Christ’s Church

Mark 16:15-20

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

Psalm 118:22 – The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.

Acts 4:10-12 -Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.  This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’  Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Ephesians 2:19-22 – Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

The church is the only thing Christ called His.  He borrowed a manger, a coin, a book, a boat, a donkey and a tomb.  But He called the church, “My church.’

Jesus is the chief corner stone of the church.  Many lively stones are in the building, though some act like tombstones instead of lively stones.  You are a strategic stone and God wants to use you in His building process.

Absolutely no force will prevent the building of the church.  The message to you is that Christ’s church is alive and well, for it is filled with eternal life!  Isaiah stated “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”  If the “me” in that verse is part of the church…then no weapon formed against the church will prosper either.

We cannot remodel the world. 

  • No man-made rhetoric can revive it
  • No political pronouncement can restore it
  • No educational enlightenment can redeem it
  • The world is like a brain-dead body

In spite of its life-support system, it is only a matter of time before death conquers it.  The world’s problem is a spiritual problem of the greatest magnitude; therefore, only a spiritual solution of the greatest magnitude will save it.

Many churches and pastors spend too much time trying to remodel the world.  They try to make it a better place to live.  Many of their activities are commendable.  I am not advocating standing by and doing nothing, letting sin alone, closing our eyes, turning our head and compromising with sin and evil.

However, I am saying that no self-help program can change the course of this world.  Crusaders cannot change it, marchers alone with banner and signs will not change it.  These activities will not produce a man-made millennium of peace like we find described in the Bible.  They will never stop, or even slow down, the spiritual decline and ultimate collapse of this world.  It is simply too far gone.

The greatest good the church can do is to do what Christ intended for His church to do:

  • Take the Bread of Life to a hungry world
  • Give the Water of Life to a thirsty world
  • Carry the healing message to hurting people
  • Use your P.H.D. (Preach, Heal, Deliver)

Politics and social life have invaded our pulpits.  Major ministries have reversed to a political and social pulpit.  They talk more about the president than the Prince of Peace, more about senators than the Savior, more about governors than God, more about the White House than about the house not made with hands.

Politicians promise to remodel this world.  They promise, they grandstand, they kiss babies, they make back-room deals, and they do anything for a photo op or for a vote.  Men who promise to make this world a better place to live will never accomplish a remodeling of this world.  The world is reproducing the same sinful corruption of Noah’s day, Lot’s day, of Sodom and Gomorrah’s day.

2 Timothy 3:1 – But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.

God wants us to build His church rather than attempt to remodel this world.  Christ said, “I will” – not maybe, not perhaps, – but “I will build My church.”  Christ has a plan for building His church and you can be a part of that divine plan.

How many want to be in on building Christ’s church?

We must be a team.  It is amazing what people can do when they work together for a common goal.   Genesis 11:6 tells the story of a people who aspired to build a tower to the heavens. 

Genesis 11:6 – And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

  • They had one language – they all spoke the same thing
  • They had one purpose – building the tower of Babel
  • They were one – together in unity

The result was that God said of them, “Nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.

WOW!  Would it not be great if the church were like that – what could we not do?

The early church was in unity – in one accord.  At one point over 3,000 had been saved, another time over 5000.  Another time the descriptive word was “multitudes” had been added to the church.

Acts 5:14 – And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.

They had the opportunity for unlimited results.  God said they could do whatever “they propose to do.”  The final result of their unity would be beyond imagination.

Want to be part of a dream team; to be part of a team that accomplishes far more than the church ever imagined.  We can build a church – not a tower to the heavens – not a tower of Babel built on carnality and personal objectives, but a tower of spiritual, Holy Spirit-anointed achievements reaching into the harvest, impacting the world, if we are united as one.  In this unity of purpose and determination, there can be no superstars, just godly men and women who want to make a difference, who want their lives to count.

  • Do you want to make a difference?
  • Do you want your life to count?

