Luke 8:11, 15, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. …15 [T]he 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.”
I want to be “good ground,” so when Jesus plants seeds from God’s Word in my heart., I will humbly receive them (James 1:21). Jesus gives me living water—His Word and His Spirit—for watering the plants. As they start to grow. I can nurture them with the plant food of faith that results in obedience. (James 2:17, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”) I will diligently practice applying God’s Word to my life. I need to pull out weeds like anger, bitterness, jealousy, regret, strife, pride, haughtiness, and anything else that interferes with nourishing my soul.
Then these plants in my heart can mature and produce Holy Spirit fruit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
(Scripture quotes are New King James.)
I don’t have to be perfect because Jesus Christ died for me and exchanged His righteousness and perfection for my sin and failure, and He rose again leaving sin and failure at the cross, and He lives forever at the Father’s right hand. He intercedes for us (me), and His Holy Spirit lives in me to work out Christ’s righteousness in my life.
My trying to be perfect and pretending to myself that I am–these prevent me from receiving the mercy and forgiveness Jesus went through so much to provide for me. “If we say we have no sin, we are calling God a liar” (1 John 1:10), and we can’t partake of the pardon and cleansing offered in 1 John 1:9.
I’m through trying to hide my sin, failure, and mistakes (from others and myself) behind a façade of personal goodness. I choose instead to hide them in the blood of Jesus where they are dissolved and carried away.
Let me cease from trying so I can rest in trusting.
“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 New Living Translation)
The old me was touchy, irritable, grumpy, and rude. She sought only self and her way. She spent time with gossip, deception, unfaithfulness, anger, greed, quarreling, and jealousy. (See Galatians 5:19-21.)
The new me is patient, loving, pure in heart, and hardly even notices a wrong done to her (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). She fellowships with peace, kindness, joy, forgiveness, honest and loving speech, generosity, courtesy, and other such companions.
O Lord, please grant me grace to take off and dispose of the rags of the old me and put on the clothing of the new me which is renewed in the likeness of Christ. Holy Spirit, please help me do that more! (See Colossians 3:5-10.)
On my walk one morning, the Holy Spirit shined His light into a cobweb-covered corner of my soul. Suddenly I saw a grudge against a man whose name I couldn’t even remember. So I spoke aloud words of forgiveness for the man. I proclaimed that I released him from the debt of his offense since God through Christ had forgiven me for all my offenses.
Then I confessed my sin of holding the grudge all these years. From 1 John 1:9, I know that God is faithful to cleanse me when I confess my sins. That corner of my mind is clean and ready for refinishing (renewing, changing the thinking patterns).
Thank You, Holy Spirit, for shining Your light into me.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 New King James Version)
How wonderful that God uses evil to bring about good! There’s the familiar story of Joseph’s being sold into slavery in Egypt and rising to power second only to Pharaoh. He told his brothers when they feared retaliation that what they meant for evil, God meant for good (to save many people alive).
In Jonah 1, God sent a violent storm on the sea where a Phoenician ship carried a disobedient prophet Jonah. In Jonah 1:16, the sailors, who before had worshiped “local” gods, made sacrifices to the living God and vowed to serve Him.
Behold the cross! God took the evil of the crucifixion of His innocent Son and used it to redeem all of humankind. He laid all of our sin on Jesus so that all who believe in Jesus the Christ (Messiah) will be forgiven of their sin and will have eternal fellowship with our triune God.
The believing in and receiving Christ begins the everlasting life with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And along the way, I see God redeeming the brokenness in my life, using what others mean for evil and even my own failures for my good and His glory.
Indeed, God causes even the wrath of man to praise Him (Psalm 76:10a).
A learning handicap hindered my educational growth for a long time. No one recognized it. I didn’t see its devastating effects until just recently. I actually did quite well in school. I also did very well in Sunday School classes and Bible studies. Who would have thought I had any kind of learning problem?
Ah, but I did have a problem. In my education, I learned very little of how to use information I was given. Yes, I learned the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic, good grammar, and other things). I gained some practical skills such as how to drive a car and how to type. In the church world, I caught on quickly to the Christian lingo, came to know much Scripture, and figured out how to come up with the “right” answers to the questions that were asked.
This “coming up with the right answers” idea hints at my “learning disability.” My problem was that many times I got what I aimed for, but I shot at the wrong target. Often my aim wasn’t to learn, but rather to get the right answers, to get a good grade, to prove my intelligence, get someone’s approval, etc. Therefore, although I reached these goals, I didn’t learn to apply or go beyond what I learned in school. In church, my knowledge of God’s Word was mostly “head knowledge” rather than “heart knowledge” that would have helped me mature in Christ-likeness.
Even after I saw what I was doing, I had trouble changing. Little by little, though, God has changed me. I find that now when I do Bible study or even just read my Bible, I’m listening for what the Holy Spirit wants to point out, and I’m seeking to really learn from God.
I’m truly grateful to God for helping me grow in Christ in spite of my too-often off-target aim. And I’m even more grateful that He gradually delivers me from the binding chains of my unworthy goals so I can progress more rapidly in His school.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” 1 Peter 2:2 “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby.” ( Both New King James Version)
Nehemiah 8:12 “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them [the Book of the Law of Moses].”
Yes, what reason for rejoicing—to hear and understand God’s Word! (The people in this verse understood because the leaders and Levites “gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading….” –Nehemiah 8:8)
Thank You, Father, for the insight You give me into Your Word by Your Holy Spirit and by good teachers who “give the sense and help me understand.” Amen.
I’m reminded of a hymn we sang at church when I was a youth. The first verse says, “… Beyond the sacred page I seek Thee, Lord; My spirit pants for Thee, O living Word.”* The song in turn reminds me of Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God….”
The “sacred page,” God’s written Word leads us to Jesus, the Living Word, and He satisfies our deepest thirst.
*“Break Thou the Bread of Life” by Mary Ann Lathbury and William F. Sherwin. Music and lyrics at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp8oi0qjanU. More information about the hymn at http://www.lectionary.org/HymnStories/Break%20Thou%20the%20Bread%20of%20Life.htm
(Pictures public domain courtesy of http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/hledej.php?hleda=Bible&x=24&y=16 Bread picture by Gustavo Di Nucci; Bible picture by Petr Kratochvil.)
(Scripture quotes are New King James Version.)