“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
Take notice that this passage begins ‘The fruit of the Spirit’ and NOT the fruit of the Christian, the reason being that the fruit belongs to God and is for bringing Him glory. The fruit of the Christian is a myth. When the Bible declares in Matthew 7:16 that people will know us (identify us as Christians) by our fruit and that good trees bear good fruit, the reality is that they will know we are followers of Jesus when they see the Holy Spirit and His attributes in operation.
Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:14)
When we receive the Holy Spirit, it’s a package deal – where He goes His fruit goes and it’s consumer-ready from day one WITHOUT law or regulation. The Christian on the other hand is the shipping crate and it’s his duty is to pop the lid off and display this Spiritual produce to God’s glory.
Let us abandon the notion that we’re babes in Christ and that our fruit needs to mature or other such nonsense. The reality is that in ourselves we will never master these qualities, but we have something better in the Holy Spirit. We just get need to get out of His way (die to our selfishness) and allow Him to do what He desires to do. As a result folks will occasionally notice how loving or how patient we are, at which point we will say, “Dude, that’s not me. To God be the glory.”
It’s not the power of the fruit, it’s the Power behind the fruit.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. (Hosea 4:6)
Is Islam God’s Enemy?
The answer to that question depends upon who you’re asking, so just to be clear, I’m addressing Christians only: ‘Are followers of Islam the enemy?’
My guess is that the answer is split within the Church. There are some Christians who discern Islam to be a false religion [as described by the Bible] and that alone is sufficient to make it adversarial. Others would note the Jihadist aspects of the religion [as defined in the Qur’an] and say that is what makes Islam nefarious. Then of course there are Christians who maintain that Islam is merely another way to God (aka: a true religion) and/or peaceful in their existence. This is similar to the position President Obama has taken. It’s to this last group I am writing.
As to Islam simply being another way to God the Father, cover-to-cover the entire Bible disputes that notion. I do however commiserate with those who have taken this position because as a brand new believer I once thought the very same thing. It was not until I got into a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching environment (and later a Bible-believing and teaching church) that I learned the truth. Jesus said it best, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6)
Look at this way. If there were many ways to God and Heaven, then God the Father had His only son Jesus horribly tortured and murdered for no reason at all. Why kill Jesus if there were these other ways?
Now to the second point that Islam is by and large peaceful, the best evidence against that ideology is the Qur’an and the accepted Islamic doctrines themselves. In an effort to keep this article short I’ve provided a link (HERE) to those teachings. A quick review destroys the argument.
Of course some might object and say that the Qur’an has many peaceful principles as well. That would be correct; there are nonviolent passages in the Qur’an. The question is then why – why are there verses in the Qur’an that advocate ‘present day’ peace and violence. The answer to that question is summarized in the following video. It’s 24 minutes long, but if you desire to know the truth about Islam, you must watch it.
Islam is the Enemy: Now What?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
The only difference is that now you are informed – you now know that the followers of Islam likely see you as their enemy too. I say that they ‘likely’ see you as their enemy because Islam, like every other religion of the world (including Christianity), has an undefinable number of nominal believers. That is to say that they are Muslim in name only. Like nominal Christians they do not read their doctrinal literature or ascribe to the directives of their religion. Having said that, the potential for nominal believers to become true believers is real, just as it is with Christians. These true believers, those who have submitted themselves to obeying the Qur’an, want to either convert you (remember, it’s a false god they follow) or do away with you.
First, God would have you protect yourself. When Jesus sent His disciples out, He counseled them to purchase a sword (Luke 22:36). Jesus was very clear about the situation. He said, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).
If you do not want to arm yourself, that is certainly your choice, but know in advance it’s not what Jesus recommended and thankfully we live in a country where it is permissible to varying degrees, depending upon the state in which you live. Of course we’re also advised to don the full armor of God.
