Mark 4:21-29 – The Importance of Evangelism (pt. 2)

Part 1

I. Evangelism is important because of the Nature of the Gospel. (vv. 21-23)

The first truth is that evangelism is important because of the nature of the gospel.  We see this truth in vv. 21 – 23.  There it says, “And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’”  Jesus begins these verses by asking a question.  Really, he asks two questions here.  Some translations make it into one, but really there are two questions.  Literally these questions could be translated, “A lamp is not brought out in order to be placed under a container or under a bed is it?  Is it not brought out in order to be placed upon a lamp stand?”  As we look at these questions it is clear that both of these questions are making the same point.  That is, by its nature a lamp is not intended to be hidden.  In fact, lamps are meant to give off as much light as possible.  You would not take a lamp and put it under bowl, or hide it under your bed.  If you were going to do that then you might as well not even have a lamp at all.  You see, by its nature, the purpose of the lamp is to give off light.  The best place for the lamp to be able to give off light is the lamp stand.  So a lamp is not meant to be hidden!  This is clear.

The reason why Jesus makes this point about the lamp is because the same thing is true about the gospel.  The gospel is not meant to be hidden.  The gospel is intended to save souls and reconcile men to God.  In order for this to happen it must not be hidden.  It must be displayed openly for everyone to see it.  Thus, the illustration of the lamp is pretty simple to understand. Just as a lamp is not intended to be hidden, the gospel—by its nature—is not intended to be hidden.  But with this in mind one cannot help but wonder why Jesus veiled the gospel.  Remember, back in vv.11-12 Jesus made it clear that he spoke in a parables in order to veil (or hide) the gospel from the masses.  In fact, the smaller “inner circle” was only able to understand the truth because the “secret” had been given to them.  But why?  Why was there a secret to begin with, and how does this secret match up with Jesus’ parable about the lamp?  Well Jesus makes the connection clear in v. 22.

In v. 22 Jesus reminds us that the purpose of hiding something is to that it can later be revealed.  This too is a pretty simple idea to understand.  In fact, if you have ever hidden a Christmas present from your child then you understand this idea.  But how does it apply to the “secret” about Jesus?  Well, one commentator explained it this way:

[His disciples] must not think that He intended the revelation to them to remain a secret.  The Kingdom of God, as embodied in Jesus’ Person and ministry, was now a veiled revelation to those without, but He intended that later it should receive a glorious manifestation through the ministry of His followers.[1]

In other words, Jesus hid the secret so that it could later be revealed.  When I first realized what Jesus was saying I had two questions.  First, why did Jesus have to do this?  Second, when would it finally be time for the gospel to be revealed?  The answer to the first question is that Jesus had to allow himself to fulfill his earthly ministry.  This meant that he had to weed out the people who were not truly interested in following him.  Once he did this—by veiling the gospel—he was able to accomplish his ministry objectives, which included training his successors.  With regard to the second question, in order for the full gospel message to be revealed Jesus had to first be crucified and resurrected.  Only after these things happened could the full message be revealed.  Thus, Jesus intended for his disciples to share this message with all, this why he left his disciples with the Great Commission in Matthew 25:168-20.  Additionally, in Acts 1:8 we see that Jesus intended for his follower to take the message of the Gospel to the end of the earth.

So, even though Jesus had to veil his message while he was on this earth, this was only temporary.  In Matthew 10:26-27 Jesus emphasizes this very point with these words:

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

By its nature, the gospel is intended to be “proclaimed on the roof tops.”   We must never have an elitist attitude and seek to veil the gospel from those who do not believe.  This is absolutely pivotal, and makes this clear in v. 23.  This is a message with eternal significance, and whoever has the ears to hear the spiritual principle of this parable must listen.  We must hear was this truth is and accept.  We must submit to Jesus’ teaching in order to have a relationship with Him, and be a part of the Kingdom of God.  We must hear this, we must perceive it, and we must act upon it. Evangelism is important because of the nature of the gospel.

