Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Good Ground

The Good Ground

“But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

(Luke 8:15)

Today we examine the parable of the sower and how it applies to the Christians of today’s world.

Christianity is far more than dressing in your Sunday best and attending a service once or twice a week. It requires labor and patience!

 Boy, am I ever aware for the need for patience and labor. I pray daily for more patience, knowing that that is one of my biggest weaknesses. I also must continually strive to find the energy and will to labor, knowing that in order to reach other hearts, a season of growth must first take place, and that there will be tares in with the wheat that must be separated before the final harvest.

Being an avid gardener, I know from experience that in order to get the plants to grow that provide the food you want, there are several steps involved. The first is to prepare the ground and make it as fertile as you can, then comes the process of daily weeding 

. It requires constant attention and care. In the dry months it requires watering (feeding). Once growing properly, it still needs daily maintenance, as does our immortal soul. 

 Let’s take a look at Jesus comparison of the church to a garden:

“And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable.

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.

And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.

And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it.

 And other fell on good ground, and sprang up and bare fruit an hundredfold.
 And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hat ears to hear, let him hear.”

(Luke 8:4-8)

Jesus often used parables to teach the lessons he sought to teach. He knew that by using parables, some would understand the lesson, but others would fail to connect the dots!

Even his disciples had difficulty comprehending this particular lesson, as we will see later.

Young children are often more able to discern the meaning of lessons taught in this manner, and it is a time honored method of teaching used by many great teachers over the centuries.

In Greece, Aesop attempted to teach by use of his fables in the same manner.

As a child I heard and read these fables in school and began to see the necessity to work and save through his fable about the ant and the grasshopper.

 I learned from stories like the little red hen who asked for help in getting things ready for a garden for her children, willing to share the produce, but finding that there was no help to be had… until it came time to eat.

As a child I also learned many lessons in Sunday school that remain with me even at the age I have now attained.

 What we are taught in our youth is not only pertinent to our youth, but also in how we live as we age, and how we perceive others around us! It is essential that these lessons be taught, reflected on and used throughout our lives.

 I see so many today that have either forgotten or never received those lessons. That is why we have such great a lack of work ethic and so great a burden on those who do strive to live those lessons.

We have to establish a set of values early in life and live up to them. Those values should be stronger than greed, anger, covetousness, or cares of this world and stronger than the fear of death itself. If those values are truly written on our hearts when young, they remain throughout eternity!

 It is through the lessons learned as a child, through the stories told and the lessons taught in our Sunday schools and churches, that will, if given the chance, guide our steps through life.

The lessons taught in parables by our Lord are the most important of any lessons taught in this manner, and we must search for their meanings and apply them in our lives and instill the same love of them in others.

“And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be?”

And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.

 Now the parable is this:The seed is the word of God.

 Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.

They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

And that which fell among thorns are they, which when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life and bring no fruit to perfection.

But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

(Luke 8:9-15)

As I said earlier, as a child may need to be given, “the moral of the story”, even the disciples sometimes found the lessons in Jesus parables needed clarification.

 This is exactly what Jesus did in these verses just read.

Christians need to look deeply within themselves and reflect daily on this parable and compare themselves to the seed that was sown.

 We need to continually search ourselves to assure that we didn’t just hear the word, only to allow it to go unheeded because it wasn’t politically correct, or didn’t fall within the parameters of how we want to live. 

We must be firmly rooted in our faith, never forgetting what it means to BE a Christian, this so that we can overcome any and all temptation.

We must not allow the cares, riches and pleasures of this life to be our primary goal and total consideration in our dealings with each other.

We need to pray what we mean, mean what we pray and most importantly, be who we say we are.
I inadvertently “clicked on” some information about our country that the reader may find comforting, or disturbing, dependent on your view of our country. 

 It was a page that gave a great deal of information and statistics about the nation “clicked on”.  At the time I was actually interested in another country that had appeared on our website, but still found this information to be important.

The religious preference in the United States broke out as follows;

Protestant (including evangelicals) 51.3%

Roman Catholic: 23.9%

Mormon: 1.7%

Other Christian 1.6%

Unaffiliated: 12.1%

Jewish: 1.7%

Buddhist: 0.7%

 Muslim (Islamic): 0.6%

Unspecified: 2.5%

Atheistic (None) 0.4%

Folks if you add it up, 90.6 % of this country claims to be Christian.

 That works out to be around 282,000,000 Christians! This despite a President that says we are not a Christian nation!

My concern about these is that many of them that make the claim to be followers of our Lord, fall into the categories he described before speaking about the good ground.

Jesus didn’t end this lesson at that 15th verse, while explaining it to his disciples, but finished with the following statements:

“No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter may see the light.

For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.

Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.”

(Luke 8:16-18)  

Jesus was telling his disciples that if they truly hear the word with an honest and good heart, it will show in their lives and shine like a light on a candlestick. The warning not to hide the light is to tell us that we are not to be ashamed, either of our Lord, or our commitment to him.

We need to remain constantly patient and willing to labor.

I once gave this same message at a local community church that I was drawn to. Though it is not a Baptist a Church, the pastor allowed me, a Baptist, to bring the word. The reason I chose this particular message at that time was because of the fact that his congregation had fallen off to a very small number. One could see the frustration and solemn determination in his actions and hear it in his sermons.  I intended the message to give the few comfort, that endurance, patience and labor have their rewards.

I have since, as the pastor of a small community church, found myself in need of the same solace.

No matter how small the congregation, the effort is worthwhile. If one is reached, it is one more for the Lord, and one less lost to Satan!

We must expect the same dismay and disappointment that Jesus himself faced addressing the sinner and the self-righteous while on this earth. We have to understand that we may lead the horse to water, but it is up to him to take a drink!

The 17th and 18th verse is addressed to the pretender among them, (Judas), and is a poignant warning of what is in store for pretenders then, now and after the resurrection. There are no secrets to be hidden from our Lord. Nothing may be hidden that is in our heart. He knows who is honest and sincere and patient and who is not.

I close this message today with the same concern for our nation and love for its people I have always had and continue to have.

I salute all my brothers and sisters in Christ with joy, and with the love of this poor sinner, saved by grace through the blood sacrifice of my Savior, Jesus, still and always  an unworthy but willing soldier in His service.

Amen and Amen

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