Why do those who seem to be Christians walk away from the faith?

Counterfeit spirituality can look a lot like true biblical conversion. A counterfeit Christian can show signs of the real thing in their life. They might present like someone who is on fire for Jesus, whose life is changing and turning around. They might praise the Lord, tell others about Him, pray to Him, and come to worship service. At times, they might even make their way into church leadership. But then something happens and you never see them again. I know we have all experienced it. We have all sat next to someone. We have all known someone who seemed like a true convert only to fall away.

When someone walk away, we are left wondering — what just happened? We might have been so sure Jesus had changed their life. We might have even been mentoring and discipling them. But the next thing we know, they aren’t walking with the Lord anymore.

When someone who seemed like a true believer falls away how do we make sense of it?

Why do those who seem to be a part of the family walk out on the family?

Jesus’ parable of the four soils helps us process why those who seem to be believers walk away.

Look at what Jesus says,

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”” (Mt 13:1–9)

Instead of going with His family (Matt 12:49-50), Jesus leaves the house where He was ministering and goes to the sea. The crowd that followed Him was so large, he had to get in a boat to address them.

Jesus tells the crowd a story every farmer and resident of the area would understand. Farmers back then didn’t have the equipment like farmers do today. Most likely this man had a bag with seed in it. In order to plant his crop, he would have to walk around his field sowing it by hand. As the farmer walked around his field sowing the seed, he ended up sowing in 4 different types of soil — the path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil.

The Seed

In the Parable, the seed represents the gospel. Jesus sows the gospel message. The gospel is referred to here as the “word of the kingdom.”

The good news is that a king has come who will setup another kingdom. A kingdom that is unlike any kingdom in this world. There is no death, disease, injustice, heartache. No sin at all. It is a perfect kingdom. But only those who are perfect can enter the kingdom. The problem is we aren’t perfect people. We are sinners who have rebelled against the King. We are barred from entering the kingdom.

But Jesus has come on our behalf to make a way for us to enter the kingdom. He does so by paying our debt. The wages of sin is death. He dies in our place. All those who believe in Him, His death is our death, and His righteousness is our righteousness. In that way we are able to enter His perfect kingdom.

A kingdom that had come in part when Jesus arrived. One that is breaking into the world now as we live out the kingdom’s ethics. One that will finally and fully come when Jesus returns in the future.

That is the good news, that is the seed Jesus is sowing. If you notice, Jesus sows the gospel message indiscriminately to the crowds who follow Him and listen to His teaching. Some reject His teaching. Some accept it. Others accept it for a while then walk away.

The parables teaches us that there are four responses to the gospel. The response has to do with the people’s heart. The heart represents the soil in which the seed, the gospel message is sown. The message is the same but the soil is different.

Let’s look again at the different types of soil with that in mind and discover why some who seem to be believers end up walking away from the faith.

(1) The Impenetrable Heart

When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.” (Mt 13:19)

Again, everyone hears the gospel — that Jesus’ kingdom has come, a kingdom that is drastically different than the kingdoms of this world. A kingdom we can only enter by believing that Jesus is the Messiah who paid the penalty for our sin in order to restore our relationship with the King.

The people who represent the path hear the gospel. Jesus tells us it is not a hearing issue, it is an understanding issue. They hear but they don’t understand.

The reason they don’t understand has nothing to do with a language barrier, or a cultural barrier. The people they hear what Jesus is saying. They hear Him, but they don’t understand His teaching regarding the kingdom. They don’t understand, they don’t grasp that the Messiah has come. That what they see in front of them and who they are hearing from is the Messiah for which they have been waiting. Since they don’t grasp who Jesus is they reject His message. Their heart is as hard as a path that has been trampled by 1000 footsteps. Their heart is impenetrable.

The heart, if you remember, represents our intellect, our emotions, our will. They refuse to allow the gospel message to penetrate their heart so that it affects how they think, feel, and act. They hear what Jesus says, but they flat out reject it. Their heart is hardened to the gospel message.