[1] D. Edmond Hiebert, The Gospel According to Mark, 116.


Mark 4:21-29 – The Importance of Evangelism (pt. 1)

Today we are going to start looking at the next passage in the book of Mark, Mark 4:21-29.  Before we start looking at the passage here are few points that might be helpful as we think about this passage:

–    The average Christian struggle with evangelism maybe more than any other issue.mute.gif

–    Excuses for not sharing the gospel are common.

–    An unbalanced view of Mark 4:1-20 can only further these difficulties

  1. Elitism: “Jesus hid the gospel from unbelievers, and so should we.”
  2. Complacency: “It God is the one who chooses then why do I need to do anything?”
  3. Overwhelmed: “There are more bad soils than good soils.  How can I expect to make a difference?”

–    Mark understood these difficulties.  That is why he put these parables together the way that he did.  He especially knew how hard it would be for the Roman Christians to share the gospel.

–    In this passage Jesus reveals the importance of evangelism by explaining three spiritual truths that should motivate us to evangelism.

  1. Evangelism is important because of the nature of the gospel
  2. Evangelism is important because of the nature of our salvation
  3. Evangelism is important because of the nature of God’s Kingdom

–   These truths respond to the possible misinterpretations of the previous verses, and they call for us to spread the good news about Jesus.

I think that these points will be helpful as we look at this passage:

And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”” (Mark 4:21-29, ESV)

BP Sports Article

This week Baptist Press Sports is running a short article that I wrote for them.  Here is an excerpt:

Golf is an interesting sport. It is a very simple game when you boil it down to the basics.

The objective of the game is clear. Just hit the ball into the hole. The means of accomplishing the goal are pretty straightforward. Unlike baseball, no one is throwing the ball and trying to make you miss it. The ball just sits there on the ground and you hit it with a club. It is pretty simple, or at least it sounds simple.

The problem is that no matter how simple it may seem, golf is an extremely challenging sport. As Mark Twain once put it, “The devil is in the details.” And when it comes to golf, there are certainly plenty of details.

You can read the rest of the article HERE.

Book Review: Apocalypse Later: Why the Gospel of Peace must trump the politics of prophecy in the Middle East.

apocalypse laterApocalypse Later: Why the Gospel of Peace must trump the politics of prophecy in the Middle East by Abdu H. Murray is certainly an interesting read. It is a book about the church’s response to the conflict in the Middle East written by a Lebanese Christian. At the outset Murray makes the following claim concerning the conflict in the Middle East:

I claim that if the fundamental issues are answered on a spiritual level, then the superficial issues will come into sharper focus, the players in the conflict will have a better understanding, and the efforts toward lasting political solutions will be more fruitful. (13)

In general I agree with this, however there are some nuances of Murray’s position that I struggle to wholeheartedly endorse. For instance, Murray states that “the salvation of the entire world is ultimately important.” (58) To this I say Amen! However, he goes on to state that the importance of the speculative details we posit as to exactly how and when Jesus’ second coming will occur pale in comparison.” (58) Quite frankly I am not sure how to take this statement. Murray’s position seems to be that eschatological debate is the main problem with how the church is responding to the conflict in the Middle East. While this may be true within fringe elements of the church (i.e. the “doo-da channel” with every crazy preacher in the world talking about the end of the world), however I do not think that this is true for most of evangelicalism. It is true that eschatological issues are peripheral issues compared with the core of the Gospel, however they are still issues that need to be worked out. The church has a responsibility to interpret and apply the entire bible. For this reason I am very cautious about downplaying doctrinal issues.

Despite some nuanced disagreement with Murray it was a good book for me to read. The first three chapters of the book, in particular, allowed me to see this conflict from a different perspective, and it reminded me that both groups involved in this conflict are in desperate need of Jesus. It also encouraged me to refine my own beliefs concerning “end time issues” and to make sure that my convictions come from the bible and not from current events.

