January 30, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 8)

Submitted by Wilson F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Luke 8:1-4

  • Think about those who accompanied Jesus as he went from one town and village to another.  What lessons about discipleship does this short description provide?

With such succinctness, the phrase, “The Twelve were with him…,” found in verse 1 captures the first and perhaps most important lesson about discipleship: being with Jesus.  As Jesus traveled from town to village and from village to town, the twelve apostles along with some women followed him.  What does it mean to be with Jesus today?  One way is to spend regular time in God’s Word, reflecting on who he is and what he has done, studying his life as an example of how I ought to live, learning how to relate to him with greater love and deeper trust.  Aside from that one hour devoted to DT, another way is to be mindful of Jesus throughout my day.  As it is so easy and so natural for me to become self-absorbed, preoccupied with my own agendas and concerns, I can be intentional in considering how my identity as a follower of Christ impacts every area of my life, every relationship and therefore every interaction, every decision I make.  Lastly, being with Jesus means being involved in the church, which Paul called “the body of Christ” (cf. Rom. 12:4-5, 1 Cor. 12:27).  Jesus was a man on a mission, as evidenced in verse 1 alone, and upon his ascension into heaven, he entrusted that mission to the church.  And in his Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20), he promised to be with us as we go to the ends of the earth, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.  That is why disciples of Jesus should be busy as Jesus himself was busy – understanding the fleetingness of time, the short window of opportunity for people to respond to the gospel, the millions of people who do not know God’s salvation, the spiritual battle against a foe that actively contests God’s will and our efforts. The idea of “being with Jesus” often conjures up images of meditating on Scripture beside a peaceful nature scene as in a Thomas Kinkade painting, and while there are times of personally communing with God, discipleship is essentially responding to Jesus’ call of “Follow me” as he goes about, doing the work of God.

Another lesson of discipleship is fellowship with fellow sinners who have experienced Jesus’ healing power.  I imagine this unlikely band of brothers and sisters, this motley crew comprised of fishermen, a tax collector, and zealots as well as Mary Magdalene, who had been possessed by seven evil spirits, and Joanna, the wife of a high-ranking official in the Judean government.  Unlike the typical rabbi of that day, who always had eager Torah-carrying students behind him, Jesus had this kind of followership.  And what an amazing community they formed, centered around Christ and his transforming power!  I imagine how free they must have been with one another since they each knew one another’s “illustrious” pasts, since they were so familiar with one another’s testimonies – to the point where they did not have to resort to posturing or any face-saving measures.  There was nothing to show off, nothing to boast of, nothing to prove about themselves.  The reason why each one of them was following was abundantly clear – because Jesus had saved them from sin, had touched their life, had cured them.  In the same way, I need to be clear about the reason why I am following Jesus – not simply going through the motions, not merely responding to cultural norms or peer pressure, not seeking human approval, but because Jesus died for the forgiveness of my sin, and I surrendered my life to him, committing to go where he sends me and to do what he tells me to do.  Also, in the same way, I can be open and transparent with my brothers and sisters in the church, for we are all sinners saved by grace.

A third lesson of discipleship is the sense of oneness, of unity, of “we’re in this together.”  The cadre of women who were with Jesus “support[ed] them out of their own means” (v. 4).  In that society in that time, women were regarded as second-class citizens with very few legal rights and privileges of their own, so these women probably had little financial resources to begin with – perhaps for the exception of Joanna, being the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household.  Nevertheless, they made everything they had available to the cause of Christ, and in so doing, they refused to allow financial barriers from impeding God’s work from being done.  It was the spirit of “whatever it takes to get the job done.”  And this is the same spirit I need to embrace as a disciple of Jesus Christ – making available not only my money but also my time, my energy and strength, my creativity and ingenuity, my skills and talents.  We see this all the time today, whether it is fundraising for the political campaign of a presidential candidate or participating on a campus student club, to volunteering for a radio station or a non-profit non-governmental charity organization – people giving their all for a higher cause.  Yet, when it comes to God, there seems to be a balking, a hesitation, a second consideration, when God is the highest and worthiest cause to give our lives for.  In the famous words of Joshua, “…as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (24:15) – supporting his mission in whatever way we can.

