Saturday, January 30, 2016, 7:38 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Give God the Glory.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Mark 4:1-20 (ESV).
The Parable (vv. 1-9)
Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Ears to Hear (vv. 10-12)
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
Jesus spoke in parables as a way of separating those whose hearts were receptive to his teaching from those who were intolerant of his words and who scorned his words. Those who desired to learn more from the Lord, and to understand the truths of God’s word, upon hearing the parables, would be drawn to inquire of the Lord and to seek him out for understanding. They would desire to learn from him that they might take to heart his word and apply its truths to their hearts and lives.
Nonetheless, for those folks who were not inclined to take to heart his words, to listen to them, and to obey them, the parables would mean nothing to them, or they would have no effect on their lives, for those people were dull of hearing, and their spiritual eyes were blinded to the truth of what Jesus was teaching.
Yet, for all who truly listen with ears receptive to God’s Word, with hearts willing to learn and to understand, and who desire to have spiritual sight, because the Father has drawn them to Christ, they will have their hearts turned from darkness (sin) to the light (the gospel of salvation), and from the power of Satan over their lives to God, to walk in his ways and in his holiness. They will receive forgiveness of their sins, and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ, through the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and lives (See: Ac. 26:16-18; cf. Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; Eph. 4:17-24).
The Word is Sown (vv. 13-20)
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
I believe there are four types of responses to the gospel of Jesus Christ which this passage of scripture depicts for us here. I also believe that all four of these responses to the gospel message exist within people who gather regularly together for what we call “church,” i.e. they meet weekly together for the purpose of worship of God, Bible study, prayer and fellowship. The first response is from people who hear the preaching of the gospel, but immediately Satan snatches the truth from their hearts, so they never do believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. They are what we call “unbelievers.”
The second heart response to the gospel of Jesus Christ is to initially receive it with joy and enthusiasm. The problem with this heart response, though, is that the gospel never takes root in their lives. This could be because what they heard was not the true gospel, but was a watered down version that told them they did not have to turn from their sins, and that they did not have to obey the Lord, and that salvation merely meant an escape from hell and the promise of heaven when they die. Or, it could be that they did hear the true gospel, but a true heart transformation never took place because they only accepted the parts that they liked, but they still continued to operate in the flesh. Either way, their profession of Christ was surface only, and so when things got tough, they fell away.
The third type of heart response, I believe, is from those who genuinely trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives. Yet, over time, the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of worldly things begin to creep into their hearts and steal away their pure devotion to their Lord. Time spent in the Word and in prayer begins to dwindle, and more and more of the world begins to take priority in their lives, such as TV shows, movies, video games, the internet, social media, sports, careers, entertainment, and possessions, etc. So, they become unfruitful in their Christian lives, in their testimonies and witness for Jesus Christ, and in their spiritual service to their Lord, in walking in his ways, and in doing what he says to do. They are still Christians, but they are in great need of revival.
The fourth type of heart response to the gospel is also from those who genuinely trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, who have a spiritual transformation of the Spirit of God in their lives, and who have died with Christ to sin, and who have been resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). They walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. They desire what God desires, and they live to please him in all that they do and say. They are not perfect people, i.e. they do not live in sinless perfection (See: 1 Jn. 2:1), but they walk by the Light of truth and no longer in the darkness – all in the power and working of the Holy Spirit within them who empowers, strengthens, leads and guides them in the way they should go. They do not resist the Spirit, but they yield to the Spirit’s control. And, so the Spirit of God is able to produce within them much fruit for God’s eternal kingdom.
God is calling out to the people of this world and to those who make a profession only of the name of Jesus Christ to come to genuine faith in Jesus Christ, to die with Christ to sin, and to live with Christ to righteousness. This is the essence of the gospel, for Jesus Christ did not die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us. He died that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. The Christian life is a crucified life; a life committed to Christ to walk in his ways and in his truth.
God is also calling out to those who are his children by faith in Jesus Christ, but who have strayed from their pure devotion to Jesus Christ, and who have allowed the world to creep back into their lives. He is calling them to repent of their sins, and to turn back to him to walk in his ways and in his truth (See: Rev. 2-3). He wants to revive your hearts, and to restore you to pure unadulterated fellowship with him. He does not want you to have divided hearts, but to give him your whole hearts and devotion, so that you might bear fruit for his kingdom and for his glory. So, will you hear him calling, and answer his call today?
Give God the Glory / An Original Work
Based off Psalm 19 / March 10, 2014
All of creation now proclaims:
“Give God the glory; honor His name!”
Each day the stars in heav’n above
Show forth His wisdom; tell of His love.
They do not speak. They have no voice.
Yet, they declare we have a choice:
“Worship the God of heav’n above;
Believe in Jesus; trust in His love.”
God’s word is perfect, just and good,
Refreshing souls who trust in the Lord;
Makes wise the simple; radiant –
Lighting our lives with God’s righteousness.
Joy to the heart His words now speak;
Pure and enduring, now we seek.
They are more precious than our gold;
Sweeter than honey; never grow old.
Keeping the word brings great reward.
By the word Jesus speaks and He warns,
Convicting hearts of all their sin;
Forgiving all who call upon Him.
Praying You keep me, Lord, from sins.
May they not rule my life again.
Then will I walk in all Your ways,
Following Jesus all of my days.