In respect for the Word of God, I'll ask you to stand as we read the scripture today, and you will find that in Mark chapter 4, and we're going to be looking at verses to begin with, verses 21 through 25.
It's a secret, except to come to light. Bow with me as we go to our Lord in prayer. Heavenly Father, we have the privilege today of looking at three of Jesus's kingdom parables. These parables are parables where Jesus is teaching us how to live out the Christian life. He's teaching us how to be a faithful witness. He's teaching us how to be a faithful martyr if that's what we are called to do. He's teaching us to quit being dependent on self, to learn how to be dependent on Him.
These things can be learned in the mind and yet not lived out in the heart. Father, we want more than that. Help us to be real, not phony and superficial. Help us to let our light so shine that men may see our good works and glorify the Father in heaven. Father, we lift up Linda McCatherin as she's healing from a broken hip in the hospital this morning. We pray for healing for Nicole Los.
We pray for Ray Green as he's having some heart issues again. We ask Father that you have mercy on these and minister to Cindy's mom Wanda Abercrombie who's struggling right now with kidney failure. Lord, we love you this morning and we need you desperately. Please help me to preach with passion and preach with your anointing.
Keep my lips from error. May Jesus be exalted. For it is in the precious and holy name of Jesus that we pray. Amen.
You may be seated. Last week we studied the parable of the souls and Jesus was teaching us in that parable who's in the kingdom and who is not. In that parable he told us about four different types of soul that represent four conditions of the human heart. He said that the sower went out and he took the seed and he threw it out onto the field. The seed represents the Word of God and the different types of soil once again represent the conditions of the human heart.
Let me kind of reiterate a little of what I said last week just to be a reminder to you. He told us of four souls. The first one was the hardened path. The seed was thrown out. It landed on the hardened path and it was so hard it could not penetrate into the soil. Very quickly the birds came down and they ate it.
They devoured it and it was gone. Jesus said this is a picture of the heart of a hardened sinner. One who has given himself over to sin, self, and Satan. One who has heard the Word of God with his physical ears but has not heard the Word of God with his spiritual ears.
And he has turned from it and Satan comes and steals the Word away. Secondly there is the rocky soil. The rocky soil is very thin layered. And so when the seed goes down into the rocky soil the roots are not able to go far.
It hits a rock and stops and is not able to get moisture. So the plant grows up and as the plant grows up the sun comes and it dries it out and it dies very quickly. This is a picture of the human heart that hears the Word of God and realizes that that word is truth. But trials and persecution come and they realize the cost is too high and they walk away from it and nothing takes place. Then there is the thorny soil. The seed falls down into the thorny soil and it goes down the roots do and the plant begins to grow. And then the thorns come up and they choke it out and it dies very quickly. Jesus said this is the type of heart that hears the Word of God and rejoices over it and is excited about it. But then there is a wake up call.
The worries of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for stuff creep in and choke out the Word. And then fourthly there is the good soil. That is the soil that has been plowed up by the farmer. And the farmer has gone in and he's pulled out the rocks and he's pulled out the thorns and he's fertilized the field.
And the crop begins to grow and it produces a yield 30, 60 or 100 fold. Folks, that's a picture of the true believer. He is good soil.
Why? He is good soil because God has made him good soil. Why did God do that? Did God save us just to give us a ticket to heaven?
Paul said no. And Romans chapter 8 verse 29, Paul said, For those whom God foreknew he also did predestinate to be conformed into the image of his Son. So if someone says to you, why did God save you? Don't say back to that person, well God saved me to give me a ticket to heaven. God saved me to take away the fear of death in my life.
Now those things are absolutely true. God did save you to get you into heaven and to keep you from hell. He did save you to take the fear of God, the fear of death out of your heart.
But those are not the primary reasons. The primary reason that God saved you was to make you like Jesus. Was to conform you into the image of Christ. So Jesus told this long parable of the sower to teach us who is truly saved and who is not. Who is truly in the kingdom. In today's passage Jesus gives us three short parables. I call them kingdom parables. They tell us what saved people ought to do. They tell us how God's people ought to be being conformed into the image of Jesus. I've got four points I want to share with you in these three parables.
Number one is obedient witnessing. Look at verses 21 through 23. And he said to them, is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest, nor is anything secret except to come to light.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. In the parable of the sower, the difference between the three bad soils and the one good soil is good fruit. Folks, if you belong to the Lord, your life is going to be producing good fruit. Jesus said that. He said that we would know those that are his by what?
