Category Archives: Evangelism

Mark 4:26-32

In Mark 4:26-32, Jesus uses the act of planting seeds to say something about the kingdom of God. You might not be aware of this, but there is difference of opinion about what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. Is Jesus referring to the coming millennial kingdom where He would reign as king over the world? Or was he speaking about a spiritual kingdom which He was currently establishing in the hearts of those who believe Him? While the Bible teaches that there will be a millennial kingdom in the future, it seems to me that Jesus was talking about the spiritual kingdom at this point.

This would coincide with what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” He wasn’t telling his followers to seek to be a part of the future kingdom of God on earth. He was telling them to submit to God and make His ways a priority in their lives. So as we look at this passage, that is how I will interpret “the kingdom of God.”

[Read Mark 4:26-32.]

During my summer with Marion Baptist Church, I lived with an older farmer and his wife. While there, I learned that farming was not for the faint of heart. I helped toss hay into the top of a barn, tear down a chicken building, tasted field corn (I hadn’t known there was a difference), and was chased by a rooster. But I also learned that between planting seeds and harvesting crops there is a lot of work. Sometimes, the seeds grow well and provide a good income for the farmer. At other times, the seeds don’t grow or amount to much.

In the verses we just read, Jesus likened the kingdom of God to the process of planting seeds and harvesting a crop. During this message, we will look at four thoughts from what Jesus said about seeds.

  1. The kingdom of God is like a seed that is planted (26).

    The first statement Jesus made about the kingdom of God is that it is like a man who is scattering seed on the ground. This was a picture which all of the people would easily recognize. They had probably just passed several men who were doing that on this day. Jesus was using this imagery to teach something about the kingdom of God. However, to understand the analogy, we must understand what the terms in the parable represent.

    a. What is the kingdom?

    Remember how Jesus told Nicodemus that he would not see or enter the kingdom unless he was born again? He was talking about the new birth that makes a spiritually dead person alive to God. Nicodemus did not understand. But neither did the other Pharisees of his day.

    In Luke 17:21, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom was not something that would be observed by them. It was something that would be within them. More than just a future physical kingdom, God’s kingdom begins inside of those who believe Him and willingly submit to his rule in their lives. The kingdom of God is not just something in the future; it is something God is doing right now.

    b. Who is the man?

    At this point, we might be safe in assuming that Jesus is the farmer in the parable. He was the One who was planting the seeds of truth in the lives of those who were listening. But as the disciples took on this task, this farmer could represent any of them or any of us who are speaking the truth to others. This idea is supported by Jesus’ explanation earlier in the chapter (Mark 4:13-14). As someone presents the truths of God’s Word, he is the sower of seed.

    c. What is the seed?

    Jesus defined the seed as the Word (God’s truth). When you look at the previous parable and consider that he is talking about the kingdom of God, you must come to the conclusion that he was talking about presenting the truth of God that would change the hearts of His listeners. Today this would refer to presenting the good news of Jesus to someone.

    d. How is it accomplished?

    The ancient process of planting seeds was much different than today. The farmer would take a bag of seeds to the field and scatter the seeds by hand.

    At first thought, this may seem like a haphazard method for planting seeds. But I don’t think that is the point. The ancient farmer did not place each seed into a specially spooned out hole. He threw the seed wherever he could, knowing that only a portion of the seeds would germinate and be harvested.

    Jesus was trying to show us that we should not discriminate who hears the truth. Just as he shared it with Samaritans, tax collectors, and religious people, we should tell everyone regardless of who they are. We are not called to only speak to those who are receptive. We are to speak to as many people as possible.

  2. The kingdom of God is like a crop that grows by itself (27).

    [Read Mark 4:26-28.]

    After showing the need to plant the seed of truth in people’s lives, Jesus points out the need to let the seeds grow.

    a. We can do other things.

    The first phrase indicates the life of the farmer after planting the field. Jesus described his life as sleeping and rising. He was showing that planting is not the entire life of the farmer. Although planting does take a good portion of his time, there are other things that he is able to do.

    If we are not careful, we can become so overcome with the need to spread the gospel that we are unable to sleep. Yes, we need to see the need for evangelism and missions, but we must also rest in God’s control of the task.