This represents both religious and secular society today. They have an idea of who the Messiah should be; what salvation looks like. Just think of any gospel today. One of the more popular ones is that we are to be mindful. That we are able to control our emotions and thoughts. That we are able to calm ourselves through meditation breaks throughout the day.

There certainly benefit to taking breaks from stressful situations, allowing ourselves to calm down. But often times the way this occurs is through self motivation and self talk. It is does not occur through believing and trusting in God to be your provider, or that you are accepted in Christ and you don’t need the acceptance of the world. Those who believe a secular gospel or any other gospel besides the biblical gospel, they hear the gospel but they reject it because it doesn’t look like their gospel and their heart is hardened to any form of correction.

Their heart is hardened because of what we learn in verses 10-17. These verses provide a lot of guidance when looking at Jesus’ explanation of the parable. There is a reason this teaching is sandwiched in between the parable told to the crowd and the explanation given to the disciples. We can’t gloss over its teaching. We have to let it inform our understanding of the parable.

In verse 10, Jesus’ disciples ask why He speaks in parables. The implied idea is that parables aren’t easy for everyone to understand. Wouldn’t a straight forward teaching be more beneficial?

Look at Jesus’ response in verse 11:

And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

There is that word “understand” again. The same word that appears down in verse 19 — “they hear but they don’t understand

Jesus tells the disciples that they have been given the ability “to know” the secrets of the kingdom. But the ability “to know…the secrets of the kingdom of heaven…has not been given” to them. The Father has given it the disciples, but He hasn’t given it to those who don’t follow Jesus.

To know”, which is ginosko in the Greek, it means to come to an understanding, to perceive, to comprehend. To know what? To know the “secrets of the kingdom”.

When we think of the word secret, we often think of it as something that is hidden that others are trying to find. Some people are able to discover another’s secret because they looked hard enough. Think about an investigative journalist, they are able to uncover the secret life of a high profile celebrity because they looked, they dug hard enough.

While that might be how we often think of that word. The way it is being used here is different.

The “secrets of the kingdom” do not represent that which others sought to uncover but were not able to uncover. They represent those things that were hidden, that were unmanifested. They are those things that remain hidden until God reveals them.God is the only one who knows them. God is the only One who is able to reveal them.

The “secrets of the kingdom” is that Jesus, very God and sole Son of the Father, has come to earth to bring the Kingdom in an upside down way — not through force, but through Sacrifice. To show that He is bringing the kingdom, He has been teaching and performing many mighty deeds that testify to Him as the Messiah.

But those whose hearts are represented by the impenetrable soil reject Jesus. That is because they haven’t been given the ability “to know” to understand the “secrets of the kingdom.”

Even though they see Jesus’ work, they hear Jesus’ message, they refuse to believe. As we see in verse 15,

For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.”

Because they don’t understand, they reject Jesus’ message of salvation. As a result they dull their hearts, they close their ears and eyes to Jesus’ message. Instead of turning to Jesus and experiencing healing, they turn from Him. Because the gospel message sits on the surface of their impenetrable heart, Satan, who is the deceiver, is able to come and continue his deceptive work in their life.

That’s the first soil. They are absolutely closed off to the gospel because God hasn’t softened their heart and they turn from Jesus hardening their hearts even more to the true gospel, which results in Satan continuing his deceptive work in their life.

(2) The Emotional Heart

Look what Jesus tells us about them — verses 20-21:

As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” (Mt 13:20–21)

Whereas the first soil was absolutely impenetrable, the gospel is able to work its way into the heart of the second soil, but only at an emotional level. These people hear the gospel, the good news about the kingdom, they get all excited. Somehow, someway the message has tugged at their emotions. In the moment, they have a feeling, an emotional response to the message. Maybe it was at Youth Camp, a Revival, or a particular message one Sunday touched them. Because of what they are feeling, they respond. They respond in a positive way.

But the problem is — there is not much depth. There is not really a desire to grow in their understanding of God’s Word, nor to be obedient to it.  It is all about the emotions. It is all about the feeling. It is all about the experience to them. The positive vibes Christianity brings. These are those people who are always chasing that spiritual high.

