Today’s Scripture – December 18, 2016

Matthew 13:7, 22 (NIV) “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

The third misguided seed in this parable fell among thorns.  This was soil that already had a lot of stuff growing in it.  It was good soil, neither packed down or shallow, but not yet cleared or prepared for the seed.  The seed that fell on this soil germinated and grew, but ended up being stunted and unfruitful, simply because there was too much competition for sunlight, water, and nutrients from things already there.

Jesus used this picture to demonstrate a life that is already full when the person hears the gospel.  The soil of their life is not inhospitable to the gospel, but it is crowded with “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth,” so even though a little initial growth happens, the gospel can’t reach its full potential, and no fruitfulness, no new lives coming into the kingdom, happens through them.

Unfortunately, today many people with weed-crowded lives, problems, worries, and even wealth that they are concerned about protecting, are offered the gospel as a solution.  “Do you have a shaky marriage?  Accept Jesus, and He’ll make your marriage great!  Do you have misbehaving and hard to handle kids?  Accept Jesus, and he’ll help you control them.  Are you worried about what to do during these times of uncertainty?  Accept Jesus, and He will give you wisdom.”  So they “accept Jesus,” but their minds and hearts continue to be overwhelmed by a poor marriage, moody kids, and financial problems.  There is limited spiritual growth, no power, no victory, and no fruit.  The weeds win.

Jesus didn’t come to be the solution to our problems.  He came to be each person’s Savior and Lord, and to show us how to live in God‘s kingdom here and now.  When we “sell” Jesus as a means to a better or more successful life, we are intentionally sowing into weedy soil, and setting those people up to become frustrated, unfruitful Christians.

Again, it is important to remember that the farmer wasn’t aiming his seed at the weedy soil.  The seed landed there due to the broadcasting method of sowing being used.  In the crowds that surrounded Jesus every day, there were lots of people whose hearts had not yet been prepared for the gospel. They might jump at the chance to identify themselves as followers of Jesus, or to take advantage of all of the benefits of becoming a member of God’s kingdom, but ultimately they would not bear fruit until the soil of their hearts was properly prepared.  Jesus didn’t exclude them from hearing His messages, but He wasn’t aiming them at those people, and He didn’t expect much out of them at that point.

So how can weedy hearts be prepared?  Preparation happens most effectively when a Christian works in concert with the Holy Spirit to get the person’s eyes off of their problems and their stuff, and helps them instead to refocus on the core issue:  the separation between them and God that has resulted from their sins.  They can be helped to understand that, even if all of the problems with their marriage, their kids, their jobs, and their finances were fixed, if the rift between them and God remains in place, the could still end up in hell for all eternity.  When that truth is clearly seen, the weeds start to die off, and the seeds of the gospel have a chance to grow into salvation, transformation, and genuine fruitfulness.

Father, You are right when You point out that Jesus has been too often sold as a solution to worldly problems instead of as the reconciler of You and mankind.  I can see that that wrong focus has led to many seeds being sown in soil that is overwhelmed by weeds being sold as successful conversions, and fruitless Christian lives being recognized as the norm.  Forgive us, Lord, for not taking care to do the necessary work of clearing the soil with Your word BEFORE sowing the seeds of the gospel.  Help us to do not only he right things, but to do them in the right way, and in the right order.  Amen.

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