Laymanointing

…. they were unschooled, ordinary men …. they had been with Jesus …. the crippled man healed standing with them – Acts 4:13,14

Sustaining a growing, fruitful faith … the parable of the sower, seed & soil

Dear bro Bao 寶弟兄,

Praise God!
Its been truly a joy to see your progress since coming to Jesus recently.
God is good!  God is at work 🙂

I guess by now … you’ve probably heard of terms like ‘spiritual growth’, ‘being fruitful’, … what do these terms mean?  Is it about ‘doing this and that‘ in church?
Maybe you’ve heard of warnings of ‘falling away‘, ‘deceptions of the enemy‘ … how do we avoid them?

How do we sustain our walk with Jesus, and not give up or fall away?

What’s essential in faith in Jesus?

Hopefully, this sharing helps.
If you’d like to know some answers quick, … jump straight to the Conclusion section 🙂

Hopefully, one other thing we’ll also do is ‘how to read the the Bible?’,
by walking through a passage as an example.

God’s word is one book – 2 Testaments, One message.
The best way to understand the Bible is
to explain the Bible with the Bible,
i.e. use verses in other sections of the Bible to define, elaborate or explain.

One simple tool we can use in reading and understanding the Bible is to ask 6 simple questions. I’m sure you’ve used these in your first year at school:

Who?   What?   Which?    When?   Where?   How?   Why?

God gave us His word for each of us to read and understand,
… even a child.  Let’s read it.

When we next meet, we’ll discuss further.

Will be sharing on:
** Growing fruit
** Sustaining fruit


Growing fruit

In Chapter 4 of Mark’s gospel, Jesus describes 3 stories or parables about the seed.  This parable is described in Mark 4, Luke 8 and Matthew 13.

Let’s read the first parable on the sower, seed and soil.

Mark 4:1-20 (NKJV) Luke 8:4-15 (NKJV)
And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea.Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”
And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “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. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 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.”
10 But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable. 11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that
Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
Lest they should turn,
And their sins be forgiven them.’”
13 And He said to them, Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?
 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.’

Jesus explains the parable:

Mark 4:14-20 (NKJV) Luke 8:9-15 (NKJV)
14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 18 Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, 19 and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 20 But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.  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.

Let’s take a quick primary school science lab :-),
and observe how a seed starts growing in good soil,
(by youtube user mindlaspse)

Notice that the first growth of the seed starts with the root seeking water and nutrients underground, … long before we see the first visible blade or stalk above the ground.
While the blade/stalk grows above  … the root keeps branching and growing under, drawing water, nutrients, and anchoring the plant, … against the unpredictable elements of the weather.  God’s elegant design.

Its interesting that Jesus first parable is about the lifecycle of plants;
one of the first science topics taught at school to children:-).


This is the first parable Jesus shared,
He taught them many things by parables,
Jesus said,

“Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?  (Mark 4:2, 13)

Understanding this parable seemed to be key to understanding the other parables.

Let’s have a quick look at the context of this account,
most bible passages are framed within a context, eg time in history, place, Bible passage before and after, etc.  The context helps us understand the passage better.

Where was Jesus? — seated in a boat, on the sea, i.e. outdoors in the sun 🙂
Who was he speaking to? — 
a great multitude, crowd, people from town after town came …. a mega-gathering

What did Jesus talk about? — planting seeds.
He spoke in the everyday language of the people, and using an everyday example (parable).   In his crowd that day, most would be familiar with the details of growing plants or farming;  down to earth, literally :-).
(Nowadays, we learn this early in school — the plant lifecycle.)

“A text cannot mean what it could never have meant for its
original readers/hearers” — Gordon Fee

As Jesus paints them the story, they would have imaginatively pictured Jesus words in their minds,
His story of the sower and seed was simple and memorable, free of spiritual jargon/actions.  Across cultures and time, the essence remains the same.
Parable — Truth captured in a story;  God’s kingdom Truth.

Our God who tells memorable stories.

