The Good Seed

Planting good seed

Many years ago, an interesting article appeared in a magazine. In the picture that accompanied the article a man was standing beside some pea vines. According to the article, some peas were found in a tomb in Egypt. These peas were purported to be over 2000 years old. The article went on to say the man had planted the peas to see if they would grow, which they did, and the peas produced were exactly like the peas found in the tomb. If true, it is a remarkable story and illus­trates some truths about spiri­tual seed.

Jesus spoke a parable about seed. He told of a man sowing seed in different kinds of ground. Some of it bore fruit and some did not bear fruit. It bore fruit when the ground was good. He explained what the seed represented, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). He also explained what the different kinds of ground represented. Of the good ground He said, “these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15).

Today there are many kinds of religious beliefs, all going by the name of “Christian.” When we see different kinds of plants, we know they grew from different kinds of seed. When there are different beliefs people should know that they are the result of different teachings. The right seed is the Word of God, the Bible. Any teach­ing that is not found in the Bible is the wrong seed and will produce the wrong fruit.

Seed produces after it’s kind

What fruit will the true seed produce when people take it into their hearts? It will produce Christians. It will make people believers in God and His Son Jesus Christ. It will cause them to love God and follow His teaching in His Word. If people follow God’s Word only, they will be Christians only, just like the first Christians.

Christians are people who have been born again. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). By what seed is he born? We find the answer in 1 Peter 1:23, “you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable…”

The fruit of the true seed is also the church. When one person receives the Word in faith and obe­dience, he becomes a Christian. When others do the same thing, they also are Christians, and the group of Christians is a church. A church is just a group of Christians who worship and serve God together. God gives instructions to the church in His Word. He describes how a church is to be organized, how Christians are to worship, to live, and to tell others about Christ. The way the apostles organized the churches they established is the way God wanted them to be organized. This is true because the apostles were God’s messengers and were inspired by His Spirit in them.

Paul’s warning

Paul warned that other seed would be planted and would pro­duce the wrong fruit. He said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31). The words Jesus spoke when He was here on earth were His words. When He went back to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to guide His apostles and others in teaching. What the Holy Spirit gave them to teach was Christ’s Word also. When He promised to send the Spirit He said, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you” (John 16:14-15).

Let us take into our hearts the pure Word of God. Let us con­tinue in that Word, learning it and following it. Never accept teach­ings that are not found there. In that way we will be faithful disciples, and the final fruit will be eternal life in the glory of God with all the redeemed.

12 Simple Ways to Share Your Faith

Reprinted From TEACHING HELP THE WRITINGS OF KIM HIGGINBOTHAM

Sharing a Bible

I’m an introvert. I have trouble talking to people. I wouldn’t know what to say. People don’t seem that interested. I’m don’t know how. I’m scared. I don’t have time. I don’t know enough. Evangelism isn’t my talent.

Excuses! We all have them, but we need to realize that evangelism is not a talent. It’s a command. Because I may not have a talent for singing, does not mean I can let someone else sing for me in worship. Singing is a command that I am required to do and so is evangelism!

Our view of evangelism is too limited if we only think of open Bible studies, door knocking, and mission trips. Those are great, but not everyone can do them. However, everyone is capable of evangelism, else God wouldn’t have commanded it.

Here are a few thoughts about sharing our faith:

1. Live it.

This isn’t necessarily evangelism, but it is important. No one will listen to a word you say if you are a hypocrite. Not only should your speech, dress, attitudes, and behaviors reflect Christ when people see you, but also when they “see” you on social media. Haven’t we all seen people proclaiming their Christianity on Facebook, but a quick scroll through their “Likes” or photos gives a completely different picture of who they are? Maybe you’ve changed from the person you used to be. Go through your social media posts, likes, and pictures to be sure you are reflecting Christ.

2. Publicly identify yourself as Christian on social media. 

Share Christian blog posts, scriptures, sermon links, and upcoming church events. However, do not be that person who fills your friends’ Facebook feed with too much sharing. I’ve had Facebook friends who post one thing after another in a single day. That’s a sure way to have people “unfriend” or “unfollow” you.

3. Keep something at your work space that identifies you as a Christian.

When I was teaching in public school, I kept a picture frame on my desk with a meaningful Bible verse in it. I had a principal who kept a devotional book on his desk. You may keep a Bible or other religious book that lets people know to whom you belong.

4. Invite a non-Christian to church services. 

How is it that we can invite a non-Christian friend to go shopping or lunch, but get shy and awkward about inviting them to church? You never know what their response will be and they may just come! Throw in an invitation to go to lunch afterward and take the opportunity to talk about the worship service.

5. Tell people that you went (or are going) to church. 

When someone asks what you did (or are going to do) on the weekend, tell them about church. Mention the sermon. Tell them about the great ministry program that is going on. Find positive, interesting tidbits to share.

6. Teach Bible class. 

Whether it is teaching children who are just learning about God or adults, teaching is a way we can share our faith.

7. Invite non-Christians to church events outside of services.

This could be VBS, seminar, fall festival, youth event, ladies’ day or anything where the non-Christian is introduced and welcomed by your church family. This can open doors to future invitations.

8. Go to lunch with a Christian friend and invite a non-Christian friend to join you.

Turn the conversation to spiritual things. Mention that you’d like to do more Bible study and ask if they would, too. Begin a group study.

9. Read the Bible on your lunch break.

Others may notice and ask you what you are reading or you may start the conversation.

10. Reach out to those who are in difficult circumstances.

Often people having hard times will be the most receptive to the gospel. That may include those who face illness, disability, grief, homelessness, prison,unplanned pregnancy, or special-needs. Talk with them, listen to their stories, offer hope and prayers for them.

11. Serve someone.

Look for non-Christian co-workers, neighbors, or friends to serve. Reach out with a homemade treats delivered with an invitation to worship. Email a note of appreciation and gratitude to someone with an appropriate scripture. Go out of your way to extend a kindness and be sure to connect your service with your Christianity.

12. Send & grade Bible correspondence courses.

 At our congregation, there have been Bible courses sent to thousands of individuals. People are needed to grade and send out lessons.

We are required to plant and water the seed of God’s word. It is God who gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6-8). Stop making evangelism harder than it has to be. It doesn’t have to be hard, but it does have to be intentional!

Note: Kim Higginbotham’s husband, Steve, preaches for Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN.

Watchdogs or Hushpuppies

by David Baker

watchdog

Often those who find themselves in indefensible positions resort to “invective” for justification. One of the more popular invectives is for those who speak out against error and criticize false teaching is “watchdog.”

Now, it is funny that the usual criticism of “watchdogs” is that they are not kind in the way they deal with problems. It is resented that they should be critical or that they should communicate their concerns to others. It rarely matters whether the language used is kind or unkind, or what kind of spirit is manifest when a “watchdog” does his thing. The fact is that they have done it, and they have actually used such terms as “false teacher” with reference to those who teach that which is false.

The funny part is that “false teacher,” while it may not be pleasing to hear it used about oneself, is an entirely useful term. It describes one in terms of what he does, and it rarely is applied unless one persists in his teaching of error. That is fair. But “watchdog” is intended as invective, not a kind or descriptive way of putting things at all. Those who use it must make an effort not to sound bitter or superior. And it wreaks positively of what it is intended to criticize.

God’s answer to “watchdogs”

What does God say? “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 3:17-19). God commends the function that some have decried as being “watchdogs,” but uses a more functional and less abusive term – “watchman.”

Those who take it upon themselves to speak for God are privileged to do so. With the privilege comes grave responsibility. “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1). As servants of God we are entrusted with the spiritual welfare of the world, the souls of men. As each must answer to God, we must answer for how we have effected their answer. We have a responsibility to teach and to warn of those who teach error. If we cannot do that, then we dare not claim the privilege.

Paul reiterates God’s thoughts

Paul said, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). Was Paul being a “watchdog” when he told the brethren to reprove those who work darkness? By the way, “reprove” makes an interesting word study. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision.

And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14). When error is publicly proclaimed or endorsed, it needs to be publicly exposed. That is Paul’s teaching and his example. To do less is to neglect God’s will in the matter.

Watchdog’s must be heard

The best watchdogs are the ones who make the most noise. I had a friend once who had a vicious Doberman. He bragged that no one would dare rob his house because of the fear that dog would provoke. He came home one day to find his house empty and the dog chewing on a strange “soup-bone” while his mind was apparently “lost in space.” What good was that mutt? The dog the thief fears the most is the poodle or Chihuahua. Have you ever seen one of those that didn’t bark his head off.

The noise of exposure and contradiction the false teacher cannot abide. He must do his work unopposed by the light of truth. He searches out the dark corners of vulnerable ears to plant his seed. Those who would warn are called “watch-dogs” as though that classifies them as vile. But it is the dog that doesn’t bark – the “hush-puppy” – that is condemned in Scripture. “His watchmen are blind, they are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, the dogs are greedy, they can never have enough; and these are shepherds that cannot understand: they have all turned to their own way, each one to his gain, from every quarter” (Isaiah 56:10-11). Faithful servants are watchful. The best watchdogs are the ones who make the most noise.

An Inescapable Conclusion

An Inescapable Conclusion

The situations we face in life can usually be handled in several different ways.  But, God saw to it that Israel, His Old Testament people, were drawn to an inescapable conclusion in Ecclesiastes 12:13. This is one Old Testament Commandment that is also applicable to those of us in New Testament times.  Of course, all of God’s Directives to man must be “rightly divided” (2 Timothy 2:15). In that way they can be properly understood and followed.

But you may be asking: “Why is keeping the Commandments of God the whole duty of man?” Because man will be judged! And either sentenced to eternity in a place of condemnation or rewarded with eternity with God. When Jesus came to earth, He did not come to judge man (John 12:47). Jesus will become judge after His present reign over the kingdom for which He gave His life on Calvary’s cross. We also know that the kingdom exists now and is not some future entity which is to be expected.

Inescapable Conclusions

The judgment is an inescapable conclusion if one reads and studies the Bible. We do not know when this will occur, except to the degree the Bible tells us. But in 1 Corinthians 15:24-26 we do know that Christ will “rule” and “reign” until the end.

This leads to another inescapable conclusion; that all will die. Hebrews 9:27 makes this clear that death precedes judgment. From these passages, one must conclude all will have died (or been changed) when the judgment will occur (1 Corinthians 15:51).

From these Bible facts, we can conclude the time to make the needed changes in our lives is while we have full access of our faculties. One way of making the changes that are needed within us is to prioritize. Jesus told those hearing Him the “kingdom” (the church) and the righteousness of God would have to be first in their lives (Matthew 6:33). The “these things” of which the Lord spoke were the other necessities of life such as food, raiment, and shelter.

The Choice Is Ours

How do we prioritize our lives to ensure that we seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first? Well, it must be through that which will judge us after this life is over (John 12:48). It is a choice all must make. We can receive His Word or we can reject it. As we read John 12:49-50, the verses that follow, we can surely “conclude” that God’s Word was what Jesus spoke. If we want the desired outcome at the judgment, we must put the Word of God first in our lives. It is an inescapable conclusion that only the Word of God, rightly divided and properly lived leads to the eternal life.

What is it that is keeping you from doing the things found in the Word of God?   Why can we not see that God’s Word is that which directs us?   The Psalmist wrote, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). It is an inescapable conclusion that if we walk the path of this life without the light of the gospel, we will reach a destination we do not wish to reach.