The key to breakthrough is always going to be connected to our receptivity, humility, and openness to the message of Christ.
Oh, what blessing and delight to be able to share this time together with all of you. If you’re joining us for the first time, I’m Pastor Terry. I’m the lead pastor here at Cornerstone Church in San Francisco. Our theme is breakthrough. I want to return again to the parable, one of the most remarkable teachings of Jesus, at least in regards to awakening our imagination to what it looks like to open up our lives to him, but I want to return to the Parable of the Sower and its unique connection to our theme from the previous year, sow, water and reap. Yeah, it’s what we want to see happening in us, through us, around us, in our church.
Just everywhere we go, we want to spread the good news of Jesus, in a world of bad news, in a world that is misunderstanding so much of who Jesus is. We want to be part of the solution. We want to be of the healthy, life-giving, loving solution. What I mean by that is we want to be people who are conduits of blessing. Like the sower in the field, we share the good news wherever we go in whatever way we can. We are peacemakers, life-givers, blessers, difference makers in the best way for the things of the Lord. So my prayer even now, Lord, is that you would work your breakthrough in us and through us. That is my prayer, yes, in Jesus’ name.
So, let us return again to the shore of the Sea of Galilee and see Jesus in our mind’s eye, sitting in the boat as the water, the gentle waters of the Galilee lap against the shore. If we can imagine Jesus on a boat, not that far off, teaching and giving us timeless principles that will bring us into this moment. Matthew 13:1, I’m going to ask you to be sharing from the NLT, “Later that same day Jesus left the house and sat beside the lake and a large crowd soon gathered around him. So he got into a boat and then he sat there and he taught as the people stood on the shore.” That’s the picture we’re given. Perhaps as we shared last week, as Jesus taught, he could, in the distance, see the sower sowing in the fields up from the seashore. So, in the distance, the lesson came alive.
Jesus went on to say that a sower went out to sow, “Listen, a farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow, but the plant soon wilted under the hot sun. And since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still, other seeds fell on fertile soil and they produced a crop, a crop that was 30, 60, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted.” And then Jesus said this, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” Yes.
Then jumping to verse 14 of Matthew 13, a little further down, Jesus makes this statement, “Indeed, in their case, the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says, ‘You will indeed hear, but never understand. You will indeed see but never perceive. For this, people’s heart has grown dull. And with their ears, they can barely hear, and their eyes, they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.’ ” But then Jesus said, “But blessed are your eyes.” I feel like he’s saying that to you right now, “But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and blessed are your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, they did not see it, and to hear what you hear and they did not hear it.”
Some of the things that just stand out just so profoundly to me that I think are worth noting and having us just zero in on, one, I hope we understand this because I just love it, and that ended up that 15 verse where it says, “And I would heal them.” I mean, I just don’t want to let go of that, that the heart of Jesus is to heal and I so connect to that. He’s the healer. He’s the healer of the body. Some of us may need that healing right now. This has been a time when so many are fearful, and I think in some legitimate ways because of the impact of loss and death that we see all around us, that we’re fearful of what could happen to our bodies and we would pray for healing. There’s nothing wrong with that at all. We ask Lord, even now, that you would heal our bodies.
Then we’re not just talking about the COVID, we’re talking about anything that would afflict us physically. Maybe some of us are struggling with other illnesses. Many of us, it has to do with the healing of our mind or emotions, we just are feeling quite worn down, and we need his healing touch. For those of us, it’s spiritual. What I mean by that is we sense a tremendous amount of oppression. It’s not just the depression that maybe we’re experiencing, but a darkness that we sense is trying to close in and suffocate us and steal away the life of God that works in us. But I keep coming back to this, Jesus wants to heal people. I’ve heard it said, “Hurt people, hurt people,” and you’ve heard me say that and it’s true. It’s true all the time, hurt people, hurt people, but healed people, heal people. I know that he is the healer. One of my favorite descriptions of Jesus was that he was the gentle healer. He still heals today. Wherever we allow him in, healing will flow.
But Jesus also makes it clear, I think it’s important for us to note this as well, that healing is always contingent and especially the kind of healing he was referring to directly in this teaching, which had to do with spiritual healing that would affect everything else. But it was spiritual healing that he was really pushing into, especially as it related to him. He says, “The healing that I bring is contingent on seeing and hearing,” that the healing comes when we can see and when we can hear. That’s what he longs for everyone to have happened to them and he still wants that today. I know there’s a lot of confusion. I know there’s a lot of even wrong that’s been done in the name of Jesus. But at the end of the day, we can’t be healed if we can’t open up and see him and hear him. That is an absolutely essential part. So in many ways, the Christian life is about learning how to see and learning how to hear and stay open and attentive to the promptings of the Lord.
Then the other thing that just totally makes me come alive really is when we’re reminded of how blessed we are. Right now, I am talking about those of us, those of you who know him, and even that is by his grace. But as Jesus pointed out, how truly blessed you are to be able to hear and see, how blessed you are really to be able to comprehend the depth and the width and the height of the love of Christ. How blessed you are to have faith, for even just the faith the size of a seed of a mustard, all right, a mustard seed, can move mountains in our lives. Jesus said, “Do you understand how blessed you are to hear these words flow from me? Many prophets and righteous people longed for the day when they could see what you see.” If that was true of the people on the shore of the sea of Galilee, it’s even more true for us because his words are available and his spirit is available in a way that is unlike anything that they even could have experienced.
But going back to the parable, let’s sit with it a bit more. Some of the ground was hard. It was hard on the outside so the seed couldn’t get in. Remember what he said, hard ground hindered from the start, resistant, either unwilling or incapable of understanding or receiving what it is that Jesus was trying to give. That’s still true today, hard hearts. How they got hard, I don’t know. But hard hearts, the word can’t get in there. Some ground Jesus said though, the second kind was soft on the outside, but hard on the inside. Whereas in the first case, the seed couldn’t even get in because it was so hard, the second example Jesus uses the seed actually does get in. The ground is soft, but then underneath it, not too far down is rock and it doesn’t have the ability to go deep. So, what grows, once the sun hits it, it withers away and dies, the disappointments, the persecutions of life, wearing it down and revealing the lack of depth.
Depth is such a part of a growing Christian life. I just can’t overemphasize the importance of not simply following Jesus at the surface level. We’ll talk about that in a little bit. Some ground Jesus also said was so filled with weeds and thorns that the seed couldn’t survive. It couldn’t get in. It couldn’t survive the competition, if you will, right? So, it was literally choked to death, as Jesus described it, choked to death by what he called the cares of this life. But then Jesus said that fourth kind of ground, that fourth description of the soil, which is really a reflection of a human heart, he said that is good ground. The seed, he says, can take root in that ground and germinate and grow and flourish with a kind of exponential dynamism. It’s clear from the explanation that Jesus was giving to his disciples and everyone who was listening in that moment. But later on, he gives a specific explanation to his disciples and insight into what he was trying to get at.
It’s clear that Jesus was saying, “I’m a sower. And this message that I bring about who I am and what God is doing among us, that message is the seed, containing in it the life-giving dynamic of the Kingdom.” He’s asserting that when it is planted in the right soil, the good soil, not perfect, but good, it can produce amazing, astonishing results, some 30, some 60, some a hundredfold of harvest. So, remember this, that the key to breakthrough, at least in the Kingdom of Jesus, is always going to be connected to receptivity, humility, and openness. I mean, there’s no substitute for it. The scriptures consistently remind us not to be stubborn, but to be open and that openness can do amazing things because it’s the one prerequisite. The humility to be open is what opens up for us the provision of the Lord. It’s a reminder that we got to really guard against being proud, but it’s especially stubborn as well.
In fact, I was reminded of that verse in Psalm 32:9. Every now and then, I remind myself of it, “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you.” That was the ESV. The horse, as it is by nature, wild, ungoverned, or as the mule. The mule, I think a lot of us know this, is distinguished for its inclination to resist. I think all of us have heard the phrase stubborn as a mule, right? Sometimes I think I hear the Lord saying that to me. “So what’s it going to take for you to work with me? You’re being as stubborn as a mule. You’re resisting me. Let go. Trust me. Obey me. Yield. Yield. Yield your plans, your attitudes,” especially that last one, those attitudes. Oh, boy.
Remembering that what we won’t let be won’t let us be. I’ve heard the Lord say that to me on more than a few occasions over the years. “You’re just being stubborn. You’re stubborn as a mule.” And then, of course, I remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 11, and this passage, I want to share it from the message, which sometimes just… I don’t know. I just think it gets it perfect, or at least really accurate in a way that it’s just different and gritty. I don’t know. I love it sometimes. It doesn’t always hit, but when it does, oh, it’s sweet. Matthew 11:28-30, “Are you tired? Worn out?” the words of Jesus. “Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me.” Oh, I love that. “And you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me, work with me, watch how I do it.” That’s the come unto me. “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.” If it is, it’s not of him. “Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I’ve always loved the phrase since I first read the rendering, the unforced rhythms of grace. When we walk with the shepherd, life just works better, doesn’t it? It just works better. When we keep company with the Lord, we can learn to live lightly and freely and unhindered. We can face anything and we’ve had to face some really hard things, and maybe some of us are still facing them. I’m not just talking about what’s going on at a societal level. I’m talking about what’s going on inside the contours of our life, our relationships, our fears, our dreams, our challenges that maybe sometimes even other people aren’t even aware of, the demons that haunt us, the darkness that creeps back up and sometimes tries to grip us, suffocate the life out of us. The Lord reminds us that with him, we can face anything. We got to learn the unforced rhythms of grace. The Lord, I’m reminded of this, is my shepherd. I shall not want, which means the Lord is my shepherd. I shall lack for nothing. All that I need, he can give me.
Again, let’s not be like the mule of the Psalm, right? Obstinate, resistant to the Lord’s proddings and appeals. A lot of times he’s got to try to get our attention. He’s trying to get us to move, right? Hey, I had this picture in my mind of a mule refusing to budge, just leaning back on his hindquarters, heels dug in. “I’m not going to move. I’m not going to move. I’m not going to do it.” Right? I feel like sometimes it’s what we can be spiritually when the Lord is trying to get our attention to address certain things, or in our life when he’s trying to get us to give him some attention or give a certain situation more attention, and we’re just fighting God. Are you fighting God right now? Is there something in our life that you’re holding back, you’re digging your heels on? And the Lord is saying, “Stop that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Let me work my rhythm in your life. My way is easy. My burden is light. My yoke is easy.”
What is remarkable about what Jesus is suggesting, and I go back to the parable here and what he said at the back end of it, is that we actually have the power to thwart the gospel. We have the power to both thwart it or set it in motion. That’s what I mean. But I’m talking about in our terms of our own heart. It’s all dependent. Jesus taught us how we choose to receive it. That’s why sometimes the smartest person in the room can get nowhere with God when sometimes the person who has maybe far less training or is far more troubled can make great progress because it has to do with openness and receptivity, our attitude, our willingness to engage what the Lord is inviting us into. So let’s not be willful, love one. Let’s be willing.
I’ll say it again. Let’s not be willful. Let’s be willing. Let’s be like Jesus who said, at that moment when everything was on the line, “Not my will, but Father yours be done.” The perfect prayer of God’s anointed son, “Not my will, but yours be done.” The psalm, “Not my will, but yours be done,” in these seven simple words, the vitreous one, the perfect prayer of God’s anointed son, not my will, but yours be done. I don’t want to be a horse or a mule who needs a bit to follow. I don’t want to have to be pulled resistantly. I want to, out of my own free will, choose you, my blessed Savior. I want to go your way. I want to follow in your good path because you’re the good shepherd and I need you so much. So, how do we, as we head into the rest of the year with one month now behind us, and 11 ahead of us, we’ve got 11 more to come. If last year taught us anything, never assume anything, right? Except him, except the Lord’s faithfulness at work in our lives.
But in these next 11 months of the year, let’s stay receptive in order to secure the harvest that he wants to bring, the 30, 60, and a hundred that he wants to bless us with. Again, Jesus said verse 16, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. I’ll tell you the truth, that many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they long to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it.” I want to be a person who hears the voice of the Lord all around me. “All creation,” the scripture says, “testifies of the Lord.” Jesus encouraged us. I love this. He encouraged us to consider the lilies of the field. He said, “When you look upon the beauty of the flowers, remember that they were more beautifully arrayed than Solomon and all his glory.” That’s true. Sometimes a field of color can open us up to the goodness of God.
I was reminded of something. Christina Rossetti said in one of her poems that flowers preach to us if we will hear. Flowers preached to us if we will hear. Come on now, are we listening? The beauty of the Lord is all around us, in the night sky and the sun shining through the tree, the smile of someone we love, and the listening ear of a caring friend. I see you, Lord. I see you, Lord. I see you in the morning light. Who can say the joy this day, this week will bring? Who can say the joy this month will bring? Who can say the joy this year will bring? We talk about what can go wrong. Let’s focus on what can go right. Why not, right? And then on top of that, just sticking with the teaching of Jesus. Let’s keep tending the soil of our heart, you guys. How do you do that? You do it by filling our lives with good words, good words, not bad words, God’s words. So good words and God’s words, right?
I’m working off the parable. Let’s keep it soft. Let’s keep our hearts soft, tender, and humble. Let’s not resist God. “My son,” the scripture says, “do not despise the Lord’s correction.” In Proverbs 3:7-10 from the NLT summarizes what I’m getting at. Look at this. “Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord, honor him, reverence him, and turn away from evil. And then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth.” Look at that. “And with the best part of everything you produce.” Some of you… Well, I do it too. We honor the Lord with our first fruits, our tithes, and our offerings. We bring them unto the Lord. We store them as it were in heaven, where moth and rust does not corrupt and thieves can’t break in and steal. We honor the Lord confidentially walking in promise. It’s a way of life.
Verse 10, “Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.” What that is saying is that God will bless you in ways that go far beyond what you give to him, because as I think we understand, we can never outgive the Lord. This is a good word for us. “My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline. Don’t be upset when he corrects you.” I’ve known his correction. “For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights.” I mean, no discipline is in love. It actually ends up producing destruction and pain. True love is willing to correct, and that’s something that the Lord will do in our lives at times. He loves us so he will discipline us. I’d rather not be ignored. I mean, if the Lord didn’t care, he wouldn’t correct us. It’s a sign of his love when the Lord is trying to move us along.
So I need to be open to him. I don’t want to be like a stubborn mule. I want to be a person rather who’s committed to a deepening life with God out of a chosen part of my own will, and that’s another truth here that I want to suggest, that God invites us to cultivate depth. Part of this parable has to do with the idea of cultivating depth that we are to really allow that word to settle deep within us, like God’s words planted in us. Don’t settle, love one, for nominalism. Aim higher than that. Aim higher than that. Don’t just be someone who dabbles with the things of God. As my grandfather used to tell me, “If you’re going to serve him, Terry…” You’ve heard me say this. “If you’re going to serve him, serve him. If you’re going to follow him, follow him. Don’t go halfway. Give it your best.” Why not? Actually, the Jesus way, that’s how it works. It actually doesn’t work well when we only just pick apart and dabble or live it on the surface. It doesn’t.
Actually, sometimes the only thing that can happen when we do that is the gospel when it’s only lived at a surface level actually may make us more miserable than happy, and that’s not his will. The Jesus way doesn’t work as a side dish. It works as the main entree. It has to be. That’s the way it works. As I mentioned at the beginning of the year, another quote from Christina Rossetti, I mentioned her a lot, but remember we said this, “Choose love not in the shallows, but in the deep. Choose love not in the shallows, but in the deep.” Again, from a heart standpoint, what does that look like? I think it means staying untangled from, as Jesus called the cares of this world and the deception and even the deceitfulness of false security, which is what I think he was getting at; how instead we are to embrace his words as true wealth that can never be taken from us.
What we’re reminded of in Colossians 3, that we are to let the words of Christ dwell richly in us. Let his deep, deep love live in us deeply. Again, we’ll just put this up there. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” And I love this other part, “Teaching and admonishing one another at all wisdom.” We had to sharpen one another in the ways of the Lord and the words of the Lord. Singing is a part of the Christian life, singing psalms and hymns. In a lot of ways, we sing our worship songs, our modern-day songs, spiritual songs, lift it up to the Lord with a heart of gratitude, thankfulness in our hearts to God. That’s what God wants for you and me, and how thankful I am for that, Lord, that you call us into the deeper life, that love is not meant to be lived in the shallows, but in the deep. That’s where I want to go with you. I know that’s where you call us to, the abundant life.
Oh, Lord Jesus, teach us your ways and give us a humble heart that’s open and not resisting you. Or if there’s something specific that you’re asking of us to either let go of or hold onto, help us not to resist you when you’re trying to get our attention. I want my heart to be a place where you see, can grow, and bring forth harvest 30, 60, a hundred full. I pray that for all of us right now, Lord. So, I’m going to come back. I actually have one more thing to share. That’s what I get to do here before I send you off with a blessing.
I just want to remind you, this is our time when I get to… I’ve already actually mentioned it, but if you’re not sure how you can give, many of you are aware of it already, I know, but you can give directly online. You can send it the older way, the more traditional way, send the check to the offices, or you can give to the app, which is what I do. But as I like to say, it’s always a matter of the heart. Give your heart first always, because where your heart is, there where your treasure be also. But yeah, Lord, receive this song. This song is a great song because it connects beautifully. It’s the deep, deep love of Jesus that we want to have planted deep into our hearts. In the tradition of the church, we sing this unto the Lord and then I’ll come back around. All right. Here we go.
Ah, the deep, deep love of Jesus may be at work in our lives. His words deeply living in you, studied and memorized, owned and loved. His encouragement flowing out of you, wisdom from above. His songs of joy, inspiring you. A melody within your heart and gratitude defining you, thankful to do your part. That’s my poem prayer for all of us. Yeah. Run deep and then prepare to reap what it is that God is planting within us, for a harvest surely will come as night follows day. It’s not a question of whether good things will flow out of our lives. It’s only a question of how much and to what extent, some 30, some 60, some a hundredfold, but growth is inevitable if we commit our ways to Jesus.
Let’s be serious about the father’s business. Let’s go out and be that sower in the field. Yeah, sharing the good word. Why? Because he’s so good and he’s so God, and he wants us to what? So good and so God. Don’t forget, you are so deeply loved. And my prayer for you is blessing and your spirit, soul, and body, this day, this week, this year, in Jesus’ name.