Posted in Christian Faith

We are to sow seeds but the harvest is up to the master gardener

Introduction

            According to Hans F. Bayer “Although the author is anonymous, The Gospel of Mark is widely believed to be written by John Mark, described by the early church fathers Papias and Eusebius as a companion and scribe for the Apostle Peter.” [1] In verses 24-26 of the Gospel, the author quotes a parable Jesus used to teach about the kingdom of God using seeds.  In the parable to the Parable of the Sower that appears earlier in the Gospel, Jesus elaborates on his teaching of how a receptive heart,  which is described in the text as “good soil” receives the Word of God, which is descried as a “seed.” 

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” 

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything (Mark 26-34). [2]

When Jesus describes a man scattering seed onto the ground, sleeping, then rising while the seed sprouts, grows, and matures until it is ready for the harvest, he is explaining that the process is fully in the hands of God the gardener and not the man who we are to see as an evangelist. While who is ultimately in control is made clear, readers are offered no explanation of the mystery of the life giving or sustaining mechanisms involved. Just as humans cannot force nature’s hand, we also cannot change hearts or force spiritual growth on our fellow man as this work belongs to God alone.

Historical and Literary Context

In A Theology of Mark’s Gospel, David E. Garland explains that, The gospel was not intended by its author to be a vessel of theological truths waiting to be quarried but a story in which Jesus is the central figure. Mark’s theology is unfurled through narrative development.” [3] In that sense, Jesus taught using parables rather than plain explanatory language that could be easily understood by everyone who heard it. Jesus understood that the audience at the time was heavily dependent on agriculture so using a seed as a simile for God’s kingdom resonated with audiences. That being understood, Jesus also taught in parables because true knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven were not meant for all to fully understand (Matthew 13:11). In other words, the parables were understood generally to all but, to those who were meant to understand them, they held deep theological truths.

            As explained above, the Gospel of Mark is widely believed to have been written by John Mark who was an apprentice and scribe for the Apostle Peter.   

“The Gospel of Mark is placed in the canon of Scripture following the Gospel of Matthew as the second book of the New Testament. Mark provides us with the first written account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and it is believed to be a source, or at least a comparison text, for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to some degree.”[4]  

            The style of the selected verses is a parable in which Jesus uses a simile that compares two generally unlike things to each other to teach a lesson. This passage of Mark’s Gospel corresponds to the latter half of Jesus’ Galilean ministry is believed to have taken place around AD 28-30. [5] The parable in Mark 4:26-29 only appears in the Gospel of Mark, while the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-34) appears in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.  When examining the Seed Parable in Mark 4:26-29, it is important to note the similarities between it and the Parable of the Mustard seed where Jesus explains that seed can only grow if it happens to land on the right type of soil. The evangelistic efforts of believers are to be for His kingdom which means we are to sow the Word while the growth is fully dependent on the unseen and not fully understood work that God does in the soil or heart where it sown. Readers can also understand from the parable that the work God does in the hearts of men may not look like they imagine it should and may not happen in what they feel is due time, they can be sure that the work will be done and a harvest will be produced.  Further, readers can be assured from Scripture that God’s will is always accomplished but, as parable of the “seed growing secretly” [6] explains, the process is not always meant to be fully understood. 

Theological Meaning 

            The ultimate meaning of the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly is, somewhat ironically one might argue, that no farmer, no scientist, and no theologian has the capacity to explain how a dry and lifeless seed can produce life when it is sowed into soil. Yet, within a short time, the outer husk begins to draw in moisture and swell. A short time later, the chemical makeup of the seed begins to change. And a short time after that the seed sends a tiny root downward while what will eventually mature to a stalk that bears fruit shoots upward.  It is a scientific fact yet a perplexing mystery at the same time.  

                The result and the process are just as assured and mysterious when evangelists sow the Gospel. When it is sown into a heart that has been prepared by God, the seed begins to germinate without our complete understanding. Sometimes, as when Peter preached at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41), the germination can begin right away while other times it takes months or years.  Without question, though, there is life within the seeds that will spring forth within dying hearts in God’s time. It is an intriguing mystery as to how words that cut into a human heart can bring about so profound a change yet all who have firsthand knowledge of the mystery understand the profound power of the Gospel when it falls to rest in the good soil of the heart.  

