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Friday, May 24, 2013

The Cares of This World

Matthew 13:22 (ESV) 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.

People are busy. Extremely busy. They are more active than any other people ever in time and yet getting less done. They are not better parents though they are constantly taking their children from sports events to fine arts all week long. They are more connected to information through the internet than anyone before them yet many of them can't name the vice-president of the United States. They go to church but remain the same people year after year with no appreciable difference.

In fact, most of the people at church do not bring their Bibles to church nor do they read their Bibles even one time during the week. If I asked them why, I believe they would tell me that they simply don't have enough time in their day.

Who or what is telling people that they must fill up each moment of their days?

The cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke out the most important things in their lives. They are deceived into believing that having more than others have, whether it is smarter, more athletic children, a larger house, a nicer car or a bigger retirement account, will result in a meaningful life. They have no thought that they are squandering their eternity for the very short time they will exist on this earth.

They must step back from what they are doing and get a grip on their lives if they are ever to come to their senses. That is very hard. How do you simply stop the hectic lifestyle and reflect on what you need to be doing? How do you realize that doing less just might gain a whole lot more than the overly busy lifestyle you have chosen to this point?

Maybe you have to hit bottom? Maybe people have already hit bottom and don't know it because they are so busy chasing the next big thing in their lives. They are so distracted that they can't remain in God's word, why should they suddenly wake up and find they have been running in circles?

Unfortunately, ministers are not immune to this busy-ness even though we should know better. Sometimes the activities at church are overwhelming and we get caught up in the activity. We fail to realize that we are not getting much bang for our buck. We are trying to make everyone in the church happy- that is, everyone but God.

And God is amazingly patient. He waits for us to come to our senses.

O, I still have work that must be done but I will take that time which is not committed to meditate on His word. I'll reflect on my day. I'll confess my sins. I'll make a new commitment to God. I'll praise my Savior. I'll come to grips.

I'll let the Living Word live in me.


Anonymous said...

Ah! This is part of the Parable of the Sower.  There are 4 types of ground spoken of, in the parable.  The 1st being the pathway. The 2nd is the rocky ground; this is understood as the "fencing" around the ground proper; in other words, raised rocks were being used as the boundary around the piece of land or ground.  On the outside is the pathway; on the inside is the land or ground.  The 3rd is the ground clearly inside of the rocky boundary.  This is the ground on the inside, but near to the rocky boundary or fence.  Lastly, there is the ground proper, the soil for cultivation. The seed is referring to the Word or the Gospel message. The Sower is the Lord Himself.  

In sowing, the sower or farmer scatters the seeds, say, throws it around.   Some seeds would land on the 1st soil or ground - outside of the fence, on the pathway. Some will land on the raised rocky fence itself.  Some lands inside, but on the soil near the fence.  The rest lands on the ground or soil proper - soil inside of the boundary, but not near to the fence.

The one Ps Prentis was referring to, in the article entry, is the 3rd ground or soil - the ground inside but near to the fence or boundary.  I will return to this in a while, but I would like to talk about the other grounds too, and so, this will be a little digress from the entry.

Seeds on the 1st soil, Jesus said represented people who heard the gospel but understood it, NOT.  Although the Mark and Luke Gospels' versions do not have this "understand it, NOT", it cannot be ignored.  At the beginning, I actually have a problem with it - having the phrase, in the Matthew version.  The other 2 versions merely said the person heard the gospel and Satan came and snatched it away. In other words, the seed did not get to grow at all.  

One version had the phrase the seed was trampled upon;  well, it is the pathway, and so, it is all possible.  In Jesus' explanation, He said the person heard it, but understood it, NOT.  My understanding is that all non-believers understood not, the gospel, unless the Holy Spirit gives the understanding, on the strength of 1 Cor 2:14.  And my belief is that the Holy Spirit is always at work, meaning the Holy Spirit does not play favoritism - he does not give gospel understanding to one and not to another, for no acceptable reason.  Yes, my understanding is that there is always a part that God plays in a person coming into salvation, and this part is by grace, and it is before a man does anything.  

