2010-08-01 (am) Mark 4:21-25 Being Jesus’ Family—By Spreading the Word
Two weeks ago, we looked at the parable of the sower. We saw then that Jesus is the sower of the word. The four soils represent the four different ways that people respond to Jesus. We were encouraged to look at ourselves, to examine the kind of soil we are, and to see what kind of harvest we’re producing.
With the Parable of the Sower, Mark also made a contrast between Jesus’ teaching and the Pharisees teaching. When Jesus said, “I use parables because I don’t want them to repent and be saved.” He was indicating the false teachers of Israel. Those teachers thought they knew everything. They thought they had the true revelation of God, but when God came to them in the flesh, they didn’t receive him, recognise him or believe in him. He spoke in parables so that only those who are made spiritually alive will understand and respond.
In our passage, Mark makes another contrast. Jesus is the light of the world, and he must be given prominent place. The Pharisees, on the other hand, were hiding the truth. They were, as it were, taking the light and hiding it. They were putting the truth under a bushel.
Make no mistake. We can come down hard on the Pharisees, but if we do, we must do some soul searching. Their failing is not limited to them. You know that, I know that. But we do need to be aware of what they failed to do, so that we can work hard to avoid their mistakes.
True teaching reveals God. False teaching places all the emphasis on human activity. This is why Paul says, in Colossians, “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”
This is why we preach Jesus Christ crucified. He is the one who lived a perfectly righteous life. He’s the one whom we look to for righteousness. We cannot get righteousness by striving to live perfectly. It cannot happen. We fail every time.
That didn’t stop the Pharisees though. They put all kinds of rules and regulations on the people in order to try to legislate righteousness. Instead, it merely oppressed the people and worse, hid the truth from everyone.
So there were all kinds of people styling themselves as righteous, religious people. They were the connected ones. They had the line to God. They were in the know. But their hearts were evil. They had their own reasons for doing what they were doing, and they were not noble ones.
They were drawing attention to themselves. They dressed the right way, the worshipped the proper way, with the proper music and lyrics. They knew their Bibles by heart. They tithed, they gave even from their spice rack. But they were spiritually dead! Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. Paul, after his conversion to Christianity considered his former life, his life as a Pharisee as total rubbish!
Make no mistake. Consider your heart! Look deep within yourself. What is hidden will be make known. The darkness will be banished by the light. Are you ready? Could you be totally honest? When Jesus returns, everyone will be called to give an account. Everyone. All the things that we have done in secret, that we think we got away with, that we think no one knows about, all those things will be made known.
We will be judged according to what we’ve done with the truth. Not judged unto salvation, if our hope is in Christ, then we’re sealed! But we will be judged as to what we’ve done and not done.
Paul says that we’re to run in this life. But we don’t just run aimlessly! We run to win.
Can you imagine a runner in a marathon that doesn’t stay on course? Or what about a runner who signs up, gets the t-shirt and then after 20 minutes of running goes to Starbucks. People look at him and say, “Hey are you a marathoner? Yes, I am he says. But I’m pretty sure the marathon doesn’t end for another two hours! Yeah, well I wanted the T-shirt.
As Christians we’re running to get the prize. We’re running to win! Yeah, we get tired, yeah we can get distracted by the stuff of life, the other runners, but Christ encourages us, he gives us his eternal Spirit to press on! To run like crazy! To push ourselves and to push others!
Don’t lose sight of the prize! Don’t give up! Keep in mind that we’ll all be giving an account for the faith that we’ve received.
How well are we running the race? How well are we shining Christ’s light on those around us? Do people know we’re Christians?
You can ask me, do people know I’m a pastor. Do the cashiers know? Does your dentist know? Are you shining the light or smothering it?
What might be holding us back? For some it might be a lack of confidence. Perhaps you feel you don’t know your Bible well enough to engage in conversation about your faith. Or perhaps you’re worried that they’ll come back with something that stumps you. Or perhaps you’re worried that there’s a better faith out there and you’ll be swayed away.
Perhaps you’re just shy. You can talk about all kinds of things, how dentists can understand what you’re saying when they have both hands shoved in your mouth is some kind of miracle. Maybe you’re not sure about the formula of what to say.
Well there’s no such thing as a sure-fire formula. There are some basic things creation, fall, redemption and restoration. And people being people you can talk and find some sort of connection.
If we look at Jesus we see that he did this all the time. Jesus was waiting at Jacob’s well when a Samaritan woman came up to him.
So what did Jesus do? He said to her, “Hi, I want to talk to you today about the four spiritual laws, or about creation, fall, redemption and restoration.” Na, he didn’t do that, he simply asked her for a glass of water. And that opened the door for a very deep conversation.
Now, that doesn’t mean that when we go to the barbershop, or the hairdresser that we walk in there and ask, “Can I have a glass of water.” No, in this we need to be adaptable. We need to read the situation and act on it.
So, you could say something like, “Isn’t it a good thing for your business that there aren’t very many Nazarites around here.” And the hairdresser will probably say, “What?” And you can say, “Nazarites were people who, in biblical times didn’t drink wine, didn’t eat certain foods, and didn’t cut their hair, ever. Sampson was one, and so was John the Baptist. John the Baptist was the one who paved the way for Jesus to come. He got the people ready for the coming saviour.
John was a Nazarite, but Jesus wasn’t. Could you imagine cutting Jesus’ hair?
And then you can see where the conversation goes.
As Christians, as people who have received the light, we shine the light all around. This is everyone’s responsibility. Yes, there are some who are more gifted at it than others, but just because some are more gifted, that doesn’t mean we are off the hook. Jesus calls all of us, especially the weak, to do the ongoing work that he graciously invites us to participate in.
Light shines, right? It gets rid of darkness.
If Christ has shined his light on us, if we’ve been transformed by God’s power, then the truth should shine out of us. The word of God should be seen in all that we do, right? And it should be done for the benefit of all people.
But what we want to do is gently show reality. Banish the darkness, so that people can see themselves as God sees them.
So, we need to tell the truth. We can tell all kinds of neat stories about our lives, but if we don’t tell them about Jesus, we’re obscuring the light. Jesus is the light, Jesus is the one who shines the truth. We can tell people the truth, but we are not in charge of convicting them about sin. God does that through the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are ways to live which give glory to God, and which fit His plan for all humanity. Using Jesus’ Word to teach people the truth is part of evangelism. But keep in mind, the parable of the sower. Keep in mind the different soils. Don’t be discouraged when people don’t respond. Some don’t have ears to hear.
So there’s three things we need to put into practise:
We need to hear: as opposed to refusing to hear. We need to hear and obey God’s truth.
We need to hear specific things. There are things worth hearing, and other things that are not worth hearing. We need to know the difference.
How we hear should be with discernment and sound judgement. Suppose you happen to overhear a conversation between two people. Together, they’re talking about someone else. And what they’re saying turns out not to be true at all. Unless we’re judicious in our listening, we might be inclined to act on all kinds of erroneous information.
But being judicious, we will reserve judgement for ourselves. In other situations, we’ll carefully compare what we hear with the scriptures, so that we can be sure if what we’re being told is the truth.
I mean, that’s wisdom, right? Just the other day I was talking to someone about purchasing an item from Kijiji. They said, there was something for sale and the price was way lower than what was being asked for similar things. It was too good to be true. And it was.
If you listen to someone who is promising all kinds of great things, or that being a Christian will make you healthy and rich, you need to compare that with the bible. What did Jesus say? He said that we’d suffer many things. He said that we need to take up our cross and follow him. Jesus said that we have a glorious future. We can keep our focus on Jesus and run the race well.