Parable of the Sower #3
(Luke 8:1-18)

Continuing our study of the Parable of the Sower, last week we spoke about the four types of hearers: I used all G's to try to help you remember: those who cannot GRASP the gospel, those that cannot keep their GRIP on the gospel, those who cannot produce GROWTH, maturity or fruit from the gospel, and those who not only grasp, grip, grow, but GATHER a harvest from the seed of the Word sown in their life.

Then we spoke about the ways the devil tries to PREVENT the seed of the Word from producing fruit. In Phase 1, he tries to keep the Word from taking root by hardening the soil of the heart through blindness to the gospel or strongholds, such as bitterness and unforgiveness in the heart.

If that doesn't work, the devil kicks in Phase 2, where he brings trials and persecutions against the Word to keep it from taking root. If this doesn't work, he kicks in Phase 3, and tries to use the worries and pleasures of this life and/or the deceitfulness of riches to choke out the Word, which has become a plant, and keep it from producing fruit.

If the devil is not successful, then the believer begins to produce fruit and is unmanageable by the devil. If the devil can’t trip you up through hardship or through prosperity, then you are mature and will produce a crop, 30, 60 or even 100 times greater than the seed that was planted in you. Hallelujah!

Then we began to talk about the fruit that the mature believer produces. We discussed finding your calling and ministry, and being productive in it. We should be seeking this calling first of all, prepare for it, and then be faithful in our service to the Lord. Everyone has a place in the body of Christ, and that place is as important as anyone else's.

I Corinthians 12:18, 27 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

God has a place in the Body of Christ for YOU - and when you are "just as He wanted" you to be, you will live the most fulfilling, abundant life you can imagine.

I Corinthians 12:18, 25-26 …so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

God intended that there should be no division in the Body of Christ, but we should all be equally concerned for each other, in suffering and in honor. Finding your place in the body can sometimes be frustrating though.

There was some confusion about what a ministry or calling is, so let's look at that a little more deeply. Paul differentiates between gifts, service and working in this passage:

I Corinthians 12:4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

Gifts here in the Greek is charisma {khar'-is-mah} meaning a favor with which one receives without any merit of his own, denoting extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating on their souls by the Holy Spirit

These spiritual gifts are listed in the next verses: I Corinthians 12:8-10 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Notice that these gifts are given through the Spirit to whomever He wills to edify or build up the Church, and to be a sign for unbelievers. And notice that it says "He gives them to EACH one" as He decides. So any believer can operate in any of these gifts when the Holy Spirit determines that they should, and if the believer is willing.

Then Paul mentions service, which is diakonia {dee-ak-on-ee'-ah} meaning service, ministering, especially of those who execute the commands of others, as of the office of the apostles and its administration , prophets, evangelists, elders, helps (those who help meet needs by either collecting or distributing of charities), also specifically used of the office of the deacon in the church, or the service of those who prepare and present food.

The third thing Paul mentions is working, energema {en-erg'-ay-mah} which means an operation, working, thing wrought , or the effects of an operation. These workings or operations are the empowerment and result of what God accomplishes through the gifts and ministries that have been placed in the Body of Christ.

So we see that while gifts are something that we are GIVEN, service is something that we DO, and it encompasses everything from apostles to kitchen help. This is the ministry and/or calling that we've been discussing that is part of the fruit of the mature seed of the Word. So what are some of the ministries that are mentioned in the Bible? And how can you find your place in the Body of Christ for service?

1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

This is a listing of the different categories or offices of ministry in the Church. There is an order here of authority, but not of importance. It is essential that every believer realizes that EACH is important in the Body of Christ, and in the sense of salvation, all are equal.

1 Corinthians 12:12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

And it is extremely important to remember that we are all parts of ONE body, and we should function as one unit in Christ. And that spiritual gifts, ministries and operations are all designed by God to accomplish HIS purposes on earth and NOT to glorify or give someone more importance than another because his/her gifts or ministry or more visible.