Luke 8:15, explains the symbolism used in the Bible,

the word that was sown in their hearts

Seed = Word of God
Soil = hearts of men

Whose hearts? — the hearts of the great multitude, crowdsowseed2
Amongst the great multitude,
there were 4 kinds of hearts (soil) who listened to Jesus’ teaching.
All heard the same Word taught by Jesus.

Which was the fruitful one?
The seed sown on good soil.

One message, 4 different responses
4 different outcomes,
only one group is fruitful.

Soil  Impact on the seed Outcome
Wayside, road birds devoured seed No life
Stony ground,
rocks
no depth of earth,
no moisture,
no root,
Scorching sun
Endured for a time
Withered,
Fall away
Among thorns thorns grew up together
thorns choked it
Survived,
No mature fruit
Good ground sprang up,
grew,
increased
Fruitful,
a crop,
multiplied thirtyfold,
sixtyfold, hundredfold,Degrees of fruit.

Perhaps, … of concern is the seed which fell among thorns,
it survives, it looks alive, with blade/stalk … but no mature fruit … no crop.

What is the single factor that influenced the outcome of the seed?
The second parable in Mark 4 gives us the answer,

Mark 4:26-32 (NKJV)
26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

the earth yields crops by itself
i.e. the soil, one’s own heart response to God’s word.

The right seed in the right soil, produces the right fruit.

Whether in our own journey or in christian endeavors,
it all starts with the right seed (Word of God),
and the right soil (open, receptive hearts),
to produce the desired right, tangible fruit.

btw, when fruit seems unusual,  … check the seed, the soil.

The second parable also adds an extra detail — the fruitful crop is harvested.

Also from the second parable, the seed Jesus was referring to, was probably wheat grain, rather than fruit trees;

first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head
Growth is a process.
Growth takes time … till, finally … fruit gradually appears.
Like losing weight, … its not instant 🙂

For the good soil,
hearing the word,
hold it fast in an honest and good heart,
and bear fruit with patience.

Fruit is the tangible reality
of the unseen heart (soil) yielding to God’s word (seed),
sustained by an unseen strong root.

.. the root
of the righteous
yields fruit
Proverbs 12:12 (NASB
)

“I never saw a fruit-bearing Christian who was not a student of the Bible.”
― D.L. Moody

The good soil is able to produce a sustained harvest of fruit.
i.e. not just a short bursts.
Fruit sustained over time and season.

On a side note, in nature we see different plants grow at different rates … some bear fruit fast … some take longer … some, take even years before the first fruit.
Hence … patience,
Let’s also be patient with one another, when growth is uneven.

Like in this parable, after a day of teaching by Jesus,
some will go from the meeting, having encountered the Lord personally,
while others may leave the meeting, the same as they came in.

Why was the good soil fruitful?

The good soil was free of rocks/stones and thorns.
The good soil was also not hard,
but soft enough for the root of the seed to grow.

Why did Jesus shared this parable?
I’ll leave you to read the passage, and come out with your thoughts 🙂 .


Sustaining Fruit

Let’s dig a little deeper into the first parable.

How are stony rocks removed, thorns weeded out,
soil softened, 

to provide good soil for the seed?

How does one overcome,
…  become fruitful?

Interestingly, there’s also a reference to ‘sowing seed‘ in the Old Testament 🙂 … preparing the ground for the cultivation of seed, by the prophet Jeremiah,

Jeremiah 4:3 (CEB, NIV)
This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to the residents of Jerusalem: Break up your hard rocky soil; don’t plant among the thorns.

This is what the Lord says to the people of Judah and to Jerusalem:
“Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns.

other translations, Break up your fallow ground

Hosea also used this metaphor of breaking up our fallow ground,

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love;
break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord,
that he may come and rain righteousness upon you
Hosea 10:12 (ESV)

break up your fallow ground
Removing the stones/rocks, clearing the thorns.
Break up the hard  ground, soften the ground.
time to seek the Lord

Soil that has grown crops in the past may become dry and unproductive.  It becomes hard.  Last year’s cultivating does not promote this year’s harvest.  Contrary to natural expectations, a one-time tilling does not do the job.  After every rain falls, the fallow ground needs to be broken up all over again.  The crustiness, the hardness and the wild rocks must be eliminated.  I believe we need to confront the conditions of our hearts now.  Vows made a year ago are not sufficient for today.  The Word studied months ago still needs work.  Last year’s plowing is not enough.  We need to recondition the soil of every believer.  Abandoned soil produces no fruit.  Neglected soil is a wasteland.  