By their fruit. As we look at these verses that I'm going to share with you in just a moment, I want you to remember that good fruit grows in a certain environment in a certain atmosphere. And it is the atmosphere of joy, of obedience, of repentance, of trust and dependence. Let me give you a few verses. In Galatians chapter 5 verse 22 through 23, Paul said, for the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In Colossians 1 10, Paul said, walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. In John 15 5, Jesus said, I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. In this parable, the Lord's specific emphasis here is on the fruit that comes from a believer who is sharing a good witness for Christ's sake. Now I want to point out something here that sounds maybe insignificant, sounds like not a real big deal.
I think it is a big deal. In the New King James Version, the ESV and the NASB, the indefinite article is used instead of a definite article. A is used instead of the.
Now let me read that first verse. Is a lamp to be brought in to be put under a basket? I think in the Greek, the indefinite article is not there, it's the definite article. And it should be translated as the lamp. But who is the lamp? The lamp is Jesus Christ. Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Jesus is the lamp that never needs to be hidden, that we need to be shining forth every time we walk out the door. Let me read it this way.
I think R.C. Sproul gave a great translation here. He is saying, I did not come here to be concealed forever. I came here as a lamp that is to be set on a lamp stand, so that the light that I may burst forth and manifest itself clearly to all who dwell in darkness.
I did not come to be covered with a basket or hidden under a bed. I came to shine forth. Now the lamp that Jesus is talking about here looks like a saucer with a handle on it. They would take olive oil, they'd pour it into it, fill it up, they would put a floating wick on the top of it. And then they would take that lamp, they'd put it on a lamp stand, and it was a lamp stand that stood high up, and when they did it correctly like that, then it would shine and cover, give light to the entire room. To put a basket over that lamp was ludicrous.
What was that going to do? That would just diminish the light rays instead of magnify the light rays. Folks, the point of Jesus' analogy here is very clear. Christians are not to conceal the gospel. We are to let Jesus shine. Those who have been transformed by the gospel have a God-given responsibility to present the truth to others.
Matthew chapter 5 verse 16, Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify the Father which is in heaven. After the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus was getting ready to ascend. He gathered the disciples together. They all gathered together and Jesus gave them what we call the Great Commission. He said, Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age. And then in Acts chapter 1 verse 8, Jesus said, You will receive power after that the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. Folks, this is the calling of the believer.
We are called to take the gospel to the four corners of the earth. How does it work? Well, it works this way. You go in stages, I believe. First of all, you as a new Christian, you witness to your family, the people that you know, the people that you love the most. Then you witness to your friends. Then you witness to your community and your workplace.
Then you witness to the world. Folks, we have a mission heart here in this church. Eric was just sharing with us about who we're giving to and missions and how we're trying to get the gospel out to the world. That's so, so very important.
It is not just an option for us to care about missions. It is an absolute calling. God has called us to let our light shine, but don't get so obsessed with the world that you forget about the radius of people that are close to you.
Rest assured of this. They need to hear the gospel from you. Let them hear from your lips and from your life who Jesus is. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No man comes to the Father but by me. They need to hear that from you. You need to learn Bible verses that you can teach them.
You say, why? Because the scripture says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Having said that, you don't have to be a learned theologian to be a great witness.
Before I became a minister, I think I had more personal opportunities to do one-on-one witnessing than I do now. In fact, when I do one-on-one witnessing, if people know who I am, they will often think, well, Doug's a preacher. That's his job.
That's what he's supposed to do. And you know, it's not that way with a layman. So sometimes the layman may have a more powerful witness than the preacher will. Years ago in Cambridge, Massachusetts, there was a church that was located near MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. And the church became very burdened for these students, for they looked at these students and they saw these extremely intelligent people, these highly educated people, these people that were extremely smart, and yet most of them were lost as they could be. So the church said, this is what we'll do. We'll send our most learned theologians. We'll send our best scholars, and they'll go and they'll debate with these students, and we'll reach people for Christ this way, and they tried.
And they went, and there was no success whatsoever. So they began to pray about it, and the preacher said, let's do this. Let's send some of our brand new converts, some of those who are just so excited about the gospel they can't stand it. One man went, and his new convert stood before these intelligent students, and as he started talking, the guy raised his hand and he stood up. One of the students started asking questions, and he started talking about evolution and the complexities of the atom, and what he believed were contradictions in the scripture. And the young convert said, you know, he said, I don't know how to answer those questions yet. He said, well, let me tell you something. He said, Jesus changed my life. Jesus changed my life. He said, I was a drug addict. I was an alcoholic. My life was falling apart, and he broke those addictions in my life, and he set me free.
