26 May, 2013

Sowing and Reaping Pt1 (Hard-Hearted)

This isn't the first time I've shared some thoughts on this subject. However, recently I have been pondering it and have received some new insight that I believe we all need to put into practice. As I sat and began to write some thoughts, revelation continued to flow. It was my intention to write a single teaching on the Parable of the Sower. Then God got more involved. So, welcome to the first in a five-part series on Sowing the Word. First of all: do your homework.

Now, we will start with the basic element of this story - the one that is often discussed the most: are you good 'soil'? This is absolutely imperative to our Christian lives, because it is not rightly understood that Jesus just taught us that the Bible only works 25% of the time. Jesus shows us four different individual circumstances where the Word of God is put to work. In only one of the four circumstances do we see the promises of God come to fruition, and according to Jesus' explanation, the reason for such a high rate of failure is not due to some unknown, unforeseeable plans in God's Sovereign Will. It is due solely to the condition of an individual's heart.

Just because you are a Christian does not mean that you are 'good soil.' For the next few days, we will take a look at the various conditions of the heart that Jesus discusses - uses ample examples from Scripture (so that "by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" ~Matthew 18:16). On the last day we will do something different to cap things off from a different angle that Jesus gives us. For now, let us take a moment to analyze our hearts through the first example Jesus gives us:

Hard soil.
The first thing that happens when we hear from the God - be it through His written Word in times of reading Scripture or listening to teachings, or  through His Revealed Word in personal times of prayer and meditation - is that Satan sets out to immediately steal that Word. If we have developed a form of religious callous to the voice of God, we will be in no position to receive from His Word. This takes on many different forms.

Do you find the Scriptures to be outdated or dull? Perhaps you sit in church and struggle to pay attention, because you either do not understand your pastor or because you are like so many of us in this day that you can't help but play with your phone? The first issue we have to deal with is that of boredom. Leviticus and Ezekiel have a way of doing that to us. Many times, it is difficult to give God our full attention as we sift through the long passages of the Old Testament. But remember, God says what He means and means what He says. Those passages are there for our instruction (Romans 15:4), and must be given the respect and honor that we give to the "easy" passages of the New Testament.

Remember, we have the Holy Spirit within us already, teaching us and guiding us as we spend time with Him and the Scriptures (John 16:13, 1Corinthians 2:14-16, 1John 2:20). Ask Him to open your eyes and soften the callous of boredom.

~Religious Affiliation/Tradition
This has always been my experience with others. For some reason, it seems as if every generation is under the impression that they "know it all" when it comes to the things of God. We have seen this to true throughout history - especially since the reformation. Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Hagin, Osteen. There's a small sample of names of men that God has revealed new facets of His Word to. Each one was mercilessly ridiculed for their teaching. The first three men are revered for being men of courage and faith - vessels by which the Lord restored Biblical truths to His people. The last two.... not so much. They (and so many like them today) are mocked and harassed by the people of God for "taking things out of context." Do we honestly think that there isn't more to be seen in the Scripture? Have we exhausted the promises of God already?

God didn't pour out those revelations [Calvin, Luther, etc.] on the Church all at once. They were always there, but He restored them one by one. That's the way He always works, both with His body as a whole, and with us as believers. He develops us a little at a time... We must never forget that. While we guard as precious the things God has already revealed to us in His Word, we must always remember there are things in the Word we have not yet seen. There are Scriptural truths we have not yet learned. There are Biblical revelations we have not yet received.
God isn't finished with us yet.
  ~Kenneth Copeland, 'The Blessing of the Lord'

That's my favorite passage from the book I am currently reading. Does this describe your thinking? Or are you closed off to receiving new understanding from God? There is a wave of God's revelation moving through this country right now. It has been unfairly deemed "prosperity theology." These "word people" are ignorantly portrayed as folks who claim that if we just say the right words, God has to do whatever we tell Him. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible shows us many outstanding promises from God, and He is continuing to reveal to men and women how to receive these promises (including how to pray in such a way as to get the results Jesus bled to give us).