Paul gives another list of ministries or opportunities for service in Ephesians 4:11-12: It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

Now your ministry is based on what talents and so forth the Lord has given you. I happen to know I'm called to teach. If you are good at organizing and motivation groups, your gift is probably administration or leadership. My aunt's main calling is service or hospitality - although the Lord is now leading her into a teaching ministry as well.

The Spirit leads us into our ministry, but God gives us the talents we need to perform the ministry He calls us to. And discovering your ministry involves learning what talents you have and where they fit into God's plan.

Our ministry, which we normally think of as a vocation, calling or "career" in worldly terms, which is usually a lifetime calling and endeavor, may involve the other spiritual gifts, such as prophecy, speaking in tongues and miracles, which the Spirit dispenses as He wills at a particular time and place.

Of course, this presupposes that you are filled with the Spirit and have allowed Him to operate through you in at least one of the gifts. The first ministry that Paul mentions in both lists is apostles. What is an apostle?

An apostle (Greek apostolos) is a delegate, one sent with full power of attorney to act in the place of another, the sender remaining behind to back up the one sent. There are 24 apostles mentioned in the New Testament, including the Chief Apostle, the Lord Jesus Christ. Today an apostle would be like a pioneer, breaking new ground, planting new churches.

Acts 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles--were done among you with great perseverance.

Paul adds that signs, wonders and miracles done among God's people with great perseverance are the things that mark an apostle. Is God calling you to be an apostle? If He is, you will be grounded in the Word and mature. When you are ready, God will send you forth to break new ground for the kingdom.

You will probably operate in the gifts of faith, miracles, and prophecy at a minimum. You also will have a gift for organizing and administering others. You may be called to another part of the world, and you may have to leave behind your family, friends, and creature comforts. To be an apostle is a very high calling, and only completely dedicated believers can fulfill this ministry.

Second in both lists is the ministry of a prophet. What is a prophet? Prophets, Greek propheteia, speak for God, which includes forth-telling of the mind and counsel of God, the declaration of that which cannot be known by natural means, a revelation with reference to the past, present and sometimes the future (fore-telling).

The purpose of the ministry of a prophet is to edify (build up), to comfort, and to encourage believers. The effect of their ministry upon unbelievers are to show that the secrets of a man's heart are known to God, and to convict them of sin.

If God is calling you to be a prophet, you will most likely operate in the gifts of word of wisdom and word of knowledge. You have learned to discern God's voice and the prophetic words God has given you in the past have come true. You will NOT be a "doomsday discourager", but someone who delights in building people up and is willing to seek God's heart for them.

Evangelist , Greek euangelistes, means bringer of good tidings. These are those who evangelize, bring good news to the lost and new converts to the faith, specifically missionaries. Evangelists go from church to church, city to city, to preach the gospel and start the process of discipleship.

2 Timothy 4:2, 5 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction…But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Paul tells Timothy to preach the Word, whether the "timing" seemed right or not. He was also to do something that many American Christians don't like - correcting of doctrine and rebuking bad behavior. Timothy was to do this with great patience and careful instruction, keeping his head in all situations and enduring hardship. This was part of his work and duties as an evangelist.

If you have a heart for the lost, and a burning desire to lead them to Christ, you may be called to be an evangelist. Today many evangelists limit themselves to "revivals" at existing churches, but there is a great need for men and women to take the good news of Christ to the marketplace, the streets and the gutters of our nation.

If God is calling you to be an evangelist, you probably like to talk and are eager to help others to know Christ. You love to witness, perhaps handing out tracts, and have a concern for souls that may miss salvation and end up in hell. You should thoroughly know the scriptures, and be well versed in arguments for and against Christianity, for part of your job is to reason with the lost and lead them to Christ. Philip was an evangelist and a study of his life would be helpful to you as well.

Then Paul mentions next the office of the pastor. Pastors, Greek poimen, usually translated shepherd, means to tend a flock. Pastors are responsible for the day to day care of a group of believers, their spiritual guidance, feeding and protection with tender care and vigilant superintendence.

If you are called to be a pastor, you will have the desire to shepherd a group of people, disciplining them, and watching over them. You will be a caring person with skills to lead and encourage, being an example in life and purity to the congregation.

