My Notes from Session 1:
I think it’s easy to celebrate conversions and people who come to Christ, but over the last 8 years in pastoral ministry, I think the Lord’s trained me that when we baptize people I want to clap and shout with the rest of my congregation, but, there’s always this something going on at the back of my mind, “Ok, we’ll see, because we’ve seen a lot of people come in and profess Christ and then within a few months, within half a year, they’re just gone. So, I’d like to talk to you about disciples that stick and what our roles in that is.
The good news is that I don’t have to pull a lot of leadership quotes from Winston Churchill because Jesus is gonna tell us, “This is how it works”.
Matthew 13:1-9 The Parable of the Sower
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.”
vv 18-23 The Parable of the Sower Explained
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.”
Seed on the road
1) People have to particularly understand what you are saying. Sometimes (as Reformed or Charismatics) we begin to talk in a language that no one else is speaking. I am not a seeker sensitive guy, but I DO want to be a seeker friendly guy. I want to speak as if there are people among us who don’t know big theological words and don’t know Christian history and don’t maybe know Bible study. Terms such as justification,propitiation and repentance don’t translate into regular speak, so I still want to use these Biblical words, so I stop and just for a second, I explain them because if they don’t understand, then how can they respond?
2) God’s got to give them ears through the Holy Spirit so this brings me to the second truth in this text. There is not a methodology that is going to ensure that everyone in front of you is going to become a believer. If you don’t get that early on; that the Gospel is always going to reek of death to some, then you r possibility of selling out and watering down the Good News of Jesus Christ into something other than “Christ crucified and raised for our wicked hearts:; you’re going to get away from that and preach something other than that as Salvation. Every act of liberalism in Christians’ history has started in the attempt to make Christianity more popular than it was at the time.
In the United States in the late 1800′s, early 1900′s, there was a big battle in regards to liberalism and what had happened was that church attendance was kind of down, so this group showed up to say, “Let’s save the church”. They started saying that the real good news of the kingdom, or what the Gospel was “was taking care of the poor, and all kinds of people are loved” and all of a sudden there was the social gospel movement. It got people to come. If you say that people are intrinsically wicked and evil and that they are by their nature an object of God’s wrath, and that the only way for God to handle it justly is to kill you forever, people aren’t going to come. And though God is a God of love, people think they can separate those 2 ideas. You can’t pull them apart. You can’t have the love of God without the wrath of God. The love of God is made visible, that we deserve in His justice, death.
So, you have to know early on that there’s not some methodology that everyone who comes into your church is gonna be saved and spirit filled. Some are gonna fall on the path, they’re not gonna get it. Now you don’t have to like it. These kinds of verses push us into prayer and pleading with God for the hearts and souls of the people sitting in front of us. These are the kind of verses that make you understand that it’s not on you.
There’s this silly idea that doctrine is some sort of out moved, old school, dusty thing that has no relevance today. If you stand up and talk about God, you’re a theologian. You open up the Bible and you talk about God, you’re doing theology. Doctrine matters because of what Jesus says in this text. The seed goes in the ground and it springs up and then one of two things happen- tribulation or persecution happens and because there’s no root, they’re scorched; they’re burned and they disappear. This means our people have to have a root.
I believe you have to constantly teach the nature and character of God over simply what you should be doing as regards to behavior. So, instead of, “This is how you should behave,” although I think there is a place for that; I think the mainstays of your sermon have to be, “This is who God is”.
vv 20-22 I want my people to know what God’s doing and how He’s been doing it. So I’ve taught about 40 times in 8 years on 2 texts in particular: Psalm 139 ”We are fearfully and wonderfully made”, and this is not just a text for women. What he says in this text is 1)that He created us inwardly and externally. So He created our outward form. The 2) other part of that text says that He puts together our unseen substance, our personality. So, I want to teach our people that you have been wired a certain way; you’ve been gifted a certain way for a certain purpose. If you went to Acts 17 in what is the greatest sermon not preached by Jesus, in the Bible, Paul gets up and teaches in Athens and one of the things he says is that the time in which we live and the boundaries and habitation were set before we were. This means a couple of things 1)regardless of what your parents said; you weren’t a mistake. No one is an accident. And you are in the place-city, town that you are supposed to be. So, you are created specifically (and Paul says that God had done that so that men might seek Him…though He is not far from any of them”.
So, what I want to unpack for my people over and over again is that “You have been uniquely wired and uniquely placed for the glory of God. So, if you’re a businessman and numbers just make sense to you, that’s a God given gift for the glory of God. I wanna encourage them for the domain of the society they are in. The pinnacle of godliness is not necessarily ministry. One of the things I love is for our businessmen, our government people, our people in education use their God given talents in those domains for the glory of God.
Secondly, I want to talk about generosity and open handedness almost every week. If you avoid talking about money you’re not teaching the full counsel of God. You have to be careful that you don’t react to abuses with silence. The Scriptures are clear: If you want to know what you really value, what you really love, what you really want; look at how you spend your money.
vv 22-23 “the case of the world and the deceitfulness of riches chokes the world and it proves unfruitful. As to what was sown on the good soil, this is the one that hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields it, in one case a hundred fold in another sixty and in another thirty”. There is an accumulative effect to all you do at your churches. One sermon doesn’t change everything. There is an accumulative effect to ministry. So, at the Village, from small groups to “Culture in theology”, to books that we hand out, to preaching, to worship, to social gatherings, there is an accumulative effect to all of that. All of that cultivates the soil. Every weekend I’m coming in and cultivating the soil. The key for you, as a leader, is to ask yourself, “What are we cultivating? What kind of soil have we prepared? ” What you are strong and what you are passionate about, the church will be strong and the church will be passionate about. And, where you are weak and lazy, the church will be weak and lazy. So there has to be at some level, some inspection of the ground and an introspection of your own heartWhat kind of soil are we cultivating? Is this the type of soil, that when a seed falls into it it can grow fruit that explodes ? Where you see lives transformed and continue to be transformed and then lives around them continue to be transformed and now you’ve got yourself a harvest. And, it’s not solely about the sermon.