"Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel." (1 Corinthians 9:14, KJV)
The Lord God Himself destined those who preach the gospel (that’s us) to live out the gospel as well.
In other words, practice what you preach.
I’ve seen dozens on people - online and in real life - quote Bible verses, talk about how great it is to serve God, try to encourage people to get involved in church, go on and on about the Christian life…only to turn around and do exactly what the Bible commands us not to do.
Christians aren’t perfect. We all know that. We’re simply forgiven and redeemed.
But that doesn’t mean we can abuse the grace we’ve been given.
As Christians, we have to make sure our walk matches our talk; our behavior matches our belief; our works match our words.
No, we cannot do anything to earn salvation, but we are commanded to live it out. We have to make sure our lives reflect our Savior.
There is such a thing as dead faith.
1And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
4Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (Luke 5:1-5, KJV)
Wouldn’t it be great if all of us present-day Christians could have the same unwavering faith and trust in Jesus as Simon Peter had that day?
So many times we stumble in our faith. Everything goes great in the ministry for a few weeks, months, even years—-then a bout of something like sickness, lack of time, fruitlessness, or even laziness strikes and suddenly we’re rejecting everything God calls us to do. A single plan fails to go our way and we start walking away from God saying, “I’ve had enough.” This isn’t the example that pioneer Christians set for us. And this isn’t the type of faith that we, professors of Christ, must be living out. It isn’t the example we should be setting for the younger generations of believers.
I’m going to speak from personal experience now, about just one aspect of my church.
Our church choir used to be huge. It used to fill the entire stage, from left to right. I used to watch them in awe after we kids’ choir members would perform and always thought, “I can’t wait ‘til we start singing those songs!”
But somewhere between then and now, something changed. I understand those who left the church because of a transfer in workplace, school, and even country. But there are those who simply stopped singing for the Lord. Stopped going out for visitation. Stopped helping our pastor out in planning kids’ and youth activities. Just…stopped.
It’s a rarity for us, the present church choir, to exceed 20 singers these days.
Our 24th church anniversary is coming up. A month ago I watched a video of the 16th anniversary, back in 2003. I wasn’t around yet (we came in 2004). Instead of feeling all nostalgic and sentimental about how quickly time flies, my heart began to hurt. So many of the adults I saw singing in the video are now pew-warmers, if I can put it that way. Granted a few of them continue to be involved in other ministries of the church, but the rest—-they continue to sadden me. So many of the teens, too, that were in the video have just stopped attending at our church altogether.
All I want to ask them now is, “Why did you stop?”
Why, instead of pressing on even in bleak, seemingly futile moments, did you stop trying?
See, that’s just one perspective of one person looking upon Christians who, instead of following Christ unwaveringly and faithfully, refused Him at His Word.
"Nevertheless at thy word," said Simon Peter. We need to be more like Him.
Because if one teen from one church could be so discouraged by the throngs who didn’t continue serving God the best they could…
How much more does it break the Father’s heart when we fail to trust Him and rest in His word?
5And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. (Luke 5:5, KJV)
Yes, there will be times when we seemingly toil for nothing.
But please, don’t stop.
If you’re a senior member at your church, please don’t stop.
Because we, the next generation, are watching you.
God is holding and watching our heart.
Let’s not break His. Even when it seems our efforts are in vain, let’s remember that nothing done for the Lord is in vain.
Let’s press on
I’ll begin this with a summary made by John Piper about the last three types of soil/ground mentioned concerning the parable of the sower.
In summary, Satan has three strategies to take away the word of God.
First, he often acts immediately as soon as the word is heard to make people inattentive or cause them to feel ill will, or to simply be so ignorant of spiritual reality they can’t grasp what’s being said.
Second, he comes in after the word has been received with joy and attacks it with hard times. He convinces some that holding fast to the word is not worth the trouble.
Third, he comes in where the word has begun to take root and strangles it with the lie that too many good things are being sacrificed.
Now let’s move to the final type of ground on which the seed (the Word of God) was sown - the type of ground that we should liken our hearts to.
15But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15, KJV)
This is the exact type of ground (ground - can be likened to heart) that Satan would just HATE for us to have…which is why we should desire it so fervently. By now I’m pretty sure we’ve all heard the Word. Heard the Gospel. Heard our pastor or bishop preach from the pulpit. We have, above all privileges a human being can be entitled to, heard the Word of God.
But let me ask you this: Have you kept it? Have you kept it in your heart? In the book of Psalms the writer himself showed an example of this.
