Different responses Mark 4 Parable of the grounds

Being a pastor is sometimes depressing

We preach our hearts out, wake up early for gospel breakfasts, spend hours discipling and training, and pray hard for conversions and gospel growth.  What a great joy it is to see Jesus working in people’s lives and families transformed.  However, at the same time, we see other people drifting away from the church, not walking close to God, not serving in ministry or making any kind of Christian impact.  If they manage to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to connect with God’s people, it’s a burden and a pain.  Once they seemed to be Christians, but now there is nothing distinguishing them from their non-Christian neighbours.

Jesus had the same problem.  Many loved him. Some wanted to kill him. 
Why these differing responses to the same message of God?
According to Jesus in Mark 4 there are four typical hearers of God’s word.
It is interesting to note that they all do hear!  They might have had Christian parents who taught them the Bible, they might have attended Sunday school, they might attend church services, and they might even belong to a cell group.  They all do hear the word.
1. Rejecting Ray
Jesus said in v15, “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.”
Ray hears the gospel, but he doesn’t respond, doesn’t believe and doesn’t trust.  His love of sin, his pride and his rebellion cause him to reject the message of Jesus.
I’ve met many rejecting Ray’s and so have you.  They’ve heard the gospel, they know the Bible, they went to Sunday School and can quote the verse.  The excuses they make up are predictable: “You can’t believe the Bible; the Bible is for weaklings; the Bible has errors; I’m actually good enough for God.”  They are even professors at theological seminaries.
The scary thing here is that there is someone else involved.  V19 says “Satan comes and takes away the word”.  A spiritual battle is waged whenever someone hears the Bible explained.   When you reject Jesus you allow Satan to steal the captive-freeing word away.   The warning in the Bible is that if you permanently reject Jesus, you’ll be permanently separated from him.
2. Superficial Sylvia
Jesus said in v16-17, “Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
Sylvia makes a superficial and impulsive response to the message of Jesus.  When the time of testing, trial or temptation comes she falls away – showing that her response was not true, not genuine, and not real.  She trusts for a short while, makes a commitment,  attends faithfully for a period, serves in the church, but when the difficult time comes she walks away from God.  The Bible tells us that the time of testing will come, indeed must, come.   But when it comes she say things like: “God doesn’t love me.  God doesn’t care for me.  Why is God hurting me?”  The initial response was emotional and shallow; it had no deep roots anchored in Jesus
3.  Preoccupied Pete
Jesus said in v18-19, “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Preoccupied Pete is preoccupied with other stuff.  God gives us good gifts to enjoy, but Pete loves the gifts more than the Giver.  Making money is a good thing, but loving money is bad.  Children are gifts from God, but when life starts revolving around your children instead of Jesus – that’s bad. Comfort is a good thing.  God doesn’t mind you sleeping on a mattress.   But if life starts revolving around comfort and you start making decisions based on how your comfort levels will be influenced, rather than pleasing Jesus – that’s bad.  God’s gifts can become idols that distract us from Jesus and cause us to walk away from God.
Preoccupied Pete is stuck.  There are blatant sins he can’t get rid off.  He’s immature and serving other things instead of Jesus.  He loves his car more than Jesus.  He cares too much about what people think, the size of his flat screen, and wearing fashionable clothes.  Being fashionable is not a sin, but loving fashion and spending more on fashion than on Jesus, is.
Whenever there’s negative growth on the JSE he is distraught.  Pete is always thinking about his net worth.  He always arrives home late and hardly ever sees the children awake.   He never earns enough and is never content.   Do you know this guy?  His sister, Patricia, is much the same.
The thorns start looking good, he’s enticed by them and they chock the word.  The only solution is to get rid of the thorns: end the dodgy relationship, sell the motorbike, throw away the golf clubs, don’t take the promotion, be content with your car and home, disconnect the internet.  Do some serious weeding, before the thorns destroy you.
4. Fruitful Fred
Lastly, Jesus said in v20, “Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop–thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.”
This guys makes the pastor’s hard work all worthwhile.  Fruitful Fred hears the word, accepts the word and bears fruit.   He continually repents of sin and trusts in Jesus.  The fact that he bears fruit shows that the seed is growing, that his roots are deeply grounded in Jesus.  Fred does not say, “I’m saved!  Sit back do nothing!”  He says, “I’m saved,  rescued, freed and delivered; how can I honour God with my family; please God at college; glorify God with my work; impact my family; grow spiritually; love God’s people; serve my church; and  influence my city for good?”  When the tough times come, Fred perseveres.  When thorns spring up, Fred deals with them.
What kind of a hearer are you?
Doctrine Second Coming

God’s trumpet and air meetings?

What will happen when Jesus returns as conquering hero?  Will we float forever in the clouds? 

The Bible teaches that Jesus lived, died, rose back to life, ascended to heaven (from where he now reigns and rules) and promised to come back to us at what is commonly called the Second Coming.  

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 the apostle Paul, the author of a large chunk of the New Testament, speaks about the Second Coming of Jesus.

 This passage mentions two things that will happen:  God will blow his trumpet and all Christians will meet Jesus in the air.  What’s this all about?

Why trust the Bible?

Psalm 12:6 says “The words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times.”
God’s words (the text of the Bible), is like silver refined seven times

Why not just refined once once?

“Seven” in the Bible is the number for completeness and wholeness.  What Psalm 12:6 is saying is that God’s words are completely pure, without error and wholly reliable.

Yet, there may be more to the number seven:
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit suicide

Have you blasphemed the Spirit lately?

