24 A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 As he reasoned with them about righteousness and self-control and the coming day of judgment, Felix became frightened. “Go away for now,” he replied. “When it is more convenient, I’ll call for you again.” 26 He also hoped that Paul would bribe him, so he sent for him quite often and talked with him.
4 We went ashore, found the local believers,[a] and stayed with them a week. These believers prophesied through the Holy Spirit that Paul should not go on to Jerusalem. 5 When we returned to the ship at the end of the week, the entire congregation, including women[b] and children, left the city and came down to the shore with us. There we knelt, prayed, 6 and said our farewells. Then we went aboard, and they returned home.
Parable of the Evil Farmers
4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Before the United States declared independence on July 4th, 1776, there were 13 colonies ruled by Great Britain along the east coast of America. One of the first colonies was the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was established in 1628. Shortly after their settlement, in 1636, they built their first college, which became the very first university in the United States. It was Harvard College, or Harvard University today. Its emphasis was on literacy so that individuals could read the Bible. Its primary focus was on training young men for God’s ministry. John Harvard, who was the first donor and one of the main founders, said this:
“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main ends of his life and studies; to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all knowledge and learning and see that the Lord only giveth wisdom. Let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to see Christ as Lord and Master.”
Harvard College was not an isolated case that sought to bring up Christian ministers. Other Ivy League schools, such as Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth, were also established primarily to train ministers of the Gospel.
The U.S. Public School System also began with the Christian background. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony made “proper” education mandatory, and 5 years later, passed the Massachusetts General School Law, which is famously known as “Old Deluder Satan Law.” The law begins with the following words that indicate the reason why they are enacting this education law:
“It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures,”
In other words, the settlers recognized that Satan’s chief objective was to keep men from the knowledge of the Bible, so, in order to combat the devil, they passed the law that required all children to go to school and learn to be able to study the Bible. That was the beginning of the grammar school, which is now known as elementary school.
Our whole education system, from elementary school to higher education, was founded on the purpose of knowing God and Christ through the Bible. Our Founding Fathers knew how important it was for the society to be grounded on the truth of God. They knew that, without the biblical principles permeated in the community, their new settlement would be on shaky grounds.
Unfortunately, the education system today looks very different. Elementary and middle schools are teaching students without the goal of learning about God. High schools are primarily focused on sending kids to better colleges, and colleges are focused on producing students that will succeed in life through job placement, riches, or fame. Today, God is not the purpose of education. In fact, our education system has never been as anti-Christian as it is today.
To be fair, it is not just the school system that has departed from God. Many Christian parents and students have also neglected the Word of God and turned away from His purposes. Some of them have a clear purpose in life, but it is often to advance their own personal success, riches, and comfort in life. Very few Christians study or work primarily for the purposes of knowing God, serving others, or making Him known to the world. Many have ignored the command to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and instead chose to seek first the success in one's own life and business.
This kind of worldly mentality is not unique to our generation. It even existed in the times of Jesus. Jesus described this in His Parable of the Sower to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns. The parable recorded in Luke 8:4-15 goes as the following:
5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples didn’t understand what the parable meant, so Jesus graciously explained it to them. He said:
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
Jesus described that there are four different ways a person responds to the word of God. Their heart conditions are described as a footpath, rocky soil, thorny ground, and good soil.
Those who have the heart of a footpath are those who won’t receive the gospel at all even though the gospel was preached to them. They don’t call themselves Christians, and they certainly don’t see the need for a Savior. Therefore, their sins are not forgiven, and God’s judgement and wrath awaits them. For people in this category, John the Baptist, Jesus, and His disciples cry out “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Those who have the heart of a rocky soil are those who hear the gospel and initially receive it. But, they continue to have a hardened heart and neglect to grow their faith through spiritual disciplines, such as reading the Bible, praying, or being in discipleship in the church. So, when struggles or temptations come on their way, they quickly fall away from their faith and even renounce the existence of God. These are those who probably wouldn’t call themselves Christians, but even if they did, it would be a lie because they are not saved. The term “falling away” is frequently used in the Bible to indicate falling away from God. We must have a clear understanding that, when we are saved, it is NOT because of a one-time decision that was made in the past, but because of the continuing faith in Jesus.