                Christians may be dismayed when they repeatedly cast seeds into the hearts of those around them yet see no signs of an eventual harvest. But when the seed falls into the soil of a heart that has been prepared by God His miraculous work begins to take place. This conviction in the heart of the hearer is described multiple times in Scripture.  When Jesus talked to the woman of Samaria, she became convicted of her sins (John 4:7-26) and was saved. When Saul heard Stephen preach the Word of God and later watched him die a martyr’s death he was convicted (Acts 7:54-60; 9:1-6) and sought redemption. And when Jesus had a conversation with a rich young man about the condition of his soul the man was convicted but remained dead in sin (Matt. 19:16-22).  This is a secret process (John 3:8) that we are not equipped to understand.   

The Secret Process in my Life 

            As a minister and evangelist, I am often asked if I ever get discouraged when I do not see immediate results from my evangelistic effort.  Truth is, and even though I understand the promise given to those who faithfully sow the Gospel seed (Gal. 6:9-10; Psa. 126:5-6), I admit that I do but only when I lose track of the idea that there is power in the seed that we were never meant to understand. 

“Some time ago, archeologists dug into a pyramid tomb in Egypt. In that tomb they found several jars of seeds. These seeds had been buried with the deceased person 3,000 years earlier. Those scientists took the seeds they found and planted them in good soil. They watered the soil and waited patiently. After a time, those ancient seeds germinated, and tiny plants pushed their way through the surface of the soil. Those tender plants matured and produced fruit.” [7] 

To reinforce the known scientific mystery of seeds as well as what Scripture says, I have to look no further than how the seed grew, matured, and brought forth fruit in my own life. I did not grow up in a Christian home and cannot, at any point in my life until the age of 30, remember ever having the Gospel presented to me. My family and I were believers in a God of sorts, but he was more an unknowable force than anything else. The creator most probably, I thought, but certainly not savior because I didn’t even understand that concept. In fact, someone in my office years ago said I should have gone to her church the previous night because someone we both new got saved. And, at 30 years old, I wasn’t sure what that meant. Yet, a seed was planted that day by a faithful savant, acting as God ordained[8], where it sat dormant for nearly a year, watered by others daily, until the mysterious work of the Lord began in me. As it is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:6, it was the glory of Jesus’ work in me using something as seemingly inconsequential as a statement from a Christian coworker, burying it in the soil of my heart, and growing it up to something glorious at the appointed time.

What Only God Can Accomplish 

            “When the farmer should scatter seed on the ground, and it grows by night, and he sees the seed sprouted in the morning, he has just worked as a partner with God. Man has done what he could do – plant the seed; and God has done what only He can do: grow the seed.” [9]  Many have spent significant amounts of their evangelistic careers mistakenly believing that they have a larger stake in the Kingdom growing process than Scripture teaches.  From the time God scooped up a handful of dirt, breathed life into it, and created man, it has been made clear in his Word that it is he, not man, who is the mysterious agent of growth and the only creator of life. Although Christians are unable to see the growth as it happens or fully understand its miraculous beginning, they can see the plants as they become ready for his harvest.  Even though the work may get discouraging at times, Christians have an obligation to sow seeds and trust that our faithful Gog will do his part. 

Application 

Even if they are exceptionally good at talking to others about saving faith in Christ and sharing the hope that they have (1 Peter 3:15) evangelists can get discouraged when they never, or not as often as they had hoped, see a harvest. To alleviate this frustration, Christians should look no further than Mark: 4:26-29 and the mystery it describes. I remember hearing of a pastor and his wife who sowed seeds into the heart of her father for 30 years before they even saw a tiny shoot sprouting from the soil. With the understanding of the sovereignty of God in the process of salvation Jesus spoke of in this parable, all can find encouragement and anchor their hope in the promise that the harvest will indeed come, in God’s due time. Christians are merely sowers while a God that the human mind cannot even fully comprehend is the gardener. It is not the sower who tills the ground and prepares the soil but the gardener. It is not the sower who feeds, waters, and cares for the plant until it reaches maturity but the gardener. Evangelists are not called to prepare hearts and ready them for the seed of God’s Word. Evangelicals are not called to ensure seeds sprout and plants grow and eventually bear fruit because that is the work of the gardener. All believers are called to do is obediently sow seeds and patiently and prayerfully wait for growth to happen by and through the power of the great gardener.

