In any event, we are indeed continuing through the Gospels, specifically to discover who Jesus really was and is, outside how we've been taught for centuries to view and understand Him by what most loudly calls itself "The Church".
As always, you can find all our previous posts in this series, going through the Gospels chronologically to find the real Jesus, here.
And as always you'll find the scriptures for today are here. (Note that you can change the human-translation version on this scripture page, as suits you. I have NO theological or other tie to the online-bible site I use for this blog – it just lists many human translations to choose from, including the NASB, KJV, The Message, and the NRSV, which are the ones mentioned by those I chat and email with.)
Today's scripture passage covers a well-known parable: "the parable of the sower":
A farmer goes out sowing seed like all farmers did back then, and like non-industrial farmers do even today: walking along and tossing out handfuls of seed along his/her path. But different things happen to different seeds, depending on the environment they land in. Jesus wants us to understand why different things happen to people's faith (or lack thereof), depending on the spiritual environment we're in. He gives us four groups to consider.
Group 1: All the folks who hear God's Good News – but really, they couldn't care less. Here's a today's-world example. It doesn't matter how often I see advertisements or hear friend recommendations about how great western movies are – I simply don't give a hoot about westerns. So when I hear about them, it just goes in one ear and out the other. I might as well have not heard the western-movie information at all, because I'm just not interested in even knowing that western movies even exist, much less in learning more about them or going to see one. That's how these folks feel about the Gospel: "Don't bother me – I'm busy with more important things!"
Group 2: The people who hear the Good News – and they love it! Love it, that is, until someone makes fun of or hurts them for being a Jesus-follower, or until some other kind of hard time comes. Then, because their faith has no real root, it just dies.
Group 3: Those who also hear the Good News, and also love it – at first. But then their faith gets choked out by what the world has to offer and the crapola it makes us deal with. Note that Jesus doesn't say they become nonbelievers at that point, but that they then wither and fail to mature, or remain unfruitful (meaning, they don't produce what God wants).
Group 4: Those with a noble and good heart who not only hear the Good News, but then grow in and from it, sticking with it no matter what happens, and thereby produce God-plan results God's interested in.
- Usually the first thing people do when they hear this parable is ask themselves which group they fall in. So – which group do you fall in, today? Have you been in different groups at different times in your life? Is it possible you could shift to a different group in your future, if something does or doesn't happen?
- At what point do you believe Christians should stop expending evangelism energies on people in Group 1? How should we decide who falls into a Group 1? DO we get to decide who's in Group 1 and who's not, since God tells us not to judge and that only He knows people's real hearts?
- "Christians" often "assign" certain kinds of people they don't like to Group 1, as if simply being Gay, or divorced, or pagan, or registered Democrat/Republican, or whatever means one will never come to know or want Jesus. What would you call an attitude that believes "Not being like me" is the same as "Forever rejecting Jesus"? What do you imagine God thinks of such attitudes?
- Many of us could count ourselves in Group 2 at various times in our lives, until we get a firm grip on the real Gospel. When we're convinced that the shallow spirituality of "Church Christianity" is the Gospel, then, of course, when we need the deep roots of (real) Jesus to sustain and ground us through hard spiritual times we just don't have it. Have you had times of shallow spirituality that left you defenseless against religious or world attacks on your faith? What helped you move out of the "rocky soil"?
- Though they never see it, almost all those who call themselves "Christians" are actually not in Group 4, but in Group 3. They stay Bible-babies most/all of their lives, because they are part of "church" communities that make worrying and hoarding money and other wealth, enjoying nice houses and cars, wearing their religious clothes and titles, prettying up their "church" buildings, and so on all part of what they believe is "normal" "faith". But a life in Jesus has nothing to do with those things – even when the "pastor", "priest", or "pope" assures us it can and does. Just like Jesus said we can't have God's stuff in our heart AND money's stuff in our heart, we can't have God's stuff in our heart AND world's stuff in our heart. Have you been taught that God's way includes money's or the world's way, in your contacts with the immature "Christians" who dominate "tradition", "seminaries", "churches", and so on? Have you considered how much it blocks you from true maturity in Jesus Christ?
