A Parable About Something Else

How often are you experiencing stress over things you cannot control? When was the last time you experienced peace releasing something which was not your responsibility? And don’t you just love it when someone you’re asking for help says, “That’s not my job” (okay, maybe not that one so much).

Jesus tells us to “take His yoke upon us”, because His burden is light and His yoke is easy. If you think about it, that’s a strange way to describe a yoke of any kind. And yet, He does. It’s one of the best ways He can describe our walk with Him, as opposed to our walk, blindly, in the dark.

One of the things you may be taking on yourself, which is not yours to take, is the responsibility of “saving” others. We are to reach out to others, to be a light of our Savior’s glory, and give explanations of our hope in Him. We are to be a witness to His existence, His love, and His desire for others.

We are not the “savior”, Jesus is the Savior. We are not their creator, our Father is our Creator. We are not one loving our family beyond measure. It may not feel like it, there is a measure to our love for anyone. Jesus’ love is immeasurable. It is the work of the Spirit of Jesus which changes lives.

He also said, “The kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. By itself the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. And when the grain is ripe, he sends in the sickle because the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29 NET

The parable of the sower, previously, in this chapter had the “seed” being the “word”, or Jesus’ preaching. So, it is probably meant to be the same here. Rather than focusing on the soils, here the focus is on the responsibilities or duties for growing the seed. The seed may produce 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown, but how does that happen?

The breakdown of how this all happens can be viewed this way:

  1. The sower (us) sows the seed (the word)
  2. The we rise and sleep, day to day
  3. The word sprouts and grows, we do not know how
  4. The soil (hearer) by itself produces the grain in stages
  5. We harvest (disciple) the word

That’s not the only way to view this parable. This way borrows the imagery and meaning from the Parable of the Soils, which is a good place to start. Although, some of the elements may not be exact correlations.

The soil producing “by itself” may reflect the unseen work of the Holy Spirit, more than any particular quality of the soil. But, think through the parable of the soils. It seems to be a quality of the soil which makes it more effective for growing. So, the Holy Spirit works in all who hear, but some are more receptive to Him than others.

Either way, the sower, you and I, we are spectators more than agents in this parable. Jesus doesn’t point out the work of the sower after sowing. It is probably understood, but our Savior has another point to make. He wants to emphasize that it’s not about the sower. It’s not about the sower’s work beyond sowing and harvesting. The sower “doesn’t know how” the seed grows.

It’s not about you. How refreshing. It’s not about how you hammer away at someone with the words of Jesus. It’s not about how intensely you love them, how consistently you preach to them, how clearly you articulate the truth of the good news. It’s not about you.

So, scatter seed. There are different soils, and some of it is good soil. Even on good soil, much will happen you cannot see, and do not understand. That’s a “feature”, not a “flaw” to sowing seed. Share the good news, and leave room for the Spirit of our Savior to work. Don’t aim at the “good soil”, chances are we are not good judges of soil. Just sow away.


Great Commissions

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.  (Luke 24:49-53 NASB)

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.  And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:17-20 NASB)

Have you ever been bored?  When we consider that we’ve got all the people-groups of the world in whom to make disciples, how could we be bored.  And yet, I’m bored more often than I care to admit.  How can that be?

The “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 has a counterpart in Luke24.  While the one in Matthew is familiar, we often miss some important elements.  For instance, we’re supposed to go and make disciples.  If you would like some clarity on what that means, check out my blog entry on the topic of disciples here.  It’s not as nice and easy as it might sound.

In Luke 24, the commission sounds slightly different.  In verses 47 through 48, the commission is to proclaim repentance into forgiveness of sins to all nations in His name.  The concept of “disciples” isn’t mentioned.  That the proclamation goes into all nations is consistent.  In reality, though, repentance is what disciples do, and do for the rest of their time here on earth.  So, actually, the two commissions have more in common than appears on the surface.

All this to come back around to my original question.  Have you ever been bored?  As I mentioned, I am bored in a shameful frequency.  The sad truth is that those living close to me are probably not disciples, nor have they had “repentance into forgiveness” proclaimed to them.  At least they haven’t heard this from me.

I’m simply thinking that I can’t be bored while my neighbors haven’t heard.  If they’ve heard and reject, that’s one thing.  But if I haven’t even tried, then why would I be bored? If I really believe Jesus is all I teach in this blog, then I should be busier telling others about repentance into forgiveness.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

Found Coin Party

“Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost!’  In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  (Luke 15:8-10 NASB)

I’ve heard several interpretation of why the coins were so important to the woman, and in each case it seems to detract from the point.  Frankly it’s money of some sort, and I’m good leaving it at that.  The point is that the woman sought the lost coin, found it, and partied with her friends and neighbors over it.  The point of the story illustrates the party in heaven “before the angels of God” when one sinner repents.

Again, this parable seems odd as a story, but the point is really supposed to be at the forefront.  Jesus again points out that heaven, and here, specifically God Himself, rejoices over one who repents.  A couple of details different from the previous parable, besides the difference in what was lost and found, are the reference to “heaven” versus to “before the angels of God”, and the absence of “than over ninety-nine who need no repentance”.  I’m not sure of the significance of these differences, they could be literary style.  I would like to point out that “in the presence of the angels of God” does seem to imply (or I infer from it) that God is the One rejoicing as opposed to the angels; as if He sort of embarrasses Himself like David in dancing with joy.  It paints an interesting picture if so, and would illustrate an equally interesting characteristic of God.