            This understanding should provide believers with hope.  All our friends, family members, coworker, and neighbors who are not ready for harvest and do not have hearts of prepared soil will eventually be taken care of by the one who guides mysterious process and holds all things together.   Once an individual comes to faith, God is faithful, and his work will be done in them until it is complete. Although humans cannot see growth every day, they can, as Jesus taught, sleep, rise, and see that the great gardener is faithfully bringing forth a harvest.  While the workers do not always see what the Father is doing, they will always be able to see the bountiful harvest.  So let us sow seed faithfully and trust that God is faithful, and the harvest will come. 

Conclusion

            What is revealed in the parable is that there is much we cannot know about how God works in the soil of the hearts of men to bring them to salvation.   We can be sure, though, that “It sets before us the history of the work of grace in an individual soul.”[10]In the end of verse 27, Jesus says, “he knows not how” the seed “sprouts and grows” making the point that people were only meant to have limited knowledge about how the Kingdom of God grows. More specifically, the Kingdom of God grows even though no one knows exactly how. This truth should be encouraging to those of us who have been tasked to sow seeds because it means that nothing can ever prevent the Kingdom of God from growing. The limited knowledge of mankind makes us not only unable to understand the process but also incapable of doing anything that could possibly be a real threat against it. 

Bibliography 

 

John Barton, and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007). 

Hans F. Bayer. “Introduction to The Gospel According to Mark.” In ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 1891. 

Brown, Tommy Alan II, “Seeds of the Kingdom: A Study on Mark 4:26-34.” apologeticsandappendectomies.com/home/seeds-of-the-kingdom-a-study-on-mark-4-26-34. Retrieved June 9, 2019 

Car, Alan, The Parable of the Growing Seed, Sermon Notebook,https://www.sermonnotebook.org/mark/Mark%2020%20-%20Mark%204_26-29.htm. Retrieved June 12, 2-19 

Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark. The Pillar New Testament Commentary,  

2002. 

Garland, David E. A Theology of Mark’s Gospel. Zondervan, 2015. 

Guzic, David, Study Guide for Mark 4, Kingdom Parables and Kingdom Power: The parable of the soils and the purpose of parables. https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/StudyGuide_Mar/Mar_4.cfm. Retrieved June 10, 2-19 

Henry, Matthew. Matthew to John, vol. 5 in A Commentary of the Whole Bible. Old Tappan, NJ: 

Pettit, Paul. Foundations of Spiritual Formation: A Community Approach to Becoming Like 

Christ. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008. 

Ryle, J.C.  The Gospel of Mark. Editora Oxigenio, 2015. 

Sproul, R.C.  “The Mustard Seed,” Table Talk, no. 57 (2013): 5, accessed June 11, 2019, https://ligioneir.org/learn/devotionals/parable-mustard-seed/ 

Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New Living Translation (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers 2004). 


[1]Hans F. Bayer, “Study notes on Mark.” In ESV Study Bible, 1900–1901. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 1889. 

[2]Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New Living Translation (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers 2004). 

[3]David E. Garland, A Theology of Mark’s Gospel (Zondervan, 2015), 42. 

[4] Brown, Tommy Alan II, “Seeds of the Kingdom: A Study on Mark 4:26-34.” apologeticsandappendectomies.com/home/seeds-of-the-kingdom-a-study-on-mark-4-26-34. Retrieved June 9, 2019 

[5]Hans F. Bayer. “Introduction to the Gospel According to Mark.” In ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 1891. 

[6] John Barton, and John Muddiman. The Oxford Bible Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 896. 

