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The Word of God Will Prosper (Sexagesima, February 16, 2020)

[Read Luke 8:4-15, “The Parable of the Sower”]

The Word of God Will Prosper

“The seed is the Word of God.”

“The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

As you are planting your garden, you generously throw the seeds all over the place. Some seed lands on your cement sidewalk. The seed can’t penetrate the hardness of the concrete. In Christ’s day, they were hardpacked dirt pathways – like dirt roads in the country. The seed doesn’t plant there, so it doesn’t germinate. The birds eat it up.

This is what happens when the Word of God lands on hardened hearts. Your dirt-packed, hard heart won’t let the Word penetrate the surface and plant itself in. You hear, but the Word only sits on the surface of your heart. The devil takes it away as easily as it comes. This is hearing, but not listening and not believing. Not believing, so resisting salvation.

“The seed is the Word of God.”

“And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.”

This is “youth group” faith. An exciting time with Jesus. But when matters – in faith or in life – get serious, a faith based on excitement quickly withers. It’s faith that is a fad, or which got me out of a slump one time, but doesn’t live long-term.

Many are quickly glad to have Jesus, but without His Word. Or glad to have His Word, but only parts of it. You joyfully have the Jesus of your own imagination, a message to your liking. But this kind of faith won’t endure the difficulties of real life. And it won’t endure the social stigmas which mark a believing Christian. In time of testing, you fall away to churches which are Christian in name, but incomplete in their adherence to God’s Word.

This kind of fad-faith is like the decorative stonework around your garden. It’s a joy, it looks good, but there’s not enough depth and moisture and dirt in the cracks to sustain the life of a true garden plant. There’s only the potential for sprouts, and then they die.

“The seed is the Word of God.”

“And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.”

In your garden, a bunch of your seeds fell on the ground under a big patch of picker bushes. And you never removed the bushes. Later, when the rest of the garden is ripe, under the shade of these picker bushes, you find undersized, pale, yellow-leafed tomato plants with a few small, hard, green tomatoes on them. The plant never matured. The fruit never ripened. When you dig up the picker bushes to throw them away, you’ll dig up and throw those plants away too. They’re good for nothing.

So it is in the judgment at the coming of Christ. Scripture says that judgment begins in the household of God [1 Peter 4:17]. Christ is coming looking for fruits. Every tree that bears good fruit will be gathered in. Every tree that does not bear fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire [Matthew 7:19].

Jesus says here, in this parable, that the cares and riches and pleasures of life – many of the very things you’ve worked so hard to attain – are the picker bushes - the things which cause your Christian fruit never to truly mature. You’ve succeeded well at pursuing the good pursuits of this life, with the result that you’ve been good for nothing in the kingdom of God.

You’ve been in the garden the whole season, but you’ve never made anything out of it. You’ve lived a dwarfed, stunted Christian life. A good life in the estimation of this world, but not a life any good for the world to come.

When the world to come comes, it’s too late. You’ll go with the bramble bushes. Repent and let your seed bear fruit while there’s still sunlight to shine on it. “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day”, Christ said elsewhere, for “night is coming, when no one can work.” [John 9:4]

What work for the love of your neighbor - what work for strangers and those in need – what hope for broken sinners – what support of God’s’ kingdom and ministry - what can you do and what can you give to and through your own congregation here? This is the work and the fruit of God’s kingdom. In what parts of your life can you repent and seek to do better? On what should your daily repentance focus? This too is the work and fruit of God’s kingdom.

“The seed is the Word of God.”

What hope is there for what so far sounds like such a poor, miserable garden, such a famished farm field? There is great hope, even assurance. Hear again what God spoke through the prophet Isaiah about the fruitfulness and the effectiveness of this Word of God planted:

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” [Isaiah 55:10-11]

The Word of God is that Seed planted.

“As for that in the good soil – the soil in which the implanted seed ‘grew and yielded a hundredfold’ - they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

We are all made of the same dirt; sin-corrupted we are. The good dirt is not sinless dirt. The good dirt is dirt that has been made good for planting - dirt that has been plowed by the plow, softened by the rain, and fed by the good fertilizer. The dirt of the garden and the dirt of the field does not make itself good. It is made good for planting by the farmer who does the sowing – our Lord and our God.

Your Lord and God who plants the Word of His Gospel into your heart also breaks that heart up by His Law – He plows it open – and He softens it with His love and grace, and with the waters of your Baptism – and He daily and weekly feeds you with the good plant-food of preaching and the Scriptures.

In fact, the same Word which is the seed is also the plow, the rain, the sunshine, and the food. The broken, plowed and fed heart is the heart good for planting. You are altogether the work of God. The field is His field and the garden His garden.

What can you do when you see that you are like rocks and briers and hard-packed paths? Rely on the God who gave His own Son on the cross to plow and prepare and feed you.

Have an honest heart. An honest heart is a heart that knows itself to be unworthy and confesses its sins and faults to God. God’s response is absolution, forgiveness. [1 John 1:8-9]

The heart made good for planting doesn’t trust in itself to make itself better. It doesn’t rely on self-improvement. The heart made good for planting seeks only God for help – “God, I confess I am unfruitful. Grant it to me, Lord, to be fruitful.” God hears and gives. Be patient and trust as God gradually works on you.

The Seed – the truly fruitful Seed - is the Word of God Made Flesh - Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the one Man who was truly fruitful in Himself. This one Man, Jesus, is the one who yielded fruit a hundredfold. Jesus is the fruitful Word implanted. He, on our behalf and in our place, has alone produced and now yields the full-fruits of God’s whole field and garden.

The fruit Christ bore is His perfect life and death. He fulfilled God’s Law in full. Jesus died, paid the price of your unfruitfulness, to atone for you, to forgive you. Jesus rose from the dead, like a mature plant bursting forth from the ground, so that, now, with His resurrected life risen in you – risen in His people – His life now yields a hundredfold for harvest through you.

God’s Word made flesh and God’s Word preached in your ear will not return to Him empty. God’s Word will accomplish the purpose for which He has sent it to you [Isaiah 55:11]. Trust in the hearing of the Word of God for a fruitful and believing life [Romans 10:17]. Amen.

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