Feb 232017

Parable of the Sower

“ ‘A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.’

As he said these things, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’

 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that “seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:5-15)

In his Things I Think column dated 1/30/17, Michael wrote: “I don’t recognize the Jesus of some as the one I worship, nor do they recognize mine.” Does God’s Word present us with different Christs? Or do some Christians remake Christ in their own image? Instead of finding their identity in Him, do they fashion a false Christ who shares their identity?

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ ” (Luke 8:10)

Most of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries were so certain about what they expected from their Messiah that when they met Him face to face they did not recognize Him. Seeing, they did not see. Hearing, they did not understand.

  • His own kinsfolk in Nazareth rejected Jesus because they only saw Joseph’s son (Luke 4:22).
  • The scribes and the Pharisees rejected Jesus because they did not acknowledge His authority on earth to forgive sins (Luke 5:21), He dined with tax collectors and sinners (Luke 5:30), and He healed on the Sabbath (Luke 6:11).

These groups saw, but did not see the Kingdom-In-Person in their midst. They heard, but did not understand the grace of God. Therefore, Jesus warned His disciples: “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” (Luke 8:18)

“Are you the one who [has] come, or shall we look for another?” (Luke 7:19)

This is a question for our day too. Who is Jesus Christ? What will He do for us? Will He affirm our life choices? Will He condemn our enemies? Will He bless us with success? Does He share our political ideology? Will He show us a sign?

Our situation today is different than it was for Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries. Jesus preached a pure Word and presented them with a binary choice – acknowledge Him or deny Him – as the Messiah. However, after 2,000 years His Word has been massively “trampled underfoot.” The result is that the world is now filled with false teachers preaching a variety of false Messiahs. To find the true Word of Christ preached is the exception today, not the rule. Some false teachers are more honest than others. Some of them admit they do not consider the Bible to be the Word of God for people today. But others who claim a high view of the Bible nevertheless distort the Word of Christ through false interpretations.

Worshiping a false Messiah may seem life affirming and comforting. But just like Jesus’ contemporaries, what will you see, hear or understand should a true preacher of Christ scatter good seed before you? Where will the seed land? If you are committed to a false Messiah, then good seed may land on the path and the devil will come and snatch it away. On the other hand, maybe you are just infatuated with a false Messiah; then perhaps good seed will land in rocky soil or where the thorns grow. But neither of those places produces the fruit of eternal life.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:3-4)

In our day and age when Christianity is presented as a salad bar, we should recognize that much of the greens and vegetables at the salad bar are poison for the soul. Many of the false Christs being preached in churches today to enthusiastic crowds are making the hearts of people dull, their ears heavy, and their eyes blind.

“As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

But not all of Jesus’ contemporaries were hardened against Him. The four gospels identify many people (in addition to His disciples) who believed in Him. They were the ones who did not reject him on account of His humble birth, itinerant lifestyle, or compassion for sinners, Samaritans and Gentiles. They had ears to hear, and they listened.

Therefore, we must take Jesus seriously when He says “Take care then how you hear….” For His Word is always perfect and effective, but He (i.e., the Christ of the Bible) must be heard if we are to believe in Him. Moreover, Christians with ears to hear should not endure the preaching of a Christ which runs contrary to (or different from) the One portrayed in His Word, because such false teaching damages our hearing and our understanding. Instead we should go to where He and His Gospel are preached according to His Word. This saying is trustworthy: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)

Lord Jesus Christ, make our hearts good fertile soil for your Word. Establish enduring roots in us. Protect us from the devil, false teachers and our own itching ears. Create in us an honest and good heart. Bear fruit in us that leads to eternal life and which reaches out in love for our neighbors. Amen.


  118 Responses to “Jean’s Gospel: The Parable of the Sower”

  1. Jean – good article.

    So how do I make my soil better? Can I search Amazon to find those ears that hear?

  2. Maybe you can help make someone else’s soil better?

  3. MLD,

    Do you want to discuss soteriological theories? Or do you want to believe the Gospel? You can do both, of course, but Jesus makes things simple and clear.

    First Jesus says “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” So I do it.

    Second Jesus says “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

    Jesus also says “Take care then how you hear.”

    So, I’m not worried about my soil or improving it. God’s word will make it. But, what I want to do is not despise this word, which has the power in it. If he says come to me, then I go to him.

    He doesn’t force his gifts on us. Moreover, he doesn’t stop us from polluting our minds with false teachers, idols and false Christs. If he says, take care, then I take care.

    Does that make sense?

  4. hmmm… good read… it occurs to me that pride in what we “know” runs much deeper than we acknowledge even today… what a condemnation – to be a teacher/pastor leading sheep away from the Truth…
    what then is the difference between being a learner with ears to hear and one just having those “itching” ears of 2 Timothy 4:3 … attitude?