Those who have the heart of a thorny ground are those receive the gospel, but continue to live a life that is self-focused. They continue to worry about their own life, and care about the treasures and pleasures of this life. Unfortunately, so many Christians today fall in this category. This is why many Christian students are studying NOT for the glory of God, but for their own glory and worldly success. This is why many Christian adults are working NOT for the glory of God, but for their own enjoyment, advancement, and comfortable retirement. These are those who straddle on the fence and attempt to reap the benefit of both sides. These are those who definitely call themselves Christians, but their heart for God is lukewarm at best. The Bible clearly tells us that, in the end, Jesus would spit out lukewarm Christian out of his mouth. He said that the fruitless branches, even if they were attached to the vine of Jesus, will be pruned, thrown out, and burned. He said that not everyone who says to Jesus, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of His Father who is in heaven. This is a sobering message. It is not enough to regard Jesus as your Savior; He must be the Lord of your life. You must be willing to give up the throne of your life. You must be willing to give up your life for the sake of the gospel.
Lastly, those who have the heart of a fertile ground are honest and good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. They are those who don’t take God’s word lightly, but stubbornly obeys His word whatever the cost may be. They are those who persevere under the temptations of this world and patiently produce fruit of their faith. The fruit denotes a noticeable manifestation of the Holy Spirit in them. In Galatians 5:22, Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those who live by the Holy Spirit undoubtedly bring glory to God and engage in ministries of the kingdom of God. They fervently worship God upwardly. They participate in fellowship and discipleship of the believers inwardly. And they evangelize and minister to others outwardly. These are the ones that Jesus will say “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, which category do you fall under? Do you have a heart of a footpath, rocky soil, thorny ground, or fertile ground? God forbid that you are in one of the first three, but if you are, do not be dismayed. The very reason why God has given you the breath of life today and to listen to this message is because God loves you so much, and He is willing to wait for you to change your heart and turn your life completely toward Him. God’s grace is renewed for you today.
Nevertheless, the challenges are clearly set before you. “Will you commit your life to Him today, or will you continue to live your life astray?” “Will you return to your Lord and Savior, or will you continue to be His traitor?” “Will you invest your life in your eternity, or will you waste your life in uncertainty?”
The decision is yours. If you have the heart of a footpath, I urge you to repent of your sins and come to the Lord in humility. If you have the heart of a rocky soil, I urge you sift out the rocks of distractions in your life and focus on deepening your root of faith. If you have the heart of a thorny ground, I urge you to clear out the thorns of care and pleasures of life, and put Christ as the primary reason for your life. Do not let this day pass without changing the soil of your heart.
For those who have the heart of a fertile ground, God bless you! You are blessed because God exposed you to His word, He gave you the desire to cling to His word, and He filled your heart with the Holy Spirit to produce divine fruit. I encourage you to continue to feed yourself with the word of God. Just like you eat food every day, attempt to eat your spiritual food every day. Let the word of God shape your heart, so that you would have a heart after God’s own heart. Let the word of God saturate your mind so that the Holy Spirit may speak through it. Let His word never depart from you.
But don’t just stop at reading the Bible. We are called to cling to His word and obey His word. Obedience is a sign of your love to God. So, meditate on the word of God, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Finally, be observant of the fruit that you are bearing in your life. Is it good or bad? Jesus said that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. He also said that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, check the fruit of your life and cut out those that shouldn’t hang on your tree. Let the goodness of God continue to grow and multiply in your life. And let the kingdom of God expand in your life.
May God bless us as we focus and dedicate our lives to Christ Jesus, our beloved Lord and Master!
Pastor Daniel Kim