We can do beyond anything we have ever imagined if we are one, speaking the same language and focusing on the same mission.  We must not settle for just the survival mode or the comfort zone.  We must reach others for Jesus.  We must not be satisfied until lives and families are changed.  Let us make a difference.  What we need in our churches is for everyone to get pregnant with the love and Word of God and begin having babies…spiritual babies.  Get busy producing baby Christians.  Then, help them to grow.  Quit trying to come up with reasons why you cannot be a soul winner for Christ.  Get up and do something for the Lord.

Win the Lost at Any Cost

Mark 16:15-20

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.  And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.

As I was leaving the hospital after a visit to see a patient not too long ago, I saw a lady getting out of her car.  She had her hands full including a McDonald’s sack and a drink.  The receipt blew out of the sack and she started for it as I did, but both of us decided that the wind was faster than we were and we both let the receipt disappear in the wind.  I spontaneously remarked, “If that had been money, you would have had it.”  We both laughed and we continued on our way.  However, there was some truth in that statement.  We do what is important to us.  The receipt had simply not been that important.  If it had been a five or ten dollar bill, there might have been a sprint by one of us to catch it.

WE DO WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO US AT THE MOMENT.

Three things that cannot be reclaimed:

  • Time
  • A lost opportunity
  • The spoken word

Several years ago there was a popular song titled, “Tomorrow, Tomorrow.”  That seems to be our thinking many times about doing what God has explicitly told us to do.  Tomorrow, tomorrow.

NOW IS THE TIME TO WIN SOMEONE TO CHRIST.  TOMORROW MAY BE TOO LATE.

Born in Scotland, John Geddie was brought by his parents to Nova Scotia, Canada in 1816.  He began ministry as pastor at Cavendish on Prince Edward Island.  In 1846 he went as a missionary to New Hebrides (now the island nation of Vannatu), where he served for over twenty years.  When, after twenty-four years of toil, he answered his Lord’s final summons and left the earthly scene, December 14, 1872 a tablet, prepared in Sydney, was placed behind the pulpit of the church in Anelcauhat where the beloved missionary so long had preached.  On it was the following inscription:

“In memory of John Geddie, D.D., born in Scotland, 1815, minister in Prince Edward Island seven years, missionary sent from Nova Scotia to Aneiteum for twenty-four years.  When he landed, there were no Christians here, and when he left there were no heathen.”

Always share your faith – and sometimes you can use words.  We are never at a loss for words.  So if we are to witness we need to speak up  NOW.  Someone’s eternal destination is at stake.  If it is at all possible, and it is in most cases, turn the conversation toward God.  It used to be that witnessing meant going door to door.  Now we have phones, blackberries, twitter, Facebook so we are really out of reasons not to witness.

I honestly do not believe that anyone wants to see another person go to hell, but we fail to be the witness we are called to be because of a multitude of reasons.  All of them probably invalid.  You could say the reason you do not witness is that you are out of peanut butter.  It makes as much sense.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2 – We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For He says:  “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Jesus at the age of twelve in the temple told His earthy parents that “He must be about His Father’s business.”  That was His example to us.

We too “must be about our heavenly Father’s business.”  We simply have other priorities and we must realize that “NOW is the day of salvation, NOW is the acceptable time.”  We so often think of that statement as pertaining to the sinner and it does, but it also pertains to us, the witness, the Christian, the follower of God.  We have a mandate from Jesus Himself to do so.  The sinner needs to turn from their sin, but the Christian needs to be the witness.

In the text, Jesus was speaking to His disciples.  I ask you, are you and I a disciple?  Then we must get busy.  Be obedient.  Do what it says.  There have been no exceptions listed anywhere in the Bible to not be included in this command as far as I know.  In fact, within this command is also your biblical degree.  Did you know that you have a PhD?  Christ gave all His followers a PhD.  Therefore you are equipped to do what He said.

