Some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty – Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23

The Parable of the Sower is one of the best-known parables of Jesus and one of the most important.  By it we can gauge our response to God’s word.  Here it is,

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “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.”

And here is the divinely inspired explanation of it according to Jesus himself.

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The lesson is simple.  The same word yields different results depending on the soil it lands in.  We want to be like that good soil.  

Some seed was devoured by birds.  This person did not immediately understand the word and evil one snatched away what was sown in his heart.  To counteract this possibility we have to be prepared to do a little work to make sure we are getting out of the word what God has put into it.  A little thought, a little study, a little reflection and conversation with others can go a long way.  We must make sure the evil one cannot devour the word once we have received it.  If we are attentive, hold on to that word at all costs and do not ignore it, we will forever avoid the first pitfall.  

Some seed sprang up immediately but had no depth.  Initial enthusiasm is no guarantee of long-term success.  What happens when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word?  Are we prepared to endure the rejection and ridicule that come along with a deep and firmly rooted faith?  Perhaps the main thing to know about difficulties is that we must expect them.  We Christians need to expect trials as a result of our commitment to the word of God.  Stand firm.  Do not waver.  Hold on tightly and never let go of Jesus and the walk with him that is continuously fueled by the word.  If we can survive these most certain troubles, we will avoid the second pitfall.

There is one pitfall left and i may be the most insidious.  The thorns, which represent the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches, can choke out a well-informed and firmly-rooted faith.  In this case a person may say,”Sure, I believe,” but the fruit of their faith is simply absent.  Zoom in a little closer and we will likely find that this person’s faith is not their first priority.  One care or another gets in the way.  There is some status symbol, a relationship, a reputation among certain people who care little for the things of God, or of course, the next dollar.  Any of these can stand in the way of wholehearted devotion to the word.  Fruit gets choked out and never appears. 

Put the word first and fruit will come naturally.  Decide right now to not let anything or anyone stand in the way of it.  Others may come along if they choose, but we must determine not to be distracted from our Number One Priority – which is our faith.  No earthly thing compares.

Pay careful attention, stand firm under pressure and stay focused when distractions assault us.  This is how we avoid the three main pitfalls and diligently prepare our soil.  The fruit will now come if we are patient.  We may be surprised at how much there eventually is.  Some produce a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Fruit in keeping with repentance – Matt 3:8

When John the Baptist saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he had some harsh words for them.  He knew coming to observe him was insincere.  One thing he said that was not so harsh though was, 

Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matt 3:8 ESV throughout)

This is helpful for anyone.  His point was that no birthright or position, however lofty or admirable, was going to be enough to please God.  Those with the best social standing still need to repent.  And repentance, that turning from sin toward God with a new attitude toward both, is going to be visible.  One passage that shows us the contrast of a pre/post repentance life is Gal 5:19-24.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Another helpful passage is Col 1:9-11,

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy.

Finally, Hebrews 13:15 adds a bit more.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

May our lives be full of good fruit, evidence that we have changed our minds, attitudes and hearts concerning sin and turned wholeheartedly toward God in Christ.

Central Streaming: The Vine

The_Vision_of_The_Valley_of_The_Dry_Bones-810x557Ezekiel prophesies against Jerusalem using the picture of charred and useless vine wood to illustrate the current state of the city.  Jesus declares himself to be the true vine, telling us we need to abide in him.

Ezekiel 15.pdf            Ezekiel 15.mp3

On Getting a Life

Complete dependence is a humbling concept – but humility, let’s face it, is a good thing.  I’d like to say there are some things I can handle, but readily admit that I need the Lord for the biggies.  Christ, however, sees it differently:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5 (NKJV)

If I want my life to be worth something in light of eternity, I need to get this straight.  Without Him I can do nothing

On the other hand, by abiding in Him I tap into the source of the richest blessings.  Whatever Christ means by “much fruit” it has to be good.  At the end of the day, that’s what I want: fruit that came from my life that He has produced.  I can also think of it like this: 

What would my life look like if I got out of the way
and let Christ live my life for me? 

How would He handle my responsiblities and relationships?  No question He would handle them properly.  He would do a way better job with them than I have.  So be it.  Let’s embrace reality and give the Lord full authority to do whatever He wants. 

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)