As long as the feeling, the spiritual high is there, they are with Jesus. But nothing kills a spiritual high like tribulation and suffering that is related to belief in Jesus. When persecution comes, the spiritual high, the emotional feeling one gets about Jesus, disappears. Because the mind and the will were not engaged, they end up falling away from the faith. It is no longer worth it, beneficial for them to follow Jesus. Their safety, their status in the community is more important than being a part of Jesus’ family and entering His kingdom. They choose the temporal over the eternal.

This is why it is important we aren’t just after emotionalism, but that we truly dive into God’s Word. That we purposefully seek to develop an understanding of who God is, who we are, what we can expect from the world. Feelings fade fast when you are being attacked. That attack doesn’t have to be much. It could simple be the way people look at you when you talk about finding Jesus. Or maybe your friends not wanting to hang out with you anymore because you claim to be a Christian. These attacks don’t have to be physical. Your life doesn’t have to be threatened in order for the spiritual high to fade and for you to walk away from Christ.

That’s the second soil. It is all about the Spiritual high, the feelings. When the feelings fade because of persecution and suffering, they walk away.

(3) The Idolatrous Heart

Look at what Jesus reveals about this soil in verse 22:

As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mt 13:22)

This group doesn’t outright reject the gospel. They aren’t all about the feelings, getting caught up in the emotions of it all. That’s not to say that the gospel, that worship doesn’t affect their emotions. It certainly does. But there is some depth to this group. They know God’s Word. They seem genuine.

But we are told that it is “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches [that] choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” In other words, their idols are more important than Jesus.

As we have talked about in the past, an idol is anything you allow to get between you and Jesus. It can be anything other than Jesus that you believe will provide you with satisfaction, joy, purpose in life, and salvation.

It might be your work — Now, we certainly need to take care of our families. I’m not advocating for you not working. But work might be your idol if it consistently takes you away from regularly gathering with other believers. Or maybe it doesn’t take you away from your regular gathering, but you are not willing to take a stand on anything. You are willing to fudge a bit here and there. Operate in the gray or outright break the law in order to get ahead.

Maybe your recreation is an idol — You find yourself on the golf course, the lake or the hunting stand more than in the pew or gathered with others. Or maybe it doesn’t take you away from church, but you know more about the local or national sports team than you do God’s Word.

Maybe money, status, or position is your idol — You are willing to do whatever it takes to gain and keep them even if it means acting contrary to God’s Word.

Those whose hearts are thorny will choose their idol when there is a conflict between the idol and Jesus. They will obey their idol over obedience to Jesus. Whatever it takes to gain and keep that idol, they will do. They will submit to its will over Jesus’.

The result is that these people are unfruitful. They don’t really ever change, they are stagnant. There is no fruit to speak of because all their attention, all their affections, all their time and energy are given to serve the idol instead of Jesus.

If you have been coming to church your entire life, and there is no fruit in your life. There is no peace, patience, joy, kindness, goodness, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, and love. If these fruits aren’t evident in your life,  if you haven’t grown and are not continually growing in these areas, if you know no more about God’s Word than what you learned in Sunday school as a kid, if you haven’t changed, your life might be characterized by the Thorny Soil.

Eventually when a choice has to be made between Jesus and your idol, you we will walk away from Jesus because you care more about the things of the world than you do spiritual things.

That’s the third soil — the idolatrous heart. Obedience to their idol is prioritized over obedience to Jesus.

(4) The Fertile Heart

We finally get to the one that is the true believer. Look at what Jesus says in verse 23,

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”” (Mt 13:23)

This person doesn’t reject the gospel, instead they believe the gospel. They understand its purpose and implication for their life. If you notice this is the only one Jesus says understands the Word. They are the only ones who allow Jesus’ message to penetrate their heart, to affect their mind, their emotions, and their will.

