Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

Tag Archives: parable

The Sower Sows the Word (VII)

0

Today, we are wrapping up our study on the things that stop us from producing the results promised in the Word happening in our lives. We have looked at the danger of not fighting for the Word, for only listening to the Word on an emotional level, of allowing money and wealth to dictate to us and of the desire for people to like and honour us stopping us being the Christians that we are destined to be.

Now we shall look at the final challenge: the lust for other things.

Mark 4.19 says:

And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

If you have the lust of other things enter into your heart, it will choke the Word of God and the Word of God will not be fruitful in your life. You will most likely blame God and His Word, but it is not God’s fault – it is because of what you have allowed into your heart.

Don’t kick yourself though, make a change. Let’s look at what the lust of other things actually is:

The word used for lust here is the Greek word epithymia. It means a strong desire. It does not always refer to something bad – Jesus uses the word to refer to his desire to share the passover meal with his disciples for example (Luke 22.15) – but generally it is used to refer to a strong desire that your body has.

A good example would be:

But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof]. – Romans 13.14

If you allow the desires of your flesh to control what you do, what you think and how you behave you will never see the manifestation of the Word of God in your life.

Romans 6.12 says: Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Now this is where many Christians get themselves into trouble and tie themselves into knots. They read a Scripture like Romans 6.12 that tells them not to obey the desires of their body. It might be a sin-desire like using a pornographic website or spreading gossip. It might be a sickness-desire like lying in bed all day and not fighting off the cold. Either way it is a desire of your flesh. Now if you simply try and fight off that desire you will fail.

Sometimes you will succeed but sometimes you will fail. Your Christian life will be a roller-coaster of success and failure. You will lead a generally unfruitful Christian life. I know many Christians that live like this, and I know I have had seasons where I have lived like this too. Struggled to walk in purity, in health, in prosperity, in love – sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, my emotions flowing all over the place. An up and down Christian.

But that is not God’s will – He has redeemed us from this, praise the Lord. To find out how to live free from the strong desires of your body, let’s re-read Romans 6.12, but in context:

6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

7For he that is dead is freed from sin.

8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

9Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

10For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

13Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

14For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.

15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.

16Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

17But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

18Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. (Romans 6.6-18)

Romans is one of the most powerful books in the Bible because it deals with the most important topic in the New Testament: righteousness. I sincerely believe that righteousness is the most misunderstood topic in the Bible and that if Christians truly understood it, there would be a revival across the world that has never been seen before in any generation.

It was a revelation of what righteousness really is that started the Protestant Reformation. It was a revelation of what righteousness really is that started the charismatic move. These are the two most influential revivals that have ever happened in history.

Righteousness is the state of right standing with God. A synonym for righteousness is just. To make someone righteous is to justify them. It means you can stand in the presence of God and not be afraid, not feel inferior, not be condemned. It means you are right with God. A righteous person is as bold as a lion. A righteous person has their prayers answered. They have joy, they have peace. Understanding what righteousness is and how to receive it is the key to life.

Romans 1 tells us that the nations are not righteous. Romans 2 tells us that the nation of Israel and people who obey the law are not righteous. Romans 3 tells us no-one is righteous because of their actions., but that you can only receive righteousness by faith. Romans 4 shows how the remarkable individual Abraham did not even have righteousness by his actions, but was made righteous (justified) by faith. Romans 5 tells us the benefits of being righteous by faith.

Romans 6 then deals with a wonderful question: if I am righteous and have the benefits of righteousness because of faith in the complete work of redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ, then why should I even bother living right?

(If you read Romans 6.1-2 you will find that Paul was accused of teaching you can live however you like if you are a Christian. The technical name for such a belief is libertarianism. It means a Christian can act as selfish as they like and there is no problem.

Now that is clearly not true – but if in your preaching of the Word no-one has managed to accuse you of this, you do need to ask yourself are you preaching righteousness by grace through faith as powerfully as Paul was?)

In Romans 6, Paul gives 2 reasons why we should live a holy and loving life, and not just do what our body feels like. He also gives us 2 ways in which we can live holy.

The two reasons why we should live holy are:

1. Because it is our nature. You are holy, so living holy should be natural to you. Like a bird flying or a tree producing fruit, it shouldn’t be difficult. Verse 7 of Romans 6 says that we are dead to sin. If you are dead to something, it should not tempt you. The more time we spend meditating on Bible verses that tell us our true nature, the easier it is to resist sin.