Jesus would also be clear that these safeguards were for defensive purposes (self-protection) only, not offensive ones. We’re authorized to protect ourselves and those close to us, but we are not called to proactively deter evil by force. That’s what the Lord instituted and ordained governments for: to be a destructive force against those who unite in battle against us; avengers to execute wrath upon those who do evil (Romans 13:1-4). If our government is not doing their job effectively, then according to the Bible it is our duty to support candidates that will do the job effectively. I pray that is clear.
Our mission is to continue to lovingly share the Gospel message. The Christian faith does not allow us to cower in fear because of overt terrorism, political correctness, or if the Attorney General of the United States threatens to have us arrested. If we’re afraid, we bring that anxiety to the foot of the Cross; it is but an emotional catalyst moving us towards Holy Spirit empowerment. And if we hate the hands that shed innocent blood, we have an Advocate who understands, for He does too. But amazingly, He simultaneously loves His enemies, so much so that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them. It’s difficult to fathom, but love and hate can coexist, just know that the former must not rule over the latter. We bring all our emotions to the Cross and allow Jesus to direct our righteous path – He desires that none should perish.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22
If you are literally able to feed and water your enemy, then do so in the Name of Jesus, but more importantly we are to figuratively feed them with the Word of God and giving them Living Water (John 7:38) to consume, in that they might be saved. Don’t misread this passage of Scripture – ‘heap burning coals on his head’ is a good thing, not a bad thing, as it speaks to kindling a fire that is about to be snuffed out. Jesus would never have us do good for the purpose of doing evil.
Finally, those outside the church will revile you for speaking about Islam truthfully, despite the fact you repeat over and over that you ‘love everyone.’ Do not be dissuaded. I suspect there is coming a time in our country that if you proclaim Islam to be anything other than a peaceful and truthful religion, you will be prosecuted. Again, do not be discouraged or distracted from the mission Jesus has given us – sharing the Gospel in truth; the truth that cannot be properly expressed without exposing the lie.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5)
One last word about the enemies of God – at one time or another, before we received Jesus Christ as both Lord of our lives and Savior of our souls, we too were enemies of God. No one is exempt. So it is not a hateful thing to establish that Muslims are God’s enemies, it is a truthful thing to make this designation and it is a loving thing. It is loving because recognizing who and what we are outside of Christ Jesus is the first step towards reconciliation in Christ Jesus.
[W]hen we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (Romans 5:10)
Posted in Bible, Christianity, discipleship, evangelism | Tagged false religion, Islam, Jesus, jihad, loretta lynch, Muslim, obama, religion of hate, religion of peace, Terrorism, the way, witnessing to Muslims | 2 Comments »
“So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:17)
You’ve heard (and perhaps asked) the question a thousand times: “What is God’s will for me?” Well according to Ephesians 5:17 it’s a very good question to ask.
Let’s examine the 25 times the phrase the ‘Will of God’ is mentioned in the Bible and then consider the short answer that each verse provides. I say ‘short answer’ because there is much, much more to be gleaned in going back and examining the Scripture references in their Biblical context (click on the verse to read it in context). We would also do well to remember that while the Lord has a specific plan for each of us, it’s not primarily about us — it’s God’s will that as we’re transformed and that we conform to this bigger picture of His.
It’s the will of God that you do the will of God (duh), “For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:35)
It’s the will of God that you serve, “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers” (Acts 13:36)
It’s the will of God to fuel your Christian walk, “Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.” (Romans 1:10)
It’s the will of God to know you and intercede for you, “And he that (searches) the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he (makes) intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27)
It’s the will of God to change you for the better, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:2)
It’s the will of God that you draw upon His joy, “That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you be refreshed.” (Romans 15:32)
It’s the will of God to send you out with the Gospel, “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God” (1 & 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1)
It’s the will of God that you be submitted to Him and to every believer, “And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.” (2 Corinthians 8:5)
It’s the will of God to deliver you from evil, “Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4)
It’s the will of God that you are obedient, “Not with eye service, as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6)
It’s the will of God that you work enthusiastically, “Always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” (Colossians 4:12)
It’s the will of God for you to be holy, pure, and set apart, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication…” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)
It’s the will of God that you demonstrate continual gratitude, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
It’s the will of God that you are faithfully confident until your great inheritance is realized, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36)
It’s the will of God you abstain from lust, be honest, and obey the law of the land, “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15)
It’s the will of God that you could suffer for doing what is right, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.” (1 Peter 3:17)
It’s the will of God that you be Christ-minded, “That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” (1 Peter 4:2)
It’s the will of God that if you suffer it is not as criminals, but as unashamed, God-glorifying Christians, “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” (1 Peter 4:19)
It’s the will of God that you know: “The world (passes) away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God (abides) forever.” (1 John 2:17)
I can hear some of you saying, “Yes, I know it’s God’s will that I serve Him, that I’m obedient, that I’m enthusiastic, etc. etc. etc., but what does the Lord specifically want me to do!”
