Summary: The gospel shows us how Christ prioritized our salvation through his own life, death, and resurrection. Now, we are equipped to prioritize our lives in service to him.
An old Native American tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. “It is like two dogs fighting inside of us,” the chief told them. “There is one good dog who wants to do what’s right and the other dog always wants to do what’s wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight.” “Who is going to win in the end?” a young brave asks. The chief answered, “The one you feed.”
As we look at our lives, we Christians may be inadvertently feeding the wrong dog. The chilling reality is that we can become just another statistic, succumbing to the deadly combination of selfishness, materialism, and greed that only hurts marriages, families, and finally souls.
Skewed priorities yield a harvest of broken dreams and anguished hearts. Jesus’ parable illustrates the sad consequences of distorted priorities. As we listen to our Savior today, may our prayer be this: LORD, SPARE US FROM SKEWED PRIORITIES so that: 1) we grasp the Word, and 2) we grow in faith.
1) We Grasp the Word
Jesus’ parable of the farmer illustrates the sad consequences of skewed priorities. He says, “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.” Now, the seed, as Jesus tells us later on, is “the message about the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19). In spite the farmer’s best skill and efforts, not all the seed would end up in a prime location. Some would fall on the trampled down soil-path.
“I’m not interested in anything religious,” a lady said politely but firmly when offered an invitation to our Christmas service. The beautiful home, the finely manicured lawn, and the luxury care in the driveway all revealed where her true priorities were. Those things were all that life seemed to be about for her. She had no time or need for “religion.” Maybe somebody said or did something that turned her off, but the sad result is that she hardened her heart. She made the conscious effort to be unreceptive.
Lest we become smug, know that we are not above this problem. Even Jesus’ own disciples struggled with rock-hard hearts. Time and again, they missed the spiritual truths of Jesus’ teaching. At one point, Jesus asked, “Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see and hearts but fail to hear?”
Slowness and hardness of heart are terrible spiritual “soil conditions.” And we aren’t above the problem. Sin, doubts, and unbelief constantly trample our hearts and threaten to keep our faith from growing. I know there are time when we feel that God has left us on the “hard pavement of life” only to be devoured by the circling crows. This life is not fair. It can be an awful experience as the clock ticks from one miserable second to the next, and we’re tempted to block God out of our lives.
The truth is that only Christ can help us in our stubborn unbelief. The gospel reminds us that Jesus has remedied our sins and failures. The sins of our past need not haunt us any longer. Christ has won forgiveness for them. They are washed away. Satan knows the gospel’s power and doesn’t want to give it a chance to work, so he will send his carrion crows of doubt and guilt to peck away at us, threatening us to put up our defenses and to harden our hearts. Christ has put a scarecrow in our lives to frighten away those predators. It’s the cross. Satan knows he’s conquered. He doesn’t want us to believe it, though. Look to the cross and see you are forgiven. Trust in Jesus and Satan will have to flee from you.
Jesus loves you and he promises never to leave you or forsake you. Jesus promises to walk with us through this life – through its sorrows and joys. And he promises to use whatever comes our way for our eternal good.
Jesus continues, “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.” In certain places in the farmer’s field a layer of rock lay close to the surface. Topsoil covered the rocks and offered a fertile and warm bed for the seed to quickly sprout up. The little plants couldn’t sink roots into the soil, and so the plant was doomed when the blazing sun beat down on it.
Jesus explains the spiritual counterpoint for us. He says, “The seed that fell on the rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.” I’ve seen it happen too often. Someone hears the gospel for the first time and is excited, joyful and enthusiastic. They enter a Bible class. They are instructed in the Word, but then the instruction period ends and the persecution period begins. And they can’t take the heat – the heat of ridicule, peer pressure, disappointment or disillusionment: “you belong to that church that church that actually believes the Lord’s Supper is real and won’t simply allow just anybody to take it without instruction in the Word,” or “you actually think babies are sinful and need to be baptized?”