I am not sure that this book is worth the read for its doctrinal contributions (but I also don’t think that is why it was written). However, it is helpful because it allows one to see things from a different perspective. Additionally, it calls for careful consideration of an issue that often causes knee-jerk reactions.

13.99 from Kregel

The Explanation of the Parable of the Soils – Mark 4:10-20 (pt. 3)

II. We must completely accept the word of God in order to enter the Kingdom of God. (vv. 13-20)

There is a second requirement for entering the Kingdom of God, and this requirement is found in vv. 13-20.  In these verses Jesus is still answering the questions that the inner circle had for him about the parables.  In the previous verses we saw why Jesus taught in these parables, and in these verses Jesus will explain exactly what this one parable means.  As Jesus uncovers the meaning of this parable, it is clear that the second requirement for entering the kingdom of God is that we must completely accept the word of God.

Before explaining the meaning of the parable Jesus asked the inner circles two questions: “Do you not understand this parable?  How then will you understand all the parables?”  From these questions we see two things.  First, we see again the need for divine assistance.  Second, we see that understanding this one parable is they key to understanding all of the parables.  If we can look at this parable and learn to pick out the spiritual principle, then we will be able to “have the ears” to understand the rest of Jesus’ parables.  Thankfully Jesus goes on to tell us exactly what this parable means.

Jesus begins His explanation of this parable in verse 14 where He says, “The sower sows the word.”  Notice again that the focus of this parable is not on the sower, but rather on the seed.  The “seed” is the word of God.  Specifically, the seed is the Gospel message.  This is the message that Jesus had been proclaiming throughout His earthly ministry.  Up to this point this message had been met with mixed results, and now we are beginning to see why.  In order for this seed to be effective it must land on the proper soil.  If the seed is the word, then the soil represents the human heart.  Thus, for the word of God to be effective it must be completely accepted by the heart of man.  In this parable Jesus describes four different kinds of soil, or hearts, but only one is the right kind of soil.

The first soil was not the right kind of soil at all.  This soil was on the path, where the seed was not even able to penetrate the surface.  There, along the path, the seed laid exposed until it was eaten up by hungry birds. In v. 15 Jesus explains that “these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them.”  Here we see a picture of individuals who have hardened their heart against the truth of the Gospel.  They have heard the truth, but they reject it altogether.  For some this means open hostility toward the Gospel.  However, for many others this kind of hard heart leads to unapologetic apathy toward the gospel.

By rejecting the truth, these individuals with hard hearts fall into the trap of the “father of lies”—Satan.  Satan, acting just like the birds that ate the seed, works to remove the word and replace it with his lies.  2 Cor 4:4 says that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ….”  This is one of the primary ways that Satan works against God’s people; he wants us to reject the truth and accept a lie.  In fact, 1 Peter 5:8 says that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

  1. Have we hardened our hearts to the message of Jesus?  Are we playing right into Satan’s plan?

The second soil seemed like it might be the right kind of soil, but it had no depth to it.  This was the rocky ground where the seed was scorched by the sun because it had no root. In vv. 16-17 Jesus explains that “these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.”  Here we see that these individuals immediately and joyously received the message of the gospel.  In other words, when someone first told them about Jesus they were happy to hear it.  Maybe they were at a revival meeting and they walked the isle, or maybe they just heard it from a friend and immediately prayed to Jesus.  Whatever the circumstances, at this point these individuals were excited to hear about Jesus and follow Him.  However, these individuals have no depth in their commitment to Jesus.  Their reaction to the gospel was based on an emotionally stimulating experience, but it was not a faith rooted in the truth of the gospel.

