spiritwarfare

Submission and Obedience

Part 4

Esther: The Parable of the Sower

Matthew 13:3-9

Just as King Ahasuerus sent a call across his realm for beautiful queen candidates, God issues a call for hearing souls to become members of His bride. Before continuing Esther's story, let's look at the call of God and ways people respond to it.

Our best teacher is Jesus. He taught much about being called in His Parable of the Sower found in three of the four Gospels:

The Parable

Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.

Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

Others fell among the thorns and the thorns came up and choked them out.

And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear. Matthew 13:3-9.

The Explanation

A farmer (Jesus) went out to plant his field (the world), scattering seed (the Word of God) generously. The entire field had an equal chance of becoming fruitful and producing a good crop, because the seed went everywhere. John Baptist said of Jesus, "There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man" (John 1:9).

Just as the Sower threw seed everywhere, Jesus enlightens every soul born into the world. No one is without excuse for knowing God is.

As Jesus taught the crowd, He called out, "He who has ears, let him hear." Later Jesus explained to His disciples that He spoke in parables because the Jews to whom He had come heard Him, but, as Isaiah wrote:

You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive,

because the heart of this people has become dull

with their ears they barely hear,

and their eyes they have closed,

so as not to see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their heart

and do repentance

so that I could heal them. (Matthew 13:14-15; Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern)

The Word is spiritual truth that we must hear inwardly. It's a call from God to those who hear and will listen. Listening may also be termed believing or obedient faith.

Obviously, the way people hear God's call determines the sort of crop they produce. With that truth in mind, look at the places the seed fell:

Roadside Hearers

The first seeds fell along the road and travelers' feet walked on them as worthless! Birds ate the seed before it could grow. The first souls called were doing their own thing. Like the Pharisees who scoffed at and rejected Jesus, they were absorbed in their personal traditions and rituals, religious or not. According to those standards Jesus didn't compute! So they didn't consider or act on what He said. They heard but didn't listen; they didn't act on what they heard...there is an eternal difference between hearing and listening!! It's called obedience!

When we hear His call, God immediately shows us we are not what we ought to be and we need Jesus. If we don't act on what we hear Him say, we forget what He said and forsake the salvation that could be ours. That's exactly what the Pharisees did over and over in their encounters with Jesus. In fact, their pride elevated themselves to superiority above Him!

Roadside hearers, religious or not, want their own way and go their own way. Jesus said the devil took away the seed they rejected before they could change their mind and believe. They rejected their call and lost their souls.

Stony-hearted Hearers

Some seed fell on the rocky part of the field. Though it began to sprout, it grew only until it dried up. Those who heard the call listened and believed what they heard. Their faith sprouted into eternal life in their hearts. They delighted in God's Word and received it joyfully, but soon the sprouts died for lack of water.

Jesus says, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink" (John 7:37). Soon they were tempted to do something wrong or to go back to their old life of sinning. Instead of drinking the living water of the Word Jesus gives us and obeying what they read, they listened to the tempter.

Paul wrote the believers: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (I Corinthians 5:17).

All believers are tempted. God provides strength to successfully go through temptations without caving in to them. That strength comes from believing God's promises and walking in them through obedience.

Jesus called tempted believers who gave up stony-hearted, because they weren't tender-hearted toward Him "like new-born babies who long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (I Peter 2:2). They stopped listening to Him by failing to drink from Him in worship and in reading His words, and gave in to the temptation to go back on Jesus. Their faith died.

Thorny-hearted Hearers

"Consider it all joy...when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance." (James 1:2-3) Other Gospel seed took root until thorns grew up and choked it out. The sprouts that had begun to develop were stunted. God continues to test those who are called and believe the Word to see if they will continue to listen and submit to and obey His Word through the Spirit even when tough times come. Testing is God's way to strengthen our faith so we may know Him better and better. He is training us to ultimately know how to resist and stand in spiritual warfare against God's enemy, the devil!

Revelation 2:10 counsels the church at Smyrna to stand fast in their faith in the face of horrible persecution that could lead to their martyrdom. Even in the face of death, they were to stand firmly and not stop believing in God. That faith had begun when they were born again, and it grew as they continued in their faith against hard times. Each battle or trial served to strengthen their faith more and more, so that in the ultimate test for their life, they would not waiver.

Gospel seed sown among thorns sprang up and grew well for awhile.Thorny-hearted hearers listened in submission to Jesus for awhile. Then, worries, wealth and pleasures of everyday life, and even persecution, grew up and consumed their energy, strength, time and attention. Soon they were too busy, distracted or overwhelmed to continue with God in prayer and His word.

Jesus gave thorny-hearted hearers a directive that was risky and demanded stepping out on faith in Him alone: "Follow Me." Because they couldn't see where they were going or how their situation would turn out, they withdrew in fear instead of moving forward with God. Other things including saving their own lives were more important than Jesus and unquestioning obedience to Him. Their fear and drawing back from total obedience choked out eternal life so the plant could not mature to produce fruit.

Good Soil Hearers

The last seed fell on ready soil and matured through temptations and trials to produce a good crop of fruit. Life tries to capture our attention away from Jesus with cares and trials as well as with ease and luxury, especially in Western cultures. Believers can choose not to let anything interfere with their faith by determining to always listen to and obey the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter wrote: "After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you."(I Peter 5:10).

Also, James said, "The testing of your faith produces endurance" (1:2-4). Those who exercise obedient faith to Jesus demonstrate their faith by the way they live and obey faithfully, even as they resist temptations, life's lures, and death's threats. Jesus called them good soil hearers not because they were free of temptations and trials, but because they produced a harvest through their perseverance in spite of their trials and suffering.

Chosen

Jesus also said, "...many are called, but few are chosen" Matthew 22:14. Many to few indicates a sorting out or narrowing of the numbers. Does it mean that God gives some people preferential treatment over others according to His own whims? Does God predestine some to be saved, while the majority are predestined to be lost? Out of all who are called, who, then, become the chosen?

Every farmer sows to produce a harvest, and Jesus said the seed which fell on good ground produced a good crop. Many were called in the beginning, but not all of them endured with obedient faith to produce fully developed fruit. It is only the called who bear fruit that qualify to be called chosen because they bear fruit by perseverance to what God has said.

By observing the Parable, we see Jesus scattered the Seed plentifully. He planted enough seed to reap a good crop. It was the hearts of those where the seed fell who determined whether the Seed would grow up to bear fruit or not. God is NOT to blame for dead plants or stunted fruit. Hearers are!! We MUST listen with open hearts and follow Him in submission and obedience to bear fruit that honors Him through perseverance or faithfulness!! It is then we are chosen.

Faithful

Earlier we heard Jesus say, "Many are called, but few are chosen." In the last book of the Bible, He describes perseverers: "..those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful." (Revelation 17:14) "The called and chosen and faithful" are trusted to accompany King Jesus in the final warfare of Revelation. Called to chosen to faithful shows a progression.

The apostle Paul said the fruit of the Holy Spirit is "Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23).

The first three characteristics, love, joy and peace, describe the holy emotions that thrill the newly called believer. Add to that the developing fruit of patience, kindness and goodness, which describe the believer who keeps believing and listening into the chosen relationship with God.

Finally, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control grow in the believer who becomes known by God as faithful. Each of these characteristics that complete ripened, mature fruit comes through on-going feeding and watering by the Holy Spirit according to our continual listening, submission and obedience.

These who are called and chosen and faithful are the ones Peter encouraged in their trials to be faithful until God completed their "establishing" as mature fruit. Regardless of where you are in the continuum, keep listening to the Holy Spirit. Continued, complete obedience brings increased revelation of God through His Spirit, and your love for Him will keep growing.

With this parable in mind, we shall resume looking at the life of Esther as she moved from being called to being chosen to being faithful.

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