Man’s text about not even knowing why he got up in the morning!
I had returned from a Ministry trip and I got a text from a man, a follower of Christ…asking me when the Spiritual lift I got from the trip would disappear…I told him it no longer does.
He texted me back- I wish I had that, I am bored, purposeless, and I have to self-medicate to make it through the day. When I go to bed at night…I think…why did I even get out of bed.
I wrote him a honest but hard hitting email then told him I would hit delete or send…his choice…he said send it.
I wrote that I thought he was like the Rich young Ruler, Jesus had invited him into a full and meaningful relationship but he continued to make other choices for other things over and over again…he needed to accept the invitation to that fuller life.
I got a response back…”I stopped reading after 3 sentences because you think I am not Saved.”
I actually was not questioning his salvation. I believe he is saved and has been for 30 years…but why was this enough for him?
We ended up having a wonderful conversation much like the one I am going to have with you all this week.
We continue our series on the “unexpected” and the Parable of the Sower will again lead us to the unexpected with Jesus.
4 illustrations of lives lived and choices made after exposure to the Truths of God.
I have heard this parable discussed and debated many, many times. Which people in the parable are saved? Who in the (4) categories Jesus gives us is secure in the great Gift of Salvation?
I believe if we were there when Jesus told this Parable and we asked that question ”Jesus, which of the 4 categories of people are SAVED, who will be in Heaven?”
I believe we would have received an unexpected answer from Jesus that would have been something like this…”Your question reveals your focus and there is an even BIGGER question and even BETTER focus!
There is a bigger question than whether or not we are going to HEAVEN? There is a better focus than our SALVATION?
Yes! The Gospel, which means The Good News has become almost Synonymous with the Gift of Salvation.
I recently taught in a large group of Believers. I asked them a question…
What if someone walked in off the streets and said…I hear you people have the Good News…What is it? How would you answer them?
The answers rolled back pretty quickly…
Jesus loves you
Jesus died on the Cross for you
Your Sins are forgiven and you can go to Heaven
I kept pressing them…That is all very Good News… is there anymore?
I got silence and some pretty blank Stares.
I believe that we as Christians and as the Church of Jesus Christ have focused so much on the amazing Good News of Salvation that Salvation has for the most part become THEE Good news…Salvation has for the most part become the Gospel.
This Parable is one of the many passages in Scriptures that reveals an unexpected Truth.. that as wonderful as Salvation is, the coming of Jesus Christ opened the doors to a gift even GREATER than Salvation?
That is a big statement I just made, puzzling, maybe even controversial.
Will you give me 30 minutes with an open mind and an open heart and see if God through Jesus teaching and by the confirmation of the Holy Spirit, will confirm this unexpected but wonderful truth…
Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we have been offered a gift even Greater than Salvation?
Please turn with me to Luke Chapter 8
The Parable of the Sower is one of the few parables found in all 3 of the Synoptic Gospels. The parable requires little “teaching” because it is also one of the few parables Jesus shares, and then explains. I think that fact alone testifies to this parables importance.
I hope simply to add some clarity to the terms and phrases Jesus uses so that we have context and understanding. We will then spend most of our time in “Application”.
Jesus tells the parable and then the explanation, but they are separated by a side bar on parables. To try and help us see more clearly I am going to share each illustration that Jesus shares and then go immediately to Jesus explanation. It will take a little hopping around so stay with me.
The parable begins…(V5) 5 "A farmer went out to sow his seed.
Jesus explains “the seed” in (V11)
11 "This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God…
More literally translated from Luke this would read “the seed is the Word that comes from God”. This could mean Jesus teachings as His words came from God.
The Word of God could also mean Jesus Himself because Jesus is confirmed in the Bible as the “Living Word”…I believe the Word of God is the Living Word…Jesus!
Then Jesus gives us the first of 4 responses to the Word of God being sown…
back up to (V5)
As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.
Jesus explanation of this first response is in (V12)
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
In the first illustration Salvation immediately comes into the picture and clearly this first illustration are people who are exposed to the Word…exposed to Jesus… but then have the truth of Jesus “snatched” or stolen from them before they can believe in Him, know Him and appropriate (take as theirs) His saving life and truths
This first illustration seems pretty straight forward and is one that we are pretty familiar with and comfortable with.
But then Jesus gives (3) more illustrations and they muddy the waters a bit.
6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.
Jesus explains (V13)
13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.