… It is fearful to realize that there is soil which cannot receive seed and will not produce a crop.
Tommy Barnett, Portraits of Vision, Soul Winner Press, 1990, pg 188,189.

Let’s examine each type of soil one at a time,


Wayside/Path

The wayside/path ground was hard.  It had soil, but the ground was hard.
The seed could not root and sprout.   The seed just rested on the path unable to grow, and easily devoured by the birds.

This echoes what Jesus said in this passage,
Seeing they may see and not perceive,
And hearing they may hear and not understand;
They heard mere words from Jesus,
perceiving them as men’s words
… not God’s word.

Matthew’s account of this parable, includes a fuller quote from the Old Testament book, Isaiah,

14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
    you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
    they hardly hear with their ears,
    and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
    hear with their ears,
    understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
Matthew 13:14,15 (NIV)

Let’s see with our eyes, hear with our ears,
understand with our hearts, turn our hearts,
and He will restore us

Also, right after this parable, Jesus said,

Therefore take heed how you hear.
For whoever has, to him more will be given;
and whoever does not have,
even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
Luke 8:18 (NKJV)

Hence, whether reading or hearing the scriptures, God’s word,
its important how we hear, in order to receive more,
i.e. attitude.

Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
Isaiah 55:3 (NIV)

How can we listen to Jesus bettter?
Like to suggest two scriptures,

  • Begin by receiving the word of God as it is truly the word of God,
    not the words of men,

1 Thessalonians 2:13 (NKJV)
13 For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

i.e.  welcomed it as it is in truth, the word of God
which effectively works in you who believe.

Do we believe the Bible is God’s word, each time we read it?

  • Believe what the Word of God says.
    Put our faith in the word of God.

Hebrews 4:2 (NKJV)
For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.

i.e. mixed, united combined with faith
with what they heard

Do we believe God speaks to us through His word?

The shield of faith protects us from the attacks of the enemy,
… 
from stealing the word.

Who steals God’s word from hearts?

Interestingly, right at the first parable, Jesus gives us a glimpse of the spirit realm, i.e. the devil aims to rob the truth of God’s word from people’s heart.
Without God’s truth in hearts, … the devil easily sows his lies.
Jesus describes the devil as a murderer, a father of lies,

Jesus said,
43 Why do you not understand what I am saying?
It is because you cannot hear My word.

44 You are of your father the devil,
and you want to do the desires of your father.
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

45 But because I speak the truth,
you do not believe Me.
John 8:43-45 (NASB)

Jesus speaks the truth, … the devil speaks lies
Our choice between whether we want to do the desires of our Heavenly Father, …. or the devil,
seriously impact whether we can hear God’s word
and understand God’s word.

Let’s believe Jesus and the truth in His Word.

Here’s an example of the devil’s work in stealing truth, and replacing it with a lie in hearts that do not acknowledge the Lord (path, wayside).

21 For although they knew God,
they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him,
but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Romans 1:24 (NIV)

Believe God and His word.


Rocks, stony ground

For the seed sown on the rocks or stony ground, initially God’s word is received, …  when they hear the word,
receive it with joy
, i.e one experiences God’s word.

However, because there was not much soil, it had no root,
i.e. the Word did not take root.
When the scorching sun arose, i.e. testing of  tribulation or persecution
(affliction, trouble, temptation [other translations])
for the word’s sake,
they stumble, wither away, fall away,
or dry up.

Although the plants immediately sprang up, 

they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time.
When the sun was up it was scorched,
and because it had no root it withered away.

Hence,  one cannot just live on or feed upon spiritual experiences alone, in good times,
… from one ‘spiritual high‘ to another
… or one church meeting to the next.

