Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

09/28/14 Sermon - Spiritual Growing Pains

“Spiritual Growing Pains”

Mark 4:21-34

 

Today we are going to continue with the understanding of three more parables Jesus gave his disciples. Before we get started I want to remind you of what has been happening with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus has started his three year ministry and has been preaching and teaching anyone who would listen. Up until last week, Jesus did most of his preaching inside, just like all the other teachers. But, now he has taken to preaching outside. Last week we read Jesus was teaching the crowd while standing in a boat, just off the shore in the Sea of Galilee. Well, not only has the venue changed for Jesus, his mode of teaching has also changed. It’s important to recognize that Jesus has started his last year of his ministry, here on earth. Up until now, Jesus has spoken directly to all the people.

Now, He is limiting his direct teaching to the twelve disciples and the 70 others or so who are traveling continually with him. It is also important to notice that Jesus is beginning to reveal more to His disciples of who He is, and what the Kingdom of God is like.  Jesus is using parables to help his followers understand something they are not really able to comprehend…………yet.

Now the Jewish people thought they knew what Heaven was like. They thought they knew what the Messiah would look like. It turns out they were wrong on both accounts.

I’d like to point out that just because these parables are directly after one another in Chapter 4 of the book of Mark, it does not mean they happened sequentially as written. It does mean that Mark saw some similarities within the parables and we are going to notice these today.

 

Last week’s parable had to do with how the Gospel of Jesus Christ changes people’s lives. We were given the parable of a farmer sowing the seed. The farmer is the one sharing the gospel, and the seed is the Word of God. The only part of the parable that had variations was the soil or where the seed landed. And depending on the type of soil, or the heart of the one hearing the gospel, depended on if the seed would germinate or not and whether it would produce fruit.

Today’s three parables focus on different aspects of this parable and why they are important.

The first of these aspects has to do with message. The Gospel is compared to a lamp.

Or

Jesus is the light of the World

Or Thy Word is a lamp upon my feet.

 

In this parable, Jesus takes the common day object, a lamp and makes a common statement.

You don’t buy a lamp and then put it under your bed.

No.

You put it on a stand and the light it brings helps you to see.

Pretty simple.

The truth, God’s word, the gospel of Jesus Christ is supposed to be seen, by you and by others.

We are supposed to be mini lights, shining all over the place. Just like the procedure we use at our Christmas Candle Light Service. The people come down the aisles and light the candle of the first person in the pew, and then the next person takes the light from that candle and they let someone else take the light from their candle. Eventually the entire room is twinkling with enough light to see.

Simple yes, but this parable continues with the words…

“Consider carefully what you hear, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.”

Have you noticed?

Jesus began this section of parables with the word, “Listen”

And He keeps telling His disciples to listen and to consider what they have heard.

Well when I hear this statement the beginning makes sense. Just like everyone would expect, whatever you put in, you get out. Why that is only fair? Right?

But remember, I told you last week, Jesus uses parables that make sense, that the common listener would think is simple and would understand immediately, but He always puts in a “WOW” factor, something out of the ordinary that will make the common person stop and think, and ponder what is being said. This time Jesus adds, “and even more”.

That doesn’t happen in real life. You are not supposed to get more than what you put in, something for nothing.

You should only get what you put in, or what you deserve. Right?

Not when God is involved. This is where grace comes in. God says the benefits you get back will far exceed what you put in. That is the definition of grace, “receiving something you don’t deserve.”

Okay, if that statement didn’t make people think, let’s look at the next one:

“Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

(REPEAT)

I don’t know about you, but when I first read this I thought,

“what happened to grace, that doesn’t even sound fair”. It sounds like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Well, I investigated and what it actually means is,

 

-       That everyone who has access to God’s Word, has the same opportunity to hear and obey.

-       But the person who does not take advantage of God’s Word, they will lose even the little they have

It’s kind of like this:

Let’s say God gives each of us a free membership to the YMCA Fitness Center. It’s there, and everyone here has free access to it. For those people who take advantage of the membership, well they become fit and in shape and feel good. For those who don’t go to the fitness center, well, they not only don’t get into shape, their shape gets worse.

It goes back to the parable of the soils –

Each received a seed, or heard the word.