What do you want to do?
According to Psalm 37, there’s a good chance God has already put a desire in your heart, that is, if you are trusting in Him, if you’re delighting in Him, if you’re committed to Him, and if you’re resting in Him. Now couple this God-given desire with His plan that we share Jesus with a lost and dying world, praying for direction how two realities can function as one.
I begin each day asking the Lord, “What would you have me do today?” Often times I sense the Lord saying back, “What do you want to do?” Sometimes my answers are errant and the Holy Spirit is faithful to correct me. But a lot of the time my answers reflect the desire that He has put in my heart and I go and do that thing. That’s not to say that things always go as I had planned, but they do always seem to go as He has planned.
Get in the habit of doing God’s will as He has already prescribed in His word and watch Him lead you directly where He wants you to be.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20
When I heard the news and saw the magazine cover, I was stunned. Before my heart beat again, the Holy Spirit mutely cautioned, “Don’t say it.” He knew exactly what was percolating inside my wicked heart before I did. So I paused, asked Him for help, and promised not to write or post anything that day.
It was difficult. My flesh was chomping at the bit. “Let me at him,” it kept saying (I appreciate it when my sin nature is brash – it makes it easier to recognize). In contrast, the Holy Spirit was communicating tenderly, as usual. Actually it was as if He invisibly gestured no with His head and the maneuver created a holy breeze I somehow felt and interpreted to mean no. Needless to say, His counsel was unobtrusively powerful.
So I began this morning asking the Lord what, if anything, should I say? I felt the Lord immediately unburden me from the notion that I had to be a part of the national dialogue about homosexuality (in general) or transgenderism specifically. There are plenty of good folks out there already lovingly doing that. No, what I felt compelled by the Lord to do was to prepare myself to talk to Caitlyn directly (not literally, because that just isn’t going to happen). I should know what to say to the Caitlyn’s of the world if the opportunity arises.
The first thing I discerned was that I need to say the name Caitlyn. Yes, it pains me, but here’s the reality: as it pertains to a name, people have a right to go by whatever moniker they want and as long as it is not vulgar or obscene (in the traditional sense of those words), we should use them. Generally speaking, names are innocuous and we shouldn’t get too hung up on them and observing their requests give us a common ground where a dialog can begin.
However, re-identifying gender is another thing entirely and that of course is our first sticking point. Caitlyn is a he. Names we can change, but we cannot undo God’s workmanship. We can de-petal a rose and it’s still a rose. We can strip the stem bare of its buds, leaves, and thorns, and it is still a rose. We can toss the pieces into the furnace, collect the ashes, and but still undeniably it was a rose. There are no alterations so great or complex that can overrule the Creator’s design.
So what would I say to Caitlyn in that regard?
Nothing, at least not at this juncture. Caitlyn doesn’t need advanced theology instruction, she needs fundamental Bible lessons, for in Caitlyn’s mind everything I wrote above is foolishness. God would agree. Let me qualify that last sentence: God would agree that Caitlyn’s perception of the account is foolishness. 1 Corinthians 2:14 bears witness to that.
“[T]he natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Caitlyn does not have the capacity to understand these maxims because the Holy Spirit has not taken up residence, therefore these premises are nonsensical; it’s exactly the condition God has told us about in His Word. It’s at this point the church should see the road sign advising us to turn around and take Caitlyn back to the basics; if there’s to be any hope for Caitlyn, we need to share the Gospel.