They are not just in it for intellectual knowledge, to prove they are smarter than someone else. They aren’t the continual debater. Nor are they always after a certain feeling, an emotional, a spiritual high. They don’t obey the wishes of an idol. Living according to an idols will instead of the Father’s.

Instead they are wholly engaged — mind, emotions, and will. They are always seeking to learn and understand God’s Word. Their hearts are warmed by worship, their affections are drawn to Jesus. They seek to obey Him with their whole life. They don’t hold any areas back, nor do they put anything above Jesus. They are wholly engaged with their whole self. Mind, emotions, and will. Each are kept in check by God’s Word.

This is the person who is the true believer, the one who ends up being fruitful instead of fruitless. This is the one who will go the distance, who won’t quit at the first sign of persecution. Who won’t allow an idol to draw them away. They will continue to follow Jesus, understanding that the gospel is the only message that saves.

These are the ones who recognize Jesus as Messiah because God has changed their heart, He has made it fertile to the gospel message. He has given them the ability to comprehend the “secrets of the kingdom”. As a result, they turn to Jesus for salvation and they experience healing.

Without God’s work, they would be like the soil on the path, the rocks and the thorns. They wouldn’t give the gospel a second thought, they would allow persecution to drive them away, or they would seek after idols over Jesus. That is how man naturally responds to Jesus. But not those whose hearts are fertile. They respond rightly.

Recognize Blessing from the Lord

As well as those whose hearts are fertile, recognize how blessed they are. Look at the text beginning in verse 16,

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” (Mt 13:16–17)

If our hearts are fertile, we will recognize the blessing God has poured out on our life, how fortunate we are, how privileged we are to sit at this moment in history. The prophets and righteous men from long ago, longed – they so desired the blessing and privilege we have.

Not only that but if our hearts are really fertile, we will praise God for the salvation He has provided. We will rejoice at our understanding of the gospel of the kingdom! We will long to know and see and understand more. We will allow what we learn to affect us. We will repent of our sins and turn to God on a regular basis. In other words, we will live as true family members of Jesus.

Is your heart fertile? Do you understand the gospel? Has it affected your mind, emotions, and will?

Do you recognize the blessing God has poured out in your life by allowing you to understand the gospel? Do you praise God for your salvation on a regular basis? Is your heart fertile?

Conclusion

The parable of the sower reveals why some walk away. Their hearts are hardened. They are just in it for the spiritual high. They worship and obey their idols over Jesus.

When someone walks away from the faith, don’t loose heart. Don’t loose faith in Christ. Instead, pray for their salvation. Pray the Lord would soften their heart to the gospel. Not only should we pray but preach the gospel to them. We should spread the seed indiscriminately to all. While at the same time praying their hard, unfruitful, idolatrous heart would become fertile soil in which the gospel would take root and be productive.

Yes, people walk away from the faith. But don’t allow their actions to cause you to walk away. Instead, recognize who blessed you are, praise God, pray for them, and spread the gospel to all who will give you a hearing.

Two Choices — Biblical Wisdom or Worldly Wisdom

Are you able to distinguish between worldly wisdom and biblical wisdom? Do you know which is more beneficial for your life and why?

Jesus’ parable of the two builders comes at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount teachings. ****We don’t have time to go through all of Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount. But suffice it to say His teaching tells us who are apart of His kingdom and how we are to live in His kingdom.

Two Choices — Biblical Wisdom or Worldly Wisdom

At the end of His teaching on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers His listeners, He offers us, two choices. A choice between hearing and doing the wisdom of the world or hearing and doing His wisdom.

Look at the text starting in verse 24:

““Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Mt 7:24)

Skip down to verse 26:

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

(Mt 7:26)

Using a building analogy, Jesus distinguishes between worldly wisdom and heavenly wisdom. He uses an everyday occurrence in Palestine to show us the folly of building our life on worldly wisdom. The wise man builds His house on the rock.The foolish man builds his house on the sand.

If you were a wise man in ancient Palestine, you would build your house on the rock so that when “... the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” (Mt 7:25)

But those who were unwise, they didn’t build on the rock and there was a different outcome for them. Look at verse 27,

And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.””

