Stephen Caswell © 2001
Two Out Of 45 For Salesmen
The average insurance agent makes forty-five weekly calls on prospects. Of these, only fifteen listen to him. Of those fifteen, only two put their names on the dotted line. If an insurance agent calls on forty-five people and sells only two policies, should soul winners be discouraged if they make a thousand calls, and bring only one soul to Jesus? Certainly Not!
In today's society Christians have gained a wrong perspective of discipleship and evangelism. We can obtain instant coffee, three minute noodles, one hour photographs and the list goes on. In contrast to this the Bible that evangelism is hard work like farming. This morning we will look at the parable of the sower. The Lord equates evangelism with sowing seed. Why does Jesus use this example? Because farming is hard work. It requires both time and God's help to gain a harvest. A farmer can work hard and still not reap a harvest if the rains don't come. Farmers have to work long and hard before a crop is ready for harvest.
Although many people followed Jesus Christ very few were prepared to count the cost of being a disciple. Jesus spoke this parable to warn people that they must not only hear the Gospel, they must obey it too. Christ also instructs his disciples of the different responses the lost will make when we share the Gospel. There are two points that we will see in this parable. There Is One Kind Of Seed, There Are Many Kinds Of Soil.
Firstly, There Is One Kind Of Seed
Luke 8:4-5a,11: And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
a. The Seed Is Powerful
The seed is God's Word and the sower is God's servant. Why is God Word called seed? Because seed has new life within it. When God spoke the worlds came into being. God's Word is powerful. It accomplishes His purposes. Isaiah 55:10-11: 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. God's Word has the power to transform sinners into new creations. Romans 1:16 says that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes. When God's Word is received in the human heart and believed it brings forth new life. Yet, without God's Word there can be no new life!
1 Peter 1:23-25: Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
Spurgeon Tests The Acoustics
Charles Spurgeon, once while testing acoustics in Agricultural Hall in London, rang out over the empty building, Behold, the Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world! A workman up in the ceiling heard the message, was convicted, went home, knelt before the Lord and found salvation. God's Word is powerful, it has the power to produce new life. As I read God's Word in hospital to Thelma Funnel a woman in the next bed was moved to tears.
b. The Seed Is Propagated
Luke 8:5 A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.
The word sow speirw means to scatter seed or to sow seed. He did this by throwing the seed as he walked through the field. This corresponds to sharing the Gospel with the lost. Mark 4:14 says: The sower sows the word. Sowing seed is very much like preaching and witnessing for Christ. When we share the Gospel with the lost we plant seeds in their hearts. The Word we share has the potential to produce new life in that person. Let me be very clear here, the seed is the Gospel. Sharing the ten commandments is not the Gospel. Proving that creation is right and evolution is wrong is not sharing the Gospel. Although these things are important they cannot lead people to salvation. Only the Gospel can do this. When we share spiritual things with the lost let's always make a bee line for the cross. Only the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
When a farmer plants a crop he doesn't plant just a few grains of seed. He plants thousands, perhaps millions of seeds so that he can reap a great harvest. So too, believers need to plant lots of seed so that they can reap a greater harvest. Often people become discouraged after they have planted just a few seeds. Because there doesn't seem to be any response they quit. How can you increase the number of people that respond to Christ? By planting more seed!
Moody’s Total Audiences
Moody — for whom Lincoln gave his only recorded Sunday school address — is credited with speaking publicly to 100,000,000 persons about spiritual matters. Not a high school graduate himself, he founded a vast educational system that among many accomplishments has turned out one of ten American Protestant missionaries.
Early in his life, D.L. Moody made a promise to the Lord that he would share the Gospel with at least one person every day. Of course on many days he shared with thousands. But D.L. Moody didn't use this as an excuse from participating in personal evangelism. He planted lots of seeds. It is estimated that 1,000,000 people came to Christ through his ministry.
Today, believers don't give much time to evangelism. They excuse their actions by saying that people don't want to listen. But this simply isn't true. Many people want to know God's plan of salvation. Others say that evangelism is not their gift. Yet the Lord gave the Great Commission to every believer in every age.
How can you spread the seed to the lost? Firstly, we can share the Gospel with our unsaved family and friends. Secondly, we can build friendships with our neighbors and work mates and invite them home for meal. We can share the Gospel with them in a relaxed setting. Your personal testimony mixed with appropriate verses of Scripture is a powerful way to share Christ with them. Thirdly, we can loan the Jesus video to people and allow them to watch it at home. All the time upholding them in prayer. Fourthly, you can come door knocking. Of course there are many other means as well. Will you sow the incorruptible seed? Will you scatter the Gospel far and wide? Will you help to produce a great harvest for Jesus Christ?
