So, we are currently on a series on the kingdom of God entitled “The Mysteries of the Kingdom.” And in this series of teachings, we are covering the various parables that Jesus taught throughout His earthly ministry which illustrate to us how His kingdom operates. In other words, in these examples Jesus gave us we can learn how the kingdom of God works and start having these principles work for us instead of against us.
You see, the truth is, just like we have natural laws that we must live by in this world in order to not only thrive but also survive, there are laws in God’s kingdom that we must learn to live by if we are to see God’s best produced in our lives. And I am convinced that many of God’s people do not experience His perfect will for their lives because they have failed to operate under the laws that govern His kingdom. Some are simply ignorant concerning these principles while others are simply not doers of the Word. But the fact remains that God has set His kingdom up under certain principles and it is our job to walk in them. When we do, we will get God’s results. When we do not, we will get the world’s results.
Therefore, over the course of this series, we will look at the various parables Jesus taught in His earthly ministry in order to learn how God’s kingdom operates so that we can function under its laws. Jesus called this the mystery of the kingdom—that is, the hidden principles that govern how God’s kingdom works and operates, and He taught this mystery through these many different parables.
So, last week, we began looking at the first parable of God’s kingdom that Jesus taught at His “Sermon by the Sea” called the Parable of the Sower. And I made the point that this is one of the several times that Jesus used the illustration of seedtime and harvest to show us how the kingdom of God operates. Now by virtue of the fact that this is one of the most oft used examples of the kingdom of God by our Lord, we can understand that the law of seedtime and harvest is the predominant principle governing God’s kingdom. Therefore, I believe we should place great significance on this kingdom principle simply because Jesus emphasized the law of seedtime and harvest time and time again.
Now there is a reason that Jesus began with this particular parable in this chapter. And I believe it is because the Parable of the Sower is the most important parable concerning God’s kingdom.
You see, Jesus responded to His disciples’ question about this parable by asking them— “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:13) By asking these questions, Jesus was not saying they should understand this parable because it is the simplest to comprehend. No, He is asking the question— “How will you understand all the parables?”—because the Parable of the Sower is a foundational, fundamental parable. In other words, it is the foundational principle of the kingdom and must be understood in order to go further in God’s kingdom. Yes, saints, this principle of seedtime and harvest and how growth occurs in the kingdom of God is essential to producing fruit that endures in God’s kingdom.
So, what we saw was from this parable last week is that there was a sower, and Jesus said, “he went out to sow” (See Mark 4:2). That means that this guy was not just someone who sowed from time to time, but he had made a profession out of it. Not only that, but he went out for the purpose of sowing seed. In other words, there was no indifference in this guy. He knew who he was and what he wanted to do.
So, the point I made from this is that, have you ever noticed that you don’t just automatically have roses, lilies, watermelons, tomatoes, etc. growing in your yard? No, as a general rule, things we desire and are beneficial do not just automatically spring up in our gardens. But, on the other hand, undesirable plants and vegetation such as weeds, briars, tares, etc. seem to just spring up everywhere on their own, don’t they?
Well, this illustrates to us how things work in God’s kingdom: Did you know that all we have to do to be carnal, selfish, walk in the flesh and produce the fruit of this world is NOTHING? On the other hand, in order to produce good fruit and to see the things we desire growing in our garden we have to be intentional, deliberate and purposeful to sow them into our garden. Amen? Therefore, we need to see ourselves as “sowers” and live purposeful lives of going to and fro sowing seed wherever we go.
But what I see happening in so many Christians is that they oftentimes want to see change, but they are basically doing the same thing—they are looking in their back yard and wondering why we don’t have desirable fruit growing there. Church, there are spiritual laws that we must abide by. And we learned that the first step to abiding by the law of sowing & reaping is knowing what the seed is because it all starts with the seed.
We saw how Jesus began His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower by saying, “The sower sows the Word.” (Verse 14). Therefore, the seed that produces fruit in the kingdom of God is the Word of God.
And this sparked a very good point—namely, that we need to know specifically what kind of seed we are planting. In other words, what is the Word that we are planting? It is not good enough to just be general. We need to be specific and sow specific seed that we want a harvest in. In other words, we need to purpose in our heart to sow seed to where it’s not a passing thought of “Oh yeah, I guess I need to sow something today. Let’s see what I have left.” No! You need to purpose in your heart what you are sowing and guard that seed that’s in the soil. Amen!
