~ Agathos Church is a non-denominational Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. This blog post is an adapted excerpt from a sermon by Bryan Mangerchine at our Church in the Park service on July 31st, 2016. You can hear the whole sermon, by clicking here.
We are entering the season of fruitfulness – real life fruitfulness. To that end, I would like to share a little bit with us about how we practically are going to see that play out – or not see that play out.
God has given us responsibility. We are responsible for our lives. We are responsible for ourselves, our families, our church, and our jobs. If we cultivate an environment where fruitfulness happens, we are going to see fruit both in our families, in the church, in our individual spiritual lives, and in our corporate spiritual lives.
This is the season for that, to see more fruit, measurably more fruit. Brad is taking us through a series on healing. I would like for us to look back a year from now and not need another series on healing, but instead be seeing people healed, both in the church and outside the church. I don’t want us to have to go back to the message of how to lead someone to Christ, I want us to be seeing people led to Christ individually and in our church body.
If we are not seeing fruit in our lives we have to look at our inputs – because input equals output. The Lord gave us very clear instructions on the inputs that lead to fruitful output. The context of this story is that Jesus is on a boat and He’s talking to a great multitude of people, and they are on shore. And he is speaking to them in parables and he shares the parable of the sower with them, and the disciples later come to him and say, ‘Jesus we don’t understand what does the parable mean?’
And Jesus said to them, “Do you not then understand this parable, how then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the Word and these are the ones by the wayside where the Word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the Word that was sown in their hearts.”
Jesus is saying some of the seed falls in the wayside. The wayside is Satan stealing the Word. Has anyone here thought about how Satan steals the Word from us? Or, how he can? Satan does it is by contradicting the Word or lying to us – or giving us different thoughts that are in opposition to the Word. For instance, if Brad shares a scripture about healing, saying “He heals all of your diseases” (Ps. 103), satan says “no, God does not!”
Satan’s lies will take you out of the game so that you will never see healing because you are contradicting God’s Word in your mind. The Word says healing is real. But you think, “I prayed for somebody and it hasn’t worked.” Or, perhaps someone else has told you, whom you respect, that healing is not for today. So, those expereinces contradict the Word so we have to go to the Word to find out what the Word says and then we have to believe on the Word. Otherwise Satan will steal the Word and we are out of the game.
Jesus continues: “These, likewise, are the ones sown on stony ground. When they hear the Word immediately they receive it with gladness, and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the Word’s sake immediately they stumble.”
This is the rocky soil. If our hearts have rocky soil, we are going to hear the Word, we are going to be like, “yes I believe it! That is what I’m talking about, God is good!” And then we are going to go do nothing, or not much, or only like what we are required to do socially to keep up with the next Sunday morning discussion. But, if you are thinking “I believe that Word, I want the fruit of that in my life,” the key point is that you have to act you have to do something with the Word – otherwise it will not bear fruit in your life! So, number one: accept the truth. Resist the negative thoughts or the doubtful thoughts. Number two: do something with the Word.
Jesus said that if you have the Word, you can expect tribulation or persecution to come on account of the Word. There is probably going to be some fear that comes against you acting on that Word, but we have to push through the fear. It is not like a striding push, it is just “I’m going put myself out there, I’m going to do it, I’m going to say it, I’m going to act, I’m going to pray for that person even though I haven’t got a healing every single time I’ve prayed for them.” You can just step over the fear and do something. Take a small step and watch fear wash away.
Interestingly, complacency has a similar in keeping us from acting on the Word. We remembering that we did “that” before and become complacent today, living on “yesterday’s manna.”
Jesus continued, “Now, these are the ones sown among the thorns. They are the ones who hear the Word and the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things entering in and choke the Word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
This is thorny soil. Thorny soil equals a lack of prioritization. You heart is a garden and there is only so much room in that garden. If we have a ton of priorities and the Word is just one of them, we are not going to expect to see a lot of fruit from the Word. Even if we have the Word growing in our hearts, we have so many other things growing that the Word cannot reach it’s full potential in our lives. In other words, our prioritization of the Word has to outpace all of our other priorities if we want to see big fruit. There is a correlation between the prioritization of the Word and the truth of the Lord in our hearts and the fruit that we see in our lives.
Satan throws opposition in our way and wants to persecute the Word. He’ll bring circumstances in our life that will try and throw us off our game. Alternatively, we’ll just be busy. “Oh I’ve got this responsibility to do” or “the baby is crying.” He is trying to get us off our game so that we do not not adhere to this Mark 4 process, because he doesn’t want to see the fruit
Jesus actually goes on beyond those three things. He talks about the good soil and the yield that it produces. He says that “these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the Word, accept it and bear fruit. Some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, some a hundredfold.” Good ground produces fruit.
Good soil in our hearts produces fruit – every time guaranteed. And, so, if we are not producing fruit we can go back and look at what is it?
