PARTNERS WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: PART XLIV

The disciples whom Jesus sent into the world had and still have two strikes against them. Their kingdom is not of this world and they are no longer of this world (John 18:36; 17:16). When the messengers of Christ must obtain permission from religious or secular authorities to preach the good news and when they are also being censored and restricted in diction, then Christian ambassadors are in a very hostile environment. The USA has become such an anti-christian country. Unless there are massive revivals and repentance, the USA, like the Church in Laodicea, will be spewed out (Revelation 3:16).

The world is not friendly to Christ, nor to his disciples. The Apostle Paul warned that Christians are not only fighting flesh and blood but spirits that seek to harm the human mind and destroy their souls and spirits. Then, according to Jesus, His Message would only reach one-quarter of the world’s population, and of that quarter, there are three groups or types that will emerge. The other three quarters would be swallowed up by Satan. Satan’s followers would seed more seed than the Christians; and therefore, Satan will reap the larger harvest.

PAUL WARNED NOT TO TAKE THE ENEMY LIGHTLY AND SO DID THE APOSTLE PETER

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (evil spirits). Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:10-20).

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ as well as a partaker in the glory that is to be revealed. Tend the flock of God that is your charge, not by constraint but willingly, not as domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is manifested you will obtain the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you that are younger be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, establish, and strengthen you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen (I Peter 5:1-11).

THE SERMON OF THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER

The “First Sermon on the Mountain” was for Jesus’ disciples, and the main message was how to face the world as his messengers and as his witnesses. In the “Parable of the Sower,” Jesus addressed the crowd and later on Jesus explained the meaning to his disciples. The crowd was the field and there were four kinds of listeners present who were preoccupied with different needs and different problems. Only one-fourth of the listeners would make some response to the Good News that was being shared by Jesus. Satan, the devil, had his birds do the picking before one-quarter of the listeners had a chance to understand what Jesus was offering. The majority or half of the crowd were kept busy with their personal difficulties and could not possibly take in what Christ was saying.

Again he (Jesus) began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he taught them many things in parables, and in his teaching, he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other Seed fell on rocky ground, where it had not much soil and immediately it sprang up since it had no depth of soil; and when the sun rose it was scorched, and since it had no root it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded thorns and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:1-9).

The hearing, apparently, was not on what Jesus said and the disciples were puzzled why Jesus riddled the crowd. Who, in his right mind, would sow on the road, on rocky ground, or among thorns? Also, who would throw good information to people who do not care? We are not told whether the crowd wanted to hear what the sower sowed, except that the birds and the human problems were in the way. It is to the disciples that Jesus unravelled the secret of the “Kingdom,” but not to the crowd. Only twenty-five per cent had the tendency to listen to the Good News, and one-third of this group would end up fully supporting the Kingdom of God on earth. When I became a pastor over fifty years ago these numbers in my congregation were in line with the national statistics. The prediction of Jesus was that a quarter of the world’s people would hear his message, but not necessarily become dedicated disciples of Jesus. With this explanation in mind, we may see what the disciples began to experience in the world when they went out to preach the gospel (the pearls of salvation). It must have occurred to them, what Jesus had said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls (life) before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you” (Matthew 7:6).

Then the disciples came to Jesus and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them “To you, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. With them indeed is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says:

‘You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in his heart; this is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty (Matthew 13:10-23).

THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS IN THE WORLD AND REQUIRES CONSTANT WATCHING

To presume that God is watching does not alter the fact that Jesus’ disciples are the guards on duty around the clock. If they leave their posts, but only for a moment, the evil spirits will move in quickly. Please note want Jesus, Himself, said and what Paul and the writer to the Hebrews warned about. Especially when converts dispose of evil things and do not fill their empty souls with good things, evil spirits will return very fast in larger numbers:

And another parable Jesus put before them (disciples), saying, The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds? He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers to gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:24-30).

When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest, but he finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and brings with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be also with this evil generation” (Matthew 12:43-45).

Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God (II Corinthians 6:14-7:1).

For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them (Romans 1:18-32).

For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was consecrated, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:26-31).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).