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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Christ’

“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” (Psalm 37:1-2)
 
Christians, satan’s minions are at it again, now striking us here in the NY/NJ area. It is in the midst of these disquieting times that we are called to be Biblical voices of reason. As others panic and search tdesperately for solutions, let us be the calm and fret-less ones that they can turn to. Our hope, our peace, and our joy is in Jesus Christ and we must bring Him into any circumstance as the calming Agent. This is our calling and this is our duty.

We shall not cave in. We will get up, go to work, and function as we normally do. Terrible things will always happen, but we will not be terrorized into silence or dormancy. According to my Bible, these tribulations make the obedient Christian stronger! We have the choice to cower or tower. Let us choose wisely. 

Believers and unbelievers together are negotiating the same troubled waters, but let the faithful continually proclaim the ease of Christ’s yoke and burden. Yes, we face the same pain, grief, and challenges, but Christ’s way is easier and lighter. Let us never be caught saying that being a Christian is difficult, when it is the faithless who are having the most burdensome times of it. In Christ Jesus we have the easier and lighter Way; we must be a reflection of Him in trying times. In the face of death we are fearless for one reason only: we have a hope rooted firmly in Jesus and all His promises. In troubling times it is crucial we share this hope. Share these words if you agree!
 
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive [d]and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

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“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit… John 7:38-39a

Up until about 2010, I had assisted in youth ministry in two separate denominational churches for about ten years. While I enjoyed the experience, I persistently expressed grief to those over me that youth group needed to be more than a safe place for teens to hang out and play on a Saturday or Sunday evening – we needed to be giving these kids God’s word on a consistent basis.

The response to these numerous suggestions was typically, “If we do that, they’ll stop coming.”

So my role changed. Sure, I participated in the games the others played, but I made it my business to interject scripture and engage these kids spiritually when possible. Slowly but surely, and as it was observed that no one was fleeing, more Jesus-related material was introduced into these gatherings. Nevertheless, it was always a tough to sell the leaders, so in the end, it was still mostly kid’s play.

In my Bible study, Pastor Jon led me to this article on youth ministry titled, ‘In Touch With Jesus,’ from an October 2006 Time Magazine article. All I could say is that I wished I had stumbled upon it when it was first released. Check out what the author, Sonja Steptoe had to say on the topic:

Youth ministers have been on a long and frustrating quest of their own over the past two decades or so. Believing that a message wrapped in pop-culture packaging was the way to attract teens to their flocks, pastors watered down the religious content and boosted the entertainment. But in recent years churches have begun offering their young people a style of religious instruction grounded in Bible study and teachings about the doctrines of their denomination. Their conversion has been sparked by the recognition that sugar-coated Christianity, popular in the 1980s and early ’90s, has caused growing numbers of kids to turn away not just from attending youth-fellowship activities but also from practicing their faith at allSome experts point out that young people typically drift from organized religion in early adulthood, but others say the high attrition is a sign that churches need to change the way they try to engage the next generation of the faithful. “This dip should serve as an exhortation for everyone to be about the business of discipleship, missions and a higher calling than popcorn-and-peanuts youth culture,” says Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Scholars who have looked at young Christians say their spiritual drift is in part the result of a lack of knowledge about their faith. “The vast majority of teens who call themselves Christians haven’t been well-educated in religious doctrine and therefore don’t really know what they believe,” says Christian Smith, a University of Notre Dame sociologist and the author of Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers.

“With all the competing demands on their time, religion becomes a low priority, and so they practice their faith in shallow ways.”

With all the competing demands on their time, religion becomes a low priority, and so they practice their faith in shallow ways.”

That last phrase caught my attention. A Christian’s faith is directly proportionate to how deep they choose to go, but as we would expect (and as this article demonstrates) a young Christian is highly unaware of how deep they can go. In these circumstances it is up to the youth leader to guide his commission to these deeper waters. This passage in Ezekiel demonstrates the progression.

And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed….Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed.

Ezekiel 47:3-5, 8

See the Picture

The man in this story is a picture (or type) of the Holy Spirit taking this person to the places where he could venture more deeply. There is no coercion, intimidation, or duress, just accurate direction and supervision. Is that not the role of the youth leader, parent, or mentor? If it isn’t, it certainly should be.

