It was just another trip to the grocery store, one that I make every week. While I was awaiting my turn for the checker to scan my items, I saw a magazine on the news rack, an edition commemorating the life of the Reverend Billy Graham who had recently passed away.
I remember as a child watching Reverend Graham on TV with my Mom. One summer when college was on break, my Mom and I were able to see him live. Without a doubt he was an engaging speaker. Many that night stood and made the walk to the stage expressing their choice to follow Christ.
I reflected on all of this as I stood patiently in the long line, idly wondering if the store made the line go slow to get people to impulse buy things. If so, they got me. I placed a copy of the magazine in my cart. When my turn came at the check out, a twenty something, harried young lady started to scan my items. When she came to the magazine she paused for a moment, looked at the cover and said to me, “I never heard of this guy, but a friend of mine said he was like the ‘Elvis Presley of God’. My family tried the church stuff on me, but it never stuck. Just not my thing.”
She scanned the magazine and then totaled up my purchase before I had time to reply. As she was taking my payment, I shared that “I had seen Reverend Graham personally, and he was a real nice guy with a great message. I think he would have laughed at your friend’s choice of comparisons though.” She smiled and immediately turned to assist the next customer.
As I left the store my heart was troubled by the ease by which she dismissed the opportunity to follow Christ. I don’t know her background or how her family presented Jesus to her, or even if the church she was speaking of was Bible based. My heart was saddened at the prospect that her heart had already decided that the Gospel was not for her.
I was reminded of a parable Jesus shared in the New Testament on the topic of our hearts and how much or little we are receptive to the message of the Gospel.
Jesus often taught using parables, which are illustrations of divine truth drawn from the everyday things of life. In Matthew 13, we see Jesus teaching using a parable about a farmer planting seeds. He told this story to illustrate the prophecy of the Gospel’s reception in the hearts of people.
In this instance, Jesus was sitting in a small boat teaching the crowds of people that were present on shore. One commentator speculated that perhaps he had observed a farmer within sight, working hard at sowing seeds into a field, and seeing that, prompted Jesus to share a divine truth using this real life example that people of his day could easily relate to.
For those of us who are not farmers, sowing seeds means to plant seeds. In Jesus’ day this was often wheat or some other similar crop. Seeds were planted in a number of ways, but it would not be uncommon to see a farmer carry a sack of seeds, and then cast them a handful at a time across his field as he walked about.
Jesus told the parable to the crowd and his disciples:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.”
Fields in those days often had walking paths nearby and these paths became hardened as people walked upon them. Sometimes some of the seed would land on the path instead of the good soil in the field.
Later, Jesus explained the parable more fully to his disciples. He said that when “anyone who hears the message about the Kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”
Parables are often filled with a certain amount of symbolism. In this parable, the field represents the world we live in, the seed represents the message about the word of God,(1) the soil represents the heart condition of the person receiving the message about the word of God. The condition of the soil is commensurate with how receptive a person’s heart is to hear about God. In this specific part of the parable, the birds represent the evil one (Satan) who desires to never to allow God’s word to be planted in the heart of a person.
The lack of understanding that Jesus speaks of here is not owing to a lack of intelligence or intellectual capacity, rather it’s a reflection of a heart that has predisposed itself to discount God and his message of forgiveness and salvation. The attending blessings and gift of eternal life with God are then lost to that person. The hearer has traded the truth, and eternal life with God, for a lie. (Romans 1:25) And of course the greatest promoter of lies is Satan himself. (John 8:44)
The scriptures suggest that many people will have a heart already predisposed to adopting the falsehoods of Satan while rejecting the gift of eternal life with Christ. Jesus says straight up, that few will “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13)
Most people will elect to reject the world of God in favor of living life without God’s presence, in the end its a choice to live for self. This choice to reject God’s gift of grace and salvation, also means rejecting eternal life with God upon our bodily deaths.
Make no mistake, we all have eternal life, it’s simply a question of whether we choose to spend eternity with God or without God. The Bible describes life without God as living in a place called Hell. A terrible place, but one that in the end each person will have chosen for themselves. The choice to reject God is a weighty one, one that Satan, the father of all lies, has diminished in the minds of people so that they unwittingly elect to reject the message of Christ in favor of a lie with eternal consequences.
I share all this because I want you to sincerely search and test the word of God and God’s promises. Don’t be like the young lady who dismissed God out of hand. I want you to use that great intellect that God has given you, his greatest creation, to examine the truth claims of God, and those of the Bible. I can assure you that God is real and the scriptures are totally reliable. But don’t believe me, examine them for yourself and then decide.
Your eternal destination is at stake here, don’t allow others to sway you, do your own homework, you can’t afford not to.