– Am I listening to the lies of the enemy?
– Am I not really going after it and acting on the Word?
– And, then, is it top priority for me or not?
We need to take fruitfulness on as a church body (and as individuals) because one year from now, are we going to be healing people or are we going to be talking about how healing is real?
All of our other issues and everything else is just going to fade away if we just believe the Word. When we sow the Word into our hearts, we will produce the crop that Jesus has asked us to produce.
Jesus also said, “Has a lamp brought to be put under a basked or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear let him hear.” God is good and He has hidden things to be revealed for us. When we place the Lord (the light of the world) on a pedestal in our hearts, all other things will be revealed. God has treasures and promises that His hidden specifically for us to find. He wants us to find these things. He wants us to find his secrets. Then He said to them, “Take heed of what you hear. With the same measure you use it will be measured to you. And to you who hear more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, but to whoever does not have even what he has will be taken away from him.”
Jesus says “Take heed of what you hear.” Jesus is saying is that if you come to me if you seek you will find right? If you know there is a treasure in the field sell all you have and buy the field. Put your eggs in My basket, believe Me, really believe Me with action. He wants His secrets to be revealed to us. We have to take the time and effort to comprehend what He is saying to us because on the other end of the comprehension is the fruit. Yet often times we want the fruit from listening to the pastor. We have to participate, we actually have to comprehend what the Word is saying for ourselves, if we want to see the fruit in our lives.
Fruitfulness is not a spectator sport. Fruitfulness is a participation sport. We each have to participate individually, corporately, and we have to get around other people and we have to explain the stuff that we know because if we cannot explain it, we don’t know it! And you may not know know that you don’t know it because you haven’t tried to explain it yet! Fear or complacency will keep us back on the sidelines. We continually have this choice and sometimes it is a subconscious choice. We have to create this culture of participation – a culture of going way beyond the bare minimum in our walks with the Lord.
Jesus said “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground and to sleep by night and rise by day and the seed should sprout and grow. He, himself, does not know how, for the earth yields crop by itself. First the blade then the head, after that, the full grain of the head. But when the grain ripens immediately He puts in the sickle because the harvest has come.”
This is what happens when we are sowing the Word in our hearts. Once we have sown the Word, there is a timeframe – a gestation period – for that seed. You don’t know for sure when it is going to sprout. All you do is you put the seed in the soil and you believe it is going to sprout, and you pour some water on it and you make sure that the conditions are right and you make sure that you’ve cultivated an environment. You’ve taken responsibility over that environment. And, what’s going to happen is you are going to see a little sprout. And then it is going to move up and there is going to be some period of time that goes by, based on the conditions that you’ve created for that thing to sprout up and yield fruit.
But there is a difference between plants and us. Plants have no choice where they are cultivated. A seed is going to fall from a tree on the ground. Maybe a squirrel will pick it up go over here and plant it. That seed has no choice where it is going to be planted. It could be planted in the shade then it is not going to do too hot. It can be planted in a very wet environment and get drowned out. That seed is not responsible for its environment. But we are responsible for the gardens of our hearts!
And, when we cultivate a seed-friendly environment in our heart, there is a gestation period. The growth will come. We know not how. All we have to do is gestate the seed, stay in our lane – keep moving towards our goal.
Jesus said, “To what shall we liken the Kingdom of God or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed. When it is thrown in the ground it is smaller than all the seeds in the earth, but when it is sown it grows up and becomes greater than all the rest and shoots out large branches, so the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
A mustard seed is very small, but when you go through this process through cultivating the conditions of your heart, a very large plant develops. For what? For the benefit of others – so that the birds of the air may nest under your shade! There is fruit falling from the tree and others can come underneath it.
We stay in rest, know and cultivating the Word in our lives and believing in faith that it is going to produce fruit. The fruit is not for ourselves, it is for ourselves, but there is a bountiful harvest which is enough for other’s as well. Overflow. We should be looking forwards and towards is all God’s promises to be manifest in our lives. Our overflow can be given to others abundantly, and others can be seeking that out from us because we have so much of it to offer.
The only other thing that we can do to really hinder our growth is not seek the Word to begin with. If we don’t have the seed coming into our life, we are not going to have the chance to be lied to by the devil! We are not going to have the chance to overcome the fear of persecution of the Word. We are not going to have a chance to make it a priority against the other priorities in our life. And we are not going to see people heal, people saved, and other abundance that is available in the Word. So, for those of you who want measurably more without fail, seek the Word, make it a priority above all else.
Diligently cultivate, and out of a place of rest expect the harvest that is to come. Your fruitfulness is already provided for; it is just a matter of you living out this process in order for him to bring the sickle for you. You will get to your destination if you stay in your lane, keep your foot on the gas pedal, and don’t get distracted.