[7] Car, Alan, The Parable of the Growing Seed, Sermon Notebook 

[8]Sproul, R.C., “The Mustard Seed,” Table Talk, no. 57 (2013): 5, accessed June 11, 2019, https://ligioneir.org/learn/devotionals/parable-mustard-seed/ 

[9] Guzic, David, Study Guide for Mark 4, Kingdom Parables and Kingdom Power: The parable of the soils and the purpose of parables. 

[10] J.C. Ryle, The Gospel of Mark (Editora Oxigenio, 2015), 85.

Posted in Christian Faith, God

Jesus, a gun, and anti-intellectualism

Earlier this morning I read an Article by Russell Moore over at Church Leaders about a silly bumper sticker that uses Jesus to make a political point about guns. The article was great throughout but what really stuck out to me was this. “American evangelicalism is old and sick and weak, and doesn’t even know it.” Even though I am a proud American Evangelical, I could not agree with that point more and it’s something the Church needs to talk about and not just mention every now and then and promptly forget.

Charles Malik was a Lebanese diplomat and Eastern Orthodox Christian who, among other accomplishments, was instrumental in shaping the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1980, Malik was invited to speak at the opening of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. His address was called “The Two Tasks,” with the two tasks being to save the soul and to save the mind. His words are as incisive for us today as they were more than three decades ago:

“The greatest danger besetting American Evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind as to its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough. This cannot take place apart from profound immersion for a period of years in the history of thought and the spirit. People are in a hurry to get out of the university and start earning money or serving the church or preaching the Gospel. They have no idea of the infinite value of spending years of leisure in conversing with the greatest minds and souls of the past, and thereby ripening and sharpening and enlarging their powers of thinking. The result is that the arena of creative thinking is abdicated and vacated to the enemy. Who among the evangelicals can stand up to the great secular or naturalistic or atheistic scholars on their own terms of scholarship and research? Who among the evangelical scholars is quoted as a normative source by the greatest secular authorities on history or philosophy or psychology or sociology or politics? Does your mode of thinking have the slightest chance of becoming the dominant mode of thinking in the great universities of Europe and America which stamp your entire civilization with their own spirit and ideas?

It will take a different spirit altogether to overcome this great danger of anti-intellectualism. . . . Even if you start now on a crash program in this and other domains, it will be a century at least before you catch up with the Harvards and Tuebingens and the Sorbonnes, and think of where these universities will be then! For the sake of greater effectiveness in witnessing to Jesus Christ Himself, as well as for their own sakes, the Evangelicals cannot afford to keep on living on the periphery of responsible intellectual existence.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that secularists have the market on responsible intellectualism cornered, when they most certainly do not. But, far too often I’m afraid, Christians aren’t doing much to win minds.

In 1 Corinthians 14:20, Paul implored us not to be children in our thinking but, instead, to be mature in our thinking.  And, regrettably, we are failing on that front.

If we don’t want Christianity to lose any more ground to secularism, we need to up our intellectual game so we will be seen as reasonable and thoughtful people who deserve to be taken seriously instead of hyper-emotional fanatics who checked our brains at the church door and left them there.

Posted in Christian Faith

Why isn’t hate too big a burden?

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Martin Luther King, Jr

Great words we should all live by from Dr, King. And yet…

Even if you’re only halfway paying attention, it’s impossible not to notice that all we seem to do as a society these days is hate. Why? What’s the appeal of willfully burdening ourselves with something so awful? Have we lost our way? Do none of us understand that hating someone is like drinking poison and waiting for another person to die?

I know that God is dead according to popular culture but even godlessness and not being bound to the biblical command to love our enemies doesn’t seem like a valid excuse to have hatred in our hearts.

So, for a time anyway, even if it’s only for a day, I think we would all do well to, whether you want to call it prayer, positive thinking, meditation, or something else entirely – focus on positive things about those we spend so much time and energy hating.

Life is hard, we live in trying and difficult times, the world can be an awful place…

Why then, should we wilfully add hatred to our burdens?

Posted in Christian Faith

Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!

The great atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked what he would say if he found himself standing before God on the judgement day and God asked him, “Why didn’t you believe in Me?” Russell replied, “I would say, ‘Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!'”

What this assumes is that if enough unambiguous and irrefutable evidence were presented it could, potentially, lead to belief.

