Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A New Person

So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil (unclean, impure) spirit came out from a cemetery to meet Him. This man lived among the burial caves (tombs) and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. Whenever he was put into chains and shackles — as he often was — he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. Mark 5:1-5 (NLT)

Mark 4:35-5:43 records four miracles that answer the question asked at Mark 4:41: “Who is this Man?” These four miracles demonstrate Jesus’ sovereignty and absolute power over nature (Mark 4:35-41), evil spirits (Mark 5:1-20), physical sickness (Mark 5:21-34), and death (Mark 5:35-43). Each of these miracles reveal Jesus as the all-powerful and sovereign Son of God and Messiah (Matthew 1:21-23; see also Mark 1:1).

Mark 5 continues Jesus’ Galilean ministry, located in northern Israel. Mark 5:1-20 shows Jesus now in the Gerasenes region (see also Matthew 8:28-34; Luke 8:26-39). Evil spirits inhabited the Gerasenes region (Mark 5:1-2, 10). Jesus goes to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:1) as Jesus’ Galilean ministry is a series of boat trips across the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:1). As Jesus gets out of the boat, a hopeless man meets Jesus and this man is probably the most hopeless man that Jesus’ meets. This man had many evil (unclean, impure) spirits living within him (Mark 5:9) and he dwelled among the tombs (Mark 5:2-3). In other words, this man was a living dead man and defiled (unclean) because he lived among corpses (Mark 5:3). Jews would consider this man permanently unclean since he lived among corpses (tombs) (see Leviticus 22:4; Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:6-7, 11; Numbers 19:11-13, 22; Haggai 2:13). However, Jesus willingly entered this unclean place to rescue souls for God’s Kingdom. Moreover, this man had been chained and shackled (Mark 5:4). The man’s family chained him not for punishment but to stop him from hurting himself (Mark 5:3-4). The man had an unusual strength to break the chains and no one could “tame” him (Mark 5:3-4). But, Jesus’ power and authority was stronger (see Mark 5:6-13). Also, this man was treated like an animal! Even more, the man was probably suicidal because he was constantly cutting himself on rocks (Mark 5:5). This man was hopeless and everyone had given up on him and no Jew would come near this land.

When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw Him, ran to meet Him, and bowed low before Him. With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are You interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the Name of God, I beg you, do not torture me!” For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.” Mark 5:6-8 (NLT)

Then, this man sees Jesus! Jesus’ coming provided the man hope. Seeing Jesus, the man ran to Jesus, fell before Him, and worshipped Him (Mark 5:6). The unclean spirit shriek, screamed, and tried to resist Jesus’ authority and power (Mark 5:7). Amazingly, the man identified Jesus as “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7; see also Matthew 8:29). The spirit world knew Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God (Matthew 4:3; Mark 3:11; Luke 4:33-34, 41). Evil spirits were speaking through the man’s voice as the man’s life was controlled by demons (Mark 5:8-10). With all-authority, Jesus speaks and said to the unclean spirits: “Come out of the man, you evil spirit” (Mark 5:8; see also Mark 1:23-26, 34).

Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” And he replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man.” Then the evil spirits begged Jesus again and again not to send them to some distant place. There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby. “Send us into those pigs,” the spirits begged. “Let us enter them.” So Jesus gave them permission. The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. Mark 5:9-13 (NLT)

Then, Jesus demanded and said to the demon-possessed man, “What is your name?” (Mark 5:9, NLT). The man replied, “My name is Legion, because there are many of us inside this man” (Mark 5:9, 15). The name “Legion” was plural because this man was possessed with multiple demonic spirits that invaded and controlled him. Now, these evil spirits confronted Jesus. The evil spirits begged Jesus again and again not to send them into a different region (Mark 5:10). Amazingly, these evil powers in the presence of Jesus begged and pleaded with Jesus (Mark 5:10). As God incarnate, Jesus was in charge and the evil (unclean) spirits obeyed Him (Mark 5:10-13). Obviously, the Gerasenes region is Gentile territory because there is a herd of pigs that lived in Gerasenes (Mark 5:11-12). Begging Jesus, the demonic forces came out of the man and entered into the large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside nearby (Mark 5:11-12). Jesus gave the evil spirits permission to enter the pigs and the entire herd of 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water (Mark 5:13).

The herdsmen fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news as they ran. People rushed out to see what had happened. A crowd soon gathered around Jesus, and they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons. He was sitting there fully clothed and perfectly sane, and they were all afraid. Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. Mark 5:14-17 (NLT)

The keeper of the pigs (herdsmen) fled to the nearby town and the surrounding countryside, spreading the news about the demon-possessed man and the pigs (Mark 5:14, 15). People rushed out to see what had happened. Then, the people gathered around Jesus, and they saw the same man who had been possessed and controlled by the legion of demons fully clothed, perfectly sane, and in his right mind (Mark 5:15). The amazing difference between the former and the present condition of the man was a testimony of Jesus’ saving power (Mark 5:15-16). With his encounter with Jesus, this man was healed, changed, and a new person (see also Romans 6:3; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:4-5). The people were now afraid with fear and began pleading with Jesus to leave the region (Mark 5:15, 17). Fear and amazement were frequent responses to the mighty and miraculous acts of Jesus (e.g. see Mark 1:22, 27; Mark 4:41; Mark 6:50-51)