This category of people “believe” …this is the same “Believe” used in other passages for those who were true and faithful followers of Jesus….But they “fall away!”
The word used here for “fall away” is the word which we get “apostasy” from… Apostasy means to “DEFECT”, to abandon a previous loyalty… “to depart from”
We see this happen in the Gospels even to those who are classified “Disciples”
John 6:66 (NIV)
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Now the questions begin…did they really believe… or just mostly believe? Did they believe and receive Salvation and then lose their Salvation? Can you believe and then lose your Salvation?
But before we go there, let’s look at the next illustration Jesus gives because it raises even more questions… (V7)
7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.
And Jesus explains in (V14)
Luke 8:14 (NIV)
14 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.
“hear” means more than just in one ear and out the other, it means that they heard and soaked it in, this same word is translated as “give heed to” and “understand”. I think belief is implied and even some growth occurs, but what they “heard” and “understood”, what they “gave heed to” is eventually choked out.
Jesus gives an indicator of this “choking”. These people do not Mature…a more literal translation… They bring no fruit to maturity…I like the way Mark puts it…”they become unfruitful.”
So in these 2 Illustrations
One group believes for a while but then falls away…
Another group- Believes, understands, even grows some, but then gets choked out by other things and become unfruitful.
But are they Saved? Do they have Salvation? Will they be in Heaven? Isn’t that the most important question?
GREAT question…but we are still not going to deal with it yet.
Jesus final illustration in the Parable… (V8)
8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
In this category everything comes together. The Word (Jesus)…is heard, understood and believed. The Word (Jesus) lives and thrives in the person….and because Jesus is thriving in these people, He is NOT choked out and is able to produce Fruit!
The first did not BELIEVE, the Second Believed, but Falls away, the 3rd seemed to believe, stay but was eventually choked and did not bear fruit.
But where they Saved? Jesus addresses the question in the case where there simply is NO Belief and therefore no appropriation. These rejected Him and rejected His gift of Salvation.
The last one seems pretty clear as well….they believed, they stayed and they bear fruit…certainly these received the Gift of Salvation that Jesus offers…
But what of these other 2 groups…did they received Salvation? Are they going to be in Heaven?
Jesus does not mention Salvation in the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th category. It clearly is not the main focus of Jesus.
There is something that Jesus does make very clear and that is which of the 4 Categories Jesus compels us to be found in!
Belief, but falling away? NO!
Belief, even some growth, but somehow choked by the things of the world and therefore unable to Bear Fruit?....NO!
Only ONE category is confirmed and commended by Jesus…the last one.
Jesus is clearly saying there is only ONE right place for those who know me and follow me and it is…Believing, growing, experiencing and bearing FRUIT!
This is why I believe that if we were present when Jesus taught this parable and we asked Jesus…”Who is Saved?” Jesus would challenge our question…and our Focus and urge us on to an even Bigger question and to an even Better Focus!
I believe that Somewhere along the way we got stuck…SALVATION became the Gospel, it became the GOOD NEWS and it became the only Good news and SALVATION became the focus of us as individuals, the Focus of the Church and the overwhelming message of Christians.
Let me try and show you some of what this Hyper- focus looks like lived out in the Church and the world.
Bethel Video- (careful on this one??)
A church sends out young people out to malls, coffee shops and Pizza joints. They are encouraged to just engage with people where they were at and then ask if they could pray for them. The video is posted as they excited report what they had experienced, physical healings, spiritual healings..and just sweet fellow ship with people they did not even know.
A counter video was posted by some Christians saying this church needed to be corrected…why? Because they were not sharing the Gospel?
Haiti Mission Illustration- Linda recently spent some time in Haiti with 2 of the most amazing people we have ever met. They birthed a ministry that now touches over 50,000 lives each month through food pantry’s medical clinics, orphanages and schools.
But as we talked with them they confessed how hard it was that so many of their supporters seemed only to be judging them on how many people were SAVED.
Christian Conference?- A ministry that does a conferences in the developing world.
At the end of the conference the participants are asked to indicate whether they had accepted Christ.
135 said they had.
A friend of mine stayed behind to do the follow up small groups, discipleship and Bible Studies. Out of the 135 he could only get 6 to ever agree to go any further or to even meet again. He rejoiced in those 6 but went back to his leaders to challenge them on reporting 135 “Salvations”. The leaders decided to let the report stand.
