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The Golden Key to Spiritual Growth | Cause and Effect

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
March 18, 2024 3:00 am

The Golden Key to Spiritual Growth | Cause and Effect

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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March 18, 2024 3:00 am

So much of life is a study of cause and effect. We wonder why we get so many speeding tickets. Hmm . . . could it be that we drive too fast? Or wonder why it’s so hard to get up in the morning. Maybe it’s linked to how easy it is to stay up late the night before. Today on A NEW BEGINNING, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us study cause and effect as it relates to success in the Christian life. Jesus paid the price for our salvation, but we’ll see maturity and spiritual growth are up to us.

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A New Beginning is the daily half-hour program hosted by Greg Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Southern California. For over 30 years, Pastor Greg and Harvest Ministries have endeavored to know God and make Him known through media and large-scale evangelism. This podcast is supported by the generosity of our Harvest Partners.

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Hey everybody, you're listening to A New Beginning, which is a podcast made possible by Harvest Partners.

If this program has impacted you, I'd love to hear from you. So just send an email to me at greg.harvest.org. Again, it's greg.harvest.org.

You can learn more about becoming a Harvest Partner by going to harvest.org. Success in the area of spiritual growth is no mystery. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie reveals the truth. People that do not succeed in the spiritual life end up that way because of choices over the course of their lifetime to not do the right thing. Listen, it comes down to this. If you want to grow spiritually, you will. If you don't want to grow spiritually, you won't.

It's really up to you. So much of life is a study of cause and effect. We wonder why we get so many speeding tickets. Could it be that we drive too fast? We wonder why it's so hard to get up in the morning.

Maybe it's linked to how easy it is to stay up late the night before. Today on A New Beginning, Pastor Greg Laurie helps us study cause and effect as it relates to success in the Christian life. Jesus paid the price for our salvation, but we'll see maturity and spiritual growth are up to us. Let me begin with a question. Why do some succeed while others fail in the Christian life? And we all know people who have walked with the Lord for many years and God has used them powerfully. And then we know other people who basically crash and burn.

Here's the answer. The people that do not succeed in the spiritual life end up that way because of choices they make. Not one choice necessarily, but hundreds, even thousands of choices over the course of their lifetime to not do the right thing and by default end up doing the wrong thing. Listen, it comes down to this. If you want to grow spiritually, you will. If you don't want to grow spiritually, you won't.

It's really up to you. In fact, God gives us a choice in the book of Deuteronomy chapter 30 verse 19. The Lord says, I call heaven and earth as witnesses for you today and I've set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Now choose life. So the Lord is saying it's up to you. You want to bless life?

You want to curse life? That's your choice. But I give you the choice. And I love how He tells us the right choice. He goes, choose life. Make the right choice.

Do the right thing. God has given you everything you need to know in the Bible about Him. And He's given you all the spiritual power to grow spiritually. We're told over in 1 Peter 1, 3, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Ok. We're going to look at the parable of the sower, which is a parable that reveals to us the golden key to spiritual growth.

Before we read from Mark chapter 4 let's get the backdrop. Jesus has gone to the beach effectively. Now it's the Sea of Galilee, which is actually a massive freshwater lake. So He went to the water. And I don't know about you but I love to be near water. I love to walk on the beach. It's a place where you contemplate things and you're surrounded by God's creation.

And it's just a great place to sort of unwind and reflect. And I think Jesus loved to spend time in the water. We see a lot of His great teachings and activities right there near the Sea of Galilee. So with that in mind we come to Mark chapter 4 and we read these words.

Once again. By the way I'm reading from the New Living Translation. Mark chapter 4 verse 1. Once again Jesus began teaching by the lake shore. A very large crowd soon gathered around Him and He got into a boat. And He sat on the boat while the people remained on the shore. And He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables.

Such as this one. Listen says Jesus. A farmer went out to plant some seed and he scattered it across the field. Some fell in a footpath and the birds came and ate it.

Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. I'm sure the Lord was probably gesturing as He was teaching. In the Sermon on the Mount He says, look at the birds. They don't worry. Why are you worrying? Look at the flowers.

How beautiful they are. Maybe He gestured and there was a farmer in the distance throwing seed out left and right. So He talks about this seed that goes in a footpath and the birds come and eat it. And other seed falls on shallow soil with underlying rock. And it sprouted up quickly but it withered under the hot sun.

He continues on. Other seed fell among thorns or weeds that grew up and choked out the tender plants and it produced no fruit. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was 30, 60, even 100 times more than had been planted. Now listen to this. Then He said, he who has ears to hear let him listen. Ok. That's the parable of the sower.

Say, well that's nice. What does it mean? That's exactly what the disciples said.

Well what does this mean? And now Jesus explains or interprets this story here in Mark chapter 4 verse 13. Then Jesus said to them, if you can't understand the meaning of this parable how will you understand all the other parables?

Here it is. The farmer plants seed by taking God's Word to others. The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message but Satan comes at once.

You might underline that phrase. Satan comes at once and takes it away. Now the seed that fell on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and receive it with joy.

But they don't have deep roots and they don't last long and they fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's Word. Verse 18 of Mark chapter 4. But the seed that fell among the thorns or the weeds represents those who hear the Word of God but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth and the desire for other things and no fruit is produced.

Now the final category. And the seed that fell on the good soil represents those who hear and accept God's Word and produce a harvest of 30, 60, or even 100 times as much as has been planted. All right. So what does this mean to us today? Answer. I have no idea. God bless you.

No seriously. I have a few thoughts about this. I'm a preacher of course. I do actually have a whole message about these things. These are four reactions to God's Word. And you fit into one of these four categories.

And I want you to note that only one category was really legitimate or what we might call people who were actually converted. Back in biblical times the objective of the sower was to just take the seed and throw it out. Throw it out and let the wind pick it up. It is not like they planted the little crops ahead of time and carefully put the seed in and had modern farming equipment to work with.

No. It was pretty primitive. He just walked out, had his seed in his big bag, reached in, threw it. The wind would pick it up and the seed would go here, there, and everywhere. And so the objective was you did the plowing later to see where the seed went. And that is our job. Our job is to go into all the world and preach the gospel or sow the seed. You know it is interesting that the word broadcast actually comes from the root word of sowing seed. And we hear such amazing stories from people who have come to the Lord watching Harvest at Home or listening to our radio program or through one of our live events that we do that we call Harvest Crusades and so forth.

But we just throw the seed out to as many people as we can. And time will tell who the real converts are. Pastor Greg Laurie will have the second half of his message in just a moment. Social media posts are very encouraging to us and they let us know the impact of these studies. Pastor Greg, thanks for all you do at Harvest Ministries. I've been listening to you for years and have been more spiritually connected because of your messages. I couldn't imagine my life without harvest.org and your daily devotions. Thank you, Pastor Greg. How have Pastor Greg's studies ministered to you and your family? Would you let us know? Tell us your story by calling 1-866-871-1144.

That's 866-871-1144. Well today we're considering the parable of the sower as Pastor Greg helps us check our own spiritual health. The only way to tell if someone is really a Christian is through the test of time.

I'll say that again. The only way to tell if someone is really a Christian is through the test of time. Because sometimes people come on strong in the beginning and then they walk away never to return.

Other times people have sort of a weak start but then they get stronger with the passing of time. So we just have to wait to see who the real believers are. Sometimes a person will make a profession of faith. They'll follow with the profession of faith.

They'll fall away but then they'll return. That's a prodigal. Here's how you know the difference between a prodigal and a person who's not really converted. If a person isn't really converted and walks away and never comes back then we would just say they're like the seed sown on the roadside that was picked up by the birds. But a prodigal will always come home. You know as I said earlier sometimes you can have a weak beginning but a strong finish.

Take Nicodemus. Remember him? In John chapter 3 we read that he came to Jesus by night. In fact that's mentioned multiple times. He came to Jesus at night.

