We’ve all had friends who either never stepped over the line of faith to begin a relationship with Jesus or have started a relationship and then stepped back over that line and walked away from Jesus and the church.
We used to say they had backslidden, but there is a new term that folks use these days, and that is they have deconstructed their faith.
The term goes back to the 1960s and a French philosopher by the name of Jacques Derrida. Derrida used the term deconstruction as a way of criticizing not only both literary and philosophical texts but also political institutions.
Since Derrida introduced this philosophy, it has become a part of the common vernacular, and now it generally means “a critical dismantling of tradition and traditional modes of thought.”
And according to Pastor and Author Joe Terrell, “Depending on who’s using the word, faith deconstruction can be a complete demolition of Christian belief, a critical re-appraisal of one’s faith tradition, or an honest acknowledgment of doubt and questions.”
And while we often link deconstruction to deconversion, one is a process, and the other is a result. But it doesn’t have to happen that way. We can deconstruct some of our traditions and even some of the things we’ve been taught without losing our faith.
And sometimes, it’s valuable to take a critical look at what we believe and why we believe it. In her book, A Flexible Faith, Bonnie Kristian writes, “We can get so stuck in our own little pool that we never notice the stream of orthodoxy is wide and deep and beautiful. Without even realizing it, we can become convinced our own tradition of Christianity is the one Christian alternative to nonbelief.”
And Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski wrote, “First, if the new generations had not continually revolted against inherited tradition, we would still be living in caves; second, if revolt against inherited tradition should become universal, we would soon be back in caves.”
We shouldn’t be afraid of deconstruction; after all, there are no new questions and doubts about Christianity; most, if not all, of those questions, have been debated ad nauseam over the last 2000 years by people who are a whole lot smarter than me.
Over the next couple of months, the focus of our preaching team is reconstruction. We will be looking at some of the issues that are raised and, more importantly, how to reconstruct our faith.
Sometimes, we think of this as a modern phenomenon, but as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 1:9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.
Jesus told a parable about this very thing, and it was read for us earlier.
A parable is simply an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus started with the here and now and used that to explain how to get to the there and then. In this case, it was a man sowing seeds in a field.
if we listen to this parable, it appears that if the seed is the word of God and if the Sower is the servant of God, then his singular responsibility is to sow the seed.
We do need to note a couple of things here at the very beginning. The only responsibility that Jesus laid on the Sower was that he sowed the seed. The Sower received no credit for the seed that grew nor any condemnation for the seed that didn’t grow. All too often, we lay the responsibility for the fruitfulness of the seed at the feet of the Sower.
If a church doesn’t grow, it’s the preacher’s fault. If more people aren’t saved, it’s the preacher’s fault. If the church splits, it’s the preacher’s fault.
And in the case of the farmer, we know very little about how he went about his task. Traditionally, we are told that he would have worn a bag of some kind filled with seed and would have walked some type of pattern through his field, broadcasting the seed by hand.
Perhaps he did it in a very traditional method, up one row and down the other or perhaps he tried some new techniques and added a little variety to the pattern he walked or a little pizzazz to the way he threw the seed. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t know. Christ didn’t spend very much time on the Sower at all. He is dismissed in a sentence and a half, Mark 4:3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed.”
So, presumably, he did what he was supposed to do. If he had walked up and down the rows and not thrown any seed at all, I am sure that Jesus would have mentioned it. Had he sown something other than the seed that he was supposed to be sowing, that would have come up as well?
Just as the farmer discharged his obligation by simply sowing the seed, the preacher’s duty is to preach the word. Some do it using a very traditional method, and some add a little more pizzazz to the task, but the important thing is that they do it.
And the second thing Jesus did not blame for the lack of fruitfulness was the seed. It was the same seed that was sown on the hard ground, the thorny ground and the good ground. Just as the Sower’s responsibility was to be a Sower, the seed was responsible only for being the seed, nothing more and nothing less. The only difference between the four cases was the ground the seed fell on.
And so, Jesus told the crowd the parable of the Sower and the Seed, and then he changed the subject and went in a different direction. It was only later in the day, when it was just the master and his students, that he took the time to elaborate on this particular parable. That’s where we come in because the explanation is as valid today as it was two thousand years ago. And we each find ourselves somewhere in Jesus’ explanation.
If you were to investigate the different ways that people have responded to Jesus over the years, you would get as many answers as there are people. But if you took the time to examine those responses, you would find that you could narrow all of those responses down to the same four pictures that Jesus drew on that day for his followers.
I know that all generalities are wrong, but I suspect that everyone here falls into one of those categories as well. So, the question today isn’t “What is the response of others to Jesus?” instead, it has to be “What is my response to Jesus?” What has your reaction been to the claims of Christ in your life, if you have heard the word of God, then you have responded, one way or the other?
Mark 4:4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it.