Once you realize that you are righteous, then it becomes natural to act righteous. Lots of people are trying to act righteous to convince themselves they are righteous – this is the wrong way round! Have a read of 2 Cor. 5.21 and see what you are because of the work of Jesus Christ.

2. We should live holy because living in sin brings death into your life. This concept is addressed in v.17 and in Romans 6.23 which says that the wages of sin is death. If you sin, then you will become trapped by that sin and that sin will bring death into your life. If you lie, you will be tempted to lie more, and the lies will bring sickness, stress, broken relationships and poverty into your life. It will not stop God loving you but it will not allow you to enjoy His love.

Sin won’t keep you from heaven, but it will keep others from heaven. They will fail to see the life of God inside you and will not be attracted to the wonderful news of redemption. Sin makes you miserable – holiness is for your own good.

Why is it so important that we are holy because of these reasons and not to make God love us? Does the motive matter – or just the fact that we are striving to be holy. The answer is that if you are just trying to live right to please God and to become righteous then you will always fail. You will always feel God is against you and you will be defeated.

If you realize you are right, then you can live right. You can enjoy fellowship with the Holy Spirit, you can have confidence when you pray, you can go and lay hands on the sick and know it is not because of you that they are healed but because of Jesus.

The lust for other things can be lorded over if you realize that God has already lifted you above that.

Romans 7 goes on to tell of the futility of still trying to live by the law of God. Romans 8 tells of the wonders of living by the Spirit, aware of your righteousness. If you realize that you are righteous and realize that sin always leads to death, you will find that there is a power inside you – the power of the reborn, righteous spirit, the power of the new creation that you became on the day you became a Christian – and that this power is more powerful than the lust for other things.

If you deal with the lust for other things, then the Word of God will start to spring up in your life. Healing, peace, prosperity, wholeness will no longer be in seed form, planted deep in your life with no evidence they are there, but they will spring up in your life and transform not just your life, but the whole world.

Blessings,
Ben

The Sower Sows the Word (VI)

0

Yesterday we looked at the deceitfulness of riches. Before moving to discuss “the lusts for other things” tomorrow, I just want to make 3 simple points about the deceitfulness of riches:

1. You listen to those things you spend the most time with. If you listen to money more than you listen to God, you are spending more time with money than God.

2. You listen to those things you hold precious. If you listen to money more than you listen to God, you hold money more precious than God.

3. You listen to those things that you consider more intelligent. If you listen to money more than you listen to God, you think money is more intelligent than God.

Blessings,
Ben

The Sower Sows the Word (Video)

0

You can see Ben preach on the Sower Sows the Word at Worshipville Church in London here.

The first couple of minutes of the video have not been edited properly. I have the facilities to do this, but I need to wait until next week due to the terms and conditions of Vimeo. I hope this doesn’t spoil the video too much.

Blessings,
Ben

The Sower Sows the Word (III)

0

Previously in part I, we examined the fact that some people are like the path – they never grasp the Word, never fight for the Word, and so it leaves their life and it is as if they never heard it.

In part II, we saw that some people are rocky ground.  They receive the Word of God into their emotions and not their re-born spirit.  Because of this, the moment their life becomes difficult or the instant someone criticises them because of the Word of God, they instantly get offended and leave the Word alone.

The question we must now answer to help you and help other people is this: how can we ensure that when we hear the preached Word that we receive it into our spirit and not simply into our emotions.

The answer is found in this Scripture in James:

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1.21)

The way for you to receive the Word into your spirit is to:

1. Rid yourself of all filthiness

2. Rid yourself of all naughtiness

3. Receive the Word with meekness

Filthiness is essentially anything that is wicked.  One of the easiest ways to ensure the Word of God has no effect on your life is to do things and watch things you know are wrong.  I am not going to lay a heavy on anyone – but you must follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and you must get rid of filthiness.

Naughtiness is such a mis-used word in our society, it provokes images of someone being a little off, or a little crude.  However, in this verse it means a desire to hurt people.   You must rid yourself of every desire you have to hurt or use other people.  Every time you have thoughts of hurting people, you need to reject those thoughts.

Finally, and most importantly, you need to receive the Word of God with meekness.  Meekness is the ability to take second place to something else – to allow someone else to go first.  It is one of the lost virtues of society, often today seen as a sign of weakness.  Even today on the bus, a man told me to grab my seat quick or people would skip ahead of me on the queue.  He said he would skip ahead of me.  I said I didn’t mind if he did.

When it comes to the Word of God, meekness means that if your opinions and ideas disagree with the Word, you ditch your opinions and your ideas, and you don’t ditch the Word.  If we take healing as an example again, if you read “He bore my sicknesses”, don’t try and rationalise it with your opinions – ditch your opinions and put the Word first in your life.