That’s easier said than done, right? The answer is maybe. It depends if you fully grasp these words of Jesus:
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30
It’s God’s job to draw the sinner to the cross and He often does it through divine appointments. All that is to say that if we find ourselves suddenly having an audience with Caitlyn, it could very well be said that God ordained the encounter. God drew Caitlyn to this discussion, despite the fact that Caitlyn’s flesh is likely doing everything in its power to undermine the exchange. What makes it easier (for us) is that God doesn’t necessarily want us to give a Gospel presentation, but rather engage in a conversation where the soil can be prepared so the Gospel can be presented. In order to do that, we need to talk to Caitlyn, but more importantly, we need to listen to Caitlyn. There’s a door that needs to be opened and the only doorknob is on Caitlyn’s side. If it’s opened we must be careful to not barge right in and throw dirt on the carpet (the not-so-subtle technique used by vacuum cleaner salesmen). Sure, we’re aching to dive into Romans 3:23, but we must listen before we can be heard.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God
I suppose all that is to say [that] we need to be compassionate; the more outraged and incensed we might be, the more grace we need to exhibit. It makes no sense whatsoever to bowl the Caitlyn’s of the world over with Scripture that denounce their actions if they’re not saved. Essentially it’s like teaching calculus to a five-year old before they’ve learned 1 + 1 = 2.
So where do we begin?
If I ever get the opportunity it will go something like, “Hi Caitlyn. My name is Dave… so tell me about yourself.” If an ambassador for Christ can’t get past this first line, then it just might be that they need to return to the rudiments of our faith. If that’s where you are, rejoice! You have just been given an opportunity to grow spiritually.
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17
What is Christianese?
Simple words like sin, salvation, fellowship, and gospel could be considered Christianese, if the person you’re talking to isn’t familiar with them. A proper definition would be ‘the terms, catchphrases and theological jargon used by some Christians, commonly from Christian theology and influenced by popular translations of the Bible.’ Christianese (which is in itself Christianese) is something that we’re often told to avoid in conversations. We come upon articles like “The Dangers of Christianese,” that encourage us to cease, but should we?
As far as moderate Christianese is concerned, I would disagree that we should stop, as long as our words are applicable to the conversations in which we’re engaged. I am a Christian and I speak the Christian language in an appropriate manner when it is appropriate. What typically happens next is a conversation develops. If I use a word that a person does not understand, they generally say something like, “What does that mean?” and you know what I do? I tell them what it means and the conversation goes deeper. It’s probably what occurs in your conversations too. Oh, and guess what I do if they use a word I don’t understand? That’s right! I ask them what they mean. As a result we’re not only having a conversation, but we’re learning stuff about each other!
Christianese and Discernment
I was being seated in a diner a few years ago and the waitress asked me how I was doing. I responded as I usually do, “I’m blessed more than I deserve.”
She got the gist of what I was saying. A conversation was blossoming and I couldn’t wait for her to return to the table. As I sat down, my Christian acquaintance rebuked me. “Ya know, David,” he said in his lovely Australian accent, “she didn’t understand a word you said because you’re talking in Christianese.”
I was taken aback. His words made me feel as if I did something horrible. When the waitress returned I said not a word except to tell her my order.
A lot of water has passed beneath the bridge since that incident and I have learned much. I realize now that my friend was wrong and I was wrong for listening to him; I had forfeited an opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with our waitress. God only knows where it would have gone — I had been given a measure of discernment and direction from the Holy Spirit, and I ignored it. Shame on me for listening to the wrong voice.
The Real Controversy
The real issue has nothing to do with non-Christians not understanding the words that Christians use, in fact it’s quite often the opposite – they do understand, or at the very least they recognize it as Christian jargon and as a result they are offended. They’re offended because they don’t like Jesus and they don’t want to discuss their sin. If they sense that they’re conversing with a Christian, they go on guard immediately. If they cannot suppress our enthusiasm (often with some undelightful language of their own), they will attempt to leave the conversation entirely.
