Four People Who Went to Church (Continued)
Sunday, June 9, 2013 -
Last week we studied point number one - Fruit will only come from the seed sown in the heart. Today we continue with points two and three:
2) THE WORD WILL LOSE ITS POWER IN MY LIFE IF I BECOME TOO ENTRENCHED IN MY OWN STUBBORN PATTERNS OF LIVING
Matthew 13:3-4 - “And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.”
Matthew 13:18-19 - “Hear then the parable of the sower:  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 what was sown along the path.”
Jesus tells us the enemy will steal away the seed - the Word - from our lives if it is not received with understanding. But there’s a particular kind of understanding He has in mind. These people weren’t too stupid to grasp the meaning of the Word. The problem was of a different kind. Jesus said their hearts had grown dull. He said people’s lives can become hard to God’s truth. Like a path that has been packed down by lots of traffic, people get busy with the thoughts of their minds and the dreams of their hearts. The seed of God’s Word is just one more thing bouncing off the surface of their lives.
And so, in the mind of Jesus, the first obstacle to overcome if I want to hear the Word of God unto fruitfulness, is lazy, indifferent, presumptuous listening. The Word needs to penetrate my heart, not just land on my ears. This takes incredible work - more work the longer I have followed Jesus and the more I already think I know His will and way.
3) I CAN’T RECEIVE THE WORD IN A FRUITFUL MANNER UNTIL I AM WILLING TO DISPLACE WHATEVER IS IN MY HEART THAT IS CONTRARY TO ITS TRUTH
Matthew 13:5-6 - “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.”
Matthew 13:20-21 - “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.”
Notice that Jesus uses the word “immediately” twice in describing these people. They receive the word with joy immediately (13:5, Mark 14:16 - “...receive it with joy”). Then, Jesus says they “immediately fall away” (Matthew 13:21). Here we have Jesus dealing with the problem of short-lived spiritual experience and commitment. Why do Christians backslide? Why don’t all our aspirations and goals materialize? Why don’t people end up as well as they start out? That’s the issue Jesus is dealing with in these verses.
You can picture the problem Jesus is addressing. The seed enters and begins to germinate. There is the emotional excitement that comes from that inner awareness of new life and spiritual transformation. But just as surely as the germination was rapid, it was also shallow. The roots went down into the soil, but only a short way. But the problem wasn’t the persecution. This is a frequent misinterpretation of this part of the parable. The cause of the shriveled life wasn’t the trial or difficulty. Those things only manifested what was already going wrong in the life.
Here’s what happened. Somewhere, amid all the excitement of new spiritual life, the Lord began to deal with something under the surface of the life. All the while the new convert was singing choruses and giving testimony, God was trying to reach a level of sacrifice way down deep - under the emotions.
And for whatever reason, while the emotions were stirred, this person’s will wasn’t dethroned. There are whole churches who teach people to just live by their feelings and impulses. There are whole churches who thrive on keeping people on the edge of their seats with emotional excitement. And there is nothing wrong with an emotional quality in our Christian walk. But sooner or later, God’s going to come to some area of my stubborn will that is as immovable and unbreakable as a rock.
Nobody else will know whether I have listened to the Lord or not. Nobody else will see how real Christ’s Lordship is under the surface of my life. But that one issue - that one part of life where I refuse to budge, will determine my future survival.
Jesus explains why in Matthew 13:12 - “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”
Most of us understand that Jesus, through the inward work of the Holy Spirit, speaks to our lives and plants truth in our hearts. It’s the last part of that twelfth verse that’s a bit harder to swallow. Did you know that Jesus will actually take away previous benefit from His Word in your life when you cease to live in obedience to what He has revealed?
It’s not just that you won’t make any further progress. That seems fair enough. But He actually removes what has been gained in previous years of discipleship. You don’t stay at the same level. You can’t. People fail and fall in all sorts of ways spiritually. God is patient, merciful, helpful and forgiving with repentant sinners. But He is absolutely intolerant of the stubborn refusal to yield. Any area of persistent unwillingness to heed the Word, will shrivel the life of the seed and destroy the possibility of abiding fruit.