(Mt 7:27)

Through this parable, offers us two choices.

  • (1) Build your life on the rock — on biblical wisdom — experience safety and salvation.
  • (2) Or build your life on the sand — on worldly wisdom — experience destruction.

Those are the two choices we have. Allow the Bible, allow Jesus to guide us, allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives. Or allow the world, worldly wisdom to guide and direct us.

Why should we allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives?

When it comes to understanding why we should allow biblical wisdom to direct our lives, James is super helpful:

In James 3:13-18, James contrasts two types of wisdom — heavenly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Those who are wise according to the world’s standards live by mantras like:

  • “You do you”;
  • “let it be”;
  • “just do what feels right to you”;
  • “be true to yourself”;
  • “do what makes you feel good”;
  • “Just follow your heart”.

I’m sure you have heard those before. You might have even voiced them yourself. As good as they might sound, that is representative of worldly wisdom.

You might think following worldly wisdom will result in success. We live in the world after all. But that is not true.

Worldly wisdom, James says, results in “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14). It results in boasting that seeks to puff up self while tearing another downAs well as it results in lies, because, after all it is all about self.

Heavenly wisdom is different. Heavenly wisdom comes down from above. Heavenly wisdom is what Jesus has been pouring forth throughout the sermon on the mount. Heavenly wisdom produces good fruit:

  • Humility, peace, and mercy.
  • It is pure and gentle.
  • It’s impartial.
  • and it results in sincerity (James 3:17-18).

All wisdom is not created equal.

All wisdom doesn’t lead to flourishing relationships and a loving community. There are two different types of wisdom to which we can listen and apply. They originate from two different places. Notice I didn’t say they came from several different places, but that they originate from two different places. Wisdom either originates from God and His kingdom, OR from Satan and his kingdom. There is not a third or fourth type of wisdom. There are only two types of wisdom upon which we can base our life, our actions. God’s wisdom, Jesus’ wisdom. The wisdom found in God’s Word, what James refers to as heavenly wisdom. Or worldly wisdom.

Those who build their life on worldly wisdom will experience a great loss.

Destruction, disaster will come upon them when they least expect it. Your entire life will come crashing down if that what you have built your life on instead of the rock. Sand that is easily moved. The things of this world can promise us happiness, joy, pleasure, peace but those can be quickly taken. If the world is all that we have based our life on, we will experience disaster.

But those who build their lives on Jesus’ wisdom, His teaching, who operate according to a Christian worldview, they will stand firm when destruction comes knocking. Jesus doesn’t change. He is the rock. That which He offers, He always offers. There are no shifting sands with Jesus. Even if things around you come crashing down, you always have the Rock.

It is not “if” but “when”.

Those things that seek to destroy us will come. They will often come at a time we are not expecting. Life is going great. All is well. Then boom! The storm comes. Depending on what foundation you have built, you will either survive the storm or you won’t. That is what Jesus is getting at.

Worldly wisdom doesn’t save. It doesn’t protect. It only results in destruction.

What are the advantages afforded those who continue to follow Christ?

We are all looking for advantages in life. Those things that can help us as we seek to move through life. We seek these advantages in many areas – work, play, and school. At times, they help us as we attempt to navigate the ever changing world.

Experience tells us, however, that these advantages don’t last and they are ever changing. But there is One who does not change. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The advantages He offers are real and unchanging.

What are the advantages afforded those who continue to follow Christ?

(1) You don’t have to live under a standard you can’t meet (13a)

We know the Judaizers expected the Galatians to live according to the law because they taught that they were to accept circumcision. But while following the demands of the law is what the Judaizers wanted the Gentiles to do, we learn in verse 13, that they themselves weren’t living by the law. In the first half of the verse we read,

For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law,…” (Ga 6:13a)

What does this mean?

On the one hand, the Judaizers lived according to the law. They were circumcised, they observed the dietary laws, and they lived according to Jewish customs — Observing feasts and other things. While they did those things, they still failed to keep the law perfectly so as to earn salvation. Remember what Paul revealed in chapter 3.