I suppose that’s possible. But what people who clamor for more evidence seem never to consider is that they may be spiritually blind.

Spiritual blindness is a condition that an individual has when they are unable to see God, or understand His message. Although God is working all around us, pursuing us and showing us His glory, some people cannot perceive His divine workings (Acts 28:26–27). 

To be spiritually blind can also be translated as being spiritually undiscerning, as explained in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” This means that to a spiritually blind individual, spiritual things are meaningless.

This may be a bitter pill for some to swallow, especially since most of us think we are rational and reasonable, but there are people who, despite the evidence for the faith, are simply unable to believe.

Posted in Christian Faith

Internet Echo Chambers

From my time on an old school chat forum called Bible Babble where I discussed religion with non-believers to various blogs to Facebook I have spent a significant amount of time talking to people about a variety of topics over the last 20 or so years. In all that time the thing I’ve heard from people who disagree with me most is that my beliefs would be different if I’d only step out of my echo chamber and expose myself to points of view that challenge my own.

Setting aside the fact that my detractors often lack the self-awareness necessary to realize that they live in echo chambers of their own I think their logic has some merit or it at least sounds intuitive.

If a person were to grow up in a fundamentalist Christian church, for example, and never read the writings of atheists or never heard ideas that challenge church doctrine, the Bible, the existence of God, etc. how could they possibly believe anything other than what they are taught by their parents, pastors, and Sunday school teachers?

I won’t argue against the claim that people who grew up in church leave and never return when they go off to college, it happens. More often than not, though, I think it happens more like an account I read recently about a young lady who went off to school, started partying, hanging out with friends, and having a good time. She had no plans to leave the church and there was no atheist professor wooing her away with never before heard “truths” she had been sheltered from by her youth minister parents. She just had a fun and full social life and church just ended up on the back burner for a season. But by the beginning of her sophomore year she began to feel like something was missing from her life so she went back to regular church attendance. In other words, life outside her echo chamber had no impact on her core beliefs whatsoever.

People don’t really grow up in church echo chambers anyway but you should get the point.

In any case, venturing out of the protective bubbles of our echo chambers is not the threat to our beliefs or the cure all for close-mindedness that many people think it is. In fact, quite the opposite might be true.

As I alluded to above, the prevailing wisdom seems to be that some people interact with other people and get their information in social media echo chambers which, over time, causes them to be more entrenched in their beliefs, less open minded, and more fundamental or extreme. Although this seems to make sense the book, Breaking the Social Media Prism, by Chris Bail turns what we think we know about echo chambers on its head.

The author, a computational analyst and professor of sociology at Duke University ran a series of experiments where people spent a month following a bot on Twitter who would retweet tweets from pundits, politicians, and thought leaders from the opposite political party of the participants. At the end of the month every participant in the study became more polarized, not less. Exposure to the opposite view point on social media led to people feeling more embattled and attacked, and so they doubled down even more on their views.

A few times over the last couple of years I have gone through the list of people I follow on Facebook, muted a bunch of them, and unfollowed even more based solely on what and how much they post and comment on politics. To be fair to the other side, people I agree with at least at a fundamental level were not exempt from being removed from my feed. So what I ended up with was, for all practical purposes, a sanitized echo chamber with no competing viewpoints to be seen. And I liked it that way because it was comfortable and stress free.

To be honest, though, I struggled with this a bit because it somehow seemed wrong. But then I began to realize that I was not insulating myself from thoughtful and substantive arguments that support the other side but, instead, from extraordinarily rude and aggressive zealots whose boorish and obnoxious behavior did nothing but force me deeper in to my beliefs and like people with differing beliefs even less.

Not that I dislike people I disagree with, generally. But when I step out of my echo chamber, I am often not exposed to smart, thoughtful, and congenial people who have something useful to add to a conversation but, instead, to perpetually grumpy and ill-informed extremists who, regrettably, have the loudest online voices.

