Fruitful by Pastor Abidan Shah

FRUITFUL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: Farm life is often romanticized in advertisements, on school field trips, and especially in country music videos. We have some farmers in our church and they’ll tell you that farming can be rewardingbut it’s far from romantic. It’s hard work, long hours, and very unpredictable. It’s not as much “She thinks my tractor’s sexy” but more like “Farmer’s Blues”! I believe that if God were to come down and choose an occupation, farming would be on the top of his list. In fact, Jesus used the analogy of a farmer sowing seeds to describe his preaching of the gospel. The seed, the word of the kingdom, falls on every heart, but it is the nature of the soil, the nature of the heart, that decides whether or not it will bear fruit.That’s the title of our message today – “Fruitful.”

Matthew 13     3Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, someseedfell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Question: What kind of a soil is your heart? Is your life bearing fruit? Do you have ears to hear? Are you saved?

Context: Before we dive in and start exploring the Parable of the Sower, we need to once again clarify the reason why Jesus used parables in his teaching. We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true. The parables were used by the prophets to confront the people of God when they sinned and to expose the true condition of their hearts. A good example of this was when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband Uriah the Hittite murdered. God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David. Nathan didn’t come and say, “David, why did you sin like this?” Instead, he told him a story of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had many flocks and herds but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb, which had grown up with his family and it was like a daughter to him. She ate from his table and drank from his cup. One day, the rich man had a visitor and instead of taking from his own flock and herds to prepare the meal, he took the poor man’s only lamb. What was David’s reaction? As the Lord lives, that man will sure die and he shall have to restore four times! What is Nathan’s response? “You are the man!” David realized what had happened and he could only mouth – “I have sinned against God.”You have to think of the parables like a mirror. Why do you use a mirror? To see what condition you’re in. You don’t look in the mirror to see what condition the mirror is in or to find fault in someone else. So also, you look in the parables to see the condition of your own heart. When we come to the parables, our question should not be – “I wonder who this story is for?” That’s the mistake the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees made. Our question should be – “I wonder which character I am playing in this story.” If you do that, you will see yourself even more. If you don’t, you will never see yourself.

With that in mind, let’s look at the Parable of the Sower.To start with, it’s known as the foundational parable. As someone (Klyne Snodgrass) said, “It is theparable about parables.” In other words, the Parable of the Sower is the guide to all the parables that Jesus gave. On the surface, the story is very simple – One sower, 4 kinds of soil, and only one fruitful ground. Pick which one you are when you listen to Pastor Shah preach. Not so quick. Let’s back up for a moment and first identify each element in this story:

1. Who is the Sower? Jesus or any of us who is sharing the good news about Jesus.

2. What is the Seed? Matthew calls it the “word of the kingdom” and Luke calls it the “word of God.” Either way, it’s the gospel of the kingdom.

3. What are the different kinds of Soils? Wayside, Stony Ground, Thorny Ground, and the Good Ground. There is no problem identifying the first and the last soil.

1stSoil – Wayside

19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understandit,then the wickedonecomes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

The Wayside is the path on the side of the farms where people, animals, and wagons have travelled for so long that the ground has become hard. Of course, it represents the heart of the religious leaders – the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Sadducees. They cannot understandwhat Jesus is saying. That word in Greek “suniemi” means “to have an intelligent grasp of something that challenges one’s thinking or practice.” This is not understandas in “comprehension.” This is understandas in “reception.” For the religious leaders, it is the foot traffic of traditions and the animal wagons of rituals that have packed their heart solid. It has become stubborn towards the things of God. Unfortunately, Satan is perched nearby waiting for the opportune time to swoop in and snatch away the seeds of the gospel that lie on their hearts.

4thSoil – Good Ground

23“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understandsit,who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

The Good Ground is the heart of the disciples. They hear the word, understand it, and bear fruit. The quantity of fruit may vary but they will bear fruit.

But how about the 2ndand the 3rdSoils? Who are they?

2ndSoil – Stony Ground   20“But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet 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.”

3rdSoil – Thorny Ground   22Now 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. 

Some people have tried to identify these two soils as the immature Christians, carnal Christians, and baby Christians. They will say something like – “None of us are perfect. All of us are a work in progress. Of course, we need to be like the 4thSoil but sometimes the world gets the best of us. Other times, our own flesh gets the best of us.” Based on this kind of thinking, we have 4 kinds of people when it comes to the gospel – the lost, the saved, the sort of lost, and the sort of saved. The 1stSoil is definitely lost but the other 3 are definitely going to heaven. God grades us on a curve! He knows our hearts. Problem solved! Right? Not really. Jesus completely negated this! Listen to what he said in Matthew 13    10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.

How do we solve this problem? Go back to the mirror analogy. How do you know whether or not you belong to the second or third soils? If you can see that it’s you and you are willing to change, then it’s not you. If you can’t see that it’s you, then it’s you. You can only see for yourself, not for others.

Question:

  • Has your heart become hard towards the things of God? Are you willing to let Christ soften it with his grace and mercy?
  • Has the sun of trials and tribulations been beating down on you? Do you see how shallow you are in the gospel? Are you willing to let him replant you?
  • Have you been caught among the thorns of the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches? Are you willing to let him entangle you?
  • Are you the bearing fruit but its only 30 or 60 when it could be more? Are you willing to let him prune you and fertilize you so you could bear more?

Can you not see yourself in the mirror? Come and let the Savior open your eyes.

