The theme for MPACT, Making People Aware of Christ’s Truth, the mission I took my students to back in June, was “Awake from the Dead”. It was based off of Ephesians 5:14, “for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” This verse in its context of the chapter is telling us to rise from our sin and live a righteous life. Our life should be one that honors Christ and points people towards Christ. Not a life that causes others to stumble by sinning.
We also went to Falls Creek Youth Camp where the theme was “One”. The focal verse is Isaiah 45:22, “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” There is only one God that we can and need to turn to be saved. He alone is worthy of our praise and worship. He alone saves us from our sin, reconciling us unto Him, and regenerating our hearts allowing us to love and follow Him.
These two themes go hand in hand. We need to turn to God for salvation by His grace and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Our lives are changed by the grace of God and the salvific work of Christ. As I said earlier, when we follow Christ our lives represent and honor Him by turning away from sin and living in righteousness.
Christ tells a parable about those who truly follow Him and how their lives look in Matthew 13:3–9. Thankfully, this is one of the parables that Jesus explains for us. We know that the seeds represent the Word of God and these are four types of people responding to the Word.
1. Those Whose Faith is Snatched Away (Matt 13:19)
Sadly, not everyone will hear the Gospel and believe. Jesus tells us that few will actually believe and be saved (cf., Matt 7:13-14; 22:14; Luke 13:22-27; Rom 9:27). No matter how much they hear the Gospel and Truth preached, they will not listen or believe. Satan snatches the Truth away from them preventing them from believing. We see these people constantly around us. Some have simply been misguided while others are militant against the Truth. We should mourn for these because they shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. Those who do not believe and follow Christ are destined for hell.
2. Those Who Fall Away (Matt 13: 20-21)
I consider these our “cultural Christians”. These are those that claim to be Christians because they go to church on Sundays, their parents are Christians, or it is the “American” thing. They have no solid foundation or roots to stand firm in the face of tribulation. Their faith is shallow and cannot face people arguing against their faith or challenging passages of Scripture. They hear sermons and Scripture that are pleasing to them, but once they hear challenging Scripture or face hardships, they fall away.
3. Those Whose Faith is Choked Out (Matt 13:22)
These are those who don’t let go of their past sins and treasures of the world. They think they can tack Jesus on to their life as an added benefit. This is not what Jesus desires of any of us. We see this with His encounter with the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16-22). He thought he was following all the rules, but when asked to give up his riches he couldn’t do it. He cared more about that than following Jesus. When Jesus asks us to follow Him, He expects us to do it with everything we have (Matt 22:37). He expects to be the center of our lives. Not an accessory. These worldly things can keep us from following Jesus wholeheartedly.
4. Those Who have True Faith (Matt 13:23)
This is the person that I pray that all of us can be. This person has heard the Word of God, received it, and has had their life changed by Christ. This person lives out their faith honoring God and representing Christ so that others may come to faith also.
Most of us consider ourselves to be this person. This may be true, and I pray that it is. If we think we’re good, then we may not think much of these other situations, though. Maybe we need to think of them as situations of our hearts also instead of just being four different types of people. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’ll overlook this passage and not see how we can or cannot be affected by the Word of God. By doing so, we should become more aware of our own situations and conditions.
1. The Truth is Snatched Away
Sometimes we hear the Word of God and have the Truth snatched away from us. Sometimes the Holy Spirit is trying to convict us of sin in our lives, but we ignore it. We think that message we heard Sunday morning wasn’t for us but for another guy. We ignore God at work in our lives and disobey His word. James tells us to not only be hearers of the Word, but doers as well (Jas 1:22). Every time we hear a sermon or read Scripture, we need to think of how it applies to our life and how we can implement it. We don’t need to think we’ve already checked that box off. Scripture is always reminding us of God’s Truth and how to live it out in our lives. We may already be doing that, but we need to be reminded and encouraged to continue doing so and doing better.
Sometimes we’re struggling with some baggage we have. We can’t let go of the guilt of our past sins. We think that we’re not good enough to be loved, to be a Christian, to make a difference in someone’s life when God is trying to tell us otherwise. The Word of God not only convicts us of our sins, but it heals us of our sins and gives us hope. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).
