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The Parables of Jesus – A necessary foundation

Like newborn babies,

thirst for the pure milk of the word

 so that by it you may grow in your salvation.

Surely you have tasted that the Lord is good! 1 Peter 2:2,3

A large portion of what is recorded of the spoken words of Jesus is his use of parables (stories) to teach and illustrate points. Because of the sheer volume of parables Jesus taught, we need to recognise that they are foundational in the forming of our conceptual understanding of the principles he taught.

Parable of the sower  

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said; ‘Listen! 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, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.’ Then Jesus said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. he told them, ‘The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on teh outside everything is said in parables so that ,

“they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”

Then Jesus said to them, ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word ; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown. ‘ Mark 4:1-20

From this parable we can see that Jesus was teaching that not everyone who hears or even embraces his words goes on to be fruitful.

The devil (otherwise known as Satan), will do all he can to hinder your growth to become a fruitful Christian.

It is also important to know that the Christian life will not be easy. Persecution will arise for your faith as well as many distractions in this life that willl try and take you away from your faith.

This parable highlights the reality of true and false conversion. Some people may be calling themselves a Christian today, and have heard the word, but the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in have caused them to become unfruitful.

Jesus later warns in another parable about unfruitful Christians  :  ‘And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:30

When Luke retells this parable of the sower sowing seeds, he relates the good ground to having a good heart. The only way the heart can be good is through repentance. This highlights the importance of the previous lesson, not just as a once off but as a lifetime practice.

Parables of true and false conversion  

One of the major themes that comes through the parables (stories)  that Jesus taught is the idea of true and false conversion.

Jesus told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “An enemy did this,” he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds,  you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ Matthew 13:24-30

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’ Matthew 13:36-43

Here we can see that out of the Kingdom of God (which includes what we would call the church today) there is and will be people that are an offence to God – False converts. They are in God’s Kingdom, like weeds amongst the wheat.  We can take this to mean there might be whole congregations that are ‘a part of the Kingdom of God’ but are actually an offense to God. This could also mean that sitting side by side in a church, there may be genuine Christians sitting alongside the ‘weeds’ or the ‘unfruitful’. The time for doing the weeding is not now, and it is not up to us. It is important however to realise and understand this warning from Jesus, and to make sure we are growing in righteousness rather than lawlessness.

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:47-50

The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my diner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’ But they paid no attention and went off – one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend’, he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are invited, but few are chosen.’ Matthew 22:1-14


Jesus’ first message – Repentance (Part 2)

Like newborn babies,

thirst for the pure milk of the word

 so that by it you may grow in your salvation.

Surely you have tasted that the Lord is good! 1 Peter 2:2,3

Jesus’s first message – Repentance (Part 2)

In the last post I wrote about  repentance from sin.

How do we know if we are sinning?  We are sinning if we are breaking the commandments of God.

The commandments of God can be summed up by this:

1. Love God

2. Love mankind.

We have already  looked at different aspects of  loving God it the previous post.

Now we will look at some of what it means to love mankind.

Honouring your father and mother.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Ephesians 6:1-3

If we can’t love those who brought us into the world, can we really think that we could love others?

How do we honor our parents? The best way to describe it I can think of, is thinking of your father and mother as a King and a Queen, and treating them with that level of respect. While living in the same household they need to be obeyed.

As one grows up into adulthood, parents may tend to be bossy and make impractical commands and demands, but there is an honorable way responding. For example by saying ‘Dad, I hear want you are saying to me and I respect that. I will give it some thought, but at the end of the day, please understand that I will have to make my own decision.

When you are courting somebody with the intention of marriage, then honor your parents by making sure they get to know the person and seek their blessing on the relationship.

When your parents are sick, make sure you visit them/care after them if you are able to.

Not committing murder

You shall not murder. Exodus 20:13

This seems fairly straight forward until you understand how Jesus magnified this law, to say that murder committed in the heart is just as evil as murder committed in the flesh.

 “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ But I say, if you are angry with someone,  you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,  you are in danger of being brought before the high council. And if you curse someone,  you are in danger of the fires of hell. Matthew 5:21-22

Murder also includes abortion.

Loving others means not committing sexual sins.

Sexual sins are not committed out of love, but out of lust and selfishness.

You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20:14

Jesus magnified this command saying

You have heard that it was said  to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27,28

The question can be raised, when does admiring a woman’s beauty turn to lusting for her?

