Saturday, July 07, 2007

Matthew 13:1 – 9, 18 – 23

Stories about people and the church

I. The measure of the real is RESULT not response.

***** Jesus told a story with four different responses and four different results.*****

A. Ones who do not understand, the seed is “stolen.”

1. The “hard heart” is a condition ruled in such a way that the devil easily has his way.

2. How does this happen?

a. Maybe it is a practical reason: they don’t see the need or conversion will be too costly.

b. Maybe it is a cultural reason: they are surrounded by people hostile to Jesus (and Christianity).

c. Maybe it is a willful condition: they simple have chosen to deliberately not listen.

(Ill.) A tourist walked down a pier and watched a fisherman pull in a large fish, measure it, and throw it back. He caught a second fish, measured it, and put it in his bucked. Oddly, all the large fish that ht caught he threw back, all the smaller fish he kept. Puzzled, the curious onlooker questioned, “Pardon me, but why do you keep the little ones and throw the big ones away?” The fisherman looked up and without blinking an eye said, “Because my frying pan is only ten inches across. (Rober Schuller’s “You can become the person you want to be.”)

B. Ones who receive with joy but do not endure.

1. The real hardness is hidden.

a. There is a good start but there are things that would sabotage over a long term.

b. We need to understand the difference between a sprint and a marathon. The Christian life is not a sprint!

2. The real problem is there is no root.

a. The ground is shallow so there is nothing to protect and nourish the initial joy for long.

b. These people are for real, but they are “fair weather.”

C. Ones who grow but do not produce fruit.

1. Luke 8:14 “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.”

2. The people are constantly drained.

a. One drain is “worry.” (“feel troubled over actually or potential difficulties” – Oxford)

1.) In other words, there is energy exerted in persistent thought over real or imagined situations. DISTRACTED!

2.) There is growth but no fruit.

b. Another drain is “wealth.”

1.) Actually it is the illusion that wealth will satisfy and the pursuit of wealth instead of God.

Paul Harvey told the story of a college basketball coach who was shaving when his wife called upstairs to tell him that “Sports Illustrated” was on the phone. The coach was so excited he nicked himself shaving. He was so eager for recognition for himself and his school that rushing to the phone he fell down the stairs. Staggering breathlessly to the phone, he said “hello.”

The voice at the other end said, “Yes, sir. I’m happy to tell you that for only 75 cents per week you can receive a one year’s subscription...”

2.) The pursuit of pleasure drains energy to the point where the prospective fruit is choked.

D. Ones who produce fruit.

1. Notice the conditions are right.

a. The soil is deep and rich.

b. There are the same threats the other soils face but with serious differences.

1.) The seed is absorbed, so the devil cannot steal it.

2.) The soil is deep, so the seed takes good root.

3.) There are no weeds to drain the energy.

2. Luke 8:15, “honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (ESV)

a. The idea of patience (Luke 8:15, NIV “perseverance”) involves time and continual effort.

b. This is PROCESS Christianity, not instant Christianity.

II. The measure of the real is RESULT not appearance.

***** Jesus told another story involving a planted field. [vv 24 – 30, 36 – 43]*****

A. This story is not about successful destruction, it is about successful infiltration.

1. Good seed is planted by the owner but an “enemy” plants weeds.

a. Notice they grew together without distinction [v 26].

b. The distinction occurred after the wheat grew heads (started to produce fruit).

2. General principle: the devil is always there to counter God’s work.

a. It must have been exciting to see so many plants and disappointing to see less than expected results.

b. A bumper crop of plants does not mean a bumper crop of fruit.

(Ill.) Apple trees and vines.

B. What are the weeds?

1. Maybe they are people.

a. Graph: “maintenance” and “results.”

b. Some people are “high maintenance, low results.” They take lots of support but never seem to get anywhere. [Jesus did not spend much time with these people and at times was brutally critical of them.]

c. Because the church offers God’s grace (kindness and love), it attracts these types of people. [Personal theory, they are draw to the church and a generic spirituality, but not to Jesus.]

