Have You Heard the Word (2): The Experientialist
Intro – Sandy Koufax was my hero. During my senior year we moved to CA, so that summer 2 of my cousins and another friend and I made plans to go to Dodger Stadium to see Koufax pitch. I was on Cloud 9. When we got to the Stadium, I dropped the friend and one cousin to go get tickets while my other cousin and I parked. Shortly, they returned. The game was sold out. They had 2 scalped tickets, but couldn’t find anymore. On this most anticipated occasion in my young life, I listened to the game on the radio in my car parked just outside the entrance. So close and yet so far. I consoled myself that I’d have other opportunities. But Koufax’s arthritic left elbow caused him to have to retird at age 31 at the end of that year. I never saw him pitch.
That was tough. But imagine arriving in heaven thinking you’ve got a ticket only to find you don’t! That’s what this passage is all about. Jesus’ crowds are big but fickle. He knows He’ll never see most of those faces in heaven. Jesus is a merely a novelty, a great preacher, and entertaining healer – but saving faith is mostly absent. They think they are okay, but they are fatally mistaken. As the old spiritual says, “Everybody talkin’ bout heaven ain’t agoin’ there.” So Jesus gives this parable to warn of missing heaven for not hearing Him because of heart trouble.
It’s a simple parable. The seed represents the Word. The sower is Jesus in this case, and by application anyone who shares the true gospel. What differs is the soil. There are four types here – 4 kinds of hearts. And key is Jesus’ comment in v. 8, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Each person is responsible for how they hear the Word and what they do with it. Will it land on fertile soil or on soil that is polluted in some way? The answer to that is up to us.
I. Wayside soil – (The Rejecter) – So last week we looked at the first soil – the wayside soil – so packed down from being walked on that the birds, representing Satan, come along and steal the seed before it has any chance to germinate. To such outright rejecters with hard hearts Jesus says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Now, let’s look at the next category of soil
II. Rocky Soil – (The Experientialist)
V. 6, “And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.” This describes a thin layer of soil on top of limestone beneath – common in Palestine. Under these conditions, plants can’t take root. They spring up quickly then die when roots can’t get any nutrition.
Jesus inteprets in v. 13, “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” Some have taught that these are true believers who backslide. But the parable’s point is to warn hearers against “false” belief – thinking that they are okay when they are not.
Rather than a true believer, this depicts the experientialist or emotionalist – a person of impulsive heart – someone whose emotions are easily moved but whose heart is not engaged. This person who goes from one trend to another –one experience to another, one high after another, without ever committing. They hear the Word and say, “This is great! This will fix all my problems.” They profess faith in Christ. But they are just as likely to be attracted to the family values of the Mormons next week and sign on. Or they may find peace in transcendental meditation for a time. Or they become hooked on Dr. Phil or Oprah. Their compass is their emotions, not the Word. They flit from one thing to another – moving on when hard times come, looking for another “fix” somewhere else. When hardship comes, they burn out and bail. They are not real.
People often respond to the gospel for the wrong reasons. They have experienced a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, financial setback, a lost job. They joyously expect Jesus will fix everything. They want the blessings more than Jesus. They are not and never were saved. Look at what characterizes them and ask, Could this emotionalist be me?
A. They Receive the Word, but Not Christ
V. 13 again, “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.” Sounds like saving faith, doesn’t it? But there’s no root. Theologians use 3 Latin words to describe the elements of saving faith. Notitia – knowledge. We must know the facts. Rom 10:14, “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” You can’t believe what you don’t know. As Joe Friday says, “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” Notitia.
Second, assensus – assent – accepting the facts as true. Someone might tell me the ice will hold my weight. Now the question is, do I believe. Similarly, many know what the Bible says. But they may or may not believe it. Step 2 in saving faith. We must assent to or believe the facts to be true. Assensus. Unfortunately, a lot of people get stopped right there – at assensus. They never get any further.
Then comes the critical element. Fiducia – trust. I must act on what I believe to be true! I move out onto the ice. That’s saving faith. I know, I assent and I move. Hearing and believing are nothing without a commitment. God gives a great visual at the time of the exodus from Egypt. Remember the final plague involved God saying, I am coming to kill all firstborn (noticia). Clearly most if not of the Israelites believed (assensus). The Egyptians did not. But here’s the point. Even tho they believed, they still had to apply the blood from the sacrificial lamb (fiducia). Knowledge and assent without action would have been fatal.
Another personal example is in Acts 8. An early church deacon, Phillip, was in Samaria preaching Jesus. Response was great. Acts 8:9, “But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. 10 They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” 11 And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic (Warning: not all supernatural activity is of God. Satan is also a practitioner). 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13 Even Simon himself believed and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. Here is a man who came as a sinner, heard the Word (noticia), said, “That’s true (assensus). He received the Word. But did He receive Christ (fiducia)?
Later events reveal Simon’s heart was rocky soil – shallow and without root. Peter and John come and pray for the HS to show God’s included half-breeds. V. 18, “Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” Simon’s heart was selfish. His response emotional – out for what he could get. He was not saved. He received the Word, but not Christ. His will had not followed where his emotions led. It was all feelings for him. Peter advised, “Repent.”
B. They Have Joy, but not Mourning
A second feature of rocky soil, v. 13: “when they hear the word, receive it with joy.” What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t people who accept Christ be joyful? Absolutely. But saving faith isn’t all joy. It doesn’t start with joy. Jesus described believers in Mt 5:4: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”? Saving faith is first driven by a sense of our own unworthiness which leads to mourning. Comfort follows;mourning comes first. James 4:9, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” The joy of salvation is a wonderful, but if not built on sorrow for sin, it is probably not genuine. It is a rootless, shallow experience that falls short of saving faith.