I don't even want them anymore. He said, my life was falling apart as a husband. He said, because of my marital infidelity, I had not been faithful to my wife. And he said, I have repented, and my wife has forgiven me, and now we've got a great marriage. He said, I've got a son that was way off base and going in the wrong direction.
I wasn't spending any time with him. And he said, now I'm reading the scripture to him, and I'm guiding him, and we're playing together, and we're enjoying each other. And he said, my son is taking a complete different direction now. He said, I want you to know something. He said, my life is not perfect by any way, shape, or form. But he said, before my life in Christ, I was miserable. And he said, but now I am filled with joy. He said, do I have problems?
Absolutely I have problems, but Jesus walks me through my problems. He said, I used to be afraid of death. He said, I'm not afraid of death anymore, because I know where I'm going when I die, and I will spend forever and ever and ever with the Lord Jesus Christ.
That next week, several of these MIT students showed up at that church. Folks, listen, you have a calling from God to be a witness. You can't save anybody. You can't talk anyone into salvation. God saves by His almighty, all-powerful grace. Folks, you can't do anything but be used of God.
But God can use you, and God will use you, if you take the basket off the lamp. When people see that light of Christ in you, then they're going to respond to that. They're going to look and they're going to see that that light is real.
And they're going to say to themselves, what am I going to do with that light? What am I going to do with Christ? Verse 22, Jesus said, for nothing is hidden except to be revealed, nor is anything secret except to come to light. The light of Jesus reveals who we really are.
You know, we can deceive other people, we can deceive ourselves, but we can't deceive Him. Alright, point two is diligent working, and I want us to look at verses 24 through 25. And He said to them, pay attention to what you hear.
With the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. In point one, Jesus explains to us what our evangelistic responsibility is. But in point two, He is explaining to us and telling us the importance of carrying out that task.
I look at it this way. It's like a commander in the army. He's got his troops together. He shared with them what the mission is. He says, guys, do you get it? Do you understand what the mission is?
They say, yes, sir. He says, okay, carry it out. Do it. Get on with it. Don't put it off. Get on with it right now.
Get busy. Jesus tells the disciples that there will be eternal reward for faithful service. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us that when we give, we are to give secretly. We are to give anonymously. And I've had people say, well, I don't want to give that way. If I see a person in need, I want to be able to give to that person so they'll know that I'm the one that gave it. Because I want them to know that I care about them and that I love them and that I want to help them.
Well, yes, but Jesus says if you do that, you're the one that gets the glory instead of Him getting the glory. People come to me oftentimes in this church and they give me money. And they say, Doug, could you give this to this particular family in the church that's going through a real tough time right now? And by no means tell them who gave it to you.
You keep it anonymous. And so I'll go to these people. I'll give them the money. They say, where'd that come from? Who gave me this? And I'll say, Jesus did.
And they say, no, no, no. I mean, who really gave me this? I said, Jesus really gave it to you. And the giver gets his reward in heaven.
Let me ask you this question. What is it that gives a person the intestinal fortitude to stand courageously even in the face of dying for Christ? What happens in a future martyr's heart when he stands before people that may kill him and stands courageously for Christ? How does they do that?
Here's how they do it. First of all, because of their love for Christ and second, for promise of eternal reward. That future martyr knows this. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. And he knows that as soon as death comes, he is going to be with Jesus at the throne of Christ. He is going to be with him, and he's going to have a crown of glory that will be eternal. And his worship will be sweeter and better than he can ever begin to imagine.
I want you to think of Simon Peter for just a minute. History tells us that Simon Peter was taken out on a hill not far from Rome and he was getting ready to be crucified. They told him, said, before we crucify you, we're going to crucify your wife.
And she is going to be crucified and you're going to have to watch it. And so they brought Peter and his wife out to this hill. They laid his wife down on the cross and they nailed spikes through her hands and through her feet. They lifted the cross up and Peter had to watch this. He looked up at his wife and the blood was rolling down from her body. The tears are rolling down from Peter's eyes and he's deeply hurt over this. She is suffering and he knows that it hurts him. And he looks up at his wife and says, honey, remember the Lord, remember the Lord, remember the Lord.
She finally breathes her last breath. And they look over at Peter and said, all right, now it's your turn. He said, you got anything you'd like to say, any last words before you're crucified? And he said, yeah. He said, when you crucify me, crucify me upside down, for I'm not worthy to be crucified like Jesus.