2. Maybe this is “church culture.”

a. Like the “thorny ground” [vv 7, 22] things happen that siphons energy.

b. Like what kind of things?

1.) Physical things: like basic church maintenance (necessary but should not be the main thought).

2.) Financial things: like a low check book balance.

3.) Personal things: like not getting along with someone one, political struggle, not liking the pastor (or thinking the pastor does not like you).

4.) Perceptual problems*: seeing things from a self-centered or negative point of view. (Taking things personally, in a negative way.)

*A father once bragged so much to his son about what a great hunter he was that the son decided to go hunting with him. They sat in the duck blind for a while when one lonely duck winged its way past the blind. The father took aim, fired, and missed. “Son” said the dad, “you have just witnessed a miracle. There flies a dead duck.”

(Ill.) Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life.” The first sentence of the book? “It’s not about you.”

III. The impression may mask the demonic!

Ronald Reagan once told the story of a newspaper photographer out in Los Angeles who was called in by his editor and told of a fire that was raging out of control. His assignment was to rush down to a small airport, board a waiting plane, get some pictures of the fire, and be back in time for the afternoon edition.

The photographer raced to the airport and drove the care to the end of the runway. Sure enough, there was a plane waiting with the engines all revved up, ready to go. He got aboard, and at about five thousand feet, he began getting his camera out of the bag. He told the person flying the plane to gem him over the fire so he could take his pictures and get back to the paper.From the other side of the cockpit there was a deafening silence. Then he heard, “Ah... Aren’t you the instructor?”

***** Jesus tells two more stories, that are subtle but continue the “enemy interferes” motif. [vv 31 – 33] *****

A. A tiny mustard seed grows into a large “tree.”

1. One summer I grew mustard in my garden... the mustard grew taller than the corn and the sunflowers. So large and strong, birds would land on the mustard plants.

a. The mustard seed produced an impressive plant and results from such a small seed.

b. But like the field, this also has a demonic element.

2. The birds.

a. Notice in this series of stories, v 4 and Jesus explanation in v 19.

b. While the birds (the “evil one”) do not damage the strong mustard plant, they lurk for opportunities to snatch the seed away.

B. The dough and the yeast.

1. Yeast is an impurity that is used to make dough rise (gives texture and fluffiness to the bread).

a. Yeast had to be eliminated from the house before Passover.

Exodus 12:19 – 20, “For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel, whether he is an alien or native-born. [20] Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread.”

b. Yeast was not allowed in ANY sacrifice.

Leviticus 2:11, “Every grain offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in an offering made to the LORD by fire.”

c. Yeast was a symbol of false teaching.

Matthew 16:6, “"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

d. Yeast was a symbol of false religion

Luke 12:1, “Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”

e. Yeast was an illustration of the poison of the sinful life.

1 Corinthians 5:6 – 8, “Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? [7] Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. [8] Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.”

2. Yeast is ALWAYS considered “bad” in the Bible.

a. It may seem small and be unseen, but you can see the results.

b. It grows with serious and spiritually devastating results.

IV. What’s wrong and what is the solution?

A. There are factors that keep us from producing fruit (results).

1. Unwillingness to listen, unwillingness to change, unwillingness to do the work.

2. The inability or unwillingness to make a serious connection with the source of life (Jesus) due to underlying conditions or issues.

3. Becoming distracted by “the tyranny of the urgent” and letting go of the central (important, essential, and critical).

4. Always draining, never contributing.

B. There are factors that naturally produce fruit.

1. Roots: being firmly connected to Jesus.

2. Resources: being firmly taught by the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

3. Redundant energy: fruit is the result of the excess (of good) energy and momentum. It is the overflow of energy that is produced that is not necessary to grow or maintain life.

C. There is one reason for the difference: “He who has ears, let him hear.” [v 9]

This is why I speak to them in parables:

"Though seeing, they do not see;

though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

" `You will be ever hearing but never understanding;

you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.

For this people's heart has become calloused;

they hardly hear with their ears,

and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.' [Matthew 13:13 -- 15]

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