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Ga 3:10)

The key phrase in that verse is “abide by all things.” If we add anything to the gospel, any work, then we nullify the gospel and we are forced to keep the whole law in order to experience salvation. But no one is perfect. We all make mistakes. We all sin. We all break the Law, the Judaizers included.

That is why the gospel is good news. It reveals we don’t have to live under a standard we can’t keep. All who trust in Christ are freed from the condemnation of the law. We are freed because Christ paid the penalty for us. He became a curse on our behalf. That is the paradox of the gospel and the advantage in continuing to follow Jesus.

Remember, Jesus + something = nothing. But Jesus + nothing = everything. That is exactly what Paul wants the Galatians to see. In Christ, we don’t have to live according to a standard we can’t meet. Jesus has met the standard for us.

Transition: Another advantage of following Christ is that:

(2) We are free from having to follow the world’s system (14)

In verse 14 the text says,

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Ga 6:14)

We will get to the first part of the verse in a moment, but look at the second half. Essentially, Paul tells us the world’s system doesn’t have a hold on him. The idea that the world doesn’t have a hold on him has massive implications for how he lives. It means he no longer looks to the world for hope and salvation. He no longer needs the approval of others. He’s no longer enslaved by sin and Satan. All that makes it possible for him to live in the world for God. He can be counter-cultural without having to worry about what others think or what others can do to him. He can seek to please God and expand his kingdom. He can be a real force for the gospel. As well as, he can enjoy the things that the world has to offer because he’s not finding hope or salvation, ultimate joy or peace in any of the things of the world. They are what they are and he can enjoy them for that.

In Christ, we are freed from having to follow the world system, and we are able to live in the world in the way God has designed for us to live. We don’t have to fear the world. We don’t have to try to gain meaning from a meaningless world. We can enjoy the world in the way God has designed for us to enjoy it instead of making it an idol.

Transition: Another advantage of following Christ is that:

(3) We are a new creation and we have a new creation for which to look forward (15)

Look at verse 15,

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Ga 6:15)

When we believe in Jesus, we are made anew. Essentially we are changed from the inside out as our desires and will are brought inline with God’s. As Christians, we are a new creation. As those who are created a new, we look forward to a time when the world in which we live is created a new as well. This world is not all there is or all there will ever be. When Jesus returns, He will change the world. It will become a new creation free from the affects of sin and Satan. All those who are blessed to live in the new world will be new creations as well.

How do you experience this change?

This present change and future hope is only for those who follow Jesus. Those who don’t follow Jesus have an eternity in hell to which to look forward. Instead of living in God’s perfect, new creation. But if you believe in Jesus as your Lord and as your Savior, you can be made into a new creation. You can experience the New World to come. You can experience the kingdom to come, Jesus‘s kingdom. A kingdom that is completely and absolutely perfect.

If you are willing to humble yourself and admit that you cannot save yourself, and that Jesus is the only one who can save you. That He has provided a way for salvation to take place by dying on the cross for your sins. If you are willing to turn from, to repent of, your rebellion against God, then you too can be made into a new creation. You can experience the salvation Jesus offers.

Transition: The last advantage in this text to following Christ is that:

(4) We will experience true peace and mercy (16)

Look at verse 16,

And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.” (Ga 6:16)

The rule to which Paul refers is living according to the gospel. With the gospel as our foundation for life, we will experience true peace and mercy. As well as we will be a part of the Israel of God.

If you long for peace and mercy, if you long to experience true salvation, don’t move on from the gospel. Don’t move on from faith alone, in Christ alone. That is the way we receive the mercy of God and experience a peace that’s beyond all comprehension.

What does it take to be Jesus’ disciple?

In Luke chapter 14 Jesus highlights key ideas we must be willing to forsake to follow Him and be a part of His kingdom. He tells several parables in this section. These parables help us to see a number of things.

Jesus wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom must not immediately expect that they are kingdom people (vs 7-24).