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with Him. But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. Mark 5:18-20 (NLT)

As Jesus went to get back onto the boat, the man begged Jesus to go and be with Him (Mark 5:18). Unlike his neighbors (Mark 5:17), the man experienced firsthand God’s grace and mercy and he wanted to be with Jesus. This scene used a similar expression found at Mark 3:13-19 with the calling of the Twelve disciples by Jesus. To be one of the Twelve disciples means to “be with Jesus” or “be with Him” (Mark 3:14; see also Luke 8:35).  However, Jesus refused and said “No” to the healed man. Instead, Jesus told the man to go home to his family, relatives, and friends and tell them about the Lord’s grace and mercy (Mark 5:19; see also James 1:17). The normal understanding of the word “Lord” is God. Here, Jesus is clearly referring to Himself as God (Mark 5:19). This claim as Lord means that Jesus has the authority of God. Then, the healed man began to preach or proclaim publicly to goodness of Jesus in Decapolis, the region of the Ten Cities located southeast of the Sea of Galilee (Mark 5:20). The people marveled at the man’s preaching and amazed at the man’s deliverance by Jesus (Mark 5:20). The former demon-possessed man became a living example of Jesus' power! For the first time in Mark’s Gospel, a Gentile was the receiver of Jesus’ miraculous healing. This miracles proves that Jesus heals all people by faith in Him – Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) (see also Mark 7:24-30).

Many people have wondered why the people asked Jesus to leave their region after the miraculous healing and deliverance of the demon-possessed man. Some have focused on the monetary loss of the pigs (property). Undoubtedly, the people feared more financial losses if Jesus stayed. Throughout history, people have always tended to value financial gain above needy people. In fact, most wars have been fought to protect monetary interests. People are continually being sacrificed to the god of money (Matthew 6:24). When God’s Kingdom comes, His Kingdom will interrupt people’s finances. The Kingdom is costly and disrupts economic and political structures. Sadly, the people in this story begged Jesus to depart from their regions because they were more concerned with money than saving souls from evil. However, humans are created in God's image and have eternal value (Genesis 1:27). Jesus’ miraculous healing reveals His power over the demonic world and His compassion for human life. The salvation of people is always more important than money! God the Father graciously sent His Son, Jesus to deliver us from the forces of evil and darkness and deliver us into God’s glorious Kingdom by faith and belief in Him (John 1:12-13; John 8:12; John 12:35-36, 44-46).

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ . . . . God made Him (Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NIV)

NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Faith or Fear

As evening came, Jesus said to His disciples, "Let us cross to the other side of the lake." So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion. The disciples woke Him up, shouting, "Teacher, don’t you care that we are going to drown?" When Jesus woke up, He rebuked the wind and said to the water, "Silence! Be still!" Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then He asked them, "Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?" The disciples were terrified. "Who is this Man?" they asked each other. "Even the wind and waves obey Him!" Mark 4:35-41 (NLT)

After teaching varies parables to the crowds about God’s Kingdom (Mark 4:3-32), Jesus and His disciples (followers) crossed to the other side of the lake (Mark 4:35). This lake was the Sea of Galilee. Jesus was temporarily leaving the territory of Galilee to go over to the Gentile (non-Jewish) territory of Gerasenes (Mark 5:1). Soon, a violent and unexpected storm arose with high waves breaking into the boat until the boat was nearly full of water and about to sink (Mark 4:37). Jesus’ disciples panicked (Luke 4:37-38). However, Jesus was sound asleep at the back of the boat with His head on a cushion (Mark 4:38). Jesus was weary from a long day of teaching about God’s Kingdom (Mark 4:1-32). The disciples were afraid of the storm, but Jesus was not! Jesus kept on sleeping, confident that God the Father was completely in control (Psalm 4:8; Psalm 89:8-9; see also Romans 8:28). 

Frantically, the disciples awakened Jesus, shouting, “Teacher, do You not even care that we are all about to drown?” (Mark 4:38). The disciples panicked and were filled with fear (cowardliness) because several of Jesus’ disciples were expert fishermen and they knew the dangers of these storms on the Galilean Sea (Mark 1:16-20; see also Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:40-41). Jesus seemed unworried about the storm. When Jesus woke up, He rebuked (commanded) the winds and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39, NKJV). Suddenly, the winds stopped, and there was a great calm on the waters (Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24; see also Psalm 65:5-7; Psalm 107:29). Then, Jesus asked His disciples (followers) asked two important questions: “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40; see also Matthew 6:30-34; Matthew 8:26; Matthew 14:31; Luke 8:25; Luke 12:28-31; James 1:5-8). Jesus was amazed and shocked that His disciples had not yet developed faith (confidence or trust) in Him, and they were acting like cowards (see also Revelation 21:6-8). At this point, the disciples clearly did not understand Jesus’ full identity. Jesus’ disciples said among themselves, “Who is this Man?” because even the winds and waves submit and obey His authority (Matthew 8:27; Mark 4:41; Luke 8:25). 