  5. John 20:29, You asked:

    “what then is the difference between being a learner with ears to hear and one just having those “itching” ears of 2 Timothy 4:3 … attitude?”

    The thought that comes immediately to mind, is that Christians need the Church and, more specifically, a preacher of the Word, who will use God’s Law to convict us of our sin (including those itching ears that chase after myths), and then console us with the true Gospel, which sustains and strengthens genuine faith in Christ. It is a life of repentance. There is a lot more spiritual warfare going on in our lives than many of us may realize.

  6. Jean,
    My question was for emphasis and clarity. As you know there are many out their that teach you can do something to prepare yourself to hear the gospel. We know that to be a false teaching.

    Also, I would have to check, but I think when I taught through Matt 13 that I made the claim (well Jesus made it originally) that the reason he taught in parables was to hide truth from people. So that brings up – can you control if you have the ears to hear or not?

    Jesus hides truth (Matt 13) and Jesus warned of false teachers (Matt 24). It is interesting, people have a hard time hearing Jesus but do not have any difficulty hearing the false teachers. 🙂

  7. I was going to follow up my #5 in response to Em, that

    “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!”

  8. “As you know there are many out their that teach you can do something to prepare yourself to hear the gospel.”

    Yes, we Lutherans prepare ourselves each Divine Service with Confession and Absolution. We also recite the Nicene Creed before the pastor’s sermon, where he is charged with proclaiming the Gospel. We call that weed prevention. 🙂

  9. It must be one of those saltwater things as I go through the Divine Service being prepared by God through the liturgy as I am hearing the gospel.(which the sermon is only a part.)

    You do the Creed before the sermon? We do it immediately after the sermon — you heretic! 😉

  10. #10 Jean

    In your new worship book (as opposed to the older LBW) does the pastor “give” absolution (as part of the office of the keys) or does he simply proclaim absolution?

  11. Hi Duane,

    I understand that the church holds the keys and delegates the public administration of the keys to office of holy ministry. So, in the divine service, the pastor exercises the keys in absolution.

  12. Jean

    That’s helpful to know… some years back (in the 80s) it was a subject of some debate…

  13. Our pastor will say; “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and at His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

  14. Also, to this phrase may be added “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and at His authority,—— AND IN HIS STEAD.

    This is not instead of Jesus but in his place.

    But then, we understand the pastor to be the voice box of Jesus in the pulpit. What he says is what Jesus says — except perhaps for the announcements. 😉

  15. MLD/Jean

    Yes, this is what I was wondering about. MLD’s description is of the pastor granting absolution (in Christ’s stead). This would seem to be different from “the church holds the keys and delegates the public administration of the keys to office of holy ministry”. One is a sacerdotal function, and the other a representative function.

    Not nit-picking, just wondering if the issue (and the theology behind the issue) was ever really sorted out.

  16. Duane,
    I’m not aware of an issue or the distinction. Sorry I can’t be of any help there.

    I do take great comfort in this promise that Christ gave before he sent out the 72:

    “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”
    Luke 10:16 ESV

  17. I think in the church setting of the divine service it is sacerdotal.

    How it plays out in other settings I can’t say as I am not quite sure what a representative function might look like.

  18. Duane – when you were an Anglican priest what did you do, and how did you mean it?

  19. Jean

    It’s a liturgical distinction – the words of absolution themselves; and an ecclesial issue, i.e. what “power” does the priest (pastor) have as a result of his ordination in granting absolution, whether in public (the Divine Service) or in private (individual Confession). As private confession and absolution was retained by the Augsburg Confession (I think Art. 11, but I’m not sure) some felt the power of absolution was sacerdotal while others saw it as simply delegated by the Church, no matter if it is a public or private act…

  20. #18 MLD

    In my branch of Anglicanism, we understood it as sacerdotal – ego te adsolvo – in the stead of Christ, but limited to the office of the priest. In our liturgy, however, it could be taken either way…
    That being said, the Lutheran Confessions are much more conservative in the retention of pre-Tridentine RC liturgical practices.

  21. Duane just assigned me 800 pages on the topic…I’ll be able to solve all liturgical questions soon. 🙂

  22. Ah, Dom Gregory Dix… a great Anglican Benedictine!

  23. That’s the one… 🙂

    Digging in as we speak…

  24. Aside from the difference between sacerdotal and representative I can tell the group here that it is imperative – in fact it may be the definition of Christian to hear the words – actually hear them in your ears “you are forgiven”

    I can truthfully say that in 25 yrs in evangelical churches I never once heard from anyone, out loud say ‘you are forgiven’. It is always 100% of the time, pray for God’s forgiveness or confess and God will forgive – but in the end you are left to guess, because in that system, there is no confirmation of that forgiveness. You won’t even hear it in the Supper and Jesus made that very point that the supper was for the forgiveness of your sin.

