A life of holiness is a hard pill to swallow in many respects. We look around us and wonder how could any one of these fallen human beings be holy. When we look in the mirror and think even more so. Holiness has often been twisted to be living a certain way (with or without something, usually) or doing (or not doing) certain things. It has often been twisted to mean that anything that is outside of our so-called Christian culture is bad without analysis. In other words, a life of holiness has often about fulfilling certain rites, rules, and regulations.
Now, truth be told, following God’s ways is holiness. However, it is our hearts’ response to following those ways that is a life of holiness rather than rules that makes all the difference. There have been many people who have followed the “holiness” rules of men and driven people further from Jesus Christ. There are probably people who have practiced behaviors contrary to so-called holiness rules of men that have brought more people to Jesus Christ that all of us reading this combined. Are there ways that God calls us to live? Yes. We just often have to be careful that it is not our cultural biases, prejudices, or family traditions that are imposing our way of seeing world onto God’s ways.
Holiness starts with death. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, it is death that invites us into a life with Jesus Christ. The first death, of course, was Jesus’ own on the cross. The second is our own. When Paul is talking about death, he really is speaking about the death of this body that you have. He understands that this body went through things that God never intended for his creation to be. This body was corrupted by the sin that preceded its birth, and by the sin that has corrupted its very life. Its death, therefore, is a good thing. Paul says that this death will lead to a body that is as God intended. This is the good death. Yes, that sounds strange. Death as good.
Jesus would seem to be calling us to a brand new life. In fact, in our current sermon series, the Very Good Life. Sometimes, however, the Very Good Life isn’t exactly what we expected. Sometimes our familiarity with certain Bible stories leads us to lazy thinking. This is one of those parables that Jesus actually explained to his disciples. This is a significant event. So, we should pay particular attention to it. Based on Jesus’ explanation, we are quick to read through it and move on.
Reread Mark 4 verses 6 and 16—17. What if we are the stony ground? Pushing on new believes (or new church people) so hard without developing their roots in faith that we destroy what roots grew and become the reason someone fell away from the church and Jesus.
Reread Mark 4 verses 7 and 18–19. What if we are the thorns? What if our understanding of church, holiness (or “right” living), society, or politics rip and tear at people that church or we become such that we cause more pain than they can bear?
We have all been trained to see the seeds and what ground they fell on as a parable of Jesus’ words and our readiness and willingness to listen. However, many of Jesus’ parables were not about those who were not yet followers, but about the people that claimed to follow and obey God.
Tying both of Paul’s letter and Jesus parable of sowing are Jesus’ words in John. This becomes another what if, sort of. For a seed to truly bear fruit, it “dies”. The seed ceases to be a seed and becomes something more. Often we become so obsessed with the seed and its potential that we protect the seed—keeping it a seed—so that the seed does absolutely nothing. The potential becomes trapped. Many of us have found ourselves in that exact state. Stuck. Often times, however, we are so excited for the potential that actually developing the potential scares us. What if we do it wrong? We ask. At what point, do we take risks to develop seeds with deep roots, so that the land is expanded.
One thing to keep in mind with the sower parable is that we are talking about wheat. This is important for a different reason. If you’ve ever been up to a mountain you have probably seen trees grow in really strange places. A tree seed lands in a crack in a rock with some dirt. Against what seems to be all odds (except that it happens a lot), the tree takes root. Over time, the tree’s roots dig deep into the rock. Eventually the rock gives and breaks. One of two things then happens. Either the tree developed enough roots to stand on its own, or it falls over and dies. However, because of its effort, another tree may grown there, where none could grow before.
1) How have you been stony ground to others, whether in faith or in life?
2) How have you been the thorns to others?
3) Dying takes on many forms. Death of dreams, solitude, partnership, and other things. Scripture, however, teaches that death has been redeemed. What deaths (not just bodily) deaths can you seen in your life that have transformed you or others?