What are the things that usually keep people from a “real” repentance and subsequently turning of their lives over to Jesus?
The answer to your question can be stated simply as “sin,” but sin has many aspects. If we read Jesus’ parable of the sower of the seed, we discover that there are three main reasons that keep people from turning their lives over to Jesus.
Seed Beside The Road
The first part of the parable of the Sower of the Seed tells us that after a person has heard the gospel about Jesus Christ, he or she may not understand or accept what was heard because the Evil One deceives them.
Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. (NASB) Matt. 13:18-19
That is, they hear the good news about God but reject it. They reject the message because of intellectual deceptions due to distorted facts, blatant lies, wrong perceptions and biases. Satan is called a deceiver. He is the Evil One who deceived Eve. He implied that God had lied, and he suggested that God’s motives were not completely pure when he said,
. . . has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” . . . For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (NASB) Gen. 3:1, 5
He is actively deceiving people today. The truths of the gospel are increasingly being maligned and therefore, it is hard to understand. Some people today claim that prophecies are only recorded history, even though most liberal and conservative scholars agree that several of the Old Testament prophetic books were written hundreds of years before the prophecies were fulfilled. Yet, uninformed people make the false accusation. Blatant lies are made that Jesus never claimed to be or assumed that He was God (Mark 2:5-11; John 5:18; 10:33; 14:9; 19:7). The Evil One is actively deceiving people. The New Testament says that Satan is an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). He is the originator of false religions and false philosophies. The goal of Satan, the deceiver, is to cause people to believe lies and to reject God. Others just do not understand what they read because the Holy Spirit has not given them spiritual understanding (1 Cor. 2:14).
Seed on Rocky Places
Jesus’ next illustration is seed that is thrown on rocky places.
The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. (NASB) Matt. 13:20-21
Here we have a picture of someone who hears the words of the good news about Jesus Christ and rejoices, but sometime later either rejects or ignores what he or she heard because of affliction or persecution. Sometime ago, my wife was teaching a class for women. One of the women, who was not a Christian, was from a very prominent family in the community. She was rejoicing over what she was hearing about Jesus and was struggling with following Jesus. She eventually decided to stop coming to the class and ignore what she had heard about Jesus because she did not want conflict within the family. She told my wife that if she believed and accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior she would fracture the family. She chose family unity.
While it has been common for Christians to be persecuted in many countries in the world, Christians in the United States have historically been free from persecution. Now persecution is increasing. Persecution is primarily verbal now, but that will change in the future. It will get worse. When and if persecution comes, some people who now claim to be Christians will fall away and stop “being Christians.” When they do, they will prove that they were never really Christians. That is the point of Jesus’ illustration. False Christians respond with joy at first but later slip away or fall away.
Seed on Thorns
Next, the sower scattered seed among the thorns.
And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (NASB) Matt. 13:22
This seed is a picture of a man or woman who hears the good news about Jesus Christ but concerns about life and the joys of wealth cloud his or her spiritual vision. I knew a man many years ago who thought that Jesus would make him wealthy. So he “responded to Jesus” and later became disappointed when he did not become wealthy. It appeared that he responded to Jesus for the wrong reason. Others become critical of God when tragedy occurs in their lives. Those who tell non-Christians that God has a wonderful plan for their lives potentially leave a false impression. Some have believed that believing or trusting in Jesus will result in dreams of wealth, a happy marriage, success at work, and physical health. Unfortunately, Jesus did not promise that life would be without problems. He only promised forgiveness of one’s sins and eternal life. Wealth and the troubles of this life have caused many people to forsake Jesus.
The final illustration is that of seed sown on good soil.
And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. (NASB) Matt. 13:23
The seed grows and the plant or tree produces fruit. Each Christian is different. Some produce more spiritual fruit than others. The illustration is not about money. It is about spiritual growth and the fruit of the spirit. What are the things that usually keep people from a “real” repentance and subsequently turning of their lives over to Jesus? The answer is Satan, fear of persecution, wealth, trouble in this life, false worldly philosophies, and deception. Why do people respond to Jesus? The answer is found in the work that God performs in a person’s life. The evidence is that a person believes in Jesus and submits himself or herself to Him. Which one are you?
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