You will be able to receive a vision from God for your people, to set goals and make plans to accomplish those goals. You will intercede for the people as Moses did, and receive revelations from God to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Teachers, Greek didaskalos, are responsible to training believers in the Word and bringing understanding to them. A teacher MUST thoroughly know the Word, and should know something of the original languages and cultures to be able to interpret scripture accurately.

A teacher will love to study and will be organized and able to prepare lessons. A teacher will be concerned about each student and try to help each one come into understanding of the Word. A teacher will also be a lifetime learner, because none of us will ever completely understand the Word this side of Heaven.

James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. Why do you think teachers will be judged more strictly than any other ministry?

Teachers are responsible for the spiritual life and understanding of their students. If a teacher teaches a false doctrine, the influence will extend to each student, and may cause both teacher and student to be lost. It is very critical that a teacher be open to the guidance of the master Teacher, the Holy Spirit, and purge his/her teaching of purely personal opinion.

Peter talks about false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1, 3 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves…In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

A teacher must also NOT be greedy, teaching for gain. If you think you'll get rich by teaching the Bible, you are in the wrong profession for the wrong motives. People that are teaching false doctrine, or bleeding their students financially for gain have their condemnation and destruction coming!

2 Timothy 2:23-24 Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

A teacher also should avoid arguments - which is a real challenge, because there are so many different opinions floating around! Sometimes the Holy Spirit checks me from even discussing a "hot topic", because an argument would result which would help no one. A teacher also must be kind to everyone, not just those who agree with the teacher!

Teaching ability is a gift from God, some have it, some don't. This ability must be developed through training, instruction, and education, if possible. A teacher must always be willing to try new techniques in order to reach students and help them understand. And a teacher must also not be resentful of those who oppose him/her.

2 Timothy 2:25-26 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

Patience and gentleness are two very important qualities for teachers. And the teacher must put the student's understanding first, and be willing to explain key points over again, and perhaps from a different perspective, if needed.

If you are called to teach, you will love to study and prepare lessons. It is a joy to answer questions. It is a delight to reason things out according to the scriptures. You will be willing to spend hours researching for lessons, and will always be eager to learn more about the Lord.

Of course I know more about this calling, because that's what my ministry is. Now many people who are pastors, may also be apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers. Sometimes these ministries overlap somewhat. But these aren't the only ministries in the Body, although they are the most visible. Let's look at some others that Paul mentions, and to refresh our vision, let's post that scripture again:

1 Corinthians 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.

Now we usually don't call "workers of miracles" or "gifts of healing" a ministry, do we? I mean how many churches have an office for their Miracle Worker or Healer? But according to Paul, these are valid ministries in the Church.

Obviously either one of these ministries would require the spiritual GIFTS of working of miracles, faith and healing. What is the reason we don't see these ministries in operation today to any extent?

Missionaries and evangelists can go to third world nations and perform all kinds of miracles and healings, but these same individuals don't get the same results in the USA. Perhaps we have too much of a "scientific mindset" to have the faith necessary for these ministries.

Or, perhaps, as Rev. Dave Roberson believes, the devil has extra demons assigned to see that miracles and healings NOT happen to any extent, because it would in effect release enormous amounts of money into our churches and open multitudes of doors for evangelism that now are closed for lack of funds.

At any rate, if you are called to be a miracle worker or healer, you would be filled with the Spirit, and operate in the gifts of faith, miracles and healings. You would have that heart of compassion for the hurting, as Jesus had, but you would also have a spirit of humility and refuse to use these gifts to bring yourself gain or riches.

Then Paul speaks about the ministry of helps, antilepsis {an-til'-ape-sis} in the Greek, a laying hold of, apprehension, perception, objection of a disputant, in NT, to aid, help. This comes from a root word meaning to lay hold of, hold fast to anything, to take a person or thing in order as it were to be held, to take to, embrace, to help, to be a partaker of, partake of (the benefits of the services rendered by the slaves).