Those Who Are Hard on the Outside In the Holy Land, during the time of Christ, the fields were long and narrow, and between each field was a right of way, a path that was used by farmers on both sides. And it was on this pathway that the first seed fell.
It is interesting to note that this was very same fertile ground that made up the field, it was not rocky or stony, but because of constant pressure of people walking over it day after day it had become packed down and rock hard, and as the Sower scattered his seed some of it was broadcast across these right-a-ways and just lay on top of the hard soil, providing a buffet of seeds for the birds.
And so Christ tells us in Mark 4:15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.
And so, the hard ground represents the man with a closed mind. Now let’s make one thing clear: we are all closed minds over some things. Now, personally, I like to think I’m only close-minded when I’m right, but that’s just me.
Billy Graham told the story about the young preacher who wanted to make an improvement in the sanctuary of the little church he was pastoring in, so he approached the board and suggested they buy a chandelier. Well, one old fellow stood up and said, “I’m agin it, and I’m agin it for three reasons. First, there ain’t anything in the bible about their chandeliers. Second, there ain’t nobody in the church who can play one, and third, what we really need is more light in the sanctuary.”
Well, about some things, it really doesn’t matter if you are close-minded, whether you drive a Ford or a Chev, whether you vote liberal or conservative, in a hundred years, it won’t make any difference. But being close-minded when it comes to spiritual things can have eternal consequences.
It happens at times that the path to the human mind has been trodden down as hard as the paths in those fields.
Alexander MacLaren was a Baptist preacher who lived a hundred and fifty years ago and he explains it this way, “They have been trodden by the heavy baggage wagons of commerce, the light cars of human pleasure, the merry dancers and sad funeral processions have all used that way and each footfall has beaten the once loose soil a little firmer.”
It is a fact of life that we are made insensitive to the Gospel by the effects of necessary and often innocent things. The urgent has robbed us of the eternal, and so we say, “I will get to it, in just a minute, tomorrow, next week.” And while we wait for the seeds of God’s word to lie exposed and vulnerable and listen to the warning of Jesus, Satan will come and take it away.
Jesus doesn’t mince words here; Satan is waiting to discourage people from accepting the grace of God and the salvation of Christ, and the most effective way is to steal the seed before it can penetrate the heart.
As you drove away from Cornerstone last Sunday morning, what did you take with you from the message? Can you remember the scripture I used, as well as the main points or a key thought? Or were they snatched away. You know how it happens. 1) An immediate argument in the car right after church about where to go for dinner. 2) Lots of activities, appointments and busyness on Sunday afternoon. 3) Preoccupation with a problem at work, school or home. 4) A personality conflict with another church member or one of the staff 5) Irritation because of how far you had to park from the front door or because we didn’t sing your favourite song, the music was too loud or too quiet and on and on ad nausem.
The story continues in Mark 4:5- 6 The other seed fell on shallow soil with an underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died.
Those Who Are Hard Inside This kind of makes me think the story was written about Halifax or at least Kingswood. The picture that Christ draws here is soil that looks and is fertile. There just isn’t that much of it.
When the seed falls in this soil, it quickly grows under what seems to be optimum conditions. It is almost forced to grow in soil that is warmed by the heat absorbed by the rock and the nutrients that have soaked into the shallow layer of topsoil. And yet, because the roots can’t penetrate any deeper than the rock, these plants that literally spring forth from the ground die in the heat of the sun.
Christ explains the application in Mark 4:16-17 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word.
These are the folks with whom the gospel only penetrates emotion deeply. Just as the seed finds a receptive home in the rock-warmed shallow soil, these people often seem very receptive to the gospel.
Perhaps they’ve been searching for truth, or maybe it is the result of some emotional upheaval in their lives. Maybe the high of a marriage or the birth of a child or maybe the low of a marriage suddenly ending or the death of a family member or friend. Whatever the cause, the emotions make the heart fertile ground for the gospel. But the rock that lies just beneath the surface is often the rock of an unrepentant heart.
And so, they quickly and gladly embrace the promise of heaven, prosperity, and abundance of life, but they never grasp the concept of “Take up your cross” or “Repent and turn to God.” They see Christ as a fire escape from hell but not as the Lord of their lives. Because the roots of the gospel message have been unable to entwine itself around their hearts, these folks are not able to stand in times of adversity.
How do you get the roots to take hold? By changing the composition of the rock beneath the surface. You can get to know your bible by reading it, attending services to hear it, and hanging out with other Christ followers.
Every once in a while, at the tail end of a hurricane, one of the big evergreens that we had on our property in Kingswood would blow over, and they’d pull the roots out of the ground. They were thirty feet tall, but their roots only appeared to be inches below the surface, and so when the wind blew strong enough from the right direction down, they came. And sometimes that happens with people; they have a surface faith, but it hasn’t really penetrated deeper than that.
Mark 4:7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain.