    The funny thing is, one of the most clear commands of Jesus, found in John 20 is to forgive the sins of others and the evangelical churches ignore it – not only ignore but sneer that it is “too Catholic” to do that. Funny how that works.

    Forgiving sin is really the only function of the church – and no one wants to say it out loud.

  25. “Forgiving sin is really the only function of the church – and no one wants to say it out loud.”
    i can’t say amen to that…
    but i do know that i found Christ (insert whatever definition you like) or, as the song says, “I sought the Lord and afterward I knew, He moved my soul to seek Him seeking me. It was not I that found, oh Savior, true – no, I was found of Thee” in a church (Presbyterian)…
    i moved on to an Evangelical United Brethren, to the Southern Baptist, to a short stint in a Christian and Missionary Alliance, to a form of Baptist church that taught RB Thieme material and never in a single one of them did i doubt that i was forgiven, i was taught to confess my sin (acknowledge it), but never did i doubt the efficacy of the atonement achieved on that cross some 2,000 years ago – those churches were where i moved on, forgiven, i learned and grew in the Faith by what i learned…
    no, i think the church’s base function entails much more than implementing forgiveness…
    we seem to be a bit “disfunctional” these days, but maybe we’ve always walked with a limp…

    just sayin … again 🙂
    cuz that’s how it looks from over here

  26. MLD, you must of been part of some interesting evangelical churches.

    I’ve heard the message of my being forgiven hundreds of times over the years.

    I’ve heard the proclamation that if I confess my sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive me of my sins hundreds of times throughout the years, through the preaching of the word, communion, times of confession to another brother or pastor and assurance of the Holy Spirit while reading the bible and personal prayer.

  27. “in fact it may be the definition of Christian to hear the words – actually hear them in your ears “you are forgiven””


  28. Em & Scooter – you are speaking of the doctrine of forgiveness – you know, all the ins and outs. Of course we are forgiven – but have you ever heard in your ears, live and in person a pastor say directly to you “just as Jesus commanded me to do, I forgive your sins.”

    If so, I want to know the name of the evangelical pastor who is bold enough to say those words.

  29. MLD, no, I’ve never had a pastor tell me, “I forgive your sins.”

    What’s your point? A pastor/priest doesn’t have the power to forgive my sins.

    He has the calling to assure me that if I confess my sins, Jesus does and will forgive me of my sins, then again, so do you as my brother in Christ.

  30. Calvin dealt with the passage in John 20:23 much better than I ever could. After reading his commentary on the matter, I concur with his explanation.


  31. My priest says this over me after he hears my confession:

    My child Xenia, may our Lord and God Christ Jesus by the mercy of His love absolve thee from thy sins; and I, His unworthy priest, in virtue of the authority committed to me, absolve thee and declare thee absolved of thy sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

  32. #28 – of course i’ve never received absolution from my pastor, he is my pastor… he and i may both pray/confess and know that we are and have been forgiven…
    that said, i respect your preference for the declaration – as long as you and Xenia and your priests know where the forgiveness comes from i have no problem with your receiving your priests’ affirmation of your intent and God’s response – because i know that you know Who is really, ultimately the One forgiving

    however, if you (or i) have stepped on your priest’s foot and bruised his big toe, and asked him to forgive you, he then may personally forgive you – come to think of it, it is incumbent upon him to forgive you even if you don’t ask, isn’t he?

    God keep

  33. Without belaboring the point, I hold to the importance of the physical in absolution. That is, the actual physical/verbal pronouncement by a living human being standing in the stead of Christ that my sins are forgiven. As with so much else, as we seek to “spiritualize” all such acts, we run the danger of what I call, “practical gnosticism”. Much in Christianity is actual and physical – baptism (real water, physically enacted), the Eucharist (physical elements – “take eat”… “take drink”…), assembling together, etc.. For me, the physical is simply part of what “Church” means. We may have come to the point in much of the Church that we are taking on the arrogance of the ancient gnostics – “my spirituality”, “I don’t need some man to absolve me”, “I can commune with God on my own”. While all these comments are “true”, they are true as exceptions. Too many have made them normative, creating an individualistic approach to the faith apart from the corporate nature of the Church.

  34. We have had an ongoing discussion for the last several months, through various articles about the health, direction and loyalties of many of the churches in America. In this article I have tried to draw a connection between the content of what we “hear” of Christ in church and the fruits of faith (or lack there of).

    I don’t think the church from the top down is going to reform itself and give up its idols, which give it the appearance of success in the eyes of the world. There is too much money and fame tied to these things. So, what I am trying to do is encourage a bottom up approach. It is very difficult, but I believe the Bible clearly warns of the dangers of following a false Christ, whether it be the purpose driven Christ, the prosperity Christ, the Christ who colludes with political power, the social justice Christ, or any other Christ who is not Jesus of Nazareth, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

    Preachers can successfully and in great numbers sell a false Christ, because they remove the foolishness and scandal of the real Gospel. A Christ people can choose, control and use to their advantage, one that affirms their personal identity and aspirations, is very attractive. Unfortunately, that is not Christianity.