Again, though the element of repentance is present.  The lost which is found is connected once again to a repentant sinner.  So, the success of the searching is contingent upon the decision of the one sought to repent.  This is sort of key here.  We really love the picture of Jesus seeking us to bring us back to Himself, and He does.  But also keep in mind, Jesus doesn’t violate our choice.  He doesn’t take away the right He gave us to choose. So the responsibility is on us.  He seeks, He calls, He “waits on the porch looking”, but we have to decide to return or agree with Him.  This the point of connection I see with the previous chapter’s treatment of the cost of such a choice.

I don’t understand this passage as arguing against the high cost of discipleship.  Rather I see this passage as explaining the action and attitude of God toward it.  He seeks us to make that difficult commitment.  He seeks us, but He doesn’t then “lower the bar” to get us in.  In the next parable, the change in the younger son illustrates what Jesus means by repentance.  So, when we look at the lost sheep and lost coin, those items represent those people who have changed their minds about their lives.

So God seeks the “lost” from the fellowship of His people, but then calls them to change their mind about their situation.  This may be a different concept than many have toward evangelism.

What does God reveal to you through this parable?

Three Costs of Discipleship

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  (Luke 14:26-27 NASB)

So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33 NASB)

I may have bitten off more than I can chew here taking all three, but I’m going to give it a shot.  The thing is, “classic” evangelism, the kind practiced in the last 40 years or so has been unbelievably “flies with honey” in its approach.  Jesus really wasn’t that way.  He was unbelievably honest.  He did things like heal or just talk to someone, but also acknowledge the sin.  He didn’t let the sin get in the way of talking to them, or even using them to reach an entire village (Samaritan woman for instance).

Jesus came to begin a process of making disciples, and we have somehow forgotten that.  Some now content themselves with butts in seats and baptisms.  Others with “participation” or acceptance.  We figure if we can get them in the door then the teaching can begin and at some point these lost people will become more like Jesus just by simple association with us, who are so much like Him…oh please.

The problem with this concept is the missing life change, the intentional transformation that leaves so many much like they were before hearing of Jesus.  If I’m no different a year after passing through the water than I was before, what has the “church” accomplished?  It certainly isn’t “making disciples” of Matthew 28.  But it’s uncomfortable to discuss the hyperbole of Jesus’ statements which call us to pay a much higher cost for following Him than we thought.  No one told us it would be so expensive.  Had we known before hand, we probably wouldn’t have signed up.

Jesus lists three costs here.  Jut three, but seriously, they are as if He addressed them to Americans.  Hate your family (and yourself)?  Not very popular today.  In fact it argues against the upsurge of “redefining” marriage and family by minimizing their place in the life of a disciple.  It becomes less about family and more about Jesus.  Anyone a little uncomfortable yet?  Easier to talk about family and make that the issue isn’t it?

And what about hating your own soul?  Just in case the people were a bit unsure what He meant, Jesus goes on to say that we must take up our personal method of execution and follow Him.  Yes, we are to die to ourselves.  I’m supposed to give up my goals, my plans, my ideas of right, wrong, what is important, and so on.  Those are supposed to die, and in their place, I am to allow Jesus to fill me with His goals, plans, ideas of right and wrong, what is important, and so on.  Oops.  He was serious about that?

But again, just in case we get to a point of asking, “everything?”, Jesus goes on to explain that we are to figure this out up front.  Figure it out before hand, because unless we give up all our possessions we’re not going to be able to “afford” to be a disciple.  So possessions are another thing that are supposed to go, they are to to be left behind in our pursuit of following Jesus.  Not very American or even Western of us is it?  Who’s ready?  Let’s get on this bandwagon!  Burn it all!  Well actually no, sell it all, give the proceeds to the poor, and be content following Jesus.

Here’s the point:  To be a disciple of Jesus is expensive.  In fact, it’s so expensive, most people working so diligently to get more people into the program haven’t paid the cost of the program themselves.  No one sees how expensive it is as they are being coaxed to “join up”!  They see people much like themselves doing the coaxing, so it never occurs to them that there’s this cost involved.  Ironically, it rarely occurs to the ones doing the coaxing either.

Let’s make a change.  In Luke 14:16-24, Jesus made a very clear and insulting point about the relative danger Jews were in with God.  And then in verse 25, we have many throngs following Him around.  So, He insults them in a sense, and they flock to Him.  Not a typical approach to “evangelism”, insulting the people you’re trying to reach. It worked for Him though.  So then He sort of “thins the herd” with His explanation of the cost of being a disciple.

I’m sure the disciples were hearing and going, “Yeah, no lie.”  They had given up careers, family, status of one sort or another, all sorts of things.  We sometimes forget that.  They paid a literal cost.  Jesus describes this here, and we think, “He’s exaggerating”.  And then come away from the passage content we don’t actually have to hate our families and give up all our stuff and carry around some heavy thing that we later die on.  I believe if we’re comfortable, we’re missing the point, and do not have ears to hear.

What do you learn from Jesus’ declared cost of discipleship?