The Apple Of God's Eye

October 23, 2009

Parables Of Jesus: The Kingdom

As Jesus sat in a small fishing craft just offshore on the Sea (or lake) of Galilee, He began to address the large crowd assembled on the shore. He spoke in parables about the Kingdom of God.

In this first group of parables, Jesus gave to the people six parables without any explanation. Later, He privately explained the meaning of all these to His own disciples. He also gave the disciples four additional parables, which were self-explanatory. These last four parables contained a special message within the overall theme pertaining directly to the disciples’ future apostolic ministry.

It is important to realize that the parables were doctrinal in nature: “And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine” (Mark 4:2).

A doctrine is a biblical principle, teaching or truth that is accepted as authoritative. It constitutes part of the dogma of real Christianity. Therefore, we cannot underestimate the importance of seeking understanding of the parables of Jesus!

The first parable Jesus gave is of special significance because it is a pacesetter of sorts. It is typical of all such parables, and the method of explanation also follows the same basic pattern. Jesus said to His disciples: ” … Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?” (Mark 4:13.)

The parable of the sower

“Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:3-8).

This first parable is a simple story liberally laced with local color. It is found in three of the four gospel accounts — Matthew, Mark and Luke. Each gospel mentions a point or two not found in the other accounts. We will use Mark’s more concise gospel as our basic reference.

Jesus describes a scene very familiar to His audience: A sower went out to sow grain in his field. The seed falls on four different types of ground: 1) the wayside, 2) stony ground, 3) among thorns and 4) good ground. Each represents a different category of person who hears the Word of God at some point in his life. Each responds differently.

We are not told who the sower is, but it is explained that “the sower soweth the word” (verse 14). We must assume that whoever disseminates God’s Word (God or one of His human instruments) is the sower. The seed in the parable, then, represents the Gospel message and all that it includes.

Each person who hears it reacts differently. Not everyone responds with equal enthusiasm. Nor does the Word of God bear the same fruit in each individual it touches.

Those by the wayside

The people in this first category hear the Gospel message, but they are immediately dissuaded from doing anything about it. God’s truth is never allowed to take root in their lives. They are easy prey for the devil, who subtly convinces them to disbelieve what they hear. ” … Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (verse 15).

There are many ways by which this happens: A snide remark about the message from a “friend” who is supposedly in the know about such things. A sudden change of personal circumstances may lead to a temporary diversion — which becomes permanent.

A minor disagreement about a small point can lead the prospective Christian to “throw out the baby with the bath water.” It could be any number of things, but the result is always the same! The person rejects the Gospel of the Kingdom of God before it gets a chance to take root.

On stony ground

These persons advance somewhat further than those in the first category. Their initial reaction to the Word of God is enthusiastic. They are happy to hear the truth preached. They may even become baptized. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized … ” (Acts 2:41).

But unfortunately, their enthusiasm soon wears thin. They ” … have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:17).

These babes in Christ never allow their spiritual roots to go down quite deeply enough to draw on the pure, nourishing water of God’s spiritual power (John 7:38, 39; Acts 1:8). When persecution comes along, they are not strong enough to withstand. They have no persevering power in the face of the ridicule and derision of those who do not share their beliefs.

Such people are only willing to obey God as long as it does not cost them anything in terms of personal prestige and respect. They are willing to compromise the Word of God rather than suffer for it.

Did not Jesus say in another place: ” … If any man will come after me, let him … take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24)?

Among thorns

The third type of person progresses somewhat further. He too begins to bear fruit and live a life of obedience to Christ. His life changes as he yields to the Word of God. But he too has a hang-up. At some point in his Christian life, “… the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

In order to become unfruitful, he must have at one time been fruitful. Here is someone who has actually begun to bear substantial fruit as a result of God’s Word. He has made spiritual progress. He may have been in the Church for some time. Others may even consider him well established in the Body of Christ.

But sooner or later, plain old materialism or sensuality creeps in and smothers his spirituality.

Perhaps it is a craving for material success in the world of business or industry. A desire to be at the top of the financial heap can divert a person’s focus of attention from spiritual to material things.