One needs the word of God to take root in one’s own heart
to sustain one through tough times,
…. dry seasons in  scorching sun,
to persevere and grow unto fruifulness

We also cannot depend on the roots of others for spiritual nourishment.

God’s word is freely available to us,
let’s open it and read it ourselves!

2 Peter 2:2,3 (NIV)
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

In the natural, a newborn baby craves for pure milk every 3-4 hours after each feeding.

What does it mean by ‘seed/word take root’ ?

Let’s refer to another parable of Jesus,

Luke 6:47-49 (NIV)
47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock.
When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.

49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

The building with the good unseen foundation on the rock  was well built, withstood the flood and torrent, i.e. testing of  tribulation or persecution (affliction, trouble, temptation [other translations]).

James 1:22 (NKJV)
But be doers of the word,
and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Hence, for the seed to take root in the soil of our hearts,
put God’s word into practice daily, be a doer of God’s word.

Growing in God’s word, by reading & applying God’s word in daily life.

Obey God and His word in daily.


Sown among thorns

Proverbs 24:30,31 (NIV)
30 I went past the field of a sluggard,
    past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
    the ground was covered with weeds,
    and the stone wall was in ruins.

But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.
Hebrews 6:8 (NIV)

Hence, for the land not to be worthless,
time and effort is needed to clear away, and burn up the thorns (bush and seed).
This is an ongoing activity, and if we slack off like the sluggard, … the vineyard returns back to worthless thorns and weeds.

For the seed sown among thorns, the thorns were — the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

In reading the Bible, sometimes a check with the dictionary may yield further clarity.  For example the word ‘choke‘, from an English dictionary, and the meaning in the original Greek, συμπνίγω,

Choke — have severe difficulty in breathing because of a constricted or obstructed throat or a lack of air;
συμπνίγω — to strangle completely i.e. (literally) to drown, or (figuratively) to crowd

The word ‘choke‘ graphically describes the life of the plant or seed being strangled, stunted, and crowded out by the aggressive thorns;  unable to mature to its fullest potential;  it gives a sinister, almost murderous tone.
An apt choice of words by Jesus to amplify the warning, ‘ beware of thorns!! ‘ or   ‘clear the thorns!! ‘.

The seed, the word was choked by the thorns — the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things,
i.e. the thorns were given a higher priority,
over trusting God and His word in one’s heart and actions;
one’s personal choice, priority in life.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, …
 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, …
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

32 For the pagans run after all these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.

33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:32,33 (NIV)

What our heart treasures,
… determines who or what has our love, affection & attention.

Being choked by thorns the plant produces
no mature fruit
(NKJV)
other translations in Luke 8:14 — bring no fruit to maturity (AMP), fruit does not mature (NRSV), never produce a crop (ERV), do not reach full growth (NIRV)

The plant among thorns survives,  it has a visible blade/stalk,
but
bears no mature fruit and never multiplied,
… it had the outward appearance of real wheat,
… but no mature fruit, … it had only leaves.
The thorns choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
(There’s another parable about an owner who did not find fruit in a fig tree in his vineyard in Luke 13.
In the gospels, there was a physical fig tree that only had leaves but no fruit that Jesus encountered in Matthew 21 & Mark 11.)

John further elaborates about these thorns in his first letter,

1 John 2:15,16 (NKJV)
15 
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

In the parable, the thorns competed with the seed for resources.

The love of the world displaced the love of the Father.
Our Heavenly Father’s love, crowded out by thorns,

without the Father’s love in one’s heart
… no fruit.
(though outward appearances may be maintained)

The life of the wheat was compromised by the thorns.

In Hosea, the compromising unfaithfulness of the hearts of the people resulted in,

Hosea 8:7 (NKJV, NOG)
“They sow the wind,

And reap the whirlwind.
The stalk has no bud;
It shall never produce meal. …

“The people of Israel plant the wind, but they harvest a storm.
    A field of grain that doesn’t ripen will never produce any grain. …

The seed that grew amongst the company of thorns,
was distracted by the thorns around it.

Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

Hence, regular fellowship with Word-centered mature believers is also helpful.

‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’  Matthew 4:4,
Just like we eat bread (or rice) daily for our physical bodies to grow,
let’s partake of God’s word daily for our spirit to be strengthened,
i.e. taking root in God’s word.
Make God’s word the priority, … our treasure,
… as essential as eating bread (or rice).

As Paul describes … Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly … (Colossians 3:16)

Jesus said,

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:31-34 (NKJV)

Philippians 4:6,7 (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

God understands we have cares and desires,
He says,

do not worry … do not be anxious …
your heavenly father knows you need all these things

i.e. trust Him.

Hence, daily putting our faith in God’s promises, and putting our trust in our Heavenly Father for His provision and blessings.  Pray daily to God with a grateful heart, commit to Him our cares, worries, anxieties and desires.  Receive God’s peace to guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (against the thorns).
Regular encouragement from fellow believers is also helpful.

Growing in the assurance of our Heavenly Father’s love and faithfulness through life’s experiences, and our new identity as children of God to confidently pray to our Father who answers.

Trust God and His word by faith daily.


Good ground

Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.
Hebrews 6:7 (NIV)

The seed that fell on good ground, held it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience (Jesus explanation in Luke 8)

What is the fruit?

fruit – to be fertile (Strongs).  Hence, Jesus description, yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

… being fruitful in every good work … Colossians 1:9

And let us not grow weary while doing good,
for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart
Galatians 6:9 (NKJV)

Faithfulness —-> fruit.

… that we should bear fruit to God.      Romans 7:4
… fruit of righteousness …                      James 3:18

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5:22, 23 (NKJV)

Hence, … be more like Jesus.

You show that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
1 Corinthians 3:3 (AMP)

Living a life reflecting God and His word daily;
a letter from Christ,

1 John 2:5,6 (NIV)
Seed & soil but whoever keeps His word,
in him the love of God has truly been perfected
Fruit  By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

Through the ups and downs of life … having endured and overcome testings, persecution, tribulation (affliction, trouble), cares of this world, worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things … 

the seed of God’s word bears fruit & a crop on the good ground with patient endurance, bear fruit with patience.

In the natural, stressing plants like the vine by its environment, produces sweeter fruit, and better wines.

One more thought about growing plants,
Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.
1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV)

Ultimately, God makes everything grow.
Apollos was a teacher of God’s word, who taught about Jesus accurately (Acts 18:25 NIV)
Good teaching is like regularly watering of the seeds.
Hence, regular watering by good teachers of God’s word who teach Jesus accurately also helps growth.


 

Further thoughts

From the parable, the 4 responses to God’s word are:

  • cold indifference, unbelief,
  • experiential faith in good times only,
  • outward appearance of faith, no mature fruit, compromised by thorns
  • lived out faith in real life, anchored on God’s word through good and tough times.

Whenever the light of God’s Truth is introduced into our hearts.  There is a tussle between:

  • what we want,
  • what the devil wants,
  • what God wants

We either end up

  • believing in a lie of the devil,
  • or just knowing God’s word, not applying it
  • or compromise with the thorns,
  • or yield to God’s word, plans and purposes, live out His word,
    because of the Father’s love, and we love Him.

Hence, we need to move on … from hearing … to knowing
… and to delighting … & living out God’s word daily.

Thus, transforming our lives to be more like Jesus.


 

Conclusion

From understanding the parable of the sower and seed, we can see clearer what Peter meant in a passage from his first letter,

1 Peter 1:23-25, 2:1,2 (NIV)
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,

“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25     but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

And this is the word that was preached to you.

