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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Parable of Soils

This past weekend, Texas governor Rick Perry hosted a national prayer & fasting conference in Houston.  News reports were that thousands came from all over the country.  Some were there to protest - because they think that government and religion shouldn't mix.  Others refused to attend because they don't believe Gov. Perry is sincere about his faith.  If nothing else, it made for some drama in national political and religious circles.

I must confess that I'm one who fell into the camp of questioning Rick Perry's faith.  I mean, he's been our governor (I live in Texas) for years now.  In fact, he's the longest serving governor in our nation's history!  But I've never known much about his faith.  He's never played the Christianity card before.  And when he releases his finances, we see that his charitable giving falls well below that of the average American ... and certainly excludes any obedience to the Biblical requirement for tithing.  Is Mr. Perry a Christian?  Is he a God-fearing man of prayer?  I guess we don't really know.

In all honesty, I think Rick Perry is a good representation of a lot of so-called Christians in America.  There are a shocking number of people who will gladly tell you that they "believe in God."  I long ago stopped being impressed by that --- when I found out that the demons believe in God too!  All kidding aside, I've learned that in order to be a true Christian, one must go considerably further than just believing in God.  And I find myself puzzled ... wondering why that seems to be such a mystery for so many people.

Jesus minced no words when it came to dealing with hypocrisy.  He looked at religious leaders and called them out for their lack of sincerity.  In trying to understand how extremely religious people could actually get it so wrong, I've found it's helpful to look at Jesus' parable of the soils (Matthew 13:1-23).  Jesus provided this parable and then later explained it to His disciples.  But before He started that explanation, He said something that all of us should be aware of.

In Matthew 13:11-12, Jesus said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.  Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance.  Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him."  So what was Jesus saying here?

He was saying that the understanding of Biblical, spiritual matters is a gift.  It's a privilege that we dare not squander.  Those who acquire spiritual understanding and make good use of it will get more.  But those who don't will find that the wisdom and knowledge that they have acquired will be taken away from them because they squander it.  Really!

So there are four (4) different things that happen when the Holy Spirit reveals Biblical truth, heavenly secrets and the will of God to us:

1.  Some hear, but don't understand.  And the devil snatches away "what was sown in his heart."
2.  Some hear and understand, but never go deep.  So in adversity, their faith fails them.
3.  Some hear and could understand - if they weren't so focused on worldly matters. So their faith is useless.
4.  Some hear and understand, and they obey.  Their faith is fruitful and strong.

There are many places in the Bible where a certain type of statement is made.  Generally it goes something like this: "Let those who have ears, hear.  And let those who have eyes, see."  Just because you read something, see something, or hear something --- does NOT mean that you understand it.  The fact that you have understanding, knowledge or wisdom does not mean that you'll take it to heart and act on it.

So here's the thing.  Wisdom and understanding are gifts from our heavenly Father.  They're a privilege.  And with them come sobering responsibilities.  It really boils down to this what you know and what you're doing with what you know!

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