In Ezekiel’s description we’ve an application for Christian leadership; i.e., a series of faithfully sound events slaked with possibilities. The first act is to guide the child or teen to the water’s edge where they are first drawn in. They don’t have to enter, but many do. At ankle-depth they have succeeded in getting their feet wet.

Subsequently they’re shown a deeper place and it is there they are brought to their knees. In this place they come to appreciate their relationship with Jesus in a more significant way. It’s discovered in this place that they can commune with the living God.

Afterward they’re channeled towards the third depth realizing they are up to their waists now. Initially they’re uncomfortable. The very young don’t yet appreciate it, but the older ones sense this is the place of duplication. It’s here they learn to witness and effectively share their faith with others.

Finally we bring them to the place of total submission where they find themselves completely over their heads. Humbled, they discover that in their inadequacies they are most useable to God. It is also here where they discover they have been healed.

God will never make any of us go any deeper than we want, but by His Spirit He will always show us where we can wade deeper if we desire. It matters not the position, be it youth leader, parent, friend or mentor, for the Christian the role is always the same — to direct those in our care to a place where they can make well-informed decisions.

It’s time to bring Jesus back full-time into the youth group equation. Our kids don’t need more dodgeball and snacks, nor do they need a safe place where they will be coddled in their inappropriate lifestyle choices – they need solid Biblical doctrine, at an age appropriate level, that they can grow in and build upon.

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The Good News has changed since Moses‘ day. Back then this was the Gospel message:
“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying, This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house: And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of the souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats: And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the pocongregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening. And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side posts and on the upper door post of the houses, wherein they shall eat it. And they shall eat the flesh in that night, roast with fire, and unleavened bread; and with bitter herbs they shall eat it. Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water, but roast with fire; his head with his legs, and with the purtenance thereof. And ye shall let nothing of it remain until the morning; and that which remaineth of it until the morning ye shall burn with fire. And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD. And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:1-13)
 
Of course most of us already know that this was just a picture (or type) of the Good News that was to come in Jesus Christ, but I wanted to focus on these two (2) things that jumped out at me in the Exodus narrative:
1) 600,000 Jewish men all received the same message.
2) They all believed it and obeyed.
The first point speaks to the evangelical and apostolic effort that was put forth — Moses received a precise message from God that needed to go out without any changes or alterations. Moses passed the message to the elders, and they passed it to men, who then passed it to other men, until all 600,000 families got the Good News. I haven’t researched it, but this may be the only time in Israel’s history that the entire nation was united for a singular cause and where all the men were perfectly compliant. We know they got it right because not one soul was lost.

We know they got it right because not one soul was lost.

The second point speaks to the first: everyone who heard the complex and intricate message obeyed it. Again, we know this to be true because not one Jew perished.

Outwardly, this ministered to me in that we [Christians] have a very precise, albeit simpler message to deliver. I took note that in the Exodus account there was not one man [who received the message] who said, “Okay, I will now pray for the Lord to give me an open door or a ‘Divine appointment’ to share this Good News.”

The notion of being sent out was implied in the urgency of the original message. If for some reason there was a man who could not go, I suspect he frantically searched for another man to go in his stead.

Inwardly, this ministered to me in that belief in the message was not sufficient to be saved. There was not one Jewish man who thought or said, “Moses, I totally believe you and this whole ‘slaughter a lamb’ thing, but I’m gonna do it my way. God knows my heart and He will understand.”
It was collectively understood that there was either going to be genuine, unwavering compliance or there was going to be death. On that day, Israel chose compliance.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway , even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Where does that leave us?

I believe in Jesus and therefore I follow Jesus. He has given us the directive to share the Gospel Message and our obedience is implied in the word “Go.”

We’re not to alter the message in any way, we’re just to pass it on in order that souls will not perish. We can (and should) pray for ‘open doors’ and ‘Divine appointments,’ but chances are we’re not going to see any of them unless or until we actually set out to deliver the message. Oh that’s not to say that God won’t send opportunities knocking upon your door (He does do that on occasion), but consider that if Israel had waited in this fashion there likely would have been a lot of dead Jewish people in Egypt on that first Passover.

