My Response to Jesus

May 15, 2022

Book: Mark

Audio Download

Scripture: Mark 4:1-20

What does a God like this deserve?

Good morning, Calvary family. I’d like you to get your workbooks out, please. Your Bibles. If you didn’t bring your workbook, there’s one in front of you. Or I guess you can use your phone. That’s a handy tool. I have to say, I’m a bit of a rebel. I’m not much about showing the scripture on the screen. And here’s why. When you grow old and you go to be with the Lord, your grandkids aren’t going to fight over your china or your doll collection. They’re going to have a little tizzy over who gets your workbook, your Bible, with the trail of your relationship with our Lord written in the margins. So I’m going to always encourage you to bring your Bible to church. It is a treasure to leave to your kids, not to mention being able to go back and review. This morning, we’re taking a little bit of a departure from the To Live As Christ series, but not really. Because this morning, as I ask the question from this parable, what’s my response to Jesus? If Paul were sitting in the front row, he would say to live as Christ. That’s his response to Jesus. And we’re going to be studying that for weeks with Pastor Kyle. I hope you’ll come back. It is going to be a transformative time in God’s word. So we’re going to look at a parable today of Jesus. If you want to follow your notes, there’s some things that make this unique. But before we go there, I just want to explain real quickly something about parables. There’s about 40 of them in the New Testament. Jesus made them famous. He was a master teacher. Jesus was amazing. And parables are basically his sermon illustrations. So his sermon was quite consistent. It was brought together in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. And then Luke repeats it. He condenses a little. And Luke 6. I hope you wear out those pages of your workbook.

Jesus sermon. He’s saying, If I were king in this world and over my people, here’s how the kingdom would be. And then he gives sermon illustrations to show what that means. So, for example, the very first thing out of his mouth in Matthew and the Sermon on My Mount is ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. In other words, broken hearted people who feel spiritually bankrupt are blessed. They’ll be my people in my kingdom. Then a little later, he gives the sermon illustration with his disciples, and he tells about a Pharisee and a tax collector who go to the temple together. Does this ring a bell? And the Pharisees praying over on one side, God, I thank you. I’m not like these other sinners, these adulterers and extortionists. And then he gives a chores list he does for God. And then Jesus moves to the other man.

The tax collector is on his face, beating his breasts and saying, Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner. And Jesus says, ‘It’s this man who goes to his house right with God, not the other.’ Because what? Blessed are the poor and spirit the broken for they go to the king for forgiveness. Parables are sermon illustrations and there are some zingers in those 40. They’ll come on your blind side as you read them, and God just uses them to really pierce our hearts. This one’s unique in a lot of ways that we’re looking at this morning.

Here are a few, if you like, to take notes. Most of Jesus’ parables just have one point. They’re trying to make a point about his sermons. Don’t put meaning in the details. But sometimes he expands them into an allegory almost. And he says the details here, they’re a big deal. They matter. And this is one of those rare parables where the details matter. We’ll be looking at his details. It’s also early on in his ministry. Now, Mark, we read it from Mark. He’s not chronological. Luke is, but he puts it first and Luke puts it early. So if Jesus had a bulleted list of ‘these are the sermon illustrations, I want my people to understand’, it’s way up there toward top. All three gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke share this parable and almost identical. Well, they were comparing notes.

That’s unusual because they have different audiences and very different purposes about what they want to present about Jesus the Messiah. It’s the only parable that all three give that’s important. That’s a biggie. Right in the text itself, v.9, in your workbook, if you’re looking at it, he says, ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear’. Jesus said that quite often. He says it here, basically says, If you’re checked out, check back in. This is important. That makes it unique. And then right in the text also it says in v. 13, look at that in your workbook, he says to his disciples, How is it? If you don’t understand this one, how are you going to understand the rest? It almost sounds like it’s foundational. I believe it is. Our response to Jesus is foundational. Now there’s a little static – I just want to note v. 11-12, if you were listening to Kyle, you read that again. It sounds like Jesus on the surface is saying you guys are on the inside. I’m going to give you some insight into truth that other people I don’t want them to see it. Oh, folks, if you’ve been around Scripture, that should bother you, if that’s what you think he was saying. If you’ve been around Scripture, the whole point of this book is God to reveal his way back to his wayward kids. John and his beginning of his gospel says God was made flesh the word to reveal to us how to become right again with Him.

Jesus would never hide truth from people, to have some elite know it and others not so much. So why would he do this? Why would he say that? I tell my students, this will be on the quiz. The two reasons Jesus spoke in parables: to reveal, to conceal. And why? Why would he ever conceal? He did want to conceal. He wanted to conceal it from people who wouldn’t receive it. As an act of mercy. You maybe remember Him saying, ‘don’t cast your pearls before swine, they’ll trample it under their feet’. Jesus, if he knows you in this room or out on line, will trample his truth, just like the audience he has, He will not reveal it. It’s an act of mercy until you’re ready to receive it. Does that sort of make sense?

