The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. 3 Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves. 4 Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals. And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.
Today is March 19th. For our Catholics friends, this is a significant day because they observe it as St. Joseph’s Day. To be honest, when I first heard the name, I didn’t even know if this was about Joseph, who became Pharaoh’s second in command in Egypt in the Old Testament, or Joseph, the husband of Virgin Mary in the New Testament. As it turns out, it’s the latter. They commemorate Joseph because he was the foster-father of Jesus. Yes, he did keep Mary safe when they were delivering Jesus, and he raised Jesus up as a foster-father. However, the Bible doesn’t seem to assign any more significance than that to Joseph, so it is not surprising that we, Protestants, do not observe this St. Joseph’s Day.
What is notable about this day, though, is that it is the birthday of David Livingstone. David Livingstone was a Scottish pioneer and medical missionary with the London Missionary Society and an explorer in Africa. On March 19th, 1813, Livingstone was born of “poor and pious parents” in Blantyre, Scotland. At the age of 10, he began working 14 hours a day at a cotton mill while studying in the evenings. He became a believer at the age of 12, and devoted himself to reading books on theology, travel, and missions. His profound spiritual awakening led him to pursue medicine so that he could be a medical missionary in China. Unfortunately, the First Opium War broke out in 1839, so he wasn’t able to go to China. Instead, he was given a vision through the influence of other missionaries to serve those in Southern Africa. In 1840, at the age of 27, he was off to Cape Town, South Africa.
The journey to and within Africa was ruthless. He experienced many debilitating illnesses, and there were many threats from wild animals and hostile tribes. Nevertheless, he persevered and never relaxed his self-discipline. He continued to document new observations and languages in his diary as he traveled. He also fought against slavery that was widespread in Africa. He became famous when his diaries got published. Nonetheless, he maintained his humility, writing “I will place no value on anything I have … except in relation to the Kingdom of Christ.” He devoted his life to God’s mission in Africa until he was 60 years old, when he was found dead kneeling by his bedside.
You would be surprised to find out how many people got converted personally through his missions. He is recorded as having converted only one African, named Sechele, who was the chief of one of the tribes. And even though Sechele got converted and baptized, Sechele continued the practice of rainmaking ritual and polygamy. Nonetheless, a church was established and other missionaries were able to continue God’s mission after Livingstone’s death.
Today, Livingstone is regarded as “Africa’s greatest missionary.” On his tombstone, it reads in part, “For thirty years, his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize the native races, to explore the undiscovered secrets, to abolish the desolating slave trade of Central Africa.” He leaves a legacy of being among the 100 Greatest Britons.
If David Livingstone was one of the greatest Britons in history, do you know the greatest person who has ever lived on earth except Jesus? According to Jesus, it’s John the Baptist. It wasn’t Abraham, who started the nation of Israel. It wasn’t Moses, who rescued all of God’s people out of Egypt. It wasn’t David, who conquered the whole region and established a powerful kingdom. Jesus said, “of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.”
What was so great about John?? He was just the voice of one calling in the wilderness, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” He was just telling people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” He wasn’t really educated. He wasn’t particularly productive for the society. He wasn’t really making something great out of his life. His main thing was simply telling people of the coming of the Messiah. How does that make him the greatest man who has ever lived?
It is because he fulfilled the greatest mission of a person’s life: to make Christ known to others for salvation. The mission of John the Baptist perfectly aligned with that of Jesus, which was to seek and save the lost. John’s mission was 100% God’s mission.
Do you see the similarity between David Livingstone and John the Baptist? Both were regarded great because they completely devoted their lives to God's mission. This is not an easy thing to do. The flesh, the world, and the devil will continue to trick you into thinking that, in order to be great, you must get a good grade, go to a good college, get a good job, make good money, and prepare for a cushy retirement. They say it’s all about personal success that makes a person great. Well, not according to God! In God’s perspective, the person who puts God’s mission as his or her primary mission in life is the greatest person. The greatest person is the one who loves God and others by committing one’s life to Jesus and His Great Commission. Those who focus on God’s mission are great in the sight of God.
