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Being Jesus’ Family-by Growing

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2010-08-08 (am) Mark 4.26-34 Being Jesus’ Family-by Growing

          When we looked at the parable of the sower a few weeks ago, we noticed that true spiritual growth, growth that produces a harvest, depends upon the soil.  We noticed that Jesus identifies four different soils, trampled soil, rocky soil, weedy soil and good soil. 

          The parable explains that people who hear God’s Word have a responsibility to respond to it.  That they could, perhaps, in partnership with the Holy Spirit, change the condition of the soil.  One could do some rock picking and improve their condition so they could grow deeper, so that when trials and hardships come, they can weather the storms.  One could do some weeding, so that temptations, worries, and cares of this life do no choke out the growth of the Word of God in their hearts.

          Such work on an individual will be an arduous task, for there is much in this life that is eager to take our attention away from God’s Word, God’s truth.  But the Holy Spirit is always a willing partner, and a most effective participant in the process of becoming holy, becoming sanctified, becoming set apart for God’s work.

          So this morning, that’s precisely what we’re going to focus on, God’s work in the ministry of evangelism.

          Before turning to God’s instruction for us this morning, it might benefit us to look at a definition of what evangelism is and what it concerns.  Originally, I had planned to take both these parables together, but I won’t have time, so we’ll cover them in two sermons.

          Evangelism: the word comes straight out of the Greek New Testament, it is a transliteration of a Greek word, euangelidzomai, meaning to proclaim good news or announce good news.  Picture in your head, a town crier, the guy, before the advent of telephones, newspapers, television news, cell phones, email, internet.  The guy who went around telling people the news.  In this case, the news that is being shouted about is good news.

          The good news is the gospel.  What is the gospel?  This is a good quiz question.  I hope that everyone here would be able to answer it.  The good news is that God sent Jesus Christ to seek and save the lost.  Who are the lost?  Anyone who has ever sinned, or done wrong in God’s eyes, in short, everyone.  What must people do to be saved?  They must believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  That is exclusively, they must put their full trust in Jesus, not on anyone or anything else in order to be saved.

          So, is that clear?  Everyone is on the same page?  We know what evangelism is, it is the proclaiming of the good news.  We know what the good news is, it is Jesus Christ who came to seek and save the lost, those who believe that will be saved.

          What do we learn from this parable?  Well, we learn that we who evangelise have a part and that God has a part.  In fact, we see from this parable, we know that the seed is the Word of God and that the farmer is the evangelist, we see that God has the biggest part in this process.

          God is the one who makes the seed grow!

          There are four activities of God in making His Word grow in people: Conviction of Sin, leading to repentance, drawing to Christ and bringing about new birth.

          First Conviction of Sin: When the Word of God is sown by us, evangelism is the task of every Christian, though some are especially gifted by God for it.  But everyone is to do it!  When God’s Word is shared with a non-Christian, depending on the condition of their heart, there are four steps, four parts that God does.  The first part, is the conviction of sin by God the Holy Spirit.

          Consider Peter on the day of Pentecost.  He did not try to make the truth more palatable.  He said it bluntly, “This Jesus, whom you crucified... repent, believe and be baptised!”  He told them the truth.  What you did was wrong.  We have to tell people the truth.  We cannot lie to them.  So, as you get to know people, you have to let them know what the truth is. 

          But the conviction of sin, that is the ownership of sin, that’s the Holy Spirit’s task.  God is not calling us to try to make people feel guilty.  The Holy Spirit will communicate with their spirit to show how they’ve sinned against God. 

          There may be times when we might be tempted to convict people of sin, times when we might think we’re really quite good experts at pointing out other’s faults.  Perhaps you’ve been there, perhaps you know people who are there or who have been there.  All it takes is one act of indiscretion on your part and all your conviction goes out the window.

          Leave the burden to the Holy Spirit.  It is His job, and he’s rather perfect at doing it.

          The second part is leading to repentance.  No one will seek repentance, unless first God the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin.  You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Well, that’s good for you, but I don’t accept it.”  That’s the funny thing about truth, for something to be true; it has to be true all of the time. 

          I find it fascinating that people of other faiths will quote Jesus or say that he’s a good moral teacher.  That’s so weird.  How can you take Jesus’ words at all when he says that he is the Way the Truth and the Life?  The only way to the father is through him, that you can only get life through him.  He’s the way to eternal life.  He says there is a hell; he says there is a heaven.  These are exclusive claims.  They are rejected by other faiths.  So, a person can’t really choose what parts of Jesus he wants to accept, and reject other parts.  It is all or nothing.

          When it comes to repentance, it is the Lord’s work.  After being convicted of sin, a person wants to be saved.  In order to do so, they must repent.  What is repentance?  It is humbly bowing before God, confessing sin and pledging to turn away from it.

          “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).  Repentance involves turning from their wicked ways.  We know from Israel’s history, that it took an exile to convince them to turn from their wicked ways.  God did it.  God turned their hearts to repent.  He will do it in our friend’s lives as well.

          So, then that could have an impact on how we interact with family and friends.  Knowing that the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts and leads to repentance, we then have the freedom to fertilise and encourage growth.  We tell the truth, but we don’t change hearts!  God does that.

          The third part is the drawing of people to Christ.  God the Father brings people to Jesus.  Jesus himself said, “No one comes to me unless the father draws them.”  God the Father speaks into the hearts of men and women to draw them to Jesus.

          Unless the Father draws them, they will have a wrong idea of who Jesus is.  The Pharisees rejected him as a blasphemer.  The Romans dismissed him as another religious fanatic.  Today for some, Jesus is just a moral teacher.  He is a made up man.  He is a construction of the church’s imagination.  But to those whom the Father show the truth, Jesus is the Son of God.

          God the Father, way back in the beginning, created light, by speaking the words, “Let there be light.”  The Father still speaks by creating spiritual light in people’s hearts by speaking into the darkness.  The Father turns the spiritual lights on in people’s lives allowing them to see the truth and to respond to it.

          The fourth and final part, is new birth.  It is God’s prerogative.  Think of your own birth.  What part did you have in it?  None whatsoever!  Think about your spiritual birth.  How much part did you have in it?  Brought up in church, coincidence?  Not at all!  God planned for you to be born where and when you were born.  Not brought up in church, God planned for you to meet the people you’d meet or work for, or whatever so that you’d be born again, by the Spirit.

          God is in charge of spiritual birth.  And this is a good thing!  Can you imagine the burden you’d have if your salvation was dependent upon yourself?  How long do you think you’d be able to last?  Not very long at all!

          But having our salvation depend on God, upon the perfect life, lived by his perfect, fully human, fully divine Son, well, that’s great!  You can see the grace and faith in that!  You can see that God has been mightily at work in your life, leading you to respond to his Word sown in you. 

          You can see God moving among people, using them to push you in this way, to move you in this direction.  You can see the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart, moving you to admit sin.  Convicting you of your disobedience before God.  Encouraging you to repent, to turn from your wicked ways, to draw near to Christ, the saviour!   And finally, bringing out new life, a life that gives glory to God, and produces wonderful fruit, so that people wonder and say, “Wow, there’s a remarkable person!”

          So, knowing God’s role in evangelism, doesn’t that ease the burden quite a bit?  Doesn’t it in fact, take away the nastier parts of it?

          Tell the truth.  Teach people about Jesus.  Be honest and real.  Don’t point to yourself or your story.  Tell them the good news, Jesus’ story of coming to seek and to save.  Do the work of an evangelist, proclaim and announce Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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