Have I Really Been Saved?

For a lot of people in the church, the big question is, "I've gone to church, I've been around church, but am I really saved? I need to know, is my salvation for real?" That's a big question that a lot of people in the early church had from the very beginning. This was a new thing. It was a new way. It was something that had not been seen before. People were actually turning from Judaism and/or Paganism, and they were following the way of Christ.

Today we're talking about the Parable of the Sower, is how it's marked.

If you have the NIV Bible or even the NLT, it'll title this, the Parable of the Sower. In reality, I think it would be more properly titled The Parable of the Soil, but we'll get to that in a second. I just want us to understand, as we go, we're going to talk about what it means to receive salvation, to be somebody who has received Christ and is living in the way of Christ this morning. Ready?

Matthew 13:1-9

A favorite thing that Jesus would use, and the thing that he would use most often, was these parables, these stories. It goes on to say this, "Listen, a farmer went out to plant some seeds, and as he scattered them across his fields, some seeds fell on a footpath and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow ground with underlying rock, and the seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. The plants soon wilted under the hot sun. Since they didn't have deep roots, they died. Now, other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. While still other seeds fell on fertile soil. They produced a crop that was 30, 60, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand."

We are not the Farmers

Let me just be clear before we go any farther with this story. I want us to make sure we understand and we know that we are not the farmers. See, we typically, when we read the Bible or we hear stories from the Bible, we typically put ourselves in the place of the hero of the story.

I don't think we're not the hero of the story very often. For this, a lot of people have preached this, and they'll preach like, you've got to go out and spread the seed and spread the message of the gospel and make sure it's out there.

You know what that does?

That puts you somewhere apart from the story, and that literally puts us in the place of God. See, we are not the farmers. We are found in the soil. That's where we are.

If we're going to be real, so many of us would say, yes, honestly I'm in the dirt most days. I'm not a legitimate farmer. I find myself in the dirt on a lot of days. I find myself in places where I never thought I would go, having conversations I didn't think I would be having. I find myself in the midst of the struggle and trying to figure out what God wants from me on an every day. See, that's why it's more the parable of the soil, because you and I are not the farmers we're found in the soil.

Explaining the Story

With all of this, Jesus used parables because the people, this is what he said, "People are dull to the pain or the plain words of Scripture." They're dull to the plain words of Scripture. They've been read the Scripture so much and so often that they've stopped hearing it. They've stopped listening to it. When we start the story, they go, "Oh, Yes, I've heard that one."

Matthew 13:18. He says, "Now, listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds." He had just had this aside with the disciples explaining why he tells stories. He says, "Okay, since you don't think they understand, I'm going to explain it."

He says, "Now, listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the kingdom and don't understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. Since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word."

He says, "Now, let me tell you the seed that fell among the thorns." Now, let me just be clear here. He said the thorns grew up. It wasn't like the farmer was out there like, "Thorns, yay." It's not like he's purposefully throwing them into thorns. He said, "He threw the seed out and thorns grew up around it." The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God's Word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced.

I would say that's American problems right there. That's first world problems. I love doing this, and I love what it adds, but we've got some other things to do, or I've got places to be, or I've got a vacation to get to. It's hard to get involved with the community because I've got a lot of other things. It's not about going to church, but it's submitting your heart to the Lord and saying, "Okay, God, use me as you want." I can preach on that all day.

Am I Good Soil?

It says, "Now, the seed that fell on the good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God's Word. They produce a harvest of 30, 60, or even 100 times as much as had been planted."

I want to be the good soil. I'm going to make it really easy on you because you all can answer this. Rise your hand if you'd like to be the good soil. Those of you didn't raise their hand, we'll talk afterward in the tent following this. That's an easy one. I want to be the good soil.

The problem is, I feel like the other soils a lot of time. I feel like things get in the way. I feel like I start off good and I fizzle out. There are people, week after week, who come into the church and getting connected to the church or getting involved with life groups that life gets in the way and it gets difficult.

The number of stories of people that I've talked to and heard from who've said, "I was really connected to God. I was really connected to a community of faith. Then these things happened and I just drifted away. It's been so hard."

It's a real and understandable story. I'm just glad people are coming home. That's it. I don't care how far you've gone or how much you've experienced. I want us to all be the good soil, and you can be the good soil from this story no matter what place you find yourself today.