So, when Jesus was training His disciples, He made sure that they knew the importance of God’s mission. In the beginning of Luke 10, we see Jesus instructing 72 of his disciples to go out to all the towns to tell people that the Kingdom of God is near. Jesus was training His disciples for a mission trip. Jesus said in v.2, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” The harvest denotes those that should be brought into the Kingdom of God. These are more than just the people of the towns that the 72 disciples were going to visit. The harvest that Jesus was talking about was that of the whole world. Jesus said to His disciples in Acts 1:8 that His disciples will be His witness in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Jesus was saying that the harvest is plenty both locally and globally.
But Jesus added that the “workers are few.” Oh, how true this is today! Looking at the recent numbers, there are about 400,000 foreign Christian missionaries of all denominations around the world, and there are about 4.7 billion non-Christians. That’s a ratio of about 1:12,000! Many Christians today don’t even do 1:1 evangelism, let alone 1:12,000. Indeed, the workers are few.
The challenge is daunting. So, what are we supposed to do? Jesus said to His disciples, “pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” We are called to pray for more workers. And, yes, I believe God will send more workers as we pray, because it is in accordance with the will of God. But, don’t be misguided. Praying for more workers implies that the person praying is already working as harvester of God. Remember, Jesus was telling this to those who were already being sent out as His workers. It would be utter hypocrisy if a person who is praying for more workers is refusing to be one of the workers himself. Jesus instructs us to pray for more workers while we are being faithful to His mission.
And as Jesus was sending out his disciples, He warned them in v.3. He said, “I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.” He is warning that there will be threats. Some might heckle at your or even try to kill you. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. The same is true today. The moment you say the name of Jesus, you will likely offend quite a few people. I once had someone start hyperventilating when I talked about Jesus. She was into Buddhism. I wasn’t sure if she was going to yell at me or run away, or both. Thankfully, nothing dramatic happened. It is so strange that Jesus, who sacrificed His own life to save people for eternity, can come across as so offensive. Yet, that is the reality of this dark and sinful world.
So, since His disciples were going out to such a dangerous world, what did Jesus tell them to do? Carry some weapon for protection? Carry some money to bribe and calm people down? No, but rather the complete contrary. He says in v. 4, “Don’t take any money with you, nor a traveler’s bag, nor an extra pair of sandals.” Jesus is basically telling them to go without any supply. This sounds absolutely crazy, but this is the way Jesus likes to operate. He is saying, “Yes, I am sending you out as lambs among wolves; it’s gonna be dangerous, but don’t worry. I will be your shepherd, who will guide you, protect you, and provide for you. TRUST ME!” Jesus wants our unwavering faith in Him. This does not mean that we should be lazy in mission preparation. We must be prepared when going out on missions, but the focus should be a spiritual preparation through prayer, not so much a physical preparation that we have a safe and comfortable trip.
Do you really believe that Jesus can guide you, protect you, and provide for you as you go in faith and proclaim the Kingdom of God? Can you trust the invisible God to provide for your physical needs and protection? Do you think this kind of missionary method is realistic? Well, believe it or not, there is a missionary organization that does exactly this today. They go out with only some changes in their pockets and go into towns without a place to sleep. They ask people if they could stay over at their homes, and if one of them accepts them, they stay there and do ministry in that town. The result is that the missionaries experience God’s guidance and provision in amazing ways. It’s a radical way of doing missions, and God responds in radical ways.
So, Jesus instructed His disciples not to worry about their physical needs, but he does tell them to hurry up and go. He says in the latter part of v.4, “And don’t stop to greet anyone on the road.” This is not an instruction to be rude to people on the road. The point is that the mission is urgent. There is no time to stop and chitchat during the journey. We see this urgency in the story of Lot’s family coming out of Sodom in Genesis 19. Lot told his future sons-in-law, “Hurry and leave this city! The Lord is about to destroy it!” But they thought Lot was joking so they didn’t leave. Then the two angels of God urged Lot and his family to get out of the city, but they delayed. So, the angels grabbed the hands of Lot, his wife, and two daughters and got them out of the city before the city was destroyed with hell fire. That’s the kind of urgency that God wants us to have in saving people’s lives. God’s mission is urgent!
