A couple of weeks ago my son, Will, had a loose tooth right in front. It had become so very loose it was practically pointing outward. All he needed was black eyes and a banjo and he’d look like the kid from “Deliverance.” So one day, Carrie talked him into doing the “tie your tooth to a string that’s tied to the door” trick. It had worked before. So she had Will all rigged up, the door was open and ready to be slammed, and then he got cold feet. I can remember when I was losing my baby teeth, and it’s a scary thing. Your parents can tell you that it’s not going to hurt, but it’s not their tooth tied to a door, is it? So we’re both standing over Will, urging him to let Carrie shut the door, and he keeps saying, “Not yet.” Finally, he says, “Can we pray about this first?” As he says it, he jerks his head back…and out pops the tooth. Next time you see Will, ask him to show you his new grin.
In the Parable of the Sower (Matt 13:1-23), Jesus talked about people who, like Will, have a problem with commitment. They are represented by the thorny soil. The thorny soil represents people who have the best of intentions to follow Jesus, but they never fully commit. For instance, imagine a teenager who starts attending the youth group, perhaps because a friend invited him, or his parents brought him, or he thinks the girls are cute. He goes away to youth camp, hears a message from the speaker that really challenges him, and makes a decision for Christ. He comes home and gets baptized. But nothing really changes in his life. He comes to youth events and church services, and he truly believes everything his pastor and youth minister teach, but he’s still sleeping with his girlfriend, still giving his parents headaches, still feels worthless and empty inside. Or picture a woman who was raised in church, saved as a small child. She’s faithful in her church attendance, and her Christianity is her identity. It informs how she votes, who she associates with, how she believes on ethical and moral issues. She gives an offering and says her daily prayers. But she’s one of the most joyless, judgmental, downright unpleasant people you’ll ever meet. Then picture a man who was moderately religious as a child, but who married a very devout woman. Now he attends church each week, but mostly just to keep peace at home. He has all the right beliefs, and everyone who knows him would say he’s a heck of a guy, but he can barely make it through that one weekly church service without falling asleep. Spiritual issues just have no interest for him.The question most of us immediately jump to is, “Are these people really saved?” That’s not the issue in this parable. The issue is fruitfulness. People who profess faith in Jesus but don't fully commit themselves to Him never bear fruit. Why does this happen? What keeps many of us from falling short of full commitment? And what can we do when we find ourselves in this position? We'll talk about these things and more this Sunday.