How Fruitful is Your Soul Garden?

Parable - Mark 4:26-29

The Seed and the Soil

The Parable of Mark 4:26-29

 

“And He (Jesus) said, ‘So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.’

In this parable, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like someone scattering seed on the ground.  As time passes, the seed sprouts and grows.  Life comes from the seed.  The nutrients needed to sustain that life comes from the soil.  The plant grows and produces fruit through the combination of good seed planted on good soil.

In this illustration of the Kingdom of God, the only part we as sowers play is to scatter the seed of God’s WordThe life giving power is in the seed (the Word of God) itself.   But as Jesus taught in the 4-soils parable (Mt. 13:3-23; Mk. 4:3-20; Lk. 8:5-15), the condition of the soil is critical in determining whether the seed will take root, grow, and bear fruit.

The life giving power is in the seed (the Word of God) itself.

If the soil is too hard, dry, or shallow, the seed cannot take root and grow.  Seed scattered in weedy soil may take root, but it will not be healthy and produce fruit.  Only properly prepared soil is productive.

There is no point in scattering more and more seed on the same unprepared ground.  A good gardener first prepares the soil by tilling it, fertilizing it, and watering it, etc.

Just as a good shepherd loves the sheep and gives his life for them (Jn. 10:11), a good gardener loves their garden.  The good gardener loves their garden enough to sacrifice for the plants.  They will invest time, money, and effort into their garden, doing all they can to encourage their seeds to sprout and grow, and their plants to thrive and be fruitful.

Do You Have a Soul Garden?

Those truly interested in winning souls to God must do more than just scatter seed.  They must love the lost (despite their sin).  One problem in our modern age is that the lost seem to think that conservative Christians hate them (rather than just their sin).  We must be careful how we present our message and live our lives, so they will understand that we love them while not condoning their sin.

Good gardeners who seek to harvest souls must love the lost, and be a good friend, family member, coworker and neighbor.  They must be willing to befriend the lost by helping them, praying for them, and empathizing with them.  As Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know (or what you say) until they know how much you care.”

“People don’t care how much you know (or what you say) until they know how much you care.”

At the same time, we need to maintain a good, uncompromising Christian testimony.  We are called to be salt (Mt. 5:13a).  As salt, we must remain pure and holy or we are good for nothing (Mt. 5:13b).  We need to live in such a way that the lost see our good works, which will bring glory to our Father in heaven (Mt.5:16).

In other words, we must be Christ-like in all our ways.  Jesus was criticized by the religious leaders of His day for fellowshipping and spending time with the lost.  When questioned why He ate and drank with sinners, Jesus said that it is the sick, not the healthy, that need a physician.  He came to call sinners to repentance (Mt. 9:10-13; Mk. 2:15-17; Lk 5:29-32).  Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost (Lk. 19:10).

Jesus spent time with the lost.  He healed them, fed them, and taught them the true meaning of God’s Word.  He forgave sins, but never overlooked or condoned sin.  Nor did He ever sin Himself.

Jesus called sinners to repentance and faith in God.  He told them to “Go and sin NO more

Jesus did not try to make people feel good about their sin.  Jesus called sinners to repentance and faith in God.  He told them to “Go and sin NO more” (Jn. 5:14; 8:11).

“Friendship Evangelism” tends to miss the mark by focusing exclusively on the friendship and love aspects of soil preparation.  But preparing the soil is not enough.  People need to hear the gospel, because faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).

Unless the proper seed is sown, well prepared soil will just grow healthy weeds.  If we are not careful, Satan will plant tares in the soil we prepare (Mt. 13:24-30; 36-43) producing counterfeit Christians or cults.  So by all means, preach the Word (Rom. 10:8-10; 2 Tim. 4:2).

Unless the proper seed is sown, well prepared soil will just grow healthy weeds. 

We are called to be “the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14-15).  Jesus calls us to let our light so shine that people will see our good works, and glorify our Father in heaven (Mt. 5:16).  We should be Bible epistles, “known and read of all men” (2 Cor. 3:2).

So as we go about our lives, we should freely scatter gospel seeds.  Everyone needs the gospel and we never know whose heart is already ready to receive God’s lifesaving message.

In addition to freely broadcasting the Word of God everywhere we go, all Christians should maintain their own personal soul garden.  Your soul garden is made up of friends, relatives, neighbors, coworkers and others with whom you regularly come into contact.  We need to love, care, and be friendly to them to prepare their hearts to receive the gospel.

In addition to freely broadcasting the Word of God everywhere we go, all Christians should maintain their own personal soul garden. 