So, how will you apply Jesus’s instruction in your life? Is this a lesson to go out on foreign missions this summer? Sure, that’s a given. All of us must make it our priority to engage in foreign missions whenever there is an opportunity. So, I expect that all of us to on missions this summer as a group and as a church. But that’s not all. Remember, the mission that Jesus gave to us was not about going to foreign lands. The mission is for both local and global. It is both for the poor in 3rd world countries and the affluent classmate sitting next to you. For those who are working, the unbelieving coworkers need to be rescued as well. The mission is for every unbeliever around you. They are headed toward destruction fast and furiously. There is no time to waste. There is no time to focus on your personal success. Their eternal life is at stake, and God placed you right by their lives. Wha’cha gonna to do about it?
If Jesus’s mission was to make a way for salvation, then our mission is to show people the Way for salvation. The reason we are still left here on earth even after having been saved is because we are given a mission to make Jesus known. We are given a mission to reconcile man to God through Christ Jesus. It is the primary mission in our lives as believers, and we do it whether we like it or not. If our gracious Lord Jesus saved us out of the wrath of God by giving up His own life on the cross, then His love should compel us to obey Him.
In one of the greatest movies of all time, called Saving Private Ryan, Captain Miller (played by Tom Hanks) is given a mission to go behind the enemy line to find and extract Private Ryan, who was fighting against the Germans during World War II. He was sent out with a small team of soldiers to pierce through an unforgiving battlefield. A couple of his men died during the journey. It became so discouraging that one of his men that he wanted to dissert the group and abandon the mission. At this moment, Captain Miller said this:
“I don't know anything about Ryan. I don't care. Man means nothin' to me. It's just a name. But if -- you know -- if going to Ramel and finding him so he can go home, if that earns me the right to get back to my wife -- well, then, then that's my mission.”
Similarly, you may not know much about the unbelievers that you meet regularly. You certainly don’t know much about the unbelievers in other countries. And so, naturally, you may not care much about them. But if reaching out to them and sharing the good news so that may be able to go to the heavenly home, and if that earns you the right to be called the faithful servant of God, well, then, that’s your mission.
57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
This coming Friday will be March 17th. It is a special day, not just because it’s WonJun’s birthday, but also because it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Although, it has become a day when people wear green clothes, go to an Irish pub, and drink a lot of bear, originally it was the day to commemorate Saint Patrick.
Who was St. Patrick? And, what was so special about his life that people designated a day to remember him? People often mistakenly think that he was Irish, but he was actually born and raised in Great Britain in the late 300s. He grew up in a Christian family, but he was not an active believer. When he was just 16 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates from his home in Britain. He was taken to Ireland as a slave, and was force to look after animals as a shepherd. During his captivity, the Lord’s grace and mercy led him to repent of his sins and convert to Christianity. His relationship with God continued to grow during his slavery. After 6 years of captivity, the Lord revealed to him in a voice that he would soon go home and that a ship was ready. So, he escaped from his master and travelled 200 miles to a port, where he indeed found a ship that was getting ready to leave to Britain. He got on it and was soon reunited with his family.
After his return, St. Patrick continued to study Christianity and eventually became a priest. A few years later, God gave him a vision. In his vision, St. Patrick heard the voices of the Irish people calling out to him, "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.” It was a signal from God to return to Ireland and minister to the people there. It was the land where he was enslaved for 6 years as a teenager! It was the land of his kidnappers! He must have cried out, “How could I go back there again!” But Saint Patrick loved God, so he obeyed. He packed up his bag and went back to Ireland as a missionary.
As the history goes, he became the founder of Christianity in Ireland. He built several churches, baptized thousands of people, and served the people as a bishop until he died on March 17th, 461. Today, Ireland's largest religious group is none other than Christianity.