According to the dictionary, to help means to contribute strength, means, or be of service to, to relieve someone in need or distress, to remedy or prevent, to give aid or be of service, relief, assist or succor. The ministry of helps is a wide category that covers many of the things most people don't normally see as ministry: preparing meals, mowing the lawn, giving someone a smile, providing transportation, and so on.

So if you find yourself wanting to be of help, and offer service in many ways, you may be called to the ministry of helps. Never underestimate the importance of this ministry! You may be the very one that keeps the church going by your unselfish and perhaps unnoticed deeds of kindness and service!

For example, around here when someone dies, there are always those in the church who start cooking meals. Now that won't bring back the dead of course, and perhaps is taken for granted by some, but knowing that someone cares enough to cook for you and take care of these essential needs, well it really HELPS.

Paul next talks about those with a ministry of administration, or governments in the KJV, kubernesis {koo-ber'-nay-sis} from kubernao (of Latin origin, to steer). In any organization, there must be those who can keep things going, in order, and functioning correctly: seeing that the bills or paid, that the place is kept cleaned, that meetings are scheduled properly, and so on. Usually in our churches, we have a church board who is responsible for those kinds of things.

If you are good at management of services, things and people, there is a place for you in the Body of Christ! In our spirituality, we must also be practical, and there are people that God has gifted to take care of the mundane, ordinary tasks that need to be done. Praise God that we all have a place in the Body of Christ!

The last ministry that Paul mentions in this passage is diversities of tongues. This is also a ministry not usually recognized in our churches. Hey, here is our Tongue Talker! But it must be important, or it would not be included in this passage. Tongues that are interpreted have the same weight and importance as prophecy, according to Paul, and are a sign to the unbeliever that God is among us.

I Corinthians 14:5, 22 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, UNLESS HE INTERPRETS, so that the church may be edified…Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers.

Ok, we've talked about several ministries that are listed in the Word. But this list is not exclusive of other ministries, such as intercession. It is important to find your place in the Body of Christ and be faithful to your calling to bear much fruit. We also are ALL called to bear the fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

If you aren’t seeing the fruit of the Spirit in your life – check out the soil of your heart. Is it becoming hardened by being trampled on of men? Is it full of the stones of bitterness, vengefulness, unforgiveness or doubt? Are you allowing the cares of this life or the deceitfulness of riches or worldly pleasures to choke out the Word?

The bottom line in all of this is the condition of your heart. Your entrance into the kingdom depends on the condition of your heart. If false doctrines, pain, or sin’s deceitfulness has hardened it, you probably will not accept the Word.

If your heart is full of stones that you do not rid yourself of, when persecution comes you may fall away. If the soil of your heart is full of thorns, the Word will be choked out and you will not produce fruit.

But if your heart is willing and receptive, if you have received the Word, retained it and persevered in it, then you will be fruitful in God’s kingdom. Glory to God! And you will also be READY when Jesus comes. Even so come, Lord Jesus, AMEN!

Luke 8:16-17 "No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open."

What does this mean? We go from sowing seeds to lighting a lamp. What point was Jesus trying to make here?

Jesus is the light of the world! He didn’t come to hide Himself and the Word from us, but to reveal it. He comes to shine light into our darkness and to bring all things into the light. But we have to be willing to hear what He says, and receive His light into our life, allowing it to reveal to us our stones and thorns, and be willing to be cleansed of them.

Luke 8:18 "Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."

Again the emphasis is on HOW we hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. As we listen, receive the Word and produce a harvest, we receive more seed/light, produce more crops and so on. But if we do not HEAR correctly, if we do not GRASP, GRIP, GROW and GATHER, then what we THINK we have will be taken from us because our thoughts are foolish and will not harvest any thing in our lives.

Now, who is responsible for the condition of the soil of your heart? Can you blame God if you let satan steal the Word from you through some type of deceit? Is it God’s fault that you have allowed stones of rebellion, unforgiveness, vengefulness or bitterness to lie in your heart? Is God responsible for the thorns of worry, care, riches and pleasures that you allow to choke out the Word? NO!