You do this with your kids growing up or your grandkids. If they’re incorrigible, you’re going somewhere in the van, you keep giving them instructions, instructions, and they’re not listening. At least I did. I stopped giving them instructions. It was wounding to me and said something about them that they would continue to trample my word. So I just stopped giving it so they wouldn’t break it. Make sense? So that’s why it’s unique. Look at the audience quick. In v. 1, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd so large He got into a boat and sat on the lake to preach. This is the end of year one of Jesus ministry. It’s his highest point of popularity. And who were in those crowds, those multitudes? Cynics and skeptics, people who are just curious, people who were convinced he’s the messiah and some who are all in committed. At least they thought they were as much as they understood commitment. I believe that’s the same audiences in this room. And Jesus is going to give this parable which essentially asks, how are you going to respond to Me?

The next thing I want to talk about before I review the parable is the sower went out to sow seed. And Jesus says in this parable later on to his disciples, he makes it very clear: the seed is God’s word. Now, if I asked a group of Christians, what is this seed in the parable of the sower in seed? It’s really the parable of the soils. That’s what this is primarily about, our heart receptivity. Most of them would say, well, it’s the gospel. It’s that I’m separated from God as a sinner and I need the blood of Jesus as my sin substitute to be applied to me. It sounds like I gave them the gospel. I’m lost. Jesus paid the cost. And I need to apply it to my life. To my whole life. My separated from God life. But is that all of the seed?

So we are one of the hosts for the CHP people that was being prayed for this morning. What a joy. We have two of the little babies and two of the moms and one of the interpreters. I was told by a reliable source this week that when someone asked them, what’s your favorite thing so far in four weeks here, they said, Grandma Gloria’s meatballs. I made those. Twice I made those. Actually, they’re getting them tonight. Round three. I took them serious. Grandma’s Glorious meatballs. There are eight ingredients in those if you combine the spices. And if I said, what’s the primary ingredient in Grandma Gloria’s meatballs? It would be … meat. But I could go ball up meat after church today and it’s not Grandma Gloria’s meatballs. That we are separated from God as sinners and the blood of Jesus makes us right with God is the meat of the Gospel. But there’s much more. The seed, I believe, that spread on our receptive, hopefully, hearts is broader than that. And so for a few moments, I want you to look at that puzzle on your notes. I’m going to switch my metaphors. Forget about Grandma Gloria’s meatballs here. okay? I’m going to give you what I give to my students for ‘what is the gospel?’. Here it is. In this book, this is a consistent love letter from God about getting his kids back and being with us. There are 13,000 some separate thoughts, sentences. Some are glued together into broader thoughts. Imagine those being 13,000 pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. I say to my students, What’s the first thing you do when you put a puzzle together and they say, put the edge pieces that frame the message and I go spot on.

So, students, I’m going to give you four pairs of rhyming words that are the edge pieces, the gospel, the good news cover-to-cover in this book. Maybe you’ve heard this before from me. It wouldn’t hurt to write them down. Teachers like to review. It’s those eight little puzzle pieces that frame this message. I know they’re small, but write these eight words. I’ll give them in four pairs of rhyming words.

Here they are: made and strayed – cover to cover. The good news, the seed, the gospel is we are made in God’s image by our Creator, fearfully and wonderfully and for a purpose. And a relationship. And he loves us; from Deuteronomy: that I’ve loved you with an everlasting love, God said, to that little letter of John in the back, that said behold what manner of love the Father has for us that we should be called His kids, children of God. That’s a part of the gospel – made in his image and deeply love. Strayed. We wandered off from God. He never left us. We left him. Cover to cover. Isaiah 53, right in the dead center of this love letter, is probably the most vivid prophecy about the crucifixion of Jesus. And what does it say? We all, like sheep, have what? Have gone astray. Each to our individual ways. But he’s laid the iniquity of us on the Messiah.

Lost and cost is the second pair. Having gone astray, we got hopelessly lost. I’m not talking mall lost. I’m talking wilderness lost. Anybody wilderness lost? If you get wilderness lost, stay put. Because people who try to find their way out of the wilderness get lost there. Cover to cover in Scripture. Then cost: God bought us back at a great price. In the Old Testament, He took an animal that He made, that He valued, and He had it killed. So the blood of that animal could be applied to a guilty creature made in his image He loved more. Then we get to the New Testament. Throughout the Gospels and all the way to Revelation in revelation meeting Jesus. John sees this revelation. I looked and behold there was one as if a lamb who was slain. Cost. It costs a great price to cover our sin and buy us back.