Saint Patrick loved Jesus wholeheartedly. His life was completely geared toward Him. He regarded Christ as Lord, and considered Him to be everywhere he went. We can get a glimpse of his heart from his famous prayer, called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.” In part, it reads:
“Christ be with me, Christ in the front, Christ in the rear, Christ within me, Christ below me, Christ above me, Christ at my right hand, Christ at my left, Christ in the fort, Christ in the Chariot seat, Christ at the helm, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”
Do you know of any Christian who is so dedicated to Christ like Saint Patrick? If so, how many are there? The sad reality is that many believers today follow Jesus half-heartedly. Jesus is more of nice insurance policy than the Lord of his or her life. For some Christians, school grade comes first. For some, video game comes first. For some, college comes first. For some, hobby comes first. For some, sleep comes first. For some, friends come first. For some, income comes first. And, for some, comfort comes first. But not many believers give their whole heart and life to Jesus. That is why Jesus said, “Work hard to enter the narrow door to God’s Kingdom, for many will try to enter but will fail (Luke 13:24).” Unless we work hard to keep our focus on Jesus, it is so easy to get distracted and lose passion for God. These days, we are seeing the fulfilment of Jesus’s prophecy, which is that many will turn away from Him and betray and hate each other. And many false prophets will appear and will deceive many people. Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold (Mt. 24:10-12).”
Why is it becoming like this? Why is it so hard to keep our attention on Jesus? Why is it so burdensome to give up our lives for Jesus? I believe one of the reasons is because the believers have forgotten about the awesomeness of being the followers of Christ. Many have forgotten how empowering it is to be His disciple. Many have forgotten the privilege of being His disciple. Jesus said in John 14:12, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”
What are the great things that Jesus has been doing? Well, let’s take a look. We have been going through the gospel of Luke, and we are now at chapter 9. Up to this point, Jesus cast out a demon from a possessed man. He healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others in that village. He healed a man with leprosy. He healed a paralyzed man (who was lowered from the roof). He healed a man with deformed right hand. He healed the dying slave of a Roman officer. He raised a widow’s dead son. He calmed the storm of the sea. He healed another demon-possessed man. He healed a woman who had been bleeding for years. He fed the 5,000 with only five loaves of bread and two fish. He healed yet another demon-possessed boy. And, throughout his ministry, Jesus was preaching about the Kingdom of God with power and authority.
And Jesus said to His disciples, “you can do even greater things than these.” How awesome is that! Jesus promised a supernatural life to those who dedicated their lives to Him. He promised to empower his disciples with the Spirit of God to do His ministry. He promised that his disciples could be like super heroes, rescuing the helpless with divine power. And, as if that’s not enough, God promised a great reward and the eternal life in His kingdom. Being a disciple of Jesus was pretty awesome.
So, it is not surprising that those who witnessed the works of Jesus really wanted to be His disciple. Some earnestly desired to be selected by Jesus. We see this example in Luke 9. In Luke 9:57, it says, “As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” This man was not even asked by Jesus to follow Him, but he voluntarily committed himself to follow Jesus wherever He went. He knew that if he could just learn from this rabbi (or teacher), he could take part in the amazing works that Jesus was doing, and lead a life that is meaningful, powerful, joyful, and influential. There was so much attraction to be His disciple.
But Jesus warned him in v. 58: “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.” What is Jesus saying? He is saying that, if Jesus Himself is rejected by people and has no place to stay, then His followers will all the more be rejected by others. So, in essence, Jesus was asking, “Are you willing to be rejected by others for sake of the gospel and the Son of Man?” “Are you willing to give up your life for me?” That was the key question that Jesus asked that man, and it is the key question He is asking all of us today. To be a true follower of Christ means to place Jesus and His mission as the #1 priority in life no matter the cost.
