Advance Australia? (part 2)

In my previous blog I wrote about the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Jesus foundational story for a good understanding is the parable of the 4 soils.

Then Jesus makes an interesting move in the following story that is still connected to the first one. It answers the question, “How do the seeds grow?” Surprisingly, Jesus first warns His followers that there will not be only seeds that bear crops, but also weeds that grow together with the crops. For those of us with green fingers, you may know all about weeds, right?

Weeds, who don’t love them? Why would we get surprised that there will always be weeds that will grow together with the good crops? Why would we be surprised that there will be always people that might associate themselves with Christianity, yet, they don’t know the reality of God, His true nature, His love, His Holiness, nor have they developed a daily relationship with Him. Consequently, they just settle for religion and the external appearance of godliness, without any inward reality of transformation and growth. We shouldn’t be surprised at all. Jesus said it would be that way.

Often people long for the times when Australia was more Christian, but those days have come and gone. As a matter of fact. Australia was never fully “Christian”. Any culture will always have its flaws and there will always be areas of our society that are not (yet) under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The answer doesn’t come from going back to the good old days, nor does it come from retreating or trying to impose Christian morals on a society that don’t want them. Jesus’ approach was very different from that!

So, what was Jesus’ approach? That connects us to the story of the good seeds and the weeds. Jesus foretold His disciples about the good crops and the bad weeds that would grow up together. It’s a given fact that in any place where people come together,  we’ll find those that have truly embraced Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, but we will also find people who have not truly submitted their lives to Jesus. WE are not the ones to make those judgement calls. I thank God for that. I don’t have to determine who’s in and who’s not. Jesus said in Matthew 13:30 that the crops and weeds will grow together, but that also it will come to a climax which He called the day of Harvest. For those living in compromise with the Lord, that only have made a Christian association without the underlying heart commitment, the day of Harvest will not be a day of joy.

You need to understand that pretty much everyone in the days of Jesus considered himself a believing Jew. They believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and they upheld the Mosaic Law as their rule of life. Of course, some may have taken their faith more seriously than others. The Pharisees, for instance, were very preoccupied with obeying the Law, even to the point of adding many additional laws to what was already given to the nation of Israel. It’s what we know as the tradition of the elders. The intention was intrinsically good, but it, unfortunately, caused much damage in the process. Other Jewish believers were perhaps more ‘nominal’ in their zeal and efforts. Nobody would say outright that they didn’t believe in God in that culture and context. Everyone would consider themselves a hearer.

Not so for Jesus. He knew who could not just listen to His words, but actually hear what He had to say. Jesus was not talking here about whether they believed in God or not. No, He was talking about the kind of faith and the kind of obedience that corresponded to the soil in question. After all, just before Jesus spoke the parable of the 4 soils, He said also this:

And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.””

Mark 3:34-35 ESV

Jesus always stirred His listeners to listen beyond the obvious and to see the spiritual reality with eyes of faith. This faith was shown by active obedience of those whom He truly considered as His family. That should challenge us to the core. We can’t just associate ourselves with Him, because it’s a good thing to do or because we were raised in a Christian home or are ‘children of the church’. For as great as it is to be raised in a Christian home or be part of a church, it has to be more than that. It’s not just the association with Christ that matters. It’s not salvation by association. Christ expects us to grow and mature as well. Our growth as a Christian is directly connected to our willingness to yield or submit to Him. He is Lord and we are not. Every fibre of our being is initially, when we are born, fights against any lordship of any kind. We don’t want to be lorded over. That’s why we need a new life and a new heart that can truly submit and obey to His Lordship.

And that begs the following question:

How can you tell that someone yields from the heart and submits to the authority of Christ?

That’s where the second part of the story comes in…the Lamp and the Basket.

The story Jesus told His disciples is very well known. Some of us may have heard it in another sermon or a Sunday School class. Let me connect some other things that Jesus said and it is all related to the same foundational parable of the 4 soils still. In the Gospel of Mark chapter 4 Jesus also speaks of the lamp. He said this:

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”  Mark 4:21-23 ESV

My family recently visited a beautiful cave in the region of Margaret River in Western Australia. The beauty of the cave was just stunning. We saw beautiful crystals that were shaped over many years. It was stunning! Our tour guide at one point asked us to switch off all electronic devices in the cave that was lit by many lights. Then he switched off the lights in the cave until it was finally pitch dark. The beauty of the cave was still there, but nobody could see it because all the lights were off. Let this serve as a simple metaphor for our lives with the Lord. In Christ, we have the beauty of a whole new life in us. The King of Kings has come to make room in our lives and now He asks us, just as He is the Light of the World, to shine our light before everyone to see.

How do we do that? Jesus explains it further:

And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.””

Mark 4:24-25 ESV

If a lamp works properly, it will shine. And when light shines, it brightens up the room. Light is always stronger than darkness. According to Jesus, the measure that we hear in the sense of accepting and taking His words not just at a head level but also a heart level will ultimately determine if we are shining His light or not. No light should be lit just to put it under a basket.

In Australia that as a country moved beyond Christianity and at best views church people as merely ‘do-gooders’ (like many other people of other faiths) and at worst ‘bigoted and judgmental’, it’s perhaps not easy to stick to truth and go with Jesus all the way even when that means that it can cost our reputation, safety and security. Shining our light draws attention, but it also means that we can become the object of attacks. Yet, Jesus said Himself that darkness cannot overtake the light, because the light will always win.

So, we had the story of the 4 soils, the story of the weeds growing together with the good seeds and the story of the lamp that needs to shine. Jesus told one more parable that should encourage us all when we truly want to follow Him on His terms. Even though the beginnings of God’s Kingdom on earth may look small and insignificant, it still has the huge potential to grow into something tremendous. Jesus compares His rule to the potential of a very small mustard seed. It’s not a very impressive seed, but it has the capacity to grow a lot.

When we look at the world, we can see that many people are still coming to faith. It’s not just in a remote village in Africa or Asia. It’s right here and right now happening. Australia is not the exception to God’s Kingdom that is advancing. People are craving for what is real and when it is presented to them, many will embrace it, but not everyone will. Jesus said it upfront to us. Some will never receive the Good News. Others may only embrace it for a season.

In this new year of 2020, it is my prayer that we can be the kind of followers that God can use for His glory. When your heart is all in, He can use you. He will do the hard work in you because you can’t even do the growing part yourself. As a matter of fact, you may even fail at times, but the issue is not perfect performance here. It’s about a heart that is willing to submit to Christ first and foremost. As you grow up into Him in all things, you will experience greater joy, a stronger impact upon others and a more satisfying peace under all circumstances. It’s the Light of Christ in you that will shine and become manifest for everyone to see. It is only the Holy Spirit, the part of the godhead that resides in us, that can help us overcome our human frailties, temptations and tribulations. He is our comforter, healer, guide, teacher and so much more if you let Him.

It’s also my prayer for those of you who in your heart know that there’s been much compromise and concerns with things that God does not concern much about. It’s not too late to walk away from what just weakens your faith. He will still receive you and embrace you as His child.

So, to conclude. How does Australia need to advance? It needs to start with Christians that are all in, that are on fire for God and genuinely love and care for others regardless of their beliefs or behaviour.

Let him who has ears hear!