I shouldn't be surprised anymore at the things I see in the religious world. I mean, I knew that when Easter came around this year the area churches would have their sunrise services, concerts, parties, egg hunts complete with people in big bunny suits, not to mention multiple other recreations. One church urges the public to "discover the true meaning of Easter" while suggesting that it can be done with a rock concert and catered dinner. I wonder if they'll tell folks that the "real meaning" of Easter is rooted in a pagan sacrifice festival in honor of the goddess of spring, Eostre or that the Easter egg and bunny are pagan symbols for the re-awakening of life in the earth during springtime. Oh well, I'm digressing. What I really wonder is why all these people who claim that the word of God is powerful enough to save people (Rom 1:16) obviously don't think it's powerful enough to draw folks to it.
Consider in the parable of the tares (Matt 13:24-30) the slaves of the landowner notice that tares (poisonous weeds) were growing with the wheat they had planted. They question their master about the quality of the seed they planted: "Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?" (Matt13:27) The landowner explains that an enemy has infiltrated the field planting bad seed alongside the good. The principle we may miss is this: Good seed produces a good plant. The concept seems re-iterated in the parable of the sower and the seed (Matt 13:3-9, 18-23). There, Jesus explains that it is the condition of the soil that either promotes or hinders growth. But still, in light of what religious people do in order to entice folks to services, we might ask "Is the seed (the word of God - Luke 8:11) any good?"
To answer this, let's go back to the commission Jesus gave His apostles in Matt 28:18-20. His instructions for saving the world are amazingly simple. He instructs them to make disciples by baptizing and teaching them. That's it. Just a steady diet of the word of God. What? No concerts, catered dinners or egg hunts? How could just the word of God draw anybody?
Consider what Jesus said: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, 'and they shall all be taught of God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me." (John 6:44;45 ) That's it. No undue inducement by a promise of a good time, a rock concert, or a picnic dinner; just a hunger to learn of Him.
We can observe that simple principle at work throughout the book of Acts. Wherever we see Christians being made, we see 3 things happening. First and foremost, Jesus was preached. (See Acts 8:4-5, 12, 35) The reason being is that He is at the heart of what the gospel is (1 Cor 15:1-4). And secondly, as the gospel was proclaimed, people were convicted of their sin. In Acts 2 we read of the awesome gospel sermon Peter preached to his fellow Jews during Pentecost. He drove home to them the fact that they killed the Messiah they had waited centuries for! He didn't pussyfoot around trying to give them a better self-image, or a positive mental attitude, or a promise of a spaghetti dinner in a " fellowship hall!" He declared to them their sin and, most importantly, how to get past it by repentance and baptism. And finally, in every instance of the gospel being preached, we see that people were moved to make a decision: Either accept Christ obediently or reject Him. Again, there were no promises of a party or a good time. Rather, there was the bigger promise of sins forgiven and eternal life by living a life of willing obedience to the Son of God.
It is that simple message of repentance and obedience that we need to take to the world. In fact, it is the supreme mission of the church: "I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." (1 Tim 3:15) The early church was not the pillar and support of the truth with egg hunts and parties; they simply proclaimed the life-saving message of the truth regarding Jesus Christ and His will for men. The trouble is, most "churches" (and even some churches of Christ) have forgotten what business they're supposed to be in. They offer entertainment, food, social programs, recreation of every kind; everything but the soul-saving gospel! We are in the business of truth and saving souls, not the entertainment business.
Let's ask the question again: Is the seed any good? Consider those who responded to it at Pentecost (Acts 2) or Lydia (Acts 16) or the Corinthians (Acts 18). For them, it was the only thing that mattered. It was all they needed and it's all we need today and to an honest heart, the seed will take root, blossom, and show fruit embodied as a faithful child of God.
By Zeke Flores
From Expository Files 13.1; January 2006