    I hope our readers will think very carefully about who it is that we and our loved ones are following as our Savior. As we see even with Jesus disciples who literally walked with Him, we are constantly confronted and tempted with erroneous ideas about Christ. Therefore, we can never let our guard down about what we are hearing.

    Churches that use the ecumenical creeds and litugry don’t do it to cramp anyone’s style, but in order to norm all of our worship within the orthodox, historic, apostolic faith. The idea is to conform our will to the Word of God, rather than conform the Word to our will, which is what by nature we’d rather do. I’m not saying that the creeds and liturgy are the only way to accomplish this objective, but it is a tried and true way.

  35. John 20 is almost a simple and clear as “This is my Body” before it goes through the ‘jive’ translator.

    “21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

    Note he does not say “for if you tell anyone that I (Jesus) forgive their sins” – or “If you tell anyone that I (Jesus) do not forgive their sins” — No! he say If YOU forgive – or If you withhold forgiveness.”

  36. One other thing in the original article, when I teased yesterday about ordering my”ears to hear” through Amazon.

    I said above that Jesus used parables to hide truth (yes Jesus hides the truth from some – but a Christian always hears Jesus – the ‘my sheep hear my voice’ stuff. Why, because Jesus has given them the ears.

    I just want to clear that up because I hear so often people trying to witness tell the unbeliever – “if only you would listen”. Hey, they can’t – they don’t have those ears.

  37. “I just want to clear that up because I hear so often people trying to witness tell the unbeliever – “if only you would listen”. Hey, they can’t – they don’t have those ears.”

    But again, to clear up what I was saying yesterday, theories only take you so far. Whether and when the Great Physician gives an unbeliever hearing is in His department. Our department is to proclaim the Gospel in season and out of season (each within his calling of course). An unbeliever may not have those ears today, but who’s to say he may not be granted those ears tomorrow. So, our commission remains the same, and we do not easily abandon these poor folks.

    Do we agree?

  38. #34 Jean

    Lex orandi, lex credendi – The law of praying is the law of believing. Liturgy, that is, how we pray and worship leads to theology. If our experience of worship is momentary, personally centered and “all about me”, that is where we will end up in our theology as well. Actually, I think it has already happened in many places. For me, the historic faith, creeds, liturgy, etc., is not peripheral, it is central. We can pride ourselves in being “Bible-Centric”, but the true context for the Bible is the Church…

  39. Duane,

    Thankfully, we have the testimony of several people here who have been able to extricate themselves from that momentary, personally centered worship. And I have not heard of anyone who has left that wanting to return to it.

  40. Jean’
    “Do we agree?”

    Yes we do (which could be dangerous area for you here on the blog 😉 ), this is why we just go along spreading the seed – on good soil and bad.
    But my point is, once someone gives you the blank stare or worse a snarl – move on because repeating it (in this time and this season) isn’t going to work – no ears. So you or someone else may come along at another time and they will have the ears — but all they will be doing is agreeing with you, because if they have the ears, they are already a Christian.

  41. God will use us to improve the soil quality for others.

    If my children see consistency in my teaching and my living, I would bet they are much more likely to follow the Lord. The opposite would also be true.

    Kids in your community who are in chaotic home environments are less likely to receive the Gospel message. However, if you show them kindness and acceptance, it is like tilling the hardened soil, and they will be more likely to hear the Gospel message.

  42. Josh,
    Lifestyle evangelism is the tactic used by the Mormons – meeting felt needs is the tactic used by the purpose driven church. Both deny that the word does what it says it does.

    Jews model folks with good soil and they not only deny Christ but encourage others to do the same.

    But before you object, I think it is better to be nice than not.

  43. Mormons also wear shoes. Who cares?

  44. “Jews model folks with good soil ”

    Insane. Good soil is about receptiveness to the Gospel. Jews, by definition, reject the Gospel.

  45. Once again, two people talking past one another, like two ships passing in the night and giving a little blow horn to the other. One in the clouds with doctrinal theories and the other on the ground where people live.

    Here is a short snippet from the LCMS.org website which describes the make up of missionary teams:

    “LCMS missionary teams are made up of people who focus on planting churches, leadership formation or some type of locally initiated holistic services in areas of health, agriculture, community development, English-as-a-Foreign-Language classes or partner support activities.”

    The inclusion of holistic services is not a tactic, it serves (1) a need, and (2) cultivates relationships which then provide an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, relationships matter. One could be formed for an insincere reason, or it could be formed for a genuine reason.

  46. But…That’s what the Mormons do!!!

  47. Since we are forgiven because of Christ, we are free to love. Not as a means to an end (evangelism), but to love regardless. let the Spirit evangelize while we live out the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, as best we can in our flesh.

