Parables provide common ground
"So Jesus said, 'When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me'."
After reading the title of this piece I wouldn't be at all surprised if many of you thought I was referring to the latest Harry Potter movie, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollow PART 2", as the greatest show on earth. Many of you wouldn't be alone. The seventh Harry Potter movie released by Warner Bros. two weekends ago grossed over $169 million at the box office making it the single largest weekend release ever. "Deathly Hollow" also set the record for the largest opening day ever taking in $92.1 million on July 15 of this year.
And as good, or great, as the Harry Potter series is claimed to be by Potter fans - I have only seen one; the first one. I plan on buying them all on DVD and go into hiding for one complete weekend to watch them all - I will reserve my right as a silver screen aficionado and unequivocally state without hesitation, or reservation, that The Godfather and The Godfather II are the greatest movies to ever be made. I will spare you the details on why these silver-screen gems are the best only to say that The Godfather and The Godfather II both received an Academy Award for Best Picture, making Godfather II the only sequel to ever win an Oscar for Best Picture.
I will also go on record to say that The Godfather III was the worst movie ever made.
For those who were not thinking of a Harry Potter flick or Francis Coppola's grand film when reading the title, and were thinking of the 1952 Oscar winner for Best Picture, starring Jimmy Stewart and Charlton Heston, you would be correct. The Greatest Show on Earth was produced, directed and narrated by the great Cecil B.DeMille and has often been mentioned by Steven Spielberg as the reason why he wanted to be in films.
The Greatest Show on Earth was the first movie Spielberg ever saw.
Just as a side-note, DeMille's historic Hollywood film grossed just $14 million at the box office.
At this point many of you might be wondering where I'm going with all of this silver screen trivia, facts and useless information.
And you would be correct in wondering.
The reason being is because this past weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio I had the pleasure to listen, and hear, Pastor Chuck Mingo preach the gospel at the Crossroads church where my oldest son, Logan, attends.
The title of the sermon was; "Jesus: the Greatest Show on Earth".
Jesus: The greatest Show on Earth
Chuck opened with the movie Harry Potter and shared with us that he was seeking an answer to the question asked by many: "Why do words and phrases sound better with a British accent?" I agree, everything sounds better with a British accent. He also went on to share that one of the most compelling dynamics surrounding Harry Potter, aside from the British accents, is how the movie is entrenched with mystery that is revealed often through the character Dumbledore who is fond of speaking in riddles and parables in his quest to defeat the evil Lord Voldemort.
And as riveting and thought provoking as Dumbledore's riddles and parables are there was one that came before him that spoke in parables also, and his name was Jesus.
Jesus can, and will, aid us in taking that next step in understanding, growth and maturity.
If we will let him.
That is the key, if we let Jesus into our hearts He can aid us in all we do, but before that to happen we must first seek His face and desire a personal relationship with him.
Pastor Mingo used one of Jesus' most famous parables, the farmer and the seed (Matt.13: 1-9), to describe three dynamics when seeking Jesus. I found it ironic and illuminating that I just heard a sermon at my home church (CWC) based on the same parable and had written about it in great length a few days prior to hearing the message at Crossroads. (The Seed & The Soil part 1 & part 2). In Chuck's sermon he wanted to share with the congregation what it looked like when we seek God's presence in our lives.
Let me first share what Matthew 13:1-9 states and then review the three dynamics of seeking the face of Jesus and then share a few practical steps to aid us in applying these dynamics to our daily living.
"That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
POINT #1: seeking the face of Jesus depends on the receptivity OF THE soil.
Our attitude and our openness is a major factor in the growth we will eventually experience in our lives while here on earth. Many times the composition of our "soil" is full of doubt, rebellion, and misguided principles and priorities. Our life can be full of shallow thinking and behavior that will enable a shallow heart to continue to be shallow and keep it from growing deeper roots. Our soil can at times become unreceptive because of discomfort and busyness. It has almost become "un-American" to be uncomfortable. News flash, if we live long enough we will surly experience times of discomfort. Case and point, our air conditioner went out two weeks ago for two days; it was miserable, but it was a teachable moment for the entire family. What we were reminded of was that God didn't put us on this earth to be comfortable; He put us on this earth to be obedient. Also, we can experience a dysfunctional level of busyness. It has been said that the devil can make you so busy that he doesn't have to make you bad. The take away is that our heart first must be receptive to His presence in our lives before we can truly seek His face.
POINT #2: seeking the face of Jesus depends on our acknowledgement OF THE potency of the seed.
There is nothing more valuable, wiser or life transforming than accepting the God's love, God's seed, into our lives. There will be nothing that will be more fulfilling or worthwhile than seeking the face of Jesus and having a personal relationship with Christ. Once we acknowledge and embrace this truth we will open ourselves to a precious and personal relationship with Christ that will transform our life. The good news is that when we couple "good seed with good soil the result is good fruit." Galatians 5:22-23 states:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
The takeaway here is pretty obvious: good seed plus good soil equals good fruits and Galatians 5:22-23 describes some really good results in the form of the holy spirits fruit.
POINT #3: seeking the face of Jesus depends on our recognition OF HIS grace.
The good news for all, the believer and the non-believer alike, is that God cast His seed on us all. There is no distinguishing characteristic one must have nor is favor shown to any particular person. The only prerequisite is that you must believe; believe in who He said He is and why He accepted death on a cross by Crucifixion. The one thing that separates our God and Christianity from all other Gods and religions is GRACE. There are no works that can qualify us, or behavior that can disqualify us, from God's grace nor separate us form His love.
Nothing can separate us from His presence if we choose to seek His face and have a personal relationship with Him.
In the end, when review and reread the scriptures we at times can be more confused than we were before reading. There are times that we can listen to a sermon or a message and be left experiencing emptiness because we find our self confused and lost. Many times we can become confused by the parables and become more familiar with the meaning of Churchill's words: "...a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma." The good news is that God is with us along this journey of confusion, doubt and lack of knowledge. He will share with us the meaning of His parables and security of His love if we will just ask.
Mathew 7:7 says; "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Psalm 105:4 states; "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." The take away is that there are times in our lives that certain things and specific answers will only be discovered by taking the next step.
The good news is that God is willing to take that step with us; knowing that if we seek Him we will certainly find him, and if find Him we will have then found the truth.
In the end, take practical steps in searching for Christ and begin the process of first checking your soil to see if your soil is capable of receiving God's seed. Secondly, prioritize seeking Jesus in your life by reading his word, praying and finding a body of believers to spend time with on a consistent basis. Finding a home church will aid you in this process. It is impossible to seek Jesus alone; without reading His word, praying and spending time with body of believers on consistent basis you will find yourself discouraged and defeated at every turn. Thirdly, act on what you find no matter the circumstance of life you find yourself in or the condition of your soil. God already knows where you are emotionally, mentally and spiritually and the good news is that He takes everyone. And that includes you and me.
Everyone is invited to the greatest show on earth.