In other words, if God does not do this part, no man can enter, and that is how, no matter how we argue it, it is by grace that man enters into salvation.  This part is that of drawing and giving gospel understanding to the man.  The unregenerated man cannot discern spiritual things such as the gospel truth.  Now, if there are 4 grounds or soil representing 4 different types of people, are we having a case of the Holy Spirit deliberately not giving understanding of the gospel to one of the 4 types of people?!  In other words, because of the Holy Spirit not going to work - give the gospel understanding, those people can never enter into salvation.  Seems a little unfair, isn't it?  Why is understanding important?  

The other versions said that Satan snatched the seed away,  so that the person cannot believe and be saved.  Understanding is important, because salvation faith needs belief with understanding.  If you have no understanding and you believe, that is blind faith, that is you don't know what you are believing in.  Now, this group of people, represented by the 1st soil, does not become a believer; they remain as unbelievers.  Jesus was right that they understood it, NOT.  Is it the Holy Spirit does not give them the understanding when He gives it to others so that they can come into salvation?


Anonymous said...

Cont. From above

Some people actually use this Parable of the Sower to argue personal salvation is predestined - God already chosen who He would save, and who He would not save, and so, the Holy Spirit only gives understanding to those on the predestination list.  Of course, those who know me, know that my belief is still that there is corporate predestination but NOT predestination of personal salvation.

So, does or does not the Holy Spirit gives understanding to the people represented by the 1st ground, for Jesus said they heard the gospel. If the Holy Spirit did, then what does Jesus mean? I believe the Holy Spirit does give understanding of the Gospel; the understanding that Jesus was referring to, was different.  The understanding Jesus was referring to, was value discernment, whereas the basic understanding is what the Holy Spirit necessarily gives.  

The person when he heard the gospel, the Holy Spirit gave him the understanding of what Jesus was doing, be the sacrifice-penalty for each of us; Jesus paid for our sins with His own life; instead of us taking the penalty of sin, He suffered for us.  Now, when we ask anyone who have heard, completely with attention, the gospel, the person is most likely to tell you he understood what "the story" was about, meaning he understood. But the person may still consider the gospel as foolishness.  Such a person understands what the gospel is telling, for the Holy Spirit has given such understanding, but the person still views it as foolishness, and so, believes it NOT.  

The Holy Spirit can also give value discernment but that is not He must necessarily do. Value discernment and belief goes hand in hand, if the Holy Spirit compulsorily gives value discernment, everyone who hears the gospel must necessarily enters into salvation.   Gibberish and foolishness are NOT the same. Gibberish is when you don't understand or sometimes, we say, "it is Greek to me".  Foolishness is about value-understanding. For example,  some people may view I have been foolish to have spent so much time, attention and energy on serving God, instead of using the same to better myself, in paper qualification relating to my (secular) work, through taking up of studies, or working harder and longer hours at my (secular) work, to get promotion and earn more money. And they won't do what I do, because they fail to see the value that I see in serving God. I see value, I believe, and I do.

Jesus also did say, "the Kingdom of God is like someone finding a treasure or a pearl"; because the person understands the value of the treasure or pearl, he believes it is the right thing to do - to exchange everything he has, for the treasure or pearl.  This parable about the finding of a treasure or pearl is actually telling us that a person needs to see the preciousness,  before he believes, and acts.  Remember, I said one of versions about the 1st soil, has it recorded that the seed is trampled upon; in other words, it is also referring to value discernment or preciousness.  A person does NOT trample on a thing he considers precious. It is the person does not see the preciousness of the gospel or regards it as foolishness, that he would trample upon it.


Anonymous said...

Cont. From above

So, we now understand, we are to preach or share the gospel, and the hearses may or may not believe.  It is not the Holy Spirit does not work all the time, or that some people are predestined by God not to be saved.  It is that the Holy Spirit does give basic understanding, and we can often verified that, that the person we spoke to, understood the gospel - what it is saying. However, the person may still not believe the gospel.  In believing, the person must not perceive the gospel as foolishness or a waste of time, for if he perceived so, he will not believe; he will believe if he see that the gospel is most valuable indeed; in other words, he accepts the gospel as valuable and so, would not brush it aside, but believes it. If he values not, he has not the understanding that Jesus was referring to, value discernment, and he will not believe, and he will be the equivalent of the soil of the pathway; the seed (Word) grows NOT.

The 2nd soil is that of the rocky boundary or fence.  Jesus explained that quickly the person accepts, with joy, even, the Word or Gospel (on being given the basic understanding by the Holy Spirit); in other words, he does not count the cost before he decides to believe the gospel and follow the Lord.  In other words, his value discernment is poorly done.  In Scripture, the Lord told us that we need to count our cost before we decide to follow Him.  