Now I suppose you want to know what that degree means.  Your PhD stands for PREACH  – HEAL – DELIVER.

Let me ask you another question.  When was the last in-depth conversation you had with someone about their eternal soul?

New York City – 1985 (young man on the street who had never heard the story of Jesus Christ.)

The responsibility to win the lost is clearly within your expertise and you are responsible to fulfill the great commission as much as anyone else.  That is exactly what Christ called all of us to do.  Not just the pastors and teachers, evangelists, deacons, Sunday School teachers, etc.  We all have been given instructions to GO AND WIN THE LOST.  If the church took that command serious, there would not be an empty seat in any Bible believing church.  The command He gave was all inclusive.  For you and you and you and you and you and me.

Matthew 9:37-38 – Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Acts 28:30-31 – Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Harold Wilmington of Liberty University said of Paul the Apostle, “Everywhere he went he was either causing a riot or a revival.”

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

Luke 10:2 – Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.

Jeremiah 8:20 – The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved!”

Let me ask you a question:  How many would want to raise your hand and say, “I’ll be responsible for not witnessing or not praying and therefore send two, five, ten or twenty to hell?”  When you think of the great commission in that way, we find that it is a really awesome responsibility, not a suggestion.

Is Christ’s return imminent?  All we have to do is look around.  Signs are everywhere.

If we really believed Christ’s return is as near as we profess, we would be busy praying, equipping ourselves and going forth with power and authority to win the lost.  Time is wasting.

WIN THE LOST…

Souls are crying, men are dying.  Won’t you lead them to the cross?

Go and find them, help to win them.  Win the lost at any cost.

Go out and win, rescue from sin; day’s almost gone, low sinks the sun.

Souls are crying, men are dying.  Win the lost at any cost.

How Will Your Greet the King?

Mark 1:1-11

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples; and He said to them, “Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it.  And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it,’ and immediately he will send it here.”  So they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door outside on the street, and they loosed it.  But some of those who stood there said to them, “What are you doing, loosing the colt?”  And they spoke to them just as Jesus had commanded. So they let them go.  Then they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their clothes on it, and He sat on it.  And many spread their clothes on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying:  “Hosanna!  ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’  Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  And Jesus went into Jerusalem and into the temple. So when He had looked around at all things, as the hour was already late, He went out to Bethany with the twelve. 

(Also in Matthew 21:1-11; Luke 21:28-40 and John 12:12-19)

  • Hosanna!
  • Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!
  • Blessed is the kingdom of our Father David!
  • Hosanna in the Highest!

Part of the instructions for the Feast of Tabernacles is found in Leviticus 23:40:

And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees, branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God for seven days.

Branches of palm trees

  • Biblical symbol of rejoicing
  • The willow tree is symbol of sorrow, humiliation, captivity and death

Others who greeted Jesus

  • The two thieves on the cross

Luke 23:39 – Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”

Luke 23:42 – Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

  • The little children

Matthew 19:14 – But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Nicodemus

John 3:1-16- This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

  • The woman of Samaria – with many questions

John 4:25-26 – The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”  Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

  • Thomas

John 20:25 – The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

John 20:28 – And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

  • The centurion

Matthew 8:8The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.

  • Stephen
    • With anticipation
    • With forgiveness

Acts 7:54-60 – When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth.  But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

How will you greet the King?

  • With joy
  • With fear
  • Speechless

What’s Your One Thing

Mark 10:21

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”  And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”  Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

This young man was clearly following the teachings of the Law.  Jesus said he only lacked one thing.  Think of that – Jesus looking at your life and saying there was only one thing lacking in your walk with Him.  Just one thing separated this young man from possessing eternal life.  Just one thing. Yet it was something he was not willing to give up – not even for eternal life.  

For him it was his riches.  Perhaps he was afraid if he gave up all he owned he would be homeless and without any way to meet his daily needs.  Perhaps he was proud of all he had achieved and was afraid without his possessions he would be a nobody.  His very identity or sense of worth was in what his possessions.  