  48. All of the above is true… and, likewise, not true! We can do all the right things in terms of evangelism (lifestyle, love, proclaiming, etc.) and still not succeed. We can do all the wrong things and, somehow, someone hears the gospel and comes to faith in Christ.

    Now, this isn’t an excuse for doing “all the wrong things”, it’s merely to say God works in his own ways and in his own seasons. The Church will evangelize if it simply conducts itself as the Church. If we’re doing it right, evangelism is simply part of our nature… Even then, it’s up to God to bring the increase.

  49. I am the biggest advocate of living in your vocation – but I do not live in my vocation to ‘soften people up’. I live in my vocation because the recipient needs my services etc, etc, blah, blah, blah.

    And then we hear the testimonies of the unbelievers who complain about the Christian who became their friend for the sole purpose of witnessing to them.

    Jesus draws by the scriptures – not by purpose driven.

  50. So, MLD – If a person has “bad soil” they are just condemned? Or is it possible that God would use people to improve their receptivity to the Gospel. Keep in mind, I said nothing of Purpose Driven of Lifestyle Evangelism. Only about the possibility of improving soil quality / receptivity to the Gospel.

  51. Josh,
    I know you addressed your question to MLD, and I’m sure he will weigh in, but I would like to address the question too, because in MLD’s prior comments he has not given you the full picture.

    A preacher of the Gospel preaches to a bound will. This is a will which is at enmity with God. So, none of us comes out of the womb with good soil.

    God’s Word, the law to convict and the gospel to give pardon, must create faith in the unbeliever by turning us from unbelief to belief.

    This word of the cross is foolishness in the eyes of human wisdom. No one can believe it of their own will or reason, because it is foolishness. Therefore, creating friendships, being nice and helpful, etc., do not diminish the foolishness of the cross. Only the Holy Spirit can do this in a person.

    However, if you want to speak to another person, if you want to share the Gospel with them, they must give you the right and invite you to speak to them. Thus, you can improve people’s receptivity to you and your ability to get their ear for a talk. But breaking through their unbelief is the sole work of the Holy Spirit. So, in that respect, no, you can’t improve soil quality. We can plant and water only.

    Does that make sense?

  52. 42

    Friendship evangelism just means you don’t beat someone over the head with your Gospel blimp before sharing Christ with them. It means you earn the right to be heard. The Great Commission says “As you go, preach the gospel…”



  53. Of course, and I agree 99%.

    I disagree with your final assessment on soil quality. A.) Planting and watering can improve soil quality.

    B.) I am not arguing that we do anything under our own power. However, God may improve the soil quality, and he may use us as His instrument to do so.

  54. I never complain about getting a 99%. Especially from a Southern gentleman.

  55. Southern Gentlemen Josh Hamrick.

    My future legal name.

  56. Are you a plural?

  57. Josh – that is probably the explanation a synergist would give. People preparing themselves so God would then be allowed give his work a try.

    Jean states it right – the gospel is foolishness to the unbeliever – how does an unbeliever get over the foolishness part to now become receptive? My answer – he cannot. I don’t think salvation is gradual – I think it is like some of these new dragsters – 0 to 360 MPH in 6 seconds. 😉

  58. “People preparing themselves so God would then be allowed give his work a try.”

    Find a spot where I said anything like that, and then we’ll talk. Particularly note B under my #53.

  59. “The Church will evangelize if it simply conducts itself as the Church. If we’re doing it right, evangelism is simply part of our nature… Even then, it’s up to God to bring the increase.”

    Agreed Duane. I don’t know if Saint Francis is the one who said this or not but it rings true to me: “Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.”

    I’m not an intellectual or good speaker, but I can certainly do small, mundane things like listening or helping neighbors with small tasks. All the while ready ready to give an answer to everyone who asks for the Hope that we have in Christ.

  60. I would like to add, that salvation being a process, saved, being saved, will be saved, if we want to understand how Jesus talks about “hearing” and parables, I think this verse is very important to the discussion:

    “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

    In particular, we have not discussed the part where he says “to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”

    As Christians we should expect “more will be given.” Jesus began to speak in parables after receiving rejection. Rejection can harden the heart. From the own who has not, “even what he thinks he has will be taken away.”

    Take care then how you hear.

  61. #59 Joel

    Yes, it is Francis. One of my favorite quotes! I agree with your assessment.

  62. I’ve heard that the quote is a false attribution.

  63. But the Francis statement is still a false statement. No one can become a Christian by watching me, even if I was as good as Joel.

    I have this one lady in class that has brought the Francis statement up probably a dozen times over the years and each time I have to tell her that it is heresey … but she continues on with it.