I can tell that my friends think I am weird for expecting God to abide by His Word. However, if I cannot trust God to keep His Word, who can I trust? I expect to be Blessed financially (Proverbs 10:22, Galatians 3:13). I expect to be healed and live a life divine health (Psalm 103:3, Proverbs 4:22, Isaiah 53:5, James 5:15, 1Peter 2:24). I expect to live to be well over a hundred years old (Genesis 6:3). I expect to have my life redeemed from destruction(Psalm 91, 103:4, Isaiah 51:17). 

Apparently, I am strange for having such lofty expectations of the Lord. What about you? Excuses are too often made, regarding context and the part we as people have to play in God's Plans. Does this describe you? Are you callous to the promises of God, because those promises conflict with your religious affiliation, denomination or tradition? Scripture tells us to test the spirits to be sure they are from God. People will twist the Bible to say things that it doesn't. However, do not think that God was finished in the 18th century. He is revealing wonderful aspects of Himself. New revelation is continuing to flow from Him. Ask Him to show you gimmicks from the Blessed.

God promises us so many wonderful things in His Word. However, sometimes we are callous to these promises because we "know somebody." Perhaps we have been through something in our lives that has led us to question God's Word. We have made too many excuses for why God supposedly "doesn't" (insert your own ending here). We have begun to teach the ungodly, unholy, blasphemous and unscriptural idea that "sometimes God does and sometimes God doesn't." We make Job the poster child for our difficult times in life. We hail Paul's thorn in the flesh as the Biblical evidence that God "sometimes says 'no.'" We ignorantly proclaim that Jesus was a poor wandering religious tycoon of some kind. We do these things because we do not know any better. We do these things because our religion has taught us to. We do these things because our experience leads us to view our Lord and His Word through a colored lens.

Before you get too up in arms on me, let me tell you all that I have been there. I just proclaimed that expect to be Blessed financially, yet I've grown up poor my entire life. Sometimes I feel like I will never get out from under all my debts. That doesn't change the promise of God concerning financial well-being for His people (2Corinthians 9:8). I've battled (and continued to conquer in accordance with Romans 8:37) with depression for years. I have seen it ravage through my life and the lives of numerous loved ones. That doesn't change the fact that depression is a contradiction to God's promise. I once heard a sermon from Keith Moore, where he said that a depressed Christian is a contradiction of terminology. I posted it on social media and watched the wildfire of angry people begin to spread. Brothers and sisters, the Joy of the Lord is our strength. How then can depression also be a part of His Sovereign Will for any Christian? I refuse to believe that God leaves us depressed - and I'm sorry if any of you may take offense at that. 

Let me finished this though with something that the Lord has made very clear to me in recent weeks:

For the Christian, experience is the worst teacher.


Is Satan stealing the promises of God's Word from you before an hour even runs out? Are you callous to the joy of hearing from God? Because that is what we should be experiencing: joy. Imagine if I were to walk into your living and tell you that you had just inherited $1million dollars, tax-free. Your reaction would almost assuredly be that of relief, joy and excitement. The surge that would overtake your senses would be such that I'm sure you couldn't help but jump and shout. That is the reaction we should have when we approach the Word of God. I admit to you all out there: I do not react in that manner. I still have rough edges in my heart when it comes to God's Word. 

When the Scripture - God's Holy Word to His Holy people - tells me that financial stability is mine, healing is mine, redemption and protection are mine, how can I not get excited?? I may be too bored with a passage or a speaker to pay enough attention to actually see what God is endeavoring to get across to me. I at times still struggle because (no offense) my church often refuted and/or made excuses to quench my excitement over those promises, to keep me from getting too excited or taking something "out of context." And many times, my life experience has unfortunately tempered my excitement over those promises. 

Whatever the reason may be, if we have a callous, Satan moves in to immediately steal that Word sown in our hearts. May we all make it a point to spend time on our knees, daily, asking that our hearts be open and receptive to the ever revealing voice of the Lord. God isn't finished with us yet.

See you tomorrow...