Heart Exam by Pastor Abidan Shah

HEART EXAM by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Introduction: When the kids were young, we bought them a toy doctor’s kit. It had everything – stethoscope, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, syringe, tweezers, etc. They would go around taking our temperature, checking our blood pressure, and listening to our hearts. Then, like many of you, we would say – “My turn. Let me check your heart” – and we would take their toy stethoscope and listen to their heart – “Oh, it sounds good!” Here’s a question – how seriously did you take that test? Not really. It was all pretend. Would you do that at a real doctor’s office? Would you say to your cardiologist – “My turn! Let’s check your heart now.” Of course not. It’s real. Today, we’re going to take a heart exam and it’s not pretend. It’s very real. We’re checking our hearts, not our physical hearts made out of muscles, tissues, and blood vessels, but our spiritual hearts made up of our minds, our thinking, and our attitude towards the things of God. The Stethoscope is the Scriptures, the Examiner is the Holy Spirit, and the Goal is the heart of the disciple of Jesus. This is a very critical exam. A physical heart exam can determine how longyou will live. A spiritual heart exam determines ifyou are alive.

Matthew 13     10And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” 11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’”

Question: How is your spiritual heart? Is it out of rhythm with the things of God? Is there a blockage due to sin? Is it dead? Only Jesus can make your heart alive. Are you saved?

Context: This is the first message in our series on the Parables of Jesus. It’s an introductory message in which we will answer the question – “Why did Jesus use parables in his teaching?” In fact, it’s the question that the disciples asked Jesus inMatthew 13:10“Why do You speak to them in parables?”We tend to think of the parables as stories given by Jesus to make his message clearer but that’s not altogether true.Listen to his answer in verse11He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” Before we unpack that verse, let’s first identify the two groups that are around Jesus. The first is the “you” group who understand what Jesus is teaching and the second is the “them” group who seem to be missing it. Who are the “you” and who are the “them?” That information is available in the surrounding chapters. 

Who is the “you?” The “you” were the disciples, the tax collectors and the prostitutes (Matthew 9:11And when the Pharisees sawit,they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”), the multitudes (Matthew 12    15“…And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16Yet He warned them not to make Him known.”), demon-possessed, blind, and mute. This group was open to the things of God and they understood more of the things of God. Listen to verse12“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” 

Who is the “them?”

1. Pharisees: 

Matthew 12:2And when the Phariseessawit (Jesus disciples eating grain in the field),they said to Him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!” Matthew 12:14“Then the Phariseeswent out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.” Matthew 12:24Now when the Phariseeshearditthey said, “Thisfellowdoes not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”

The Pharisees were mostly a lay movement of people who were trying to live a pious life. They believed in the right doctrines. They advocated a simple lifestyle. They were popular with the common people because they would help them keep the law. They focused on “Table Fellowship” – they called on all Jewish people to live according to the priestly laws, especially with regards to everyday meals. They treated their tables at home as the altar in the temple. Every household was held responsible. Hence, the meals had to be tithed, prepared, and served in a certain way. This does not mean that they rejected the priesthood or the temple. Their meals were exclusive and hierarchical because they believed that what you put inside of you matters and who you have around matters. They couldn’t get over Jesus’ eating habits and association with sinners.

2. Scribes:

Matthew 9:3And at once some of the scribessaid within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” Matthew 12:38Then some of the scribes andPhariseesanswered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 

The Scribes interpreted and taught the Law to the people. They were closely connected to the temple in Jerusalem and in the smaller villages, they held positions of authority. They were envious of Jesus’ knowledge of the bible and popularity with the people.

3. Sadducees:

Matthew 16:1“Then the Pharisees andSadduceescame, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven.” Matthew 22:23The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him…a trick question.

The Sadducees considered themselves to be of priestly descent but no one knows for sure. Much of it was just political.They controlled the Temple. Unlike the Pharisees, they didn’t believe in the resurrection of the righteous, angels, or spirit as much. They denied the eternality of the soul, punishment in the underworld, and rewards. They were not very popular with the people.They worked in cooperation with the Romans in order to maintain peace and carry on the responsibilities of the Temple in Jerusalem. They were afraid that Jesus was messing up the power balance.

4. Jesus’ Family Members:

Matthew 12     46While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Someone informed him and listen to his response –48But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 50For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” They were embarrassed of Jesus.

These 4 groups of people were not evil. They were what we would call “church going” folks but their hearts were not open to what Christ was teaching. Listen to what he said about them in verse13“Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Why would Jesus do that?He actually tells us in the very next verse –14“And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15For the hearts of this people have grown dull…’” Listen carefully: Just like in the time of Isaiah there were religious people who were rejecting the message of God, these Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees, and Jesus’ family members were also rejecting Christ. The more they rejected him, the less they could understand him. The parables were much more than just stories given to illustrate a point. They were the tools of the prophets to confront the people of God and to expose the true condition of their hearts. If their hearts were open to the things of God, they would understand even more. If their hearts were closed to the things of God, they would understand even less. 

1. The Pharisees had a self-righteous heart that was hung up on traditions and could not see the need for Christ.

2. The Scribes had a show off heart that could not see Christ in all their bible knowledge.

3. The Sadducees had a status quo heart that was more interested in power than submission to Christ.

4. The Jesus’ Family Heart was the cynical heart that had become overly familiar with Christ.

Jesus’ family did come around but the others help put Jesus on the cross.

Invitation:What kind of a heart do you have? Is it even alive to the things of God? If not, you need to get saved today. This is not a pretend exam.

%d bloggers like this: