Matthew 13:18-23 Integrating the Gospel Into Your Life
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 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. 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. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
(Matthew 13:18-23 NKJV)
I had two sets of grandparents as I was growing up. I lived in Texas, but when vacation time came, we would visit both sets of grandparents. My dad’s parents lived on the farm in Washburn, MO. My mother’s parents lived in Cassville, MO just eight miles away. It was very convenient for us. My mother’s parents bought a red house and put two greenhouses for plants on the piece of land. They set up a parking lot and started a business. The house was on the road you would travel as a tourist through the Ozarks. So, it was the perfect place to start a business. My grandmother named her business the “Red House Cactus Co.” She sold cactus for a living.
Here is what she would do. She would buy cacti, that were just planted in a small cup, and then she would let it grow until it was large enough to be put in another pot. Sometimes, the cactus seed she received came in a tray with rocks all around it. She would replant the seed in another soil. She would let it grow, and then replant it again in better soil, so that she could see the cactus for a profit. She would take these cactus plants and put them in trays laid in a van, and then her workers would ship them to all kinds of places around the tourist area. Other businesses that sold tourist junk, would sell her cactus too. It became a very profitable business.
So I learned all kinds of skills from her. On the weekends, I would go to the farm and stay with my dad’s parents. During the week, I would stay with my mother’s parents. While there, Grandma Louise taught me how to do be a salesclerk at the cash register. She also taught me the important skill of how to replant cactus.
You see, cacti don’t need lots of water. A cactus plant can go three weeks without water. But without good soil, the cactus plant will die. As it grows in good soil, it may need to be transplanted into another soil source for it to be fruitful. If the soil is too rocky (and that can happen sometimes when you buy soil from the market), it has no room to grow. It can’t grow. It just stays small.
If the soil has too many thorns in it, which can happen when the cactus thorns fall, then it won’t grow as well. Sometimes you have to replant the cactus several times in order for it grow large enough that you can break off a piece of the top, in order to plant a second cactus. You can break off a piece and stick it in good soil, and it will grow to be another cactus plant.
She would do this. She would plant, and replant into another pot, and then replant into another pot, until it grew large enough in the best soil so that she could sell it for the best price. The soil itself didn’t look good, but we would put colored rocks on the soil to make the plant look better and sell for a higher price.
The Parable of the Sower was one of the first parables that Jesus spoke. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus would tell a story, and then He would sometimes reveals its meaning. Many times, he left the people to themselves to see if they would try to understand. The teachers of the Law had problems with the parables. But the people who were ready to listen to Jesus understood Him clearly.
This parable is about how one receives the Gospel. The soils represent receptivity. Receptivity is how well a person accepts what is being said. When God speaks to people about His Kingdom, some people will receive it well. Some people will have problems receiving it. The more a person is willing to receive the word of God into their lives, the more integrated God becomes into you life. The soil represents receptivity, which happens in the heart. The seed is the word of the kingdom. The soil is how your heart responds to the word of the kingdom – the Gospel.
The key to this parable is how one receives and acts on the “word of the kingdom”. The seed is the same. The soils are different. The soil is your heart.
STAGE 1 – IMPROBABLE CHRISTIAN (“received by the wayside”) (13:18)
This person is not a Christian. The fact that the person did not understand it and did not receive it – because the understanding was taken away – proves that this person is not a Christian. Satan prevented this person from receiving the Gospel. Satan is like the bird.
Satan spends time trying to prevent people from hearing, understanding, and receiving the Gospel. He often sends deceiving messages to make it hard for the message of the kingdom to be heard and understood in your heart. He is trying his best to keep someone from becoming fully integrated with the Gospel.I want us to pause right now and pray for those who need to hear the Gospel and cannot understand it. You have someone you know who has not connected with God. Pray for that person right now.
The next three stages are for Christians.
STAGE 2 – IMMATURE CHRISTIAN (“stony places”) – “receives with joy and stumbles” (13:20-21)
This person has the Gospel, and like electricity, is fascinated by the new experience. But this Christian does not know how to live the Christian life very well. He stumbles and fumbles and tries to figure it out. He is an immature Christian. Peter stumbled. He screwed up, and did not know everything about integrating the Gospel into his life. He made outrageous claims and then denied Jesus. What did Jesus do? He forgave Peter. Perhaps you have hit some rocky ground in your new-found Christian life. You don’t know everything there is to know about Jesus. Keep growing. Keep learning how to get integrated.
Perhaps you have some stony places in your life. Perhaps you are having a hard time and stumbling. Perhaps you know someone else that is stumbling and fumbling. Let’s stop right now and pray for that person.
STAGE 3 – INDIFFERENT CHRISTIAN (“thorns”) – “hears and becomes unfruitful” (13:22)
Some say that you will be one of three types of Christians. If you are type 1 or 2, then you are a bad Christian. But God says that you still are a Christian, just not a fruitful one. So it s not an either/or, but an all/every. These symbols in the parable are stages, not types.
As a result, everyone will be at a point before they accept the Gospel, that they are having a hard time understanding it. Everyone who accepts the Gospel, will have to go through a time of growth, a spiritual learning curve. Every Christian will also get to a point where they will hear the Gospel and become indifferent to the world around them. They don’t care about the world around them. Indifference limits ministry and outreach. When you don’t care about people around you. You won’t reach out. Your heart is literally in another world.
Let us pause and pray that God will help you stop being indifferent to the world around you.
STAGE 4 – INTEGRATED CHRISTIAN (“good ground”) – “hears, understands, and bears fruits and produces…” (13:23)
Everyone goes through these
stages – or at least this is the intention. The prophecy from Isaiah 6:9-10 is quoted in Matthew 13:14-17. The prophecy says that there are people who will go from closed to open hearts. It also says that people will go from hurting to healing hearts. Understanding therefore comes with the heart, not the head. As a result, one who hears and understands with the heart will go through each of these stages. Because the parable is about turning hearts. Look at the verse that is quoted from Isaiah:
For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.‘ (Matthew 13:15 NKJV)
You become a Christian when you turn your heart to Jesus.
You become a mature Christian when you let God teach your heart how to be like Jesus. You need to be transplanted into another soil.
You become a different Christian when you let God lead your heart to people He wants you to reach. You need to be transplanted into another soil.
You become an effective Christian when you let your heart be obedient to God and His plan to the world around you.
You move through the stages with your heart, not your mind. You can think all you want, but God moves in His people through their hearts, not their heads. When you are open to hear and see what God has for you (13:16), then God can help you go through the stages.
Even in the final stage, you become more integrated and more effective.
The final stage is a never-ending stage of life. As you become fruitful, you can learn to be more fruitful – or more effective in the work that God has called you to do. This is the meaning of the phrase “some 100, 60, 30…”. Some people who have just reached this stage in one area of their life has become integrated. The can produce 30. But as they become more integrated and more effective Christians, they learn to be more efficient with what God has given them. For example, a teacher learns to disciple one person. But then he learns what it means to disciple 10, then 30, then 60 people – each in a more effective manner. The fruit of his work multiplies as he turns his heart over to God in this area. God chooses to help you become more efficient and effective in the gifts that He gives you.
God wants to do a work in your heart. He wants to replant your heart in the right soil. It may take a few transplantings to let your heart grow. But God wants you to become a great Christian who does great work for Him. You need to turn your heart to His hand.