For this reason, the apostle Paul warned the Colossians about drifting into materialism: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). He also said that “… to be carnally [physically] minded is death …” (Romans 8:6).

There are many pitfalls that can tear a person away from the abundant life to which God has called him. It could be money, the desire for financial success, another woman or man, a job or an inordinate desire of any kind. It could be a craving for liquor or food (not that eating and drinking are wrong, but drunkenness and gluttony are) or possibly even narcotic drugs.

Whatever it is, it diverts one from his life in Christ — choking out the influence of God’s Holy Spirit and any further bearing of good fruit.

On good ground

This category describes people who are converted and who make continual growth and progress in the faith. They bear the good fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

But not all bear the same amount of fruit. Some are much more productive than others. Many do not realize their maximum potential as Christians — they merely get by with a modicum of effort.

Yet it is Christ’s will that we bear much fruit. Those who are closest to Jesus Christ bear the most fruit. Jesus said: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Which category are you in?

The wheat and the tares

“Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servant said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matthew 13:24-30).

The second parable is also taken from a description of rural life in the province of Galilee. Any farmer of the day would have known about tares (darnel). They were weeds that grew with the wheat and looked much like it as long as the wheat remained in the blade stage. When they grew to maturity, however, they were readily distinguishable.

This is a simple illustration pointing out that both the converted and unconverted have to coexist in the same society until the time of the great harvest of lives at Christ’s return. During that time Jesus Christ will make a separation between those who are His and those who are not.

The best account of this parable is found in Matthew 13:24-30. (The explanation is given in verses 36-43.) Each element has vital meaning. Notice Matthew’s explanation:

“The field is the world; the good seed [true Christians] are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one [Satan — compare John 8:44, I John 3:8]; The enemy that sowed them is the devil [the god of this society, II Corinthians 4:4]; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world [Greek: aionos, meaning age].”

This parable graphically shows the fate of those who insist on following the devil when they know better! Those who are incorrigibly wicked will be thrown into a lake of fire and be burned into ashes (Malachi 4:3).

John spoke of this in the book of Revelation: “And death [the dead] and hell [the grave — hades] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). In order to die twice, one must first live twice. This means a resurrection must occur.

This is not immortal life as a “soul” in an ever-burning hellfire — it is complete extinction and oblivion forever! And this is doctrine!

The Good News, April 1979

August 2, 2009

Does God Hate The Rich?

You’ve heard of “God’s poor.” You’ve heard that “money is the root of all evil,” and that God hates the rich man, making it harder for him to get into God’s kingdom than for a camel to go thru a needle’s eye. But here’s what you probably have not heard!

EVERY big city has its Skid Row. Uncounted thousands of derelicts pass away lonesome, hopeless days and years in these districts of beaten men, where a 60c per night six by four cubicle covered with chicken wire is a luxury, with privilege to sleep on a soiled, knotty mattress, perhaps damp, and without sheets or suitable covers.

Every city has its slums and its blighted district adjoining or surrounding the downtown business center.

“The poor,” Jesus said, “you always have with you.  Why?

Does God Hate the Prosperous, and Love Only the Poor?

There are a lot of false ideas in circulation. One is that God is angry at the man who becomes successful and prosperous, and wants all people to be poor. The common assumption about this thing we call “sin” is that “sin” is the forbidden fruit which is the sweetest and most desirable of all, but which an unjust God forbids us to enjoy.

But in reality, all the world’s ills, all suffering, all inequality and injustice has come from transgressing the law of God. Sin is the transgression of the Law (I John 3:4). In other words, to transgress the ways that lead to prosperity, health, peace, happiness and joy, is SIN! To sin, then, is to cause suffering, unhappiness, and death.

God Prospers Those Who Serve Him

Does God hate the successful and the prosperous?  “I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health,” says God thru John.

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the council of the ungodly, . . . but his delight is in the law of the Eternal; . . . whatsoever be does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3).

“And the Eternal was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; … the Eternal made all that he did to prosper in his hand.” (Gen. 39:2, 3). Joseph served God! (verse 4).

“For the Eternal God is a sun and shield: the Eternal will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walketh uprightly. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” (Ps. 84:11, 12).