Folks, how do you do that? How did Peter do it? Peter did it because he knew what was coming. He knew that just as soon as he died, he was going to be in the presence of Jesus. And he could say to Jesus, oh Lord, at your crucifixion, I denied you.
And through my whole life, I have hurt, my heart is hurt over that denial. But at my crucifixion, I glorified you. And Peter will hear the words from Jesus, well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of the Lord.
Polycarp was 86 years old. He was arrested by the Roman authorities. He was taken into the Colosseum, filled with unbelieving infidels. He was told that he must denounce Christ or die. And he had to recant, he was told. They said, we're going to give you a chance. You can say Caesar is Lord, you don't have to mean it.
All you got to do is say it, we'll let you go. What did Polycarp say? He said this, 86 years I have served him, and he never did me wrong. How can I blaspheme my king who saved me? He died in the flames.
What was his motivation? Christ and Christ reward. His destruction in flames was temporary, but being with Jesus and having an eternal crown is eternal.
Point three, dependent waiting. Look at verse 26 through 29. And he said, the kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows.
He knows not how. The earth produces by itself first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. This passage reminds me of Paul's words over in 1 Corinthians chapter 3, where he reminds us that we are totally dependent on God. The power to lead someone to Christ, the power to effectively share the gospel, is of God, not of us. There's the apostle Paul who said this, What then is Apollos? What then is, is Paul?
For I planted and Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. That's why we must dependently wait on God. We can talk, we can pray, we can live godly before people. We can just ask God to help us, but we don't have the power to regenerate a heart. Only God can do that. We must dependently wait. Folks, don't stop praying or witnessing for a lost loved one.
That is so important. There's some of you here right now. Let me change that. There are many of you here right now. No, let me change that. There are all of you here right now who have loved ones who are lost, who are headed for an eternal hell, and you've witnessed to them, and you've prayed for them until you're blue in the face, and still there is no conversion.
What do you do? You keep doing what you're doing, but you dependently wait. You can plant seed, you can water, but only God can give the increase. Don't ever quit praying and witnessing to that lost loved one until either you or him breathe their last breath.
Dependently wait. I want to give you a personal illustration here, and this is not a give Doug the glory story. This is a God story. In this situation, all I tried to do was just get out of the way and let God work, but back in 2004, there was a radio listener that called into the church and asked what time our church started, and her name was Doris Caldwell. She wanted to come and visit with us, so that next Sunday, her husband, Howard, who's an atheist, worked for WBT, and he drove her there in his pickup. She got out, and she went into our church service, and Howard sat out in his pickup under a tree and would not come in. I went to visit them the next week, and I walked in and wanted to talk to Howard, and he was watching Evolution films on PBS, and as I started talking to him, he reached over to the television, and he cut it up so the volume was too high so he couldn't hear me. Well, that kind of stuff just continued to go on, and he kept bringing her out here, sitting in the parking lot, and she'd come in. Well, after about two years, Doris Caldwell died. Howard called me up, and Howard said, Doug, he called me up and said, could you please do the funeral? I said yes. I did the funeral service, and two weeks later I looked out in the congregation, and there was Howard.
I could not believe it. He spoke to me on the way out that day, and he said, Doug, I want to take you and Cindy out for supper, and the next night we went out to K&W and 8, and I noticed some brokenness in him. About two weeks after that, I had an opportunity to share the gospel with him, and Howard trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior. Well, he started coming to church, got very faithful.
He's here on Sunday mornings. About two years later, Howard died, and his son, Doug, who was not a believer, called me up and asked me if I would do the funeral service, and I said I would be glad to, and I did the funeral service, and after the service we went back to Howard's house, and they had food all prepared for us, and Doug got me off to the side. We spent about an hour just talking about the Lord. After that, Doug called me every once in a while, just had questions, and it was just a few years after that that the Lord broke Doug's heart. He trusted Christ as his Lord and Savior. He moved to Shiloh, North Carolina, down at the beach, and he started getting CDs from us. Our secretaries, Beth Parkhill and Bev Nolan, would send him CDs of our services here, and about every other week he'd call me up, and he'd ask me questions, and we'd talk about the Lord.
We just developed a very dear friendship. Two years ago, Doug contracted esophageal cancer. Two weeks ago, that cancer took Doug's life. Folks, it is not of Paul. It is not of Apollos. It is not of Doug. It is not of Eugene. It is of God.
We can plant and we can water, but only God gives the increase. You that have lost loved ones, don't quit praying for them. Don't quit witnessing to them until either they breathe their last breath or you breathe their last breath. Doris Caldwell died thinking that she would never see her husband, Howard, or Doug ever again. When she died, she believed that they were headed to an eternal hell, and that's where they would spend all of eternity, and she would never see them again. What a glorious reunion it must have been when Howard shows up there in heaven and tells her what Jesus had done in his heart, and then Doug, her son, shows up in heaven.
