It has been said that more have been killed by food than by poison. The second best can often be the worst enemy of the best.
That is what Jesus was talking about in the Parable of the Sower when He said, “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14 NKJV).
This is someone who appears to have made a decision for Christ and seems to be changing. But then slowly but surely, it becomes apparent that he or she doesn’t really want to follow Christ. Other things become more important, although they’re not necessarily bad things in and of themselves.
This isn’t someone who deliberately refuses to pray or read the Bible or go to church. In fact, this is a person who feels these are very good things. It is his or her intention to do these things eventually, when there is time in their busy schedule.
Other pursuits eventually crowd out the things of God, and gradually the physical becomes more important than the spiritual. TV becomes more important than the Bible, movies are more appealing than church, parties are more important than prayer, and things on earth are more important than treasures in heaven.
Is this happening to you? Do you find that the things of God just don’t have the appeal they once did? Now that you have been at this for a while, are you not as into it as you once were? This isn’t a good sign.
If you are not feeling well and go to see the doctor, one of the first things he or she will ask you is, “How is your appetite?” A hungry person is a healthy person. So if you don’t have a hunger for the Word of God and the things of God, this would indicate that you are not strong spiritually.
As you look at the early church, the church that turned their world upside down, the Bible says of them, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42 nkjv).
The Bible doesn’t say they just went to church, read the Bible, and prayed. It says they continued steadfastly.
What does that mean? It means they did so with passion, with dedication, and with commitment. And that is the way we need to come to the Word of God and to the things of God. It is attention with intention.
Harvest Christian Fellowship, the church where I pastor, is built on a decomposed granite pit. So quite literally, it is a church built on the rock. I remember how, when it was being constructed, explosives were used to clear an area so we could lay the foundation for the building. It took a lot of work to prepare the ground to erect that structure.
In the same way, God can sometimes come in with a weed whacker to clean up the soil of our lives, and it looks just fine. Other times, He needs to bring in dynamite and do some big-time work. It all depends on us.
Some of us need some major work to prepare our heart for the seed of the Word of God. It might be a boulder of sin. It might be a weed of rebellion. Or it might be a stump of disobedience.
God needs to remove that perpetual sin that has had a stranglehold on our lives for years so our hearts can be receptive soil for what He wants to do. That is what will determine whether our conversion is real. It is the test of time and the presence of spiritual fruit.
The real test of whether our commitment is genuine is not how large a Bible we carry. It is not how often we attend church. It is not how loudly we sing. It is not how much we give in the offering.
Though all of these things have their place, here is what it comes down to: if we are true believers, there will be fruit, or evidence, in our lives to show that.
Can others look at you and see the changes in your life? Can they see changes in your character, in your outlook, in your motivation, and in what drives you? That is how people will know.
God sees our heart, but people see our works.
The story of Johnny Cash’s life and spiritual struggles offers hope to anyone who has had trouble staying on the straight and narrow path—and reminds us that God redeems broken lives and makes them whole again. My new book, Johnny Cash: The Redemption of an American Icon is a fascinating look at a unique and talented musician and follower of Christ!