Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

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The parable of the sower part three – Matthew 13:1-23

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The parable of the sower part three – Matthew 13:1-23 – 07/18/2016

Matthew 13:1 (ESV) That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.” 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. 18 “Hear then the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. 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. 23 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

In yesterday’s article we looked at the second and third type of seed that was sown on “the stony ground” and “thorny ground” and today I wish to continue the three part series by looking at the gospel account in the book of Matthew which again goes into great detail and for the purposes of this article we are looking at the last place where the seed was sown into the good ground. Should you wish to see the previous articles then click on the links at the bottom of this article.

Obviously those who receive the seed like the good ground are the seed bearing, life changing Christians (or some may say the real ones) who are bearing fruit, living as Christians and are going out, evangelizing some, mentoring or strengthening the faith of others and ministry is a way of life for these people. This will look different for different people as people have different callings.

I am not saying that all others were never saved to begin with. I do not have that knowledge of the internal workings of that person’s heart but the tangible evidence does suggest that there was no real commitment to the Christian life based on the lack of fruit shown. That is not to say that the busiest people or the people most involved in ministry are those who are the strongest believers and it is up to us individually to keep ourselves accountable that we are feeding ourselves spiritually in the same way that we would feed ourselves with food that would sustain our bodies. In the same way we have to be as diligent to eat spiritually.

Please also don’t think that if you have had some life changing event such as illness or some other thing that prevents you from doing your calling despite the soul being willing then I am sure the Lord understands and I am trying to relate to the ones who have the resources and ability to be life changers but choose not to be. I am not suggesting that everyone should be Pastors however there is an element where we can all be pastoral to people.

Please do not think because I am sharing this blog I have it all sorted and I am 100% right in all aspects of Christianity. I share this because I have had seasons where I have been on the road, in the stones, in the thorns and other times where I have been in good ground.

To recap there are 4 categories and only you can identify where you are today and the categories are…

  1. The ones who have allowed Satan to steal away their seed (only got the flavor of it)
  2. The ones who have taken the seed but right away paid no heed (ignored it)
  3. The ones who allowed the seed to be choked with the newest thing in their lives and dulled the effect of the seed (neglected)
  4. Allowed the seed to bloom, blossom bear fruit and allowed it to change the world.

Please make your own application as needed.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

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The parable of the sower part two – The stony and thorny ground -Luke 8:4-15

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The parable of the sower part two – The stony and thorny ground -Luke 8:4-15 – 07/15/2016

Luke 8:4 (ESV) And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

In yesterday’s article we looked at the first type of seed that was sown on “the road” and today I wish to continue the three part series by looking at the gospel account in the book of Luke which does a little more to explain the meaning of the parable. I love that Jesus used parables because he was keen to use stories that would mean something to his intended audience (often non-educated blue collar men and women) and I truly respect pastors who do likewise and when I am teaching I try to also to relate to the folks I wish to share the gospel with on a level that they will totally get. In my opinion what we need in the modern day church is less “theology” or “Christianese” or “Christianspeak” and more life changing message of the gospel on a level that will reach people.

I am not saying change or dilute the message by any means but we need to stop talking over people’s heads! Some of the greatest messages I have heard have been by everyday people and the movement that I am part of has the mission statement “Simply teaching the bible simply” and the idea is that the love of Christ is available to everyone, the sower in this story sowed to everyone and the way it is received is the core meaning of this account.

I wanted to look at two ways the seed was received…

  • Rock/Stony ground – The word takes a little further root than the seed sown on the road but when the storm comes and life gets in the way and the sailor has to navigate into choppier waters, then they lose hope and discard the fledgling faith.

Whilst I understand that often times the folks who fall away were never really sold out believers and whilst the seed moves in their hearts it is more of an emotional attachment to the truths of the word, it is not life changing and the seed does not take root and is allowed to blossom and bear fruit. This is best described that this prospective Christian’s walk is like a firework as it makes a lot of noise, is often colorful and fizzles out with a bang.

  • Thorns – is a little more involved than the stony ground because it does not mature and I equate it to the development of a child. If your child was still on a milk based diet at the age of 6/7 then you would be worried that the child was failing to thrive. Again there will be a lack of fruit in this person’s life due to their choice to let the pursuits of this life distract them. There will be a lack of fruit and oftentimes their Christian walk will resemble that of a baby regardless of how long they have been saved.

Whilst it may not be the be all and end all of a believers walk, if you are in the business of mentoring new believers you need to be looking to encourage the fruitless first but please remember, you cannot be their “holy spirit” they have a certain amount of accountability to search out the scriptures and spiritually eat for themselves. They are not completely lost and we as Christians can still bring them into a sold out relationship with Jesus.

