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THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Now I am going to preach this sermon in a different way from what I usually do. I want you to open your Bible to Mark chapter 4. I am going to explain to you the Parable of the Sower. It is found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. But we are going to study it in Mark tonight. A parable is a story that Jesus told to illustrate and make plain a spiritual truth.
What is the main truth of this parable? It is this – the great majority of people who hear the Gospel will not be saved! By far, the largest number of people who hear how to be saved will not be saved. They will go to Hell! The crowds will go to Hell. Only a small number will be saved. That surprises many people today. They say, “I don’t believe God would send anyone to Hell.” You then say, “But the God of the Bible does send people to Hell.” They say, “I don’t believe in that God. My God would never do that.” What they mean is the god they made up in their own minds wouldn’t do that. But we are not talking about the god you make up in your own mind. The “Twelve Step” people talk about “God as you understand Him.” But I’m not talking about that false god either. The god you “make up” in your own mind is a false god. “God as you understand Him” is a false god. I am talking about God as you don’t understand Him! He is the God who revealed Himself exclusively in the Bible. He is the Bible God! And there is no other! I’m not talking about the false god you believe in. I’m talking about the real God – revealed to us in the Bible. Your false god doesn’t send people to Hell. But the real God does. In Matthew 7:13 the Lord Jesus Christ said that most people go “to destruction” in Hell. In the next verse the Lord Jesus Christ said that those who are saved are “few” in number – very few indeed. And that is the main point of this parable.
It’s a simple story that Jesus Christ told. He said that a farmer went out to sow seeds. As he was scattering the seed, some of it fell along the side of the road. Birds came down and quickly ate it up. Some more of the seed fell along rocky places where there wasn’t much soil. The seed grew quickly, but when the sun came up the plants were scorched and died, because they had no strong roots. Other seed fell among thorns and weeds. The weeds grew up and choked the plants, so they did not bear any fruit. Last of all, some seed fell on good soil, it grew and produced a good crop. That is the parable. It is a simple little story – but it shows us a very important truth – very few people who hear the Gospel ever get saved!
The four kinds of soil in the parable represent the four kinds of people who hear the Gospel. The seed is the Word of God, the Bible, the message of salvation through Christ Jesus. Every person who comes to this church hears the Gospel. What they do about it is represented by the four kinds of soil in the parable.
I. First, those who hear the Gospel and forget it immediately, are lost.
Look at Mark 4:15,
“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” (Mark 4:15).
These are people who come and visit our church a time or two. They hear the Word of God, the message of salvation. But “the fowls of the air came and devoured it up” (Mark 4:4). The birds that ate the seed represent Satan and his demons. “Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:15).
We tell them that Christ died on the Cross to pay for their sins. The Devil tells them, “You don’t have any sin. You are a good person.” So the Word is taken away quickly by the Devil working in their minds. We say, “Christ rose from the dead to give you eternal life.” The Devil says, “Don’t believe that! It’s a myth, a fairy tale.” So the Word is taken away quickly by the Devil working in their minds. Jesus said that the Devil “is a liar” (John 8:44). He tells you a lie to keep you from believing the Gospel and being saved. He wants to keep you as his slave!
We bring in many lost people to hear the Gospel every Sunday. Most of them never come back. We give them the message of salvation. We give them lunch (or dinner) and a big birthday party. We make it easy to come to church. But most of them don’t remember a thing I preach. Why? Because “Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts,” that’s why! Some people come several times without the preaching having any effect on them. Why? Because each time they listen to the Devil, and he plucks the Word out of their hearts. We even give them a word-for-word manuscript of the sermon to take home and read. Do they really read it and think seriously about it? No, they do not. I know that most of them just throw the manuscript in the waste basket when they get home. I know that. But we keep doing it just the same. Why do we keep doing it? Because Jesus said, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23). Because God told us,
“And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will [not]: for they are most rebellious” (Ezekiel 2:7).
As we go deeper into the “last days” people become increasingly rebellious against God. Thus the Devil and his demons are more and more able to pluck God’s Word from people’s hearts and minds. Forty years ago you could put a sign out that said, “Bible study here at 7:00 PM.” Young people would come, many of them, just from reading a sign like that. I know. I started a church near San Francisco with Hippies. They were sinners. Sure they were. But as bad as they were, they were far, far better than young people today! Today most young people have such hardened hearts that you couldn’t get through to them with a sledge hammer! Yet we go right on, “whether they will hear or whether they will [not]” – because God told us to do it! And once in a while we find someone who is among the elect, who hears the Gospel and gets saved. But it is becoming more and more rare as this age draws to a close, and this present world comes to an end. I am convinced, here in America at least, that God is judging our people by sending “them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (II Thessalonians 2:11). Yet we also know that God, by irresistible grace, will draw in the elect, even in these evil and demonic days! We are not looking for great crowds. We are looking, here and there, for those few that God has chosen to be saved. For Jesus said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). God will bring in the ones He has chosen by sovereign grace! Hallelujah! But those God has not chosen will have “Satan [come] immediately, and [take] away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:15). How about you? Are you one of God’s chosen – or will you let Satan pluck the Word out of your heart – and go away to live and die in your sin? For Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).
II. Second, those who hear the Gospel and receive it with joy, but fall away when they are tempted, are lost.
Look at Mark 4:16-17.
“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” (Mark 4:16-17).
These stony ground people are the opposite of the first group. They receive the Gospel with gladness and joy. They come to church and love it. They sing the hymns with gusto right away. They come to prayer meeting. They go to evangelism. It’s great! They love it! They take the sermon manuscripts home and read them carefully.