To maximize our fruitfulness as soul farmers, we need to both prepare the soil and plant the seed.  So keep on scattering the seed, and remember to prepare the soil by loving the lost.  Keep on preparing hearts to receive the gospel by befriending them, and remember to plant the seed of God’s Word.

Harvest the Crop

One final point should be made.  Jesus ended this parable saying, “But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come” (Mk. 4:29).

Many a sale has been lost because the salesman never asked the prospective customer to make the purchase.  Don’t be afraid.  Ask for the sale!

Many a fish has been lost because the fisherman failed to set the hook.  Set the hook and start reeling!

When a soul, whose heart you have been preparing, is ready to bear fruit, plant the seed!  Share the gospel with them.  Invite them into the Kingdom of God.

Ask them to make the decision to trust Jesus Christ as their personal savior!

The Contamination Triangle

Contamination Triangle MemeOn Friday, April 8th, 2016, my first technical article was published in a peer-reviewed Biotech industry journal.  I thought some of you might be interested in getting a glimpse into my Biotech Process Engineering professional life.  If so, you may read my “Contamination Triangle” article in the spring edition of BioProcessing Journal – Volume 15, Issue 1.

On a computer, this link should take you directly to the correct page.  On a mobile device, you may need to navigate to page 49 or 51.

I have also written a 3,500 word article that draws parallels between microbial contamination in a bioreactor and sin in a Christian believer.  The spiritual application of the Contamination Triangle can help in your battle against sin.  The Sin Triangle article is located on this website if you would like to read it.

Proverbs 31- The Virtuous Christian

Who Can Find a Virtuous Christian?Who Can Find a Virtuous Christian?

On Mother’s Day each year, thousands of messages are preached on the “virtuous women” described in Proverbs 31:10-31.  This passage paints an extraordinarily high vision of virtue.  This stratospheric standard is so high that it is impossible to meet.

Some women may not like these Mother’s Day messages because instead of feeling honored and appreciated on their special day, they are faced with their shortcomings and feel inadequate.

It is not that the message should never be preached, because “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)  But perhaps it could be preached at another time, on another day.

Proverbs 31:10-31 describes the traits of a virtuous wife, but the principles of virtue are universal.  Virtue is not just for women.  These spiritual virtues would make anyone a better Christian.

As I read Proverbs 31, I am struck with the thought that most of these virtues should apply to men as well as women.  This is especially true since Christians (both men and women) are the bride of Christ.  This makes Jesus the husband in the spiritual application of this passage.

With that in mind, here is a spiritualized version of this familiar passage.  The description is of a virtuous Christian, who is a bride of Christ.  It is written using masculine pronouns to help distinguish it from the original and to emphasize that it applies to men as well as women.

See how you compare

  • Who can find a virtuous Christian?  His value would be far above pearls of great price.
  • The heart of God would confidently trust in him, and lack nothing of value.
  • He does good, not harm, for Jesus and God’s Kingdom all the days of his life.
  • He seeks souls and God’s glory, and willingly gives his life to spiritual work.
  • He is like a merchant ship bringing souls to God from afar.
  • He rises before dawn to pray; and feeds his family and coworkers spiritually.
  • He considers a mission field, and makes it his own.  He diligently works his field and presents Christ with the fruit of his spiritual labor.
  • He clothes himself with the whole armor of God, preparing his heart and mind for spiritual battle.
  • He understands that spiritual profit is good: so he works at it day and night.
  • His hands take hold of the Bible.  He clothes himself with the Word of God.
  • He reaches out to the poor; and gives generously to the needy.
  • He does not fear cold spiritual climates because he knows that his family is sheltered in the Father’s everlasting arms.
  • He is clothed with humility and self-control. He is adorned with good works.
  • His testimony makes Jesus known everywhere, and brings glory to the name of Christ.
  • He is productive and works diligently to earn his living.
  • Spiritual strength and godliness adorn him.  He rejoices at the thought of eternity.
  • He opens his mouth with wisdom, and provides loving instruction with his tongue.
  • He carefully watches over the ways of God’s children, and is never idle.
  • His spiritual children will rise up and call him blessed.  Jesus will also praise him and say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.  Many of My children have done great things, but you excel them all.”
  • Charm is deceitful and physical vitality fades; but a man who fears the LORD will be praised.
  • Give him the fruit of his hands; and let his works bring him praise in heaven.

So how do you compare to this standard?  I know I feel inadequate.

Feeling inadequate next to this standard is not surprising because “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10).  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

And Jesus told His disciples:

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?
And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:7-1)

This standard provides an excellent target to strive for though.  So “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith . . .” (Heb. 12:1-2).

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