Luke 8:11-15

  • What is same for all four soils? 

All four soils had seed fall on them.  It was not the case that this farmer happens to be particularly obtuse and clueless, because anyone can distinguish the path from the soil, the thorns from the rocks.  The widespread distribution of seed throughout the field provides a glimpse into the heart of God, who is this generous and uncalculating, this reckless and “prodigal.”  If the seed represents his Word, then he wants to spread his Word so that everyone can have a chance to hear and perhaps respond in faith.  Certainly God could have focused exclusively on the good soil, knowing full well that it would produce a rich harvest.  But this is the merciful God who is “kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (6:35), and for that, I am so thankful because that is how someone like me was able to hear the gospel and receive it in faith.

  • What is the primary difference between the good soil and the three bad soils?

The good soil produced a crop, whereas the three bad soils did not.  That is the primary (and decisively crucial) difference.  The good soil stands for those who heard the word, but everyone else also heard the word.  The good soil stands for those who retained the word, but so did those represented by the soil on the rock and the soil with thorns.  What enabled the ones represented by the good soil to produce a crop was the fact that they were able to persevere.  That crucial element of perseverance implies that producing a crop and bearing fruit requires time and pushing through challenges and difficulties.  In other words, it does not happen overnight, it does not happen effortlessly.  Using agrarian language, there needs to be a breaking through the rocky layer and sending roots deep into the ground, and there needs to be an uprooting of thorns and weeds as well as a constant vigilance against their return.

  • What is the relationship between the depth of the root and fruit bearing?

Plants with shallow roots will not have an opportunity to bear fruit because the very rains needed for growth and maturation could also sweep them away in a flood.  A deep and elaborate system is needed to anchor the plants into the soil. Furthermore, roots need to run deep in order to access the nutrients and minerals of fertile soil.

  • What was needed for the seed to bear fruit according to v.13?

For the seed to bear fruit, it needed roots, which endow the plant with the ability to last.

  • In what ways would “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” choke out the word?  I.e., what does this tell me about the nature of the gospel, and the nature of our world?

Just as a newly-sprouted plant and newly-infested thorns compete for light and nutrients for growth, so do the conviction of the gospel and the things of the world contend for people’s hearts.  The growth of one suppresses the growth of the other, aptly described as a “choking” effect, preventing the other from maturing into the fruit-bearing stage.  How do life’s worries, riches and pleasures choke out the word?  The worries in life are manifold and rampant, and they are a product of our sense of fragility and helplessness as finite beings. The Hakuna matata philosophy espoused by Disney is achievable through escapist flights in fantasy, disconnecting from reality.  But a hard and sober look at life would reveal how powerless we are and what little control we have over ourselves, our desires and appetites, our moods, our health and lifespan.  We are such fearful creatures, and the only recourse is either to place trust in ourselves, however short-lived that could be, or to place trust in the gospel.  The world tells me to rely on myself and the strength of my arms and my shrewdness to survive in this hostile environment where everyone looks out for number one, to attain financial security (especially in this depressed economic climate), to be self-sustaining.  Pursuing such a status will choke me spiritually, diverting my focus from living a heaven-bound life in which I try to be used maximally for God’s kingdom work to living a worldly life in which I try to establish a home here on earth, trying to maximize personal gain.  The life of chasing after material riches and carnal pleasures keep an individual not only spiritually immature but also developmentally infantile – self-centered, narcissistic, hedonistic, etc.  While that person may be filthy rich and know how to have a good time, his character will be severely underdeveloped, he will not know how to be loyal to anyone else except for himself, and his only concern will be how to make more money and have more fun.  At the end of his life, his entire existence will amount to nothing worthy or transcendent or eternal.  And he will have missed out on the richness of being in fellowship with God and in tight-knit community with fellow believers, where there is mutual care and loving sacrifice, and the thrill of serving God and being used to bring another soul across the line of faith.

  • Which of the four soils can I identify with?

At any given moment, I am the rocky soil, the thorny soil, or the good soil – toggling between these different modes.  Worries are endless and downright unproductive, but they are so seductive, vying for my thoughts and emotions, luring me to act upon them and focus on taking care of myself and my family – to the exclusion of everyone and everything else.

  • What do I need to do to become the good soil?

For me to become the good soil, especially in this area of life’s worries, I need to grow my faith rather than giving into my fears.  While I may not completely eliminate worries from my life, I need to make sure that I am fortifying my conviction of the gospel – that I have a Father in heaven, that I am forgiven through the cross, that my eternity is secure.  Specifically, it is “look[ing] not only to [my] interests, but also to the interest of others” (Phi. 2:4), making myself available for others, serving others, giving of myself to others, all the while trusting that God will provide.  Another thing I need to do is to learn to be more open to the people of God helping me and supporting me.  My pride would want me to believe that I can handle things on my own, but the reality is that any attempt to cope by myself would end up with me falling flat on my face.    The lesson for me once again is to know I am not alone, to trust in God, and to be a source of blessing myself – so that I too may yield a crop a hundred times more than was sown.

Submitted by Steven C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church
Luke 8:1-4

  • Think about those who accompanied Jesus as he went from one town and village to another.  What lessons about discipleship does this short description provide?

Here, we read about Jesus going on another preaching tour, and along with him are his disciples as well as a cast of women.  There was Mary Magdalene, who was delivered from seven demons, there was Joanna the wife of Cuza, who was one of the faithful people that followed Jesus even to witness his crucifixion and many other women how had personal encounters with Jesus.  These women accompanied Jesus and his disciples and provided this sort of behind the scenes backbone support.  For some of these women, they probably had a great debt of love to Jesus, as they were forgiven and released from her past life of sin.  We read about Mary Magdalene who received amazing forgiveness, grace and deliverance.  Her response was to simply leave the old life and seek a new life with Jesus. The only response to receiving such love and forgiveness is surrender and complete devotion; it is this kind of life-on-life discipleship and this level of personal affection for Jesus, where these women, who sought discipleship followed Jesus wherever he went.  It’s in these daily and regular things, that we see these women obeying and following Jesus.

 Luke 8:11-15

  • What is same for all four soils? 

The soils each have equal opportunity to receive the seed.  It is not preferentially sown, but is simply thrown and scattered.

  • What is the primary difference between the good soil and the three bad soils?

The good soil is different in that it actually yielded a crop.  It’s unique that the fruit and crop was so abundant, bearing “a hundred times what was sown”. 

  • What is the relationship between the depth of the root and fruit bearing?

The depth of the roots is vitally important for fruit bearing.  For the path, the rocky soil and the thorny soil, a root system was not established.  For the path-like soil, the seed never even went below the surface of the ground, the rocky soil had large sub-surface rocks that prevented root penetration and the thorny soil had sub-surface battles with other weeds and thorns.  For fruit-bearing, a plant must send out deep roots, and requires tremendous amounts of water and food to bear a single fruit.  And, that single fruit that is born, is the fruit of so much energy, focus, attention and nurturing on behalf of the plant.  So, the plant has to have a vast network of roots and rootlets.  If part of that root system is damaged or severed, then it can rely on the remaining parts of the root system to pick up the slack.  So, the strength and depth of that root system is directly related to fruit bearing.

  • What was needed for the seed to bear fruit according to v.13?

13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.