Whatever the reason, he was not willing to sell his what he had and give to the poor.  Possibly the rest of that statement of Jesus was too much also.  To take up the cross.  The cross was the symbol of shame and death.  For him, it was too much to ask.

Trusting in our riches, our possessions is a dangerous thing for any of us.  It is hard to trust in riches and rely upon God alone.  Paul warned Timothy of this danger.

1 Timothy 6:9-12 – But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 – Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share,  storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

One thing

  • What is the one thing that may keep you from fully surrendering to God?
  • What is the one thing you are not willing to give up?
  • What is the one thing you treasure over eternal life?

Jesus asked a very important question:

Mark 8:36-37 – “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”

God’s Love is the Key

Mark 10:17-22

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”  So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’”  And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.”  Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”  But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

  • In all his righteousness, his obedience to do what was commanded in the Law – what was written, he lacked one thing; he failed to do what was commanded by the spoken word – sell all you have and follow me.  His possessions were worth more than following Jesus Christ.  If he had truly loved others as himself, he would have helped them rather than save it up for his own pleasure.

Luke 6:37-38 – Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”  And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

  • Judge not.  Love is the key – not trying to judge another.

Luke 22:14-23 – When the hour had come, He sat down, and the twelve apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I will no longer eat of it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”  Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.  But behold, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on the table.  And truly the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”  Then they began to question among themselves, which of them it was who would do this thing.

  • Last Supper – Jesus did not exclude Judas who He knew would betray Him.  He was eating with His enemy.  He did not exclude Peter who He knew would deny Him. 

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

I Am Not Ashamed

Mark 8:34-38

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

The Gospel – the Word

  • Produces new birth

1 Peter 1:23 – having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever.

  • Gives salvation

Ephesians 1:13 – In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

  • Imparts grace

Acts 20:24 – But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

  • Establishes in the faith

Romans 16:25 – Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began.

  • Generates faith

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

  • Sets free

John 8:31-36 – Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

  • Nourishes spiritual life

1 Peter 2:2 – as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.

  • Cleanses the church

Ephesians 5:26 – that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word.

  • Searches the life

Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

  • Makes partakers of Christ

Ephesians 3:6 – that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.

  • Imparts immortality

2 Timothy 1:10 – but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

  • Brings peace

Romans 10:15 – And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

  • Gives protection

Ephesians 6:17 – And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

  • Gives fullness of blessings

Romans 15:29 – But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.

Hearing the Message – What Will You Do?

Mark 4:1-9

And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then He taught them many things by parables, and said to them in His teaching:  “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”  And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

The Parable – an earthy story with a heavenly meaning.

Mark 4:10-13

But when He was alone, those around Him with the twelve asked Him about the parable.  And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.’”  And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?

Mystery – something previously hidden, but now fully revealed

Mark 4:14-20

The sower sows the word.  And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts.  These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble.  Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.  But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.”

  • Parable explained
  • Parables
  • Disclose truth exactly in the degree which men can accept; hiding it from those who would refuse its truth and imparting it to those who would obey it.
    • Parables serve the double and opposite purpose of revealing and concealing.
    • You would not try to reveal to a child in the same manner as an adult.
  • Three things are required
  • Hear the Word
  • Receive the Word
  • Bring forth fruit
  • Four categories of people who hear and receive
  • Satan steals what was sown in the heart – sown by the wayside
  • There is no root or real commitment in the hearer – stony ground
  • Deceitfulness and cares of this world choke out the Word – sown among thorns
  • Production of good fruit – 30/60 100 percent – good ground

Only one category of the four who hear and receive the Word will bring forth fruit.

For Christians there are several lessons we can take from this parable.

First, we need to be careful that we do not fall into one of the three categories.  Even though we have believed and received the Word of God, we can still be so distracted by our daily lives, our jobs, our responsibilities, our pleasures that we neglect God’s Word. 

How many times have you been listening to a sermon or a Bible lesson when you suddenly found your mind thinking about other things.  Where you will go to eat after service?  What you have to do in the coming week?  Worrying about that bill you have to pay next week?  Even thinking about the upcoming vacation?

There is a lot of false teaching out there today on the internet, on the YouTube that we can be deceived if we do not carefully check the things we hear to see if they agree with God’s Word.

Second lesson is that we are to be bearing good fruit.  There are many ideas of what good fruit means for a Christian.  Simply put:  fruit is basically the outward actions of a Christian that result from the condition of the heart. 

Galatians 5 list some of the conditions the heart should have. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

We cannot on our own produce that kind of life.  It is only as we maintain a relationship with Jesus, that we will produce that good fruit.  Bearing fruit in the Christian life requires abiding in Jesus.

John 15:4-5 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Bearing fruit in the Christian life requires abiding in Jesus.

What Do You Have?

Mark 6:32-44

And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves.  But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him.  And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.  When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late.  Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.”  But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.”  And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”  But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”  And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”  Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass.  So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.  And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all.  So they all ate and were filled.  And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish.  Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men.

The disciples had just returned from a time of sharing the gospel as Jesus had sent them out in pairs to tell the good news.  They were probably excited about this time, but also tired.  Jesus called them to find a deserted place and rest awhile.

Jesus recognized that there is a time to work but also a time to rest.  Way back in the beginning, in creation, we need this principle of the need to rest.  After six days of creation, Genesis tells us that God rested on the seventh day.  We know God did not need to rest, but He was setting an example, a guide to us.  Sometimes we can be so busy “doing” that we do not take the time we need to “be.” 

The multitudes saw them leaving and hurried to join them.  To the disciples, this was probably a cause of stress and they may well have resented them.  But Jesus had compassion. 

Interesting that when he had compassion his first response was not to feed them, to heal them, but to teach them.  For many following Jesus was just to get their physical needs met, but Jesus wanted more for them than that.  Today, how much of our prayer time is spent on our physical needs rather than taking time to just draw closer to Jesus? 

Although His first priority was for their spiritual needs, He also recognized the physical need and wanted to meet that. 

The disciples, despite all the miracles they had seen Jesus do and despite their successful preaching tour they had just returned from, still did not truly recognize what Jesus could do.  They questioned how they could feed the multitude. 

Jesus told his disciples to give them something to eat.  But they just did not “get it.”  They felt they had nothing to give.  Their response was to send them away empty.  How many times does Jesus call on us to minister to someone but our response is that we cannot do anything?

Jesus told them to go and see what food they did have.  God always begins with what we do have.  I think of something I often told my church when I was a pastor.

  1. Start where you are
  2. Use what you have
  3. Do all you can

They ate until they were filled.  Afterwards, there was food left over.  If anyone went away hungry, it was their fault for not taking what they needed.  The Early Church clearly remember this great miracle and took comfort that Jesus would meet their needs.  Much of early Christian art, especially on the walls of the catacombs, show pictures of loaves and fishes. 

Jesus is our example of how we should respond to those in need, not the disciples who wanted to send them away.  But as Jesus, taking what we have and doing what we can knowing that with Jesus’ help we can much more than we think possible.

James 2:14-17 – What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?  If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?  Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Stretch Out Your Hand

Mark 3:1-6

And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  So they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.  And He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Step forward.”  Then He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they kept silent.  And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.  Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.

Also in Matthew 12:9-14 and Luke 6:6-11

Jesus knew that He was being watched by the religious leaders trying to find an excuse to harm Him.  But His compassion for the man was greater than any concern for Himself.

He gave a command to the man.  First, he called him to step forward.  Step out from the crowd.  This would draw attention to him – perhaps not something he wanted.  Then Jesus told him to stretch out his hand.

