The Need for Radical Rototilling
Good Morning Calvary. I’m Phil Webb and I am part of the teaching team at Calvary.
Over the last four weeks we have been looking at what the Kingdom of God is all about, how this radical King wants to have a radical relationship with the commoner, where the relationship with this King trumps all others relationships.
There is a need for radical rototilling. Our hearts are the soil that God is trying to seed His word into. Read with me our scripture for today, Matthew 13: 1-23:
Parable of the Seeds
Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake. A large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat there and taught as the people stood on the shore. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
The quality of the soil determines the fruit of the seed sown. Or, the state of our heart determines how willing we are to listen to God and the effect of His words on us.
The farmer is Jesus, who sows generously. The seed is Jesus’ word about His kingdom. These are words of life that offer a relationship with Him. The soil is the state of our hearts.
I have had the joy of working with my brother in England these days. He is a landscaper and plants many gardens. I asked him how often he has had to go back and replant after finishing a job. I was impressed that after planting thousands of plants he has only had to go back 3 or 4 times to replace a dying plant. I have had to replace more in my own garden than he has in years of work. But I understand why now: how meticulous he is in preparing the soil for the right plant is so crucial. He replaces soil more than plants. The state of the soil is the secret to his success. He also lets the owners know how to feed and water their plants properly.
There are 4 soils:
- Hard soil or footpath soil
Those planted here hear the message of the Kingdom and do not understand it.Like the Jews of His day many of us only hear the words King and Kingdom and start to run before we even hear what the King wants to offer. We’re off like a shot because anything that sounds like control, rule, or dominion does not fit into our desire and supposedly safe self-rule. Some of us who have had difficult experiences with authority can hear the rule book coming out and presume abuse before the King can even give us an embrace. Some of us who find it hard to let Jesus be King, do not realize that in our struggle we have another ruler who is happy to help out by snatching the truth we do have and offering us a lie.
Last week, Dan explained that the family of God is defined by forgiveness of sin rather than by influence, privilege, or biological ties. If I enjoy this forgiven state before God why do I then find it so hard to forgive others? I have found that the fastest way for my heart to harden is by having an unforgiving heart, that turns into resentment and then a spirit of bitterness takes over. Then, I can hardly hear God at all. Hardness of heart does not come overnight, just like a pathway across a field does not become hard but from overuse. So, a heart that says no to God’s voice, or you may call it your conscience, slowly over time becomes insensitive to His voice. I can harden my heart and quench the Spirit that seeks to speak.
- Rocky soil
Those planted in this shallow soil are superficial folk. The top soil can receive the seed but it soon hits the rock bed and there is no way for the seed to get strong roots.Many had false expectations of what a relationship with Jesus meant. Many followed for the miracles and external benefits, but as soon as His popularity waned they were gone; people who received Jesus’ words with great joy and could sing “hosanna to the King” on Palm Sunday cried “Crucify Him” a week later when He did not fulfill their expectations.
“Since they do not have deep roots, as soon as problems come or persecuted for believing God’s word, they fall away.” Like trees that have not had to put down roots to find water, they topple in a strong wind.
In his book, Don’t Give Up, Kyle Idleman says, “Many of us struggle to believe that God cares, because we often measure God’s concern for us by how hard it’s raining.” This King knows I need struggles and trials so that my roots will grow deeper.
Ephesians 3:17 says, “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” The roots of a plant need to be well developed, and Paul says that deep roots will produce confidence in God’s love.
Is God still good in the storm? Are my roots deep enough to stand being persecuted for believing God’s word? Is my confidence in the relationship and what God thinks of me worth more than whatever everyone else thinks?
- Soil with thorns
Sincretism says, “lets add Jesus to all the other views I have and try to live in harmony with them all.” These seeds of weeds are hidden and slowly take over and crowd out God’s voice. Something competes and crowds out the word of God. We get distracted with lesser things. Thorns are worries, fears, and the lure of wealth or any other idol.In this time of COVID Deene and I have been in isolation in another country, in someone else’s home, with no chance to go shopping, or play golf, or watch sports, go to any exciting places, or do anything too significant; all things that usually keep my life ticking and happy. I haven’t been able to use my drugs of choice to keep me busy and feeling good about myself. COVID tested our comfort level with solitude. No one could use their usual business to bolster their identity. What I have found over the last four months is that God has been trying to wean me off other loves so that I can enjoy His presence and what He represents to me.
The weeds choke out the seeds: this does not happen overnight either, it is an unchecked diet of false food that helps the weeds to grow.
Am I aware of the loss of communion with God when other things crowd Him out? When I read His word is it sweeter than any other weed I love? He is a jealous God and for that I am thankful.
If He has been weaning you off other loves or lovers, the soil of your heart has been getting closer to what produces great fruit.
- Good soil, not hindered by hardness, rocks, or weeds that chokeBefore we can plant seeds we need to rototill the ground. A couple of weeks ago my brother asked me to rototill a 120 meter plot that was going to be planted up and have some grass laid. I thought it would take me a couple of hours. I finished 8 hours later with some very sore muscles. I found all four types of soil present: there were old paths as hard as rock, shallow soil with rocks underneath, all sorts of thorns and roots from trees and weeds. Then I rototilled a lot of compost into this plot. After a day and a half it was ready to plant.
Our lives need this type of treatment sometimes. Let’s remember what Paul says to Timothy:
The Scriptures have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. 2 Timothy 3:15-17
These verses let us know that God has to rototill our hearts in order for our lives to produce the harvest He desires and it isn’t always a pretty sight. When we truly hear and understand His word, it germinates (takes root) and produces the fruit or crop that a relationship with God offers. His Spirit will rototill the soil of my heart and make sure it is soft, deep, and free of weeds so that I can listen to my Father’s invitation to come and talk.
This last week I was reading Psalm 27 and I love the invitation of God. David says, “My heart has heard you say, come and talk with me, and my heart responds, Lord, I am coming.” David’s heart represented the good soil, but in the same way, Jesus who is King is offering us a relationship with front row seats and special privileged status, able to walk into His presence when we want, and for some of you who luckily have the freedom, jump up into His lap.
The soil of my heart needs water to make sure it does not get hardened. In the Gospel of John Jesus goes on to say that there is a water that will quench our thirst, which is His Spirit.
How ready are you and I to sit down with Him and let Him speak into the reality of our lives?
Let me pray a simple prayer to wrap our time today.
Father please use your Spirit to rototill our hearts so that it will be fertile soil, so that the roots of our hearts can grow deep into your love. Amen.