I made the point last week that sometimes people don’t receive what they need because they are not specific enough. You wouldn’t go into a nursery and just grab a bunch of misc. seeds to sow in your garden or field, would you? You wouldn’t say, “Oh, this looks like a seed. That’s what I need” and take it to go plant. No, you would search out specific seed that you need. But when it comes to picking out the seed, I believe a better way is to ask the Holy Spirit to pick out the seed for you. So, don’t just go about searching out the Scriptures alone. Let the Holy Spirit guide you into all the truth and let Him point you towards the specific seed that you need.
In fact, what you would do is you would look at the packaging or tag of the seed for the image of the fruit, vegetable, or flower that you want to grow. So, you look for the fruit’s image when selecting the specific seed. Likewise, this is what we must do in the spirit; we must see the image of the desired result—so that the image of hope is painted in our heart.
You know, people say things like, “Well, I’m just trusting God.” To do what? How are you trusting Him? What is your trust based on? We need to be specific in our faith!
No, when we are planting a garden, we are very specific in what we do: We prepare the ground. We buy specific seed. We systematically sow it. We then guard our garden—sometimes with some pretty extreme measures. We go through certain concentrated and calculated steps to get the fruit, flower, vegetables, etc. we want. And that includes choosing the specific seed for the fruit we want to see.
So why would we do it any different in God’s kingdom? Saints, I’ll tell you, we need to become more deliberate, purposeful and intentional in what we are sowing into our lives—because as a general rule our lives are a today of what we planted yesterday! Amen!
Saints, always remember, bad fruit comes naturally; good fruit comes intentionally. In other words, things we don’t desire come naturally; things we do desire come deliberately.
Friends, everything in God’s kingdom operates according to this principle: First, we have the seed, and the seed must be God-given. It cannot begin with man. The hand of the Lord must begin anything and everything that is produced in God’s kingdom. It has to be this way because God’s kingdom is always initiated by God and never by man.
So, God gave us the seed: He gave us Jesus and this gospel of the kingdom! He gave to us what we could never have earned. He put in our hand the seed and said, “Now sow this seed that I have entrusted to you on good ground and watch it produce what it was sent to accomplish!
And that is the wonderful promise concerning this gospel of the kingdom: It is that this seed is no respecter of persons. It does not produce differently for one than it does for the other. No, that seed is programmed to produce after its own kind. That means that we all have the same opportunity afforded to us. Verily, verily, I say unto you: His Word will not return void but will accomplish what He sent it to accomplish and to prosper in the thing for which He sent it to do.
God, in His sovereignty, has given us a choice. And He gave us this choice by first giving us the ability to choose—that is, by giving us the seed. The seeds are now in our hands, church. Let’s start sowing them!
THE SEED VERSUS THE SOIL
So now, let’s move into the other part of Jesus’ Parable of the Sower—and, in my opinion, it is the biggest part:
The reason I believe this to be the greater part is because, again, I made the point last week that in describing what the seed is, Jesus was quick and to the point, Jesus essentially describing the seed as “the Word of God’s kingdom.” And that’s all He had to say about that (in my best Forrest Gump impersonation). But when it came to the ground that the seed was sown into, Jesus was much more descriptive and specific. Yes, He spent exponentially more time describing the four types of ground than He did the seed that was being sown into them. And do you know why? It is because the seed is not the problem! It doesn’t require a lot of explanation. The seed is the seed, and just as there is generally not a lot of understanding about seeds from the average person, pretty much everyone knows how to get them to do what they do. Likewise, we do not have to necessarily know how the Word of God works; all we need to know is that it does work and start planting it.
But the point Jesus was making in His Parable of the Sower, and a point we are going to make here today, is that while the Word will do its part and is certainly not the issue, there is another variable and that is generally where we run into problems. And that variable is US—that is, our hearts.
