There never comes a moment in the Christian life when you reach a spiritual plateau. There are obstacles that Christians always will face, obstacles that never go away. And there is never a time when a Christian doesn’t need to grow spiritually.
The moment that we try to find the way to easy street or put the Christian experience on cruise control is the moment our spiritual downfall begins. It may not happen immediately, but it will be the beginning of the end. That’s because the Christian life is one of constant growth, constant learning and constant transformation.
While the conversion process is instantaneous, the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ takes a lifetime. And throughout that process, there are pitfalls to avoid.
One of the most well-known parables Jesus told, the parable of the sower, is about a farmer who went out to sow seed on four types of soil. Then Jesus explained that it was a picture of the different reactions people have to God’s Word.
It’s worth noting that of the four soils in Jesus’s story, there was only one where the seed broke ground and began to grow.
The first seed the farmer scattered became useless. It fell by the wayside, and birds came and ate it. Jesus went on to explain, “The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts” (Matthew 13:19 NLT).
When I preach the Gospel, I would like to think that everyone who responds is really committing their lives to Christ. But experience, and more importantly, the Bible, tells me differently. For some people, the seed of God’s Word never takes root in their lives. They hear it, but they simply don’t believe it.
Should that discourage us? Absolutely not. It means that we should be sharing the good news of Jesus Christ as much as possible. At the same time, we need to recognize that the results are up to God.
Then there is the seed the farmer scattered on shallow, rocky ground, which sprouted up quickly but then wilted. This seed, Jesus said, “represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word” (verses 20–21 NLT).
This describes people who seem to show some changes in their lives and appear to be converted. They’re excited and motivated. But they’re living on an emotional high. And no real, lasting change ever comes.
They merely had an emotional experience and not a true encounter with God. Those who base their relationship with God on an emotional experience will fall away, because they built it on the wrong foundation.
If you are a true follower of Jesus, there will be hardship, trials and times when you don’t feel God. There also will be times when people give you a tough time for no other reason than the fact that you’re a Christian.
We can’t build a relationship with God on emotions. Nor can we build it on a church, a pastor, or another person. We need to build it on Jesus Christ.
Next was the seed that landed among thorns. Jesus said, “The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced” (verse 22 NLT).
The process Jesus described here is not immediate; it’s more gradual. This is in contrast to the person who grows rapidly but then falls away. Jesus was talking about people who say they’re Christians and seem to undergo visible changes. Then, as time goes by, other things become more important to them than God.
They don’t suddenly abandon their faith instantaneously; it happens gradually. And after a while, they simply walk away. These people were not converted to begin with; it just looked as though they were.
Time will tell whether people truly have given their lives to Christ – time and the results in their lives.
Lastly, there was the seed the landed on good ground. Jesus said this seed “represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (verse 23 NLT).
Jesus was speaking of people who hear God’s Word and internalizes it. As a result, their lives undergo changes. The outward changes don’t save them, but if they are really saved, there will be changes.
Good works don’t save someone, but if someone is really saved, there will be results. And if there are no changes in a person’s life outwardly, then I would say there have been no real changes inwardly.
The people in the last category are not like those who never seem to grasp the Word of God. Nor are they like those who initially receive it but are rootless, allowing emotions and feelings to overpower obedience. Nor are they like those who hear God’s Word and plan to keep it, but they let the gradual process of things or pursuits to choke it out.
The people who hear and keep God’s Word respond decisively and promptly to what God shows them. They are true believers.
So, which of these four types of soil would describe you? Are you like the wayside soil, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, or the good soil? The key is hearing and receiving. It is not enough to simply say, “I understand it.” It is not even enough to say, “I agree with it.” You must act on it.
If you can see your need for God, then don’t say, “I’ll do this another time.” Come to him now.
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