But something is missing. They “have no root.” They are not rooted in Christ, not “rooted and grounded in him” (Colossians 2:7). And “so endure but for a time.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “They really get enthusiastic, but they have no real relationship with Christ. It’s just an emotional high” (Thru the Bible, note on Matthew 13:20, 21).
After a while they find that it causes them some trouble to be in church. Something comes up and they don’t feel like coming. When trouble or persecution comes to them for being in church “immediately they are offended.” It means, literally, “immediately they fall away” (see NIV). That often happens during the Christmas and New Year’s “holidays.” They know we want them to come to the Christmas banquet, to the Christmas Eve service, and to the watchnight service on New Year’s Eve. They plan to come. But then something comes up, they are invited to another party with unbelievers, or something else happens. They give in to the world – and off they go, the first time there is a little “affliction” or trouble. Will you “fall away” when you are tested by the “holidays”? Will you go off with lost friends to a worldly party, a rave or a dance? Will you run off to Las Vegas, or somewhere else, with lost friends? Every year we see a few people with no real root in Christ, who quickly fall away during the holidays.
Dr. David F. Wells is a famous Reformed theologian. He said, “These [people] have no intention of paying the cost in self-commitment that is required if the message is in fact to be believed...These [so-called] ‘converts’ refuse to have their lives turned upside down in this way. There are, apparently, many like this in America today” (David F. Wells, Ph.D., The Courage to be Protestant, Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008, p. 89).
Dr. J. Vernon McGee called these people, “Alka-Seltzer Christians. There is a lot of fizz in them...They have no real relationship with Christ. It is just an emotional high. They are the rocky-ground folk” (ibid.).
III. Third, those who hear the Gospel, but are choked by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things, are lost.
Look at Mark 4:18, 19,
“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” (Mark 4:18, 19).
Dr. McGee said, “The Devil got the wayside folk, and the flesh took care of the rocky-ground folk, but the world chokes out the Word for this class of hearers. The cares of the world move in...I find that a great many people have let the cares of the world crowd out the Word of God” (ibid.).
We have seen this happen time and again. Some young person comes to church and seems to be converted. Then, after a while, they graduate and begin to make money. They have a child. They begin to lust after other things. I will quote the NIV to make this vivid. It says they, “hear the word, but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things come in and choke the word.”
A great many people left our church about twenty years ago. A man named Olivas left us and started an alternate church. He told our people that I was too strict. They didn’t need to go to a Sunday evening service. All they needed was a morning service, followed by a pot-luck lunch. They didn’t need to bring lost people to church. All they needed to do was come themselves – and only when it was convenient. It was great! They were free from this strict old preacher! But very soon most of them left that alternate church. One of their men told Mr. Prudhomme, “This church is just a way-station, on the way back to the world.” That’s what happened in the “Olivas church split.” Will it happen again? Yes, it will – if the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and lusts of other things choke the Word in your life! Yes, it will happen to thorny-ground church people! Yes, it will!
Now, listen to Dr. J. Vernon McGee again,
These three types of soil do not represent three types of believers – they are not believers at all! They have heard the Word and have only professed to receive it...In other words they were not saved...Only one-fourth were truly saved. Frankly, in my own ministry I have found the percentage even lower than that (McGee, ibid., pp. 73, 75).
They will go off and tell you they are saved. But they are not saved people at all! I completely agree with Dr. McGee. He said of these lost people, “I classify them as the Southern California type” of lost evangelicals (ibid., p. 73). Dr. David F. Wells said, “They are exemplars [examples] of the ‘Christianity lite’ that so many evangelical churches are propagating...fewer than one in ten has the foggiest notion of what it means to be a disciple of Christ in biblical terms” (Wells, ibid., p. 91). Amen to that, brother!
IV. Fourth, those who hear the Gospel, receive it, and bring forth fruit, are the ones who are saved.
Look at verse 20,
“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” (Mark 4:20).
Who are these people? It’s probably simplest to give you some names. These are the people you should follow. These are the people you should model your life after. They are people like Dr. and Mrs. Cagan, Dr. and Mrs. Chan, Mr. and Mrs. Griffith, Mr. and Mrs. Song, Mr. and Mrs. Mencia, Mrs. Salazar (especially her!), Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, Mr. and Mrs. Olivacce, Mr. and Mrs. Prudhomme, Mr. and Mrs. Lee, Mrs. Hymers, Mr. Zabalaga, Sergio Melo, Emi Zabalaga, Lara Escobar, John Samuel Cagan – people like that! I can only name a few of them! Follow their example and you will not go wrong! Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the name of Jesus!
It starts by trusting Christ. It grows by trusting Christ. It flows into discipleship by trusting Christ. As the old song puts it, “Trusting Him whate’er befall, Trusting Jesus, that is all!” None of the first three groups ever trusted Jesus! They kept on trusting themselves. That’s why they “let go” and left our church. They did not trust Jesus. They trusted their own thinking and their own feelings. Stop trusting yourself – and start trusting Christ. Trust Him now, and He will cleanse you from all sin with His precious Blood! Trust Him now, and you will immediately receive eternal life! Amen! Hallelujah! Praise the name of Jesus! Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer.
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(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Luke 8:11-15.
Solo Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“If I Gained the World” (by Anna Olander, 1861-1939).
THE OUTLINE OF
THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
I. First, those who hear the Gospel and forget it immediately, are lost,
II. Second, those who hear the Gospel and receive it with joy, but fall
III. Third, those who hear the Gospel, but are choked by the cares of this
IV. Fourth, those who hear the Gospel, receive it, and bring forth fruit,