Thursday, December 27, 2012
By Colleen Podmore
Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? What are you going to do differently in 2013? Be more patient, less angry, more forgiving. Make a new friend?
In Phil 3:12, Paul says, “but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Paul has been saved from the penalty of sin, that was finished at the cross and now he is talking about what comes after that, in terms of his spiritual life. He doesn’t sit back and ride out the storms, waiting to go to heaven. He doesn’t just ‘cruise’ through life, one year following the next. He ‘takes hold’, he makes plans, he decides, he has a strategy, he follows through. These are action words, doing words..... Paul presses on to ‘take hold’, he is not going to let slip what he has. He is not going to loose his gifts through lack of effort. He is not going to neglect his devotion to God.
Matt 13 is the beginning of the parables. Parables are stories that compare and illustrate a spiritual or moral truth indirectly through comparing the truth to everyday events. There are about 30 parables in Matthew, Mark and Luke, but none in John, This is how Jesus taught the crowds of people that came to him.
Why did Jesus speak in parables? (Matt 13:10). People were following Jesus, but they weren’t seeking God, they just wanted the thrill of seeing the miracles. Nothing was changing in their lives. While the parables were easy to see on the surface, because they easily related to everyday life, they tested the sincerity of the hearers, who had to ask for further clarification. So it was a very effective way of teaching crowds of people truths that Jesus without playing into the hands of those who opposed him.
Matt 13:13 “This is why I speak to them in parables...Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand’ It seems a bit harsh – how can you blame people if they can’t understand. I think the point being made here is that they don’t want to see or hear the truth. Another way of reading this verse is, “though even though they see (seeing), they do not want to see, though even though they hear (hearing), they do not want to hear” The crowds followed Jesus, but only a few listened and changed their lives.
Jesus said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.” Matt 13:11. There was a clear separation of people in the crowds. Not all were there to find God. Be careful of crowds.
I’m sure we are all familiar with the parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-23). The seed is the message of God. The path, the rocky soil, the thorns, the good soil represents our lives - people’s lives; believers, and unbelievers, everyone. Often this parable is used to illustrate what happens in an unbeliever’s heart which could well be true, but what about us, believers in Christ, could it also apply to us?
Let’s take the situation of the seed that falls on the path, which the birds come and snatch away. How many times have I heard a message from a servant of God and thought that’s really great and then a day later it’s gone and nothing has changed in my life? How can we ‘take hold’ of the messages we get? We could take notes, ask other’s who were there, speak with the messenger, asking for clarification. Ask for notes. Look at the website. Try and find just one thing for our lives.
Mark Hall from Casting Crowns suggests we ask ourselves these questions when reading the Bible and perhaps these are good questions to ask ourselves when we are listening to a message.
“What are You showing me about You? What are you showing me about me? Is there anything to take out/add in? A promise? What characters am I like?” Remember the word of God is like a mirror (James 1:23), also we need to be like the Bereans! (Acts 17:11)
This verse in Deuteronomy is a promise that God made to the Israelites, but could also apply to us today “If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow –to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to hold fast to him –then the Lord will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you.” Dt 11:22,23
Do we want to be victorious? We must take hold of what we have been given and secondly we must hold fast to what we have been given.
If we look at the parable of the Sower again we can see in the second example that a person can quickly fall away if they don’t have a good theology about suffering. Because we will all suffer, the question is what will our response be? At our last Sunday service, Robbie spoke to us about what we can expect to experience as Christians. How at times God can seem quite distant. He also gave a little handout. Have you read it? I thought it was so valuable, that I’ve stapled it in my notebook, along with the main points of his message. When we suffer, do we fall into despair or depression because we don’t have a deep enough theology to cope with the situation? Here are 6 reasons why we suffer (see The Distant God) and what our response could be. Let us hold fast to God!
The third example Jesus gives us in the parable, of what we can experience as Christians is to do with the cares of this world. Worry and anxiety can easily take away our peace and joy. Let us hold fast to God’s promises. Let us take hold of our situations and turn the situations around, putting our faith and trust in God who we can’t see but we know we can rely on. Do we recognise when worry and anxiety take hold? What are our strategies? What verses have we memorised? When in a fix remember Phil 4:6 and be thankful.
The reason we can be victorious is because He has taken hold of us. He came to earth to bring his kingdom, glory to his name, but he was rejected, abandoned by everyone, even his heavenly Father, and crucified on a cross so that we might be called Sons of the Living God! He took hold of our situation, He acted, He overcame!
Psalm 18:16, “He reached down from on high and took hold of me”
Psalm 73:23, “Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand”
Don’t Hold back
Isaiah 54:2, “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back...”
So this coming year, let’s press on to take hold of what we have in Christ, holding fast to what we have because God has taken hold of us. Don’t hold back, we want our lives to represent the good soil in the parable of the Sower, people who hear the word of God and understand it, sharing it with others, letting it change us, growing in faith and knowledge, soaring on wings like eagles and producing a good crop/fruit – love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22), yielding a hundred, sixty, thirty times what was sown.