You have the message and God has equipped you in some way to deliver it. Pray for your open door and then trust as you go out in obedience that you will see it clearly. If you’re a follower of Jesus, it’s only reasonable.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

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Dear Mr. Trump:

Two things: You have my vote and I’m not happy about it.

That last comment deserves an explanation.  I’m not going to sit here and jot down all your character flaws. You know who and what you are, and I suspect that your defense might be that what some see as failings are the very things that have gotten you as far as you have, and they have in fact brought you to this national platform where you could become the next president of the United States.

I would say that you shouldn’t discount God in this equation.

The Bible says that God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). It’s the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21), and He does so for all people. God blesses those who believe in Him and those who don’t, but what many people do not know is that those blessings cease for the non-believer as soon as their last breath is expelled.

What does this have to do with Donald Trump?

Honestly, Mr. Trump, I’m concerned for your salvation. If I may paraphrase a few of your remarks on Christianity, Jesus, and salvation, you said: “I have no need to ask for forgiveness; I’m a good person; I try to do good things.”

Excuse my directness, but those statements are false and they show a lack of understanding of the Christian faith. I am telling you these things in love. If your claim of not needing forgiveness is true and that a person can earn a ticket to Heaven through their own good efforts, then God had His son Jesus brutally murdered on the cross for nothing.

If your claim of not needing forgiveness is true and that a person can earn a ticket to Heaven through their own good efforts, then God had His son Jesus brutally murdered on the cross for nothing.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell, Mr. Trump: without a heartfelt understanding of your sinful nature (common to ALL men, Romans 3:23), and your need for a remedy that is found in Christ Jesus alone, you are a nominal believer; that is to say that you are a Christian in name only. The Good News is that this condition is easily corrected. The question that remains is, “Are you willing?

You might be interested to know that Jesus did not tell His followers to go out and share the Gospel message to make converts to Christianity, but rather to make disciples (students) of Christ. It’s through discipleship that we come to know Jesus in a fuller way, whereby He will change us for the better, thus making us better equipped to serve Him. Not only will He replace our character faults, He will replace them with better things; things He can use to accomplish His good will and purposes.

Mr. Trump, I am going to vote for you because I see through all the negative issues and see a bunch of positive attributes that will help to get our nation back on its feet, but at the same time I know that Jesus Christ must be part of this equation, otherwise we are merely building a nice house upon a foundation of sand – it might look good for a while, but in time it will crumble. That’s not my opinion, that’s God’s word.

Because of your occasional foul tenor and errant theology, some of my Christian friends have abandoned you, Mr. Trump, while some higher-ranking, Christian folks have opted to bash you rather than help you. That is to their shame.  What I see in you is someone who has identified themselves with Christ Jesus and is in need of some wise, Biblical counsel. I am no theologian, Mr. Trump, nor am I a pastor. I am just a follower of Jesus trying to be obedient to His commands the best I am able and of course, with His minute-by-minute help.

Mr. Trump, if nobody else in the global, Christian church will step up to get you on the proper and narrow path, then I hereby volunteer. I will meet you anywhere, at any time, and on my dime to have just a few moments of your time.  I’m not bragging, but God has blessed me more than I deserve and I will gladly spend whatever it takes to have this most important conversation with you. I am genuinely concerned for you and for our nation and believe we need to have this critical dialog.

Sincerely,

David Wells
Oakhurst, NJ

A note to my readers:

Yes, I do understand that the likelihood of Donald Trump ever seeing this blog is incredibly slim. For that reason, I am in prayer. I am confident that God is going to do something, I just don’t know what it is. My only recourse is to jot down a few words and pray for God’s will to be done. If you’re on the same page as me (and have read this far), please share the blog and pray for Mr. Trump, the POTUS, and the leadership of this country.

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“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 caitlynsay 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.

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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

Christianese 101

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.”

DSCN1750The waitress said, “Oh that’s nice, I wish I was.”

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).

Why?

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

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“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 DSCN1751called 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.

  1. Is this parable for preachers exclusively or for the church generally?
  2. Is that the end of the lesson; is that all that Jesus intended us to glean from the parable?
  3. 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

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