Mark 4:35-41 reveals a pivotal moment in the life of Jesus’ disciples (see also Matthew 8:18, 23-27 and Luke 8:22-25). With this miracle, Jesus sought to establish and increase His disciples’ faith in Him as God’s divine Son and to trust Him for salvation. This miracle was just another display of Jesus’ authority and power as God’s Kingdom was present in His life. Jesus performed one of His greatest miracles – He “rebuked the winds and the waves. And there was a great calm” (Matthew 8:26). Overwhelmed, Jesus’ disciples shouted, “What kind of Man is this?” (Matthew 8:27). These disciples, who would eventually be called apostles (Mark 3:13-19; Mark 6:30), did not fully understand Jesus’ identity at this point.  Jesus’ disciples had been with Him during His public ministry. These disciples heard Jesus’ wise teaching and witnessed firsthand His powers and miraculous healings and casting out evil spirits. Now they discovered that Jesus even had authority over nature – winds and the seas. Yet, Jesus’ disciples did not fully understand that Jesus, the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, was indeed the Son of God (Mark 1:1; Mark 15:39), the Messiah (Christ) (Mark 8:29-30; John 20:31), God incarnate (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:15-20; Colossians 2:9), Lord (Romans 10:9), the Word of God (1 John 1:1; Revelation 19:13), the Seed that defeats evil (Genesis 3:15); King (Matthew 2:2; John 1:49) and Savior (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is God incarnate (in the flesh) and the fullness of God dwelt within Him (John 1:1-5, 14; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13). Moreover, Jesus is not just a Messenger from God but Jesus is God (John 1:1; John 20:28; Romans 9:5). As God, Jesus controls the forces and powers of nature, suffering, sickness, and death. Jesus has the power to calm the raging storm at sea and in our hearts. 

Apostle Paul:  "Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again — rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Do not worry (anxious) about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live (trust) in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7 (NLT)

Think about the storms in your life — the situations that cause great worry and anxiety. We can choose between faith and fear (Mark 4:35-41; see also Matthew 6:25-33: Luke 12:22-31). Essentially, everyone has two options: self-centered worry and panicked or to resist fear by praying and putting our wholehearted trust in God (Philippians 4:6-7; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, 23). At Philippians 4:4-7, Apostle Paul continued Jesus’ teaching on worrying (Matthew 6:25-33; Luke 12:22-31). When you feel like worrying, Apostle Paul encouraged us to tell our problems and needs to God in prayer and then trust God to care for us. Our sovereign and all-powerful God has promised never to leave us or to forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6; see also Joshua 1:9). When we are afraid, we can trust God and rest quietly in Him (see Psalm 56:3). God is our salvation, and we can always trust in Him and never need be afraid (Isaiah 12:2). As the all-powerful God incarnate, Jesus also cares about all our problems and needs and we can always trust Him regardless of the challenge (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus is the sovereign God of every situation and the Conqueror of every enemy. He is willing to help if we only ask, trust Him and obey His orders. Jesus provides His peace in the middle of any storm (Matthew 23:27). 

In His final teaching to His disciples before His sacrificial death, Jesus told His disciples (followers) “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in Me” (John 14:1, NCV). The God of the Old Testament (Yahweh) fully dwelt in His Son, Jesus of the New Testament (John 14:9-11, 20; John 17:11, 14, 21; see also Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:1-4). No one can come to God the Father except through His Son Jesus because Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, NLT).  By uniting our lives with Jesus, we are united with God the Father (John 17:22-24; see also Romans 5:10-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus promised His disciples (followers) that if we love Him and obey His teachings, He will ask His Father and God the Father will send the Holy Spirit, who will never leave us (John 14:15-16, 23). The Holy Spirit is God the Father and Jesus’ presence living within Jesus’ disciples who love and obeys Jesus’ teaching (John 14:21, 23; John 15:10). Jesus’ teaching comes directly from God the Father (John 14:24; John 17:8). The Holy Spirit will teach Jesus’ disciples truth (John 14:26). Even more through the Holy Spirit, Jesus gives His disciples the gift of peace of mind and heart (John 14:27; see also Romans 8:15; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Timothy 1:7). “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fearful), but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, NIV2011). God is not a God of disorder but a God of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). So, Jesus told His disciples do not be troubled or afraid (John 14:27; John 16:33; Romans 5:1; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 3:15) but remain (live in) and trust Him (John 15:5). Jesus said to His disciples that “here on earth we will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT) and God the Father will keep us safe from evil and the evil one (John 17:15).