“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” (Ps. 92:12).

But God warns, thru David, when we are prospered, against setting our hearts on the prosperity. If all men would put their lives under the government of God and live by God’s laws, all men would soon be prosperous! Conversely, then, poverty is the result, directly or indirectly, of transgressing God’s laws.

Jesus, however, put the matter in its true relationship when he commanded us to seek first the Kingdom of God —  that is, to submit our lives to the government of God — to obey His commandments! — to live the kind of life He directs in His Word — and He promised that when we have first done this, the material prosperity shall be added.

Finding True Riches

What we behold in the world now, both in fields of labor and capital, as now organized, is organized competition and greed. This has produced only friction. It has impeded progress, and robbed both employer and employee of much material gain, as well as the real spiritual happiness they have vainly sought.

What’s wrong?  Men are governed by human passions, and not by God!

Happiness is something one cannot reach out and take! It is something you have only by giving. It comes only by finding God’s basic inexorable spiritual law — the way of love — of giving — of serving — of doing good.  The true basis of happiness is spiritual, not material.

Seek ye first the “Kingdom of God”  — the government of God — government in your life by the great spiritual law of God! If you do this, you will have to actually LIVE by every Word of God —  by the Bible!

If you do this, you’ll be filled with a dynamic power from without — the very Spirit of God — the Spirit of LOVE, and of understanding and wisdom —  of faith — of patience — of power for self-mastery! Your life will be energized, successful, full and complete —  HAPPY!

You will STUDY, and USE YOUR GOD-GIVEN MIND — studying first, to show yourself approved unto God — to find the true way of life! You will devote yourself, secondarily, to your job or work or profession. What you set your hand to do, as God commands, you’ll DO WITH YOUR MIGHT! You’ll be industrious. If you work for a man, you’ll serve him to the very best of your ability. If men work for you, you’ll be as interested in their welfare as your own. You’ll free your mind from all anxious concern and worry and fears  — for you’ll have the Spirit of FAITH  — relying upon the guidance and help of God. You’ll do your best, and TRUST GOD WITH THE RESULT, — and you’ll find real PEACE, and HAPPINESS and JOY first of all — and to this will be added MATERIAL PROSPERITY within God’s reasonable due time!

That’s the recipe for success, usefulness, prosperity, and REAL AND LASTING HAPPINESS!

Getting the Cart Before the Horse

Very few people follow Jesus’ formula. Nearly everyone seeks first the material prosperity. And people become so engrossed in the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches — IF they succeed in acquiring them — they never seem able to find much time for seeking the Kingdom of God — to be governed by God’s laws.

Most ministers who profess to be ministers of Jesus Christ preach exactly the opposite of the Kingdom, or government, of God. They teach that God’s laws are done away. They teach there are NO WORKS to Christianity. They pervert God’s truth.

And most people, consequently are in ignorance of the true formula for success, accomplishment, prosperity —  and the happy, joyous life!

Most people seem to believe that HAPPINESS is something that comes from material possessions. Their chief concern in life, therefore, is to earn a better living — to seek dollars — to find happiness by GETTING material things.

In this chase for the elusive dollar, the large majority find the pursuit so difficult they become overcharged with the CARES of earning a living, trying to make ends meet, and this over- whelming majority never realize their goal They remain either poor or in the worried middle-class, and the happiness they seek becomes as elusive as the dollars. They slave away their lives  — empty, worried, unhappy lives.

But a FEW of these who seek first the material riches of this world — -and only a very few — do have the talents and qualities for material success and the accumulation of money. They pay the price, usually. They generally have ability, and they are the ones who study, prepare themselves, exercise vision, industry, perseverance, determination, and pay a heavy price for the material success they acquire.

Those who are prospered by God, because they sought first the Kingdom of God — that is, to diligently live under the laws of God’s government — are not the only ones who prosper materially. The few successful ones who seek first and (usually only) the material riches also prosper in the world.

There are two kinds of material prosperity — that acquired by those who seek first and only material assets — and those who seek first God’s Way of life. David noticed this, and became envious — until God chastened him and caused him to see his error  (Ps. 73).

