The Parable Of The Sower…Revisited

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The Parable Of The Sower…Revisited

James R. Aist

“No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” – Jesus (John 6:44)

There’s an interesting and important aspect to the Parable of the Sower that is usually overlooked; namely, how did the “good ground” become good ground, whereas the other three “grounds” did not? To examine this question effectively and accurately, let’s reproduce it and its explanation here, and then unpack it, so to speak: “A sower went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on a rock. And as soon as it sprang up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. Yet some fell among thorns. And the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. And other seed fell on good ground and sprang up and yielded a hundred times the amount sown. When He had said these things, He cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”(Luke 8:4-8); “Now the parable means this: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are those who hear. Then comes the devil, who takes away the word from their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root, for they believe for a while, then in the time of temptation fall away. That which fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the seed on the good ground are those who, having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8: 11-15).

Here are some key passages from these verses that I want us to focus on for a moment. First, the seed represents the word of God. Second, the different kinds of ground represent different kinds of people who hear the word of God. Third, the seed on the good ground are those who, having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience.  And fourth, at the end of the parable, Jesus cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (vs. 8). What in the world is that about? Why would Jesus punctuate this parable with such a seemingly peculiar command? Well, I believe that the key to understanding how the “good ground” became good ground is embedded in this outcry. Let me explain.

In an earlier article (click HERE), I pointed out that Jesus knew that, in any given audience, there would be some to whom God had not given “ears to hear” and that they would not be able to accept (receive) His teaching. One of the best examples of this is found in John 6:51-66, where many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him, because of His teaching on the requirement of His followers to eat His flesh and drink His blood. And in Mark 8:17-18, Jesus seemed surprised, because it appeared that God may not have given His very disciples “ears to hear” the meaning of this parable. So, despite knowing that some in His audiences had not been given “ears to hear”, Jesus proclaimed His teaching anyway, for the sake of those to whom the Father had given ears to hear. And that’s why He said, “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear”: His target audience was specifically those to whom the Father had given “ears to hear.” In modern parlance, we might refer to them as having been given a “teachable spirit.” Now, Jesus also said that “No one can come to Me unless the Father who has sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44). So, let’s pull this all together and see if it tells us how the “good ground” became good ground.

All of those whom God will save are drawn, somehow, to Jesus by the Father. And, Jesus will raise all of them up on the last day. Only those to whom God has given “ears to hear” will, having heard the word, keep it in an honest and good heart and bear fruit with patience. That is what sets the good ground apart from the other three grounds: God has given them “ears to hear” the good news in an effectual manner. That’s why Jesus cried out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” at the end of this parable (vs. 8)! Their positive response to the good news is the final step in the process of the Father drawing them to Jesus. And what is the end result of this process? More born-again Christians, that’s what. And this is all to the glory of God the Father, who drew them all to Jesus!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

Salvation: It’s More About God Than Us!

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Salvation: It’s More About God Than Us!

James R. Aist

I almost entitled this article “Its All About God”, because, in a sense, it is. Salvation is how God transforms us from creations that dishonor and scandalize Him into new creations that praise and glorify Him. But, I relented, because I didn’t want to minimize the mind-boggling magnitude of God’s love for us, which was amply demonstrated when Christ died in our place (Romans 5:8). Hence, “salvation is more about God than us” better captures the fullness of what I hope to get across in this article.

I would venture to guess that most born-again Christians have gotten the impression that salvation is all about us. After all, God so loved us (John 3:16), Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and salvation is a free gift to us (Romans 5:15-16). And, if the only reason that God saved us was to keep us out of hell and bless us forever, then salvation would be all about us. But, there’s more to it than that, much more. So, I’ll get right to the point.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” In an earlier article, I presented a biblical basis for these conclusions (click HERE). The first of these two conclusions tells us God’s primary motive in creating us; that is, to glorify Himself. The second conclusion “…to enjoy him for ever”, describes what God intended for us to get out of our new relationship with Him; namely, to enjoy Him forever in heaven, which is eternal life. But, when sin entered the world, death followed, and mankind no longer glorified God and ceased to enjoy Him at all, much less forever. And, that’s where salvation came in. God had a plan to restore mankind to the original, created condition, so that mankind would, once again, glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

So, exactly how is our salvation more about God than it is about ourselves? Let’s start with salvation belongs to God (Psalm 3:8; Revelation 7:10 and 19:1), and go from there. When His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, was born, the angels ascribed glory to God (Luke 2:14). This Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), through which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). Moreover, we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And, it is God who chose us for salvation, not the other way around (click HERE).  We are reminded repeatedly in the New Testament that our victories in Christ are for the glory of God. In fact, a quick search of the New Testament (MEV) produced at least 50 verses that speak of various ways that mankind gives glory to God. Even our confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11). Salvation is about the glory of God first and foremost, from the beginning covenant given to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), right through to the New Covenant, sealed in the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:25). God is the giver here, while we are the recipients, and it is the giver to whom all the glory for our salvation belongs, because God will not share His glory with others (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). Without such a great salvation, we would have remained without God and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12)! It was God’s ingenious plan of salvation that paved the way for mankind to, once again, glorify God. As a result, mankind is enabled to enjoy Him forever, which, by the way, is also to the glory of God (Romans 15:7)!