That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! "Peace be with you," He said. As He spoke, He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again He said, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so I am sending you." Then He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. . . ." Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. "Peace be with you," He said. Then He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and look at My hands. Put your hand into the wound in My side. Do not be faithless any longer. Believe!" John 20:19-22, 26-27 (NLT)

Even after Jesus’ death, His disciples were still afraid. But Jesus’ first word to His frightened disciples was the traditional greeting, “shalom — peace!” Jesus could have easily criticized His disciples for their unfaithfulness and cowardice just before His arrest and crucifixion, but He did not. Jesus said “peace” to His disciples and calmed their fears. “Shalom” means “peace” and this peace is a precious word to the Jewish people. Shalom means much more than just the absence of war, hostility or distress but a total well-being and inner rest of spirit that comes with faith and fellowship with God and His Son, Jesus. In our relationship with Jesus, Jesus brings God’s peace – wholeness, completeness, health, security, joy, contentment even prosperity.  We receive God's wonderful peace by faith in His Son, Jesus and His gifting of the Holy Spirit (Romans 5). The Holy Spirit is the very presence of God the Father and Jesus the Son living within all faithful believers. By faith and obedience, we can receive God’s peace and power each day for victorious living. 

Evil does not care how many Bible truths we know as long as we do not obey and live out our faith each day. God wants us to hear AND obey God’s Word from our hearts. True faith is obeying and trusting God in spite of feelings and circumstances (see also James 2:14-26). Faith and fear cannot dwell together in the same heart. “Doing the will of God from the heart” is what God wants from His people (Ephesians 6:6). If we want to experience full God’s grace (favor), peace, and blessings, we must hear and obey God’s Word that was fully lived out in His Son, Jesus (Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 11:8-9, 22-25; Joshua 1:5-11; Proverbs 3:1-8; Luke 8:21; John 15:10). 

At Mark 4:35-41, Jesus contrasts fear with faith and equates fear with no faith. Faith brings peace while unbelief brings fear. The medicine for a troubled heart is trusting in God and His Son, Jesus (John 14:1; see also Psalm 56:3-4, 10-11; Isaiah 26:3-4). Faith means trust in God’s helping power in crisis – a help that is both present and active in Jesus. Jesus is in constant control of every situation! Jesus is our Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6; see also Micah 5:5).

Jesus: "That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life . . . . Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? . . And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So do not worry about these things, saying, What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need." Matthew 6:25, 27, 30-33 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Small Beginnings

26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he is asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.” Mark 4:26-29 (NLT)

In Mark chapter 4, Jesus teaches on the importance of seed (Mark 4:3-8, 14-20, 26-32). God’s Word is the seed (Mark 4:14; see also Luke 8:11). Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1-5, 14, 18; 1 John 1:1). Also, Jesus is God’s last Word to humanity for He is the climax of God’s divine revelation to the world (Revelation 19:13). The Word of God is “living and powerful” (Hebrews 4:12; see also Romans 1:16-17) and able to bring new life (John 12:24; John 14:6).

Mark 4:26-29 is a parable unique to Mark’s Gospel and has no parable references in Matthew, Luke, or John’s Gospels. Only Mark records this parable. This parable is a Kingdom parable from Jesus and teaches the supernatural character of God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God was Jesus’ central concern (see Mark 1:14-15), and God’s sovereign reign was displayed through Jesus’ teaching, preaching, healing, and casting out evil spirits during His public ministry (Matthew 4:23-25; Acts 10:38). The Kingdom of God is like a whole scene of events of a farmer sowing a seed in a field. The farmer represents God’s servants or messengers who faithfully shares God’s Word with others (1 Corinthians 3:5-9) and the field or soil represents human hearts that hear God’s Word. After sowing God’s Word in the field, the farmer goes about his or her ordinary life (Mark 4:27). Then, the seeds miraculous sprout, grow and produce crops and no one knows how the wheat is produced (Mark 4:27-28). The farmer has no power to make the seed grow but only to plant the seed. In the end, God’s divine power causes the seed (God’s Word) to grow in the soil (people’s hearts) (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). God’s Word when genuinely sown into human hearts produces fruit sometimes slowly but always surely (see 1 Peter 1:23-25). God is at work in Jesus (John 14:11).

Mark 4:26-29 teaches that God calls His servants or messengers to faithfully share God’s Word (seed) with others (Matthew 28:16-20). Ultimately, God is sovereign and miraculously involved in each person’s heart to make His Word (seed) grow and produce fruit (Mark 4:26–29; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). The Apostle Paul elaborated on Jesus’ parable at 1 Corinthians 3:7-9. Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who causes the seed to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). God’s servants or messengers have no power in themselves to save souls for God’s Kingdom. God’s Kingdom grows through God’s grace and the inner working of the Holy Spirit using God’s Word (Matthew 13:31-33).

The point of this parable is that God’s servants and messengers (disciples or sowers) work to cast the seed (God’s Word). However, the ultimate growth and results comes from the grace of God and God’s Holy Spirit. Sowers of God’s Word are not in charge of people’s hearts, nor can they change people’s hearts. All the sowers can do is faithfully and patiently cast the seed (God’s Word) and trust God for the growth (see James 5:7-8). In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that much of the seed scattered would fall on unproductive soil (Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; see also Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). This fact could discourage God’s servants and messengers. However, this parable reassured them “in due season we shall reap if we faint not” (1 Corinthians 3:8; see also Galatians 6:9-10). Followers of Jesus must understand that they do not cause the harvest but they must spread the seed (God’s Word)! 