The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, believed themselves to be kingdom people because they sought to keep the law. They believed they pleased God through their works and deserved to be a part of the kingdom as a result. But Jesus flips the script on them. He reveals it is not those who believe they are deserving, but those who are humble, who recognize they are not deserving that are invited into the kingdom.

Jesus also wants us to see that those who enter the kingdom are willing to forsake all for Him (vs 25-33)

This is the point that landed on me this morning as I read the Bible in my devotional time. At the end of His teaching on the cost of discipleship, Jesus wraps the section up by saying:

So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk 14:33)

I have read this Scripture a number of times in the past, referred to it in conversation, and even included it in my preaching and teaching. Though I am familiar with the passage, today it landed on me differently.

How did it land on me?

Jesus reveals that His disciples must be willing to renounce all that we have in order to be His follower. I am afraid that those of us who live in the West hear those words, champion them, preach them, teach them, but don’t take them to heart. We want to add Jesus to our comfortable lives, to the American and cultural dream of what it means to be happy and successful. I am not saying we shouldn’t be successful, we shouldn’t work hard, or that we shouldn’t have things that make life more comfortable. If the Lord blesses us in that way, praise God. Instead, what I am driving towards is that we can’t make those things ultimate. They can’t be those things that define us. Our relationship with Jesus should define us. It should be what makes us happy and joyful. It should be what gives us meaning and purpose, as well as peace in life.

We must not add Jesus to our cultural idea of success.

Instead, we must allow Jesus to define success. I am afraid that is where many of us fail, myself included. We chase after the things of the world as if they are ultimate. We get frustrated when they are not manifested in our life. We believe Jesus has abandoned us. Jesus, however, hasn’t abandoned us. He is right there with us, teaching and guiding us. He wants us to see that He is the One to whom we should look to for ideas of success, not the world.

If we are going to be Jesus’ disciple, we must renounce all worldly ideas and be willing to live according to biblical ideas and convictions, regardless if they are popular or not.

“All things” is all things.

We must be willing to forsake, to abandon and renounce all things, pledging our full allegiance to Jesus. But more than that — we must find our life and being in Jesus. As believers, our kingdom is not of this world. We must live as if that is true.

Once we are able to renounce all things, living in the world, no matter how blessed or how difficult life might be, we will be joyful and peaceful because we will be living as Jesus’ disciples, allowing Him to dictate and determine what should and shouldn’t bring us joy, meaning, and purpose in life.

How Can You Experience True Freedom?

We live in a post-modern society. Post-modernism casts off any and all meta-narratives as power plays by authoritarian systems. In an attempt to escape oppression and experience freedom, meta-narrative are traded for individual narratives that allow one to construct their own truth. In this way there is no absolute truth, just that truth you derive from yourself and your own experiences. We see this transition in phraseology such as “You be you”; “Be your authentic self”; etc. These ideas are why we are currently experiencing so much transition in every area of life.

The Promise of Different Gospels

Different gospels that promise salvation have been preached for centuries. Post-modernism is another gospel in a long list of gospels hoping to cast off the restrictions of a Judeo-Christian worldview to provide freedom without submission.

But does a disregard for the Christian meta-narrative provide true freedom? Does creating our own individual narratives divorced from any overarching narrative, especially a Judeo-Christian narrative, provide an escape from bondage?

The Galatians were not confronted with Post-modernism, but they were confronted with a worldly gospel. Paul, the author of the letter to the Galatians, addresses their fall away from the biblical gospel when he writes in Galatians 4:8-9

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?” (Gal. 4:8-9)

Different Gospels Don’t Provide Freedom

The elementary principles of the world represent those ideas that are fundamental. They serve as the building blocks for a particular system of beliefs. Everyone operates according to closely held building block beliefs. They are those beliefs that drive our worldview and the actions that follow.