    I used to have a yellow referees flag I would throw when people would say such nonsense in class – perhaps I need to bring it back out of retirement. 😉

  64. Curious as to who appointed MLD as the heresy referee…..

  65. In other words, MLD, you believe, much as the Calvinists believe, that certain people are chosen (predestinated) for salvation and others are not.

  66. Hmmm….

    In Heaven, MLD or Francis?

    MLD and I will stand there and correct Francis.

    Or not. 🙂

  67. Xenia – so tell me how YOU transmit to someone, by you lifestyle the fact that Jesus Christ, God himself was born, lived the perfect life, died on the cross, was buried and 3 days later rose again from the dead for the forgiveness of the sins of all mankind? – which is indeed the gospel.

    I must here this one

  68. Xenia – “In other words, MLD, you believe, much as the Calvinists believe, that certain people are chosen (predestinated) for salvation and others are not.”


  69. Thank you for the plain yes or no answer, I am relieved that you didn’t answer my question with a question, as is your wont.

    As to the other:

    Matthew 5:16

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

  70. I will say that so much more damage can be done to the furthering of the Kingdom and preaching of the Gospel by those who purport to preach it and believe it and yet whose lives are hellish rather than those who say nothing and yet live it.

  71. It’s tough to find a self righteous “Pharisee” who may not be preaching the Gospel far and wide and yet is living it out.

    And, indeed, there are “Pharisees who believed.” Acts 15:5

  72. Wow! Doing a word search on “Pharisees” brings an ENORMOUS number of Scriptures!

  73. #62 Josh

    I don’t have my Vita here, but I think it was attributed to him by Thomas of Celano, one of the early biographers…

  74. Xenia – so faith does not come by hearing – but by lifestyle example.
    I don’t think if I am an outsider, and I praise and glorify someone else’s God, means that I am now saved.

    Many may like the our God along with their own gods – doesn’t do them any good.

    How can they hear without a preacher? … or was that a question?

  75. “But the Francis statement is still a false statement. No one can become a Christian by watching me, even if I was as good as Joel.”

    “For we are Gods handiwork, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Eph 2:10

    I’m not good MLD. There are needs set before us. Sometimes tedious and thankless. But after all we have received from Christ how can we not do them? It’s out of love that we want to do them, right? Even if they are imperfect in the flesh or “old Adam”.

  76. Joel,
    I am denying that my good example leads anyone to Christ. Does the saintly Jew lead people into the false religion of Judaism?

  77. A ramble….

    Years ago, when I first became Orthodox, I used to take those online quizzes which determine the best denominational fit. Orthodox always came first, Lutheranism always came in second. Since my sister converted to Lutheranism about the same time, I was happy to believe we had a lot in common.

    But after years here reading MLD, I realize that we don’t have much in common at all and even the things it appears we agree on, such as Baptism and the Eucharist, the agreement is only superficial. MLD will agree with this, I think.

    It’s monergism vs synergism. Monergists believe God does everything. Synergists believe we do things with God because this arrangement is most conducive to developing, to use an evangelical phrase, “a personal relationship with God.” This requires a certain back and forth, not a one-sided receiving. God is ultimately in control of course but He has chosen to do things with us as opposed to always doings things for or to us. Any parent knows this is the best way to develop a warm relationship with their children and God has chosen to relate to mankind as a Father.

    Some of you may remember my “baking cookies with Grandma” analogy. I could bake all the cookies myself but I prefer to bake them with my grandchildren so we can have genuine interaction and they can become like me.* They can choose for themselves if they want to help Grandma in the kitchen or sit in the living room and watch cartoons. The ones who chose the cartoons will not know me very well and will become more like the cartoon characters than like their Grandma. For there to be genuine theosis there has to be synergistic cooperation with God.

    *(I am not interested in my grandchildren “becoming like me,” of course. It’s an analogy.)

    I believe walking with God, cooperating with God, doing things with God, is transformational. We become more like Christ, not just positionally but actually. We become (but do not attain while on earth) perfect, just as God is perfect. We can become more loving, more kind, more generous, less selfish…. more Christlike.

  78. Regarding those quizzes, I think Lutheranism ranked higher than Roman Catholicism because of the “Papal Infallibility” question and above Anglicanism, which is actually the closest fit to EO, because of questions about liberalism.

  79. Xenia – so faith does not come by hearing – but by lifestyle example.<<<

    But you know I didn't say that.

  80. “Xenia – so faith does not come by hearing – but by lifestyle example.”

    Real question, since we seem stuck on the very literal “Faith comes by hearing”…which of course I agree with.

    But what about the deaf? They will never “hear” yet certainly they can be saved, too.

  81. The “Baking Cookies Ramble” was brilliant!

  82. Josh, and what about those who are so mentally deficient that they can’t understand what is being said?

    I think the deaf “hear” by reading or maybe sign language.

  83. Josh,

    “And hearing by the Word of God.”

    So a deaf person can read the Bible.

