Grounded in God's Word

Oct. 9, 2021 Chris Brooks

Session Transcript

Chris Brooks: Well, this morning we have the joy of going deeper into God’s Word. How many of you love God’s Word? Jen Wilkin says that God and His Word are far too lovely to be abandoned for lesser things.That means that the top priority in life is to know Him as He has revealed Himself through His Word. What I love about our worship is that it is based upon the Word of God. What I love about this conference is that the centrality of it is the exaltation of Jesus Christ through His Word.

If you are going to be a woman who is anchored, a woman of substance, a woman who will impact the generations that come after her, you must be anchored in the Word of God. As a matter of fact, we have nothing to offer you of value beyond the Word of God. The only thing that is enduring in this life and can preserve you in the life to come is the seed of the Word of God, incorruptible, unfading, and saving. That is His Word.

Today Nancy has asked me to talk to you about what it means to be a woman who is grounded in the Word of God. Now, I want to take a little bit of a different spin on that, because I believe that in order for us to be grounded in God’s Word, we have to have the right heart. 

I want to talk to you for just a moment about the type of heart you have to have in order to be grounded in God’s Word. Let’s first start with an understanding of what God is trying to accomplish with His Word.

The Word of God is not given to us, contrary to popular belief, so that we might be able to pass some future theological quiz. Some people have posited in their minds that Peter is standing at the front of the pearly gates with some type of clipboard (or I guess at this point, some tablet), and you’re going to have to pass some theological quiz in order to get into heaven. Let me just tell you, Peter is not at the front door, and there is no tablet, and there will be no theological quiz. Now, that doesn’t mean doctrine is not important; right belief leads to right living. Bad ideas not only have consequences, bad theology has victims. So, it is important for us to have right doctrine.

But what is God ultimately after? I would argue that what God is after as He draws us into the beauty of His Word is our hearts. What God wants is your hearts. You know, reading Scripture faithfully has often been called a spiritual discipline. I like to call it a spiritual rhythm. The reason why God gives all of the spiritual rhythms—like prayer and fasting and Scripture reading—is for relationship. What God is ultimately after is your heart.

The Bible is full of great propositional statements and truth. It is full of very clear teachings and history and facts about the God we serve. But it is also full of narratives and stories. 

How many love stories? How many love great stories? I love great stories! As a matter of fact, my favorite type of movie is a biopic movie, a biographical movie that really brings alive heroes and characters from the past. How many have ever seen the movie, featuring Daniel Dane Lewis, called Lincoln? Anybody ever seen that movie? Man, did he do an amazing job! It’s one of my favorite movies. He walked like Lincoln, he talked like Lincoln, made you feel like Abraham Lincoln was alive again. It was a great movie.

How many have ever heard of the baseball legend and hero Jackie Robinson? Anybody seen the movie by Chadwick Boseman, Forty-Two? Has anybody seen that movie? It’s one of my favorite biopics—again, he makes the character come alive and the movie come alive.

But maybe my favorite of all time is Chariots of Fire. Now, if you’re young in here, you have no idea what I’m talking about. (laughter) Before there was Netflix, before there was YouTube, there was Chariots of Fire. I encourage you to watch that movie. You can probably go and watch it for free, but I didn’t tell you that.

Chariots of Fire chronicles the story of this young man whose parents are missionaries to China. He chooses to pursue running track as his sense of calling. His sister’s trying to reason with him, trying to persuade him to pursue another path. I love this line. He says to her, “I run because when I do I sense the pleasure of God.” Where do you sense the pleasure of God leading you?

Stories are powerful because they captivate us. Long after the facts fade, the stories remain. One of the primary teaching tools of our Savior is these stories. We call these stories parables. Now, parables are interesting because they’re what you would call linguistically, indirect communication. Indirect communication is communication that takes the listener or the hearer or the reader on a journey unwittingly into the front door of truth. They’re being dragged into a confrontation with deep and profound truth, and in Jesus’ case, eternal and spiritual truth, and they don’t even know it because they’re so captivated in the story.

Have you ever watched a story, and as it unfolded you were so enthralled by the story that when the moral of the story, the climax of the story hit you, you were surprised? You didn’t even see it coming. This is what a parable is.