You are responsible for the condition of your heart, and its’ ability to receive the seed of the Word. You are responsible for how you hear the Word.

Jeremiah 4:3 This is what the LORD says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: "Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns."

If the soil of your heart is hardened, full of stones, or full of thorns, you need to plow it up. Get rid of deception, bitterness, worries, etc. Ask the Holy Spirit to purge you of anything that hinders the GRASPING, GRIPING, GROWING or GATHERING of the seed and harvest of the Word of God.

Hosea 10:12-13 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. …

It is time to seek the Lord. Plow up the ground of your heart, sow good seed in it and you will reap unfailing love and be showered with righteousness. But if you do not HEAR the Word rightly, if instead you plant wickedness, you will reap a harvest of evil because you have been deceived.

Zechariah 7:11-13 "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. "`When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty.

And worse yet, if you refuse to remove the stones in your heart, particularly the stubborn rock of disobedience, when you call on the Lord, He will not hear you. Flint was the hardest stone known to ancient man. The prophet Zechariah is saying that the people of God made their hearts as hard as they possibly could.

What if your heart soil is plowed up, you have received the Word and are being fruitful, but you are burdened for someone else? What can you do to help make the soil of their heart ready for the Word?

The primary thing you can do is to simply love them. A shower of love can break up the most hardened heart. And by responding to your love, then there is a channel opened to allow the love of God in.

You can also pray the blinders fall off their eyes. We saw earlier that satan has blinded those that believe not so they cannot see the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. But in Christ you have authority over ALL the power of the enemy, including these blinding spirits.

We can also come against the strongholds that satan has erected in their minds, the imaginations and things that exalt themselves over the knowledge of Christ. The Amplified Bible puts it this way: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds, [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One)

Praise the Lord for the promises and knowledge of the Word! We’ve learned a lot in these past three lessons about how the Word operates in our hearts, and how satan tries to make us unfruitful.

First of all, we talked about the different soils that represent the condition of hearts. The hardened heart does not receive the seed of the Word, which is stolen by satan before it can even take root. The stony heart receives the Word with joy, but the stones prevent root growth, and in times of persecution, falls away.

The thorny heart receives the Word, and it takes root, but does not fruit because it is choked by cares, deceitful riches and pleasures of this life. But the good heart that is prepared for the Word, receives it, retains it and perseveres until the harvest, producing 30, 60 or 100 fold.

Then we saw that this parable was also talking about how we hear the Word. The first type of hearer could not grasp the gospel and did not receive it. The second type couldn’t keep a grip on the gospel in times of adversity. The third type was unable to grow in the gospel because of worldly concerns. But the fourth type of hearer by grasping, gripping, and growing was able to gather a harvest.

We also looked at how satan operates in human hearts. The first type of heart had been hardened by some scheme of the devil and he was able to steal the Word before it could start growing. The second type of heart had stones of bitterness, unforgiveness, vengefulness and so on that the devil could use to keep the Word from rooting deep, and when he brought adversity of some sort, the Word withered and died and they fell away.

The third type of heart was subject to being smothered by the devil bringing either worry or pursuit of riches and pleasure into play, and choked out any fruit that the person would have brought forth. But we also saw that the devil was unable to manage or inhibit those with good and noble hearts who received, retained and persevered until they received a harvest.

We also looked at the biblical cure for worry. First set your affections and thoughts on heavenly things, then clear your vision to see Jesus, realize that your true self is more important than earthly things, serve God not money, trust in the quality and quantity of God’s provision, and seek God’s kingdom before all other things.

We also looked at HOW to become fruitful and how to find our place in ministry, and discussed the fact that we are responsible for "plowing up" the soil of our hearts to receive the Word. We are responsible for HOW we hear the Word. We also discussed that in order to help recondition or plow up the soil of the hearts of others, we need to love them and do spiritual warfare on their behalf.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith.

Remember, whenever God gives us a revelation, the devil tries to steal it from us. Guard your hearts and meditate on what you've learned!
And put it into practice!

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Original Lesson 12/28/98
Revised: May 03, 2001.