Whereas the parable of the sower stresses the importance of proper soil for the growth of seed and the success of the harvest (Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; see also Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15), the parable of Mark 4:26-29 emphasizes the mysterious power of the seed. God’s Word is power (Hebrews 4:12) and active in accomplishing God’s purpose (see e.g., Isaiah 40:8; Isaiah 55:11; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23, 25). The author of Hebrews describes God’s Word not simply a collection of words. God’s Word is living, life-changing, and enduring that brings growth and wisdom within our hearts (soil) (Acts 6:7; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; see also Deuteronomy 4:6; Psalm 119:98-99). God’s Word was preached in verbal form, lived out in person by Jesus, and finally placed in stable, written form – the Holy Scriptures. God is also true and living (Jeremiah 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9) and His living Kingdom increases through His Word (seed). Jesus is the incarnate Word of God (John 1:1-5, 14). God’s Word is alive and powerful and sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword to cut between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow and expose our innermost thoughts and desires (Hebrews 4:12). Everyone that hears AND obeys God’s Word is blessed (Luke 11:28; John 12:26) and overcomes evil (1 John 2:14).

30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32 (NLT)

Mark 4:30-32 is the parable of the mustard seed. This parable is also a Kingdom parable from Jesus. These verses have parallel references at Matthew 13:31-32 and Luke 13:18-19. The mustard seed was the smallest seed of any plant cultivated in first-century Israel and was well-known for minuteness (Matthew 17:20). Though the mustard seed is small, this seed can produce a tree that grows to a height of six to ten feet. Jesus used this parable to show that God’s Kingdom has small beginnings with the planting of seed (God’s Word) by His servants but will grow and produce great results. The mustard seed begins small and insignificant but eventually produces a large plant with a glorious and grand ending. When God’s Word is planted in willing hearts, God’s Word produces new life and salvation through God’s Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:17). God’s messengers and servants are to faithful take God’s Word to the world and watch God grow it!

Interestingly, some biblical commentaries noted that Jesus’ ministry seemed very fruitless and small at the beginning. Some argued that one of the criticisms Jesus would have received is how fruitless His ministry began. Jesus had great and miraculous powers of healing, teaching and casting out evil spirits (demons) during His public ministry (see e.g., Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:14-15, 21, 39). Yet during His pubic ministry on earth, Jesus was considered a small town itinerant (traveling) preacher. Jesus appeared as a Jewish common man to many people. During His public ministry, Jesus had not overthrown Rome. Instead, Jesus was accompanied by the Twelve apostles, women, and many outcasts (Luke 8:1-3; see also Matthew 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49; Acts 1:13-15). Yet later, there were as many as 500 believers (1 Corinthians 15:6). Apostle Peter won 3,000 hearts at Pentecost; and throughout the Book of Acts, that number steadily increased (Acts 4:4; Acts 5:14; Acts 6:1, 7). One day, saints from every nation shall worship before His throne (Revelation 5:9).

Also, biblical commentaries argue that because of Jesus’ small beginnings, many of Jesus’ followers were probably becoming discouraged and downcast. Some biblical commentaries argue that Jesus used this parable at Mark 4:26-32 to encourage His followers of the greatness of God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, many people rejected God’s Kingdom because the Kingdom was not dramatic enough for some people. The general expectation of the first century was that the Messiah would come with a triumphant arrival. The Jews believed the Messiah would be a great king and leader to free Israel from Roman oppression and restore Israel’s former glory. As the Christ (Messiah) and the Son of the living God (Mark 1:1; John 6:69), Jesus said His Kingdom was beginning quietly, like the tiny mustard seed that grows into an enormous tree. God is building a worldwide Kingdom through His Son Jesus. Our faith (belief) and obedience in God’s Son makes us a part of God’s family and His Kingdom (Matthew 12:48-50; Mark 3:34-35; John 1:12-13; John 15:14). The arrival of God’s Kingdom appears small and unimportant at first but will grow over all the earth. Although God’s work in Jesus currently is very small, apparently insignificant, and making little visible advancement, God’s Kingdom will eventually grow worldwide and have global impact. The day will come when God’s Kingdom will be unveiled and its true greatness and power will be seen by the whole world (Mark 4:30-32; see also Ezekiel 17:22-24; Revelation 11:15).

5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. 6 I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible, 1988).
King James Version Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Cabel, Ted. The Apologetics Study Bible: Understanding Why You Believe (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2012).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Spreading Light (Jesus)

1 Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. . . . 4 Eternal life is in Him, and this life gives light to all mankind. 5 His life is the light that shines through the darkness — and the darkness can never extinguish it. 6-7 God sent John the Baptist as a witness to the fact that Jesus Christ is the true Light. . . . 14 And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen His glory — the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father! John 1:1, 4-7, 14 (TLB)

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world and the radiance of God’s glory (John 1:4-7; John 9:5; John 12:46; Hebrews 1:3 see also Isaiah 9:2; Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78-79; Luke 2:32; Revelation 21:23). God is Light and the source of all light (1 Timothy 6:16; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5; Revelation 22:5). He clothes Himself with light (Psalm 104:2). During the exodus from Egyptian slavery, God was the pillar of fire that lighted the way for the Israelites (Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19; Nehemiah 9:12). God’s light was displayed to Israel as His Shekinah glory in cloud and fire (Exodus 16:10; Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 1:33; see also 2 Chronicles 7:1). As God incarnate (human flesh), Jesus became the “Light of the world” (John 8:12; see also Matthew 17:2). Jesus is the Holy One of God, God in human flesh, and Lord of all (John 1:1; John 6:69; John 20:28; Acts 10:36). The Apostle Paul encountered the Light on the Road to Damascus (Acts 9:3, 5). As the Light of God, Jesus lights the way for life (John 1:4-7). Jesus is the wisdom of God that bring spiritual illumination (Matthew 13:54; Mark 6:2; 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). He exemplifies all the treasures of the divine wisdom and the collective “thought” of God (Colossians 2:2-3).  

