Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Darris McNeely] To live a transformed life, takes something that the Bible describes as a calling from God where God begins to work in our minds and in our lives and actually call us to something different. How about you? Has that happened to you?
Have you ever tried to change something about your life that you just didn’t like, you knew you needed to change your behavior? You know every year people make a lot of resolutions and they’re all well-meaning. I belong to a health club and every year you go in, in January and you see all kinds of new faces in the health club but you know what? By February it’s just back to the same old faces that we had in December. It happens that way every year. And change, the idea of changing a behavior, changing a habit. It happens. It can be done. Usually it happens you know whenever we are shaken by something in our life, some event happens, takes place and we realize I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to stop doing this.
My father was an example of this. My father woke up one day in his early 60s and he had a cough that wouldn’t go away. He had been a lifelong smoker. And that day he threw away his cigarettes and overnight quit a 50 plus year habit that he had had. It can be done. Over the years as I’ve counseled with people in the pastoral ministry I’ve learned that by watching people and in my own life as well and working with them that you can change a habit. You can make changes and create a new pattern in your life. It can be done. It’s not easy. You can quit smoking. You can quit abusive drinking, access to access. You can stop living a bad life, halt from a habit and turn around, those things happen. And all of these are very good changes that people make.
I’ve worked really hard over the years to help people make these changes. But what I’ve learned in my own life and in watching people and most importantly from what I’ve learned in the Word of God, is that there’s something more, there is something more. There’s a deeper level of change that we have to learn to get to. That change is what we call a transformation. There’s a difference. There is a need and there can be done what we call a transformed life, but it’s something that happens at a deeper level in the hands of God beyond the changes that we might make on our own. There’s infinitely more.
You see to live a transformed life takes something that the Bible describes as a calling from God, where God begins to work in our minds and in our lives and actually call us to something different. How about you? Has that happened to you? Has it happened to your life where you have had a calling, an invitation? That’s what I mean by this word calling. It’s really an invitation from God to follow Him in the way that Jesus called His disciples one by one as we read in the story of the gospels and He said, “Follow me, put down your nets, get up from that tax collecting table and follow me.” He called women, He called blue collar workers. All of these people that He called disciples in the early church, they had a calling. It was a total all in type of commitment.
And frankly it is more than the typical religious commitment that we hear about today. And we witnessed with people as sincere as people are in our life and in our world today. You know as we consider ourselves and here in our Beyond Today audience we, we call ourselves religious and we say that we are Christian. But what if something is missing? What if Christ might not know us? Might not know you? Might not know me? What if we really don’t know Christ? Even though we call ourselves religious and think that we are and sincerely believe that we are Christian, that we are following, we are believers. What if something’s missing? What would we, what would we do?
You know in the gospels Jesus Christ made a statement in what is called the Sermon on the Mount in a very basic teaching that He gave. In Matthew 7:21 He said, ”Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven,” which is another way of saying the Kingdom of God. But He says, ”He who does the will of my Father in heaven,” not everyone who says,” Lord, Lord.” In other words, who professes belief in God. That’s one of those bold statements of scripture. And when you look at that all of us have to examine ourselves against that, but it’s a bold statement that sometimes very honestly reflects the religious landscape of the United States of America, of Canada, Australia, and many other nations in our world today.
When we look at our culture, when we look at the world we live in, religious to one degree, we have to make a realistic appraisal that our cultures are designed to literally suck the spiritual marrow out of our lives the way they are designed, and we have to be continually on guard for that. I get a lot of surveys that come across my desk as people send me this or that. And as I keep up on certain events that are taking place in the field of religion, religious studies. And you know all of them have certain things in common. It seems that I read any more to add no matter what a group it is, it’s making the survey and reporting about religious life in these countries. It comes down to this; less people are attending church, usually. Fewer people that they survey are identifying with religion in any form. More people it seems tend to identify themselves as something called nones. All right? Now that’s not somebody that wears a particular religious garb and then a part of a religious order N-O-N-E-S is what we’re talking about. And a none is someone who has no church, no defined religious faith and that’s a category of people that they track in these studies these days.