Why is that important? Because Nicodemus was a celebrity. He was a well-known Pharisee.

Sort of the teacher's teacher if you will. So for a man of his stature to go to this rabbi named Jesus and ask questions well you know there was a risk to that because he was the guy who was supposed to have all the answers. But he didn't of course. So he went to Jesus at night.

You remember the conversation. He opened with some compliments and Jesus just cut to the chase and said Nicodemus you must be born again. So that really impacted Nicodemus. But we don't read there in John 3. And that conversation of Nicodemus believing. But it appears that he did become a believer. Because later on in the story after Jesus was crucified and they were laying his body in the tomb we read that a man named Joseph of Arimathea came to take the body and he was joined by Nicodemus. And the little detail is added.

Who came to Jesus by night. So here is my point. Sometimes people look like they are really strong and others look like they are really weak.

Example. Judas Iscariot was an apostle in good standing while Nicodemus was still groping his way in. But in the end Judas revealed himself to be a full-blown hypocrite and not a believer at all. And Nicodemus he came over that finish line with flying colors. So you may have a weak beginning but a strong finish. What matters is how you finish. So if you started off following the Lord and you have stumbled and you have fallen and you are saying it is too late for me.

No it isn't. It is all about how you finish. Because some have a great start and they never get up again. So if you have fallen. If you have messed up. Get up again.

There is still time to walk with the Lord and finish this spiritual race well. Ok. Let's look at the different categories together. Category number one. I am going to call them highway hearers. Highway hearers and it is in verse 15 of Mark 4. The seed that fell in the footpath represent those who hear the message only to have Satan come at once and take it away. I want you to notice something here. Satan comes at once Jesus says. He comes at once.

Know this. When you share the gospel with someone the devil is going to aggressively oppose it. And when someone makes a profession of faith to follow Christ you need to be there to help them get grounded spiritually. You know when I was a brand new believer the Christian said to me, now Greg be careful you are going to be tempted by the devil. I had never heard of such a thing. Tempted by the devil. I am thinking of some guy with pointed ears and red skin with a pitchfork. Oh yeah.

No. You will be tempted by the devil. Now I had never really thought about temptation before because I think as a young kid I just sort of did what I wanted. Maybe I saw it more as opportunity than temptation.

Oh okay. I will be tempted by the devil. Then I said how will I know when I am being tempted.

They said you will know. So I am still in high school. I am in a class and there was a very attractive girl in that class.

So I am a brand new believer in Jesus Christ. And I have never talked to this girl before. I had noticed her but I hadn't talked to her. So after class is over this girl who never gave me the time of day. She didn't even acknowledge my existence up to that point. Walks up to me and says, hi what is your name? And I looked into her beautiful blue eyes and I momentarily forgot my name. I said Greg.

Oh hey Greg. You are really cute. I am like what?

I mean actually that never happened to me. I know I am cute. But I didn't really have girls come up to me and say you are cute right. You are really cute. I am thinking what is this girl saying. I have this little button with a little image of Jesus on it. I am a brand new Christian.

You are really cute. I am thinking what is going on here. And she says, how would you like to spend the weekend with me up at a cabin that our family owns. And I am thinking this is temptation for sure. Because you know why.

That kind of thing never happened to me before. And out of nowhere this attractive girl comes up with this enticing offer. And it was of course enticing. Well I said no. Thank God. But I knew.

Ok. I think that was my first official temptation. That is what happens when you are a follower of Jesus. The devil is going to come and attack.

So that is category one. So these are the people that you know they hear the Word of God but it doesn't really penetrate their hard hearts. Jesus says the birds come and eat it. You know you have been at McDonald's or some other place and the birds are hanging out because that is free food man. That food hits the ground. They swoop down and get it. Right.

So that is what happened. These are people that hear the Word of God but it doesn't really penetrate their hardened heart. Category number two. I am going to call them rocky road hearers.