Every great revival, every great revelation contradicts your thoughts and your opinions.  The Reformation of Christianity began when Martin Luther put aside his thoughts and his opinions and realized that “The just shall live by faith” means that “The just shall live by faith.”  Pentecostal Christianity started when people realized that “They spoke with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” meant exactly that.

There are still Christians today who don’t believe that we are justified by faith alone, still Christians who reject and mock the gift of tongues.  Don’t be like that – receive the Word meekly.  If the Bible says you are healed (it does by the way, many times over!), receive it.

Let’s not be stony ground Christians any more, and let’s receive the Word deep in our hearts so that we are Christians not just in the excitement of a church on Sunday, but in the midst of affliction and persecution.

Tomorrow, we will look at how to deal with a thorny issue…

Blessings,

Ben

The Sower Sows the Word (II)

0

Previously we examined the seed that fell on the path, and we found that this represented Christians that had no fight in them, who did not apply themselves to the Word of God and so satan just stole the Word from them and it did not benefit them at all.

Today, I want to look at the stony ground. The seed that falls on the stony ground sprung up quickly, but because it had no root in it it withered just as quickly.

This represents people who receive the Word of God into their emotions and not their spirits. Because it is received emotionally, there will be great emotions when it is received. People who are hearing the Word and are getting very emotional are not always receiving the Word into their spirit.

There is nothing wrong with being emotional as a Christian. Paul wrote an entire letter (Philippians) on the subject of joy. But you must receive the Word into your spirit and let your emotions be changed from the inside out.

Ok you might say, but how do I know if I have received the word into my spirit or my emotions? How do I know if my response to the Word of God is surface level or deep commitment?

The key is found in Mark 4.17:

And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

If your relationship with the Word is only on a surface level, on an emotional level, then when affliction or persecution arises for the sake of the Word, you will be immediately offended.

There is a lot of information in Mark 4.17, and it is vital for all Christians to understand it, so let’s unpack it and try and make some applications to our life.

When you receive the Word, I guarantee affliction and persecution will come.

Affliction is the Greek word thlipsis. It means, according to Strong’s, pressure. This world will always put pressure on you. Christianity is not a walk in the park. It is not a pleasure cruise. It is pressure. Sometimes I think we mis-sell Christianity, by focusing on the benefits of knowing Christ without mentioning the pressure.

If you become a disciple of Christ, you will go against the world and the world will put pressure on you. You need to know you are not about to wake up tomorrow and the world will be a lovely place and everything will be beautiful. That will not happen until Christ returns. So, toughen up.

Let’s use healing as our example again. You hear a great sermon on healing, you find out the Lord is your Healer, that Jesus carried your sicknesses on the cross and you don’t have to be sick.

You get excited, you are shouting at the preacher, you feel good. The Word has planted on your emotions and sprung up. You feel like you are in victory.

Monday morning you wake up and there is pressure on you. Pressure on your throat, on your back, on your nose. You feel like you just want to crawl into a hole and die of pain. Flu assaults your entire body.

At this stage the question is: what is your IMMEDIATE response? If the Word is in your spirit, your immediate response will be something like this:

I am not moved by what I see, I am not moved by what I feel, I am moved by the Word of the living God and the Word says that by the stripes of Jesus I am healed.

You stand on the true Word of God, you fight the lying symptoms and you change your experience with the Word of the living God.

If the Word is merely in your emotions, then IMMEDIATELY you will be offended. This is what Mark 4.17 says. Offended is the Greek word skandalizo. It means: to trip up, to turn away from someone you should be trusting and to get annoyed.

Your response if the Word has only touched your emotions will be something like this:

I thought that preacher said I was supposed to be healed. He must be a liar. The Word clearly doesn’t mean this. I can’t believe it. This stupid Bible, this stupid God. This stupid doctrine. These name-it and claim-it people are deceived. I am never going to that church again.

A complete change from how you felt just 24 hours ago – just because of a few symptoms! This is what people are like when the Word only hits their emotions. One minute they are raving for the Word, the next they are raving against the Word.

The other thing that can change these people 180 degrees is persecution. Persecution is people treating you badly because you believe the Word of God. It might be a severe case, like the people in concentration camps right now in North Korea because they are disciples of Jesus Christ. It might just be a family member laughing at you because they think you are a fanatic.