But while I want us to transition from the seed to the ground today, we need never forget the importance of the seed—because with no seed will come no fruit; I don’t care how rich your soil is. For example, there are a lot of Christians out there who have wonderful hearts. They are good people. They love the Lord. But, unfortunately, they never learn about the seed and how it works, and therefore, don’t receive God’s best in their life. And this what confuses people—they don’t understand how someone who has a good heart doesn’t receive God’s promises. Herein lies the issue though. It’s not a problem with the soil; it’s the failure of the soil to receive the seed and allow it to produce its fruit.
So, you see, the seed is the most important aspect of this law of the kingdom. But, again, the fact remains that Jesus spent much more time in this parable teaching us about the condition of the ground.
Now there is no doubting the importance of the part that good soil plays in the production of a seed. Good soil is an integral part of that seed performing what it is programmed to produce. Likewise, good ground is a necessity in the life of a Christian in order to see the seed of God’s Word grow outwardly.
Notice in this parable, how the same seed was sown on four different types of ground—We have the wayside ground, the stony ground, the thorny ground, and what Jesus called the good ground. And Jesus made the point in the explanation of His parable that the ground represents our heart (See Mark 4:15 & Luke 8:15). Therefore, the heart was undoubtedly the determining factor on what kind of fruit was borne, correct? The same seed was sown in every type of ground, but only a certain type of ground bore a great harvest.
In fact, in this parable Jesus illustrates to us the four different types of believers who come to hear the Word. Now, these are not unbelievers; these are people who actually wanted to come hear the Word of God. But only one of these four types of hearts produced fruit that remained. Do you know what that teaches us? It teaches us that only 25% of the people who come to actually hear the Word will be fruitful. I want to be in the Top 25, amen!?! I don’t want to be the wayside, stony or thorny ground. Do you? No, I want to be in the good ground category! (In fact, amongst that 25% of Christians, Jesus taught us that there would even be varying degrees of fruitfulness—some thirtyfold, some sixty and some a hundred).
OVERSEEING OUR HEART
So, what does this teach us? It teaches us the absolute importance of guarding our heart with all diligence (See Proverbs 4:23).
You see, according to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, our hearts are like a garden that the Word is sown into. Therefore, we must guard our heart like we would guard our gardens from the various pests that would try to devour our seed and crop.
Any of us who have ever had a garden understand fully well that it takes work to keep a productive garden. In many cases, if you do not spray it down with insecticides or put a fence around it, different kinds of bugs and animals will devour your harvest. Likewise, our hearts are like the garden and we must keep it with all diligence.
Let’s now look at this phrase from Proverbs 4:23— “Keep your heart with all diligence”: The word “keep” literally means “to guard, watch, protect and preserve.” It describes keeping something in a safe, secret place, and then, guarding that place. So, Solomon was saying that we are to keep our heart in a safe and secret place similar to how we would keep our wallet, checkbook, or jewelry in a safe and secret place.
Did you know that in the world an extremely valuable jewel is oftentimes placed in a high security vault with all kinds of motion detectors, etc.? And they do this for a rock which only has temporal value! How much more, should we apply this same kind of diligence to guarding our own heart, which has eternal value?
Notice what Solomon goes on to say: He says that we are to guard our heart “with all diligence.” Actually, the Hebrew word for “diligence” here means “keeping or guarding; to keep in custody or to imprison.” It is translated “ward” the most in the King James Version. So that’s right—It has the same meaning as the word “guard” at the beginning of this verse! So, what the first portion of this verse literally says is— “Guard your heart above everything else you guard!” In other words, the Holy Spirit through Solomon was saying that the most important thing you have to guard is your heart! Therefore, guard your heart more than you would guard your most valuable possessions!
And the good news is—God has given us the ability to do so! We are the “bishop” of our own hearts! Not God. And not the devil. We are the ones who control what condition our hearts get in.
For example, when it comes to our children and grandchildren, it is our responsibility to guard their hearts if they are under our supervision and we are their custodian. In other words, we have the responsibility to determine what they are watching, what they are listening to, etc. Their hearts are in our hands. However, once one comes of age, their heart is their own responsibility, and they must guard it with all diligence.
You see, the earth’s soil does not discern what seeds are sown into it and then decide which ones to produce. It does not say, “I don’t want to produce these corn seeds that are planted in me. I think I will just produce tomatoes instead.” No, it does not have the ability to discern between good seed and bad seed. The earth will simply produce the fruit of whatever seed that is planted in it.