21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine.” Mark 4:21 (NLT)

Jesus calls His followers (disciples) to reflect and spread Jesus’ Light as they too are the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 4:21; John 8:12; John 12:35-36; 1 Peter 2:9) and members of God’s family (John 1:12-13; John 3:3-7). Sincere followers of Jesus are “children of light” (John 12:35-36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:5). John the Baptist was a lamp that burned and gave light (John 5:35; see also Daniel 12:3; 2 Peter 1:19). At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expected His followers as members of God’s family and Kingdom to shine their light in the world with good deed so the world will praise God in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16; see also Proverbs 4:18). Our good deeds are not to be done in a public way for one’s own honor and own praise (Matthew 6:1) but for God’s glory alone (1 Corinthians 10:31). This light is to be characterized by moral purity, patience, truth, holiness, and peacefulness (Ephesians 5:3-7), so that we will “shine like stars” in a dark and depraved world (Philippians 2:15).

14 “You are the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)

We are saved and receive eternal life through our faith, acceptance, and belief in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ – the King of Israel (John 1:12-13, 49; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9). Through our faith in Jesus as God’s Son, Jesus brings new life (John 1:4-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17); spiritual re-birth through the Holy Spirit (John 1:33-34; John 3:3-7); a clean heart (Acts 15:9); and heart peace within (Romans 5:1). God graciously brings new life and spiritual rebirth so we can shine the Light of Jesus in the world with good deeds and good work (Ephesians 2:10). God does not save Jesus’ followers by good work but He definitely brings them new birth and His Holy Spirit to do good works and good deeds in the world (Matthew 5:14-16). To “work out” our “salvation” (Philippians 2:12) does not mean to work for our salvation because we are saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, Jesus’ followers are “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10) and to shine Jesus’ good Light in the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Our salvation involves the double work of redeeming us from guilt and judgment (Mark 10:45; Romans 3:24) and of producing moral purity and helpful service to others (Titus 2:14). God is concerned about the life-styles of His people and He looks for obedience and active doing of good (Titus 3:1, 8, 14; 1 Peter 2:12-15). God accepts EVERYONE who loves Him and does what is right (Acts 10:35).

As Jesus followers, we are to reflect Jesus’ command of loving one another (John 13:34-35; John 15:12; see also Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). We are to be patient, fair, always hopeful, truthful, faithful and kind to others and not jealous, boastful, vengeful, selfish, proud, irritable or rude (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Our goodness is “love in action” (Galatians 5:6, 14). Even more, our love for others shine “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16) and is the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ followers (John 13:35; see also 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7-8, 11-12, 19-21).

23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” 24 Then He added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given — and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” Mark 4:23-25 (NLT)

In order to receive Jesus’ Light, Jesus’ followers must also receive and obey His teaching (Mark 4:24-25). Jesus is the Word of God and God’s last Word to humanity because Jesus is the climax of God’s divine revelation (John 1:1-5, 14, 18; 1 John 1:1; Revelation 19:13). The more we hear and obey the Word of God, the better we are able to spread Jesus’ Light to others (Luke 8:16-18). As we hear and obey God’s Word, we will sharpen our vision and increase our understanding and truth (James 1:22-25). Those who respond God’s Word as truth receive more truth (Mark 4:25).

18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s Light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the Light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the Light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the Light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:18-21 (NLT)

Many people do not want their dark lives exposed to God's Light because they are afraid of what will be revealed. However, there is no sense trying to hide anything from God because God will one day reveal all things (Jeremiah 16:17, Jeremiah 23:24; Hebrews 4:13). All things that are now hidden will someday come to light (Mark 4:22).  As the Source of light, God exposes evil and reveals all hypocrisy (Luke 8:17; see also Matthew 10:26; Luke 12:2; Romans 2:16; Hebrews 4:13). “For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light” (Mark 4:22, NLT). The light reveals the truth and exposes the true character of things. This explains why some people stay clear of the church and the Bible. God's light reveals everyone’s true character.