Rocky road hearers. Verse 16. The seed that won on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately. Notice the word immediately. Immediately they receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots they don't last long. They fall away. And as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's Word. So they start. They take hold of it.

But then it doesn't take root in their life. Now the stony ground Jesus is speaking of is just speaking of the terrain of Israel. I remember years ago I was on a tour of Israel and I had my granddaughter Stella. She was very little at that point. And afterwards I said, Stella what do you remember most about your trip to Israel?

I thought she would remember some biblical site we went to. She said rocks. What? Rocks. There were rocks everywhere.

And that's true. There's a lot of rocks in the soil. So the idea here is that the seed goes into the ground and there's a shelf of rock underneath.

So it shoots up but because it can't get root it withers in the blazing sun. So this is a description of a person who hears the Word of God and boom they respond. I mean they respond so quickly. You know you talk to some people in conversations going for weeks.

Sometimes months even years. You feel like you are making a little progress. Other people the first time you tell them they say I want Jesus in my life. Really? Yeah.

I want Him in my life. So you say let's pray. And they pray. And immediately they are like mega convert.

Right? They are like they go to them by a Bible. Not just any Bible. They get a giant Bible.

They start carrying around. And they are at church every day of the week. And they are quoting verses. And when worship is happening they are lifting their hands higher than anybody else.

They are singing louder. And they are even critical of others who aren't growing as quickly as they are growing. And you say to people that is the most dramatic conversion I have ever seen.

It was like literally night and day. So maybe a month passes by and they are gone. You don't see them at church anymore. They don't respond to your phone calls or your texts.

What is going on? They just walked away. They fell away.

This is the category we are looking at here. So we wonder what happened to these people. Well obviously they are having an emotional experience but it didn't take root. See this is actually not a true conversion though it looks like one. And sometimes people in this category, rocky road hearers, will say something along the lines of, oh well I tried the whole Christianity thing. And it didn't work for me. Oh yeah I was a Christian. Oh yeah I went to church. I read the Bible. I did all that stuff. But yeah it didn't work for me. Well no actually you never were converted.

I am sorry to tell you that. You had an emotional experience. Maybe you had some sense of who Jesus was. But if it was a real conversion you would still be walking with the Lord. Look Christianity isn't like a product that works for some and doesn't work for others. Christianity, simplified, is a relationship with Christ Himself. It was G. K. Chesterton who said and I quote, Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It's been found difficult and not try end quote.

Good quote. So the problem with this person is their heart is shallow soil. Pastor Greg Laurie is providing insight on the four types of soil we read about in the parable of the sower or the parable of the soils.

We've talked about highway hearers and rocky road hearers. There's more to come as this message continues here on A New Beginning. Now if today's message spoke to you in a special way maybe it's time to respond to God. Maybe you came to the Lord and fell away or have never come to Him at all. Pastor Greg if you would speak to the person listening who needs to make a fresh commitment to the Lord. If you would like to return to the Lord I'm going to lead you in a prayer right now. So pray this prayer if you want to make a recommitment to Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus I know that I've gone astray.

I've been a prodigal child but I'm ready to come home now. I ask you to forgive me of my sin. I choose to follow you now from this moment forward. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and help me to live a life that will bring honor and glory to your name. Thank you for your love and forgiveness and sending Jesus to die on the cross for my sin. I turn from that now and I turn to you by faith. Thank you for accepting me and forgiving me in Jesus name. Amen. Hey listen if you just prayed that prayer and made a recommitment to Christ I want to just say to you God bless you and welcome home.

Yeah yeah that's right and listen we'd like to hear from you. Write Pastor Greg an email and tell him of the decision you've just made. Write to Greg at harvest dot org and let us send you something to help you build a strong foundation for your faith. Let us send you Pastor Greg's New Believers Bible. It's free of charge and it has so many helps that will answer your questions and help you along your way. Just ask for the New Believers Bible when you call 1-800-821-3300. That's a 24 7 phone number 1-800-821-3300.