And our hearts are no different: Just like the earth’s soil, our hearts will just accept whatever seed we allow to be sown into it and then begin to produce the fruit of that seed. The Scriptures teach us that the heart is deceitfully wicked above all things. I would add that just as it is deceitful; it can also be deceived above all things. This is why it is so important that we watch what is sown into our hearts! Those seeds will determine what kind of garden we possess in our lives. Bad seeds=Bad fruit. Good seeds=Good fruit. It is just that simple.
This is why we must learn to guard our own hearts like we were to guard our children’s hearts.
Hebrews 12:15 teaches us that we are the “bishop” of our own heart: In it, we are told— “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”
Now these roots of bitterness that defile people spring up from the heart—that is, from the ground within us. But no one can sow these tares in us without our permission. We either voluntarily or involuntarily give permission for these seeds to get sown in our hearts. And it works both ways—either for our good or for our detriment.
This is why we are told— “looking carefully …” These words come from the Greek word episkopos. And this is the word translated as “bishop” elsewhere. Now a “bishop” described an “overseer” of a church or churches—that is, he would “look over” a church to make sure things were being done decently and in order, that no false doctrine was entering in, etc. This was simply another term to describe a pastor and the role he has in “shepherding the flock.”
Considering this example, just like it is my job to “oversee” High Point Church and make sure things remain in order, it is all of our jobs to “oversee” our own hearts and make sure they remain in a good, healthy condition. Church, we are in charge of our garden. Yes, as the Lord created Adam and put him in the garden to both tend and keep it (See Genesis 2:8-15), likewise God has now put the garden in us to both tend and keep it. This is why we are entitling this message today— “Guarding Your Garden.”
But the fact is that all of our garden’s start out good. No one is born with a wicked, perverted, and corrupt heart (at least from an earthly point of view). The truth is people’s hearts become like the wayside, stony, and thorny ground because of things we are exposed to in life and the choices we make through those experiences.
So, while we could spend weeks and even months talking about all four of these types of ground, what I want us to do today is just talk about the good ground. If you want more information on the other types of grounds that did not produce fruit that remained, I have resources on that. But as for what the Lord has for us today, I simply felt led to emphasize the good ground—the one we all aspire to be.
But before we begin looking at the specific characteristics of the heart called “good ground,” I want you to see the main difference between the good ground and the other 3 types of ground …
THE LEAST PRODUCE THE GREATEST
When it comes to these four different conditions of our heart, there is an important point that I have learned from my mentor and father of the faith, Andrew Wommack, that we all need to understand: The good ground (which is the type of heart that produced the best harvest) was not the ground that had the most; it was the ground that had the least.
This is an important lesson because, so many times when we think of being fruitful for the Lord, we associate our fruitfulness with being talented, smart, strong, etc. In other words, we think it is the Christians who have the most going for them in the natural that are going to produce the greater harvest, but this simply is not the case. In this case, it was the ground that did not have the distractions or other things to be dependent on that bore a hundredfold harvest. This is good news for many of us out there who do not have a lot going for us according to the flesh. There are many believers who think because they do not have a lot of talents, they do not have an education, or they don’t have much money that they are incapable of being fruitful for God when, in reality, Jesus taught that these are those who have the greater potential of producing for God.
You see, it is the ones who have all of these things that will have the harder time producing because they have more to overcome: For example, if they are very educated, they will have more of a temptation to lean to their own understanding. If they are wealthy, then they will have more of a temptation to be distracted by their riches and possessions. And the list goes on and on. But those who lack these things, they will have less distractions and less opportunity for the dependency on other things. Therefore, it works in one’s favor to have the lack of talents, possessions, knowledge, etc.
This is why the Bible repeatedly makes mention of God calling the weak, dishonorable, poor, etc. It is because these are the ones who will respond to this call for fruitfulness. This is why the Bible also makes mention of those who are the least being the greatest in the kingdom of God. It is because these are the ones who will produce the greatest harvest for the kingdom. This is the kind of heart that God can use.
