, rocky cliff, or a thorny, prickly path. They don’t wait to do their mission until they reach lush pastures or the comfort of an air conditioned space. They do what they are commanded to do because they never know but that where they are SOMEONE needs to be rescued.
In Acts chapter 17, the Apostle Paul was in Athens, a large metropolis in the ancient world. Athens was a tough place to minister. There was nothing easy about preaching in Athens. The city was full of idols, hundreds of idols; probably over a thousand different idols. Paul didn’t go to Athens, however, to see the sights. He went to win some souls for Jesus’ sake. He wasn’t just passing through. He went there on purpose. He knew they were a hot mess when it came to the mixed bag of religion they espoused, but he went there anyway.
There were two main schools of thought in Athens. There were the Epicureans who thought the key to spirituality was found through living it up. They wanted the finest things in life. They pursued pleasure. For them, their religion was all about personal experience and feeling good. They were materialists to the max. They stuffed their pain, their confusion, their questions, with more of the pleasures of life. Their motto was “Enjoy life.”
The second group was the Stoics. Their emphasis was on self-discipline and self-control. For them, pleasure wasn’t good. Pain wasn’t evil. You just had to be committed to follow reason, to rely on yourself, be unmoved by your feelings, and ambivalent towards your outward circumstances. You relied on yourself. Oh how pride ruled the life of a stoic who always saw himself as in total control. The motto of the Stoics was to “endure life.” It is interesting that the first two leaders of Stoicism committed suicide. Relying on self won’t work.
You don’t just walk into this hotbed of spiritual confusion and hope for the best. No, in order to scatter seed wisely, Paul had to know some things. He had to understand some things. He had to learn some things about how these groups thought, what they believed, and how they viewed life and eternity. He couldn’t bury his head in the cultural sand if he was going to be a preacher of the Gospel. He had to know his audience. He had to understand the culture. Paul had to do his homework before he could scatter the seed of the Gospel if he hoped for any success.
What about us? Are we equipping ourselves to more effectively scatter seed? How many of you know someone who practices Judaism, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormonism, Hinduism, Islam, Bhuddism or is an atheist, deist, or agnostic? Have you taken the approach that it’s best just not to talk religion with them or are you learning about their religion so that you can thoughtfully engage them in dialogue? It’s not enough to just know what you believe as a Christian, but if you are going to engage this culture for Christ, you need to know what other religions are espousing. I will be doing a series on world religions on Wednesday nights probably starting sometime in August. I hope you will all come. Not every Mormon or Muslim you befriend will turn to the truth of Christ alone, but SOME will. Do it for the some.
If you want to reach drug addicts for Jesus, why not do some reading on how to reach addicts? Wouldn’t it be helpful to know how addicts thought? What they believed about the way to happiness? How they experienced and processed life through their thoughts and feelings? There are patterns that can be observed that addicts share that when you understand them you can talk to them in ways that will help them connect with their need for the Gospel. Addiction is hard. The voice of the drug is compelling and commanding. Not every drug addict you engage will walk away from the escape the drug provides in the moment to turn to Jesus, but SOME will. We must engage the addicts for the SOME who will be rescued for Jesus’ sake.
Prompted by the Spirit of God I have begun asking more questions of and about the homosexual population. I read a book on our way to OK this past week that was written by a homosexual who has chosen celibacy for the sake of the Gospel. A graduate of Wheaton University, one of the leading Christian universities in the country, he has chosen to not enter into homosexual relationships in order to follow Jesus. I want to know, in this ever increasing diverse and open population, how to effectively minister to those who are engaged in homosexual lifestyles. I want to do my homework not only to have knowledge and tools, but to have understanding so that I can compassionately and in a compelling way offer a different approach to life through following Jesus as His disciple and give people the hope and evidence that it is possible to live a sexually pure life regardless of what you believe about your orientation.
Let me tell you one discovery I made. Those who are Christians who identify as homosexuals, but choose not to practice in order to faithfully follow Jesus deal with an intense loneliness that many of us cannot understand. If marriage was God’s solution to Adam’s loneliness and marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and His church, then the church is supposed to be the solution to people’s loneliness today. If we embrace that, we had better step up to the plate and offer authentic, encouraging friendship to people who struggle with homosexuality if we are going to see SOME come out of that lifestyle and live a life sustained by the grace and mercy of Christ through His church.
Angie Williams and a team of women that are coming alongside her are endeavoring to minister to young, single women who are pregnant. She knows how they think. She knows how scared they are. She understands what it is like to be alone in that process. She has been there. She is engaging them with the love of Jesus but at their point of need. They need friendship. They need support. They need some mentoring. They need car seats and diapers. And as they receive those things through our “Heartbeat of the Valley” ministry they will see the true love of Jesus. And as they experience the love of Jesus SOME will discover their need for His love and desire to belong to Him because of our efforts. Yes, some will take the baby blankets and training classes and be on their way, but SOME will accept Jesus as Savior. We are doing this for the SOME!
Paul had done his homework. He was ready to take on people who were convinced that their way of life was the way to live. In verse 22, having the attention of all present, he had his turn to speak. 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Paul masterfully acknowledged where they were and connected with them and their culture. Too often we want to start the conversation with the Gospel rather than engage people where they are. When Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden, God didn’t come to him with the blood of an animal and animal skin to cover his nakedness first. He came to him with a question. God asked Adam, “Adam, where are you?” He wanted Adam to evaluate where he found himself. He wanted Adam to see the futility of living life his way. He wanted Adam to take note that he was sitting in shame; that he was now living in fear and in hiding. He wanted Adam to discover that who he had become wasn’t who he was created to be and that he could no longer be authentic and open with God. He wanted Adam to acknowledge that he was broken, that sin had destroyed something wonderful. He wanted him to see how sin had dislocated him from God Himself.
When you seek to minister to people who are caught in a lifestyle of sin and who embrace a different way of thinking and living than the Bible teaches, consider starting with some questions. “Tell me about your religion.” “How did you come to the conclusion that following Allah was the right way to live?” Ask them when their drug use started and if they ever think of leaving that life behind. If you are convinced for Christ yourself, His Spirit will guide your words.
Well, Paul scattered the seed of the Gospel in hard, pride-filled, rocky, thorny Athens, and what was the result.
32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” 33 At that, Paul left the Council. 34 A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Some dismissed what Paul said entirely. Some were open to future dialogue, and SOME believed! He did it for the SOME and for the possibility that some more would follow. How powerful!
Paul lived his life to obey Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel for the SOME who would believe. Turn quickly to 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. I want you to see it one last time. Paul said, 19 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
My prayer this morning is that when I finish the “amen” that our altars will be filled with believers who are ready to be bold and ready to do whatever it takes in order to see SOME saved.