That said, please don’t get the idea that I am discounting the role that God’s love for us played in motivating Him to save us; I am not. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)! And, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). For sure, we are eternally grateful for God’s great love toward us! But, in contemplating the gift of salvation, we often tend to forget that God created us to glorify Himself in ways that no other being that He created on the earth is able to, because only we can really know Him and love Him back (click HERE). That, I believe, was His ultimate purpose in creating mankind in the first place: to reflect His glory back to Him, just as Jesus does (Hebrews 1:3 with 2 Corinthians 3:18). And now, thanks to God, we are willing and able to do that!

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

The Gospel of John 3:16

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The Gospel of John 3:16

James R. Aist

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

In the New Testament, the word “gospel” refers to the “good news” that Jesus brought to mankind by way of His sinless life and effective solution to our sin problem. The fulfilling of the Great Commission by those who are saved – by grace through faith in Jesus – requires that we share this good news with unbelieving sinners so that God may also save them.  There are several sets of scriptures that have been identified that can serve as a guide to sharing this good news, perhaps most notably the “Romans Road”: Romans 3:10 and 23; 5:12; 6:23; 5:8; 10:13; and 10:9-10, in that order.

Not long ago it struck me that if one is looking for an inclusive, yet concise, summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one need not look any further than John 3:16. This one Bible verse contains all of the skeletal elements necessary to present the Gospel to an unbeliever; just add some details, and there it is! Or, if you are a pastor or evangelist, it presents an excellent outline for a powerful sermon series.

To show you what I mean, let’s take John 3:16 and insert, in italics and parentheses, pertinent key phrases: For God (the doctrine of “God”) so loved (the “love of God”) the world (the doctrine of “man”) that He gave (the substitutionary death of Christ) His only begotten Son (the incarnation), that whoever believes (God’s supernatural gift of saving faith) in Him should not perish (eternal suffering with the devil and his angels in hell), but have eternal life (everlasting fellowship with God in heaven).

I don’t know about you, but I see the makings of an eight-part sermon series right there! And when you’re finished, you will have presented a wonderfully amplified version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with John 3:16 as the springboard! Whether you are preaching or sharing the gospel privately with a friend, you may want to include also a discussion of John 3:17, which completes and confirms the points made in verse 16 by explaining the purpose for Jesus’s coming into the world: that the world, through Him, might be saved. Now that is good news indeed!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

The Other Fisherman

The Other Fisherman

James R. Aist

Introduction

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Mark 1:17). That sounds like an exciting adventure, doesn’t it? But there is another fisherman, a sinister one, lurking about on the earth, also fishing for people…people like you and me! Maybe you have already had a run-in with him. If you have, what can you do about it? Let’s find out about this “other” fisherman.

Fishing for Fish

Think with me, for a moment, about how we fish for fish. We load a hook with attractive and “delicious” bait. Then, we cast our line into a place where there are, hopefully, hungry fish looking for something to eat. A fish notices the bait, and it looks like it might be good to eat. So, he swims over to it, getting close enough to confirm that it probably would be good to eat. Next, he takes just a little nibble, to get a taste. Finding that it does, indeed, taste good, he opens wide and takes the whole bait, hook and all. As he begins to swim away and prepares to enjoy his bite of food, there is a sudden and violent tug, and a sharp hook becomes inextricably embedded in the flesh of his mouth. It hurts terribly, so he struggles to swim away and shake the hook loose, but to no avail.

At this point, we have complete control of our snagged fish. We can reel him in quickly if he is in the clear, or we can pull him to the right or to the left to prevent him from swimming into the weeds or a submerged brush pile and getting the line tangled up, making it difficult for us to “land” him. He will go wherever we want him to go, and there’s not a thing he can do about it. Maybe, just for sport, we will “play” with him for a while before landing him, just to see him struggle and “break the water.” But, inevitably, we will capture and secure him. He will still struggle to free himself, but he doesn’t have the strength to get away. Eventually, we will kill and devour him.

Fishing for Men

When Jesus said, “I will send you out to fish for people”, He meant that we would seek those who are “lost’, proclaim to them the “Good News”, and help them to receive the gifts of saving faith and eternal life. This is quite a different and much more desirable outcome than what happened to the fish!

But there is another one in our midst who also fishes for men. This fisherman has in mind just the opposite of what Jesus had in mind. He is to us more like we are to the fish. He loads his hook with attractive bait to lure us close enough to get a better look. When we see that the bait looks good to eat, we take a nibble, just like a fish does. Then, when we find that it tastes good, we go for the whole thing, just as a fish does when he is about to get “hooked.” Once this sinister fisherman has jerked the line to set his hook in us, he has control of us. He can pull us in any direction he wants us to go, just like a fish on our line. And, he can force us to go wherever he wants us to go. When he has gotten his jollies by “playing” with us, he reels us all the way in and takes us captive. Try as we may, we cannot, under our own power, free ourselves. Eventually, he will devour us, just like we devour the fish we catch.

Foiling the Other Fisherman

How can we protect ourselves from this sinister fisherman, the devil? First, we can learn about his wily ways by reading the relevant passages in the Bible. This will help us to not be fooled by either the bait (temptations) he casts our way or by the deceitful thoughts [e.g., “Did God really say, ‘You must not…” (Genesis 3:1)] that he puts into our minds. Second, we can make sure that we are submitting ourselves to God; then, we can “resist the devil and he will flee from us.” (James 4:7). Third, like Jesus, we can command him, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). And fourth, if he does manage to get his hooks into us, then we can repent, come to our senses, and escape the “snare” of the devil (2 timothy 2:26)! So, let’s keep our guard up and send this sinister fisherman packing with an empty creel!

(For more articles on BIBLICAL TEACHINGS, click HERE)