In verse 59, this time, Jesus pointed out a guy from the crowd and said, “Come, follow me.” It was a highly privileged invitation from this super rabbi, so he responded positively, but added a condition, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.” What he was saying was that he would like to take care of his elderly dad until he dies, and then follow Jesus. Jesus was clearly not the #1 priority of his life; his own dad came first. So, Jesus responds in v. 60, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.” In other words, He was saying that there are unbelievers who will take care of the things of this world, even the work of burying his dad. This is the same principle that Jesus taught when He said, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison--your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:26).” Jesus is making it clear that nothing else and no one else comes first before Him.
In verse 61, we see another man coming up to Jesus and requesting to be His disciple. He also sees the desirability in being Jesus’s disciple. The man said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.” At first glance, that sounds harmless rather natural, but Jesus did not approve of this either. Jesus responded, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” In other word, there can be no “but-first-let-me” before Jesus. Jesus always comes first. Jesus always must be the first. Those who put a hand to the plow and looks back are those who still desire the things of this world. And what does Jesus say about that? He said, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them (1 John 2:15).” This warning was given to us since Genesis when Lot's wife looked back towards Sodom and Gomorrah, and turned into a pillar of salt. The same warning is given to us today that we cannot look back toward our old ways of life. Born-again Christians cannot crave for the ways of this world. God must be utterly supreme over everything and everywhere in your life.
Indeed, following Jesus is costly. Yes, following Jesus requires sacrifice, and it requires going all in for Christ. But just like the man who found a treasure hidden in a field, and sold all his possession to buy that field, it is worth going all in for Jesus and following Him all the way into the Kingdom of God. Just like the merchant who discovered a pearl of great value, and sold all he had in order to buy that pearl, it is worth going all in for Christ. He is worth our sacrifice. Those who fully give up their lives for Christ can and will experience God to the fullest. It will no longer be a natural life, but a supernatural one. It will no longer be an ordinary life, but a divine one. And, it will no longer be a pointless life, but a significant one.
You may ask, “Pastor Daniel, what does it look like to go all in for Christ?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Imagine Master Yoda entering into this room, skillfully swinging his lightsaber without hitting anything in this crowded room. And imagine him presenting another lightsaber before you, and asking if there was anyone who would like to be his disciple to become a Jedi. How would you respond to such invitation? Would you say, “Nah, I got homework to do,” or “Nah, I just want to play some video games,” or “I’m busy with other fun things in life?” I sure hope that is not your response, because everybody knows how cool it is to be a Jedi! And if Master Yoda picked one of you and gave you his old and sacred training manual on how to become a Jedi, how much would you be devoted to reading it? How seriously would you take his training?
Now, you probably know where I’m going with this. If you can get so excited with the fictitious idea of becoming a Jedi, discipled by a fictitious Star Wars character, how much more should you be excited about the idea of becoming a real disciple of Jesus, who can do the miraculous things that Jesus did and even greater things than what He did? And if your eyes lit up about Master Yoda’s sacred training manual (and I don’t think there is such a thing even in the movie), how much more should you be thrilled about the real word of God that teaches you how to become a powerful disciple of Jesus? Wouldn’t you throw off everything that hinders and follow Jesus with perseverance? Well, that’s what many followers of Jesus did during His ministry. They devoted their lives to Jesus and closely followed Him. So, when Jesus sent out the 72 disciples to do some crazy stuff in His name, they obeyed. And when they returned, they exclaimed, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name!”
This is what I mean by going all in. Put Jesus and His work as your #1 priority in life. Devote yourself to His discipleship. When you come to church on Sunday mornings despite your lack of sleep, you are putting Jesus first. When you engage in the word of God during the Bible Study, you are getting trained by Jesus. When you come out to Friday Nights to read Christian books together, you are being equipped by Jesus. Do not skimp out on these gatherings. These are valuable training opportunities. And as you mature spiritually, some of you will have the ability to give wise advice. Some of you will have the ability to give a message of special knowledge. Some of you will have great faith. Some of you will have the ability to heal. Some of you will have the power to perform miracles. Some of you will have the ability to prophesy. Some of you will have greater discernment. Some of you will speak in tongues. Some of you will interpret tongues. And, some of you will preach the word of God with power and authority. When Christ becomes your all in all, God will do some mighty work through you.