Direct communication is wonderful for giving plain and simple facts of the matter, but what’s beautiful about indirect communication is it goes through the back door of your heart to confront you with a truth that will change your life. 

Jesus is a master teacher, the master storyteller, but I just want to look at one parable this morning. Turn in your Bibles if you can with me to Luke’s gospel, chapter 8. We’re going to look at what would arguably be one of Jesus’s most famous parables, famous for so many reasons, not the last of which is that this is one of the parables in which He explains why He gives the parable. With most of His parables, He doesn’t give an explanation. We’ll encounter why that is in just a moment, but for this particular parable He explains why He teaches in parables, which will unlock our understanding of all parables.

Now, when you turn in your Bible to Luke chapter 8, if you have one of the modern English versions, which I would imagine most in this room do (some are so spiritual that they’re reading the Bible in Greek), but for the rest of us there is probably a header over this parable. The header in your Bible may read, “The Parable of the Sower,” like mine. How many have that header over this story?

Let me just tell you about headers. Headers are something that has been added in by the publisher in order to help you to reference and to focus in on some aspect of what you’re about to read. But the headers are not the inerrant Word of Jesus, and sometimes they should be challenged. I would challenge this. I would challenge this title of this parable to not be the parable of the sower, but the parable of the soil, because what God wants us to focus in on as we unpack this story is the soil, not so much the sower. We’ll get to that more a little bit later.

The story is straightforward; not much complexity here. I’ll read it straightforward for you. Verses 4–8 is where we start. It says,

And when a great crowd was gathered and people from town after town came to him [referring to Jesus], he said in a parable, "A sower went out to sow his seed, and as he sowed some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on the rock, and as it grew up it withered away, because it had no moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold." As he said these things, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"

Now, it’s easy to say, “Well, that’s a simple message.” I picture Jesus telling this story with seeds in His hands to illustrate what He is communicating to His audience, an agricultural audience, using a very clear reference point. There is so much richness in this story that if we’re not careful, we’ll miss it through quick reading. So, let’s highlight some of the facts here.

It’s important as you study God’s Word that you ask good questions, and the first really good question to ask if you’re going to get out of God’s Word what the Spirit intended in God’s Word, reading the Bible for all its worth, is to ask the question, What is here? What do I see here? We are so quick to ask ourselves, What does this mean and how does it apply? But before we get to what it means for us here and now, we need to ask ourselves what it meant to them then and there.

Verse 4 tells us something very interesting, and that is that there was a great crowd. Jesus here is teaching to a mixed audience, a great crowd composed of, no doubt, religious leaders who were antagonistic towards His ministry, His disciples, no doubt some who were intrigued or curious about who this Jesus was. But it was a mixed multitude, and Jesus knew it was a mixed multitude, and so He taught them in a parable. He tells them this story, and in many ways as we read about these four different types of soil, what we see Jesus doing through His Word and through His teaching is dividing up the crowd. The Word of God always divides up the crowd. The Word of God always reveals who is who.

As He goes through this story, He tells us of four different types of soil that were represented here. 

The first type of soil was a path. It was a path that, if you picture it, was a well-trodden path, a path that had a lot of compacted dirt. No sense of rootedness in it. The seed is cast there, and it takes no root at all. The first was a path.

The second was rocky. It was rocky terrain and soil, maybe along the side of the path. Picture a well-trodden path, and alongside of it was some soil with rocks there, and the seed was sown there, and it took root for a little while, but when the sun scorched and the heat came, it withered away.

The next type of soil was good soil. It didn’t have many problems, except for the fact that there was competition that was there. The competition that was there was the thorns. The seed was sown, and as it grew, the thorns grew as well, and the thorns end up overtaking the seed and choking it out.

The fourth type of soil is what Scripture clearly identifies as good soil, soil that receives the seed and produces a hundredfold. This hundredfold reference is no hyperbole or exaggeration. It refers back to Genesis 26:12, where we are told that Isaac’s field yielded a hundredfold, showing the blessing of the Lord.

Clearly here Jesus is calling His audience to a very common picture, a picture that they would have seen over and over again. Jesus uses common things to draw our attention in. They would have been wondering, no doubt, Where is He going with this story? 

So was the case as we go to the next verse, verse 9, as the disciples pulled Jesus aside. When His disciples asked Him what this parable meant, in verse 10 He said,

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, "so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand."

Jesus, what in the world are You talking about here?

Clearly, the disciples were a little bit confused. “We have this great audience, Jesus! This was a great opportunity for You to clearly declare Your kingdom and Your kingship, but yet, You told a story. What is this story all about?” They were confused. We have the privilege of having the rest of the story given to us, but at that time they were confused, so they turned to Jesus for clarity. Jesus’ response seems to be counterintuitive, contradictory to what we know about His character. He says to them they have been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God. To God’s children it is given the privilege to know the secrets of His kingdom, but for the others, the rest of the crowd, He speaks in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.

What is it saying here? Is it saying that Jesus is actively working to ensure that some don’t respond to His Word? No, that’s not what it’s saying at all! As a matter of fact, this is a reference, again, back to Isaiah chapter 6, verses 9–10, where God says to Israel that seeing they would not see and hearing they would not understand. He is referring to the hardness of their hearts around their own religious perspective. He is challenging the nation of Israel in Isaiah concerning their own expectations being thrust upon God.

What He is saying to them is that “because your expectations are primary and preeminent in your heart, you will not see and you will not understand.” See, this is the power of a parable. The power of the parable is that it forces you to play by God’s rules and not your own. Jesus isn’t here to entertain us. Jesus and His Word is not given in order to satisfy our desires, but rather, it invites us to learn of His desires.

Today I want to, again, reinforce what type of heart we have to have to be grounded in God’s Word. What God is challenging His disciples with and what Jesus is challenging the audience with is, “Why did you come out to see Me?” No doubt, in that great crowd there would have been a whole lot of people with different expectations. 

Some would have come out to Jesus wanting Him to fulfill their political aspirations, that somehow He would overthrow the government that they were disgruntled with. But Jesus, instead of overthrowing the government, comes and tells them a story, a story that they needed but different than what they expected. 

Others would have gathered around Jesus because they heard about some of the miracles that He performed, desiring to receive a miracle themselves. But instead of giving them miracles, He gives them a story. 

You know, each and every one of us comes to this moment with various desires, but it’s so important that we not impose our desires upon Him, but that we allow His Word to inform our desires. Let’s not play scriptural lotto.

You know what scriptural lotto is, right? You open up the Word of God, hoping that it falls to a chapter or a verse that speaks blessing to you, and you mess around and open up to an Old Testament prophet who says, “Woe unto Edom!” And you say, “I don’t know where that fits.” (laughter)

No, what God wants us to do through faithful Scripture reading is receive from Him His imparted Word of truth:

  • so that we might be able to rightfully see the rest of the world.
  • so that we might be able to see Him as He presents Himself.
  • so that we might be able to see ourselves through His eyes.
  • so that we might be able to see the rest of the world correctly.

I wear these glasses because I need corrective lenses. Jesus invites us to read His Word because His Word is like corrective lenses to those of us who have had our vision obscured by sin. When these lenses are on, we see clearly.

This is what C.S. Lewis said:

I believe in Jesus for the same reason I believe in the sun; not just because I can see it, but because of it, I can see everything else.

This is the power of the Word of God! As we read His Word, everything else becomes clear. So what Jesus is saying concerning the parable is that the parable is both invitation and judgment. It invites those who sincerely desire to learn of Him, but it judges those who do not.

In John chapter 6, Jesus once again challenges those who have come to Him with erroneous expectations—some wanting Him to be a political anarchist, some wanting Him to simply be a miracle worker who gives them what they want. Jesus tells them that “if anyone will follow after me, they must eat of my flesh and drink of my blood” (v. 54). You know what happened after that; many began to walk away.

Jesus is not enamored by crowd sizes. He seems to be okay when people walk away because they have rejected His truth. He says to the twelve who remain, “Will you also walk away?”