    And even if deaf and blind, the Bible can be communicated to him or her.

    Ask Helen Keller.

  84. Josh, the “hearing” is related to the function of preaching. So, the deaf can “hear” what the preacher is saying – even by sign language or whatever uses wording.

    But the Francis statement (which I agree is not from Francis because he would know better seems to indicate that we do not need to hear preaching – we do not need to hear the gospel – that somehow it gets “lived” out.

    Even a passion play makes a declaration.

    I will be driving out to Arizona for the next 6 hours so I will not be in touch. It’s been fun.

  85. Have a safe trip, MLD. God bless.

  86. “I am denying that my good example leads anyone to Christ.” ahh, but it can (and probably has) point people to Him
    “Does the saintly Jew lead people into the false religion of Judaism?” good-so-called people lead people into false religions all the time, dunno about the saintly Jew and false Judaism, tho

    DDr. Arnold observed: “…..We may have come to the point in much of the Church that we are taking on the arrogance of the ancient gnostics – “my spirituality”, “I don’t need some man to absolve me”, “I can commune with God on my own”. While all these comments are “true”, they are true as exceptions. Too many have made them normative, creating an individualistic approach to the faith apart from the corporate nature of the Church.” i will have to ask to be apart for your collective “we” as we disagree on this conclusion – or at least on what we conclude from what we’ve observed…

    we are tasked with spreading seeds, but let us hope we are not the means by which the seeds don’t germinate, eh?

    sometimes one feels like Job as one listens to Believers examine the Faith… but it is a glorious Faith and a glorious topic even when it is too high for us to wrap our collective mind around… too large to fit into our box…

  87. The paradox of Scripture is that God does it all and what we do matters.

    I no longer feel compelled to parse such things out.

    I am overjoyed at such a robust discussion…

  88. MLD,

    No texting and driving… 🙂

  89. The paradox of Scripture is that God does it all and what we do matters.<<<

    Yeah, I agree with that.

  90. Xenia,

    Sometimes Lutherans are so careful in their speech around evangelicals for fear of being misunderstood that they are somewhat incomplete in their answers. For example, if a Lutheran were talking among themselves, you might hear the word “synergism” come up, but Lutherans typically do not use that language around evangelicals because it has a different meaning to evangelicals than it does to Lutherans.

    A Lutheran would use your cookie story, but would want to adjust it a little to fit our Confessions. The the idea of cooperation is certainly there. Let me share this short quote directly from our Confessions on the topic. We agree with cooperation to the extent that God leads and empowers by the Holy Spirit, but not to the extent that a Christian is yoked equally to the Holy Spirit as we cooperate together in pulling a wagon.

    “From this, then, it follows that as soon as the Holy Ghost, as has been said, through the Word and holy Sacraments, has begun in us this His work of regeneration and renewal, it is certain that through the power of the Holy Ghost we can and should cooperate, although still in great weakness. But this [that we cooperate] does not occur from our carnal natural powers, but from the new powers and gifts which the Holy Ghost has begun in us in conversion, 66] as St. Paul expressly and earnestly exhorts that as workers together with Him we receive not the grace of God in vain, 2 Cor. 6:1. But this is to be understood in no other way than that the converted man does good to such an extent and so long as God by His Holy Spirit rules, guides, and leads him, and that as soon as God would withdraw His gracious hand from him, he could not for a moment persevere in obedience to God. But if this were understood thus [if any one would take the expression of St. Paul in this sense], that the converted man cooperates with the Holy Ghost in the manner as when two horses together draw a wagon, this could in no way be conceded without prejudice to the divine truth. (2 Cor. 6:1: Sunergou’te” parakalou’men: We who are servants or coworkers with God beseech you who are God’s husbandry and God’s building, 1 Cor. 3:9, to imitate our example, that the grace of God may not be among you in vain, 1 Cor. 15:10, but that ye may be the temple of God, living and dwelling in you, 2 Cor. 6:16.)”

  91. “The paradox of Scripture is that God does it all and what we do matters.”

    Wow that’s good.

  92. Hi Jean,

    That is a good quote which is hard to disagree w/ yet even so, MLD and I seem to disagree about what cooperation with God is and what it accomplishes.

    How do you see the evangelical version of synergism?

  93. #88 Michael

    Yes… As St. Augustine wrote, “Paul fought, but God gave the victory: He ran, but God showed mercy.”

  94. Duane,

    I thought I had this all figured out a few years ago… 🙂

    Paradox and mystery are only recognized, not understood…

  95. Number 88 is perfect.

  96. Michael

    To quote a great American poet…

    “Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”

  97. I think we all agree with #88. Well said Michael!

  98. Xenia,

    Since evangelicalism is not a monolithic movement, I can’t define it as “a” version.