Posted in Christian Faith

Book Review: The Life You’ve Always Wanted

Summary

In the book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, John Ortberg explains to readers how they can become like Crist but not without discipline and effort. Rather than just accepting that salvation is the “minimal entrance requirement for getting into heaven” [1] Ortberg contends that salvation is about living a glorious human life now, on Earth. He describes the process of becoming a person who lives victoriously and Christ-like as morphing, and describes the pre-morphed life as one of disappointment and guilt. Ortberg confesses that he has goals that are familiar to many of us such as. Trying to be a better person, better spouse, and better Christian. But, rather than trying to simply act like better people or striving to do the right things, he suggest that once we are transformed into the image of Christ, we will want to be better people and do the right things.

On the current state of the church, Ortberg quotes William Iverson who wrote: “A pound of meat would surely be affected by a quarter pound of salt.”[2] With that statement, he validates an assumption I have had for quite some time and that is that Christians are not bringing about the changes in the world that Jesus spoke about and that it is because very few people actually have actually morphed into the Christlike beings we are instructed to become. In Ortberg’s opinion, Christians are not worth their salt because they spend too much of their time trying and not enough time training. As a solution to what is ailing the world, Ortberg suggests that Christians train themselves as athletes would in spiritual disciplines that will help us grow toward the life God graciously offers us. [3]

Concrete Response 

Reading that Christians are not bringing about the changes in the world that Jesus spoke of because very few of us are actually becoming more Christlike resonated with me personally. I think he is on to something when he said that the reason for this is because Christians have been trying, not training to be more like Christ. When I think about all the troubles people have in the world today and what Christians are doing to solve any of them, I have been more or less stuck on why we are not, essentially, making a difference. The book makes it clear that the Church is not making a difference because most of its members have not been transformed. Most of us want to be more like Christ, Ortberg notes, but it isn’t happening. Citing a Gallup Poll that concluded that a third of Americans have made a commitment to Christ but the salty impact they are making is not recognizable. [4] To illustrate his point, Ortberg uses an example of a creeping caterpillar that is transformed into a soaring moth (Ortberg, 2002, p. 21). This simple illustration leaves readers wondering, if we are to be transformed into durable images of Christ, why is the metamorphosis of so many Christians barely recognizable?

Reflection 

What has been troubling me the most about this book is how convicting it is. Are the troubles of the world due to the fact, in part anyway, that I too have not morphed into who God designed me to be? I have spent quite a bit of time over the last several months trying to figure out how Christians might have a bigger impact in the world and I think it as simple as this from The Baptist Faith and Message, “Christians are under obligation to seek to make the will of Christ supreme in our own lives and in human society. Means and methods used for the improvement of society and the establishment of righteousness among men can be truly and permanently helpful only when they are rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ.”

Especially in light of what has been going on the last few years, I am in favor of having difficult conversations about race relations in America, about reforming a justice system that is broken in many places, and doing what I can to ensure that swift and certain justice is delivered to anyone who chooses to abuse their power or authority on those they have sworn to protect and serve. But, ultimately, no solution anyone comes up with will work unless, as stated above, it is rooted in the regeneration of the individual by the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi is credited as saying, “Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.” And, really, the solution is no more complicated than that. And, as Ortberg suggests, anything short of that amounts to Christians simply trying harder to be better and that has not been working.

Application

What I have gained from reading this book is a deeper understanding of transformation, what it means to be transformed, and that transformation is not simply an act of God but also something that requires discipline and purposeful, intentional training. Simply trying hard will not help us “do the right thing at the right time in the right way with the right spirit.” [5] In addition to training as an athlete would at spiritual discipline, we are also told that we need to wait, even trying to deliberately place ourselves in situations where we have to wait (Ortberg, 2002, p. 83). For me, I don’t need to find reasons to wait because, as it turns out, God has given me one and I need to find a way to be comfortable in it, which has not been easy. My wife and I sold our house last summer because both of us thought God had called us to ministry in another state but, one year later, we are now beginning to question whether we were called or whether the move was something we wanted for ourselves. After questioning our calling for several months, we are beginning to realize that God wants us to grow more where we are because the time is not right for us right now. This book made me realize that, perhaps we need more training before we are sent because God doesn’t think we are ready yet.


[1] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 2002, p. 29 

[2] Ibid. 33 

[3] Ibid. 46 

[4] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 2002, p. 33 

[5] John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted, 2002, p. 43