    Psalm 127:1-2 — “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

    Sleep is a benefit given to us by God. We must remember that our strength for Christian endeavors is not found in our efforts, but in God’s efforts. That ought to take the burden off of us and help us to trust God to accomplish his goals.

    b. We can rely on the Holy Spirit.

    The next thought is that the growth of the seed is not something the farmer understands. It isn’t that he is uneducated or inexperienced. It is just that the process happens without his having any knowledge of how it happens. The farmer scatters the seed and then goes about other business because he knows it will grow. The seed responds to the soil, rain and sun and eventually grows on its own — just as God designed it to work.

    Evangelism is very similar. When the gospel has been planted in the heart of a person who has not yet become part of God’s kingdom, it begins to accomplish something. Remember that God promised that his Word would not return void to him (Isaiah 55:11). And Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

    We are not alone in our efforts to share the truth with people.

    APPLIC. Have you ever been especially concerned about someone to whom you have presented the gospel? Most of us have shared the gospel with a friend or relative. Then we earnestly pray for their salvation. It is good to pray and to present the gospel, but we must temper our zeal with knowledge.

    If you have planted the seed of the gospel in someone’s heart, please allow God to do his work. Don’t be pesky and constantly knock on that person’s door. You may feel like you are being zealous, but you may actually be pushing that person away unnecessarily. Let God do His work.
  3. The kingdom of God is like a crop that will be harvested (29).

    [Read Mark 4:29.]

    After the farmer has planted the seed, he waits for a period of time. For some crops it will take a long time for the plant to develop fruit. So, the farmer has to be especially patient. But he is still waiting for that time of harvest. As he watches the field, he will eventually recognize that the grain is ready for harvesting. At that point in time, he sends out his laborers to harvest the grain.

    What do we learn from this?

    a. There will eventually be a harvest.

    Evangelism takes a lot of effort with not much return. However, Jesus encourages us with the first two words in verse 29. “But when” shows us that waiting is not the only thing we have to do.

    “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” –Galatians 6:9

    God may call us to difficult places of ministry, but as we faithfully proclaim the gospel, there will be results … it just takes time.

    b. There will be a harvester.

    At the time of harvest, the farmer who planted the seeds is often a part of the reaping. In this parable, that is not as clear as you might think. The phrase “he puts in the sickle” can also refer to a master sending his servants into the field to harvest the grain. In any event, the grain is harvested and he is happy with what God has provided.

    APPLIC. It is the same way with evangelism. You may speak to many people about the gospel and not see any response for a while. But as the Holy Spirit works, there will come a time when God may turn that person from his sins to faith in Jesus.
    Will you always see the results of your ministry? No, although you have given the gospel, someone else may be the one who finally sees the harvest.

    1 Cor. 3:6 – “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”

    Paul made it very clear that he didn’t care who got to harvest the spiritual crop. He planted the seed and was sure that others were watering what he had planted. But in the end, he knew the God was in control of the results. It really didn’t matter who got to harvest the spiritual crop.

  4. The kingdom of God is like a small but fruitful seed (30-31).

    [Read Mark 4:30-32.]

    Jesus now begins a second parable about the kingdom of God. In this parable, He compares God’s kingdom to a small seed that produces a surprisingly large tree.

    a. The mustard seed (31)

    Mustard seeds are very small. “The seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimetres… ” (Wikipedia). Compared to a peach pit, the tiny mustard seed seems incapable of producing much of anything. But “it can reach a height of 12-15 feet in a few weeks” (Grassmick 121). That is a surprising contrast with the size of its seed.

    b. The kingdom of God

    Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like the surprising growth of the tiny mustard seed. The work of God’s kingdom begins with the spoken (or read) Word of God. When this truth is planted in the heart of someone or in a certain community, it has the possibility of producing great results.

    Jesus had a short conversation with the woman at the well which later led to the whole city listening and responding favorably to Him (John 4:39-42). Jesus had a small group of disciples at the time of His death and resurrection but look at how the kingdom grew quickly in the days following his ascension. Thousands believed just days later.

    How was this accomplished?

    Jesus and the disciples spoke God’s truth the those who would listen. They planted the seed of the kingdom of God in their hearts and then God’s Holy Spirit caused that seed to germinate and grow in them leading to them to repentance and faith in Jesus and a changed life.

    Rom. 10:17 – “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

    APPLIC. When you present the truth of the gospel, it may seem insignificant. Quoting a Bible verse to someone may seem like a small thing to do. You may think that telling someone about Jesus and what He did is not very important. But God is able to use the small message preached to convert the soul of the worst sinner.