Jesus said in Mark 3:28-29, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Many people, including Christians, have wondered what blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, and many different opinions have been given throughout church history.

It’s not…
Let me tell you what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit isn’t.
It’s not denying God. Peter, the disciple, denied Jesus and was them later reconciled back to God.  It’s not doubting. Thomas, the disciple of Jesus, doubted and he was reconciled.  It’s not murder.  King David committed murder and was forgiven.  Jesus also prayed for forgiveness of the Roman soldiers who crucified him.
It’s not a sexual sin.    In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Paul lists a whole lot of sexual sins and then reminds the Christians that that is what some of them were (past tense), but now they are forgiven and part of God’s family.
It’s not suicide.  The Bible teaches us that Jesus’ death paid the price for all our sins, including sins committed against ourselves. 
It’s not an ongoing sin that you struggle to overcome. Ongoing and deliberate sin may grieve the Holy Spirit as Ephesians 4:30 indicates, but its not unforgivable.
We need to remember the great positive Jesus refers to in v28, “I tell you the truth, ALL the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.”  If we turn from sin and believe in Jesus we will be forgiven of anything and everything.

Son of Satan…

To understand blasphemy against the Holy Spirit must look at the context of Jesus words.  Jesus words where directed to the religious leaders.  And Jesus said this because, according to v30, “they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”  The religious leaders were rejecting the truth about Jesus despite of the clear evidence.   That’s what blasphemy against the Spirit is.  The religious leaders were saying, after seeing Jesus’ miracles and exorcisms, that Jesus was in fact a dark magician, a son of Satan, and casting out demons by using occultic power.  

Eternal sin

The Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity.  He is God and he convicts us of sin and shows us where we’re unholy and unrighteous.  The Holy Spirit empowered the life of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit reveals Jesus to us. The Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible.   It’s the Spirit’s role and delight to point people to Jesus.  He never draws attention to himself, but always points people to Jesus.  When the Spirit seeks to convince you of the truth about Jesus and you reject that truth (like the religious leaders), you blaspheme and that is unforgivable.  Why is it unforgivable?  Its unforgivable because you are cutting yourself off from the very source of forgiveness.  When you are unforgiven it has eternal consequences; that’s why Jesus calls it an eternal sin (v29).

If you die rejecting truth about Jesus, you will be seperated from God forever in a place Jesus described as hell. You are rejecting Son of God and relying on your own goodness.  That was the commitment of the religious leaders all the way to the point of murdering Jesus.  Jesus rose from the dead three days later to prove them wrong.

Is Jesus your God? Do you worship Jesus or something else?  If not, you’re already presently guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Ps The sin is unforgivable only as long as you keep committing it.
PPs By definition, Christians cannot blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Legalism Religion

How big is your Bible?

How big should a Christian’s Bible be?  Good Christians should have a really big Bible so that other can clearly see it’s a Bible.  Really spiritual Christians should have a leather bound Bible with cross references.  Bible’s that contain only the New Testaments and Psalms are ok for new Christians, but you really should aim to be more godly. Super-spiritual, higher grade Christians have the ESV study Bible, with a leather cover.
This may sound silly, but often in the church we have these petty rules we follow.  If you’re not part of a church I’m sorry to say that this is sad, but true.  We have unspoken rules as to how many devotions a good Christian should have per week, how many beers (if any) a good Christian can drink at a bring ‘n braai, how many times a Sunday a good Christian gathers for corporate worship, and so the list goes on.  Unsaid rules about tattoos, dress, jeans, baseball caps, age-restricted movies and shopping on Sundays, saying grace, and so on. 

Now don’t get me wrong.  Having a Bible , regular devotions and being Christlike are good and godly things!  However, we sometimes tend to think Christianity is about obeying the rules and checking the boxes.  If we keep the rules we feel proud and if we break the rules we scold ourselves and feel guilty.  Jesus condemned the Pharisees for this kind of attitude in Mark 2:8-3:6.  Christianity for Jesus is about submitting to him as King, being forgiven of all sin, and redirecting our life towards Jesus, the only One who can give us highest joy.  We then seek to live godly lives, not to earn God’s favour, but as a result of God’s ongoing favour to us.

Dr. Howard Kelly was a renowned physician and surgeon as well as a devout Christian.  During the summer holidays while in medical school, he sold books to help with expenses.  Becoming thirsty, he stopped one day at a farm house for a glass of water.  A girl came to the door. When he asked for a glass of water, she kindly said, “I will give you a glass of milk, if you wish.”  He drank the cool milk and left refreshed.

Years passed, and Dr. Kelly graduated from medical school and became the chief surgeon at John Hopkins Hospital.  A patient was admitted one day who was from the rural area and was seriously ill.  The skilled chief surgeon spared no efforts to make the patient well.   After undergoing surgery, she recovered quickly.  One day she was told by the nurse, ‘Tomorrow you will go home.’   Though her joy was great, it was somewhat silenced by the thought of the long bill she must owe the hospital and surgeon.  She asked to see it, and the nurse brought it to her.   With a heavy heart, the patient began to read the different items from the top downward.  The further she read, the more depressed she became, wondering how she would ever pay the bill.  But as her eyes lowered, she saw a notation at the bottom of the page.   It read, “Paid in full with one glass of milk.” It was signed, Howard A. Kelley, MD.

We owe God a debt we can never repay.  No amount of good or rule-keeping can even start to pay what we owe God. But Jesus, by his substitutional death, paid what we owe in full to God so we can be forgiven.  What drives you?  Ticking petty boxes to earn God’s favour or enjoying God’s grace, knowing the bill has been paid in FULL.