Those With Other Stuff This seed wasn’t sown on the hard soil of the path, or, for that matter, on shallow soil covering rock; instead, it landed in rich fertile soil, but in this rich soil lay the remnants of the thorns that had once grown there.
As the rain and sun caused the wheat to begin to grow, the thorns grew along with them, eventually depriving the good seeds of those things they needed to survive. If the thorns had been torn out of the ground and eradicated in the first place instead of simply being ploughed under, it wouldn’t have been an issue, but they weren’t
And so Jesus tells us in Mark 4:18-19 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.
Of all the analogies, this one scares me the most; not only does the seed germinate, but it grows and matures as well. The people who are represented in the first two groups would appear to have never truly embraced salvation and all that goes with it.
They are rootless, and they are fruitless. They never really take off; at the very most, they are a flash in the pan. And it’s fairly obvious that the last group, which we will talk about in a few minutes, is truly born again, submissive, active and productive, but frankly, this third group concerns me.
It would appear that these folks were truly touched by God. They grew and were right on the verge of producing fruit when, all of a sudden, their progress came to an end. Why? What happened?
Because as Jesus tells us, thorns grew up around them, thorns which suffocated the normal healthy growth of the plant.
And what do those thorns represent? Listen again to Christ, Mark 4:18-19 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.
Jesus doesn’t say that these things might cause problems or that they might hinder our progress as Christ’s followers. He tells us they will crowd out his word.
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
The worst part is that most of us never realize that we are being choked until we have been choked.
There are three things that Jesus warns us about, 1) The Worries of this Life We become so caught up in the everyday worries of this life that we have no room left in our lives for the things of God. Instead of trusting in him, we try to work out all of those details ourselves.
I used to think that the worries of this life were worrying about our finances. But I think today it is being worried about all the cultural changes that are happening, and we use the values of the world to critique the church and scripture.
And so, because we know and like people who live lifestyles that are in conflict with Christianity, we struggle. Bob’s gay and a really nice guy, so how can the church take a stand on homosexuality? Fred and Sue are living together and are really nice people, so how can the church take a stand on premarital sex? Or, I have friends who are Hindu or Muslim or Jewish or nothing; how can we believe the words of Jesus when he said, John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.
We are told that the church shouldn’t judge the world, but people seem to have no problem allowing the world to judge the church.
We get to the point that we are harassed by anxiety and harried by the every day and have no time for God.
The second thorn that Jesus talks about is 2) The Lure of Wealth I love the way the King James phrases it Mark 4:18-19 “Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. The lie is that if you are only rich enough and have enough stuff, then everything will be all right. The Bible never condemns being rich. But it does warn us that when either money or the desire for money takes first place in our lives away from Jesus, we are skating on thin ice.
This is why Paul warned Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:9-10 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
And sometimes we rationalize our quest for riches by saying that it really isn’t all that important to us like author Joe E. Lewis who said “I don’t like money actually, but it quiets the nerves.” Actually, it was also Lewis who said, “It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, as long as you’ve got money.”
And I know there are folks out there who try to justify the lure of wealth by saying that when they are finally where they need to be, they will be able to give to God’s work. I don’t believe it; if you aren’t doing it now with what you got, you won’t do it later when you’ve got more. If you can’t give 10% of a $100.00 it’s doubtful you will give 10% of a $1000.00
The third thing that Christ warns will choke our Christian experience is the Desire For Other Things, which I call the cult of the next best thing. Those that have motorcycles call it bigger bike disease, those with watercraft bigger boat disease, those with travel trailers well you get the picture. We want bigger homes, nicer cars, larger salaries more prestige. And there is nothing wrong with aspiring to better things in life, until it becomes an all-encompassing passion. And then it becomes a picture of discontentment. We are never happy with what we have and it becomes the plague of pursuit, always pushing, straining, stretching, relentlessly reaching while our minds become strangled by the lie, “Enough just isn’t enough.”
If those thorns are choking out your Christian life they need to be dug up and eradicated. It’s not enough to simply bury them. Kind of like the old guy who used to testify in church and say “I’ve gotten caught up in the web of sin again,” and finally, another old feller had had enough and he shouted, “Kill the spider!”
And then Jesus tells us the rest of the story, Mark 4:8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
Those Where it Stuck This is what we’ve been waiting for and what the farmer was expecting when he sowed the seeds. A crop. It’s not enough for one seed to produce one plant, and that would just be a waste. The fruit of the apple tree isn’t apples. It’s more apple trees.
And Jesus explains in Mark 4:20 that he’s not talking about wheat. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!
That, my friend, is you because in each one of us comes growth, maturation, and finally, reproduction.
When we talk about the purpose of our church, which is to help depopulate hell, what we are saying is that we are here to reproduce and to make more Christ Followers. So, where are you at? How’s your mud? As we stop and pause to remember, it is time to ask ourselves what the seed of God’s word has produced in our lives.
And if there are areas where we have doubts and questions, how can we reconstruct our faith?

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