Monday, April 1, 2013

The Parable of the Seeds and The Importance of the Right Gospel

I Corinthians 15:3-4  "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,"

In today's Daily Bible Reading, I read the parable of the sower in Luke 8.  Jesus tells a great crowd of people about how the gospel will only be received correctly by some. Many receive it with JOY, but they fall away.  The Bible teaches that we cannot lose our salvation, so these people were never truly in Christ.  (John 10:28  "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.")  In other words, many who think they are saved, are not. 

There are 4 scenarios.  There are some who don't accept the gospel and trample it.  These are those who are hostile to the gospel and Christian message due to the devil's lies and influence.  (Luke 8:12)Two, there are some who do not have any root.  They take on Christianity to make their life better and then lose heart when there are tests and trials in this life.  (Luke 8:13)  Third, there are some who receive the gospel with joy, but it eventually gets choked out by the pleasures and cares of this life (worldly idols).  God was never truly Lord of their life.  (Luke 8:14)  Finally, there are those who hear the Word and it is planted in good soil.  They are shown to have endurance and to bear much fruit in their lives.  (Luke 8:15)

This should be a scary passage to us all.  It should cause us to examine if we are indeed saved. 
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"  (2 Corinthians 13:5)  Luke 8 is a warning that most people don't receive the gospel correctly.  Three fourths of these people mentioned in the parable are going to appear before God one day and hear, "Depart from me.  I never knew you."  (Matthew 7)  In the illustration in Matthew 7 those who are being cast into Hell have done many good things throughout their life, even claiming the name of God in their lives.  Whether they had a works based social gospel (doing good to others is somehow going to save them) or a gospel missing repentance and sin (just claiming Jesus because of love and His life's "purpose" for them), they have missed the mark.

What gospel "saved" you?  Was it the correct one?  I grew up on one that emphasized God's love, His grace, and the easy task of just inviting Him into my heart.  This is a very popular "gospel."  Unfortunately, it didn't save me.  I didn't understand I was a sinner before a holy God.  My sin had separated me from God and needed a payment.  The gospel I heard led me to continue to live for myself and not really submit, for God was loving and filled with grace, right?  I could keep living my life pseudo obeying and God would forgive me.  I enjoyed doing Christian good works and routines because I got a lot of pats on the back.  The emphasis was on me, rather than God.  I had never repented of living against God and turning from my selfish propensities to submit to God's will and rules. 

The gospel has to tell people that Christ is their Savior from SIN.  I had heard that Jesus died for my sin on the cross, but that was the extent of it, and I didn't personalize that I was a bad person and Christ faced the WRATH that I would have faced as an unsaved individual.  As with me, people have to recognize their need for a Savior before they can gladly submit to Him and trust in His work on the cross to reconcile them to God.  To just tell someone God loves you, is your Savior, and wants to have a relationship with you is only HALF the story and will lead to confusion when life's trials come.  They will wonder eventually, "Why do I need a Savior?" The wrong or incomplete gospel doesn't explain why.  A God who saved you by paying for YOUR sin is a God you can trust wholly when He sovereignly brings trials and pruning into your life.  A God who points to our problem for eternity (sin and Hell) and solves it through Christ is a God you trust and love when this world is full of temporary pain and disappointment.  It isn't about this life or this world that is passing away.  (1 John 2:17, 1 Corinthians 7:31)

For future reference and study, here are some New Testament examples of the Gospel's call to repentance:
Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 13:3b, Luke 16:28-30, Luke 24:46-47, Acts 3:19, Acts 11:18b, Acts 17:30-31, 2 Corinthians 7:10, Hebrews 6:1, and 2 Peter 3:9.

Before I was 21, the fruit in my life bore witness against me.  Though I was a "good" kid--I loved those horizontal comparisons to others around me because they made me look pretty stellar comparatively--I had selfish motives for doing good (church, missions, community service, singing in church, youth group, Bible studies) and still bristled when God's will for me didn't follow my desires or plan.  I saw an extended pattern of sin and hardness of heart in college and realized I was hostile to God.  When I was 21, I repented of my sin, submitted to Christ as my Lord and Savior and trusted that HIS work on the cross would save me, not any of my "goodness" and the praise I received from others.  Though I wasn't sinless after that, I did sin LESS, and my motivations turned from myself and my own glory to pleasing my God through thankful obedience. 

Because I was finally in Christ (saved), I bore fruit.  I saw the fruits of the Spirit being matured over time.  I became more gentle, patient, loving, humble and all the other fruits as the Holy Spirit convicted me of sin and gave me the desire and ability to grow in the likeness of Christ.  (Galatians 5)  I still fall short, but I desire to and continue to make progress.  I started reading God's Word regularly to find out what exactly His will was in my life.  I loved others more readily and truly did desire to consider others more significant than me.  (Philippians 2:3)  I wanted to share the gospel and shine God's light rather than figure out how little I could do and still be considered "okay."  (The way I lived often before I was 21)  Seventeen years later, I still obey God's rules and Word more fervently and mourn my sin when I fail.

I urge you today to search if you heard the correct gospel message.  We were created by God.  (Genesis 1:1)  We sinned against our Creator who is Holy and perfect.  (1 Peter 1:15-16) We are separated from Him (Isaiah 59:2) and He is just and MUST give punishment (Hell) for our disobedience to His perfection and righteousness.  (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9, Ephesians 2:3))  He is as loving as He is just (1 John 4:8), though, and He sent Christ to live the perfect, obedient life for us and then to die on the cross to pay the penalty we would have had to pay to a just God.  (2 Corinthians 5:21)  This is an undeserved gift--grace.  We do nothing in ourselves to be saved, we can only repent of our sin and trust Christ solved our problem fully and completely.  Then we can be covered by Christ and reconciled to God for all eternity.  This is the only way!  (John 14:6)

Acts 20:21b  "They must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus"

This gospel is clearly and simply stated in a presentable, few minute long clip here.

Praise God for the power of the true gospel and the work He does in saving souls!
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