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Living Under the Word
Scripture: Luke 4:1-13; Luke 8:4-15
Track 4 of 12 in the A Transforming Church . . . Lives By Transforming Values series
Running time: 24 minutes, 32 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"Powerful Seed . . . Good Soil"

The Metro Conference in New York City is hosted by the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ in metropolitan New York. I was on the upper floor of a large high school developing my workshop when I began to use "corn and beans" as an illustration. Just as I was starting to share my story I looked out the window. There was nothing out there but rooftops and power lines.

At that moment I recognized that these urban-dwellers were not going to understand my corn field story. The United States is no longer a predominantly agrarian society. We simply don't have the background to understand planting and harvest. The closest many ever come is their junior high science class when they grow a plant in a Styrofoam cup.

Even those on today's farms have trouble with "a sower went forth to sow." If Jesus had said, "A man went out with his John Deere 8030 and 90' DB planter," they might understand.

But the truth of our text shouldn't be hard to understand. Look in the cracks of your sidewalk this spring. There, in the concrete, something green will be sprouting. A seed will have found a crack that opens to the soil underneath, or a little soil will have accumulated in the groove and that seed will grow.

That's what seeds do. They grow. Wherever you plant them, if there's any soil and water to be found, they'll grow.

Jesus says that's what His word is like. It's like seed. You plant it, anywhere, it'll grow. The power to produce is inherent in the seed . . . not the soil. Yet, even the best of seed can't produce much if the soil is bad, or water isn't added.

At Madison Park we value the Word of God. We believe that if you plant the seed of God's word in the soil of your heart, it will produce. If you cultivate and water it, it will produce great crops. If you, the soil, make room for the seed . . . good fruit will grow in your life. God will be glorified.

Been there, haven't you? Little red guy on one shoulder, and little white guy on the other? The ongoing internal argument that goes on in your heart and mind, the competing voices of the world, trying to decide how you should make your decisions, what you should do, what you should not do. It's not an uncommon theme, you know. It shows up almost everywhere. I was watching a television ad of all things a couple of days ago, and there it was. Well, they didn't use the two little stick figures sitting on anybody's shoulder, they just showed a girl who was making a decision. She found herself in the shower looking at herself after meth, and the personage of her after having taking meth crying out to her "Don't do it, not even once!" It's there, it's everywhere you look; the competing voices. And we've got to decide whose voice are we going to follow.

That's really what we're talking about today. You know that we're in a series that has been trying to address who we are as a congregation of people. We've been talking about specifically the things that we hold dear to us. This morning we want to ask about those competing voices, and where we're going to find some answers. I want to look at two passages in the book of Luke, if you want to turn to those, we're going to be taking a look at the first part of Luke chapter four and then we're going to go over to Luke chapter eight. Luke chapter four, it's a very common passage for those of you who have spent some time in your Bibles. It's that passage that describes the temptation of Jesus. It is that opportunity when Satan comes along after Jesus has arrived and begun his ministry. He comes in the context of Jesus having been baptized, identified by God as the One who is going to do His work for Him, who's going to be His spokesman. That in itself should strike you as important, that often Satan's temptations come after you've made a major decision, not before. And it is the Sprit of God who leads him into the wilderness for temptation. Luke chapter four, verse one. "Jesus full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days He was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them He was hungry. The devil said to him, "If you're the son of God tell this stone to become bread." Jesus answered, "It is written, ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'" The devil led him to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'" The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you're the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully. They will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Jesus answered, "It says ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" When the devil had finished all this tempting he left Him, until an opportune time."

So to whom do you listen? Well, to whom did Jesus listen? If our vision as a congregation is to become as Christ-like as we can become, if it's to imitate Christ and allow Him to be the guiding portion of our life, then we would seek to make the same decisions that He makes, to listen to the same voice that He listens to. The temptations are really pretty significant temptations, when you think about it. Fasting for forty days, the text I think, practices what Luke is really good at: understatement. "He was hungry." No kidding. Forty days of no food. And the opportunity comes, he says, to just turn these stones into bread! To which Jesus responds, "No thanks." The temptation is, you don't need God, you can do this yourself. "You're, after all, capable of doing that." Now, that's not a temptation for you, or for me. I don't turn stones into bread well; I can't even turn flour into bread. But it was a strong temptation for Jesus, to practice self-gratification. Self-service. Second temptation is, take the easy way out. "You don't really need to do it the hard way, the long-term goal of your life is to be the king of the universe, and I can just give that to you now! You don't have to do anything to get there, you certainly don't have to follow God to get there, just let me hand it to you. Take the easy way." Third temptation: put God to the test. "You deserve His attention, I mean, after all, you're important to him, jump off of the temple, He'll send his angels to catch you, because you matter." Three temptations and three rather interesting responds. Man doesn't live by bread alone. I'm not going to simply gratify Myself, there are things that are far more important that that. I'm not going to practice self-protection. I will not simply allow you to put Me in a place where I don't have to suffer. If I have to suffer in order to worship God, then I shall. I'm not, he says, going to fall to self-promotion; I'm not going to put God in a position where He has to somehow protect Me, even though that is His promise. The key in this text and without trying to explain each of those temptations further, the key is in three simple words in our English text that preface everything that Jesus does: It is written. Jesus doesn't argue with Satan. He doesn't get into a battle of wits with him; He gets into a battle of truth. And he simply turns back to the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy and He simply quotes for Satan passages of Scripture. He relies on the truth to get Him out of trouble. And more so, and this is the subtle things that you have to always watch out for, Satan knows his Bible too. Did you notice that in that particular passage verse number ten it's written as a quotation? If you have a red-letter edition, you'll notice that the quotations that Jesus sys are written in red, that's what the red letters are. Those are not red. They're still a quotation of Scripture, Satan comes along and quotes the Old Testament to Jesus, to which Jesus says, "That may be what it says, it is not what it means." It's not just knowing Scripture, but it is knowing the interpretation and the truth of Scripture that matters. We come to this conclusion: You're never going to be tempted in a way that is beyond your ability to handle it if you know Scripture. That's the promise of First Corinthians chapter ten, isn't it? "There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, and God will make a way of escape." Never are you tempted in a way that God has not somehow spoken to. The question isn't has God given you some instruction, the question is, are you listening to the instruction?

I was coming back from St. Louis the other day, out Hwy 70, you all know the drill. You come to Hwy 61, and you go north toward Hannibal, the sign says "Hannibal." It's not hard to see, unless you're in the left hand lane distracted and thinking about something. And all of sudden you realize you're traveling down the freeway in the left-hand lane going in the direction you think you're supposed to go and suddenly, there goes your exit. I hate to tell you this that happens to me all the time…in life. After I have missed the opportunity I realized that God had placed a way of escape there, I just didn't take it. It wasn't that it wasn't available; it's that I missed it. Because I was in the wrong lane. Because I was going too fast, because I had gotten distracted, because I had allowed myself to get in with the flow of things, and wasn't paying attention. Scripture always has a way out. If I'm listening. If I'm paying attention. I was listening yesterday to Terry Edson down in Haron, IL, he's in elder at one of our churches in Centralia, talking about a trip that he took a couple of years ago to Iraq. He went in rather clandestinely with a group of Christian leaders; I didn't even know that this was possible; he went into Baghdad, to meet with the underground church in Baghdad. For 6 months, prior to this trip, he had a list of a number of Scriptures particularly Scriptures about not fearing that he read daily to prepare him for the trip. So that when he got there, he would not be distracted by the fear of being in that place, but rather could be focused on the purpose for which he was there. I found that testimony fascinating. To just create a list of Scriptures in advance, read them every day, until they just are sinking down in your soul, because you know you're going to be tempted in a particular way.

Now, I'm almost embarrassed to confess this, about three or four weeks ago, at one of our local movie theatres Sylvester Stallone brought out his "last" Rocky movie, the last being in quotes…I don't know if it really is his last movie or not. And I went to see it. Citizenlink.com has an interview with Sylvester Stallone that is absolutely fascinating. I want to read just a sentence or two from that interview. "The more I go to church, and the more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his word, and having him guide my hand, I feel as though the pressure is off of me now." He's returned to his Christian roots. He was raised as a Christian and left, and has now come back. Did you hear that? Listen to this: "The more I turn myself over to the process of believing in Jesus and listening to his word." That's what Jesus is talking about in this text. It is written.

So is Scripture really that important? My answer is: yes. I take it you wouldn't be surprised by that answer. Luke chapter eight. Luke chapter eight may be the most famous Jesus' parables, maybe next to the prodigal son I suppose. This is one of the most commonly used ones at least. The Parable of the Sower. At least that's what it's called at the top of my Bible. Luke chapter eight verse four: "A large crowd was gathering and people were coming from town after town. He told them this parable: A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he scattered his seed, some fell along the path, it was trampled on and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among the thorns which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and it yielded a crop a hundred times more than was sown. When he said this he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear let him hear.' His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you, but to others I speak in parables so that though seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. This, he said, is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who've received the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for awhile, but in the time of testing, they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way, they are choked by life's worries, riches, and pleasures and they do not mature. But the seed on the good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart. Who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. It's the power of seed. It'll grow, if you give it a chance. Don't believe that, go out and look in the cracks of your sidewalk this spring, and they'll be there. I don't know how that's possible; I've yet to figure that one out. But then I was never able to figure out why there was a tree growing out of the top of a rock on the Oregon coast, either. You put a seed where it can get access to a little soil and a little water, and it will grow. That is the nature of seed all you have to do is just plant it, and it comes up. Now if this were a sermon about how we reach lost people for Christ, I probably would point your attention to the fact that this sower sows absolutely extravagantly. He scatters it everywhere. The farmers among us would say the guy is just wasteful. I mean, there's no sense putting it on the path. He doesn't care. Throw that stuff out there, because the chances are, it might grow. And it will…unless something comes along and removes it. It will. If it's given half a chance, it will grow. That's the power of seed. But there is also the power of soil.

