We had another excellent evening at Bible Explored last night, and the cake wasn’t half bad either!
We were looking at the parable of the sower in Luke 8:1-21, and we ended up talking about the reasons why so many people seem to stop growing in their Christian faith. We produced quite a list:
– We lose our first love for Jesus. We set our affections on other things and other people who become more important to us than the wonder and joy of our salvation. We stop looking at the cross and reflecting on the wonder and mystery of Jesus dying in place for our sins. Consequently we no longer offer up our lives in grateful service to Him and we set our own priorities which we pursue on our terms.
– Our faith is no longer novel and fresh. In parts of the world where people have only recently heard the gospel for the first time, the church is growing at an exponential rate. The new believers there realise that nothing compares to knowing Jesus and they have a passion and a zeal to make their faith known. We see something of this passion and zeal in new believers here, but sadly all too often instead of equipping them to spread their faith, the church uses their enthusiasm to get them onto rotas and committees. Within a few years they are so embedded within the life of the church they have few real friends who are not believers, and everyone they encounter seems to know the gospel already. When this happens, we have actually missed the whole point of the parable of the sower, which is that our faith should be self-replicating and that the first thing the church should do with a new believer is help him or her make another new believer.
– Our faith doesn’t cost us anything. Again, in parts of the world where it is difficult or illegal to be a Christian, believers have to make a choice to follow Jesus, and they are clear about the consequences of that choice. Here there are few consequence if we decide to follow Jesus – we may have the odd harsh comment from family or friends, and some may choose to ostracise us. But generally it is fairly easy to count yourself as a Christian. Having said which, there are some signs that the situation is changing. The judgement against Asher’s bakery in Northern Ireland, if unchallenged, will make it increasingly hard for believers to stand up for their principles. We should rightly be concerned about this outcome. But maybe, just maybe, the Lord is also asking us what it means to take up our cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23), and whether we will heed His call.
– We don’t integrate our faith with the rest of our lives. Too often the church promotes the Christian faith as a kind of bolt-on to our already busy lives. We don’t explain how what happens in church or what we read in the Bible relates to how we earn our money or how we spent it. We are afraid to proclaim clearly the Bible’s teaching on relationships. We do try to be seeker friendly and talk about the love of Jesus – but we sadly make few connections between the love of Jesus and the reality of life on a dull, wet Monday morning. So when someone comes to faith, they make space in their busy lives to come church or to small group, say, and they can sustain that commitment in the short term. But because they are not taught how to apply their new-found faith, eventually other commitments press in. It’s easy to judge people who drift away, but we must not underestimate the pressures they often face.
The church needs to promote a holistic view of life where every aspect comes under the Lordship of Christ – after all, that’s what Jesus intended us to do when He commanded us as part of the Great Commission to make disciples. And of course, it’s very easy when reading the parable of the sower to apply the teaching to the lives of others, but the point about the parable is that for those who refuse to listen to its message, it is actually a message of judgement (Luke 8:9-10). We were all very conscious last night of the need ourselves to have ears to hear.