16 “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. 17 For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all. 18 So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to My teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” Luke 8:16-18 (NLT)

Followers of Jesus are to be a beacon of light to the world (Luke 8:16). Although Jesus couched much of His teaching in parables (Matthew 13:34-35), He intended His followers (disciples) to make His truths known as widely as possible (Acts 1:8). When the good light of Jesus illuminates us, Jesus’ followers are to spread the light with good deeds and to help others (Titus 2:14). Jesus’ teaching is a light that must be allowed to shine so that others may be helped and saved. Our task is not to please ourselves, but to proclaim God's message (Matthew 28:18-20). A believer’s life will have influence, whether good or bad. Jesus commanded His disciples to be like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16). The good Light of Jesus should shine forth like the light of a lamp on a stand in such a way that God will get the glory for the good deeds in our lives.

Apostle Paul:  8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. Ephesians 5:8-14 (NIV)

Followers of Jesus are the light (Ephesians 5:7-14). The Apostle Paul warns his readers to “walk as children of light” and flee darkness (Ephesians 5:8; see also 2 Corinthians 6:14-17). Our good light must also produce or grow fruit of all goodness, love, truth, patience, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, righteousness and truth in our daily lives (Ephesians 5:9; see also John 3:20-21; Galatians 5:22-23). By our good character and conduct, we bring God’s light into a dark world (Romans 13:12-14). It is not enough simply to expose sin but Jesus’ followers must also bear good fruit and good light (Ephesians 5:8). As children of light, our actions should reflect our faith, morality, truth and goodness to others (Matthew 5:15-16; Colossians 1:12-14). Followers of Jesus are to wear armor of light, not the deeds of darkness (Romans 13:12). We are to flee the darkness of orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, quarreling and jealousy (Romans 13:13) and ACT LIKE JESUS (Romans 13:14)!   

5 This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. 6 So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. 7 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the Light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT)

Disciple's Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House Company, 2001).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Fruitful Heart

Jesus:  3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it did not have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! . . . 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s Word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they do not have deep roots, they do not last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s Word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s Word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s Word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” Mark 4:3-8, 14-20 (NLT)

Mark 4 consists of a group of parables that focus on the issue of planting and sowing seeds. The first parable concerns Jesus’ parable of the sower and the different responses people make to God’s Word (Mark 4:3-8, 14-20; see also Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Luke 8:4-8, 11-15). In the parable of the sower, Jesus describes how the Kingdom of God begins in people’s lives. God’s Kingdom begins with the planting of seeds in the hearts of people (Matthew 13:19). God’s Word is the seed (Mark 4:14; Luke 8:11) and the sower is God’s servants or messengers who shares God’s Word with others (1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Jesus is the initial Sower of God’s Word. Jesus is the Word of God incarnate (human flesh) (John 1:1-5, 14). As the Word of God, Jesus is the sum of all that God wanted to say to humanity. After Jesus, the sower represents all servants and messengers who faithfully and genuinely plant and share God’s Word in the world (1 Corinthians 3:9). The various soils represent different kinds of hearts and their response to God’s Word from God’s servants. Essentially, the parable teaches there are four different heart responses to God’s Word: no response, emotional response, worldly response, and fruitful response. The most unusual feature of this parable is the abundant harvest of everyone that hears, accepts, and obeys God’s Word. Everyone who hears, accepts and obeys God’s Word with their whole heart produces an abundant harvest (spiritual fruit) – a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times (Mark 4:8, 20). The quantity of the harvest depends on the quality of the soil (heart). Jesus explained this parable so there is no doubt of the parable’s meaning (Mark 4:14-20).

First, the hard-hearted soil resists God’s Word and therefore Satan (the birds) snatches God’s Word away easily (Mark 4:4, 15). People who carelessly and recklessly open their hearts to all kinds of people and philosophies are in danger of developing hard hearts (see Proverbs 4:23; Hosea 10:12). Second, the shallow hearted soil is like thin soil on a rock (Mark 4:5-6, 16-17). Since there is no depth with thin soil, whatever is planted cannot last because it has no deep roots. These people represent the “emotional hearers” who joyfully and quickly accept God’s Word but they do not really understand the importance of faith and wholehearted obedience to God’s Word. Oftentimes, these emotional hearers accept God’s Word with great enthusiasm for several days or weeks; but when persecution, testing, and difficulties arise, the enthusiasm vanishes and they abandon God (see John 8:31-32). Third, the crowded hearted soil receives God’s Word. These hearers do not truly repent of their sins and wholeheartedly follow God (Mark 4:7, 18-19). Sadly, crowded heart hearers have too many different kinds of “seeds” growing in their hearts — worldly cares, a desire for riches, a lust for things. Thus, the good seed of God’s Word has no room to grow and flourish. In other words, people with crowded heart want to live and walk the “broad way” and the “narrow way” at the same time (Matthew 7:13-14). “Cares, riches, and the pleasures of this life” keep their soil from being fruitful. The person devoted to many pursuits cannot respond to Jesus' call to the Cross (Mark 8:34-38). Moreover, the people with the “crowded hearts” comes the closest to salvation, but they still do not bring forth good fruit or good deeds (Mark 4:19). This kind of belief is superficial and does not save. The book of James call this kind of hearts “dead” (James 2:17, 26) or “useless” (James 2:20). Lastly, the good soil represents true believers (Mark 4:8, 20). These people produce GOOD FRUIT of a changed life and a visible presence of God’s Holy Spirit (“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”) (Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:17; James 2:14-26). Sadly, the other three soils (hearts) produced no fruit and they belong to people who have never been truly born again by God’s Holy Spirit.