I use mentoring in this article because I love what we do in the big crusade Christianity where people are affected by their hearts being touched enough to leave their seats and make a public profession for Jesus Christ and whilst that is great, we need to have accurate follow up with those new believers, encouraging good mentors that will evangelize, mentor and disciple these new converts into strong believers so they can affect their former sphere of influence and be a life changing testimony of how Jesus changes lives.

That is much more powerful than a million eloquent sermons! Seeing a genuine authentic Christian life is what changed me from a “don’t care” to a “Christian” and seeing the words backed up with actions and mentoring really strengthened me.

On Monday, LORD willing I plan to look at part three of the Parable of the Sower.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

The parable of the sower part one – critiquing your leader/pastor/teacher – Mark 4:1-9

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The parable of the sower part one – critiquing your leader/pastor/teacher – Mark 4:1-9 – 07/14/2016

Lord willing this will be a three part article on this vital part of scripture and until recently I would have tried to squeeze this into one article but I have had some feedback that my articles are a little long so I am trying to pack a punch with less words. I plan to start with this text in the book of Mark…

Mark 4:1 (ESV) Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Here we have the greatest teacher of the bible that the world has ever known, the co-author of the heart behind the message is telling the story in the context it was intended and he teaches on what could only be described as a self-fulfilling parable. I say self-fulfilling because even although we had that teacher who could explain the hermeneutics, the theology behind what was said and also the heart behind the text, the ability to cut through the popular interpretations that have bent the scripture beyond how it was intended and allowed the people to twist it to their own ends and own interpretations. I know that even although it was Jesus who was teaching there would have been some who would not have lost their hardness of heart, some who would stubbornly not change and some who allowed the devil to snatch the freshly sown word from their hearts.

If this happened when Jesus taught how much more will it happen when your pastors and leaders teach? These guys are not superman and from experience in ministry people can have unrealistic expectations of who you are and what you do. I would urge you to examine what your pastors say, make sure it lines up with the scripture and is free of heresy but avoid stylistic comments that are not said with the purest of hearts, I have heard some crackers in my time, some examples would be…

  • Pastor, you labored the point there
  • I was not touched by that message, I just did not feel it
  • Pastor, your lecture (note the wording) made me feel bad, why must you beat the flock?

Of course if there is a pattern then by all means address it as you would with any brother, however in many cases it is just idle opinion and pastors leave these conversations deflated and hurt. There is more devil in these conversations than exhortations and that includes when pastors are always “over congratulated” for a great message. (I am always suspicious of inflation of ego personally when I am given kudos)

The idea of splitting it into three articles is to look at the different ways the seed was received so let is look at the first one in relation to how your pastor sows his particular seed. You have to understand that often times and we would hope that this is always the case but when the pastor prepares the sermon it is done based on what he is being directed to say by the Holy Spirit. I don’t know many pastors that will change a sermons application because “someone will be there”.

I say this not as a pastor but as one who has prepared messages for people to hear and I have been blessed with having a real mixed bag of people as far as maturity levels, biblical understanding and different levels as far as thirst for the scriptures. The truth remains however when we toss out the seed we do not always see the path, the thorns or the difficult ground. We certainly are hoping that the seed takes hold and blossoms and takes on a fuller level, however many folks who listen to sermons are very internal with their difficult soil.

If you find yourself consistently critical of your pastor or leadership, the issue maybe the ground that you have prepared. Has the seed fallen on the pathway, not allowed to be taken root? Is there a pride issue involved? Have you been hurt in the past and are not allowing yourself to go all in? Do you view yourself higher than you should be and have designs on the pulpit? Take it from one in ministry; it is not all Sunday sermons and looking good on the stage! I would remove any sin from your own life first and then if your pastor is still not a good fit then talk to him. It may be able to be resolved.

I beg you…Do not allow your seed to be snatched from you and stunt your growth as a valuable member of the Christian community, the Devil does not want you to grow and you are much easier to pick off if you do not have the support of a loving church family.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

The Law, The Legalists and The Ungodly

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This bible study is part of a series on the book of 1st Timothy, in order to see the full series please check out our “epistle” page or alternatively please check out our page dedicated to the book of 1st Timothy for other studies in this book.

When I set this blog up my intention was to explore the epistles and do the occasional bible study based on what I had studied and learned, what you are reading below is notes I have made. I have to confess that this bible study is basic in its content and is not prepared by a pastor and I have to admit I have no theological training; my hope in prayer is that someone will be blessed by the notes below.

Let’s start in verse eight of the first chapter of First Timothy.