St. Patrick understood this. That is why he was able to leave his family, go back to the country of his kidnappers, minister to the people there, and preach the kingdom of God. He put Jesus first, and, as a result, the whole country of Ireland became Christian. Wouldn’t you like to make that kind of impact in this world? Wouldn’t you like to leave that kind of legacy? If so, there is one person that you need to listen, pay attention, focus, cling on, and fully obey. His name is Jesus.
4 One day Jesus told a story in the form of a parable to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns to hear him: 5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Before the United States declared independence on July 4th, 1776, there were 13 colonies ruled by Great Britain along the east coast of America. One of the first colonies was the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was established in 1628. Shortly after their settlement, in 1636, they built their first college, which became the very first university in the United States. It was Harvard College, or Harvard University today. Its emphasis was on literacy so that individuals could read the Bible. Its primary focus was on training young men for God’s ministry. John Harvard, who was the first donor and one of the main founders, said this:
“Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main ends of his life and studies; to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all knowledge and learning and see that the Lord only giveth wisdom. Let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to see Christ as Lord and Master.”
Harvard College was not an isolated case that sought to bring up Christian ministers. Other Ivy League schools, such as Yale, Princeton, and Dartmouth, were also established primarily to train ministers of the Gospel.
The U.S. Public School System also began with the Christian background. In 1642, the Massachusetts Bay Colony made “proper” education mandatory, and 5 years later, passed the Massachusetts General School Law, which is famously known as “Old Deluder Satan Law.” The law begins with the following words that indicate the reason why they are enacting this education law:
“It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures,”
In other words, the settlers recognized that Satan’s chief objective was to keep men from the knowledge of the Bible, so, in order to combat the devil, they passed the law that required all children to go to school and learn to be able to study the Bible. That was the beginning of the grammar school, which is now known as elementary school.
Our whole education system, from elementary school to higher education, was founded on the purpose of knowing God and Christ through the Bible. Our Founding Fathers knew how important it was for the society to be grounded on the truth of God. They knew that, without the biblical principles permeated in the community, their new settlement would be on shaky grounds.
Unfortunately, the education system today looks very different. Elementary and middle schools are teaching students without the goal of learning about God. High schools are primarily focused on sending kids to better colleges, and colleges are focused on producing students that will succeed in life through job placement, riches, or fame. Today, God is not the purpose of education. In fact, our education system has never been as anti-Christian as it is today.
To be fair, it is not just the school system that has departed from God. Many Christian parents and students have also neglected the Word of God and turned away from His purposes. Some of them have a clear purpose in life, but it is often to advance their own personal success, riches, and comfort in life. Very few Christians study or work primarily for the purposes of knowing God, serving others, or making Him known to the world. Many have ignored the command to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and instead chose to seek first the success in one's own life and business.
This kind of worldly mentality is not unique to our generation. It even existed in the times of Jesus. Jesus described this in His Parable of the Sower to a large crowd that had gathered from many towns. The parable recorded in Luke 8:4-15 goes as the following:
5 “A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. 6 Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” When he had said this, he called out, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
His disciples didn’t understand what the parable meant, so Jesus graciously explained it to them. He said:
11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.
Jesus described that there are four different ways a person responds to the word of God. Their heart conditions are described as a footpath, rocky soil, thorny ground, and good soil.
Those who have the heart of a footpath are those who won’t receive the gospel at all even though the gospel was preached to them. They don’t call themselves Christians, and they certainly don’t see the need for a Savior. Therefore, their sins are not forgiven, and God’s judgement and wrath awaits them. For people in this category, John the Baptist, Jesus, and His disciples cry out “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Those who have the heart of a rocky soil are those who hear the gospel and initially receive it. But, they continue to have a hardened heart and neglect to grow their faith through spiritual disciplines, such as reading the Bible, praying, or being in discipleship in the church. So, when struggles or temptations come on their way, they quickly fall away from their faith and even renounce the existence of God. These are those who probably wouldn’t call themselves Christians, but even if they did, it would be a lie because they are not saved. The term “falling away” is frequently used in the Bible to indicate falling away from God. We must have a clear understanding that, when we are saved, it is NOT because of a one-time decision that was made in the past, but because of the continuing faith in Jesus.
Those who have the heart of a thorny ground are those receive the gospel, but continue to live a life that is self-focused. They continue to worry about their own life, and care about the treasures and pleasures of this life. Unfortunately, so many Christians today fall in this category. This is why many Christian students are studying NOT for the glory of God, but for their own glory and worldly success. This is why many Christian adults are working NOT for the glory of God, but for their own enjoyment, advancement, and comfortable retirement. These are those who straddle on the fence and attempt to reap the benefit of both sides. These are those who definitely call themselves Christians, but their heart for God is lukewarm at best. The Bible clearly tells us that, in the end, Jesus would spit out lukewarm Christian out of his mouth. He said that the fruitless branches, even if they were attached to the vine of Jesus, will be pruned, thrown out, and burned. He said that not everyone who says to Jesus, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of His Father who is in heaven. This is a sobering message. It is not enough to regard Jesus as your Savior; He must be the Lord of your life. You must be willing to give up the throne of your life. You must be willing to give up your life for the sake of the gospel.
Lastly, those who have the heart of a fertile ground are honest and good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. They are those who don’t take God’s word lightly, but stubbornly obeys His word whatever the cost may be. They are those who persevere under the temptations of this world and patiently produce fruit of their faith. The fruit denotes a noticeable manifestation of the Holy Spirit in them. In Galatians 5:22, Paul says that the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those who live by the Holy Spirit undoubtedly bring glory to God and engage in ministries of the kingdom of God. They fervently worship God upwardly. They participate in fellowship and discipleship of the believers inwardly. And they evangelize and minister to others outwardly. These are the ones that Jesus will say “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master’s happiness!”
Brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, which category do you fall under? Do you have a heart of a footpath, rocky soil, thorny ground, or fertile ground? God forbid that you are in one of the first three, but if you are, do not be dismayed. The very reason why God has given you the breath of life today and to listen to this message is because God loves you so much, and He is willing to wait for you to change your heart and turn your life completely toward Him. God’s grace is renewed for you today.
Nevertheless, the challenges are clearly set before you. “Will you commit your life to Him today, or will you continue to live your life astray?” “Will you return to your Lord and Savior, or will you continue to be His traitor?” “Will you invest your life in your eternity, or will you waste your life in uncertainty?”
The decision is yours. If you have the heart of a footpath, I urge you to repent of your sins and come to the Lord in humility. If you have the heart of a rocky soil, I urge you sift out the rocks of distractions in your life and focus on deepening your root of faith. If you have the heart of a thorny ground, I urge you to clear out the thorns of care and pleasures of life, and put Christ as the primary reason for your life. Do not let this day pass without changing the soil of your heart.
For those who have the heart of a fertile ground, God bless you! You are blessed because God exposed you to His word, He gave you the desire to cling to His word, and He filled your heart with the Holy Spirit to produce divine fruit. I encourage you to continue to feed yourself with the word of God. Just like you eat food every day, attempt to eat your spiritual food every day. Let the word of God shape your heart, so that you would have a heart after God’s own heart. Let the word of God saturate your mind so that the Holy Spirit may speak through it. Let His word never depart from you.
But don’t just stop at reading the Bible. We are called to cling to His word and obey His word. Obedience is a sign of your love to God. So, meditate on the word of God, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.
Finally, be observant of the fruit that you are bearing in your life. Is it good or bad? Jesus said that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. He also said that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So, check the fruit of your life and cut out those that shouldn’t hang on your tree. Let the goodness of God continue to grow and multiply in your life. And let the kingdom of God expand in your life.
May God bless us as we focus and dedicate our lives to Christ Jesus, our beloved Lord and Master!
Pastor Daniel Kim