“Consider the sower who went out to sow” (Matt. 13:3). Jesus’ first parable about the kingdom of God speaks less about what the kingdom is than how the kingdom begins.

It begins with a seed.

This is the same seed Peter was talking about when he said we’ve been “born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23). It’s what the psalmist was referring to in saying, “though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed, he surely will come back with shouts of joy, carrying his sheaves” (Ps. 126:6).

The seed is the Word.

The Word starts everything—”the word about the kingdom” (Matt. 13:19). This is what God uses to produce an exponentially expanding realm of His rule and influence, “some 100, some 60 and some 30 times what was sown” (v. 8).

No Word, no kingdom.

Each of us has been raised on certain givens, standards and traditions that may or may not find their basis in scriptural truth. The ideas that motivate us, determine our priorities, frame our ethics, and inform our behaviors can come from anywhere—books, interviews, random trails of thought that float into our ears and bounce around in our heads. Only the Word can produce kingdom fruit. If our lives don’t start there, they cannot lead to anything that eternally matters.

Jesus taught us a striking message about this Word—that it is a kingdom-sprouting seed, producing fruit only in receptive soil. So our first job as subversive kingdom agents is to be people who “receive the implanted word” (James 1:21).

This doesn’t mean the Bible is the only thing we ever can read, but it does mean our impact on this culture and generation—as individuals and through the church—depends not on our skills and timing or our grasp of certain business models. It doesn’t depend on our eagerness to know, our sincerity to learn, or our desire to experience the Word. It depends on our willingness to receive humbly and in faith the message of the gospel.

We must resist being merely familiar with this Word, but must drink it in as if our lives depend on it (1 Pet. 2:2), letting it change our whole perspective and expectation of life. God’s Spirit will produce an explosion of kingdom growth within us, then (better yet) through us.

We already know what happens when our hearts are beaten hard and resistant to God’s Word. We know what it’s like to give Him little room for squeezing seed between the tiny cracks in our schedules. We know when our soil is so full of other interests and concerns, there’s not much daylight left for the small shoots of spiritual possibility to take hold and actually do anything. In other words, we have all been the path, the rocky ground and the thorny patch before.
For those who are in the kingdom of Christ, we’ve received the Word with receptive ears and have seen the truth with spiritual sight. We’ve experienced the fruit of the kingdom.

When we face hard times, our soil often dries up and hard soil forms. When we become busy and distracted, our Christian lives begin to gasp and sputter from lack of nutrition. We produce less kingdom fruit.

When our hearts are truly receptive to God’s Word—letting it live, grow and germinate in us—our Lord will take care of making things happen in the fertile soil. Our desires and attitudes will become His desires and attitudes. Things will start sprouting from our work and testimony we never thought in a million years we’d see attached to us. The people around us will be changed and challenged by what naturally comes up in conversation—not occasionally but regularly and consistently, in surprising amounts.

Because when the seed strikes root in good soil, the new life that springs up is a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood agent of His subversive kingdom. With that kind of structure underneath us, we can go out intentionally with great determination to undermine the evil world order and set free its captives—especially as we join together with other believers in the church who are feasting on the Word themselves. That’s how God creates entire fields of bumper kingdom crops here in our communities and around the world.

The Word that changes us is what also changes others.

Justin Holcomb is a man whose love for the Word has set the agenda for his life. His father was lying on the beach in 1973 when someone shared a single seed of God’s Word with him. As a result, this trackless hippie left behind his lifestyle in the commune, married Justin’s mother (a month before he was born), and raised his young son in the church with a steady dose of seed being poured into his heart.

By 2001, Justin’s ministry heart increasingly had drawn him toward the ravaged plight of the southern Sudanese, an impoverished people who practically had lost an entire generation to widespread civil war and the cruel, oppressive hand of their government to the north. Further exploitation had come from a group called the Lord’s Resistance Army, a renegade patrol force notorious for child abductions, sexual assaults and physical mutilation of their opponents. Yet a rebel movement sprouted up—the Sudan People’s Liberation Army—to defend their land from governmentally endorsed barbarism. Justin has been traveling to this African region each year to teach SPLA chaplains the Word of God.

Such trips frequently find him teaching the Bible amid the snap of AK-47s firing in the background, while all around him lies the physical carnage of war and the heartbreak of preventable diseases. Through the motivating power of the Word, Justin and his wife, Lindsey, have used their presence in Sudan to meet the health and lifestyle challenges of a culture stripped of its resilience and resources. Their nonprofit organization, Mosaic, gives away thousands of mosquito nets each year, offers training in literacy and tailoring skills, provides a home for girls whose families have sold them into the sex trade, and supports area pastors in southern Sudan and neighboring Uganda.

That’s what a seed can do. Change a man. Change a family. Change a life. Change a nation.

What might it start growing in you?

From Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Ed Stetzer. Copyright © 2012 by Ed Stetzer. Published by B&H Publishing Group. Used by permission.

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