I believe we, the Church have had a Hyper -focus on SALVATION for many generations now. It has not been intentional, it is not heretical, it is not wrong, but it is INCOMPLETE …and I believe that laser focus has lead to the neglect of the full, Life changing, World Changing Gospel. Because it is an incomplete Gospel it lacks full POWER. Power to really change us and the power to change the World…and Jesus came to change the World.
What are some of the evidences that something is wrong?
Africa- Africa is now one of the most CHRISTIAN nations on earth. But I heard one leader say…” Don’t send us anymore evangelists, we have plenty of Converts, but it is not making a difference in our country…what we need is more Disciples!
The church- Christianity…we are losing ground! We are losing our children as they walk away from the faith, we are losing influence in our communities and we are losing relevance in the Culture.
We can blame the Culture! But blaming the culture only acknowledges our lack of power. Blaming a culture says…there is a culture in which the Gospel cannot shine, there is a culture the Gospel of Jesus Christ just cannot influence and change.
But there is no power or culture that can overpower the true Gospel…so again it is a clue we are missing something.
The World has weighed us, measured us and Judged us…
Squash players observation- After sharing the gospel with a sharp young guy, he challenged me with this question…then the people I know that claim to be Christians are not really Christian.
I asked why he said that…and he responded…”If everything you just told me is true that would change EVERYTHING and they are no different than anyone else!
I would have loved to have been able to correct him, but I am afraid the facts support his conclusion…
In every important statistic we are virtually no different than Unbelievers.
We divorce at the same rate
We sue each other at the same rate
We give at the same rate…
We lie and cheat at the same rate.
Statistically….we are no different.
Time for a hard but honest assessment…
In this parable Jesus gives us 4 categories of people…let’s use these categories to evaluate the church of the 20th and 21st century.
The 1st This category remains fairly clear. There are still those who reject Jesus as the Savior and chose to reject His Salvation.
The next two categories
The 2nd- Believe, but never get nourishment, never go deep and so they fall away.
The 3rd- Believe, even grow some and stay with the faith….but they bear no Fruit because they are choked out by the distractions of World.
Do the people in these two Categories have Salvation? I cannot say for sure, but I am pretty sure of this- applying these categories to today’s church, in today’s culture I am pretty certain that the people in these two categories call themselves Christians, believe they are Christians and believe they have their Salvation.
They may not feel close to God, they may be starving because of lack of spiritual nourishment they may have fallen away from living a Biblical faith…but they do believe in Jesus!
they may be being choked by worry, they may be distracted, they may indeed spend most of their lives pursuing things other than God…but they are Christians…they believed and so they are Saved.
Are they really saved? I cannot answer that for sure. I will offer my opinion, Yes I believe most probably have Salvation by the Grace of God.
But, here is what I can say for sure, if you are in this category…SALVATION is NOT THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION !
How many categories did Jesus commend as good for His followers? 1 !- Category 4, Believe, stay, take in nourishment, grow and bear lots of fruit.
So now the hard question… given the illustrations I have shared and given the evidence all around us, What percentage of proclaimed Christians of today do you think are living in categories 2&3?
I want to make a strong statement and it is probably a dangerous one but it needs to be said. All of the evidence points to the fact that…MOST CHRISTIANS ARE LIVING IN CATEGORY 2&3 and just like Jesus seems to point out in this parable…there is no power for impact in these two categories…certainly not for World change…but not even for personal life change.
That is why I don’t think Jesus focused on whether the category 2&3 folks were saved…Jesus came for more than Salvation , He came to change everything and there is no impact or power for changing anything in Category 2&3.
Ok, time to turn the corner…all of this HARD News, but just as I promised leads to some very Good News!
I hope I have spoken the truth, but not condemned. This message is not to issue CONDEMNATION… but instead it is an INVITATION … An Invitation to something better!
I promised at the beginning that we were going to see a fuller Gospel and be pointed to a gift even Greater than SALVATION.
What is that Fuller Gospel I am referring to? What is that Greater Gift?
To cover this Good News completely, to enjoy this Greater Gift is a lifetime journey so my hope in this message is simply to shine a glaring light on it so that we can all understand our focus and begin that wonderful Journey.
We see the Fuller Gospel hinted at in the 4th category when Jesus points to “Bearing a lot of Fruit”.
Again, because of our SALVATION mentality and focus we tend right away to think of “FRUIT” in the context of how many people we bring to conversion to Christ, how many people we lead to Salvation. This is certainly one of the biblical Fruits.