11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. (Psalm 119:11, KJV)
Why did the psalmist hide the Lord’s Word in his heart? "…that I might not sin against thee." By “hiding God’s Word in your heart,” I don’t mean just listening to a sermon every Sunday morning. I don’t mean just reading a chapter of the Bible a day. To hide, used in this context, is to keep something in your heart; to make a conscious effort to store it there. I speak from experience when I say God’s Word keeps us from sin. It is an armor as well as a sword in our daily battle with sin, and so I urge you, fellow Christian, to read and study the Bible daily.
Next we read, "…and bring forth fruit…" What is this fruit, you ask? I think of the “fruit of the spirit” mentioned in the New Testament:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, KJV)
From my perspective this “fruit” can be summed up in Christlikeness - striving to walk in the steps of the Savior. However, the best example would be the souls we have won for the Kingdom of God - the lives we have led to Christ even as we ourselves follow after Him. Jesus Christ Himself won multitudes to the Kingdom. This is the best fruit of all - fulfillment of the Great Commission:
And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15, KJV)
You might be wondering - why should I even care about living for God? Aren’t we justified not by works, but by grace through faith alone? Why should I care about keeping His Word in my heart and bearing fruit?
I tell you only this: We do not do good works in order to be saved; rather, we do them because we are saved.
The fruit of your Christian life reflects your love for Christ.
Your seriousness when it comes to obeying God reflects your seriousness concerning Christ Himself, and obeying His commandments is a mark of a real, living faith in Him.
He was serious enough to die for us. Let’s be serious enough to live for Him.
*click the above image for an explanation of Philippians 2:12
Let’s resume with the parable of the sower.
18And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,
19And 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. (Mark 4:18-19, KJV)
It’s easy enough to understand from the verse itself. Countless people have heard the Gospel message - of repentance and forgiveness - but let their vision get clouded by the "cares of this world." This pertains to anything that might steal our focus from God, because as Christians we are not to be of this world though we are in it.
Vanity is an example of a care of this world. We live in an appearance-obsessed society. It’s hard not to get sidetracked from spiritual matters by physical matters. Fashion, make-up, looking good - while these are not necessarily bad things (take note: immodest fashions are not to be practiced by believers), we often take them for granted and allow them first place in our lives - instead of what we can do for the Lord.
Another example is stated in the verse itself: "…deceitfulness of riches…" Let me clarify that wealth in itself is not evil. There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. So let’s see what the Bible says about that:
10For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10, NLT)
See that? The love of money is the root of all evil - not money itself. This explains why we should be very careful when we’re blessed financially. In a “wealth-is-power” society, it has become more and more difficult not to focus on the accumulation of riches instead of the glorification of our God.
There are countless more examples I could give about the “cares of this world,” but I won’t elaborate any more because these “cares” might be different for every individual.
To sum it up, the “cares of this world” are anything that choke our faith; anything that hinders us from living for Jesus Christ. You know yourself. Is there anything - ANYTHING at all, that might have sidetracked you or distracted you even once from, for example, reading your Bible, going to church, or sharing the Gospel?
Maybe you chose to watch a movie instead of taking time for God’s Word. Maybe you chose to go shopping or stay home and “veg out” instead of attending a church service. Maybe you care too much about what people might think of you instead of sharing your faith. These all seem “more important” at the time, and we always slip into that, “God will understand” mindset, but in reality these are just DISTRACTIONS from things that truly matter.
Whatever your specific distraction, it is disabling you from being a fruitful servant of the Lord. We all have weaknesses. It’s hard to live in this world without being attracted by riches, fame, power, popularity, and other worldly lusts. It’s difficult to resist temptation, yes, but by the grace of God it is not impossible.
I end this with an excerpt from a website I visit often. (http://www.Jesus-is-Savior.com)
The Bible teaches that with temptation, God always makes a way of escape… “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1st Corinthians 10:13). No one has an excuse to sin. We all experience the same types of temptations throughout life. The Bible teaches that we always have a choice, to do right or wrong.
Thankfully, there is help available from the Lord Jesus Himself, Who was also tempted. Hebrews 2:18, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” The Greek word for “succour” in Hebrews 2:18 is boetheo meaning “to aid or relieve.” Literally, it means to help. Jesus fully understands the overwhelming power of temptation. If we submit ourselves unto God and resist the Devil as the Bible teaches in James 4:7, he will flee from us. Temptations will come and go; but Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Learn to depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit to strengthen you with what you need to reject and flee from sin - sin that keeps us from being faithful children of God. Jesus Christ did not just save our souls from Hell. He saves us from sin itself. He has the power to do so. Think it’s too far-fetched? Think again.