It is here that some well-meaning Christians (at least I’d like to think they’re well-meaning) have determined to come to their aid. Their counsel: stop talking like Christians! In other words, they want us to take that little light of ours and put a basket over it, or better yet, slide it under the bed before we leave the house in the morning. Talk about quenching the Holy Spirit! (If you don’t know what “Quenching the Holy Spirit,” means, click the link).
I wonder why my brothers and sisters in Christ do this? Are they ashamed of Jesus Christ and/or their Christianity? Are they embarrassed that they lack boldness and confidence in their faith? Are they trying to protect a relationship? Have they witnessed an overly aggressive believer in operation and therefore want to solve that problem by silencing all Christians? Are they adhering to some false doctrines of their own which prejudices their reaction to the truth? Are they nominal (or minimal) believers? If you’re a Christianese-squelcher, please tell me why in the comments below.
Whatever their reason…
Don’t Buy the Lie
Friends, please don’t buy into their nonsense. I’m not talking about those who muddle a conversation with complicated phraseology or weighty theology (they need to know their audience). I’m referring to us simple folk who desire nothing more than to talk and act like the new creations that God has made. No, instead of rebuking you, I want to encourage you to continue expressing yourself as a Christian should and to be ready to answer any questions that arise, being sensitive to the reality that folks might not understand a word or a phrase you’re using. Also be sensitive to the fact that a Christian conversation is not a Gospel presentation until God says it is. It is when we attempt to force the latter upon an unwilling audience that we often bruise or become bruised.
He that saith he abideth in Him (Jesus) ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked. 1 John 2:6
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:3-9
Charles Spurgeon’s take on the parable.
“The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by His Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand.” — Charles Spurgeon
For the record, I do not disagree with Charles Spurgeon. He likens the sower (in Jesus’ parable) to a preacher; one who is specifically called to teach the Word of God. I suppose Spurgeon would further liken the preacher’s congregation as the field (the soil) to which he broadly casts God’s celestial seed. I suspect any pastor would acknowledge that within his very flock there are some with harden hearts and others whose minds are preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of the world. As the parable reminds us, the seed that falls in these unfortunate places are devoured by birds, withered by the sun, or choked out by thorns. That leaves me with a few questions for Pastor Spurgeon, and also for those who ‘fully’ embrace that interpretation.
- Is this parable for preachers exclusively or for the church generally?
- Is that the end of the lesson; is that all that Jesus intended us to glean from the parable?
- Is there an additional (and incredibly obvious) message we’re all missing?
As you might surmise from my questions, I believe the parable was intended for the entire Christian audience (pastors included), that there is much more to be gleaned, and that we might be glossing over a critical aspect of Christ’s teaching. What is that critical aspect? In two words: soil preparation.
Can soil prepare itself? Let’s consider the sower (aka, the farmer; husbandman) and his duties. If all he had to do was broadcast seed, I suspect farming would be an easy livelihood, but there is much more to it than merely casting seed. By definition he is a person who cultivates the land. He is a nurturer and a promoter, he fosters growth by preparing and tending the soil. He breaks the hardened earth with the till, thus exposing the rocks for removal while simultaneously plowing the weeds under for nutriment. As he turns over soil, he’s aerating, effectively breathing life-giving air into it. It brings to mind this Genesis passage:
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)
I noted He did not broadcast His breath upon the earth (although He certainly could have); He took a portion and formed it for the sole purpose of breathing into it. Arguably (in this) we see the first mention of cultivation in the Bible. In that act, coupled with the lesson of Christ’s parable, I’m seeing a picture of the ‘born again’ experience; that moment when life is poured into a soul by the Word of God, giving new life. Of course this all begs the question, “As sowers of God’s seed, are we also called to be cultivators of His soil? Cain would ask another way, “Lord, am I my brother’s keeper?”
Instead of speculating, it would be better to turn to the Bible to see if there are any good examples of sowers cultivating the ground before actually depositing the seed. Naturally the best example of goodness is Jesus, so let’s see what He has done in this regard.
