Anyone can become a Christian with a simple prayer but not every Christian steps into their destiny to become everything Jesus has called us into. There are two large words that most Christians do not fully understand. The first is justification which in simple terms means what Jesus has done for us - our salvation. We had nothing to do with it because he did it all for us. Then there is sanctification - which is our walk, growth, progress to maturity, to become everything that we were meant to be. This takes effort and cooperation on our part as the Spirit works on us. But so many of us ignore sanctification and just rest on justification.
Salvation was the easy part for us because Jesus did all the heavy lifting but spiritual maturity takes effort and is the reason most Christians avoid it. Maturity is a huge subject but I want us to consider only one small but important aspect of it today. I want us to consider the heart.
Many of us know the parable of the sower which I think should have been known as the parable of the soil. You know that Jesus spoke about four conditions of the soil. The first was hard packed, a pathway, where the seed did not enter and the birds carried it away. The second was filled with rocks, preventing the seeds from growing deep roots, so when the sun beat down on the tiny plants they withered. The third was full of weeds so, when the plants tried to grow, their life was choked out. The last was good soil. Often we concentrate on the first three types of soil but I want us to consider the fourth.
First of all, this is not about salvation, it is about spiritual growth. The good soil has already been prepared to receive the seed. When we approach the Word of God we should always spend a few moments examining our heart condition. If we read and study the Bible at all we often do it without thought as to whether we are prepared to receive it. We read but our mind is off, wandering about on other matters. Either the seed doesn't go in at all, or it only goes so deep because we haven't cleared away our doubts. What does go in gets choked out because of all the things we are worried about or that our heart is occupied with. Sometimes we simply rush it, so we can get onto the next thing, like checking our FaceBook or Tumblr. These things all need to be cleared so it is just us, the Spirit and the Word.
The growth of the plant is all about Christian maturity which is a process. In the parable, the seeds grow into plants, first growing their stems, then leafs appear, and eventually the fruit which must then mature and ripen. From these few seeds a harvest is produced. This is done naturally, with no effort, as long as there is good sunlight and rain because the soil is already good. It is not so in the reality of spiritual growth, which requires patient endurance:
But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)
Here we simply see the word "patience" but the original language conveys a greater sense then the passive sense of patience we think of today. It is the same word that we find in Matthew 10:22 :
And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.
That sense of enduring until the end, going the distance, completing the task, setting the hand to the plow and not looking back. It is the endurance that presses on no matter the obstacles found in the way. It is a vigorous patience that supports the fruit of Christian character that must be produced in the maturity of relationship with Jesus.
The first step is to realize that there is more to our relationship with Jesus than just our salvation. Our salvation is the beginning point, but maturity is our destination. Jesus has taken care of our salvation but now we need to cooperate in the condition of our heart so that the Word can produce a great harvest in us.
Hardness of heart has to go. We limit the Spirit to what we see instead of understanding we have been called out of the ordinary to follow the water walker, the giver of sight, the healer of brokenness, the restorer of life. We follow the miracle man and are in turn the people of miracles.
Doubt needs to be dug up and thrown aside. We have to stop doubting everything the Spirit plants in us. Often those doubts are of the goodness of the Lord toward us. Why are we so thick about this? Paul said, if Father loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us, why would he hold any lesser good thing from us? Remove the boulders of doubt so the roots grow down deep.
Kill those weeds of fear, anxiety and busyness. Stop rushing in and out of the Word. Honour the fact that this is the Word of God, not some newspaper or magazine. This is what the Spirit uses to teach and grow us into maturity. Respect it and start putting greater trust in what it has to say than what the world is saying.
When we have prepared the soil the Spirit will do the planting but don't forget that the work has only begun. If you want more of Jesus, a greater relationship, more power, a closer walk, better understanding, maturity, then you are going to have to work with the Spirit on the matter. Like any great project you will always hit obstacles so you will have to be determined that the end goal, the destination, the product is worth the price. The many faithful men and women who have gone before us testify that it is worth it, as they gave their everything in the effort to mature in the Lord. It's time for us to grow up in Jesus.