Now I am not saying that those who are educated, wealthy, or gifted are incapable of being fruitful. That is not at all the case. This principle that I have been sharing about the least producing the greatest is not an absolute. It is just the tendency. If you have a lot of money, you can make a conscious decision to guard your heart from being distracted and still produce a hundredfold harvest. If you have a lot of additional knowledge, you can choose to not lean on your intellect and esteem the knowledge of God more than the knowledge of this world. There will always be the opportunity, no matter what our lot in life is, to make the right decisions and become fruitful for God.
But, generally, it is the heart that has the least amount of clutter that will produce more fruit for God’s kingdom because this condition of ground is more “open” and, therefore, conducive to bearing a harvest. When these stones, thorns, etc. exist they can lead one to being double-minded and not completely devoted to the seed that was planted in them.
WHAT DOES THE GOOD GROUND DO DIFFERENT?
Now as we have mentioned already, there are three accounts of this Parable of the Sower and each of them use slightly different terminology. And that is certainly the case with Jesus’ interpretation of the good ground.
So, as we look at all three Gospel accounts, we see that there are three key words Jesus used that are all key contributors to making one’s heart good ground …
1. They “understand” it! (i.e., they realize it) (Matthew 13:23)
2. They “accept” it! (i.e., they receive it) (Mark 4:20)
3. They “keep” it! (i.e., they hold on to it) (Luke 8:15)
So, the first key is one’s ability to “understand” it. And this is more referring to realizing that what we are hearing is the gospel of God—that is, seeing the light of it.
You know, the apostle Paul taught how the god of this age has blinded the eyes of them who do not believe. He describes it as a spiritual veil that is placed over the eyes of those who are perishing. (See Second Corinthians 4:3-4) He goes on to say that because of this veil that leaves them blind, the light of the gospel isn’t able to shine on their hearts.
Now this is the extreme that affects the unbelievers, but similar things can happen to believers too! Based on the condition of our hearts, we can be limited in how much light we see from the Word we are hearing. And, saints, this one thing is the foundation of being unfruitful in the kingdom.
You see, if we do not realize that the Word we are hearing, reading etc. is, in fact, the Word of God, then it is not going to affect us like it should. In other words, if we hear the Word and that truth does not penetrate our hearts because we don’t see it as in fact “Truth,” then we likely will not let it change us.
Friends, understanding, seeing and realizing that this Book is the actual infallible Words of Almighty God is what will cause us to grope for it! But if we don’t see this and we see the Scriptures no different than other books and its principles as no different than other philosophies, we are doomed to be fruitless.
But, on the flipside, when you “understand” that what you are hearing is the Way, the Truth and the Life, then you will do what? As Mark’s gospel said, you will “accept” it. In other words, valuing it will cause you to receive and welcome it! And, church, there are so many Scriptures that teach us the importance of “receiving” the Word of God—a point we have made already in this teaching.
But, as Luke’s gospel says, another fruit of those who understand and accept God’s Word is that they “hold on to it and keep it.” Now this is an important point because it is not good enough to just realize and receive the Word—because once you have it, the devil is going to try and take it away from you. This is when you have to “hold fast” to the things you have—because the devil is trying to take away things from us. So, after we have heard and received something initially, we do not need to hear it less; we actually need to hear it more! Amen! And this is how you keep it in the midst of your heart, where the devil cannot snatch it away.
Saints, when we do these three things: we understand it, accept it and keep it, something powerful occurs! As the apostle Paul said to the Church of Thessalonica in First Thessalonians 2:13- “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.”
I just love the Amplified Bible’s exposition of this last phrase: It says- “exercising its superhuman power in those who adhere to and trust in and rely on it.” Trey’s Amplified Bible today would say, “exercising its superhuman power in those who understand and accept and keep it.” Amen!
So, just as everything begins with a seed, the condition of the soil is important too. Yes, while the seed of God’s Word is how God’s kingdom began, the kingdom of God all has to do with the heart.
You see, when you study the Scriptures, you come to find out the heart is what God is after. He is looking for people with perfect hearts. He seeks out those who are after His own heart. And He desires a people who will believe with all their heart and love Him with all their heart. God looks at the heart and He is looking for the perfect heart—that is, the perfect ground for producing God’s perfect seed.