Here we go. Save and behave. Those are your next two pairs. The word save is used almost 300 times in the Bible. Chase it down with your concordance on your phone or paper concordance. Most of the time it’s God delivering us. Sometimes it’s us delivering each other. God alone can save us. We can’t save ourselves. Go through the stories of the Old Testament and then get to the new. God saves. God saved Noah through the flood. He saved the Israelites from Egypt. We get to the New Testament and Paul says, By God, we are saved through faith. And even that faith is not of us. It’s of God. God saves and then behave. Whew. That sounds a little oppressive, huh? No, it’s not. From the beginning to end, God expects his kids who have been redeemed to obey. Jesus said this at the end of the Sermon on the Mount Luke’s account, right at the end of his important sermon. Why do you call me Lord and don’t do what I ask? And then he talks about building your life on a solid foundation of obedience, not on the shifting sands of what we do. God expects us to listen. He expects to be Lord. And as to obey.

Then the last two: regain and reign. That relationship was broken. We can regain it through the shed blood of Jesus. That’s that meat part of the gospel we’re talking about. Romans 5 Paul writes this Having been justified by faith in the shed blood of Jesus, we have peace with God. With that powerful, holy, fearful, loving, kind God who made us. Do a word study on reconcile. Two parties, reconcile. Reconcile or reconciliation. Just look at the passages about that relationship that can be restored. And most of us in this room, I believe, are in that stage. God has moved back into our lives, through our relationship with Jesus, the presence of the Spirit. We’ve regained a relationship at the last word, reign. That’s the last piece of the good news. God has more to do. You know, it’s not just you die, go be with Jesus; we’re all in. You know, when we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be. God’s got some work to do here. I want to read you something from the book of Daniel. I hope in your workbook, this is one of those pages that are dog eared, double-circled that your grandkids look at with all kinds of notes. Daniel, Chapter 7. Oh, my. In my vision, Daniel writes, At night I looked and there before me was one like the son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the ancient of days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power. All nations and peoples of every language worshipped Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. And you go, Oh yeah, that’s in heaven. Zacharias says not so fast. Zachariah talking about this same king says the Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord in his name will be the only name. And he goes on to say that holy name will be written on horses’ bells.

Uncommon vessels we use in our homes. If he was writing today, he’d say it’d be on our bumper stickers and our t-shirts and our Tupperware. He will reign over this world and in eternity. That’s the gospel. That’s the seed that falls on hearts. All of that: made/strayed, lost/cost, save/behave, regain/reign. How will you respond – and Jesus is the thread through all of it. How will you respond to that? Let’s look at the parable. It’s simple to understand, isn’t it? Isn’t Jesus a great teacher? Four soils that are in your chart, you’ve got the pack down path, right? So people would walk through. They didn’t have roads. Romans built a few roads, but they had little paths through their fields. Remember how God would say, Let people glean as they walk along? Remember the disciples gleaning, grabbing grain as they walked. They’re walking on a hard path, a bike path, basically, that gets packed down like concrete. You throw seed on that. It’s just going to sit there until it gets eaten and that’s what happens. First soil, pack down hearts, and there’s all kinds of ways that that can happen. The second soil. It looks cultivated, but there’s a lot of rocks in it, and I do a lot of gardening. And I grew up on a farm and initially having some rocks in the soil is actually helpful because early in the spring, sun heats up the rocks. It gets cold at night. The rocks give off heat and the plants germinate quicker. But then when that heat really gets turned up and the faucet is shut off, of course those rocks prevent the roots from going deep and they collapse. So this soil, shallow soil, rocky soil. And Jesus said that very thing. People with joy received the seed. Those themes, the big gospel. And they start to go for it and then they just wither when things get tough and it always is tough to follow Messiah Jesus. He said that. The third soil, thorny soil, this must be part of the fall of creation because as I say, I do a lot of gardening and weeds just grow more naturally than the seeds, if you notice that. And that’s because their native to the soil. So your weeds start coming in, your plants are coming in, the weeds just take more moisture and they grow faster. And unless you tend your garden, they just smother everything before there’s a crop. And then there’s the good soil. You know, you get rid of the rocks. That’s a lot of hard work. And you work at that because if you live in Minnesota, the rocks keep coming up, don’t they? And you pull weeds when they show up and you keep the soil loose. You don’t pack it down with things. And you produce fruit.