What a reunion that must have been. Folks, dependently wait. Dependently wait. All right, point four. Oh, let me tell you something else that's also good. Shalote is about 15 miles away from Calabash. We have a dear, dear friend here that just not long ago became a pastor at a church, New Life Church in Calabash. His wife, Doug Caldwell's wife, his name Alicia, they've not found a church home. They just couldn't find a church that really fit, and so I told Alicia about this church in Calabash. I talked to Chris Gregory yesterday, and his family's here with us today, or even the family, the girls and her son, and they're with us, and I talked to Chris, and I talked to Chris, and Chris said, I called Alicia up and said, we had the opportunity to talk, and we talked for about an hour, and he had the opportunity to minister to her, a lady who's not had a church, and I thought, man, goodness, God is just all over this. Not what we've done.
Not Chris, not Doug, not Eugene, not any of us. We might have been used a little bit, but it was God who gives that increase, how glorious that is. Point four, confident walking. Look at verses 30 through 34. And he said, with what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it?
It is like a grain of mustard seed, which when sown on the ground is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants, puts out large branches so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. With many such parables, he spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything. Jesus closes by telling to the disciples that they can walk or carry out the gospel work with full confidence, and they will be successful.
How does he know that? Matthew 16, what did Jesus say? He said, on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Not only did he say, will it be successful, but he said it will grow large. Jesus said it will start off small, but it will grow exponentially. He used the example of a little mustard seed.
He said it starts off like a little mustard seed, very, very small, then it grows into a huge tree-like bush. Now Bible critics have used this statement of Jesus to claim that there are errors in the Scripture because there are seeds that are smaller than the mustard seed, so Jesus just didn't know what he was talking about. He was wrong. He made an error. No, he didn't. Folks, Jesus doesn't make an error. He doesn't sin. He can't make an error. So what was he doing? He was speaking in hyperbole like we all do.
He was saying to them, look, the smallest seed that you know of is this little mustard seed, and he was just speaking that way. I say, the sun rises. Does the sun really rise?
No. The sun sits still, and the earth orbits around it, and the earth rotates, and it looks like the sun is rising and setting, but really not. But when I say the sun rises, you know exactly what I'm talking about. That's what Jesus was doing here, speaking in hyperbole.
John MacArthur said it this way. When Jesus said it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, he was not saying that the mustard seeds are the smallest seeds on planet earth. Wild orchids, for example, have a seed much smaller than that of the mustard plant.
Rather, Jesus was limiting his statement to that which his audience would have been familiar. Of the plants grown in the first century Israel for agricultural purposes, a mustard plant had the smallest seeds. Moreover, using the mustard seed as a way to refer to things that were very small was a common proverbial expression, one that those listening to Jesus would have immediately recognized even though the mustard seed is very small. Yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches.
Mustard plants in Israel grew to a height of 15 feet larger than other garden plants with branches in which birds could nest. Jesus was showing his disciples the need to just trust him and stand in faith. Don't be thrown off track by appearances after Jesus' death and resurrection. The number of true believers in Jerusalem was about 120 people. Then on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people were saved. Within just a few days after that, there were 5,000 people.
The number had grown that much that quickly. Folks, it started off in Jerusalem, but it moved quickly from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria then to the uttermost parts of the earth. It moved quickly from Jerusalem to Samaria then to the uttermost parts of the earth. It started off just with the Jewish people, but it moved very quickly into the Gentile world, and it grew and it grew and it grew. The parable says this.
Quit looking inward and start looking up. Folks, who is the head of the church? The head of the church is Jesus Christ. It's not some pastor. It's not some pope. It's Jesus. Jesus is the head of the church.
Who is he? He is the son of God, king of kings, lord of lords. He is the creator of heaven and earth, and he promised us success. He promised us that on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Here's the command, brothers and sisters.
Walk confidently. Jesus is in control. Let's pray. Heavenly Father, in this passage you're teaching us that little is much when God's in it. You're sharing truths to help us be humble, not proud. We praise you for that. Lord, our tendency is to honor self more than to honor you. Help us to repent of that. Father, help us as a church to be faithful to your principles. Help us to stand on your word and to do it lovingly. Help us to remove the bucket from the lampstand. We love you, Lord, and it's in Jesus' precious name that we pray. Amen.
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