The Law is good but use it lawfully

Leaders have to be careful about who they allow to do the ministry of God in our assemblies. But more on that should the LORD tarry long enough for me to do Chapter 2. Paul continues his thought in verse 8.

8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Paul is keen to advise that the law that God gave is still a good law, it was created by a perfect God and was and is and is to come God’s perfect standard. There is nothing wrong with the law itself, the law is purposed with exposing the wrongdoing of the heart and shining a light on the personal sin of the sinner.

Paul writes to the Galatian church in chapter 3…

Galatians 3:11 (ESV) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—

And also…

Galatians 3:24 (ESV) So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

Legalism or loving conviction?

The law was designed to convict the heart of the wrongdoing person, it was never meant as a club to beat someone with in a legalistic fashion. We are commanded to use the law lawfully. Yes, by all means hold your brother accountable in a loving way if he has fallen into error and correct doctrine and apostasy, but don’t use it as a substitute for walking by faith or use it to keep showing us righteousness.

Personally, if I was on the receiving end of such legalism and law clubbing, I would lose confidence in my faith very quickly and begin to question if the salvation that was done by Jesus on the cross was in fact enough for me to be saved. I know that it is but the standards set by God in the law were there to point to the one who would live a life according to what the Father said the law was.

I said this was a continuation in thought as when we looked at “sound doctrine” I touched on “sinful actions” and here again we see that the two are conjoined. If we do not have our doctrine straight it is far easier to fall into actions that will be problematic.

Really we have to have balance; I am not stating that we should not have standards, or that Gods standards are not correct, we have to live a good life according to biblical standards but this does not make us justified before God, save us from our sin or get us to heaven.

Who are the ungodly?

Paul then gives quite a list of types of people that would fall into this category. I will be contrary to many commentators and not spend much time on the list. The lost is somewhat self-explanatory. Many folks have used this passage for their own ends to prove a point against whatever sin they were preaching against that week.

Paul’s list is as follows…

1) Those who strike their fathers and mothers
2) For murderers
3) The sexually immoral
4) Men who practice homosexuality, 
5) Enslavers
6) Liars
7) Perjurers
8) Whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine

Paul lists the top 7 sins that folks were practicing in that area and in that time. He also leaves the last category for folks who do things that are contrary to a life lived in sound doctrine.

Paul is wise in doing so as people will try to use guidelines like this as a means to justify their wicked actions. (Well, what I am doing is not on Paul’s bad list) and this would be a mistake as we are approaching this with the wrong heart and trying to avoid repercussions as opposed to willingly serving and keeping ourselves clear of these things to glorify God.

Loving legalism

We have to be careful to not be in love with our own legalism as if the actions we do will justify us as much as the grace of God. It is important to not do these things and not be tainted by the world, but we can turn our actions into a semi-false doctrine of its own by claiming that it in some way will give us holiness.

Stay where you are planted

Paul lists what was going on in Ephesus and lists common behaviors and lists why it is important that Timothy remains where God has planted him regardless of the difficulty in his current mission. It does remind me of when Jesus spoke on the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13…

Matthew 13:1 (ESV) That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears, let him hear.”

You can judge for yourself what type of ground Ephesus was, it certainly was not fertile soil, there was some growth but there was also a lot of the culture influencing the church and even today that is an area of concern in many churches. (I would be interested if you would state what seed you think the Ephesian church is in the comments and why)

It is easy when things get difficult to try to seek an easier place to serve the LORD. I write this as a man who is currently in a foreign country. I was born in Scotland and live in California in the USA. The only “service” I do for the LORD is a small bible study where I open up my house to allow folks to discuss the bible on a Sunday evening. (Obviously I write this blog and I am a father and husband)

I have found it harder than I would back home to have opportunities to serve as people simply don’t know me and coming from a missions church background where it was all hands on deck, I miss being in the thick of serving regularly. It would be easy to go somewhere else, but the truth is I haven’t been called elsewhere yet. (If it ever happens at all) Leaving would be contrary to God’s plan for this part of my life and I may miss out or delay valuable lessons God has for me.

Legalism versus the gospel of glory

We spoke on legalism and the replacement of real righteousness, legalism or works based faith cannot bring you one centimeter closer to God, but the “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted” can. Paul saw himself as a keeper of the flame, a guardian if you will of that true gospel that it be preserved, not perverted and kept the true word of God. He wanted the truth to remain the truth, untainted by error, what a mission!.

Thank you again for finding this article and I pray these bible studies are a blessing. Please feel free to comment, like or share as the LORD leads you to.
TGBTG
TTE