So if you would now have a small group discussion after this sermon and I stopped right here, what do you think would be the main concern or question you’d have about the parable of the soils? The first hour, 9:00 service got this straight out of the gate. What would be the question you’d want answered about the parable of the soils? Oh, that’s perceptive, see, you’re thinking right now about what’s my heart response here? I like that. That’s where I want to go. What might be another question or response? I will not go home unless I know the answer to this. How many of these soils represent people who are saved? Wouldn’t you ask that question? By the way, the answer: you can get all four of those depending on who you talk to. Some people say all of them are saved. It’s not the response of the soil, it’s the power of the sower in the seed. Right. They think we’re all going to heaven. There’s some problem. There’s some verses that suggest that and some that say not there. Hold on. Some people say only the fruitful ones. If you don’t have fruit, you ain’t saved. I don’t care what you think. Other people are in that messy middle, going “boy …”. The wrong question is how many of these soils are saved before I get to the right question; the question Jesus wanted us to ask.

I need to tell you a little bit about my love story. Will you pardon me for a moment? You can share your love story sometime. This is very unfair when I get the platform, but here it is. Michelle and I, we’ve been dating for about six months. I was 28, she was 24. We really liked each other. This could go somewhere. But I’m 28 years old and I’m kind of a Barney Fife. You know, men can’t be too hasty. And so she wants to move this forward a little bit, give it a nudge. So we get into sort of romantic dinner and she says, Can we have a little conversation? I go, Yeah, I love it. She goes, You know what? You know, I’ve had a lot of boyfriends. But I think you’re the one. And you know, if you’d be the one, if you’d put a ring on it, you’d be the one. I mean, I’d like to keep a couple of those guys as friends who are boys. And she named a couple of them by name. But. But you’d be my heart love. And then she said, and you know, I love my job. We work together. That’s how we met. And I love golfing. But I give that up for you. Of course I already know you. The things that I love, you, love. So I’m sure you won’t want me to do that. You want to love the things that I love. So I’ll keep doing that. And then. And then she said, you’re kind of a Romanticist. I mean, dates matter to you, and holidays matter to you, and I’d like to spend holidays with you. The birthdays of our children. That is, unless I’m too busy or I forget. But I’m sure you’ll understand. And then she said, You know, we want to partner together. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be yoked to. I think we’ll agree on most things. But when we come to decisions and we don’t agree, you know, you’re kind of a chill guy and I’m kind of a control freak. So if somebody has to break the tie, that will be me. You know, I’m making that up, right? Those of you who are married now, you don’t build a relationship on that. The odds are really long I’d ever put a ring on that. And if I had, the odds are even longer that we’d be celebrating 34 years in September. And if we did, it would be an icky relationship. That’s not how relationships work. Where are you going with this? Well. God’s parable for our relationship with him through Christ is a man and a woman in a covenantal relationship. You know that right? From Ephesians. This is a mystery, I tell you, I’m speaking of Christ and the church, when I talk to you about a husband and wife working it out in a marriage that’s spirit driven with honor and love and submission and respect. So like the soils, like a relationship. some of us are packed down in our relationship. We don’t want another relationship for whatever reason. It’s just going to be me. I don’t need that relationship or the rocky soil. You know, we’ve been there, some of us when the for better, for richer and in health turns to for poorer. Right. For worse, in sickness. And we wither. Or we’re in it in the frenetic pace of our life. We just don’t have time for each other anymore. The weeds, everything just chokes us out. The right question is this. If you’ll write this down, what kind of a response to a God like this deserve? And for that, my students always get it right. See, I ask them the same question or they ask me, How many of these soils are saved, Mr. Nelson. And we have this same kind of discussion, and I tell them that same basic goofy story. And then I say, What does God want from us and what does he deserve? And they’ve always 15 sections of eighth graders over 12 years have said he wants fruit. He wants the last soil, the cultivated soil that’s receptive to this full good news, all of it from being made in his image to him raining in our lives.

So what is fruit? Real quickly, it’s this. It’s our resemblance to Jesus. Search it in Scripture. Look it up on your concordance. What is the fruit God wants from responding to the news, the seed, the gospel? It is Christ likeness growing in us. And how do we get that fruit? By being with Jesus. To live as Christ. Did you catch that? Do you know any couple that’s been married five or six decades and has a reasonably flourishing relationship together? I mean, it hasn’t always been pretty. You notice how they finish each other’s sentences? They start to look and smell alike. And often when one dies, the other doesn’t live for more than a few weeks or months. They’re so enmeshed together. That’s where that fruit comes from. An intimate, abiding in Christ. Go to John 15. His imagery of abiding in the vine, or go to Matthew 11. The imagery of being beside him in a yoke, in a daily apprenticeship where He provides the direction and most of the power. And we just learn His moves as we’re shoulder to shoulder together. That’s what He hopes our response will be to the gospel. Fruitfulness, side by side with him. To live is Christ. This is a lifelong journey, folks, and I hope in the coming week we’ll start this journey together. For us. To live will be Christ. Lord, God, teach us to do that. And God’s people said, Amen.

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