But “Fruit” in the Bible is a much bigger concept…The scriptures refer to…
Fruit of Righteousness
Fruit of Repentance
Fruit of Light
Fruit of power and influence for the Kingdom
When Jesus refers to bearing fruit He is referring both in terms of fruit born out of our lives but also fruit experienced in our lives and it IS Fruit that can only happened when our Focus is God.
Let me illustrate by using the Fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control...
How does the Holy Spirit give us this Fruit?
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit our Comforter…How does He Comfort us? Does He just heat up a pot of Tea, does he warm us like a warming blanket?...NO
The Holy Spirit comforts us by continually Whispering to us…IT is all true!
The Holy Spirit comforts us by confirming in our hearts and our souls that all of this in here (Bible) about God…it is True!.
Do you see the truth here? The fruit of the Spirit is indeed a gift, but it comes from the greater Gift…experiencing, focusing on, resting in God Himself
God is Love, so I can love and be Loved!
God is in Control, so I can have peace in all things.
God is Sovereign and is at work behind the scenes…so I can be patient
You don’t get the Fruit of the Spirit by Focusing on the Fruit of the Spirit. You get the Fruit of the Spirit by Focusing on God.
The Holy Spirit Whispers…”it is all true.” “God is all true”. And when God rushes in…the Fruit of the Spirit rushes in with Him, it can’t help it!…
And there it is! There is the Greater Gift, there is the Greatest Gift…It is God.
The truth is that there are many aspects of the Gospel addressed in Scripture. There is TONS of Good News beyond Salvation…but the greatest Gift is God Himself!
2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Jesus came for many reasons and His coming brought much Good News including the great gift of our Salvation…but that is not His greatest Gift. His greatest gift was that He re-established the pathway for us to experience God Himself.
God is the Greatest Good News…God is the Gospel!
Karate illustration.- I was told that when you want to break a board in Karate if you focus on the board, the board will not break…to break the board you have to push through the board, all the way to the Floor.
If we want to experience real and lasting change…if we want to impact our children, friends and family…if we ever have hope of impacting and changing a hurting world.
We have to press through the Gift of Salvation on to the even greater Gift of the “Knowledge of the Glory of God.”
When we do push through to all the truths of God Himself, we seek Him and His found, just as He promises…When God floods in…then all the rest of the Good News of the Gospel overflows in us as well…It just can’t help it!
Now when that person asks…What is the Good News? There will be no stopping you.
The Good News is that Jesus offers you the free Gift of Salvation and that because of Jesus you have the promise of forgiveness and the Hope of Heaven.
The Good news is that when Jesus came, so did the Kingdom of God…
The Good News is that with the coming of the Kingdom of God came the Presence of God, and I can assure you that Presence is real and it is powerful. I can tell you that because I spent time with Him just this morning!
The Good News is that with the presence of God comes the hope of physical healing and Spiritual Healing.
The Good News is that when Jesus died on the cross He paved the way for the Holy Spirit of God to live inside of you and He will comfort you and assure you that God is real and that His promises are true…and you can have Love, Peace, Patience, Kindness and all the rest because the floodgates of God Himself were opened to you by Jesus.
The Good News is that the Knowledge of the Glory of GodThe reality gives you someone to Worship and giveThanks to when things are good and someone Who’s lap you can crawl up onto when things are not so Good and in His Lap even the greatest sorrows and fears can be swallowed up because the WHO of God overwhelms every WHAT, WHY, HOW and WHEN question that tries to overwhelm your life.
Yes when Jesus came he paid for your Sin, but he also came so that you could be sanctified…set apart from this world so you can Delight in God and God can delight in you.
There is no denying the pain and suffering in this world and that is because there is a false god who hates, kills and destroys, but the Good News is that when Jesus died on the cross He exposed, embarrassed, humiliated and disarmed that false god…his days are numbered because the New King has come and so has the New Kingdom.
And the Good News is that that new Kingdom is on the move, and there is no power that can stand against it.
I know this is a lot to hold on to but just remember one thing and if you keep remember this one thing and pursue it, then all the rest of the Good News will come with it.
Yes on the cross Jesus purchased SALVATION and SALVATION is a great Gift, but Jesus paved the way to an even Greater gift, the Kingdom of God, the Presence of God, the Glory of God.
You want to know the Gospel? You want to know the Good News? God is the Good News..God is the Gospel
If we the people of God will believe that Gospel, pursue that Gospel and preach THAT Gospel…There is nothing, nothing that can stand against us!