Peter’s response is correct: “Where else will we go for the word of truth? Only You have the word of truth” (v. 68).

When you come to God’s Word, come with a humble and teachable heart, come ready to receive what He has for you. Don’t impose upon God your own expectations, but be humble at heart to receive from Him.

Then He goes to say something very interesting in verse 8. At the end He leaves them with this statement: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

Now, the Hebrew language that this is pulled from goes back to the Shema: “Hear, O Israel,” Deuteronomy chapter 6. It goes back to the ancient Hebrew. Now, the ancient Hebrew language, ladies, is what’s known as a word-poor language. That’s not a criticism, it just means that it doesn’t have as many words as other languages might have. The ancient Hebrew that this is pulled from—this word “hear” is what I want to focus in on—only has 8,000 words, compared to modern English that has over 400,000 words. What that means is that every word, just about, in ancient Hebrew has a range of meanings.

So when you read this word “hear,” what it would have meant or been heard as in the ears of the original audience was more than just to listen or to be aware that someone is talking, but it means to obey. It means to be ready to respond.

When He says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” He is not just talking about just listening, but He’s talking about having a ready heart to respond to what is being said. 

How do we know that we have received the Word of God? It is when we do the work of God. We know we have received His Word. How do you know that you are grounded in the Word? When you are doing the work of God.

Recently at our church, we have been focused on global missions, and we launched a new initiative. We call it the Woodside Global 100. We borrowed this from a phenomenal student mission movement started by D.L. Moody called the Moody 100. In the early 1900s, Moody did a clarion call across the nation, inviting young adults to come who would commit their lives to the global church and reaching the world for Jesus.

Well, in similar fashion, as we looked at the average age of the current missionaries who are serving around the world, we said, “We need a next-generation movement of missionaries.” So we have taught on this, we have preached on this, and we have called for 100 young people from our church to answer the call for global missions and to invest their lives in it.

Now, everyone across all of our campuses have heard these message, but recently there was a young man who came to us; his name is Andrew. After watching all that has happened in Afghanistan—he had been going through preparation to be deployed into the mission field—he said, “I have heard from the Lord, and I want to invest the rest of my life into reaching the people of Afghanistan with the gospel.”

So we gathered together as elders, we wept, and we prayed for him. We deployed him, and now he is in a Central Asian country bordering Afghanistan, ministering to refugees there.

Why do I bring up Andrew’s story? Because it is an example of what it means to be grounded in the Word of God. How do you know that you are grounded in the Word of God? Not by the number of podcasts that are downloaded on your iPhone. Not by the number of sermons that you have heard. Not by the sweet quotes that you tweet out. Jesus is far more than a tweetable Savior. We know that we have received the Word of God when we do the work of God, when we say, “Yes, Lord; your servant is listening, and I will obey.” So obedience reveals that we are grounded in His Word. 

Jesus goes on to explain the parable in verse 11. “Now the parable is this: the seed is the Word of God.” He is very clear on that detail, that in this parable the seed that is being sown is the Word of God. From there He’s going to go into the soils and explain the various types of soils.

But I want you to notice for a moment what He doesn’t describe. He does not describe the sower. It’s not that the sower is unimportant, but it’s that the description of the sower is not pertinent to the story that He’s telling. We get so wrapped up in the identity, the popularity, and the fame of sowers that we think sowers are more important than seeds. Never allow yourself to be so enamored with the fame and the identity of the sower—who cares what great school they graduated from, what their resume proclaims? If they have not given you the seed, who cares about the sower?

What I love about this conference and I love about Nancy’s heart for you is that she is committed to bringing speakers before you not based on popularity or audience or resume, but based on their handling of the seed.

Ladies, I want to encourage you that if you are going to be a woman grounded in the Word, you have to be in love and enamored more with the seed than you are with the various sowers. God can use any sower. God can use anyone. He can use someone from a broken family and high school education, and He can use someone with a Ph.D. from a famed academy. It doesn’t matter to God. What is most important is not the sower, but the seed. As a matter of fact, the sower brings nothing of import to the moment except for the seed. The seed is what changes us. The seed is the Word of God.