Or write A New Beginning Box 4000 Riverside California 92514. Or go online to harvest.org and click Know God. Well best-selling author Lee Strobel is with us today. We're so excited to offer his newest book Is God Real? And in the book Lee you make the point that some people don't want God to be real.

Right. You know they if God is God then they're not. They're not the God of their own godless universe.

Yeah. How can we share these truths with people who really don't want them to be true? Well you're right there are a lot of people in fact Romans tells us this and we tend to suppress the evidence for God. In fact the Greek imagery there is like a petal and then when we see evidence for God as Romans says it's clear and convincing and and leaves us without excuse. But our tendency is to like push down the petal and ignore the evidence and when the evidence comes back up and the petal comes back up we push it down again and again and again.

So there's this human tendency because we want to be gods of our own world. We don't want to be held accountable by a higher power to ignore the evidence for God or to deny it. And so when we face someone like that I think one of the things I like to do is say of course I can say this because it's true in my case but you know I used to believe that too. I was an atheist for much of my life but you know what I spent two years of my life investigating the evidence and I came to a far different conclusion that the evidence of science the evidence of history the reasoning of philosophy points powerfully and persuasively toward the truth of Christianity. And so people listening to this broadcast could say to a friend who has doubts like that you know what I was just listening the other day to a guy yeah I was listening and and he said you know he was an atheist and yet he spent two years of his life as an investigative journalist checking out the evidence and he ended up coming to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be.

Would you be interested in what evidence he found convincing? And then give him a copy of this book Is God Real and and see if they would be open to it. You know a lot of times I've given books to people who are spiritually closed and they're not open and I give it to them and they smile and say oh thank you and I know it sits on a shelf but it may sit on a shelf for five years but then something happens in their life and they pull it down and they read it and God uses it to open their eyes to the truth of scripture. I interviewed a guy once who came to faith in one of the earliest Billy Graham rallies it was out in California and his brother was a well-known lawyer in Los Angeles and was an atheist. He prayed for his brother for 48 years and 348 days that he would come to Christ 48 years and 348 days and this guy was resistant to the end but he got cancer and this brother gave him a copy of my book The Case for Christ and he read it in the hospital and he in tears came to faith in Christ before he passed from this world.

48 years and 348 days are we willing to do that for people we love or do we give up on people? I say don't give up keep praying for people we know even though they seem spiritually closed who knows what God might use to open them up and if we give them a book as I say it may sit in the shelf for a while but then a tragedy in their life or a question that comes up causes them to pick it up and who knows what God might do in using it. Well maybe our listeners know of somebody right now that literally is on a deathbed or someone that is quite elderly and they have not professed faith in Christ yet you've written them off you've given up on them don't do that you know my own mother did not come to the Lordly until at the very end of her life one month before she died you must you must go to these people at least make the effort so you'll know you at least tried and who knows that God will not give you favor. Listen we want to help you be that person to show someone the way and I've got a tool the title of the book is Is God Real? We want to offer it to our listeners for your gift of any of any size this month so whatever you send in for a copy of Is God Real will be used to help us continue to teach God's word and proclaim the gospel through this broadcast and it will be our joy to send you this book that you're going to love again the title of the book is Is God Real available to you right now for your gift of any size. Yeah why not contact us today for your own copy of Is God Real? Loan it to a friend who needs to hear this evidence or share the insights after you've read this book for yourself we'll send it your way to thank you for your donation so just give us a phone call at 1-800-821-3300 we can take your call anytime 24 7 1-800-821-3300 or write a new beginning box 4000 riverside california 92514 or go online to harvest.org well next time more solid biblical counsel on maximizing our christian growth and fulfillment tune in for more from pastor greg series and mark called the gospel for busy people join us here on a new beginning with pastor and bible teacher greg lord the preceding podcast was made possible by harvest partners helping people everywhere know god learn how to become a harvest partner sign up for daily devotions and find resources to help you grow in your faith at harvest.org
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-18 05:03:16 / 2024-03-18 05:14:01 / 11

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