Secondly, There Are Many Kinds Of Soil
He That Has Ears To Hear Let Him Hear
Although there is only one kind of seed to sow, there are many kinds of soil. The soil relates to the human heart. Just as the seed is planted in the soil, so too the Gospel is planted in the human heart. There are four different responses people make to the Gospel. It is important for us to understand this when we share Gospel. People are all different. Some will receive the message whilst others won't. The chief quality of good soil is that it received the seed. People who hear the Word and receive it gladly spring forth in new life. Matthew uses the word hear 16 times. Hearing means more than identifying sounds. It means paying attention. Jesus gave several commands regarding this. Mark 4:3: Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. All three Gospels record this, He who has ears to hear, let him hear! Matthew 13:18 Therefore hear the parable of the sower. Luke 8:18: Therefore take heed how you hear.
Persistent Fly On Skeptic
A hardened unbeliever went one day to see — but not to hear — George Whitefield when he preached outdoors to a great throng. In order to have a good vantage point, he climbed a nearby tree. Putting his fingers in both ears, he began to watch the mighty preacher. Then a persistent fly lit on his nose. He shook his head, but the fly wouldn’t move. Just as he removed a hand from an ear to flick the fly away, Whitefield quoted the verse, He that has ears to hear, let him hear. Then he spoke of the willful refusal of many to hear the Spirit’s voice. The unbeliever was so impressed by what happened that he opened not only his ears to the gospel, but also his heart.
a. The Road Side - Stolen
Luke 8:5 A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it.
The wayside soil had been trodden down by animals and people passing through the field. Because the soil was very hard the seed couldn't penetrate the surface. The seed was soon snatched up and eaten by the birds of the air. Jesus explains the meaning of this in Luke 8:12: Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. These people won't receive God's Word. This soil corresponds to people with hard hearts. They won't let it take root in their hearts and produce new life. Therefore, Satan quickly removes the Word from their memory.
Matthew 13:19: 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. Because they can't understand how salvation works they harden their heart. These people have no interest in spiritual things whatsoever. They don't want to hear the Gospel. If you do share it, they won't listen to you. Satan comes and snatches the Word away as soon as it is shared. Their mind is made up and their heart is hard. On the Road Side the seed is stolen by Satan before it can produce new life.
The Road Side describes the Pharisees and Saducees. They wouldn't even listen to Jesus with an open mind. Their hearts were hardened from pride. We have certainly met people like this when we doing the community survey. There is only one hope for these people. They must humble themselves and soften their hearts. Only then can God's Word penetrate their lives and expose their need. Hosea 10:12: Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you. God can soften hard hearts if they are willing, if they will humble themselves.
b. The Rocky Soil - Scorched
Luke 8:6 Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture.
The second type of soil was shallow. A layer of rock ran just bellow the surface. The seed quickly sprang up but couldn't go down into the ground. The growth was all on the surface and therefore it drew no moisture from the soil. When the sun's heat came upon it the new plant withered away. Mark 4:5-6 describes this: Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. For plants to grow to maturity they must have a strong root system. Surface growth cannot support plants during the heat of the day or the strong winds of a storm. Only a good root system can provide both nourishment and stability for plants during these times.
Jesus explained this soil in Luke 8:13: But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. These people receive the Word gladly but don't think it through. People who make a shallow commitment to Jesus Christ won't be able to stand firm in times of temptation. They aren't prepared to count the cost. They won't give the time that it takes to grow deep in their Christian faith. They are glad to follow Christ while everything is rosy but if they have to suffer for their faith that is something entirely different.
Matthew 13:20-21 says: 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. When Jesus spoke this parable thousands of people wanted to follow Him. But most fell away because of persecution. The religious leaders excommunicated anyone who followed Christ. This meant that they weren't allowed into the synagogues or the temple. Most people weren't prepared to pay the price. I have met people like this. They aren't prepared to commit their lives to Christ because it will mean being ostracized by their family. They aren't prepared to suffer for Jesus Christ. On the Rocky Soil the seed is scorched by suffering before it can produce fruit. These folk must make a deeper commitment to Christ.
Miss America’s Witness
Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss America for 1965, was being interviewed during the pageant finals. Emcee Bert Parks asked, Do you carry a Bible as a good luck charm? The twenty one year old Sunday school teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, replied, It’s not a charm, but the most important Book that I own. Then she added, I wouldn’t classify my relationship to Jesus Christ as a religion, but rather as faith. I trust in Him completely.
c. The Crowded Soil - Squashed
Luke 8:7: And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it.
The third type of soil was overcrowded soil. The sower was probably unaware that thorns had infested the ground. They sprang up at the same time that the good seed did. The seed had to compete for the nutrients and moisture in the soil. However the thorns grew faster and took both the moisture from beneath and the sunlight from above. This resulted with the thorns choking out the young plants. These plants didn't grow to maturity and produce fruit. Christ explains this in Luke 8:14: Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.
This describes people that receive the Word but don't clean out their hearts. They aren't prepared to give up everything to follow Christ. They won't give up the cares, riches and pleasures of this life. As a result there is a conflict in their lives. They are torn between the call of Christ and the cares of this life. Matthew and Mark both tell us that they become unfruitful. Here Luke says that they don't bring fruit to maturity. You can't serve God and mammon.
