WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?
Our lesson this morning begins with the parable of the four soils. First, we will look at how Jesus presents the parable and then we will read His explanation of the parable.
Matthew 13:3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow.† 4 "And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.† 5 "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.† 6 "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.† 7 "And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.† 8 "But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.† 9 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Many of the parables Jesus spoke are not explained by Him and we are left to figure out the meaning. Sometimes the answer to the parables is straight forward, other times there are several meanings we can glean from them, but this is one of those parables that Jesus explains for us. Here is His explanation:
Matthew 13:18 " Therefore hear the parable of the sower:† 19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.† 20 "But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;† 21 "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.† 22 "Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.† 23 "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."
I could easily make an entire lesson out of this one parable, but I will not today. The main reason I am starting out with this parable is to show that every person can fit into one of these 4 general areas and perhaps some of us may have been in all 4 categories in different times of our lives.
The first category is the hard hearted or we might say the hard headed. This is the kind of person who has no interest in hearing the Word of God. They do not believe in it, nor do they think they need any saving. They are happy where they are in their life without God or His church. Obviously, this is not what the Christian life is about because this type of person wants nothing to do with God or His precious Word.
The second category is the kind of person that tends to make decisions based on an emotional response, but their commitment to those kinds of responses is very weak. These are the kinds of people that will attend a gospel meeting or go a to a worship service with a friend and will love what they hear about God and what He promises us and they are quickly converted and love everything about the idea of God as long as they remain on their emotional high. However, as soon as Godís Word or the lifestyle of being a Christian gets in the way of something else that gives them an emotional high, they are quick to move away from God because they really were not committed to Him. So, as soon as things got tough or something different comes along that they are passionate about, they will move on. While these people may have become Christians, this is not what the Christian life is about because the Christian life is more than just becoming one.
The third category describes those who are heavily planted in the way of the world and are influenced by it. This is the kind of person who hears the good news of Jesus and understands that they need to make changes in their life, but the problem is that their faith is weak. Since they continue to surround themselves with worldly pleasures, it slowly but surely drags them away because they find more pleasure in satisfying their flesh. Since they know that worldliness and Christianity do not mix, they will be like the rich ruler Jesus talked to who turned away from Him and went away because His riches ended up being more important Him than Jesus. Worldliness is something that all Christian struggle with in one way or another, but the Christian that allows the world to push God out of their life also has a lack of faith and commitment to the Lord.
The fourth category describes those who are ready to hear the Word and allow it to sink deep into their heart. These are the kind of people who put a lot of thought into what it means to be Christian and the commitment that it takes. They realize that it is a lifetime commitment and not a passing phase. This is the kind Christian that struggles with worldliness and difficult times, but because of their deep commitment to living the life of Christian, they manage to keep pressing forward toward the goal of heaven without allowing the temptations of the life to drag them away from God. I hope everyone one this room is currently in this fourth category because it is the only category you can be in and make it to heaven.
We must never forget that when we obeyed the gospel which included being baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we signed up to become Christian soldiers. At the point of our baptism were united with Christ.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?† 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?† 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?† 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Our lesson is not focused on baptism, but these verses clearly show that baptism is the point that we are buried with Christ and put into Him. When we are baptized into Christ, Paul says that we become a new creation in 2 Cor. 5:17. Now notice as Paul continues in:
† 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,† 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.† 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.† 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,† 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.† 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.† 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul is telling us that when we were baptized into Christ, we were united together with Him having our old man crucified, which did away with our sins. Let us not miss the point that baptism is the point that our sins are removed. So, those who claim that baptism is not necessary for salvation will have to say that one can be saved without being in Christ, without being united with Him, and without having your sins removed. I would hope that all of here will accept Paulís words on this mater because what he says comes from God and not man.
After we are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, we are to realize that we have become dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Paul expounds on this in:
Romans 6:13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.† 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.† 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!† 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?† 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.† 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Paul is teaching us that when we obeyed the gospel, we made the commitment to live for God. We made the commitment to keep sin out of our life. We only have two choices in this life. We can either be slaves of sin or slaves of righteousness. If we choose to be a slave of sin then we will be spiritual dead. If we physically die in that state, we will spend eternity in hell. If we choose to be a slave of righteousness, we will be alive spiritually. If we die physically in that state, we will get to enjoy eternity in heaven.
So, far in this lesson, we have learned a few things about what the Christian life is not and a few things about the Christian life is like. If we want to make it to heaven, we must make sure that remain in the 4th category I talked about earlier.
Now letís begin to take a closer look at what the Christian life is all about.
The Christian life is a life of faith. As Paul said:
Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Paul tells us that faith comes from hearing of Godís Word (Rom. 10:17). A man without faith is like a car without an engine. We must have faith to be pleasing to God (Heb. 11:6).
The Christian life is a life of obedience.
Hebrews 5:8 though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.† 9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,
Jesus showed us what it meant to be obedient, and we are certainly not better than Him. So, we too must be obedient to the will of God. If we are not, we will not receive eternal salvation. Some like to think all they have to do is have faith in God. While that is a necessity, we are not saved by faith alone. James makes this crystal clear:
James 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe -- and tremble!† 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
We must have an obedient faith to be pleasing to God. Just so there is no confusion, James is not talking about works of merit that is where we can earn our salvation, he is talking about works of obedience in which we do things in the name of our Lord for His glory because no amount of good works can earn us salvation. Only God was able to make salvation possible for us. Jesus explains works of obedience best in:
Luke 17:7 "And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?† 8 "But will he not rather say to him, 'Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink'?† 9 "Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.† 10 "So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.' "
As Christian, we are to serve our Lord because He is our master. We understand that we are nothing without Him and He certainly does not owe us thanks for what we do for Him. Instead, we owe Him thanks for allowing us to become His servants and giving us opportunities to serve Him.
A Christian life is a life of repentance.
Repentance means that we will change our ways to Godís way. When we became Christians, part of obeying the gospel was repentance as seen in:
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In essence we were saying to God that we were going turn away from the sin in our life and conform ourselves to His ways. Well, guess what? Repentance is ongoing process. It would be great if we had some magically way of recognizing every sin in our life so that we could repent of it immediately, but here is the thing, many times a new convert has much to learn between right and wrong. Some new Christians may be doing some things that they have no idea are wrong. In fact, I am sure all us can look back over our Christian lives and remember some things just like this. This is why repentance is not a one time action, but something that will continue throughout our Christian lives.
Now this is very important. Once we learn that we have been doing is wrong, then we must be willing repent of it and stop doing it. This can be challenging for us sometimes especially if we had been doing that sin all our lives. When we grow up around a sin and our family and friends engage in that sin, we have tendency to become desensitized to it. Even when we recognize that it is a sin according to Godís Word it can be very difficult for us to see it that way especially if we have not seen any dire consequences come from in our own lives.
No matter how long we have been doing it or been around it, we must train ourselves to trust in Godís judgment. If His Word says it is a sin, then we must accept that it is and get it out of our lives. Some religious groups out there teach a false doctrine known as once saved always saved. What this doctrine teaches is that you cannot lose your salvation once you get it. If this doctrine were true, then repentance would not be necessary. As far as that goes, those Christians we talked about earlier in the 2nd and 3rd category would still make it to heaven under this false view.
This is easy false doctrine to disprove. While I could teach a whole lessons on this topic, I want to show you very quicklyfrom Scripture how to disprove this.
First Jesus said:
Luke 13:3 "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.††
Without a doubt, without repentance you will perish. Now all we need is one example to show that repentance is necessary after one is saved. Here it is:
Acts 8:18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,† 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."† 20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money!† 21 "You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God.† 22 "Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you.† 23 "For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity."† 24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."
Simon was a Christian because we learn in the previous verses that he obeyed the gospel just as many of the Samaritans had. So, he was saved, yet because of his sin he put his soul in danger and Peter told him about it right away and told him to repent. So a person must repent before they become a Christian and they must continue to repent of sins they commit while living the life of a Christian.
A Christian life is a life of worship and devotion to God.
I am amazed at the growing number of people who call themselves Christians who see no reason to worship God with other people. They have the mentality that if they just call themselves Christians and mention His name every once and awhile that that is good enough. What this really shows is lack of dedication for God and what Jesus made possible for all of us.
We must never forget that Jesus purchased the church with His blood, and we should not neglect. It should bring us great joy to assembly with the saints knowing that is how God wants it done. It is a privilege, not something that is to be dreaded. As the Psalms say:
Psalm 122:1 ÖI was glad when they said to me, "Let us go into the house of the LORD."
Psalm 132:7 Let us go into His tabernacle; Let us worship at His footstool. †††††††††††††††††††
As Jesus told the Samaritan woman:
John 4:23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.† 24 "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
You and I have been granted the right to assemble wherever we want and worship our God. Though we can worship Him wherever we assembly, we have not been given the right to worship Him however we feel fit because Jesus said we must worship Him in spirit this is from the heart, and in truth that is from His Word. This is exactly what we see the early Christian doing shortly after the church had it beginning:
Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
The apostlesí doctrine is referring to what they were teaching as inspired men of God. We have the benefit of having Godís Word in a nice little book we call the Bible. As we live the Christian life, we will desire to worship our God with the saints and we will regulate our worship to Him in accordance to His Word because we know that is what He wants and that He is not interested in us adding or taking away from His perfect will.
I have much more to say about the Christian life, and we will talk more about it next week. I hope that as we look at what a Christian life is about, if you find yourself lacking in some areas, I hope you will work on them and, if you find that you have been hanging on to a sinful activity that you will repent of it. To some, living the life of a Christian is just too hard, but to the faithful Christian, though they recognize the great challenges of Christianity, they are able to see the big picture and realize that no matter how difficult it may be to remain faithful and serve God, it is worth it in the end because a few years of sacrificing the temporary worldly pleasures is worth eternity in heaven.