But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word,retain it, and by persevering produce a crop. (Luke 8:15 – NIV)
If the ultimate “soil test” is whether or not a professing believer retains (“holds fast to”) the word he or she has embraced, can we do anything to help assure that lasting retention occurs? Or, is that simply a personal heart-issue over which we have no influence?
Clearly Understand, Sincerely Embrace, & Firmly Hold On To the Gospel
Earlier in this series of articles, we saw that the New Testament gospel writers used three very different Greek words to define what “good soil” is.
- Matthew 13:23 – “…good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it(suniémi).”
- Mark 4:20 – “…good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept (embrace) it(paradechomai) ….”
- Luke 8:15 – “…good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast (katecho)….”
As we share the gospel with unbelievers, we can certainly do things to help them understand gospel concepts clearly. And we can take steps to help them embrace it sincerely. But, can we do anything to help them hold on to the gospel they embrace, or is that simply up to them?
We, at Good Soil E&D, believe that if a person clearly understands and sincerely embraces the gospel, and the Savior who is the central focus of the gospel, he or she will persevere (hold on to it).
But, God has chosen to use us (more mature believers) to assist new (or other immature) believers in the process of becoming firmly established in their Christian faith and life.
Discipleship – A Divine-Human Process
The Good Soil Evangelism and Discipleship Scale was presented in an earlier article in this series. The three main vertical columns in the scale depict three responses or roles in the process of evangelism and discipleship:
- People’s (all unbelievers and believers) personal spiritual responses to God and His Word
- Our roles (as personal evangelists and disciplers) in the process of helping other people come to faith in Jesus Christ and then mature as believers
- God’s roles in evangelism and spiritual growth (moving people up the scale)
In evangelism, God uses us to share the gospel with unbelievers, but He is the one who works in their hearts to convict them of sin and regenerate them when they trust Jesus Christ and His redemptive work. So too with the discipleship (development of spiritual maturity) of believers. God is the Ultimate Sanctifier, but He uses us to assist new or weak Christians to “hold fast” to the gospel they have embraced and become firmly grounded in the Christian faith.
Paul explained this to the Corinthian believers:
2 Corinthians 1:24 (NIV)
Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.
Paul said, it’s “your faith” but I am working with you in order that you may experience joy and stand firm in your faith. It is certainly possible for people to have genuine faith in Jesus Christ but not experience the joy that is possible for them because they are not firmly standing in the faith they have embraced.
As He did with Paul, God can use us to “work with” joy-less, faith-wavering believers to experience full joy and establish a firm stand. The Way to Joy is our Good Soil resource for what we call “first level discipleship” (basic, foundational discipleship) – a discipleship resource designed to help us attempt to achieve the same results that Paul sought with the Corinthian Christians….