Conclusion

As you consider these parables about the kingdom, do you see the encouragement Jesus gave to us? We have a job to do. We need to proclaim the truth to everyone. But the end result is not our responsibility. God has designed it so that the Holy Spirit will work beyond what we say and do. We can rest in God’s ability to bring about the harvest at the right time.

1. Are you spreading the seed of the gospel?
2. Are you patiently waiting for God to do the work?
3. Are you expecting a harvest?

Smile today and realize that God is doing the work behind the scenes and that He will accomplish his great work in His perfect time.


Bibliography

Alexander, Joseph A., The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1858), pp. 102-05.

Redlich, E. Basil, St. Luke’s Gospel, (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1948), 93.

“Mustard Seed” as viewed at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustard_seed on 6/4/2022.

David Harris, “How Tall is a Mustard Tree?” as viewed at https://www.gardenguides.com/12412948-how-tall-is-a-mustard-tree.html on 6/4/2022.

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, 120-21.

Are you for Free Speech?

Freedom of speech is something we value highly in the US. The first constitutional amendment ensures that among other things, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Why is this important? It is important because the citizens of this great country need to be able to voice their opinions without fear of the government throwing them in jail when their opinion is not in vogue.

Other countries have also seen the value of freedom of speech. During World War 2, Prime Minister Winston Churchill brought up the subject of free speech while addressing some thorny issues and the possibility of differing views within the government.

Party government is not obnoxious to democracy. Indeed Parliamentary democracy has flourished under party government. That is to say, it has flourished so long as there is full freedom of speech, free elections and free institutions. So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

COALMINING SITUATION (Hansard, 13 October 1943) (millbanksystems.com)

This is both a good and difficult statement. It is good because we want to speak our opinions without repercussion. It is difficult because not all opinions are equally valid, and some could also be harmful. We actually don’t want some people to speak their mind. But… consider a few thoughts.

  1. Freedom of speech applies to Christians proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to those who oppose that message or have corrupted it.
  2. Freedom of speech applies to those who are against _________ as well as those who celebrate it.
  3. Freedom of speech applies to those who promote godly behavior, but also to those who promote what God hates.

While it would be nice if people would always govern their thinking by what God says in the Bible, that isn’t usually the case. People have differing views on what they saw happen at a car accident, so it is probable they will have differing views about everything else as well.

As a Christian, I want my beliefs to line up with the Bible. This is important because the Bible reveals what God (our Creator) desires and says is best for us. However, not many people will share that perspective. Their opinions about life, religion, politics, sports, entertainment, marriage, and a whole lot of things may be completely different than what God says.

As a Christian, I value the freedom of speech because I want others to know the Lord. If I am unable to speak freely, the gospel will be hard to share. But that has to go both ways. If I want the freedom to speak the truth to other people, I need to allow them the same right. They can disagree. But without the freedom to have a conversation (or debate) it will be very difficult to have a meaningful discussion.

A couple thoughts:

  1. Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Both aspects are important. The truth is important to proclaim but the way it is presented is also important. Are you speaking out of duty or because you love the person? It should be evident. For further discussion, consider this article.
  2. Realize that it takes time for people to be convinced. Paul took the time to reason with and persuade the people he was talking to (Acts 19:8-10). Most people don’t believe something the first time they hear it. Neither do you. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, take the time to explain what the Bible says and why it is relevant to each person.
  3. Know when to stop talking. There are times when continuing a conversation may be a waste of time (Prov. 26:4-5). It is hard to know when to keep talking to an argumentative or foolish person. But there are definitely times when you should walk away because further speech is not profitable. In these cases, be sure to ask the Lord for wisdom.

Concern for the Lost

“If we shudder at the thought of a dying sinner appearing in all the blackness of his guilt before God, let us think more how we may turn sinners from their wickedness while they live.”
—W. G. Blaikie, The Second Book of Samuel (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, reprint 1978), 61.

Quote of the Day – 1/5/2019

“The best words that men can speak are ineffectual till explained
and applied by the Spirit of God. He alone can open the heart.”