Also these studies show that there are fewer people identifying as Christian. And that is a rapidly-growing group of people especially among young adults. And that’s particularly worrisome as we look at that. Yet more people say today as well that they are spiritual, that they have some type of belief in a God or a philosophy. They have some type of religious faith. That particular group of people who say that they are spiritual in the polls, those numbers are rising. So people consider themselves believers, we think and consider ourselves believers as well.
But every one of us should ask the question, “Do we know Christ and does He know us?” That’s what it comes down to. It comes down to this real truth that I’ve already begun to talk about this idea of a calling, whether we are truly called of God and have received a divine calling that literally begins to transform our life into a life of meaning and purpose. And when I say transform I’m not talking about some ecstatic type of spiritual experience in that sense, but a deep transformation that is lasting and real according to and measured by God’s meaning and purpose of life. It is a life that is put into the hands of the living God as an instrument in His hands, in this world from which we never turned back, from which we never change. It means becoming a true disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ and never turning back in our life.
That’s the type of transformation that we’re talking about. You know the Bible shows that there are many well-meaning people who will be told in a day of judgment by Christ, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” Many will say to Christ in that day, it follows on in the passage that I was just reading here that many will say on that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name?” In other words, have we built this, done that, saved this number, accomplish this all in your names? And Christ will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you. Depart from me those of you who practice lawlessness.” Pretty strong statements that all of us have to measure ourselves against. Can we be sure that it will not be said to us? That’s an important matter to ask ourselves. The answer is, “Yes, we can be sure we can know.”
We can know that our relationship with God is secure because the Word of God and the gospels show Christ teaching on this and that it is very sure. The gospels record Christ teaching about His church and when we understand that and what it means to be a part of the very church of God, then it begins to give us that assurance. And again it’s something that all of us have to kind of examine ourselves against to be sure that the church we are a part of that we believe in, that we support that we are a part of is the church that is described in Scripture.
In Matthew chapter 16:18 Jesus says, said in a statement, He said, ”I will build my church and the Gates of Hades,” which is another term for the grave or hell ”will not prevail against it.’ I will build my church.” Now the Greek word that is translated church in this verse is the word ekklesia. It’s a Greek word and it’s not very complicated. What it means is this. It means an assembly of people who are called out or a called out group of people. In the original Greek language and the meaning there as they used it the Greeks would use it to describe a group of citizens and their communities who would be called together at various times to handle certain events that pertain to the entire community. A group of citizens would gather together, they would discuss the affairs of their city and their community. As Christ uses that term to describe His church and the Bible, it describes His chosen instrument to do His work in the ages and in this time today. The church as Christ defines it does the work of the resurrected Christ on this earth.
It preaches the gospel to the nations. It makes disciples, it cares for disciples. Those who are called, that’s the group of people that we’re talking about. Disciples are those that are called, chosen and faithful members of the spiritual body of Christ. So when we look at that, we understand something about this calling from God, the decision that comes down to each of us is are we a part of that body that Christ is talking about, which is called in the Scriptures the church of God? And when we look at Christ teaching on that we can then know whether or not our faith, our belief, the belief of your church is aligned with this key truth of the Bible. This key understanding that one must be called and chosen that actually originated with Jesus Christ.
In Matthew chapter 22:14 Jesus makes a statement about this where He says that, ”Many are called, but few are chosen.” Many are called, but few are chosen. Think about that. God puts out a call. He puts out a notice. A few were chosen. God chooses a person to receive that calling to eternal life when a person begins to learn and accept the truth of the Word of God, repents in faith and is baptized. And that calling begins with a literal miracle by God where He reaches down and He begins to work with an individual in their life.
In John 6: 44 it makes a very basic statement, Jesus does, that “’None can come to me” He says, ”Unless the spirit of the Father draws him.” None can come to me unless the Father draws him. Later on, He makes another statement. He says that, ”No one can come to me unless it has been granted to him by my Father.” That’s a miracle. Miracles still do take place in our world today, in our secular advanced technical societies, miracles do happen and the miracle of a calling from God is very unique.
