The Parable of the Sower and the American Christian

I read Luke chapter 8 today, and it was so rich and full that it felt like 560 verses rather than 56. I was astonished. It was like I had never paid enough attention to it before. Today, I think I could expound on the chapter for hours, covering subject after subject, talking about the promises of God, the requirements of God, the amazing love of Jesus, and even a defense against an atheist argument I have heard.

On this blog, though, I just want to cover the Parable of the Sower. In fact, I only want to cover one of the four types of ground upon which the seed was sown.

That which fell among the thorns, these are those who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. (Luke 8:14, WEB)

Do you find yourself too busy to read the Scriptures? Is it hard to find any time for prayer? Then this is you.

I have had times where my time with God competed with work, financial worries, my children, my house, and various others who needed me. At those times, I was the seed being choked out by the care of this world, riches, and the pleasures of life.

I think this is a common American malady.

Yikes.

Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why.

  • Cares
  • Riches
  • Pleasures of this life

For how many of you is this a scary list? These things have you in a choke hold, and you don’t see it. You think it is the normal Christian life. It is not. We have to free ourselves.

As I’m reading through Luke, I saw the way Jesus dealt with the overwhelming need around him. He withdrew to pray. Before important events, he spent entire nights in prayer.

Can we escape with less?

“Now she who is a widow indeed, and desolate, has her hope set on God, and continues in petitions and prayers night and day, but she who gives herself to pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:5-6, WEB). Does that standard seem high, or even harsh? Maybe that is because we have not set a high enough standard for ourselves.

Seed that falls in good ground produces fruit, thirtyfold at a minimum. Are you producing fruit? Am I?

Those who are good ground “having heard the word, hold it tightly,” and they “produce fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15, WEB).

Getting out from under cares, riches, and the pleasures of life requires holding tightly to our time with God, and producing fruit requires perseverance. “For you need endurance so that, having done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Heb. 10:36, WEB).

Fight your way out of the thorns and briars, brother … sister … You have need of endurance! Hold tightly to the seed, the implanted Word of God, which is able to save your souls, so that you may receive the promise (cf. Jas. 1:21).

About Paul Pavao

I am married, the father of six, and currently the grandfather of two. I run a business, live in a Christian community, teach, and I am learning to disciple others better than I have ever been able to before. I believe God has gifted me to restore proper foundations to the Christian faith. In order to ensure that I do not become a heretic, I read the early church fathers from the second and third centuries. They were around when all the churches founded by the apostles were in unity. I also try to stay honest and open. I argue and discuss these foundational doctrines with others to make sure my teaching really lines up with Scripture. I am encouraged by the fact that the several missionaries and pastors that I know well and admire as holy men love the things I teach. I hope you will be encouraged too. I am indeed tearing up old foundations created by tradition in order to re-establish the foundations found in Scripture and lived on by the churches during their 300 years of unity.
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10 Responses to The Parable of the Sower and the American Christian

  1. Hi Paul

    Thanks. I think I see what you mean, with that clarification. I find it hard to have the faith to apprehend these things often though, hence why it seems like bad news, or condemnation rather than conviction.

    To you, being confronted with the more challenging imperatives of scripture comes as part of a living, exciting, dynamic and trusting faith. To me, not so much.

    I wish I could say with you that “time with him is the best of the best of good works” and know something of what intimacy with God means in experience.

    Still, I’ll press on with it though, even though I am inconsistent. After all, I have no other place to go or turn to (John 6:68)

    Jon

    • Paul Pavao says:

      That’s a huge thing, to be able to say there is nowhere else to go, as the apostles did. To be able to say that is a gift from God. Blessed are those who mourn, Jon, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

      • Thanks for that, Paul.

        I can honestly say that despite my doubts, I can’t imagine ever giving up with trying to find a way, even as I stumble through.

        I have been disturbed recently by a couple of fairly high profile examples of people (in the U.S.A.) leaving the faith. I never want that to happen to me, regardless of whether or not I ever gain the assurance I crave.

        Jon

      • Paul Pavao says:

        High profile people fall because they do not have the kind of fellowship they need. People honor them, but do not speak into their lives. People honor them, but they do not become heart-friends with them. This is true of pastors in general, but I suspect it is even more true of famous people. None of us can make it without input from others (Heb. 3:13). Both sin and riches are deceitful; men can be deceitful as well. High profile Christians are in a high danger position.

    • John Hargraves says:

      You already possess all the assurance you’ll ever need, Jon, in light of the confession you made regarding the Lord. Trust in him and lean not to your own understanding! Easier said than done?

      Of course. Doing such a thing ought to burn the toast — with prayerful effort, hopefully to ashes! It atomized mine when I learned that patiently waiting upon God actually means waiting upon God in a patient manner. Yeah, I had to wait. Patiently!