—John Newton

This quotation was taken from, Out of the Depths, the autobiography of John Newton. You may remember him as the author of the hymn Amazing Grace. He wrote these words referring to the time when he was slowly being drawn to Christ. Although he heard various preachers speak and had been reading the Bible himself, he did not understand his need of repentance and faith in Jesus until God’s Spirit opened his eyes. His experience is replicated both in Jesus’ teaching and the Book of Acts.

John 6:44-45 – “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who [i]has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.”

John 16:8-11 – “And when He [the Holy Spirit] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

Acts 16:14 – “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”

For some, the quotation may seem negative. It makes them feel as if their evangelistic efforts are of no use unless God chooses to work. But for me, I find these truths to be encouraging. While I must take the time to prepare, the outcome is ultimately not my responsibility; it is God’s. And, thankfully, He is willing and able to work in the hearts of people today as he did so many years ago. I look forward to this happening again and again.

Three Important Points for the Living

The death of a loved one often softens our hearts toward spiritual matters. We begin to consider what life is all about and what happens at the end of life. While our hearts are tender, the family has asked me to present to you a message about God’s salvation, to prepare each of us for what lies ahead. To do that, let us consider three thoughts from one of the most famous passages of Scripture, John 3.

You must be born again (John 3:3).

Nicodemus was a religious man who had done so well that he had been chosen as one of the seventy members of the Jewish Sanhedrin. He was also known as the teacher of Israel. And yet, Jesus knew that he needed something more. He needed to be born again. What exactly does that mean? Jesus was referring to an internal spiritual awakening that only God can produce. Just as you have no control over being born, the same can be said of the new birth. It is something God must create inside each of us.

Many people are like Nicodemus today. They are religious, nice, and do good things. And they think that their good deeds will weigh more than the sins they have committed so that God will let them into heaven when they pass from this life. Jesus knew the truth about Nicodemus and the rest of us. We are sinful people who can never please God by our good deeds unless God changes us from the inside out. But how does that happen?

You must believe on Jesus (John 3:14-16).

Jesus reminded Nicodemus of a story from ancient Israel. As Moses was leading the nation of Israel across the desert, they developed bad attitudes toward God and began to complain. God punished them by sending fiery serpents into the camp. The poisonous snakes bit many people and a number of them died. The punishment caused the people to repent of their sin and turn to God for help. They said, “Moses! Pray to God to save us from the fiery serpents!” When Moses prayed, God gave him an unexpected answer. He was told to build a serpent out of brass and hold it up for the people to look at. All those who looked at the brass serpent were healed.

This historical story is very much like what Jesus did for the world. Each of us is traveling through life with a fiery ending in the future. Our sins against God have earned us his wrath and eternity in Hell. And yet God loved us and provided a solution for our problem. Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so Jesus was lifted up on a cross. He was taken by wicked men and nailed to a cross to die who didn’t realize that this was part of God’s plan to save the world. On that cross, Jesus bled and died to pay for our sins. It was there that God punished Jesus for all the sins mankind has ever and will ever commit against God. He didn’t deserve that, but he did it willingly for you and me. After his death he was buried in a tomb but three days later, God showed that he had accepted Jesus death for us by raising him from the dead. Do you believe this?

You must make a choice (John 3:19-21).

Jesus told Nicodemus that there are two types of people in the world. There are those who are condemned because they choose to love their sin instead of God. Like a ray of light in a dark room, the light of the Bible shines on their lives, but they won’t listen. They continue loving and practicing their sins against God. They turn from the light because they don’t want to change. These type of people have no hope. They go through life enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season but have a terrible future in store for them in eternity.

There is another type of person who is different. As the light of the Bible reveals his sin, he responds to God’s convicting message. His spiritual eyes are opened and he realizes that his sins are against God. He leaves his sins and turns to Jesus, the only hope for sinful man. And when he believes that Jesus died for him and rose from the grave, God changes him and makes him into a new person who wants to hear the Bible, who wants to please God, and who wants to live for God.

So, the big question today is this. Which person are you? God loves you and sent his Son Jesus to die for you so that you can escape the eternal punishment of Hell. But now that the light of God’s word has shined on your sin, will you turn from it and believe? If you do, God will forgive you, cleanse you, and make you a new person from the inside out. If you continue in your sin and unbelief, you will face the consequences some day. But if you turn to God from your sins today, you will not only escape that condemnation but will have a new life that is unlike any other. You will enjoy God’s blessing on your life now and a home in heaven in the future. As God works in your heart today, I hope that each of you will turn from your sin and believe in Jesus.