C. S. Lewis says it concisely: “It is after you have realized that there is a Moral Law and a Power behind the law, and that you have broken that law and put yourself wrong with that Power – it is after all this, and not a moment sooner, that Christianity begins to talk.” Conviction precedes saving faith and that is not a joyful experience. The joy of forgiveness is informed by the brokenness of guilt? When I see the true nature and hoplessness of my lostness, then I can really appreciate and joy in the glory of God’s grace. Faith rejoices in forgiveness, not experience.
Kent Hughes tells of a young man who made a dazzling profession of faith. He shared his faith boldly, dominating testimony meetings, reproving older believers for their coldness. But then he broke his leg. A simple test. His reaction was to blame God and His people. He brought vindictive litigation against an innocent property owner and soon left the faith altogether. Saved and lost -- or saved and backslid? No – he was never saved!
C. They Believe for A While, but Not for Long
Mid v. 13, “But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” Now, some hold that these are saved for a time, but then lose their salvation. But the Bible knows nothing of such a condition.
Saving faith cannot be lost. We don’t protect it; God does! Jesus says in John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Jesus never loses a sheep. But He knows some aren’t real! John 2:23, “23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing (they look real!) 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust (“believe” – same word as used above) himself to them, because he knew all people.” Despite appearances, he knew they weren’t real. They believed in Him; He didn’t believe in them. Was it ever saving faith? No, it was an emotional high with no reality behind it. Jesus was a passing fancy.
Late in life, John wrote to congregations across Asia Minor addressing this exact issue – people who shined brightly for a moment, then disappeared. I John 2:19, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” Their brief belief was not with a saving faith. It was a flirtation! Why did they leave? Because they gave up their salvation? No -- “They went out from us, but they were not of us.” They weren’t genuine. They looked real; the acted real; they talked real, but when testing came they bailed revealing “that they all are not of us.” Never real!
D. They Have No Root and No Fruit
Mid v. 13, “But these have no root.” Their rocky, hard selfish heart makes it impossible for Christ to take root. And only the 4th group have fruit. Rocky hearts produce no root and no fruit. This is damning evidence because genuine believers have both. Col 2:6, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” True believers have roots; they have a foundation. Paul says in I Cor 3:11, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Our foundation is Jesus, not feelings. He must be our treasure. Rocky soil has no room for Him. Saving faith is rooted in Him.
Saving faith also has fruit. Jesus says in John 15:2, “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.” And what is the fate of these pruned branches? John 15:6: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” That is not a description of a believer, Beloved. That is a professing believer who looked good but had no fruit. We are not saved by the fruit of our works; but saving faith results in good works. You know what? Even the thief on the cross had the fruit of repentance. He went to the cross mocking Jesus. But somehow, God got ahold of his hard heart and changed it so that by the end of the afternoon, he not only rebuked the other thief who continued to mock Jesus; but he also confessed his sin, asked for a place in heaven and bore witness concerning Jesus, “but this man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41). The most amazing transformation in history with not enough time to show a lot of fruit, but he had enough. Saving faith has roots and it has fruit.
E. They Fail to Endure Under Testing
V. 13 again: “But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.” True believers don’t fall away; fake believers do. John said, “But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (I John 2:19). They were never real – they just briefly look like it! Consider this contrast. Those with rocky hearts “fall away” (Greek word aphistemi). Paul uses the same word in I Tim 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart (aphistemi – fall away) from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” Are these saved people who unsave themselves? No – never saved. Look at I Tim 2:19, “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from (aphistemi – fall away from) iniquity.” True believers don’t depart from the faith, Beloved. They depart from iniquity. They learn to hate it like God does; they depart from sin – not from the faith.
True believers endure. Jesus says in Matt 24:10, “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. (to v. 13) 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Emotion-based faith bails when tough times come; saving faith endures. Theologians call this the perseverance of the saints -- meaning those truly saved will never quit. They have bad moments – like Peter’s denials or David’s sin. True believers are not perfect – but they do endure. Rocky hearts fall away because they were never real.
Conc – John MacArthur tells of being on a flight reading his Bible when the man next to him asked, “Excuse me, you wouldn’t know how I could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, would you?” John says, “Prospects like this do not approach me very often, so I did not want to lose this one! I said, ‘Well, yes, you simply believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and accept Him as your Savior.’ I explained that Jesus died and rose again so that we might have eternal life. I told him all he needed to do was to receive Christ as his personal savior. ‘I'd like to do that’, he said. So I led him in a prayer, and he asked the Lord to be his Savior. Later that month I baptized him. I was very excited about what had happened and eager to follow him up in discipleship. After a short time, however, he broke off contact with me. I recently discovered he has no continuing interest in the things of Christ.” He got to assensus, but never to fiducia. It was just an emotion-driven, rootless, fruitless exercise. Jesus left no room for that when He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Such a requirement weeds out the rocky-soiled, rootless, emotional responses that Jesus addresses in this parable.
So are we real? What would it take to get us to fall away? How much testing would we endure before saying, “Enough! It’s not worth it to go on. Let me out.” Beloved, Jesus is teaching that we commit for it all or we have not committed at all. Have you heard the Word? Don’t be disappointed as you come to the Pearly Gates. Come with a soft heart, not a rocky heart. Jesus warns, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Heb 3:7 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Jesus says in Rev 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him.” Let’s pray.