In spite of Satan’s influence in this world, in spite of our flawed human nature and the pools of this present evil world, God can reach into a life and turn it around, begin to transform it. He issues the invitation and He draws our hearts toward Him. He grants us the desire to learn His ways and to submit our wills to His and ultimately to Him.
Now we’re going to examine one of Christ’s clearest teachings on this subject, this calling of God, in a parable called the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. And this parable really begins to get down to what we’re talking about in terms of this matter of a transformed life. And all that I’m going to be able to talk to you about here in this program is just the beginning stages of it.
The booklet, the study guide that we presented and put together for this program today is called ”Transforming your Life: The Process of Conversion.” And chapter by chapter it steps you through a scriptural study about this entire topic of being called chosen and faithful in order to make the change of life to get to that deeper level of a transformed life that we’re talking about. We want you to have a copy of this. You can call the number that is on the screen or download a copy at beyondtoday.tv. It’s free and there is no cost to that.
So let’s get into this parable in Matthew chapter 13. Where do we fit within this? I’ve spoken on this parable many, many times through the years and taught it. It’s one of the longest, most involved and actually most basic, but it when you understand it, it really unlocks a key to a religious life today, the religious world and especially this matter of the calling of God. It’s a story about a person who goes out to sow the seeds of the gospel told in this way. Parable is a story that has a deeper spiritual lesson to it.
And let’s begin to read it. Let me go through it here quickly here in the first few verses of Matthew 13:3, Christ said, ”Behold, a sower went out to sow working in his field,” a farmer. ”And as he sowed the seed” of corn, wheat, rye, grain, whatever it might be, “some of that seed fell by the wayside and the birds came and devoured it very quickly. Some fell on stony places where they did not have much earth and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. And when the sun was up, they were scorched. And because they had no root, they withered away. And some of the seed fell upon thorns. And the thorns sprang up and choked them, but others, other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop. Some 100 fold, some 60 some 30 abundant amount of crop. He who has ears to hear” Christ said, ”Let him hear. ”
Now in this parable we hear a very important truth about the preaching of the Word of God, but as Christ goes on to explain to this to His disciples, He spoke and put things this way because it was not His intent that everyone would understand it. Only those who have a calling from God can grasp the truth and begin to understand it and people are going to respond differently to the message. He goes on in this parable then to explain exactly what He means and He goes back over the type of sowing that He just gave to explain the impact of the message of the truth, the very gospel of the kingdom of God upon the hearts and minds of His hearers.
What does it say? Well let’s go back and let’s begin to read this. Let’s notice beginning verse 18 where the answer is given. It says, ”When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.” The wicked one is Satan. He uses the distractions of this life and of this world to distract people from hearing the plain truth of scripture and of the gospel. Such people that are described in this category they never really comprehend the message and its significance goes right over their heads. Like happens for so many people today who do not understand religion.
Now the remainder of the parable begins to explain several different, actually three different responses of those who do understand, who do begin to grasp various things. God has begun to open their minds. They grasp the meaning. The first response that is given here is mentioned, “That he who received the seed on the stony places is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. Yet he has no roots in himself but endures only for a while and tribulation and persecution arises because of the Word immediately he stumbles.” This person’s first response is joyful acceptance, but he quickly retreats. Why is that? He backs off because of the pressure that comes from other people, family, friends, associates. He’s worried about what people will think more than what God thinks. He’s afraid to rock the comfortable boat of his life. Conforming to those around him is more important.
The trouble, the resistance or the persecution that he begins to experience by living God’s way of life makes him stumble. This category of person actually rejects the calling from God. So keep in mind, we’re talking about being called chosen and faithful. First type of person is one who responds to the calling of God. Let’s look at the second response here, “Now he who received seed, among the thorns is he who hears the Word and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word and he becomes unfruitful.” This person is not as concerned about the opinion of the people that he runs with, but he has another problem. It’s selfishness. Maintaining his status, where he’s arrived in his life and what he has, acquiring possessions, interests, time, energy, status. He really has no time for God. That person does. He’s too busy serving himself and material things are more important than spiritual matters and ultimately he too will turn from God and reject God’s calling.
