Sunday, December 4, 2011

Our Primary Purpose

"The sower sows the word. “
Mark 4:14 NKJV

A question was put to me this week that really made me stop and think for a while about the subject I want to talk about today. I was part of a discussion that concerned the state of the body of Christ at this particular point in time, and if it was indeed fulfilling it's purpose as Jesus intended. As I thought about that, I began to remember many times in my life when the question of efficiency was raised while I was being instructed on how to do something.

One of my first jobs as a youth was working in the construction industry in southern California during the housing boom of the seventies. It was here that I first heard the phrase “time is money”. It was, of course, being told to me by a journeyman carpenter who was not at all impressed with the results I was producing. As I continued to work under him he began to show me how easily the results of my labor could be affected by distractions and a tendency to get caught up doing something I thought was important but in the end actually took away from the main job I was given.

During the discussion I had this week about the purpose of the body of Christ, I couldn't help but be reminded of this situation in my past because questions about the “efficiency” of the church were some of the first to be raised. You see, many believers who heed the call to watch as Jesus instructed have noticed a tendency of some to get sidetracked by their “watching” and the result of that appears to be neglect of the main purpose of the church which is sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world. The conclusion arrived at by the end of the discussion this week was that these believers are so busy focusing on certain dates for the rapture, arguing in support of doctrinal positions on the tribulation and other questions regarding eschatology that they completely forget what Jesus said we are here to do.

That in turn prompted me to think about our purpose here, and the first thing that came to mind was the first parable that Jesus shared with His followers, and the importance He placed on it. Not only was the parable of the sower the first to be shared, Jesus also makes it clear that it is the key to all that follows. It's also reasonable to conclude that Jesus begins by telling us what our primary purpose here on earth is, and just exactly how to go about it.

Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. "And it happened, as he sowed, [that] some [seed] fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. "Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. "Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. "But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. "And some [seed] fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. "But other [seed] fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred." And He said to them, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear!"
Mark 4:3-9 NKJV

Just so there is no misunderstanding about what believers are supposed to do and what exactly we are to sow, Jesus makes it as clear as He can.

And He said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? "The sower sows the word.
Mark 4:13-14 NKJV

The purpose of the church, and all who choose to believe, is to sow the word of God. Do we all have different gifts? Certainly, but we should never get so caught up in exercising our individual gifts, or following what we might believe is our special “calling” that we forget our primary purpose is to share the gospel with an unbelieving world.

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
"For [the kingdom of heaven is] like a man traveling to a far country, [who] called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. "And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. "Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. "And likewise he who [had received] two gained two more also. "But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. "After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. "So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, 'Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.' "His lord said to him, 'Well [done], good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' "He also who had received two talents came and said, 'Lord, you delivered to me two talents; look, I have gained two more talents besides them.' "His lord said to him, 'Well [done], good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 'And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, [there] you have [what is] yours.' "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. 'So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.
Matthew 25:13-27 NKJV

A few years back I attended a class where believers were discussing this parable and the question was raised about working while watching. An elderly man began to smile as he shared a story with the class that illustrated this question to perfection. The county fair was in full swing and he and his brothers and sisters were anxious and impatient to attend. Finally the day came and their parents promised them that they would all go just as soon as they (the parents) returned from a trip to the feed store which was a few hours away.

The kids were so excited to see their parents drive up the driveway that they ran out to meet them dressed and ready to go. Imagine their disappointment when they were told no one was going anywhere just yet. You see, they had been so excited and filled with anticipation while watching for their parents to return that they had neglected to do their chores. They had to go back in the house, change their clothes, go out and do all that was expected of them before they could go to the fair.

In this passage Jesus makes it clear that even though we are commanded to watch for His return, we are expected to “do our chores” so to speak. As believers we have already been told what is expected of us, and that is to sow the word of God. If our watching is causing us to be distracted from spreading the gospel, I suggest it's time to realign our priorities. We can watch as we work, so may we never forget to work at sharing the message of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to ask Jesus to come into your life and accept the gift of salvation He has offered you I urge you to do it right now. Simply pray to Him and confess that you are a sinner in need of salvation, and then ask Him to forgive you of your sins. Tell Him you believe that He died on the cross to take your place and because of that you want to turn your life over to Him. If you do that you have His promise that you are saved.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
John 1:12 NKJV

Keep watching. (and sowing)