    However, some evangelicals, for example some Wesleyans, some Baptists and many forms of non-denominationals would have a degree of synergism in conversion. Lutherans (and I assume EO) would make conversion wholly monergistic, otherwise how could we baptize babies.

    When it comes to sanctification in the sense of good works, the entire orientation of these groups in their relationship with God is upended. Instead of continually receiving grace from Christ, which renews the heart, these groups continually feed on God’s law to coerce a renewed heart. Instead of looking continually to Christ as our Redeemer, Sanctification, High Priest, Advocate, Mediator, etc., these groups continually look at themselves to attempt to ascertain whether God is blessing them or happy with them, etc. The Law can never create good works, because good works must be freely given from faith. What the Law creates are called works of the Law,

    Now before someone accuses me of speaking poorly about their tradition, please note that in my identification of these groups, I said “some.” If your tradition isn’t described above, then I wasn’t talking about you.

  99. Thanks, Josh, Costco…

    I just no longer have the need to be certain about things that in reality have been hidden from me in their fullness.

    I’ve left Geneva and traveled to Canterbury…and no longer feel the need to uphold Westminster.

    That’s my travelogue for the day… 🙂

  100. But Michael,

    The Bratwurst in Wittenberg are to die for. 🙂

  101. Jean,

    You have a point there… 🙂

  102. Well, I cordially invite you all to visit….Nashville?

    Yeah, I gotta get a better denomination.

  103. I have great friends in Nashville…and there’s barbecue too. 🙂

  104. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in Lutheranism is that God makes free men and women in Christ. True good works are the fruit of this freedom. Therefore, Lutheran preaching looses the Christian of his/her sin, which frees him/her.

    Christians are children of the promise (Sarah’s children), not children of the slave woman. The slave woman and her child must be cast out.

    Unfortunately, too much of what goes for Christianity and Christian preaching today does nothing else than create children of the slave woman.

  105. I’ve left Geneva and traveled to Canterbury…and no longer feel the need to uphold Westminster.<<<

    This is remarkable!!!

  106. In my opinion, Michael, you left Costa Mesa for Geneva. And Geneva for Canterbury. And will soon leave Canterbury for (First Century) Jerusalem.

    Or something like that. 🙂

  107. for (First Century) Jerusalem. <<<

    Where dwelleth the Orthodox. 🙂

  108. Nice! 🙂

    Don’t necessarily want to get in a theological tit-for-tat but…Nice! 🙂

  109. I was never rooted in Costa Mesa.

    Anglicanism (Canterbury) allows me to to learn from and hug anyone I choose to…while remaining part of an ancient tradition with a beautiful and full liturgy.

    As Xenia has testified about Orthodoxy, my heart has found a home…and I still have fondness for other places I’ve visited.

  110. Michael, of all the things that have happened over the years here on the blog, this is the most wonderful.

    Number 2 is the resolution of Alex’s story.

  111. In my opinion, that is.

    Alex’s story is pretty darn fantastic, though.

  112. Xenia,

    Thank you.
    There’s still a lot of work to be done and much to learn…just as I remember you doing when you embraced Orthodoxy.

    You have been a wonderful and godly example for me…

  113. Aw, shucks.

    I remember when I first wandered into St. Seraphim’s church 15 years ago. I was a miserable evangelical (for faults of my own) and not really expecting anything, just bored and curious. And after 5 minutes, I was converted in my heart to Eastern Orthodoxy. Bang, just like that. I didn’t know hardly anything about it, either, but my heart found its home.

    At that time, I thought the Russian parish was too difficult so I joined the Greek parish. I was expecting catechumen lessons but didn’t get any. The Greek priest showed me how to cross myself in the Eastern style and that was that. He seemed to think that I, as a Calvary Chapelite, crossed myself in the style of the Roman Catholics! But it all worked out ok and now I am back with the difficult Russians who turned out not to be so difficult after all.

    A few years later my husband also converted and for the first time in our lives we have prayer together every morning. My husband (for various reasons) did not flourish in the CC environment but turned out to be a fantastic Orthodox Christian. We had been at odds, religion-wise, for 30 years but now we are united. Who can tell what the future will bring! Glory to God!

  114. Another thing….. the day I was chrismated (anointed with holy oil) and was formally received in to the Eastern Orthodox world, there was a definite feeling of before and after. Even today, I judge my whole life as before chrismation and after chrismation. It was as if the Holy Spirit truly did descend upon me that day.

  115. Xenia,

    I have much to look forward too…and many changes from where I’ve been.

    Glory to God, indeed!

  116. #110

    “…and I still have fondness for other places I’ve visited.”

    We all make journeys, or perhaps better, pilgrimages. The key is to integrate into a whole the places we’ve been along the way… I don’t know how John Lennon wrote “In My Life” in his twenties. I’m only just “getting it” now. Could not be happier for you, Michael.

  117. Zenia@ 78

    Good stuff! Love it!

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