Admiring a woman’s beauty, or admiring the way a man looks is not sin. It is a product of our God given sex drive, that we find others attractive. But lusting after someone is sin. Where is the line between the two?  Let your conscience tell you, and allow the Holy Spirit to convict you when righteousness has been replaced with sin.

However, it is not something to be trying to find out where the line is. It can be a ‘slippery slope’ and shouldn’t be pushed to see how far one can go before sin is birthed.

It comes down to self control, and fearing God.

If we  seek the living water Jesus spoke of we will have our minds set on what the Spirit desires, rather than what the sinful nature desires.  The water of life that is a free gift for those who wish to take it (see Revelation 22:17) will quench the thirst of the soul and all its worldly desires. The water Jesus gives wells up into eternal life.

Sex is a sacred and beautiful thing, intended for the pleasure of a man and woman  in a covenant of marraige.

There was a man in the Bible called Joseph who faced the temptation of committing adultery.

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. And so it was, when she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and fled outside, that she called to the men of her house and spoke to them, saying, “See, he has brought in to us a Hebrew to mock us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And it happened, when he heard that I lifted my voice and cried out, that he left his garment with me, and fled and went outside.” Genesis 39:11-15

While this kind of temptation may not face itself in the modern world all that often for the average person, the fact is that if you can’t resist the temptation to look at pornography on the internet or in a magazine – you will not be able to face the temptation if someone is throwing themselves at you like what Joseph experienced.  Therefore, you have sinned in your heart, betraying yourself, God, and your spouse if you have one.

 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; Ephesians 5:3

Loving others means not stealing

 You shall not steal. Exodus 20:15

It doesn’t matter how small – a pen from your employer, downloading copyright music  or software that you have not purchased, or making up things on your tax return.

Loving others means not lying.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

You cannot have God as your Father when you are a liar. Your father defaults to Satan.

Telling lies and not repenting from them is enough to keep you from the kingdom of Heaven.

But the cowardly,  unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8

Loving others means  we don’t covert and desire their possessions .

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s. Exodus 20:17

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Some scriptures regarding repentance. 

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

The previous scripture is an example of repenting from the love of money and possessions.

 ‘…but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’ Luke 13:3

 I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7

Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. Luke 15:10

...and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. Luke 24:47

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go  and sin no more.” John 8:11

Jesus’ First Message – Repentance

Like newborn babies,

thirst for the pure milk of the word

 so that by it you may grow in your salvation.

Surely you have tasted that the Lord is good! 1 Peter 2:2,3

Jesus’ first message –  Repentance (Part 1) 

 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17

Jesus was calling everyday people, to reconsider the way they were living their lives. He was calling them to be ready to embrace a new way of living in the Kingdom of God.

Repentence is also about turning away from sin. Changing direction from wrong to right. What is Sin?  Sin is breaking the commandments of God.

Jesus told a story of a young man who which illustrates repentance. Read the passage below.

Jesus continued, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off  for a distant country and there, squandered his wealth in wild living.   After he had spent everything , there was a severe famine in that whole country and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father. 

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.  The son said to him, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals, on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.  

Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and you father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But  he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “My son, ‘ the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:11-32

From this passage we can see a story that reveals of the heart of our Father in Heaven, who is not going to continue to condemn us when we repent, but rather embrace us as sons and daughters who were once lost, but have now been found. We don’t have to be afraid of the consequences of repenting.

We just have to be afraid of the consequences of not repenting.

The seriousness and of sin and its consequences are highlighted by Jesus when he says

‘If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.’ Matthew 5:29

Jesus doesn’t mean this  literally (no one would be silly enough to blind themselves), but it is like a parable to illustrate that sin is really bad.

We can be assured of our forgiveness of our sins when we repent, because Jesus was the sacrifice for our sins, when he was crucified.

How do we know if we are sinning?  We are sinning if we are breaking the commandments of God.

The commandments of God can be summed up by this:

1. Love God

2. Love mankind.

What does it mean to love God?

If you love God you will have no other gods.

Jesus said –

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. ‘ Matthew 22:37,38

It is so easy to be self centred in our way of thinking and living, rather than God centred.  We want to be in control of our lives, to do what we want to do, when we want to do it. In effect we make ourselves ‘gods’.

We often fool ourselves into believing we know what is best for our lives and go and do it. Instead, we should be coming before our maker, and asking him what is His direction and seek His approval for the way ahead.

We need to be seeking to do the will of the Father, and do it…if we truely have no other Gods in our lives.

We can also easily make money, our careers, sports and entertainment like god’s in our lives. These things can be innocent enough, however when they begin to dictate our actions, thoughts and our very lives being centred with eg. money having the supreme importance in our lives it becomes like a ‘god’ or an idol.

If we love God, we will have our heart’s totally devoted to him.

Are you willing to let go of your control over your life and make Jesus truely ‘Lord’ ?

This is where repentance begins.

During the time when Jesus was on earth ministering as a man, he discerned that a young man who approached him had made money and possessions his god. He challenged the man to sell all that he had and then follow him – thus repenting of breaking the command to have no other gods.

Emptying ourselves of our so called ‘right’ to do as we please, and to unconditionally submit ourselves to God might be a scarry thought. Pride within us will rise up to tell us to hold on to everything we have known to be ‘who we are’.

But, the way to life, (eternal life), is making our love for God, the first and foremost of importance in our lives.

Our salvation depends on our confession of faith that Jesus is LORD.

‘…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Romans 10:9

What does it mean to confess Jesus is Lord?  What are we actually saying?

The Greek word that is translated ‘Lord’ in the above passage is kurios.  Thayer’s Greek Definitions says:

1) he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord

1a) the possessor and disposer of a thing

1a1) the owner; one who has control of the person, the master

1a2) in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor

1b) is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master

1c) this title is given to: God, the Messiah

 So, we can ask ourselves, ‘Do I belong to Jesus? Have I given him the power to decide what goes on with my life? Does he possess me?  Have I  surrendered my life to Him, to the extent that I see Jesus as my owner, who has control over my life?  Do I live my life in a way that gives honour, respect and reverence to God?

If you haven’t already, you need to declare Jesus is your Lord. Speak out aloud. Tell him that you surrender your life to him.

There is no other way that leads to life, to eternal life, than making Jesus your LORD.

Don’t worship idols if you love God

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything  in heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or  in the water below.You shall not bow down to them or worship them. Exodus 10:4,5a

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although  they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather that the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen  Romans 1:18-25

One aspect of an idol is like the worship of gold budda statues. As a christian, we definitely need to get rid of alls physical idols out of our lives. They are simply an offense to the one true living God.

Another type of idol is when we make a false image of God in our mind. For example, if we say for example ‘My God understands me. He knows my heart and my weaknesses. He won’t mind if I continue in this adulterous affair’, or  ‘God understands why I need to keep lying’ then we are fashioning our own type of god to suit our sinful life.

This is also idolatry.

It is so important that we learn from scriptures the true character of God, who he is and what he says. This will ensure that we will not fall into the trap of worshipping an image of a god (idol) we have created in our own minds.

If we are covetous and greedy, this is also considered idolatry.

Put to death…greed, which is idolatry. Colossians 3:5

 Don’t blaspheme the name of God. 

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name. Exodus 20:7

One aspect of  blaspheme is when we use the names of God as swear words. God’s name is holy, and he will judge those who dishonor his name.

No excuses for it being a ‘cultural part of the language’ will stand.

Another aspect of  this is that when we become a Christian, we represent Christ here on Earth. He commanded us to go and preach in his name.

If we are representing Christ, we have to live according to what his name represents. Otherwise this also, is blaspheming the name of God.

And whatever you do, whether  in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Colossians 3:17

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 

Remember the Sabbath day by  keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant, or your maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Exodus 20:8-11

Keeping one day a week aside as a holy day, is really a good signpost for us in our lives as to whether we are too busy to  love God.  A signpost as to whether our faith is genuine, and whether we are able to trade off working for spending time  seeking, fellowshipping, worshipping and loving on God.

Jesus said ‘The Sabbath was  made for man, not man for the Sabbath’

By this he means that the Sabbath is meant to be a day for us, to help us, to bless us, to build up our faith.  Not for us to legalistically conform to a set of rules.

The Sabbath is not about the day, it is about the person (Jesus the Lord of the Sabbath). It is about  taking time out from the busyness of life, it is about ‘drawing a line in the sand’ and saying, because I love God, I will devote this day to fellowship with God in prayer, reading of his word, fellowship with family and other believers.

Although meant for a blessing, the idea of a Sabbath is prone to be embraced by the legalistic, people thinking that because they observe the sabbath, they are more righteous that others, that only observing the sabbath on certain days will lead to salvation.

If we are becoming legalistic in our ideas and approach of the Sabbath, we have got it wrong. Keep it as a concept of patterning our lives to remember to give God his due honour, to recharge our spirits as we wait upon him, but with all the flexibility and grace that a loving father gives.

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