by Roland W. Keith
In Luke 8:4-15 the author records Jesus’ teaching known as the “Parable of the Sower.” His account includes the parable itself and Jesus’ explanation of the lesson subsequently given to His disciples. In the parable there are four distinct groupings of people who have heard the word of God. The first group is made up of individuals who never believe and the last group are those who go on to become and remain productive Christians. The second and third groups, however, are made up of those who receive the word “with joy” and accept Christ as their Savior. Sadly, though, they do not mature as Christians in one case and in the other while they bear spiritual fruit they never become completely disentangled from the world therefore the fruit they bear never matures and they succumb to the cares of the world once again.
Jesus’ parable provides a powerful lesson for both those who teach the word of God and those who are new-born Christians. Like a baby in the physical world, a new-born life in the spiritual realm is a fragile being to be nurtured, cared for, and brought to maturity. The difference being a babe in the physical world is helpless whereas in the spiritual walk both the Church and the new Christian bear some responsibility for his or her development.
Peter encouraged new Christians to “long for the pure spiritual milk” they needed to grow (I Peter 2:2). Paul also equated spiritual maturity to a process that required the growing Christian to move on from milk (the fundamental teachings of the gospel) to solid food (the more in-depth and mature teachings in scripture; I Corinthians 3:1-3). The greater burden is on the new Christian to desire growth, but it is also important for the congregation to take the newborn under its wing and provide him with the teachings and guidance he needs.
When we become a Christian, we are changed— we no longer reside solely in the physical world but are born into the spiritual world created for those who follow God (I Peter 1:22-23; II Corinthians 5:17-19). In this way mankind, who has been separated from God due to sin is reconciled to Him through the blood of His Son (Matthew 26:28). However, for that change to be of full effect we must continue to grow and remain faithful. Failure to do so may cause us to be misled and fall away (Galatians 5:4-6), or may result in our failure to keep God’s commandments and to have a right relationship with Him (I John 2:1-6).
As Peter wrote, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:5-11).
Peter provided us with a list of Christian virtues to help us focus on areas of our lives we need to constantly work on and improve. Later in the same letter he warns us to not be carried away by error and thereby lose our spiritual stability (II Peter 3:17-18). The epistles are full of warnings and admonitions for us, as followers of Christ, to safeguard our faith and to avoid apostasy. The possibility for some is very real, especially for those who have not yet matured in their faith. If you are struggling in your walk with Christ seek help, pray, and study the word diligently. If you see a brother or sister struggling help them find their way back to the path (James 5:20). One of the best things we can do for a fellow Christian at times is to remind them of Who they follow and represent to the world, as Peter did when he wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (I Peter 2:21).
Sometimes we just need to be reminded why we became Christians in the first place. We need to remember what God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ did for us (John 3:16; Hebrews 12:1-2). Moreover, we need to meditate on the great promises He has given to those who come to Him (Hebrews 6:12; 8:6; II Peter 1:4; II Corinthians 7:1). We also need to learn to put God first. Jesus said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39). God does not require that we love only Him but He does require that our love for Him is preeminent in our lives. His is worthy of that love and rightly demands it (Matthew 22:36-40). We are to seek God and His kingdom first and all other things will fall into place (Matthew 6:33).
Jesus came to earth as the Word of God incarnate, and as the light of the world (John 1:1-5). Before His ascension Jesus told His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15). As His disciples we are to learn His word, to handle it properly and to share it with the world (Acts 17:11-12; II Timothy 2:15). And, we are to do all things that He commands us faithfully.
Jesus told his disciples, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23). Some say that Jesus is describing those who will falsely claim to have worshiped Him in their lives. However, it may be that He is describing those who worshiped Him, but they did it their way, not God’s way. Remember Nadab and Abihu, who offered strange fire before the Lord and were consumed? (Leviticus 10:1; Numbers 3:4). They worshiped God, but did it their way instead of according to His instructions and it cost them their lives. Similarly, Luke records these words of Jesus, “Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great” (Matthew 6:46-49).
When we know God’s word and do not obey it we come to ruin. On another occasion Jesus said, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men: (Matthew 15:8-9). Many who worship God do it in vain, believing that they can do it their way, instead of God’s. It is not enough to believe in God and show up to church on Sundays. We must faithfully serve Him according to His commands, not according to our own desires or some social convention. If we are struggling with our faith or obedience we can pray for God’s help and wisdom, as Paul wrote, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:5; Colossians 1:9; I Thessalonians 5:17-18).
Finally, as God’s elect we must worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24). We must not neglect the assembly of the faithful (Hebrews 10:25), noting that we are to gather on the first day of the week (I Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7). When we are together we should strive to stir one another up (Hebrews 10:24), and as Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16: Ephesians 5:19-20). As Christians, both new and old, it should ever be our desire to grow in the wisdom of God’s word, in fidelity toward it and one another, in our prayer life, in our service to the Lord, and in fellowship with like-minded children of the Lord.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.