-       The seed on the path – was taken right away

-       The seed in the shallow soil – sprang up quickly & died

-       The seed among the thorns – started off good, but was choked out & produced nothing

For each of these types of soils, not only did they not gain anything, even the seed that was planted was gone.

This Parable of Measurement can be either an encouragement or it can be a warning. For those who hear God’s Word and obey it – they are encouraged, like those who used the YMCA Fitness Center.

For those who treated God’s Word lightly and did not take it into their hearts and lives, it’s a warning. The warning is you end up going backwards, being worse off than when you started.

This parable should lead you to ask yourself two questions:

1)      How is your witness for Christ? Are you hiding the lamp under the bed, or is it sitting on the table where everyone can see? In other words, if you were put on trial today for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? (WHO SAID THIS?)

2)      Let’s say your lamp is out on the table. How are you keeping it lit? How much of your life are you investing in God’s Word? Reading the Bible? Personal and Group Bible study? How are you growing in your knowledge of God’s Word?

“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.”

Following this parable, Mark continues with the Parable of the Growing Seed. This parable is unique to the Book of Mark. It is this parable that gives more insight into how the Kingdom of God actually works. Mark told us Jesus’ main message in Chapter 1, verse 15, “The time has come, the Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.”

Jesus knows the Jewish people really don’t have the slightest idea of what the Kingdom of God is like. When you haven’t been somewhere and seen and experienced something that does not even exist in your world it is difficult to comprehend. Think about it, the missionaries that first went from North America to South East Asia, tried to explain “ice” to the nationals, living there.

Frozen water?

The nationals thought the missionaries were crazy.

You see, the temperature had never gotten below freezing in their life and refrigeration had not been invented.

Hard water, that you could walk on, was not even in the imaginations of the jungle people.

This is the way it is with us and heaven. Jesus chooses to use a parable to explain what heaven is like. He goes back to the planted seed. If you want something to grow, you first need to plant a seed.

The seed in this parable represents the same thing it did in the Parable of the Soils,

the seed is the Word of God.

So just think about it for a minute.

How many farmers do you know that spend money and effort to get the ground ready and then water and weed to make sure everything is the best it can be, and DON’T plant the seed. Jesus is trying to show, that if the Word of God is planted,

If the Word of God is shared, then you will have growth.

However, if there is no seed, no Word, then there is no growth.

 

Okay, that makes sense to me, I have read the verse, John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

 

It is the hearing of the Word that changes people lives, not me, not the farmer, and not the nice, fertile soil.

And Jesus gives more explanation to how this seed thing or the Word thing works.

Once the seed is planted, and if it is planted in a soil that is ready to receive it, no matter what the farmer does, whether he sleeps, watches where he planted the seed, the farmer doesn’t really know how the seed actually sprouts and grows. It is a bit of a mystery. Scientists today cannot look at a group of seeds and tell you before they are planted whether they will sprout. They can tell you what to do to give them the best opportunity to grow, but the germination of the seed takes place apart from what people can do, the ability to grow comes from within the seed. It’s a mystery.

It’s the same thing with the gospel. In Hebrews 4:12 we read, “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double –edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing the soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

Just like the seed has within its shell the power to grow, so the gospel has the power to bring salvation to everyone who believes.

Just like last week’s parable, this parable gives me hope and takes the pressure off me and what I do. It’s not about me, it’s not up to me whether the people around me grow. Oh, I need to do my part. I need to share God’s Word, live out the gospel, things I should be doing anyway, as a follower of Christ. And when the seed is planted, its God job to see that it grows. This also explains why there are times when we have planted the seed, we have watered the seed and for whatever reason we never see anything growing. I am sure there are some of you that are experiencing this very scenario right now. Like me, you may have members in your own family or dear friends that you have witnessed to and you have been praying for, and nothing has happened. At least it looks like nothing is happening.

But that is only because we cannot see what is happening under the soil. We need to trust God to do His work. As long as we are planting the seed, then we can be confident, like any good farmer, that some of the seed will grow. We need to give it time. And if you are anything like me, you like to see things getting done. You find it difficult to wait. That is where trust comes in. Trusting God that His timing is better than our timing….. always.