1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

To grow up in our salvation,

born again through the seed  — living and enduring word of God
root — crave pure spiritual milk, obeying the truth
blade/shoot — sincere love,  love deeply from the heart

In closing, perhaps the fruitfulness of the seed on good ground may be summarised by 3 passages from the Old Testament — Psalm 1, 92,  and a passage in Jeremiah, both described fruitful trees,

Sustaining fruit

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
    Nor stands in the path of sinners,
    Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
Psalm 1:1-3 (NKJV)

Sustaining fruit through drought and heat,

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
Jeremiah 17:7,8 (NKJV)

Sustaining fruit in old age

12 The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15 To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
Psalm 92:12-15 (NKJV)

planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river
planted in the house of the Lord
flourish in the courts of our God.

brings forth its fruit
in the year of drought, it will not
 cease from yielding fruit
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing
Amen!

and the fruitfulness and great stature of the mustard seed tree from a tiny seed,
in the third parable on seed in Mark 4.

30 Then He said, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? 31 It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; 32 but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”

Indeed, the seed, the word of God is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), it transforms the good ground into a crop of fruitfulness.

The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

Growing involves,

— the root  —  Believe & obey God and His word daily.
Growing in God’s word, by reading & applying God’s word in daily life, i.e. walk. .

— the blade or stalk Trust God and His word by faith daily.
Growing in the assurance of our Heavenly Father’s love and faithfulness through life’s experience, and our new identity as children of God to pray to our Father who answers.

— the fruitLiving a life reflecting God and His word daily;  a letter from Christ.
Growing to be more like Jesus … sharing His love.
As God word and love grows in our lives … results in an overflow to bless others

word –> walk –> love –> fruit

bear fruit with patience.

There are no instant fruitful trees;
no miracle fertilizer or growing method can create instant fruit.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and man.

Jesus matured in wisdom and years,
and in favor with God and with people.
(Luke 2:52 NIV CEB)

Peter describes the key ingredients for growing and being fruitful,

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NKJV)
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence,
add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance,
to perseverance godliness,
to godliness brotherly kindness,
and to brotherly kindness love.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

word –> faith –> know –> walk –> love –> fruit

1 John 2:5, 6 (NIV)
But if anyone obeys his word,
love for God is truly made complete in them.
This is how we know we are in him:
Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

… love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 

Some practical steps to growth,

Believe in God.
Believe the Bible is God’s word, each time we read it
Believe God speaks to us through His word daily, read His word daily.

Daily put God’s word into practice, be a doer of God’s word.

Daily put our faith in God’s promises, and put our trust in our Heavenly Father for His provision and blessings.
Pray daily to God over our cares, worries and anxieties.  Receive God’s peace to guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Avoid compromising with the values of the world.

Regular fellowship & encouragement with fellow believers is helpful.
Regular exposure to good teachers of God’s word who teach Jesus accurately helps growth.

Whatever in life that comes our way, hold fast to God’s word, perservere with cheerful, hopeful endurance, …. and in time we’ll be fruitfully fertile producing a crop.

God’s word is not just for reading, listening, studying, singing
but is to be faithfully lived out daily, one day at a time,
through life’s ups and downs.

Jesus said,

I am the vine, you are the branches;
he who abides in Me and I in him,
he bears much fruit,
for apart from Me
you can do nothing
.

If anyone does not abide in Me,
he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit,
and so prove to be My disciples.
John 15:5-8 (NASB)

In short, fruitfulness is the growth from faithful daily reading God’s word, praying and walking with God in His ways and under His faithful love.

his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    And in His law he meditates day and night.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
 To declare that the Lord is upright;
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him

The Lord bless you this coming week!

Peace!
bro Lim 林弟兄


 

Footnote:
In some christian circles, terms like ‘deceive even the elect‘, ‘great falling away‘, ‘neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm‘ are regularly used.
Perhaps the parable of the soil addresses possible  reasons for these situations, and gives a simple, down-to-earth, practical way of life to be steadfast for all seasons.


Though this video is not directly related to the sower and the seed, it demonstrates the amazing potential of a seed on good ground.

 


Foundations| Serving Quietly

by 林弟兄, bro Lim
September 28, 2015
laymanointing.wordpress.com

Copyright © 林弟兄 bro Lim, Laymanointing, 2014-2016 – All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons License


 

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This entry was posted on September 28, 2015 by in Daily Rice, Dear bro Bao 寶弟, Foundations, Serving Quietly, Stepping Stones and tagged .

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