In Matthew 13:22 we read The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. These words are part of our Savior’s explanation of the parable of the sower (or soils). In reading the passage this morning, I was particularly struck by the phrase “the deceitfulness of wealth”. In our Lord’s explanation he is indicating that the good Word of God does not go on to bear fruit in the lives of certain people because, for one reason, it is choked by the deceitfulness of riches.
To be deceitful is to make false claims that deny reality. So how are riches deceitful?
- Riches offer us a happy contented life. However, they so often deliver stressful lives as we have so much property to care for and bank accounts to manage.
- Wealth offers happiness. However, the wealthiest people are often the most miserable people.
- Riches offer freedom to do what I wnat. However, health, relationships and force of circumstances mitigate against this.
- Wealth offers permanent blessings all “on tap” as I use my card and drain from my abundant bank account. However, eternity dawns and we find the riches of this world are useless to bring salvation to the soul.
- Wealth says that I can buy my way to perfect relationships. The wretchedness of my heart wrecks such dreams as so easily I sin against my nearest and dearest.
- Riches offer to be a friend to help me become what I should be. Alas in the end they become a tyrannical god and kill my soul in this world and the next.
Whether we have lots of money or little money we can still be duped into thinking that money will buy me anything. Money is a great friend, but a terrible master.
Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the LORD his God (2 Chron. 27:6). Jotham was a leader of substance. He was a man who had a good influence upon the people. He was the type of leader you want around. He was a man with a strength and capacity derived from a life set on pleasing God. What made Jotham what he was?
When we read an alternative rendering in the English Standard Version we get a flavor of his character So Jotham became mighty, because he ordered his ways before the Lord his God. He was what he was because ordered his ways before the LORD his God. His life counted because his life was lived in the presence of the Lord. He took time to consider his actions in the light of God’s Word. Implicit in the statement that ordered his ways before the LORD his God is the fact that he was a student of the law of God. It would be impossible for him to walk steadfastly before the Lord his God without the law being at the heart of his life. Moreover, we must reasonably infer that he took time to draw near to God; he sought the Lord in prayer. All his life was lived in fellowship with the Lord.
So how about us? There is a direct correlation between the way we are walking and our effectiveness. Those who walk steadfastly before the Lord will be effective people. those who study the Word and pray will be effective people.
I am concerned here to dwell upon the need for Christians to be studying the Bible. Growing Christians are Bible studying Christians. Moreover, such people are enjoying what it is to be a Christian. So Bible study is essential and thrilling. Particularly I want to address you:
- if you are starting out in Christ and therefore you are new to the Christian life.
- you have drifted in your walk with the Lord and are feeling all is drab and aimless.
- you have been a Christian for many years and want a fresh surge of progress.
- you have time on your hands through some providential happenings.
My simple advice is to get stuck in to studying a book of the Bible. I suggest you start with the one chapter books and build up from them. Get some commentaries and Bible helps. Make notes on what you are learning. Memorize all or apart of what you are studying as well. Above all, don’t let time pass away which can be helpfully used for the study of scripture.
Above all be praying before, whilst and after studying the Bible.
And through this and in this, you will be knowing something of the joy of knowing the Lord.
Churches need to have the faithful bringing of the Word as part of their dna. Whether it be through preaching times, bible studies, one-to-one-studies or whatever, the Word needs to be relentlessly brought into the church.
I fear though that no matter how faithfully and powerfully the Word is brought, much of the benefit is being dissipated by what people are watching, listening to and reading outside of church. The problem has always been there, but it has been exacerbated by the internet. There is now such easy access to everything and anything that people easily fall into the trap of feeding their souls on what is junk at best and poison at worse. The likes of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are so pervasive online that the undiscerning so easily fall under their sway.
So what needs to be done?:
- There is the challenge of teaching about discernment.
- We have to be more open about who the false teachers are out there.
- We need to confront false teaching.
- We need to encourage the people to come and ask the shepherds what they should be listening to and watching.
- We need to confiscate everyone’s phones and computers until they have learnt that to make sure they will only listen to healthy teaching. Well perhaps that’s going to far, but I feel like doing it sometimes.
- I need to keep loving the sheep. I despair at times, but I need to keep leading them into green pastures.
(Originally published in Venabling on 25th September 2017)
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be a learner and a follower of Jesus Christ. Accordingly if you are involved in discipling someone so that they are formed into being a leaner/follower of Jesus Christ there are certain things that are required:-
- An Example. You need to be displaying Christ in your life to the person you are discipling. They need to see your life so that it recommends the truth you are seeking to pass on to them.
- Teaching. There is information to pass on concerning the faith. There is also the need to provide wisdom for life.
- Consistency. Your life must match with the truth that you are passing on to the person. If not, the whole discipling process is derailed.
- Visibility. You cannot hideaway and just send podcasts to the one you are seeking to disciple.
- Goal. Your Goal is not to make a person religious. Rather, it is to see them moulded into the likeness of Christ.
- Prayer, You will need to be relentlessly praying for the working of God’s Spirit, so that spiritual, Christ-like, formation will take place.
One of the things that puts Christians off from engaging with others about that which relates the gospel of our Saviour, is the feeling that they might not be able to respond appropriately to an issue that is raised or a question asked. This applies in seeking to speak with both Christians and non-Christians.
I want to assert here that you don’t need to know all the answers to any question raised. What is most important with many people is that you are willing to speak with them. What happens when you meet with people to talk is:
- Through talking they very often are helped to resolve their own issues.
- The fact that you love them enough to give them your time can be a powerful help to the person.
- If there are issues that arise that you don’t know how to respond to then you can say to the person that you will go away and consider it.
- When you have prayed before speaking with someone, it very often happens that you are given the right word at the right time for the situation.
So please in a godly and spiritual way we need to be getting involved to speak with one another in our churches and with people outside. Our distancing ourselves from others is not good.
Are you a truth person? If you call yourself a Christian and are not a truth person then you must question yourself about whether you are a Christian or not! This is because our whole faith is a truth faith. Our God is a God of truth; He is the God who does not lie (Tit. 1:2b). He commands His people ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour (Ex. 20:16). And our Saviour is of course the who is the way, the truth and the life (see John 14:6).
So let us be careful as regards to our attitude to the truth. I put it to you that we should be:
- Accurate. Our words should accurately describe what we have seen or heard.
- Clear. We should go to great lengths to make sure that our words convey the accuracy that we seek. Some of us are given to expressing ourselves more clearly than others. But all of us should strive to be clear in what we convey
- Consistent. We should be those who maintain our understanding of a situation. We should not be those who judge the truth by the face we face. What I mean is that many people fit the truth to the person they are speaking to. This is so as to be acceptable to all. Rather, the Christian should speak the truth without any thought or reference to popularity or convenience. Others are just casual and cause confusion through not being thoughtful about their accuracy and clarity. This leads to an inconsistency which us unacceptable for a Christian.
And finally remember these words from Proverbs 6:16-19:
There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.