- Group 4, of course, is where we want to be. Jesus tells us that people who belong to Group 4 got there – how? By (1) having a noble and good heart (unlike the people in Group 1), and so not being already stuck in evil and refusing to get out, and (2) hearing THE Good News, which means the real Good News of Jesus Christ, and not just the false Sounds-Good News of Church Jesus (unlike Group 3), and (3) keep the real deal even when things get really ugly (unlike the people in Group 2) -- and, because they have all three, therefore are able to produce abundantly what God actually planted them to produce. Has anything moved you around in your life, between groups? What has kept, or keeps you even now, from moving into Group 4 and accomplishing the things God's planned out for you to do?
- Did you notice here that Jesus only talked about people who'd actually heard the Gospel? Notice He never says that people who truly haven't heard it aren't condemned. Who today really, truly, could be said to have never heard the Gospel? Many today have heard A gospel - but not the real Gospel. If they have a good heart but angrily reject God because they haven't yet understood that He has nothing to do with the false gospel, do you think God condemns them? Do you think they could count as among those who truly haven't heard the Gospel yet?
There's another question in all this, though – a question about why Jesus used parables like this in the first place. Why be so cryptic? Didn't Jesus want everyone to hear and be saved?
Here's where we can get confused, if it hurts our hearts to imagine that anyone has to go to hell or not be saved. We know God is love, and we know God wants to save everyone – the Bible itself tells us that. However, the Bible also says (and Jesus along with it) that some people themselves choose not to be saved. They prefer things other than God, want to walk a path that doesn't lead to God, and they won't be turned from it. This isn't just meaning those who understand themselves as God-rejecters. No, this hell-bound group also includes those who imagine themselves God's Finest, but who are in fact ALSO God-rejecters because they simply create and live a version of "God" and "God's" way that pleases them more, and then expect all the same (if not better) rewards from God as those who actually accept Him.
Jesus told His disciples that He was sharing God's real kingdom information with them, and not with the Group 3 / Good Religious People, because the disciples' interest and want of God was real, not faked – and that just wasn't true of the Group 3 / Good Religious People.
In fact, the Group 3 / Good Religious People had never been truly interested in God and His way – ever. Jesus quotes an Old Testament condemnation of Good Religious People when God said they would never get it because they refused to get it, and that therefore God was going to let them hang with the rope they insisted on putting around their own necks. God could heal them, but He wouldn't, because they refused Him and what He could do.
- "Christians" today – especially "conservative" ones – LOVE LOVE LOVE to consider just how much more "godly" they are than others who aren't like them. They claim to follow, represent, and work for Jesus Christ – and yet they don't do what He said, live like He said, or accomplish the things He said. And if anything points out how far they actually are from the real Jesus Christ? They absolutely refuse to even consider it. In fact, the farther they are from the real Jesus, the harsher they become towards those who might challenge their smiling, blind, hard-heartedness. Since these folks are among those most hell-bound for their Jesus-rejection, does it make more sense why – even though they cause HUGE amounts of suffering in bearing false witness against Gay people, re-writing the Gospel so it "justifies" war, and so on – we should be praying for them earnestly?
- When we finally begin to see how much Good Religious People actually reject the true God – and why He therefore has to reject them – we start to stand on a safer spiritual foundation. The Bible tells us that there are anti-Christs and False Prophets all over (and will be big ones, in the end), and though Good Religious People always try to point the finger at others, they themselves uniquely qualify as being both anti-Jesus, and, claiming to speak for God but actually speaking falsely. Do you continue to listen to or follow along with Good Religious People? How can you start moving yourself away from them, wasting less of your spiritual energies on them, as well as keeping your understanding of Jesus safe from them?
This article written by Lynne at http://NoJunkJustJesus.blogspot.com/. You can contact Lynne at NoJunkJustJesus@gmail.com.