37For with God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:37, KJV)
We now move on to the second type of ground that Jesus Christ mentioned in the parable of the sower.
16And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;
17And 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. (Mark 4:16-17, KJV)
In the New Living Translation of the Bible (I personally prefer the KJV - grew up with it and my church uses it - but translations such as this are helpful for easier understanding):
16The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. (Mark 4:16-17, NLT)
You heard the Gospel. You believed the salvation message. You were convicted of your sin. You accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior.
But was it from your heart? Take time to reflect for a minute.
As Christians, we are called to be steadfast and unwavering in our faith - no matter what men may say or do to us. We must not fear men, for they can only hurt us physically. They are powerless over our souls.
"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul…" (Matthew 10:28a, KJV)
God calls us to be strong and courageous. So, fellow believers, let us not be ashamed of the Gospel. Let us not allow the devil to dampen our faith through trials or persecutions, because the grace of God is holding us. We have this assurance.
I believe in the perseverance of the saints. When a person has truly been washed in the blood of the Lamb and saved by grace, he will continue to the end because God continually gives us strength to overcome sin. He is faithful.
Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6, KJV)
However, this does not mean that Christians are immune to sin. We are still sinners. Sinners saved by grace. We may stumble, trip, or even hit rock bottom spiritually. We may fail him time and time again in the trials that come. But if Christ is truly in our hearts He will bring us back to the fold - this is the mark of a true believer.
Consequently, if a person enters the faith but does not continue until the very end, then it is possible that he/she was never really saved in the first place.
"They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (1 John 2:19, KJV)
14The sower soweth the word.
15And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. (Mark 4:14-15, KJV)
11Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
12Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. (Luke 8:11-12, KJV)
The parable of the sower. Basically, the seed is the Word of God; the Gospel. And the places where the seeds fall - that’s us.
The first type of ground Jesus mentioned was the “way side.” These people hear the Word, but in an instant Satan comes and steals their attention from the saving grace of God.
Notice that it says, “…lest they should believe and be saved." The devil is that aggressive. He absolutely abhors it when an unbeliever hears the Good News and will do everything he can to turn a person’s heart away from accepting God’s saving grace.
Maybe you’re standing on the way side right now. You’ve heard the message of salvation - probably from a friend, from a Gospel tract, from missionaries, from a Christian on the street. You’ve heard it - but did you believe it with all your heart? It’s not enough just to listen. It’s not enough to believe there is a God. It’s not about being part of a youth group or simply going to church every Sunday.
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21, KJV)
It isn’t about wearing “I love Jesus” t-shirts, quoting Scripture on your Facebook status, or even posting “God-related” images on your blog, although there’s nothing wrong with that.
Let’s look at the verse again:
21"Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21, NLT)
“The will of my Father” doesn’t refer to good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, while faith alone is the root of it. So what is this “will of the Father" that this verse refers to? Let’s turn to Scriptural support.
5Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
6To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
7In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; (Ephesians 1:5-7, KJV)
This is the will of God - that we accept His gift of salvation: redemption through the blood of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness of our sins by the overflowing grace of God.
You know the way of salvation. Maybe you go to church. Maybe you hang out with Christians. Maybe you pray every day. Maybe you have a Christian blog.
But have you personally accepted God’s gift of salvation? The devil might have kept you from truly believing on God’s Word the first time you heard the Good News. He might be at it again at this very moment. That’s why you need the grace of God now - in Him, we can claim the victory over Satan.
2For God says,
“At just the right time, I heard you.
On the day of salvation, I helped you.”[a]
Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT)
When I say “I am a Christian,” I am not shouting that “I am clean living.”
I’m whispering, “I was lost, but now I’m found and forgiven.”
When I say “I am a Christian,” I’m not speaking this with pride.
I’m confessing that I stumble and I need Christ to be my guide.
When I say “I am a Christian,” I’m not trying to be strong.
I’m professing that I’m weak and I need His strength to carry on.
When I say “I am a Christian,” I’m not bragging of success.
I’m admitting that I have failed and I need God to clean my mess.
When I say “I am a Christian,” I’m not claiming to be perfect.
My flaws are far too visible, but God believes I am worth it.
When I say “I am a Christian,” I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches, so I call upon Jesus’ name.
When I say “I am a Christian,”’ I’m not holier than thou.
I’m just a simple sinner who received God’s good grace, somehow!