But the crowds were just not rushing into the church. There was no revival. In fact, the opposite was happening, with many falling away, glibly owning up to “backsliding” or being “lukewarm.” I read, too, horror stories about how many pastors and preachers didn’t even last 10 years and how Sunday morning attendance was decreasing in the U.S. church.
What’s wrong, Lord? I would ask in my quiet time. The answer? Simple! All that I was “perceiving” was accurate in the biblical context. The road is narrow and few are saved. It’s about a remnant. That’s the truth of it!
And the scripture that came to mind to confirm this was the “four seeds” in the parable of the Sower (Luke 8: 5-18). Actually, the parable is more specifically about “the soils” because the Sower and the seeds are the same each time, but it is the soil, the response, that differs. There were four soils and four reactions!
And this sadly represents what we currently experience and has been seen in the church down the ages in terms of the difference between “religion” and “membership,” and truly being born again. The alarming aspect is that only one soil -- a quarter, a mere 25 percent -- responds wholeheartedly, and gets truly saved.
Fifty percent -- two of the soils -- end up as nominal and untouched churchgoers having a degree of knowledge and understanding but not living in the fullness of what God has to offer. Having a form but denying the power!
Thus it is no small wonder that we see so many fall away, drop out and lose interest; why “nominalism” and unbelief is so rife and -- most tragic of all -- why lives just don’t change.
Let’s look more closely at the four soils.
The first one is the wayside, the hard path. The Bible tells us that the devil has a great influence, that he blinds and binds the minds of the unbelievers. It is tough out there, and it’s very easy to get one’s heart hardened by worldly education and influence.
It is not being super-spiritual or “freaky” to suggest that the devil actually “steals” away the truth of the Gospel with his innuendos, subtle or otherwise. As in the Garden of Eden, the devil sows doubt. It’s nonsense! Naïve! Too simple! Foolishness!
Aided and abetted by our own ego, pride, arrogance and “wisdom” we become easy targets. Man is incurably religious, and the devil wallows in that. He thrives on false doctrines, philosophies and cults. He is able to deflect us with religion and good works -- anything to keep us away from Jesus.
Satan is the great imposter. He is the deceiver, a master copycat, and his strategy revolves around undermining the truth. He knows that there is abundant life for the believer in the Spirit and so he relentlessly targets this aspect and in so doing he leaves “death,” even though structurally there might be people, a building and an organisation. He is out there, and his diabolical conspiracy is working. Believe it!
The hard path can also often be the result of life’s circumstances and the bad experiences that come our way. Tragedies might overwhelm us and cause our hearts to harden as we blame God. Sadly, the due consequences of such blasphemy are all too evident around us.
The second soil is the rocky, stony ground. We like listening to the Word being preached and though we know it is true, it does not get through.
It fails to impact us, mostly because we don’t want to obey or get ourselves too involved or committed. We “sort of” believe, but when things get tough we lose interest and heart. We love the “promise” box but hate the “obedience” box!
Believing actually incorporates obeying. Jesus reminded us that if we love Him we will do as He says. But that is something we are disobediently working through! We receive with “joy” but there is no root, and our joy in the main is from the contemplation of blessings and benefits rather than the consideration of any cost.
Glibly we convert spiritual truths into material and physical gain and prosperity, and with heavy emphasis on the experiential and emotional, we are looking for continuous highs. We even strive and obsess for this success, blatantly ignoring the biblical injunction that our strength will be in quietness and confidence.
The third soil has the thorns! We will listen and even intellectually absorb what is said, but our faith is “choked” by the worries, riches, responsibilities and pleasures of the world.
We have become paranoid about money because it does buy power, influence and friends. We have learnt the golden rule -- he who has the gold rules! And we try to justify taking our Christian walk down that road. We don’t even fear tangling with the “love of money” ogre! But, “let no debt remain outstanding save the debt of love” says Romans 13:8. It falls on the deaf ears of those who are hell-bent on defying the biblical odds as they try to prove that they can serve both God and money.
We need to get out of debt. You can’t have what you can’t afford. But the devil just loves keeping us tied up, and he does this by extending credit -- one of his greatest iniquities. Proverbs confirms that “the borrower will always be servant of the lender” and that “the rich will always govern the poor.”
Owing money is a bad place to be in. The devil just loves to lend so you can worry about paying it back. What a great nightmare, facing a jury of your bank managers and creditors.
Today, the more accounts you have, the deeper in debt, the easier it is to get more credit. The brotherhood of debt is just getting bigger every day and we fool ourselves into believing that it’s all part of a boom.
Money problems and debt pull the trigger on most suicides, murders and divorces. Money feeds greed, pride and our covetous spirit -- and the devil is laughing all the way to the bank. Get out of debt!
Another great obsession is sex. We do live in a world of lies and exaggerations. We don’t have to look much further than advertising claims and the activities of politicians to recognise that truth is a rare commodity. The daily “soapies” preach their immorality and the viewers become more and more attuned to amorality.
Adultery and pornography have established a foothold in society, not to mention that even what the Bible regards as an abomination is now acceptable. Sin has fancy names and medical justifications. But, believe it or not, sex is a special sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-19) and carries consequences.
In the Old Testament there are laws galore, and the ones concerning sex abound. Read Leviticus 18 about fornication, homosexuality and incest, and Proverbs about adultery.
Why is God so explicit about sexual sin? Because it is so important and there needs to be no doubt or
confusion! The marriage bed is sacred. Why is there that “emptiness” after adultery? Why do we feel dirty and defiled after illicit sex? Because it is wrong!
Five minutes of lust has ruined so many lives. These are thorny issues that maintain a stranglehold on multitudes of church adherents and prevent them from gaining any release as believers.
Finally, there is the good soil. It is in this soil that we find the soft hearts. Their ears are wide open to hear. They are honest with themselves, recognising their inadequacies. It is not easy to come to this point of self-realisation -- that we are sinners, lost and heading for hell!
The hearts in the “good soil” are not in denial, not hard and egotistical, but wide open to listen. Listening is so important, because it is not a natural inclination for the human being. Jesus, the Sower and the seed, is received with open arms.
It is a decision of the heart and will, and these respondents bear fruit. They can’t get enough and they cling on for dear life to the greatest discovery of their lives. Their commitment and conviction causes them to “spread,” affecting and infecting those around -- 30 times, 60 times, 100 times. That’s transformation and fruit!
What about that 50 percent? That is the great “untapped” resource for revival. In the church aisles and pews, that’s where the unadulterated uncompromised Gospel needs to be preached to replace those “feel-good” messages that are having no affect on the “rocky” and “thorny” soils!