The last parable of today, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, is another example of what the Kingdom of God is like. Remember, Jesus is trying to describe heaven to the Jewish people who think they already have a vision of heaven. But Jesus knows that what they think heaven is like and what heaven is “really” like, are two very different things.

Need I remind you, the Pharisee’s have distorted Judaism over the past centuries into something that fits their way of life?

Their religion makes sense to them and works for the leaders in the faith, but is not what God had in mind. This Parable of the Mustard Seed is a prime example of how heaven is actually the opposite of what the Pharisees have been teaching. According to this parable, heaven is like the mustard seed. It starts out small, not only small but the smallest of all. Yet, when it is planted, it grows into the biggest of all garden plants, so big, it becomes a place for birds to perch on and receive shade.

Again, I think this parable gives hope. It must have given the disciples hope as they were listening to it. Jesus had a bunch of unschooled fishermen, and tax collectors as his chosen twelve. I am sure there were times when they must have looked around at each other and thought, “we must be kidding” how are we ever going to bring in God’s kingdom? We will never measure up to the Pharisees let alone, Roman’s Army.

Discouragement would have been understood,

if you looked at things the way the world does.

But in this parable Jesus is telling the disciples to look at things the way God looks at them.

 

You see, “God chooses the foolish things of this world to shame the wise. God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” 1 Corinthians 1:27

 

God is not interested in flash and show. God is interested in changing people’s hearts and lives, one person at a time. God isn’t looking for people who already have it all together, He is seeking out sinners who know they need a Savior.

God’s kingdom starts out small. It has humble beginnings. I am sure most people didn’t give the disciples a second chance. I imagine there are people all over this town who don’t give our church a second glance. That’s okay. God’s kingdom starts small. Our God is the God of second chances.

The Mustard Seed Parable doesn’t stop with starting small, notice the second part of the parable says, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants. Just think, Jesus started with twelve men in the Middle East and look where we are today, 2,000 years later, Christianity has grown to exist in every country in every continent in the world. There are still unreached people groups within many of those countries, but the gospel continues to go forth and God’s kingdom continues to grow.

It is so easy to get stuck in our small view of our little church here in Damariscotta, and get discouraged. I can’t tell you how many people have asked me since I have become the pastor, if I am discouraged. I’m not discouraged. I see the gospel coming to life in many places in our church. I see people’s lives changing. Sure, it may not be visible to everyone else, and I know there are things happening that even I can’t see, but I also know that we are not the center of what God is doing.

God is reaching nations all over the world, we are only a part of a huge movement of the gospel. Did you know that most churches number under 100 people? In fact, most churches in the New Testament were under 100 people.

Our church is okay. God’s kingdom is growing and someday it is going to fill the whole earth, just like the Mustard Seed.

So, are there things we should be doing?

You bet ya!

But being discouraged isn’t one of them.

Hey, we have the gospel, hope, salvation from all that is evil in the world. It may seem small, but it is mighty.

1 John 4:4  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

And, like the mustard seed, it will become even larger.

Because it’s not about us, it is about God. His Word is what has the power. And when we use it, we too have that power.

Just like Jesus, when he sat down with the twelve men, who were small in number, but great in faith, I reach out to you and say,

We may be small, but the message we have and the God we serve is not. Sure, this spiritual growth thing isn’t easy, it requires patience, it requires steadfastness, it requires pain, but those are fruit of the Spirit. And if the Spirit lives in us, then we have what it takes to do what God has called us to do.

My hope for you today is that you:

Ø  First – make sure you are a farmer, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are a child of the King

Ø  Second – make sure you are growing in your personal relationship with God. This means that you are spending time reading God’s Word, praying, studying and discussing God’s Word with others.

 

Ø  Third – make sure your lamp is not under the bed and is turned on. Then, make sure you are planting the seed. Our job as Christians is the “Great Commission” – to Share the good news of Jesus Christ and wait on God.

Ø  Fourth – once the seed has germinated, we are back to number two, helping others grow in their relationship with God.

One day, Christ will be revealed. His Kingdom will not be near, it will be here. All that is wrong will be made right. In the meantime, let us light our lamps, keep them on the table, and plant the seed. And like a seed growing to harvest, God’s kingdom will fill the whole earth. And together we will praise our great God and King forever and ever.

Let’s pray…………….

Amen.