Listen to Jesus . . .
In the parable of the Sower (Mt 13), the soils represent the varied human hearts. They vary as to whether or not the message of Christ is received in such a way that it will produce fruit. What good is soil that will not produce fruit? Every farmer knows this dilemma. Good seed on bad soil isn’t useful for his purposes.
Sometimes the right message of the gospel is not able to penetrate the soil, so the birds take it away off the top of the ground. Some of those are in every crowd.
Sometimes the ground receives the seed of the gospel and sprouts. Relating to people, this means that the message of Christ springs up “with joy.” But, eventually, it withers when the sun of affliction which is created by identification with that very gospel comes on strongly. It dries up. It isn’t the kind of soil that bears fruit. This is not a true believer.
Sometimes the ground receives the seed as before. It also springs up as a plant “with joy,” but busyness and deceitful riches like thorns choke it out, thus producing no fruit. Again, this is soil that doesn’t produce fruit.
But one soil, one kind of heart, receives the message, and does bear fruit massively beyond the investment that was orginally made. Some 30-fold, some 60-fold, some 100-fold. Thus there is no loss to the farmer who scattered the seed promiscuously all over his fields, even when some of the seed is unproductive due to the soil.
The first signs of a productive soil is seen in its initial reception and sprouting. It is promising. That happens in three types of hearts. These are those who believe, but in such a way that will produce no true fruit of Christ in their lives. They have a kind of belief—a belief without corresponding works, as James tells us. James tells us that such a faith is not saving. Only the belief in Christ that produces fruit of various amounts, and perseveres, is the saving faith of the true child of God.
“You will know them by their fruit,” Christ said.
How do we apply this to what is happening now among so many who are participating in these exciting and Christ-honoring days we see in some universities and churches?
1. We should rejoice in the reception of the message of Christ. At Pentecost and throughout Acts, we see people who initially are said to be believers immediately upon an apparent act of faith, as the apostles themselves affirm by baptizing them soon. Often the language of “they believed” is used during or just after the truth is proclaimed.
2. We should baptize them as an overt act of identification with Christ, as was done to 3000 in one day in the various “miqvehs” or ceremonial pools found in large numbers surrounding the temple. Principally this will be done either by a church planter, or church, for reasons I will perhaps remark on at another time, and have written on before. Baptism isn’t something incidental and separate from the gospel, but is a first order command of Christ himself. It is a way that God assigned in order to, more or less, dramatize the new life found in the believer. It has great affects on others and new believers could invite many relatives and friends to witness this event. Pastors should speak to this with those who attend their churches now. Other believers should encourage it.
3. We should watch for fruit to become apparent in those who believe, and the lack of fruit in those who profess but do not produce. They do not show the life of Christ within. At some point, those who do not produce through the indwelling Spirit, should be dealt with and challenged concerning their belief in Christ, for their own good. In cases where it becomes clear, they should be removed from church rolls after working with them, for the churches are to be societies of believing people. Or, hopefully they may see their error and repent.
4. We should nurture those who believe. Pay attention to those who have come to Christ and give your time to them so that they may grow, fertilize them with Scripture and rain on them with prayer. They will produce way beyond your efforts.
5. We should preach and teach the gospel clearly. God will raise up from this groundswell of eager believers some who will preach the gospel effectively. These may not be professionals in any sense, but faithful, well informed, proclaimers. In another sense, all of us should express the gospel as often as we can, and help those with special gifts in this area. God has always done his work this way, and he will continue to do so.
Many of those responding in the recent visitations of God are believers needing some recovery, encouragement, stimulus to growth, vision of Christ’s beauty, and corporate edification, in order to produce. They are repenting as believers do. Others, who have pretended, or been confused, and have not seen life in them, should be helped to see that they never were believers at all. Now, hopefully, they have begun, with Christ’s life in them.
I have no problem saying that people have believed, and that Christians have repented, as these students have humbly responded to God in these days. The emotions were not played upon. But this is not to say that, over time, we will not understand more. I am personally seeking to encourage much more of the Bible being taught and the gospel being clearly given, and the distinguishing marks of true Christians being laid out clearer as things go forward. However, I know that many have had years of teaching about Christ they are responding to, and did hear truth in various ways during these days that we will not be privy to.
Let’s rejoice and watch closely what God is doing in the hearts of people.
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