To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John. 8:31 emphasis added)
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Matt. 7:18-21 emphasis added)
This salvation by grace through faith is via a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. We must know the Word of God intimately, and hold to His teaching. God often uses vegetation as metaphor (but not exclusively) to illustrate this in different ways throughout the NT (e.g. Matt. 7:18-20 above), just as He used the metaphors of a vine and a fig tree with His nation of Israel in the OT.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus teaches that He is the Vine, and promises that if we abide in Him and His word abides in us, then we will have whatever we ask of Him,* and He will produce His fruit through our branches (15:5-8). As noted in Part 1, that teaching includes His stark warning that the Father cuts off every branch in [the Vine] that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (v.2). Note the similarity with His words in Matthew, above. [*this means that we will know, desire, and pray His will, for we will be transformed by the Word abiding in us.]
In His Parable of the Sower (Matthew’s full version provided here), our Lord teaches that the word of God is a seed that grows, dies, or even fails to grow in men according to the type of soil with which the heart receives and responds to it.
He describes four types of heart-soil producing four different outcomes in the lives of the hearers of God’s word. Notably, the seed remains the same in every case; the only variable is the heart-soil of the listener. Given that God has already saved all men in Christ (Ro. 5:18, 1 John 2:2, and Titus 2:11, see Part 1), and given that the degree of our active faith in Christ determines the extent of grace received (e.g. 2 Tim. 2:20-21, Luke 19:26), we see this key truth: God has the same mercy and promises of grace for all sinners, but our fruitfulness is proportional to the degree that we receive and respond to them!
As emphasized in Part 1, it must be understood that no part of this can ever be by works of our flesh – it must be via our anointing by the Holy Spirit. Please discern whether you should review Gal 3:1-7 and James 2:20-26 to apprehend what James really means by asking “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?”
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Knowing now the vital importance of our response to God and His word (the seed), let’s study the characteristics and outcomes of the four types of heart-soil in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Matt. 13:18-33):
Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. (vv. 18-19) • These men are not (yet!) born again, for the soil does not receive the seed (Christ, the Word), so it does not sprout. They are the only ones which are not or have not been disciples (yet!), and we must intercede for them.
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (vv. 20-21) • These men have been born again, (for they received the seed / Christ) but have not persevered in the knowledge of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and thus have not worked out their salvation with fear and trembling. Having ceased to abide in Christ, they are the apostate disciples. These are the tree[s] that [do] not bear good fruit [that are] cut down and thrown into the fire (Matt. 7:19), the branches the Father cuts off and are thrown away and wither… picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. (John 15:2,6). They are the only group which does not need our prayers, for, as Heb. 6:4-8 explains, it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance. Other NT Scriptures addressing the wretched state of apostasy include 2 Pet. 2; Heb. 3:12, 10:26-29; John 6:66; 1 Tim. 1:19-20, 4:1; Ro. 11:20-22, and 2 Thess. 2:3.
I strongly encourage you to dig in and study God’s word on this important matter yourself; God-willing, we will address them in detail further on in this series (but, given that He is so strongly drawing all disciples to come to His word themselves, He may not have me do so! Our discernment and obedience to respond in accordance with His Spirit are key😊.)
The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. (v. 22) • These are those born-again believers Paul describes in 1 Cor. 3:11-15 whose works will be burned up on the Day God’s fire will test the quality of each man’s works: they themselves will be saved, but only as one[s] escaping through the flames (v. 15). These believers will NOT inherit the rewards – the crowns – that God has for those who honestly seek Him. (See Matthew 5:12, ch 6, the Pauline epistles, and Rev. 2 & 3, for starters. Such an inheritance we have in Christ!) They desperately need our exhortations, discipleship, and intercession; so much of the NT consists of exhortations to these members of the Body of Christ that they may repent, know their true identity in Christ, and enter into His REST and BE FRUITFUL!
Oh, how the Lord has put these brothers and sisters on my heart – Jesus Christ is coming SO VERY SOON for His Bride, and He will tell the unwise virgins awaiting His coming with insufficient oil in their lamps “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you” (Matt. 25:12). They will have to suffer the Great Tribulation (see Part 7 especially of the last series, Our Exalted Position) – so long as they refuse the mark of the beast, they will be saved, but only as one[s] escaping through the flames…
But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. (v. 23) • THESE are the victors Jesus speaks of in Rev. 2 and Rev. 3 (see Part 8 of Our Exalted Position). They will sit enthroned as the mature Body of Christ in heaven judging the “little horn” during the Great Tribulation (see Part 6 of that series). THESE are those redeemed saints represented by the 24 elders in Rev. chs. 4-19 (see Part 9), the man-child of Revelation 12 seized up to God and His throne before the dragon is cast out of heaven to the earth, precipitating the Great Tribulation of Daniel’s 70th week (Part 10). Of course, we must disciple and pray for these fruitful saints as well as the unfruitful ones!
Praise God for the privilege of interceding for His saints, the members of this glorious Body of Christ! Praise God for His transformative Word! Praise God for His astounding Self!
[to be continued…]
Pressing on with you towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus, your sister deanna