Sometimes, I wonder indeed... how often can we hear a parable or a sermon about a parable and still be open for the lessons to learn?
In my journey through the gospel of Luke I encounter plenty of well known parables and stories. Take the one about the sower and the seed for example, how often have we heard that one? And yet, I believe we will never reach a point where we know all there is to know about the lessons Jesus taught. The Holy Spirit can always shine a new light on old principles.
This week I was reading Jesus' explanation about the parable of the sower and I specifically meditated on this verse: But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (Luke 8:15). A noble and good heart is considered good ground. Well, that's the point where we might want to run away. Me, a noble and good heart? Uh uh... well, not necessarily so. Thank God it is possible to receive such a pure heart (see Hebrew 10:19-22) in exchange for our sinful heart. But that's not really what caught my attention.
It becomes clear from this verse that good soil alone is not enough to produce a crop, the soil needs light, water and nutrition. Sometimes we are so focused on the themes 'seed' and 'soil' that we almost miss the other three important words Jesus is giving us here: hearing, retaining and persevering:
Hear, it is very important to read Gods Word and to hear His Word. But not in a way of: 'nice sermon pastor, thanks', and moving on with life as we did before. No, we also nee to
Retain the Word, that means we need to absorb, cling to, clutch, contain, enjoy, grasp, hold, keep in mind, keep possession, maintain, memorize, mind, own, possess, preserve, recall, recognize, recollect, remember, reminisce, reserve, restrain, retrospect, save, and withhold the Word. And, most important probably, we need to
Persevere, which means we must not give up on the truth of His Word, we can not allow our circumstances to bring us off balance. The Word is not just something we read, it is something we LIVE on a daily basis.
In doing so we will produce a crop. And isn't that what should be the desire of our heart, to be more like Jesus, to bear fruit in our lives, to be a living gospel for other people? In this parable Jesus clearly shows us how a spiritual crop will grow, not by itself; but by hearing, retaining and persevering. So, throw away your remote control tonight and start reading, hearing and retaining the Word and make a conscious decision to persevere. The Holy Spirit will help you!
Chapter six in the gospel of Luke.... yeah, I'm still there :) Such wonderful, simple, beautiful and difficult lessons of Jesus. I call it the store room of His teachings.
Speaking about store rooms... Jesus explains in this chapter that a tree is recognized by its fruit. Have you ever observed a fruit tree from up close, before it bears fruit? You have to be a farmer or landscaper to see whether a tree is an apple, pear or prune tree. Once the tree bears fruit it is much easier to name the tree, even for a layman. So it is with people. A good or bad person is hardly ever recognized by his outer appearance, but by the fruit his life produces.
Back to store rooms... Let's take a look at verse 45 where Jesus is speaking: The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. The first question that comes to my mind is: what is the overflow of my heart? That is also the question I would like to share with you. We can recognize what is in someone's heart by the words he/she speaks. WE will be recognized by the words we speak.
It doesn't matter much whom I encounter on the streets nowadays, at the store, in church, or at work... everywhere I am hearing the same words: financial crisis, failing economy, unemployment, disease, fear, cancer, politics, the weather, the world. Out of the overflow...
Seldom, very seldom do I speak with someone who utters words of encouragement, trust and faith in God. Are there still people out there whose heart is a store room of joy about God, His Word and Jesus? I do not mean on the internet, but in daily conversation. Maybe this is not a nice question to ask, but if we truly confess that we have a heart for God and His Word we have to speak likewise. Our words can build up or beak down.
The Bible is a fascinating book, I don't have to tell you that :) But what I want to tell you is, that it is important to read a translation that you can understand! As far as I know there are no 'good' or 'bad' translations; just make sure you read one you can relate to.
As I wrote in my previous post, I am reading through the gospel of Luke at the moment and, quite unavoidable, I arrived at chapter six. Now there are two things possible at the beginning of such a chapter: read through it quickly or stop and meditate on the lessons Jesus is teaching here. This is not theology or theory, but practical Christianity for our every day life. I quote verse 37 and 38: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Ouch, strong words, especially the last sentence.The first question that enters my mind and that I would like to share with you is: which measure do I use? In a negative and a positive sense. Jesus uses examples of both: judging and condemning, but also forgiving and giving. Whatever the case, we set the measure with which we will be measured...
Am I critical, judgemental, or unkind towards others? If so, such an attitude towards others will come back into my own life.
Am I forgiving and generous (time, talents, money, love, etc.) towards others? If so, such an attitude towards others will come back into my own life.
What a great responsibility to realize that we are the ones setting the measure that others will use towards us. It would have been much easier if God took care of all that, so we wouldn't have to change our bitterness, stinginess or unforgiveness. The words of Jesus are simple but not easy, they imply responsibility but also a challenge.
I don't know about you, but I don't want people to judge me or criticize me. I want others to forgive me and share their blessings with me. My wish is the measure that I need to use for others.
If we desire a different harvest, we must make a beginning with sowing different seeds.