So what about these soils? Well, the soil, according to verse 12, 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.” That’s the first type of soil.

Secondly, verse 13, 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. 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.”

So far this sower’s batting 0 for 3. Then verse 15 is given to us for encouragement. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the Word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.

Ladies, the question and the purpose and the moral of the story is very clear; it is to confront the reader with one question: What type of soil are you? What type of soil is your heart? What type of soil is my heart? He gives us a picture of four different types of hearts.

First, a hard heart, the heart that does not receive, the heart that rejects what is being sown, the heart that is so bitter and so hurt and so wounded that that heart can’t even receive the hope and the truth that is given to us in Jesus Christ.

Some that are watching and present with us now, maybe you have been through so much life and pain, you have grown so cynical that even now, as the Word of God is being sown, your heart is hard and the Word doesn’t penetrate. Just know that it’s the devil at work, trying to prevent you from receiving the only thing that can heal you.

The second type of heart He gives us is a shallow heart. Oh, you’ve seen that type of heart before, right? The type of person who eagerly receives. They say, “Yes, this is true.” And then a little heat comes, a little persecution comes. Their expectations aren’t met.

Some of you were sold a bill of goods: “Come to Jesus and you’ll lose fifty pounds.” “Come to Jesus and He’ll make everything right again.” “Come to Jesus and there’ll be no more pain.” Though the Bible promises us that we are saved from the penalty of sin and the power of sin, it does not promise that we are rescued currently from the presence of sin. That is a future promise. While we’re living in this world we will still know brokenness, and we will still know pain. The difference is that when we have put our faith and trust in Christ, He is with us through it all. He is Emmanuel, God with us.

The shallow heart receives the Word of God quickly, but then it fades away, it withers as soon as persecution comes. What type of heart are you? What type of heart am I?

The third type of heart is what I will call a divided heart, a heart that, again, readily receives the Word of God: “I believe!” The person who maybe is subsequently baptized and professes that belief. But then the cares of this life begin to creep in. Jesus describes it again in verse 14; it is choked out by the cares and riches and pleasures of life.

If ever there is a verse that keeps me awake at night, ladies, it is this verse that continues to challenge my heart and my own relationship with God’s Word, because I have so many cares in this life. I have a family that I care about. I have a home that I have to take care of. I have a car that needs repairing. None of these things are bad. The cares of life are not bad, but if they take preeminence over the seed and it’s work in your life, it will choke out God’s Word.

What does Chris Brooks have to watch out for? I have to watch out for having a divided heart.

I don’t know which soil you are, but the story invites us to ask the question, What type of soil am I?

Well, the fourth type of soil is good soil, the good heart. We know this heart is good not just because it receives God’s Word, but again, as I said earlier, we know that we have received the Word of God when we do the work of God. The fact that it produces spiritual fruit is actually living out the Word. Jesus doesn’t want us to be just hearers of His Word, ladies, He wants us to be doers of His Word. That’s the picture of the good heart.

Now, here’s my question for you. Which category do you fall in? Which soil are you?

Let me tell you one of the insights into properly reading the parables. One of the insights into properly reading the parables is what you call location. It is so important that you locate yourself in the story, in the parable. I don’t care if it’s the parable of the soil or the parable of the Good Samaritan; it is so important that you locate yourself. Where do I find myself in this parable?

Here is the trick, and it reveals our fallenness. All of us want to identify with the good guy. All of us want to say, “That’s me.” Some of us, as we read through this story, want to raise our hands and say, “Hey, I’m number four. I am the good soil.” You don’t have to say amen; just look straight ahead and say, ‘Ouch,’ and the sister next to you won’t know it was you.” [Laughter]

But the story is not given to affirm us, it is given to affirm God. As a matter fact, you probably are reading the story right when you identify with the bad characters. That’s how you know that you have read a parable right, when you read the parable and you look at yourself and you say, “Lord, I am so desperately in need of a Savior.”

Now, for those of us who might be tempted to say that “I am the good soil,” let me remind you of the words of Romans 3:10, “There are none that are righteous, no not one.” Not one of us is righteous!

This is the problem. The problem of the parable, the desperation that it leaves the reader in, the hearer in, when it is properly understood, is that Jesus is clearly demanding that I have a good heart. But the problem is, He has already told me that I don’t have a good heart, that I can’t have a good heart, that none of us are righteous, no not one. He told another man at another time, “There is only one who is good, and that is God.” So, I am left in a very desperate situation, knowing that my heart is not good, but knowing that the only soil that actually produces fruit is a good heart. 

That’s exactly where Jesus wants me to be. He wants me and you to be at a place where we recognize that unless we get a heart transplant, we will never be grounded in the Word. It is impossible for me to stand before you and tell you to be grounded in the Word and simply give you Bible study methods when your heart isn’t right. It would be fruitless for me to tell you to be women who are grounded in the Word and give you cute techniques about how to find all the secrets of Scripture, as if there’s some mystery key, if your heart is not right. No, my message to you and to me today is that we are in desperate need of a heart transplant, and it’s only when we get a new heart that we can have a heart that receives the Word of God, evidenced by us doing the work of God.

But thanks be unto God that He offers us a heart transplant! This, again, is where I go back to the ordinances, where I go back to the sacraments, because when properly understood we know where to go for that heart transplant. On that night in which He knew He was going to be betrayed, He took the bread and said, “This is my body, offered for you. You cannot purify your own heart, you cannot change your own heart, but I went to that cross to pay your sin debt so that you might have a new heart.”

The new covenant, which is ratified in His blood, which promises me, according to Scripture, that He will give us new hearts of flesh exchanged for our hearts of stone when we put our faith and trust in Him, is ratified through His blood. So, when I take Communion, I am reminded that through His death on the cross and His resurrection He made it possible for me to have a new heart, a good heart that can be good soil to receive the good word to produce good fruit unto God. How many praise God for that?

But not only that, knowing that only He is good, He testifies to my union with Christ through baptism. Remember, my old heart, your old heart was buried with Him in baptism, and we rose with Him on that resurrection morning to the newness of life, giving us a heart transplant, good soil to receive the good Word of God, so that we might bear good fruit.

This morning I invite you to receive from the Master a new heart. Maybe you have searched your heart and, like me, you say, “God, I have a divided heart—so many directions, so many loves, so many pursuits; but I want You to be my primary love and my primary pursuit. Give me a clean heart.”

Maybe today you search your heart and you say, “God, my heart is stony, rocky, hurt, and bitter. It’s been downtrodden; it is so compacted from people who have walked over my heart that I need a clean heart. Give me, Lord, a clean heart.”

Maybe you have looked at your heart and said, “My heart is far too shallow in an Instagram world, where nothing seems to be real, and everything seems to be only surface deep. God, I need a clean heart.”

The psalmist David found himself in that same situation, and He gives us these wonderful words as I close today. In Psalm 51:10 he says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Today I want to encourage you women of God to be grounded in His Word. If you’re going to be grounded in His Word, you need a heart transplant, a new heart, a heart to replace the wounded heart, the hard heart, the divided heart, the shallow heart, a heart that is from God, good soil to receive the good seed of His Word, to produce fruit for His glory.

I want you just to bow your heads for just a moment, close your eyes, and in the quietness of this moment I want you to ask God for the gift that only He can give. None of us can clean our own hearts; none of us can renew our own hearts. We need a Savior for that. So praise that He has come. Praise God that He offers us today new life in Him.

Father, we look to You. The parable, the story, the Word leads us to a truth that confronts us in a way that we didn’t quite expect. We thought that what we needed when we came here was a miracle or a promotion or new political leaders or a new job. But You offer us what we really need, new hearts.

So today, Lord, I pray that we would receive Your gift of new life in Christ. Help us to have a heart that longs for the Word; that celebrates Your presence; that longs for worship; that wakes up daily craving Your truth; that looks to You in the days of our lives for answers, direction, and guidance; that believes in the inerrancy of the Word, the inspiration of the Word, the sufficiency of the Word. Your Word is truth. May our hearts be hearts from You that receive Your Word and live Your Word. May it produce much fruit until all have heard, until Christ returns. In Jesus’ name—and all God’s women said, amen.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV.