MUSHROOMS OR MAPLE TREES?
Introduction: I like mushrooms in my Chinese fried rice and maple syrup on my pancakes. Do you know the difference in how they grow? Mushrooms sprout up overnight and then wither away in a matter of days. Maple trees, on the other hand, grow gradually while learning to withstand the forces of nature that threaten their existence. They result in a majestic fruit bearing entity that lasts for generations. So, it can be with people who follow Christ.
Unfortunately, some, wither away rapidly; others grow deep and strong and produce the fruit that God designed for them. In Luke chapter eight we will discover elements of a Christ-follower that produces this depth and substance to life. Just as Jesus was preparing and grooming the first disciples to be Maple Trees so we will discover that as we apply the lessons to our lives we, too, will grow and become Maple Tree style disciples.
During his ministry on earth Jesus told a farming story to illustrate the importance of spiritual fruit bearing in his followers. In this story, we will see the seed and four types of soils that were compared to the hearts of people. (Luke 8:4-15).
The Parable: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was trampled down and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop. Are you listening to this? “Really listening? (Message Bible). In eastern practices, the seed was sometimes sown first and the field plowed afterwards. Roads and pathways went directly through many fields and the traffic made much of the surface too hard for seed to take root in. You may be asking what do these four different soils represent. What is the seed? What does this have to do with me today?
In the parable, the seed is the word of God and the soil represent four types of people. I would call them, 1. The Skeptics 2. The Enthusiastic 3. The Compromisers 4. The Practitioners.
I. THE SKEPTICS: “As the farmer sowed some seed fell on the road, it was trampled down and the birds ate it up” The way side people are mainly the skeptics, the unbelievers, they hear the gospel preached over and over again but they never respond to it because the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts so that they won’t believe and be saved.
Have you wondered why in spite of many wonderful Christian TV channels preaching the gospel, churches doing evangelistic outreaches, yet so many still remain un-touched by the Gospel? Even some of those who regularly attend church, and listen to inspiring messages every Sunday could also remain unchanged. Why? Because there truly is satanic opposition.
The devil doesn’t want people to come to know the “Truth”, if they come to know the truth they can no longer be under his control, they will be free indeed. Paul writing to Corinthians exposes the strategy of the devil, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The message of the gospel can be stolen by Satan if we let him.
II THE ENTHUSIASTIC:
Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted, but withered because it didn’t have good roots. During one spring, we did some gardening and learned a few lessons in the process. One thing we learned that plants need water, warmth, nutrients from the soil, and light to continue to grow. In order for plants to survive and bear fruit their roots must go deep into the ground.
If they are shallow they will wither and die quickly. The same principles apply to the followers of Christ. In order to grow and bear fruit for Christ, we need to go deep.
There are some who respond to the gospel with great enthusiasm but never go deeper in their understanding of who God is and what his will is for their lives. Initial enthusiasm is great, but that is not the end in itself, we should learn to go deeper with God. That is why discipleship is so important. I encourage you to attend our Wednesday Life Group, where we will be talking about how to become a healthy disciple of Christ, ten traits of a vital (fruit bearing Christian).
Let’s suppose you were enlisted in the army, it may be a great feeling initially but if you never attend the nine-week intense Basic Combat Training (BCT) where you were not only trained in skills but also in character by learning the core values of the army, such as receiving orders, loyalty, teamwork, duty, respect, selfless service, honor and integrity, you will never come out to be a proud soldier of the United States Army. Right?
We cannot keep on surfing on the waves of enthusiasm, and excitement forever, sooner or later they will crash. When the rubber hits the road, what makes us stand strong is not our enthusiasm but our discipleship, which is our personal commitment to obedience. The crowds followed Jesus because they were excited about his miracles and message. Jesus was not impressed by their initial enthusiasm, he turned to them and said “unless you pick up your cross daily and follow me you are not my disciple.” That must have shocked them, every one left except the twelve. These twelve Disciples tasted the goodness of the Lord and they were willing to go deep with Christ. In the end, they became like the Maple Tree followers spreading the message of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
III. THE COMPROMISERS:
Other seed fell in the weeds; (In other translations it reads thorns, but I think in this part of the world we can relate better to weeds) the weeds grew with it and strangled it.” When we first came to Sharon, we were surprised to see so many bitter-sweet roots choking up the trees like a boa constrictor. In our backyard Wilma and I went to war with them and removed a lot of bitter-sweet roots making room for the trees to grow.
The seed that fell in the weeds represent, what I call “The Compromisers. These people hear the truth, they respond to it and they seem to be growing in it but along the way some things happen and they begin to compromise with the truth. They let other things (weeds) come in between them and God. What are these weeds? It is important to take note of this, what are the 3 things that could easily cause anyone of us to stagnate in our Christian growth?
In the NIV it says it crystal clear; the word is choked by life’s worries, riches, and pleasures. Is it wrong to worry about life? Is it wrong to become rich and enjoy pleasures? Most Christians nowadays would be quick to say No! there is nothing wrong with enjoying the good life. Over the years I have come to observe a difference though in the life and the fruit of Christians who want to have it all and those who are willing to deny themselves certain legitimate riches or pleasures for the sake of the Kingdom.
The world pushes us towards self-advancement; whereas Jesus calls us to a life of self-denial and sacrifice. Moses grew up in the palace, he could enjoy everything to his heart’s content if he wanted to, but when God called him to follow Him on the narrow way, Hebrews 11:25 “He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Are you letting the weeds grow in your spiritual garden? Are you letting the bitterroot like pleasures, and riches entangle you? There is a better path to choose. Come to Jesus, he will fill you with eternal joy and pleasures of his very own presence (Psalm 16:11).
IV. THE PRACTITIONERS:
“Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.” The seed that fell in the rich earth represents the people I call, “The practitioners” They hear the truth, receive it, retain it and practice it through thick and thin hence they produce fruit. Similarly, the more truth of God’s word we practice the more growth we will experience. In the Bible, the word “hear” is often associated with obedience, and action. In the NT, several times Jesus emphasized the correlation between hearing and obeying.
We all are familiar with a Sunday school story of “The wise and foolish builders” the main point in this story is not whether you should build your house on the sand or on the rock but it is about hearing and obeying. Matthew 7:24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man…Matthew 7:26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man.
We attend church regularly and hear great sermons, or tune into Christian TV/radio listen to the best preachers, but ironically how much of it do we really apply in our lives Why is bearing fruit so important? Because God is looking for fruit in our lives. John 15:1-8. What kind of fruit is God looking for in our lives? He is looking for the fruit of repentance (Matthew 3:8). He wants us to put an end to our past sinful life style and cultivate a God honoring life style. A life style that is in step with the Holy Spirit.
God is also looking for the fruit of the Spirit in us, Galatians 5:22-23, “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” The more we are lead by the Holy Spirit the more of the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in us. He is also looking for the fruit of good works, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” Col 1:10.
We don’t do good works in order to be saved but we do good works, because we are saved and love God and want others also experience the love of God. Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16. This morning we have looked at how mushrooms and maple trees grow. We also learned about four different categories of people. Which category of people you might identify with? You may be a skeptic, have listened to the word all your life but never paid enough attention to believe it.
You may be the enthusiastic, always looking for the next exciting thing but never making that commitment to go deeper with God. You may be a compromiser, you have heard the word but let the worries of this life, the pursuit of riches and pleasures keep you from bearing fruit for the Kingdom. May I challenge you to be a practitioner! A follower of Christ who is not easily falling away because of discouragement or distractions but one who keeps being nourished by the Word of God and keeps growing and bearing fruit. Amen!