How Many Rootless Trees in Our Orchard?- A Sermon on True Christianity from Matthew 13.3-23

November 3, 2008

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.’” -Matthew 13.3-9

60 million Americans claim to be evangelicals. 6 out of every 10 Americans say they have had a born-again experience with God. Do you believe that? Really, do you buy into those numbers? I don’t either. Yet, what can we do? Can we say these people aren’t saved? Can we say that what they think they experienced they didn’t? No, I wouldn’t encourage that. Then what?

Well, I think we must examine what the problem is. To me, and to many other American Christians, the problem is clear: to “be born-again” requires little more than an emotional response and an intellectual exercise in the vast majority of American churches. People pray a prayer, sign a card, walk an aisle, and splash around in a baptismal. But, at the end of the day, they still live however the hell they want to without the slightest change.

A few weeks ago JD Greear of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC preached a sermon on this covering the parable of the sower and the seeds. Here is a snippet of what he had to say:

See, here is what is troubling to me: our evangelical culture . . . really emphasizes a moment of conversion. . . . But did you notice, in this parable, these are all people who have made that initial response to Jesus? . . . Jesus’ warning is, these people though aren’t really followers of mine.

That’s right. Christ himself knew that there would be people who would show initial signs of conversion, a good start, and yet after a period of time (usually 8 weeks in the American church) they had fallen away. Now, this is not that they have been saved and then lost that salvation, but that they were never saved in the first place (Christ says that they “have no root” and “[prove] unfruitful“).

If this is the case, then why is it that we focus so much on simply getting an initial “conversion” and emphasizing our free grace theology? Well, the first reason, I think, is because it increases numbers a lot faster than the type of conversion and discipleship needed to grow solid followers of Christ, much in the same way that a healthy, fruitful tree requires more care than one that is withered and dead, with no root and fruitless. Second, it is much less confrontational. If all a person need do is sign a card and then that serves as their assurance for the rest of their life, that is certainly easier to promote than the radical repentance and accountability that true believers are called to. There are sure to be others, but I will stop and let you brainstorm the rest.

Also, while you ponder this issue, please take a listen to the sermon I noted above. JD Greear has a very easy to follow and yet profoundly deep style of teaching which I think really makes the prevalency and severity of this issue clear to see. Enjoy!

JD Greear- Why the Jesus Thing Never Takes with Some People; Matthew 13.3-23