I have some major regrets in my life. I made mistakes that I wish I could go back and fix. (To hear more about this, then read My Own Whoredom). I spent years living in my shame and guilt instead of finding peace and forgiveness in God. It was miserable, but when I finally listened to God and gave it up to Him, I had felt love and freedom that had not felt in years. Instead of buying into the lies of Satan, we need to listen to God and His Word.
2. A Shallow Faith
Some of us have a shallow faith. This may be due in part to being new in the faith. There is still plenty of growth that needs to take place before being mature in the faith. That is good, and if this is you, then I encourage you to be diligent and disciplined to continue seeking after God.
Maybe no one has truly discipled us teaching and leading us how to be mature in our faith being able to withstand opposition to the faith. As a church, we need to be better about discipling others. Too often we simply rejoice at a profession of faith and baptism, but we don’t follow through in teaching and leading them. We don’t give teenagers the car keys and say, “Well, there you go. Have at it!”. We teach them how to drive the car and be safe before we hand them the car keys to drive on their own. Christ tells us to go and make disciples “teaching them to observe all that [He] commanded” (Matt 28:20). We should not ignore this part of the Great Commission. This is an important part in helping new believers know more about their faith.
Too often, though, we neglect being plugged into a church community helping us to grow deep roots in our faith with knowledge, practice, and Truth. The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:25). We need to be gathering together as a church to encourage one another and to live the life that God calls us to. We need to be at church on Sunday mornings to hear the Word of God to convict us and encourage us. We need to be plugged into Bible studies so that we can continue to grow in our knowledge of the Word of God and our faith being discipled and making disciples. We need to be active in our church serving one another just as Christ came to serve us. When we choose not to be involved in church as much as possible, then we blatantly disobey the Word of God enabling our shallow faith.
Francis Chan says this of shallow, or lukewarm, Christians:
Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label Christian or because some people persist in calling us a “Christian Nation.” (Crazy Love, 78)
It doesn’t matter what we do if we’re not wholeheartedly following Jesus. We first do this by being part of the Body of Christ in church, and then we must go out into the world and be doers of the Word (Jas 1:22). If we only do this at church, then we fail as well. This only creates shallow faith. What we do together as a church overflows from what we do at home as well as carries over to our homes.
3. Being Distracted from Our Faith
Part of the reason we can’t be active in our churches and faith is because we’re doing too much. We spend too much time watching TV, playing video games, reading a book, taking care of animals, or going to sports games. All of these things are fine and great in the right portions, context, and priority. When we give too much attention to them, though, we are distracted from our faith and our mission at hand as disciples of Jesus Christ.
These hobbies are great, but we may need to make a choice between the two of them. Instead of choosing the hobby, we need to choose God. We need to choose to gather with fellow believers or study Scripture preventing us from devolving into a shallow faith. Christ tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). God has blessed us with things to give us pleasure, but we must first seek Him.
Some of us like to add things to the faith that should not belong. We make being a Republican part of our Christianity. There is nothing wrong with being a Republican, or a Democrat. Being one or the other does not make or you Christian or non-Christian. There are things in both parties that Christ commands of us, but there are also things that He abhors. Our faith should affect our politics. Our politics should not affect our faith. Adding political standards to our faith can distract us from the Truth found in Scripture.
4. A Solid Faith
Christ said, “You will recognize them by their fruit” (Matt 7:16). When we hear the Word of God and allow it to change us, then our lives will reflect that. We will be rooted in Christ and His church seeking Him above all things this world may offer. This will allow us to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others so that they may come to salvation as well.
We cannot become complacent in our faith thinking we are good. We all go through these phases of ignoring the Word of God, living a shallow faith, and being distracted from our faith. We must work through these trusting in the strength and power of Christ so that we may live out our faith.
If we have never received the Word of God and believed it bringing us to faith in Christ and the salvation He offers, then I pray that today is the day that you do. It can be a difficult path, but there is hope and strength in Christ.