Believing the gospel is about following Jesus.  It is not that we carry the same Cross as Jesus, but Jesus did say, we have to carry our crosses (as God desired), and cannot turn back. Those who speak about believing the gospel as not having to follow Jesus as our Lord, is heretic if not apostate. Hastily made value discernment are vulnerable, the person has not clearly crossed over to the side, he purportedly said he did. Isn't it not, like the rocky ground of the fence; well, which side does it belong to; is it connected to the ground on the inside or is it part of the outside ground, the pathway.  Jesus said, when trouble or persecution comes, that person will swing to the outside, and fall away.  Are such, believers? Yes, but while it lasted! Jesus actually said they "last only a short time" (v20).  Can a believer fall away? Yes.  Can a believer's name be blotted from the Lamb's Book of Life? Yes.

I will now cover the 3rd soil, that referred to, by Ps Prentis, in his entry (and then, I will round up with the last soil).  Remember, this 3rd ground is on the inside.  Because it was near the fence, often, the thorns and thistles grow there,  and these could grow unchecked or not rid off completely.  When the seed grows there, among the thorns and thistles, it gets choked. So, this ground represented people who believed the gospel, but do not guard their hearts and minds, letting the "thorns and thistles" to grow there unchecked. The thorns and thistles here are the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth, and Jesus said these things can choke, and we end up not being fruitful (v22).


Anonymous said...

Cont. From above

We will notice that, unlike the 2nd soil, Jesus did not use "fall away" on this group of people or believers.  What this means is that if you deny your faith, the Lord will deny you, meaning it is possible your name can be blotted out from the Lamb's Book of Life on ground of your falling away.  If you did not fall away, but you are currently choked and are unfruitful (the Word being choked and unfruitful, is the same as you being choked and you being unfruitful), your name may still be on the Book, because of God's long-suffering; it is His grace keeping you there when you should be blotted out.   

So, does it mean that you are on the inside, no matter what, you will not be blotted out?  No, do not test the Lord your God.  Scripture has warnings about unfruitfulness; one talks about the axe is already at the root of the tree that stubbornly refuses to bear fruit; another, talks about such deserved only to be burned.  There is even a verse saying that only those who do the will of God will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Yes, if you sin and sin, I won't call you a Sinner, only a dirty Saint, unless I hear from God, but if God calls you a Sinner all over again, you are dead meat, man!  

I am NOT saying God will not help, in fact, I often pray for God to help, but whose responsibility is it, to guard our heart and mind?  This parable hints at it is OURS.  We are the soil or ground, in the parable; it is our responsibility to guard our hearts and minds so that the Word will not be choked and will not be unfruitful in and through us.  Note that this is a parable, and so, it is not suggesting that this whole thing is a positional thing, meaning it is not saying since you are near to the fence, you are like that, you don't guard your heart and mind.  No, it is the other way round, it is because you don't guard your heart that you are likened to the soil near the fence.  You can determine to be the good soil away from the fence, and God will help you, for that is the will and desire of God.  What are characteristics of this good soil? This, we will look next.

The 4th ground or soil - the good soil.  Good soil is on the inside, not on the outside.  The good soil is a fruitful soil; it produces, NOT only much, it produces much acceptable or pleasing fruit to God.  If you are a soil on the outside, fruit if any, you produce, it is not acceptable or pleasing fruit to God.  This is important, because it is so sad to read that spiritual fathers wrote in books suggesting that the Parable of "Who are the Sheep and Who are the Goats" is telling us that, people with "good" works but are NOT believers can get to Heaven.  No, they can't.  You got to be on the inside.  The fruit on the outside is NOT acceptable because it is NOT the Word-motioned, for the Word does NOT grow on the outside soil; we have just seen.

If you are the good soil; you heard the Word or Gospel, you understand it, it's meaning, and you understand it's value, and you believe it and accepts it, and act on it.  You let nothing come between the Word and you, and you will guard your heart and mind, so that nothing grows there, that will choke the Word. You will act as the Word motions, and because it is Word-motioned it has the will, desire, backing of the Lord, the fruit can be manifolds and they are acceptable and pleasing to Him.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions