I planted my lettuce garden two weekends ago in the flower boxes on my balcony. You see we can't get lettuce here in the Ukraine like we can back in the states so we grow our own from seeds that are sent to us from friends.
The directions on the seed packets said I should see shoots in about fourteen to twenty-one days. I didn't believe it. The next day I was out there looking for them. Was that green that I saw in there or was it just my imagination? I was out there looking every morning. I would peek at them from my kitchen window when I was making dinner or doing the dishes. Not only was I anxious for the shoots to appear but also I wanted to make sure the birds didn't get them when they did. You see we use the flower boxes as bird feeders in the winter.
Last Friday I went out onto the balcony and there they were. You needed a magnifying glass to see them but they were there nevertheless. Tiny little shoots poking their heads through the soil. It took only six days. Ha! What do those seed manufacturers know anyway? I had the power of prayer on my side.
Gardens take a lot of work. The first thing you have to do is prepare the soil for the seed. The soil in my flower boxes was very hard from the long winter. But my husband went out there with a spade and dug and dug and dug until each bed was broken up into clumps. Then I pounded and mashed and beat and crushed the clumps until I had a nice fine soil.
When the dirt was finally ready I gently put each seed in its place, watered the beds and anxiously prayed for the first signs of life.
The day after I planted my seeds the weather turned cold. I worried that my little seeds would not survive. I checked the seed packets again and was informed that lettuce was a cool weather crop. I took comfort in this until I remembered that they were wrong about the germination period. Should I now trust them as weathermen? I thought not! When it looked like rain I wondered if I should cover them with plastic so they wouldn't wash away. I decided to ask God to take care of them until they were sufficiently rooted to stand on their own in any kind of weather.
Finally the seeds began to sprout and I marveled at how tiny and delicate they were. But what fascinated me the most was despite their frailty they were still able to break through that ground. And not just break through but in some spots literally move the dirt out of the way. Given the right conditions: good soil, enough water and plenty of sunshine they instinctively knew what to do. It was then that the Lord gave me this Bible lesson.
Our text is Mark 4:1-20. "And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow:
And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not 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. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable. And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them. And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?
The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred."
Before we take a closer look at this passage there are a few things we need to understand. First the sower is Jesus Christ. Look at verse fourteen. "The sower soweth the word." In Luke 8:5 it says, "A sower went out to sow his seed:" The seed is the Word of God. This is again made clear in the gospel of Luke chapter eight. Verse eleven says, "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God."
Now the places where the seed fell (the way side, on stony places, among thorns and on good ground) represent four types of the Christian's spiritual walk. Let's look at each individually.
(Mark 4:4) And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. The way side represents the careless walk. The dictionary defines the word careless as follows: negligent, unthinking, unmindful, unconsidered, unmoved by or unconcerned for. (Noah Webster's First Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 version.)
This is the type of Christian whose heart attitude never changes. She attends church faithfully but only to impress others, she listens to the preaching but does not hear what is being said, she reads her Bible but does not heed what it says, she prays but gets no answers. And the sad part is that she doesn't even care.
What she is saying in effect is, "I could care less about what the Bible says. I am going to live my life the way I want. The sermon is good for others but it really doesn't apply to me. I am not a bad person. There is nothing wrong in my life that I can't take care of myself. I know what is best for me. I am doing just fine."
Turn to Luke 18:10 "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
The careless Christian has this same attitude as a Pharisee. This is a person who is full of pride. There are two things we learned in our study on pride. First that God hates it and second that anyone full of pride is really serving the devil.
Look at verse four of our text again. The fowls in this verse represent demons. Demons are the fallen angels that joined forces with Satan to try and take over heaven and were cast out. Demons are Satan's workers. They oppose the work of God by helping the careless Christian stay full of pride. Demons are very real beings. Beware of them. Don't allow them into your life. Get rid of pride. Don't be a careless Christian.
(Mark 4:5-6) And some fell on stony ground, where it had not 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. The stony ground represents the temporary walk with the Lord.
According to the dictionary temporary means, "lasting for a time only." Now before you get too excited I know that once you are saved you are eternally saved. (John 3:16, 5:24, 6:37-38, 10:27-28; 1 Corinthians 1:8, 3:15; Ephesians 1:13; Hebrews 9:11-12; 1 John 2:25, 5:13 and many other verses.) But that only applies to a person who was truly saved in the first place. Some professions of faith are just not genuine. Some people believe in Jesus Christ with their head but do not accept Him into their heart.
A "Christian" who has no spiritual growth in their life whatsoever was never truly saved in the first place. Their profession of faith was false. Therefore their "spiritual walk" will only last for a short period of time.
Turn to Matthew 7:17-21 "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." A true Christian will bear fruit.
Go back to our text and look at the end of verse five, "because it had no depth of earth." The roots had nothing to hold on to. A plant cannot grow unless it has a good healthy root system. And if the roots are not grounded in soil then they will wither and the plant will die.
Turn to 2 Kings 19:30 "And the remnant that is escaped of the house of Judah shall yet again take root downward, and bear fruit upward." This verse is the key to the Christian life. Take root downward (get in your Bible and read it, get on your knees and pray, find a church and attend faithfully, give the Lord His tithe, witness of God's greatness, and win souls for the Lord) and bear fruit upward (there will be an obvious change in your life as you grow spiritually from doing the aforementioned things).
The temporary spiritual walk is the most dangerous of all because this person believes she is saved when in fact she is not.
(Mark 4:7) And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. The thorny ground represents the worldly Christian. This is the Christian that wants to walk in the flesh and not in the Spirit. This is the Christian that desires the things of the world and not the things of God. This is the phony Christian. This is the Christian that is lukewarm. This is the Christian that God hates the most. (Revelation 3:16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
This is the backslidden Christian. She is saved but she is not living for God. This is the Christian that thinks she can fool the brethren and maybe the Pastor and his wife but she can't fool God. If she thinks she can then she is really the fool.
This type of Christian will be the unhappiest of all at the Judgment because she will not have any rewards. She will not have any crowns to cast at the feet of Jesus. She will have her joy here on this earth, which is only temporary, but not in heaven, which is eternal.
This type of Christian does not want to be around real spiritual Christians because she will feel under conviction for her sin. BUT.these Christians need to be in church. These Christians need to be in their Bibles and on their knees. These Christians need to repent and get right with God. These Christians need our prayers. If you are a backslidden Christian then get back to God immediately. 1 John 1:9 tells us that "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." You will never grow spiritually in a backslidden condition. You just can't.
(Mark 4:8) And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.
The good ground represents the sincere Christian. This is the Christian that will show spiritual fruit in her life. This is the Christian who will hand out tracts because she wants to do it not because it impresses the Pastor. This is the Christian who will have Biblical standards not double standards. This is the Christian who will bring her friends and family to church and not just invite them. This is the Christian who will go to the Pastor or his wife for Scriptural counseling and take that advice whether it agrees with their opinion or not. This is the Christian that will hear "Well done, good and faithful servant; . enter thou into the joy of thy lord." (Matthew 25:21,23). This is the Christian that will get the rewards and crowns because she will have earned them. This is the Christian that we want to be.
We've talked about the proper soil but there are other conditions that must be met in order for our garden to grow and bare fruit.
Our gardens need food and water for nourishment. We too need nourishment both for our physical as well as our spiritual growth. Spiritually our nourishment comes from the Word of God.
God speaks to us through His Word. We need to read our Bibles every day as much as we can. It is not enough to just listen to a preacher on a Sunday morning. We need to study for ourselves. (2 Timothy 2:15) Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. This is a command from God to us. God will not reveal His will for our life to someone else. We need to hear from God and the most important way for God to speak to us is through the Scriptures. Job thought the word of God was so important that he said, "Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food." (Job 23:12).
Plants also need natural sunlight. If you put a plant in a window it will always lean toward the light. It is a natural instinct for them. It will not do this as easily with artificial light.
The Christian should take a lesson from this. We too should always lean towards the light. The true light not a false light. (John 3:19-21) And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Jesus also said in John 9:5 "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." After having seen the effects that light has on living things and applying it to our spiritual growth how can we turn our backs on it and ever walk again in darkness? We can't unless our hearts are hardened to the truth.
Now this may sound a little strange but there has been research done which proves that music affects the growth of plants. If plants are subjected to nice soft pleasant music they will grow healthy and strong. If they are subjected to loud pounding rock music their growth will be stunted and in some cases the plant will die. I believe this. My plants hear good old-fashioned gospel hymns and they are nice and healthy.
You need to listen to good Christian music to grow. I don't mean Christian Rock music. I mean good gospel music. This will lift your spirits and refresh you. Isaiah 61:3 says, "To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."
(1 Samuel 16:23) And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.
Music comforts the soul. The right kind of music that is, the wrong kind will only add to your sorrow because it will depress your spirit.
Let's go back to our garden. The soil in my flower boxes was very hard on the top layer but once we broke through and turned it over there was nice soft dirt underneath. Before we are saved our hearts are hard. Once God has broken through and we receive Jesus Christ as our Saviour then our hearts become tender. As in any soil there are rocks that need to be thrown out and hard clumps of dirt that need to be broken up before the seed can be sown. This spiritual principle can be seen in Hosea 10:12 "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the LORD, till he come and rain righteousness upon you." We must till the soil and prepare our hearts to receive Jesus Christ.
God cannot fully work in our lives until our hearts are fully prepared. Get rid of the junk that is still in your life and give God complete control. Get rid of pride, jealousy, bitterness, rebellion, your will, etc. Empty your vessel of "self" and let God can fill it so He can use you.
Once our seeds have been planted, watered, warmed by the sun and nurtured then and only then will we see the fruit of our labor. It is the same in our lives as Christian women. We must make sure our hearts are open and pure so God can work in us. We must be fed by the Word and warmed by the Sun. No one factor by itself will work.
After I planted my seeds I looked for them to show signs of life. Why? I wanted to see growth immediately. When Jesus Christ comes into our hearts God wants to see some immediate signs of life also. He expects certain changes to be made in our lives. Now we may struggle with letting go of some things at first but God at least wants to see us start questioning those things that we know in our hearts are wrong.
Let me finish where I started. How does your garden grow? Has your soil been prepared? Are there any weeds in it that need to be pulled? Are your seeds planted? Are you watering them enough or are they drying up? Are they getting enough sunshine? Will you have any fruit at harvest time?