      I’ll share my assurance with you, Jon, since that assurance involves you and anyone else who confesses that Christ is the way, and the life, and the hope of our salvation.

      I trust in the Lord and believe his promises. I know that because God loves me, he’s faithful to deliver me from iniquity and my own folly if need be. I know that I love God because I want to please him, and also because I foster a love for my brothers and sisters in the Lord and a need for them in my life.

      Even a love for my unbelieving neighbor. Yes, especially for them!

      I trust that God will encourage you greatly not by awarding you a seat earned by simple attendance, Jon. Give, and it shall be given to you! (Luke 6:38)

  2. fibivens says:

    ‘Yikes’ is so ‘right on’, Paul!!! WOW, this post grabbed my Attention… after sitting, stunned… thinking over this year ~ especially the past 5 months ~ I could only pray and give Thanks to God, from whom all blessings flow. Lifting my heart and my hands to God, I give thanks for Second Chances, and for having a nephew who inspires, teaches, and who, like his own mother, is an Angel, thinly disguised as a mortal human being, walking among us. Thank you, thank you!

    • Paul Pavao says:

      Thank you for the encouragement, Aunt Flo. I tell people all the time that everyone ought to have an Aunt Flo. I suspect I am not really living up to the standard you picture, but I am pursuing the standard I write about in these blog pages with all my heart. You are a blessing to our family and me.

  3. I find it hard to see any good news in this parable (or interpretation?). Yes, I struggle hugely with prayer and bible study, though maybe not so much due to cares, riches and pleasures (though I’m sure that’s part of the reason) but due to the intrinsic difficulty I find doing those things. I often wonder if God is listening to my prayers, and constantly struggle to believe after reading scripture (as you know) that God is good and I am not damned.

    This is even true in this case. What do we do if we find ourselves as thorny soil? If the message is essentially (as you’ve outlined it) “try harder, do better, set yourself a higher standard or go to hell” then where is the good news in that? Where is the good God in that? It causes me to desire to pray and read scripture less, not more. It’s very hard to do those things when you doubt God’s disposition toward you.

    Jon

    • Paul Pavao says:

      Hi Jon! I’m going to answer your comment on the coincidence post here as well. That one is simple. I have a couple good examples, and I will put them in a post.

      On this post, we have highly differing perspectives (as usual?), but I just realized (as I was writing this) I have to take credit for that. Here is what I believe, Jon. I believe that he who has begun a good work in me will continue it until the day of King Jesus (Php. 1:6). I believe that Jesus will confirm me to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:8). I believe that my Father is able to keep me from falling and to present me faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy (Jude 1:24).

      Back when I was giving in to my pornography addiction, I was pretty sure I was going to hell. I’m not doing that anymore, thank God.

      I believe everything I wrote in my post because it is what the Bible says. I believe everything I wrote in this comment because it is what the Bible says. God has a vested interest in making sure I live up to the things he shows me. He has a vested interest in you living up to the things he shows you.

      Thus, I expect when he convicts–or even frightens me by the conviction–I expect it to be impossible for me not to succeed in going forward. God does not convict to condemn. He desires the repentance of everyone (2 Pet. 3:9). He takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but that they should come to repentance (Ezek. 18:23).

      By the saving power of Jesus Christ, I am zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14). Thus, when he convicts me of something, it is good news. He is going to help me get closer to him. That is especially true in this case because repentance means spending more time with him. Time with him is the best of the best of good works, though it’s probably not accurate to call it a good work.

      So, yes, I think what I wrote is good news.

      I read about a preacher a long time ago who said, “I will preach the truth even if the truth condemns me.” I do not know what it is like in England, though I have heard it is better than the U.S. Here, a true biblical standard is in desperate need of being set. It may seed an impossible standard, but that is biblical. Meeting that standard is supernatural.

      One of my favorite early Christian writings is Justin’ Dialogue with Trypho. In it, Trypho (the Jew) says he loves the precepts that are in the Gospel, but he doubts that anyone can keep them. Christianity is a miraculous religion. It depends on, not just amazing grace, but miraculous grace. It also depends on abundant mercy, for none of us live up to it perfectly. What I described in this post is what I am going to fight for, confident in Christ that I am going to succeed, for as long as it takes. I will get closer and closer to God, turn my riches over to God more than I have, cast my cares on him more, and leave the pleasures of this world further behind. I am less touched by those things today, and I will be even less touched by them tomorrow. Next week, I will need to read Luke 8 again and refire my desire to please him, and I will advance even further.

      That is how I look at following Christ. Even if I did not look at it that way, I would still write what I write because that is what the Bible says. I sin, but I nonetheless am a captive of Christ. I cannot but do what he has called me to do. My heart burns at his word, and like Jeremiah, if I am silent, it burns in my bones. I will write these things even if they condemn me, but I know that in the end they will not because he has promised to present me faultless before his throne.

      He promised you that, too, Jon

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