Now that group represents a lot that are in our modern world who are caught up with distractions. Let’s look at this third group of people that are described in his parable. It says, ”He who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the Word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces some 100 fold, some 60 and some 30.” This person begins to change his life. He understands the Bible, the truths of God. This person begins to be transformed. He is called and chosen for salvation. He accepts it and he puts God first in his life. He’s all in.
You see this parable is talking and showing us that many are called by God’s good pleasure but only a few respond. That’s why we see a lot of the differences in the categories of people in all these religious surveys and we look at our landscape of people today and look and wonder all that we do. If you respond, if you truly repent and surrender their will to God and make a commitment to obey His commandments and His teachings, which takes us to that deeper level of a transformed life. Those who respond to God’s calling are chosen by God because they choose to serve and obey Him and they put Him first. God always offers us the freedom of choice even when He issues a calling to His kingdom.
You see the calling of God is about an eternal opportunity and it has eternal consequences. What does this mean? It means we have the choice of actually seeing our life transformed which again, as I showed you, we’re only touching the surface on this today, but this very special study guide, “Transforming your Life: The Process of Conversion” actually walks you through a very detailed process scripturally to come to that point of acting upon that choice.
We want all of you to have a free copy of that. You can call the number that is on the screen or download a copy at beyondtoday.tv. It’s free and there is no cost to that. It’ll begin to change your life.
So here’s the question for us to consider as we come down to this. Is God beginning to open your mind and change your life to understand eternal truths? You know what you hear on Beyond Today is truth. It’s Biblical truth. They are the words of life straight from the Bible. And if our message on Beyond Today actually challenges religious ideas that you hold, then you should ask yourself whether what you believe is from the Bible.
It may be that what you’re beginning to be challenged by, what you are resisting and chafing against is the very calling of God. It may be that it’s the seeds of the gospel that are being sown in your life that are beginning to make a change in your life. It happened in mine. It happened in countless thousands of other people that I’ve been acquainted with through the years, and it’s made all the difference because it transformed our life. When God calls us to salvation, it’s a great calling and opportunity and he will make sure that it works, that it sticks and that we have all the tools for success.
The question is, will you choose to respond to that calling? God is calling people today to His church, that called out group of people that we read about earlier. He is preparing a people for His kingdom. You know as you read the scriptures and just the few of these that are here, they are absolute sore truths of scripture of what God is doing. God has a church. It is a church based on truth, the truth of the gospel, the truth of the Bible and bears His name. And there are prophecies and there are scriptures that show that those who are a part of that church will at one point in the future be involved in a world-shaking event at the return of Jesus Christ when the nations gather to fight against him, they will be those who are called chosen and faithful. They were with Christ, not just called and chosen, but faithful as well.
Being called and chosen is the beginning of the story. Being faithful to the end is the rest of the story. And we must remain faithful to our calling to be saved, to have that salvation to enter into God’s kingdom. It’s something that the scriptures talk about chapter after chapter, book after book and is so amazing for us to begin to understand and to believe not by our wisdom and our abilities, but purely by the grace of God.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many different religious groups and why there’s so little truth at times in our world today and why the church of God is so little? Well it’s because Christ said that the church would be a little flock, but it would be God’s pleasure to give to that church His kingdom. Christ is building His kingdom. The book that we’re talking about today and offering free to all who can understand this is Transforming your Life: The Process of Conversion. You can get a copy by calling the number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.tv and ordering a free copy or even beginning to read it at that time.
And so the question will Christ know us? Will He say I never knew you? Well, that choice is ours. Will you accept the invitation to be among those who are called chosen and faithful?
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today’s program, “Transforming your Life: The Process of Conversion.” Conversion is a life-transforming process and it’s only possible through the direct powerful involvement of God. This free 60-page study aid makes plain the biblical process of conversion. It begins when God calls you and continues with the vital steps of repentance, baptism and receiving the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Order now call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. It’s time to call on the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit and grow to spiritual maturity.
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