This was a direct instruction from Jesus.  Not “If you want to.”  “If you would like to.”  Of course the man had the choice of obeying or not.  But if he was to gain his healing, he had to do what Jesus said.  By stretching out his hand he was acting in:

  • Obedience – Do what God has told you to do.  Do what is right.
  • Faith – Believe God will do what He said he would do.

Believing and obedience go hand in hand.  To truly believe is to obey.  The man could have believed that Jesus could heal him, but it was only as he obeyed and stepped forward from the crowd, then stretched out his hand that healing came.

What is it Jesus is calling you to do?  Would it require you to “step away from the crowd”, to open yourself to possible ridicule or rejection by others?  Would it require you to take belief to the final step of obedience?

John 14:15 – If you love me, obey my commandments.

We can take this idea of stretching out our hand a further step.  We do not know what this man did after Jesus healed him, but we hope that we began to share the good news with others.

That is what Jesus has commanded us to do – to stretch out our hand and share the love we have received from Him.

John 15:12-13 – This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.

  • Stretch out your hand – Rescue and Save –

Jesus told us that we were to be sent just as He was.

John 20:21 – So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”

  • How was Jesus sent?
    • In obedience
    • In faith
    • In love and compassion
    • To rescue and save

We can take this idea of stretching out our hand a further step.  We do not know what this man did after Jesus healed him, but we hope that we began to share the good news with others

Who do you know that could use a helping hand today? 

  • A word of encouragement
  • A meal
  • A card saying “thank you”
  • An offer to babysit and give parents a date night
  • Just a smile

Too often we tell others “I’m praying for you” which is good, but let us put legs on those prayers.

1 John 3:16-18 – This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

James 2:14-17 – What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

What If I Doubt?

Mark 16::14-18

“The Great Commission” – Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Before sending out the disciples to share the Gospel, Jesus rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart.  In order to be obedient they needed to have a firm belief in the resurrection of Jesus. 

In Scripture the heart is used often to describe the whole person – the place where a person thinks, feels, and plans.  To have a heart that is hard is to ignore, reject, refuse to believe in God’s Word. 

Unbelief hinders obedience.  Jesus is not limited by unbelief as some teach. They refer to the scripture where it says He could not do mighty works in Nazareth, his hometown, because of their unbelief.

 Yet we see many times when Jesus perform miracles in spite of lack of faith. 

Martha lacked belief that Jesus could raise Lazarus, yet he did.  We see one father who brought his son to Jesus for healing and asked for help with his unbelief. 

Mark 9:23-24 – Jesus said to him, “If you believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus did not mighty works in Nazareth not because their unbelief weakened or destroyed His power.  One of the main purposes of Jesus’ miracles was to bear witness to His claim to be the Son of God.  Since the people of Nazareth had rejected him, there was nothing He could do to make them believe.  They had hardened their hearts against the very revelation they needed. 

John Calvin says, ” Unbelievers, as far as lies in their power, bind up the hands of God by their obstinacy; not that God is overcome, as if he were an inferior, but because they do not permit him to display his power.”

 So when one refuses to even entertain the thought of a miracle or of the claims of Jesus to be the Son of God, one has hardened their heart.

I am so thankful that while Jesus rebuked them, He clearly reached out to them and gave them proof of His resurrection.

First, to Thomas.

The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”  So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”  And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

To many others

1 Corinthians 15:5-6 – He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.

They clearly saw and believed Jesus was alive!  And thankfully they were then able to obey the Great Commission so that today we have the truth.

So what do you do if you have sometimes have doubt?  Do as the father did who brought his child to God.  Confess you struggle to believe.  Be honest with God.  This idea that we cannot express doubt or God will not hear us is so wrong.

He knows our heart, He knows when we doubt.

Be honest and cry out to Him to help you.  

Do not let moments of doubt keep you from reaching out to Him.  He is able to handle your questions.