Only eternity will tell how many religious people fit into this category. People who attended Church for many years only to fall away completely. When the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches and pleasures entered in, it choked their faith. They no longer serve the Lord. They are consumed with money, pleasures and earthly things. These people are unfruitful because they didn't set their hearts only on spiritual things. The thorns that they tolerated strangled their faith. Let us beware of worldly pleasures, lest we become unfruitful.
His Soul For The New York Times
Robert Herbert Thompson owns 180 newspapers, 290 other companies, and an estimated $300 million. How much would you give for the New York Times? Like a flash he answered, I think I’d mortgage my soul. You might think that's crazy, but many people are doing just that. They allow the pleasures and riches of this world to strangle their spiritual life.
d. The Rich Soil - Fruitful
Luke 8:8: But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold. When He had said these things He cried, He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
The final type of soil is rich soil. When the sower scattered the seed here it sprang forth and grew to maturity. It yielded a good crop because the plants were able to grow to maturity. They put their roots down deep into the soil and received nourishment and moisture. They stood firm in life's storms and grew stronger through them. Then they produced a bumper crop. Matthew and Mark indicate differing amounts of fruitfulness. Some thirty, some sixty and some one hundred fold. Even good soil produces varying amounts of fruitfulness.
Luke 8:15: But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
Matthew says this soil relates to those who receive the word and understand it. Mark says they accept it and bring forth fruit. Why did they respond like this? Luke says that they hear the Word with a good and noble heart. That's the key, they prize the spiritual over the material. They kept God's Word and patiently bore fruit. Although the Word has power to produce knew life it needs a receptive heart. We must respond to the Gospel in faith. In fact, faith in God's Word is essential for salvation. That's why it's important that we hear the Word clearly. Romans 10:17: So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
The Need For Sowers
If the good soil produces a harvest why are so few trusting in Christ? Because believers aren't sowing the seed. They don't make the time to share Christ. Most Christians are busy in the things of this life but not in the things of Christ. Believers won't plant the seed the lives of the lost. Their hearts are unconcerned that without Christ these people will go to hell! Jesus said that we are to share our faith with the lost. Luke 8:16: No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. Are you letting your light shine for Jesus Christ? Most Christians aren't!
It as been estimated that 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ. The problem doesn't lie with the Gospel. It lies with believers who won't share it.
Dallas Airport’s Soul Winner
A businessman landed at the Dallas airport and realized he had one hour and 20 minutes before his next plane connection. He thought, How can I be used of the Lord here? He had a supply of Gospel tracts with him. He inserted one of his business cards inside each tract. Then he gave these to single men sitting waiting for their planes. But he didn’t just hand them out and pass on.
Instead he said to each man, Pardon me. I have a little booklet here that explains how a person can become a Christian. Inside is my business card. I would like you to read this over and if you have any questions, I will be sitting over there. I have some time before my plane takes off. Or if you would like to write, my address is there. At the end of the hour and 20 minutes, men were standing four deep to ask questions about how to become a Christian. And, for weeks afterwards, the businessman received correspondence because of the business cards in the tracts. He was sowing the seed and had the privilege of seeing a harvest come in.
What do we learn from this? Firstly, that hearing the Gospel is of absolute importance. It determines our eternal destiny. Secondly, that there are different responses that people make to the Gospel. God assures us that good soil is there amongst all the rest. Thirdly, only God knows what type of soil we are sowing the seed in. Our task is to scatter as much seed as we can. Finally, there is nothing wrong with the seed. The Gospel will always have power to produce new life in people. We can assist it's effectiveness by preparing the ground first. Soft hearts that are noble and good will produce fruit.
Today we saw two things about evangelism. There Is One Kind Of Seed, There Are Many Kinds Of Soil. Are you planting the seed in peoples hearts? Are you praying for the lost? When was the last time you witnessed for Christ? Have you ever led a soul to Christ? Are you concerned for the lost? Are you working to prepare a great harvest for Jesus Christ? At present we have about six people door knocking! Will you come with us and share Christ with people in the community? Will you participate in the Community Survey?
So Little Time —John R. Rice
So little time! The harvest will be over, Our reaping done, we reapers taken home.
Report our work to Jesus, Lord of Harvest, And hope He’ll smile and say, “Well done!”
How many times I should have strongly pleaded; How often did I feel to strictly warn,
The Spirit moved, oh, had I pled for Jesus! The grain is fallen, lost ones not reborn.
Despite the heat, the ceaseless toil, the hardship, The broken heart o’er those we cannot win; Misunderstood because we’re oft peculiar, Still no regrets we’ll have but for our sin.
A day of pleasure, or a feast of friendship; A house or car or garments or fame,
Will all be trash, when we go to Heaven. And then how sad to face the slackers’ blame!
The harvest white, with reapers few is wasting, And many souls will die and never know,
The love of Christ, the joy of sins forgiven. Oh let us weep and love and pray and go!
Today we reap, or miss our golden harvest! Today is given us lost souls to win.
Oh then to save some dear ones from the burning. Today we’ll go to bring some sinner in.
Hebrews 13:20-21: Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.