The soil in which it is sown matters. There are some seeds that start to grow but they just can't get their roots down far enough into the ground in order to keep growing and so they wither up and they die. There are some seeds that happen to grow in the soil where there are other kinds of things growing, pleasures, he says, the troubles of this world. And they get intertwined and choked out. I've never quite understood that, this again betrays my lack of ability to understand the whole realm of farming. Why do weeds always win out over grass? I just don't get that. But they do. It's just one of life's lessons, I guess. And so what we learn is that once the seed has been planted in the life of a person, somebody has to nourish that seed, somebody has to cultivate that seed. There has to be some watering and some hoeing along the way in order to make sure that that seed has an opportunity to produce. But there is power in the seed if it is given an opportunity to grow.

So here's the application: you don't need a preacher on a Sunday morning to tell you this, but you've got one, so here it comes. Read your Bible. If the seed is the Word of God, and it has the power to produce, then read the seed. Plant it in your heart. Mull over it. Look at it. Study it. Put it in; lay it down, in the morning, in the afternoon, over your lunch hour, before you go to bed. Frankly it matters not to me when you do the planting; just make sure you plant seed regularly in your life. If it is the power of Word to be an exit from temptation, if it is the power of the Word to help you make right choices, to know which voice to listen to, then you must constantly feed the right voice. 'Cuz I guarantee you the world will feed the other one plenty. So read your Bible. Come and take the class that we offer, that tells you what your Bible is about. We have a class for those of us who need to start from scratch. We don't know the front cover from the back, we don't know what those tables are at the end, they call it a "concordance," and we have no clue what that means. There are these little numbers in the middle of the text, we don't know what that is, we don't know Old Testament from New Testament so come and learn. Just come and learn. Read your Bible. Get into some personal Bible study. Here it comes: for the one-hundredth and eighty-seventh time, get involved in an adult discipleship class. If you're not currently attending a class, I'm going to stand here and tell you one more time that you need to be in class. That's the teacher in me coming out; get to class! I'm waiting from an "Amen" from one of our Sunday school teachers. Any one of them just to stand up and say, "Right! Yeah!" Mike Seaver's class has been kicked out of the Fellowship Hall, it's going to be in room thirty-one, if you're not currently going to class, go to room thirty-one and go to that class. If you don't want to go that one, go to the one next door. If you don't like that one, there's another one down the hall. Go to a discipleship class! I'm waiting for you to nod your head. (Chuckled) Okay, thank you, I've got one commitment from somebody. If we're going to plant seed, we gotta put ourself where we can get that seed planted. Study it. Now, maybe Sunday mornings is just not your thing. You know, I know Wal-Mart's open, Panera's has got good coffee this time of day, it's time for brunch with your family that may not be a bad thing, I don't wanna make that a bad thing. A discipleship group in the middle of the week, then, how's that? The Gathering, or one of our Bridge communities where you can get together with other people who think like you do, or a Women's Bible study…There're five different opportunities for you to meet with the women and study. The men's group is meeting for the next couple of Saturday's for study. Do you hear? I don't know how to say this any different than, you gotta get in Scripture, and you gotta get Scripture in you. Buy the Bible on tape or CD and put it in your car, or play it in your house so that it is always there. I know there are ballgames on the radio. But you know, for a little while, just listen to the voice of God. Come to church. We promise we'll preach from the Bible. Bring your Bibles, cuz I'm more than likely going to say, "turn to Luke something" over the next several weeks. Bring a pen and take some notes, make some underlines in your Bible. Call attention to the things that are in there. Bring your children and your grandchildren. I would give an arm to have been raised in the church and not been so far behind in my Bible knowledge when I first got started. I wish somebody had taken me to a children's class growing up so I would've known my Bible. You got grandkids? Get them here. Down in the Annex, back here in the back, we don't do child-care. If you think that you come here and we do child-care, you misunderstand what we do. Oh, we take care of your children, but we do not just baby sit your kids. From the time they are in the nursery, they are hearing Bible stories, they're being taught Scripture. Because we understand how important that is. So here's the question, why am I making such a big deal out of this? Because the core value of Madison Park Christian Church is this: we believe that the Scriptures are important. It's not just that they're reliable; oh we believe that, too. But we believe down in the core of our being that this book was given to us to help us live like Christ. And the only way that can happen is if we get it in us. I love this passage; I'll close by reading it. "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my Word that goes out from my mouth. It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

[Transcribed by MM15]