God’s Kingdom begins with willing acceptance and obedience of God’s Word in our human hearts. Satan seeks to make us ignore or not listen to God's Word and divert us from faith and wholehearted obedience in God (Matthew 13:4). Faith and obedience in God’s Word always leads to salvation, blessings, and life (see Deuteronomy 11:1; Deuteronomy 28:1-14; Deuteronomy 30:15-18; Proverbs 3:3-4; Proverbs 11:19; Proverbs 12:28; Matthew 7:13-14). Yet, the evil one seeks to steal, steal, and destroy (John 10:10).

1 . . . Store My commands in your heart. 2 If you do this, you will live many years (prolonged life), and your life will be satisfying (prosperous and peaceful). 3 Never let loyalty (faithfulness) and kindness (mercy) leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. 4 Then you will find favor (grace) with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek His will (way) in all you do, and He will show you which path to take. 7 Do not be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear (honor) the Lord and turn away (shun) from evil. 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. Proverbs 3:1-8 (NLT)

A person who genuinely and sincerely repents of their sins and wholeheartedly turn to God found in Jesus by faith produce good fruit by God’s Holy Spirit (Mark 1:14-15; John 3:5-8; John 14:15-18; Acts 11:15-18; Galatians 4:4-7; Galatians 5:22-26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:22-25). Through true repentance and obedience, there will always be evidence of good fruit (deeds) (Matthew 7:15-23; see also Isaiah 1:16-17; Jeremiah 4:22; Amos 5:24; Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Mark 12:33.). Good fruit and good works are the result of true salvation that come with a repentance of sin, submission to God, and OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD (e.g. see 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalm 40:6; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:16; Luke 9:23; see also Ephesians 2:8-10; Colossians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:13-15, 21-22; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; James 1:22-25). Even more, these kinds of people ALWAYS produce an abundant harvest in this life and the life to come (see Proverbs 3:1-8). God’s Word is “full of living power” to produce an abundant harvest (Hebrews 4:12, TLB). Unlike mere human words, God’s Word has life!  Unless there is good fruit in a person’s life, there is no saving faith in the heart. The proof of true salvation is spiritual fruit and good works (Matthew 7:16, 18, 20; Luke 6:43-49; see also Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:8-10). Moreover, not everyone produces the same amount of good fruit (Matthew 13:8), but all true believers will produce good fruit as evidence of their new life in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Furthermore, this faith-filled and obedient life leads to membership into God’s Kingdom and family (Matthew 12:48-50; Mark 3:34-35; Luke 8:19-21; John 1:12-13; John 3:3, 5; John 15:14).  Sadly, those who reject or disobey God’s Word do not produce life and good fruit from their hearts (see Proverbs 2:1; Matthew 12:34-35; Mark 7:21).

The entire Holy Bible teaches that God desires goodness, loving-kindness, mercy, forgiveness, holiness, truth, humility, unity, patience, compassion, gentleness, and fairness because these are the very characteristics of God Himself (e.g., see Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 5:1-12; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 2 Corinthians 6:6-10; Ephesians 4:2, 32; Ephesians 5:9; Philippians 4:8-9; Colossians 3:12-15; 1 Peter 3:8-12). God is “compassionate and gracious . . .  slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7, NIV). God wants people to be kind, forgiving, and merciful (Galatians 5:22-23). Sadly, Jesus knew the crowds of people listening would not wholeheartedly and genuinely follow God. Worldly worries, materialistic pursuits of wealth, and the desire for other things cause many people to lose faith and turn from God’s Word. God wants everyone to strive to be like good soil in every area of our lives at all times (Mark 4:14-20). Jesus calls everyone to receive and obey God’s Word so we will bear good fruit for Him.

14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. Mark 4:14 (NLT)

Although many will not respond positively, God’s messengers are to continually and faithfully communicate God’s Word (see Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:8). God promises to provide His grace to help His messengers (Mark 10:27). The parable of the sower encourages spiritual “sowers” — those who faithfully teach, preach, and lead others for God’s glory. Jesus taught that God’s messengers must faithfully “sow the seed” of God’s Word regardless of the results (Mark 4:15). God’s Word is good seed, yet not all the seeds will sprout (Luke 8:5-7). Even the plants that grew had varying yields – thirty, sixty, and hundred (Luke 8:8). As faithful sowers of God’s Word, God’s Holy Spirit uses our words to lead others to Him regardless of our listener’s responses (Mark 4:16-17), and regardless of those who remain immature and worldly (Mark 4:18-19). That some of the seed produced no crop was not the fault of God’s messengers or God’s Word. The yield depended on the condition of the soil (heart) where the God’s Word (seed) fell. God’s messengers have the responsibility to spread the seed (God's Word), but we should not give up (Hosea 10:12). God's Word will always have a mixed reception but God’s Word is powerful (Hebrew 4:12)!

Disciple's Study Bible ((Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Life Essentials Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2011).
New Student Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992).
Ryrie Study Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1995).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary (Victor Books, 1989).