And thus David repented of his envy of the evil rich, and came to see their miserable end.

Stop This Envying the Rich!

In this world, a common pastime of the poor is to envy the rich — to grumble and complain, and hate the rich. What does God say about this?

“Fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way . . . cease from anger, and forsake evil,” commands God (Ps. 37:7-8). “For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Eternal shall inherit the earth” — (not heaven) — “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be.”

Yes, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? That kind of riches is false, soul-harming and soon left behind.

But some of these worldly rich have been unjust — they and their big corporations have taken advantage of their position, and paid their laborers too little. Ought not the laboring man, then, to organize and FIGHT BACK?

No, and even tho the tactics of labor unionism have gained higher wages, employers have simply raised prices, so that today’s highest wages of all time actually purchase little more than the lower wages of the pre-unionism era.

WHAT DOES GOD SAY ABOUT THIS?

“Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted … Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields (or factories), which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped (worked for you) are entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. … BE PATIENT, THEREFORE, BRETHREN, UNTO THE COMING OF THE LORD.”Jas.5:1-7).

God’s instruction is not to organize in labor unions, which in themselves have brought on additional evils — but to BE PATIENT — and wait until God restores justice!

Source of Economic Ills

By seeking first only material acquisitions, the majority have failed to acquire them and worn away their lives in the vain pursuit, while the FEW have, even at cost of hard work, study, application, and perseverance, succeeded — and neither have found happiness, because material wealth is NOT THE SOURCE OF HAPPINESS!

But God has set laws in motion — laws of success, economically, which even the material-minded, if they apply them, gain wealth by practicing. The only difficulty is, they have defeated the very purpose they sought by setting their hearts solely on material gain, instead of seeking first GOD’S WAYS, finding the true SOURCE of happiness first, and then becoming materially prosperous in a manner that would INCREASE a happiness already found.

But what has happened, economically, in America?

A few leaders, by practicing these laws of material prosperity, built large industries which employed large numbers of men. True, it was their determined PURPOSE — their study, industry, vision, planning, determination, perseverance, fighting their way to the top in spite of all obstacles, which finally put them on top of the economic heap.

True, it was their industry and enterprise which created jobs for their employees. But, by the same token, this very fact put them in position to take advantage of their laborers. Granted that they were entitled to a far greater financial reward from the enterprise than those men who were willing to do only what they were told. BUT TOO MANY OF THESE WORLDLY SUCCESSFUL TOOK FOR THEMSELVES FAR MORE THAN THEIR FAIR SHARE OF THE PROCEEDS OF THEIR BUSINESS.

Result — as mass production developed in America, labor was held in meek submission, underpaid and underprivileged. Thus employers themselves created the fertile field for labor leaders  — leaders who have preached to laborers the gospel of laying down on the job, giving less work and demanding more pay, creating friction between employer and employee — who OUGHT to be partners!

Those tycoons of big business who have thus taken selfish and unfair advantage of their position have injured themselves, as well as their employees and their country. They have brought down on their own heads the evils of a labor unionism which preaches and practices friction instead of happy co-operation, thus reducing production and profits for all.

Worse, they have limited and reduced the market for their own mass production. Since mass production is production for the masses, the vast employed class form the big part of the mass market. By holding down real wages, they have limited the ability of wage-earners to buy.

In the World Tomorrow

Now look at the changed picture when all men seek first the kingdom —  the way of life — of God.

Employers living God’s way will love their employees as themselves — will be as zealous for employees’ welfare, prosperity, working conditions, as their own. Workers will put their hearts into their work, and find a new joy in producing perhaps twice as much as now.

Production will mount, prosperity will increase for all, the masses will have the money to supply a ready market for a greatly expanded mass production.

Both employer and employee will enjoy greatly increased incomes. Society as a whole will be benefited beyond belief.

But, most important, we shall have found that inner happiness, and joy, which will supply the dynamic spark that will produce this material abundance. And economic plenty and security will add to a joyful, abundant happiness, already found.

You can start traveling that road now. It’s the only way to the happiness all desire.

Source: The Plain Truth, October 1951

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