Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Yesterday’s article asked the question, “What is wrong with the world?” It wouldn’t hurt us to ask today, “What is wrong with me?” The two parables of today’s article will help us think about moving our lives from “wrong” to “right.”
“Jesus put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
“He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened'” (Matthew 13.31-33).
How Character Is Developed
I don’t know about you, but my character could use improvement. I wish I did the right thing naturally, just as a part of my life.
I was listening to a YouTube video by N.T. Wright today and he told a story about a man who did things right. One day he was following a clergy person down the street in London. The man was dressed in the clothing of an Anglican minister and was obviously headed to a meeting. A couple of homeless men were sitting in the stoop of a store. Like it was the most normal thing in the world, the clergyman sat down beside them for a few minutes for a very normal chat. Then, he got up and headed off toward his meeting.
The clergyman was Rowan Williams, who was Archbishop of Canterbury, which is the highest ranking leader of the Anglican Church. How did he so naturally relate to the two men on the street? Jesus has an answer in the two parables we have just read.
The life of Jesus began in him, just as it does in all of us, with a small “mustard seed” beginning. Over time, the mustard seed experience with Jesus grew into full blown friendship that transformed his life.
How does the mustard seed experience grow and mature? My guess is that Rowan Williams has made 1,000 small decisions that made it natural for him to interrupt his walk to a meeting for a visit with two homeless men. It is the same for us. Small, Jesus-like decisions build up our character and give us a Jesus-quality-of-life.
The question today is, “What is wrong with me?” It may be that we are stuck in neutral and not growing as Jesus planned for us to grow.
Imagine that you have were given a beautiful new car. You are overjoyed to have a new car for the first time in your life. There is just one slight problem; it doesn’t go anywhere. You call a mechanic friend over to investigate what is wrong with your car. He takes your car out of neutral and puts the gear in drive. Instant success! Cars don’t go very far when resting in neutral.
The answer to the question, “What is wrong with me?” may be that you gladly received the mustard seed of new life from Jesus and then put your new life in neutral. You failed to cooperate with Jesus to make the 1,000 small steps of obedience.
The car illustration breaks down at one point. When we put a car in neutral, it doesn’t go anywhere. When we put our lives in neutral, we go backwards. The many people I’ve met who have said, “I tried Jesus and he didn’t work for me,” didn’t work with him either. They went backward and sometimes in a tragic way.
If these same people asked Jesus what small steps of obedience he wanted them to make, he would have worked with them and their lives would have grown magnificently. I am thankful for the many examples of this at Maywood Baptist Church.
How To Begin
How do we begin taking 1,000 small steps of obedience? Try starting with Paul’s words in Romans 12.2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
If our mind in in neutral, it will probably be taking 1,000 small steps toward being conformed to the world. Soak up lots of Internet activity, television viewing, and water cooler conversations and you will be on the road toward a wreck.
It is up to you to get your life out of neutral and to put it in “drive.” You are already taking one of those positive steps since you are reading this article.
Congratulations for participating in this journey of the life of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel. My hope and prayer is that we all are taking small steps in becoming more like Jesus through this process, as we read how he lived and taught.
As you join Jesus in the renewal of your mind, don’t take a neutral position toward the thoughts that “pop” into your mind. Some of them need to be challenged. Let me illustrate this with couple of embarrassing examples from my life.
I was at a backyard celebration to speak a blessing over a young couple. The crowd was waiting for more and more family members to arrive, while I impatiently stood around with nothing to do. Without getting into details, nearly every thought in my mind needed to be challenged.
Do you ever call yourself, “stupid,” “ignorant,” or “dumb?” I do this more often that I’d like to admit. What if we were to challenge these words and say, “I’m not stupid, ignorant or dumb. I am a child of God and he is at work in my life.”
If you look at a building, a lawnmower, or anything else for that matter, it was first conceived in some person’s mind. An architect or a manufacturer first has a mental image that ultimately becomes a physical reality.
The same is true of behavior. Our behavior first starts with a mental concept and then becomes an action. One way to begin the 1,000 small steps toward living a Jesus-kind-of-life is to stop wrong thoughts at their beginning and to encourage our thinking to be conformed to the nature and character of Jesus.
As you consider the parable of the mustard seed, keep on asking God to direct you to various ways that you can cooperate with him. Make sure that your life is not in neutral and see how he begins to make you into a person who reflects a great life with Jesus.
What About Family and Friends?
As we think about the parable of the leaven, please think about where you live, your workplace, or your friends. As the “mustard seed” life grows in you, you will influence the people. Your life will be like the leaven. It will get into the lives of the people around you and make them better.
We all can think of people who instantly brighten a room the minute they enter. We also can think of people who increase the tension and drama upon their arrival in a room. What is inside of them permeates the room for good or for ill.
As you take your life out of neutral or as you continue to take steps in the right direction with Jesus, you will grow into the person Jesus has designed you to be. You also will influence the people around you with the light and life of our Savior.
Thank you Jesus, for the encouragement of the parables we have read today. Please help us all to cooperate with you by taking many small steps of obedience. We know you have made us to have a character like yours. Please help us to make good progress.