Worldly religions and philosophies, those things we build our life on a part from the biblical worldview, do not provide us with freedom. Instead, they enslave us. They entrap us in a cycle of performance, worry, and anxiety. We are left to wonder if we have done enough in order to experience that religion’s or philosophy’s form of salvation. In the case of our modern movement, we might wonder if we gone far enough in divorcing ourselves from a Judeo-Christian worldview. In other words, are we properly secular? Are we championing secular causes well enough?

Cancel Culture as an Example of Bondage

It is here that cancel culture enters the picture. All those who are not in the main are seen as being on the wrong side of history. They are not able to represent modern day culture. They shouldn’t be applauded or championed. Instead, they should be punished for their lack of adherence to the current cultural movement, which results in them being “cancelled”.

Those who believe themselves to be on the right side of history today feel liberation, they feel as if they have been saved from oppressive structures. But “today” is not “always”. Tomorrow always comes. Tomorrow brings change in one’s ideas and thoughts. In modern day vernacular, we might say people “evolve” over time.

Tomorrow, and the evolution it brings, is why cancel culture exists. Cancel culture doesn’t care what side of history you were on in the past. It only cares about what side you are on today, which is why many past cultural champions find themselves forced to change or be cancelled.

The irony is that cancel culture requires truth and an overarching narrative to work. The very thing Post-modernism denies it uses. The truth claims made by those of cancel culture are seen as dominate and ones that should be embraced by all people. If one doesn’t embrace the current cultural meta-narrative truth claim, they are oppressed. In an attempt to create freedom from bondage, Post-modern thought has actually created bondage and oppression. There can be no dissenting voices only those who agree or cancel culture comes for you.

True Freedom Does Exist

There is no freedom in the elementary principles of the world. There is only slavery. You can, however, experience freedom in Christ. He has come to set you free.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1)

How can you experience freedom? Jesus has come, He has died, paying the penalty you deserve. He took your sentence of eternal death for you. He sat in the cell of hell, He experienced God’s wrath in your place. Jesus has done your time. You have been pardoned. He has also freed you from the need for self-salvation, releasing you from the bondage of performance culture.

The good news is that His provision is open to all who would humble themselves and submit to Him as Lord and Savior. If you want freedom, don’t turn to the elementary principles of the world. Instead, turn to Jesus! Allow Him to be your King, your Savior, your all in all. Allow Him to guide and direct your life.

Money Can’t Buy You Happiness

As a child, my friends and I would sit around in the park near my house discussing what we wanted to be when we grew up. The most common answers we all would give, besides a professional athlete, was a doctor or lawyer. You know why we gave those answers? It wasn’t because we cared about medicine or the law. Many of us didn’t even know what those jobs involved. Instead, we answered in those ways because we knew doctors and lawyers made a lot of money.

I lived in a lower middle class neighborhood as a child. We didn’t have all the luxuries many kids grow up with today. We always had clothing and food and a little bit more, but we didn’t have many of the luxuries of life. We saw a career as a doctor or lawyer as a way to get those luxuries. As a way to “make it” so to speak. I’m sure if you think back to your childhood, many of you probably had similar conversations.

Many of us are still chasing those luxuries. Many of us are still seeking to “make it”. We are working ourselves to the bone. Sacrificing every chance we get to make an extra dollar, to build another relationship, to connect with someone we think can help us get ahead. We miss time with our family, with our friends, with our church. We bend the rules at times, operating in the grey because it benefits us.

But here is the thing. Money can’t buy you happiness. It can’t buy you friends. It can’t buy you what you really need. It is temporary. When it is gone, the lifestyle you were striving to sustain, the possessions you were after, they are gone. Seeking to “make it” is one big lie and an even bigger let down.

When this young man ran out of money, his friends didn’t come to his aid. They were no where to be found. He had to hire himself out to feed pigs. A Jew feeding pigs. That is about as low as it gets. But here he is. At the bottom of the barrel, all because he thought money could buy him happiness.

Money can’t fill that whole in our heart. It didn’t for this young man. It won’t for you either. So don’t put your hope and trust in the wealth of the world. Instead, put your trust in the Lord. He is the only One who will ultimately satisfy.