The Woman at the Well
The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. John 4:16-18
I don’t see any broadcasting in Christ’s encounter with this woman, at least not initially. What I do see is Jesus breaking up some hardened soil and addressing a mind that has been preoccupied with the cares and pleasures of the world. This cultivating act ultimately leads to Holy Spirit conviction. The Apostle Paul would later say, “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Having received the word (after having been appropriately prepared), the woman leaves the well rightfully proclaiming, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29) all because the Messenger took the time and effort to remove some stones, turn under the thorns, and aerate the soil.
The Woman Caught in Adultery
Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. John 8:6-12
Take note that nowhere in this account does Jesus condone the sin of adultery or this woman’s involvement in it. Without using so many words, Jesus effectively gives us what the Apostle Paul would give us in Romans 3:23, that is, “”For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” When it comes to preparing soil for seed (or the soul for God’s word) addressing sin; putting the spade into the earth and exposing sin for what it is and what it does, it arguably the first step. God only knows what Jesus wrote in the soil, but what we do know is that it was very convicting. Perhaps in some way it revealed the second step in the Roman’s Road to salvation, “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Either way, Jesus is doing a lot of groundwork. At the right time Jesus plants the seed essentially saying to her, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1). We also notice that Jesus [the multitasker] was working in the field of many souls this day.
Jesus and His Disciples
Is not everything Jesus said and did before His disciple preparatory? These same men who walked and worked side-by-side with the Messiah had little or no understanding of His earthly mission, let alone the suffering and death He was going to endure, or His glorious resurrection. What we do see in Jesus’ interaction with His disciples is the same love and patience we might witness in a dedicated farmer.
For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Matthew 13:17
We’re Not Jesus
That’s an incredibly important tenet to remember, but at the same time Jesus is our example. If Jesus takes the time to prepare a soul to receive the Word, should we not do the same? The question now is what does that look like for the disciple of Christ? I believe it begins with being a good listener. As Mark Cahill would say, “Sharing the Gospel message should be a conversation, not a presentation.”
Now that may not be the case for the preacher (in Charles Spurgeon’s analysis), for a preacher’s sermon is a presentation of Bible Scripture; it’s a teaching without class participation, but I’m not a preacher. I’m just a guy saved by grace with a burden on my heart to share God’s grace with others and to do it in the most loving way possible. To me a presentation says, “Here’s some seed for everybody,” but a conversation says, “Tell me about yourself and when we’ve dug around a bit, I have a good word for you.” There is nothing presumptive about that kind of approach, while the broadcasting approach supposes much.
For my money, Ray Comfort does it well. Instead of hopping up on a soapbox and broadcasting seed, he engages folks one-on-one (often in populated environments) and determines where they are in their earth-bound life. It’s not uncommon (for one example) for Ray to discover a person who falsely believes they’re going to Heaven [because] they think they’re good. Comfort is quick to turn over a portion of soil, exposing their true sin-nature by the Ten Commandments, quite often bringing revelation to the person that they are sinners in need of saving. In contrast, if Ray did not take the time to cultivate the soil, I suspect very few would even listen to a broadly cast, Gospel message. Even then what would the result be without cultivation? Would not some seed be eaten by the birds, dried up in the sun, or choked by the thorns? Is not [at least] one lesson from the parable of the sower that this does not have to be the case, but rather with just a smidgen of preparation, the yield could be greater (not for pride’s sake, but for God’s sake)?
I believe it is and for that reason I will take the time to prepare the soil whenever it is possible, and not because I believe I can ‘save’ a person with my efforts, but because I believe it is of godly counsel and good stewardship to do so. I see it as a compassionate and loving way to deliver the Word of God, partly because it demonstrates to the hearer that you care, taking the time to listen and go deeper. It’s not the only thing, but it’s an important thing that Christ revealed in His parable of the sower and prescribed in Paul’s letter to Timothy. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with patience (and truth) are the sower’s tools.
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away * their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:2-4