Preparing for the Gospel’s Reception

How did God originally prepare the people of Jesus’ day to receive his message? In Mark 1:1-8, Mark made it clear that God had a plan that had been prepared long before Jesus arrived. Mark quoted Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 to show that God’s plan included a man who would speak from the wilderness a message that would ready the people for the entrance of Jesus and his good news. Apparently, these prophecies would have reminded the people of a king’s messenger who went ahead of him to prepare roads for his arrival in another country (Hiebert 24-5). Everything was planned ahead of time just as God intended it to happen.

But who was this man whom Malachi and Isaiah prophesied would do this job? It was none other than John the Baptist. Just as had been planned, he prepared the people for Jesus’ arrival by preaching in the wilderness. He told them that they could find forgiveness from God as they repented of their sins and were baptized. People from the surrounding area confessed their sins and were baptized despite the messenger’s unorthodox looks. But even though he was so successful in reaching the hearts of the crowds, he was also a very humble preacher who considered himself unworthy to even untie the sandals of the coming Savior.

As I consider how successfully John the Baptist fulfilled God’s plan, I can’t help but see some applications for today. One of the first things I see is the need for repentance. Before people can understand the good news of Jesus, they need to understand their sinfulness from God’s perspective and their need to turn from their sins. But how many people ever think of that? Unless someone is sent to tell them of their need, they will probably continue in the same direction not knowing their need for forgiveness or utter inability to find it except through Jesus. That’s why God needs Christians to carry the message to other people. But who is worthy to carry this message to the world? Like John, none of us feels worthy of that calling. But God has still chosen to use unworthy people to present his message to others.

Are you willing to be God’s messenger?

Thankful to God

A recent video presentation of the gospel made me very thoughtful — so thoughtful that I couldn’t go to sleep. The video showed a man giving the gospel in under five minutes and in a very clear way. Being a rather inarticulate person in-person, I enjoy hearing someone being able to succinctly speak the truth clearly. After Sharon and I watched it, we thanked the Lord for reaching down to save undeserving sinners like us. It truly is humbling to think that God would choose people like us despite our continued sinfulness. What a great God he is!

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—
though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.

Romans 5:7-8

Whosoever Will May Come?

As I consider the way that the gospel is currently presented by Christians, it seems that most do not believe that God is sovereign over salvation. The idea seems to be that anyone can come to God by his own choice apart from the work of the Father and Holy Spirit. While the Scriptures do call for sinners to respond to the gospel with faith and repentance, they also teach us that none seeks after God (Rom. 3:9-12). It is impossible for a sinful man to respond to the gospel unless God first draws him to himself (John 6:44). Only then will he repent of his sins and believe.

With these thoughts in mind, I began reading (again) a book entitled “Whosoever Will” by Herman Hoeksema. His thoughts are in line with what the Scriptures say about this. In dealing with the lyrics to the hymn “Whosoever Will,” he points out that they are true only if understood in the light of all Scripture. “Whosoever will may come” but only when God draws them to himself and gives him the faith to believe. Otherwise, salvation is impossible because no person naturally seeks after God. But if he does, this is a sign that God is at work.

Do you will to come to Christ? Is it your desire to come to Him as the Fount of Living Water that you may drink? Do you long to come to Him as the Bread of Life that you may eat? Do not hesitate, then! Do not stand afar off, discovering a thousand reasons in yourselves why you could not possibly be received, for whosoever will may come and take of the water of life freely, because whosoever will is already drawn by the Father! You may hear the word of Christ: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

Herman Hoeksema, Whosoever Will, (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2002), 8.

“Faith comes from God. Its success does not depend on the life or death of a man.”
—the Swiss Reformed after the death of Ulrich Zwingli

As quoted by Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigne in For God and His People: Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation, (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2000), 263.

Zwingli on the Extent of Christ’s Sacrifice

“Christ, very man and very God, has purchased for us a never-ending redemption. For since it was the eternal God who died for us, His passion is therefore an eternal sacrifice, and everlastingly effectual to heal; it satisfies the divine justice for ever in behalf of all those who rely upon it with firm and unshaken faith.”

As quoted by Jean Henri Merle D’Aubigne in For God and His People: Ulrich Zwingli and the Swiss Reformation, (Greenville: BJU Press, 2000), 59.