(HEARING, RECEIVING, UNDERSTANDING…. BEARING FRUIT???... OH, AND FALLING AWAY???)
18 May 2010
Father, I am reading the parables of Jesus in Matthew 13.
And I have to admit that the more I read them (through time), the more puzzled I become… and even the less I seem to understand.
Maybe I never really “understood” them to begin with. I could “parrot” the parables (stories) themselves. I could “parrot” Jesus’ own explanations about them. I could even “parrot” the “explanations” of pastors, teachers, commentators, etc.
And I often thought that was enough: I thought that “parroting” knowledge was “understanding.”
But now, it seems like I have questions all the time! Doubts about what I’ve “understood” (or possibly misunderstood!) in the past. Wonderings: How does that fit in with what else I know – or at least, thought I knew – of You??
Oh Father: I need YOU to really teach me. To really open my eyes and ears and heart. Father, I want to “know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,” to “have an abundance,” to “be healed” by You from my arrogant small mind and my self-righteousness, and my independence from You, and from my lack of compassion, and so on…
Can I ask some questions?
Verses 1 to 17 (of Matthew 13) say that those who hear have been GRANTED to know the mysteries of the kingdom, and already having, will be GIVEN more – while those who don’t hear will NOT BE GRANTED, and will have what little they might have, TAKEN AWAY from them.
Why do You “grant” to some and not to others? How do You decide? Do some people then have no “choice”? Is that part of the whole “predestination” thing? The choice of the “potter?” What about fairness??? I mean, I know none of us are “deserving” – but are some “more undeserving” than others? (oh boy, are these “bad” questions? Papa????)
Further down, it says that the people You will heal are those who “see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and return…” It almost sounds like some kind of “deserving” … Or that really, we do have a choice.
But at what point? The reason I ask that is because in verses 18 to 23 Jesus tells us about different levels (or responses or ??) of “hearing the word of the kingdom.”
- hear but don’t understand: the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in the heart
- hear, immediately receive with joy: but no firm root: so when affliction of persecution come: immediately fall away
- hear the word [and apparently start to grow]: but when worry of the world or deceitfulness of wealth come: the word is choked: become unfruitful
- hear the word: understand: bear fruit and bring forth a good harvest
soooo… It seems that hearing – and even receiving and starting to grow – are not the KEY things: but rather it is UNDERSTANDING that brings forth fruit. Papa??? Does this mean that one is not truly a “believer” until they “understand” and as a direct result, bear fruit? Or are they a “believer” at the point of “accepting” the word – but can “fall away” if they aren’t rooted (and if they aren’t rooted, then did they ever really understand?), or get distracted before they “bear fruit?”
Good soil: hear the word, understand it, BEAR FRUIT (LOTS!)
(When I was growing up, “bearing fruit” was generally taught to mean “leading people to Christ.” So we were to result in at least 30 to 60 to preferably at least 100 conversions… And yet, very few people, even “life-long Christians,” could even say they’d “led 30 people to Christ” – or even 1 or 2…
And a lot of those “conversions” that did occur seemed to be of the “street-corner-4-spiritual-laws-conversions” with little or no follow up… And yes, sometimes I have wondered how many times some people might have been repeatedly “converted” that way….
I mean, even I myself really have difficulty saying at what point I was “converted” and “truly believed” [you, dear reader, can check out that story here]. I went through a number of “starts” … and there was a final “start” when I didn’t “seriously fall away” thereafter – though I of course had many stumblings, and some folks would definitely not agree that I was/ still am on the “straight and narrow.”
Though really, I don’t know if I ever really did “fall away” after those other, earlier “starts” … because no matter what I might have done “between times,” You never stopped pursuing me, and I really never stopped “believing,” as You well know – despite how it must have looked to others, when I was “acting worldly” and all!
So maybe I didn’t really “fall away” after all, especially sometimes when it seemed that others were convinced I’d “fallen away” because:
- I wasn’t “serious” enough
- I wore a bit of make-up
- I “sassed my mom” (according to them: not my intention! Rather, their interpretation!)
- And so on.
And there were times when I moved away from You (but didn’t stop believing) because I thought I wasn’t “worthy” … because apparently I’d committed the “unpardonable sin” (which changed from teacher to teacher, but generally referred to something “horrendous” like adultery and divorce, You know…)
But Papa, when it comes down to it, You never left me. NEVER. I know it now. And deep inside, I knew it then…. But…
Anyway… what DOES “bearing fruit” actually mean? Papa? Oh! Thank You! What else do You say about it in Your word? Let’s see…
Col 1:9-10 … spiritual wisdom and understanding (given by You) walk worthy, bear fruit GOOD WORKS, INCREASING IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD
Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, 23 GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL…
John 4:36 “reaps… gathering fruit FOR LIFE ETERNAL…”
Phil 1:22-24 “ fruitful labor…for your sake” [speaking to the Philippian church/ believers, about helping them grow in Christ]
Ah! So “bearing fruit” isn’t JUST about keeping count of how many people one “converts”! It is, partly, pointing others to You (ummm…. YOU do the heart-work, the “converting,” don’t You?), but it is also an awful lot about our walk, our relationship with You! Which is definitely a “growing” kind of thing. Including some stumbling, and doubts, and feeling lost sometimes, and so on. But always moving on with You, abiding in You, becoming Christ-like because Your Character is growing in us as our spirit abides in Your Spirit (not just trying to “imitate” You).
…. Well, I have read to the end of the chapter. Father, there is so much to understand (and so much that has been MISUNDERSTOOD…). Honestly, it boggles my brain a lot of the time…
And then You come along – and it’s like You turn on a switch and a floodlight lights up the dark space, and I see so much more clearly (though there are still shadows – and later, You turn on another spotlight, which takes care of some of those… and someday, oh someday, there’ll be no more shadows!!!).
Oh Father, I love the brightness and beauty of Your Light. Jesus, You ARE the Light of the world – and, amazingly, You want us to be lights too, Your light shining through us – through me, even though I so often feel that I am so much in shadow… Wow! Your ways are so amazing!)
I wonder, sometimes, how I could have missed Your Light for so long… I know that that is exactly what Your word says about how Your Spirit enlightens and guides and teaches Your children… But it never cease to amaze and astonish me – and fill me with joy! Thank You!!! Amen!!!
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit! Almighty God! I love You.
You love me!!!! Wow!