Then here comes the question,  "Am I really saved?"

Am I really saved?

What does this look like? Am I really in the right soil? Because it seems like if I'm in the rocky soil, I'm going to look good, I'm going to look like I'm saved, but I might not be. What if I'm in the thorns and the thorns are going to crap me out? How am I going to do this? I don't want to be crowded out. I want to do what's right and everybody gets panicked, so let's just chill out just a second. All right? How do I recognize my salvation, and how do I live it?

I'm trying to do what's good and right and follow the example of Christ. I just want to know if I'm really being saved. "Pastor Jeff, here's my problem. I miss days where I don't read the Bible, so I probably am not a Christian."

Let me just take a little air out of that for you. For hundreds of years, the Bible did not exist, and there were still Christians. Reading your Bible doesn't make you a Christian. It makes you more educated. It helps you understand God. Reading the Bible doesn't make you a Christian. It's not the answer to being saved. It's a piece of the puzzle.

"Pastor Jeff, I do things that are wrong." I know. I understand. We'll get there.

How do we know if we've been saved or not? This is what Romans 10:9-10 says it looks like to receive Christ. "If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Then he clarifies, "For it's by believing in your heart that you're made right with God, and it's by openly declaring your faith that you are saved."

This is it right here. It's not a matter of getting into good soil. It's about being and becoming good soil.

Am I good soil?

Then it leads me to ask, "Am I good soil?"

This is how we determine if you are good soil.
1. You believe in your heart that Jesus rose from the dead.
2. Do you openly declare that Jesus is Lord?

Now, the hard part about this is there are a lot of people who would say, "I like Jesus. I like the idea of Jesus. I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I do believe he was dead, buried, and rose again. I just have a hard time. I don't know all the answers, so I don't really talk about it much."

Here's the idea. So many of us have these questions like, "Okay, what does it look like?"  

In Galatians 5-16, it says, "I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your life." That's salvation. When you receive Christ, you become full of the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves.

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. The Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other so that you are not free to carry out your good intentions.

See, we get caught up. We have good intentions and we maybe don't carry it all the way through. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you're not under an obligation of the law of Moses. This was really important. Because he's saying this, "The Spirit of God will tell you what is right. It will war against the things in your life." Then the law of Moses, that's not even-- You don't have to worry about all those laws we've made up. You're going to know in your heart, and your heart will lead you in the way that you should go.

Here's the hard part, because in another part of scripture, it says, "The heart is deceitful and wicked, and you cannot trust it." That's why it's not about my spirit. It's about His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God.

In Paul's New Testament, post-resurrection understanding, he was saying, "When we receive Christ, we receive the spirit of God." If you want to know whether you've been rescued, whether your salvation is true, whether when you prayed that prayer, God, I want you to be my one God. I'm sinful by nature. I know that I've done things that I'm not proud of. I need Jesus Christ to cover me, and for his presence to fill me, for the sacrifice of your son to wash me clean and give me your spirit so that I can live this out all the days of my life.

When you pray that prayer of salvation, and you truly believe it in your heart and confess it with your mouth, it says the Spirit of God comes into you, and you no longer are thinking how you used to think, but the Spirit of God alive inside of you is willing and directing every moment of your life.
Those who belong to Christ have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to the cross, and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirits leading in every part of our lives, and let us not become conceited or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

How do we know if the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives? One of my dad's sayings that I'm carefully going to quote, he says, "They've got to feel your fruits." I would just go, oh. It's disgusting. Let's not talk like that. I'm going to say, "You don't have to repeat that ever again."

It's really clear. How do you know? Let's look at the fruit of your life. Let's look at the fruit of your life. Is it love and joy and peace and patience, and I don't know what peace is, but it's peace and kindness and goodness and faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. Or do you find yourselves living opposed to that? Because those are the places where you say, "Okay, God, I surrender that to you. I want you to change that in me."

When this takes root in your life, and you start producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, the world will come, and they will want to know what happened to you, and what have you got, who's at work in your life.

See, the truth is, God wants every part of my life for His glory. I like how it says it here. Those who belong to Christ have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. These are all the things that I've wanted all my life, but God, I surrender, put them on the cross, take my life and let it be what you desire.
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