The seed requires the continued nourishment of the word.  That is the thing that supplies the seed and is its lifeline.  Without the continued nourishment of the word, the plant dies.  For this new plant, for this new Christian, for this person who heard the gospel and initially responded, they need to continue to get deep into the word of God.  Making that initial decision is just the start of Christian life, and of course, it’s a huge marker and decision, but one can’t grow complacent here.  The thing that is going to sustain a new Christian and keep them growing, sending out roots and eventually bear fruit, is a continued reliance and supply of the word of God.  As I think about the recent Berkeley college winter retreat, I marvel at how many salvation and lordship decisions students made. There were over a hundred decisions, and each of these decisions was amazing. Truly, this is the work of the Holy Spirit and a clear answer to so many prayers.  Now, though, is the time to “crave pure spiritual milk” (1 Peter 2:2) to hunger for the word of God and to be filled with it each day. Because, spiritual battle is real and Satan will not stop trying to undo all that God is doing.  Life, school, family and all the other responsibilities in life will overwhelm and the storms and worries of life will surely come. So, the call for all new believers is to immerse themselves in the church and the word of God.

  • In what ways would “life’s worries, riches and pleasures” choke out the word?  I.e., what does this tell me about the nature of the gospel, and the nature of our world?

There are so many things in today’s world that strives for our attention and distracts us from our daily commitments.  There are the daily worries that we have.   All around our world tells us that to be important or noticed, we have to be accomplished, have to succeed, get that ph.D/MD, get that high paying job, get that top GPA.  Then, after we have it made, we’ll receive a handsome payoff, rich benefits and wealth.  But, what’s all the wealth for?  It’s for indulging the senses in whatever thrill, sensual desire you could want.  The nature of the gospel is something that you don’t simply respond to once and that’s it.  It’s a daily commitment, it’s a coming back again and again to that first love and being convinced all over again.  Our emotions and minds are so fickle, captured by the allure and glitz of what the world seemingly has to offer.  Thus, to become that plant that bears fruit requires daily surrender and perseverance, to push through the obstacles and difficulties of life to mature and endure.

  • Which of the four soils can I identify with?

As I think about my own life, the soil of my heart vacillates between the thorny soil, the rocky and soil and the good soil.  It is this constant process of finding myself going through some struggle in life, dealing with my concerns of the future, my job, feeling overwhelmed and burdened by the busyness of life, feeling inadequate and unsure in ministry, battling my own character.  Then, at other times, it is recognizing and acknowledging my sins, seeking to battle my own apathy and complacency and to seek the word of God.  At times, I find that my own rebellious and proud heart acts like the rocks in my heart, preventing me from getting into the word of God.  Ultimately, it is this process of tilling the soil of my heart to change it from the rocky soil, to the thorny soil and finally to the good soil. Then, when I’m in that place of being the good soil, I need to learn what it looks like to remain there and prevent my heart from hardening and allowing other thorns and weeds to grow.

  • What do I need to do to become the good soil?

I need to seek to be known.  I need to seek honesty, confession and the route of coming into the light.  It’s not an easy task, not comfortable, and requires much humility and effort.  But, it is the thing that keeps me honest, keeps me broken and forces me to remain in the Word of God. As I seek out my leaders, confessing ugly truths about myself, it breaks up the rocks in my heart, breaks my pride thinking that I’m a good or self-righteous person.  Then, as I seek out my leaders in honesty, they’re able to help me and guide me through the process of repentance to truly uproot the thorns and things in my life that plague me.  It’s a daily and regular process, of tilling the soil and seeking honesty, but as I confront the ugly truths about myself and my sinfulness, I restore the joy of my salvation and experience the most amazing joy and life in being liberated from the burden of my sins.

PERSONAL PRAYER

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you so much for your word, which is a mirror unto my heart.  Lord, I confess that so often I am unthinking, hardened and distracted by the worries of my daily life.  Lord God, please break my hardened heart and help me to remove the thorns of my life that choke out your word.  Lord God, I want to obey your word as this leads to flourishing and fruit bearing, but so often I want to seek the easy route of comforts and ease.  Father, please help me to mature and learn to see what it looks like to remain and persevere.  God, I desperately want to honor you with my life, so please keep me humble through your word. Father, I want to commit to that life of honesty and confession, not allowing sins and issues to fester in the dungeon and darkness of my heart, but seeking your forgiveness and grace in the light.

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