Parable about Fruitfulness

23 July 2017 AM – Mark 4:1-20 – Mr17 – Scott Childs

Introduction: In Jesus’ day, the life of a farmer was not easy. After the rains he used a wooden plow pulled by oxen to break up the ground. He broke up the clods with a hoe or mattock. Animal manure was his fertilizer. He scattered seeds by hand over the plowed ground. He then raked the field to cover the seed. Adding to his difficulty, Bible-land soil was often rocky and weedy.

If we went to a market in Jesus’ day, all the fruit and vegetables for sale would be organic. None of them were genetically modified. The gluten in wheat and barley had not been altered. Since that time, scientists have developed bug sprays, weed sprays, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seeds so they can withstand weed spray, and created hybrids that produce higher yields and longer shelf life.

While these scientific developments and machinery make farming much easier and more productive today, the product is often inferior in quality to that of years gone by.

Transition: In our text today, Jesus told a parable about fruitfulness. He talked about the seed, the soil and the yield. In doing so, He explained why the Gospel does not become fruitful in more people.

1.        The Seed

a.         The seed was the best possible quality
1)         Seed quality is very important to a farmer or gardener. Old seed or damaged seed will not germinate and grow.
2)         Jesus assures us that the quality of the seed in His parable was the best possible.
b.         The seed was God’s Word
1)         Jesus said that the seed was the Word of God.
2)         The sower was spreading God’s Word for others to hear. Some of the last words Jesus said before returning to heaven were that we are to preach the gospel to every creature (Mr 16:15). If you are a Christian, you are to be one of God’s farmers who plant the Word of God. Just like the sower, we are to have our hearts full of the Word and spread the Gospel as we walk. Christians who fail to work in God’s harvest fields will lack reward on judgment day just like the lazy farmer. (Proverbs 20:4) “The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.”
3)         Because the Word of God is the best seed, we know that if the yield is poor, it is not the fault of the seed.

2.        The Soil (Jesus identifies four kinds of soil)

a.         The first soil was the hard ground
1)         Some seed fell on the “way side” (v.4). That was the path or the road where the ground had not been plowed. It was very hard ground.
2)         Because the path ground was hard, the seed remained on top and the birds came and ate it.
3)         Jesus said that like the birds Satan will immediately remove the Word from those with hard hearts. They will not even give it a second thought.
b.         The second soil was on a stony ledge
1)         Some seed fell on the stony ground. This was probably a stone ledge with some dirt on it.
2)         The seed sprouted and began to grow, but when the roots hit the stone ledge they could draw no moisture to endure the sun’s heat. They withered and died.
3)         The hearts of some people are like the stony ledge. They have a shallow interest in the Gospel. They immediately receive it and it sprouts in their heart, but it only survives for a short time. Affliction or persecution act like a stony ledge and stop the sprout from maturing.
4)         Here is a person who heard the Gospel and quickly received it without understanding it thoroughly. He did not count the cost of his decision. While the Gospel is not complicated, it is not just a free ticket to heaven. It is a new way of life. The Christian life is like paddling a canoe upstream.
5)         This person’s heart was not ready and he responded prematurely without repentance to the Word. He was never truly saved. As a result his profession did not last.
c.          The third soil was full of thorns
1)         Some seed fell on the thorny ground. As the seed sprouted and began to grow, the thorns also grew and kept the seedling from maturing and bearing fruit.
2)         This thorny ground pictures the heart of a person received the Word and it sprouted in their heart, but the thorns of this life choked it. Jesus identified three kinds of thorns.
a)         The cares of this world. We live in a busy hectic world. Life is full of cares that gobble up our time. People often say that they are too busy to go to church or think about God.
b)         The deceitfulness of riches. The deceitful thought that a little more will satisfy me is a plague in our culture. People do not have time for spiritual things when they are seeking to climb the latter of success.
c)         The lusts of other things. A lust or desire for bigger, better, or faster things that we usually do not need is promoted by constant advertisement.
3)         The Gospel message of God’s Word competes with these worldly thorns and is often choked by them. At another time a rich young ruler that once came to Jesus went away lost because of these thorns. (Mark 10:21-22) “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
d.         The fourth soil was good ground
1)         Some of the seed fell upon good ground. This was soil that had been well prepared for the seed. This soil received the seed and provided a quality environment for it to grow and mature.
2)         This good ground pictures the hearts of those who are truly ready to receive the Gospel of God’s Word. They see themselves as lost sinners in desperate need of God’s salvation. They understand and welcome the change that the Gospel makes in their lives. They longed for Christ to cleanse them and give them a new life. They have truly repented of their pursuit of riches and lust.
3)         God does not require that a person change his ways before he can be saved. He simply requires that a person change his mind about his pursuit of sin and desire that God change his life. That is repentance.

3.        The Yield

a.         The yield is all that really matters
1)         One thing that is a bit confusing in this parable is that the sprouting of the seed and the partial growth does not picture salvation. It is the fruit that pictures true salvation.
2)         Just as every farmer’s goal is fruit not just growth, so God’s goal is spiritual fruit not just a bit of growth.
b.         The yield depended on the soil not the seed
1)         The hard ground bore no fruit.
2)         The stony ground sprouted but bore no fruit.
3)         The thorny ground sprouted but bore no fruit.
4)         The good ground spouted, grew to maturity and bore fruit. There are many kinds of spiritual fruit. At the least there ought to be a new desire to read God’s Word and to live to please the Lord (2Co 5:17).
5)         Not every seed in the good ground produced 100 fold. Some only produced 30 fold or 60 fold, but each produced some fruit. A total lack of fruit points to a lack of salvation.
6)         While every true Christian will bear some fruit, God desires that each Christian bear more fruit. Jesus said that our fruit will increase if we abide in Christ (John 15:1-10). It will increase if we walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:15-16, 22-23). It will increase as we add to our faith (2Pe 1:5-9).

Conclusion: As you look into your heart is there fruit that clearly shows that you have truly been saved? If not, I urge you to trust Christ today. If you find fruit in your heart, but very little, then you must get serious about drawing near to God so that He may cultivate your heart and fortify it with His Word so that you may produce more fruit. You must abide in Christ.

Song: Give of Your Best – 369