Whatever form it takes, people who only know the Word on a surface level will let persecution stop them. Any excitement at hearing the Word on Sunday disappeared because their wife or their husband says “You are becoming a bit of a religious freak!”. Immediately they become offended.

Now at this stage you might think: I am a bit like that at times. Yes, you are. We all are. But, don’t panic – there is a solution. You see, according to Mark 4.17 this all happened for one reason: they had no root.

If we can get the Word of God to root inside us, then we can stand in the worst affliction and we can actually challenge the affliction and make the world change rather than allow the world to change us. We can turn the other cheek when we are persecuted and allow the Word to change other people, rather than allow other people to change us.

So, how do we get the Word to root inside us? That will be our theme for tomorrow. Don’t miss out!

Blessings,
Ben

The Sower Sows the Word (I)

1

The parable of the sower in Mark 4 is one of the most powerful portions of Scripture in the whole of the Bible. Jesus himself says that if you do not understand this parable, then how can you understand any parable.

Imagine that – a parable that Jesus, the Lord of glory, says that if you don’t get it then you won’t be able to understand anything. This is clearly something you need to be able to understand clearly. There are 40 parables in the New Testament – if you don’t get the parable of the Sower, then you won’t be able to get any of them.

In verse 3, Jesus tells us to “Hearken! Behold!”. In modern English, you would say something like: “Listen! Look!”. The Greek word for listen does not mean simply listen, but it means listen until you gain understanding. Listen and listen and listen until you get it. The word for look means: this is going to be new to you, so consider it until you gain understanding.

Immediately we can see that the Parable of the Sower is one of the most important things Jesus ever talked about. Right now, we are going to look at this article and gain some understanding. This is going to be time well spent.

A parable is a story that works on two levels – the physical level and the spiritual level. Although Jesus is telling a story about a sower and some seed, he is really telling a story about the Word of God and people’s hearts. The words parable and parallel come from the same root: a parable is a story with a parallel. While Jesus is talking about the ground, he is talking about you and your heart and your attitude to the Word of the living God.

Some people are the path. The path is those people who hear the Word but immediately satan steals the Word from them. If you simply read Mark’s gospel it almost seems like some people have no choice. They just get the Word and the devil just takes it. Now we know that cannot be true because we have dominion over all the works of the devil. He is a defeated foe and greater is He that is in us than He that is in the world.

If we read Matthew’s account, he makes it a little more clear to us why the devil can steal the Word from some people:

When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth [it] not, then cometh the wicked [one], and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. (Matthew 13.19)

If you hear the Word of God without understanding, then the devil will take it from you. The Greek word for understanding is syniēmi. It was a word used in ancient Greece for people who were going to settle things with a fight. You would say “they are going to come to an understanding” – and everyone would know you meant they are going to fight until one of them is the winner and the other is the loser.

This is one of the greatest problems in the Christian world – we have no fight in us. Things happen to us and we just roll over and play dead, we quit, we submit, we yield. There are even demonic doctrines that tell people that when things like sickness and poverty attack that this is God’s will and they should submit. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s use healing as an example. The Bible is clear that the Lord is Our Healer (Exodus 15.26), that Jesus Christ bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases (Isa. 53.4-6) and that by His stripes we were healed (1 Peter 2.24).

If you go to church and hear a sermon on healing, you might be sick. But you learn to walk by faith and not by sight and receive your healing by speaking to the mountain of sickness and commanding it to leave (Mark 11.23-24). But if the symptoms do not leave immediately, many Christians will give up at that point. They don’t have an understanding with the Word that they are going to fight for the Word until they win. They would rather blame God for their sickness than fight it and walk in divine health. You see the problem is never the seed – it is the ground. The Word is always good – but people need to deal with their heart attitude.

Path people are Christians with no fight in them. They hear the Word but they never get aggressive with it. They never lock themselves in the closet and pray and meditate on the Word until they see the results. So many Christians don’t have a battle-mindset. We are going to stand on the Word and we are going to win.

If this is you, I would get a list of Scriptures and start saying them 2, 3, 4, 5 times a day, start meditating on them. To meditate on the Word is the greatest source of life and victory on earth. I will write some how-to articles on this in the new year, but for now the condensed how-to is this:

1) Repeat the Scripture out loud again and again and again. As it comes out your mouth and goes in your ears, it is feeding your faith.
2) Use your imagination to imagine what you would be like if the Scripture was true. Picture it being fulfilled in your life. Return in your mind to this image again and again.

Simple. Now stop being a path Christian and start being good ground.

Tomorrow, I will explain how to deal with being rocky ground.

Blessings,
Ben

%d bloggers like this: