“Grasping the Gospel” (In an Age of Discount Discipleship)

Part Four: “The Importance of Roots!” 11.5.2018

Matthew 13:1-9 (NIV) “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.’”

This may strike my readers as curious … that I would open a devotional and Christ-centered article with a reference to a very “worldly” song. But I can’t resist. It’s just perfectly suited to this passage. At least I think so. I recently heard country singer Garth Brooks presenting his classic “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places” and the lyric struck me as funny but true. It tells the story of a guy who went to a very fancy party dressed in his casual cowboy clothes. It opens with:

“Blame it all on my roots
I showed up in boots
And ruined your black-tie affair…”

Actually, this line is a theological masterpiece. “Blame it all on my roots!” Jesus spoke of roots. And the problem of bad roots explains discount discipleship. Let’s look closely …

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.”

Surely the word picture is meant to illustrate the sharing of the Gospel. We’ve all seen people who are totally refractory to the Good News of Jesus. They are like sidewalks and the seeds just bounce off. I think our Lord is likening the birds to the evil one who steals away the seeds of salvation before they can take root. Actually, this reminds us that some seed will be wasted in the process of planting a crop. It’s the next illustration that is more unsettling. The person who gets started with Christ but cannot stay in the walk. We’ve all seen this … a reaction to the offer of Christ that is enthusiastic, but the soil is unprepared.

We recently had a re-seeding project in our yard after some excavation work. I was feeling a little lazy, so I didn’t really “work” the soil by softening it and raking and adding in some fresh topsoil. I simply scattered seed and it didn’t take root. But one area did start to respond and quickly. It didn’t last because the soil had no depth. So, the Lord Jesus Christ says:

“Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”

I’ve often thought of writing a short book about coming to Christ. Its title would be “Do Not Come Quickly to Jesus!” This happens when the warnings are ignored and the Gospel is presented as “Just say these words. Come and be baptized because Jesus really wants to be your friend and all you need to say is ‘Yes! ’”

In the parable the plants were “scorched.” Why? Because they had no depth in the soil. No roots to go down to the water. No strength to withstand the hot sun. They had “no root” … a Greek word that simply means “root!” The part of the plant that goes deep! Discount discipleship has very shallow roots or none. Without deep roots, the disciple will drop away. Or remain lost in worldly living.

The late Charles Colson used to tell a story about a gangster in the fifties named Mickey Cohen. Billy Graham went to California in the nineteen fifties many times. On one visit, the notorious Mr. Cohen met with a Graham associate and went forward to receive Christ. The headlines were fired up! “Gangster says he’s now a Christian!” The believing world rejoiced and many well-wishers contacted Cohen to encourage him in his new way of life.

About a year later, a member of the Graham team met with Cohen and told him there was great concern about his continued lifestyle. He was reputed to be involved in illegal drugs, gambling syndicates and other criminal activity. He was reminded that “Christians do not live that way.” Cohen’s response was stunning. He said: “Well, I see that there are Christian athletes and Christian movie stars and others who are famous. Why can’t I be a Christian gangster?”

That story sounds like fiction but it has been attested by some very reliable people. I suspect that there are some people who think they can trust in Christ without changing their sinful ways. That would be salvation by faith taken to the point of absurdity. They must think that because only faith is required to receive Christ that after salvation there are no expectations from God. To the contrary, God expects us to become more and more like Christ himself! Not to get saved but because we are saved. And that process of sanctification … being made Holy and set apart … that process … will be very hard at times. And the world will not affirm it!

Jesus said the sun will bear down with great heat upon us believers. We will need deep roots to survive the intensity. Simply stated we will need deep roots … because he may have accepted us just as we are but he will not leave us that way.

Next: “Arguing With Jesus!”

Peace. Pastor Alberta

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