Christ’s illustration of the vine and the branches forms the basis of a lesson on our need to abide in him.
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44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
A while back, GQ magazine got some attention by putting the Bible on a list of books not worth reading. I never actually read the list in GQ myself. I only learned about it from USA Today. Feel free to check out at least the headline there.
By writing such a thing, maybe the GQ columnist was hoping to increase GQ readership as compared with the Bible. If so, I don’t believe it worked.
There is something here that is understandable though, and that is that the Bible can be hard to understand. Christ’s own disciples were often stumped by it, just as they were often stumped by Christ. After the resurrection, however, much of that began to change. Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And that brings us to where we are today.
We are far removed from the people and events of the Bible, both by time and by geography. Sitting here in my office on the edge of downtown Indianapolis, the events of the Bible happened a long time ago on a continent far, far away. And that can be troubling.
We can feel much like those early disciples. Confused, bewildered, baffled. If we give up too soon, we can come to the premature conclusion of the GQ guy and think the Bible just isn’t worth reading. We need Jesus to explain things to us. Like the psalmist we may cry out,
Open my eyes, that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)
Jesus even promised that the Holy Spirit would come to teach us. In John 14:26, he said,
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
Without God’s help we just might not get it. But with his help, we can find ourselves agreeing again with the psalmist,
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have given me life. (Psalm 119:92-93)
When Jesus challenged his disciples, the Peter gave a response that all of us should be able to repeat after him. Here it is in John 6,
67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Let’s make God’s word our delight and far from being critical of it, we will find that it will become for us a source of life.
We have repeatedly asked you to teach us from your word and we are asking that again right now. We want to be certain of the things we have been taught.
We pray that you would take the words of this Gospel of Luke and write them upon our hearts. We want to know Jesus better, love him more and serve him more faithfully than ever.
In so doing we want to increase our love for you.
Make us lovers of God in the truest and deepest sense.
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,
3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 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, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 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.