You see, true faith has roots growing deep into the truth of God’s word.  Consequently, when difficulties arise true faith will be able to draw the resources it needs to survive from God’s word.  On the other hand, this impulsive hearer that we read about in these verses does not have a faith that is rooted in the truth.  He is not able to draw the resources that it needs from God’s word.  For this reason, this individual who received the gospel initially is only able to endure for a while until his true heart it revealed.  When things become difficult and tribulation and persecution arise this person falls away.  He rejects the gospel message just as quickly as he had previously received it, and in the process reveals that he never truly accepted it.  This individual was not committed to following Jesus; he was only interested in making Jesus another addition to His life.  When things got difficult and he had to choose between his own comfort and Jesus, he chose comfort.  This kind of heart would have been very familiar to the Romans readers of this gospel.  Many of them had seen friends and family members fall away at the first sign of persecution.  Many of us have also seen this same thing happen.  Ill: Jason; high school friends; etc.

This kind of heart should cause us to constantly examine ourselves to make sure that our faith is based on the truth, and not some emotional experience.  In order to be true followers of Jesus—who will enter the Kingdom—we must have a deep commitment to Him.  If we are not completely committed to Christ then we will not the resources to endure, and we will fall away.  This is dangerous trap that we must be aware of.  Just think about all those crowds who sang Hosanna at the arrival of Christ, and then days latter called for the crucifixion of Christ.  Are you like the crowds, or is your faith rooted in the truth of God’s word?  How will you respond when tribulation arises? (ex. what if a terrorist threatened to cut of your head unless you rejected Christ?)

The third soil seemed very promising, but in the end it too failed.  This was the thorny soil where the weed grew with the wheat and choked them out. In vv. 18-19 Jesus explains that these “are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”  Of all the soils, I think that this soil is the most common soil in the church today.  I want you to notice something about how the seed grew in this soil.  In the first two soils the seed eventually died, but in this soil the seed does not die.  It actually remains and grows.  But there is one fatal flaw, it does not produce fruit.  Essentially, even though it did not die, it was no better than the seed that did die.  In fact, it may have been worse because it took up space in the fields and it was such a disappointment when it did not yield a crop.

This soil represents hearts that are divided between Jesus and the things of the world.  These are individuals who hear the gospel and do not reject it.  In fact, on the outside they look as if they have completely accepted it.  However, their hearts are divided.  Just like the thorns grow up around the good plant and make it unfruitful, the circumstances of these individuals’ lives make them unfruitful.  So even though they claim to be committed to Jesus their lives do not live up to that claim.  Specifically, Jesus mentions three things that distract these individuals from following Jesus:

  1. The Cares of the World – anxiety, worry, extreme pessimism, tec.
  2. The Deceitfulness of Riches – love of money, preoccupation with temporal treasure
  3. Desires for Other Things – anything that takes the focus off of Jesus, laziness, no concern for spiritual work, etc.

These individuals are divided.  They claim to be committed to Jesus, but really they are more interested in these other things.  With their mouths they confess Jesus, but with their actions they worship the gods of this world.  Individuals like this are not true followers of Jesus.  As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”  Today the church is filled with people who confess the name of Jesus with their lips, but are really committed to things of this world.  I love the way one author illustrated this point:

Darling, I want you to know that I love you more than anything else in the world. I want you to marry me. I’m not rich. I don’t have a yacht or a Rolls Royce like Johnny Brown, but I do love you with all my heart.” She thought for a minute and then replied, “I love you with all my heart, too, but tell me more about Johnny Brown.[1]

Too many professing Christians love Jesus as much this woman loved her man—not much.  That is why they do not bear fruit, and they are not productive members of the kingdom of God.  In fact, they are not members of the kingdom at all.  Matthew 7:15-23 explains that if God has truly saved you and made you a member of the kingdom then your fruit will prove it.  These individuals bore no fruit because they did not truly accept the Gospel.  They may have fooled themselves into thinking that they had accepted the gospel, but their hearts were divided.  They were not committed to Christ as their Lord.

What about your heart? Is your commitment divided?  Are you preoccupied with the things of this world?  What kind of fruit are you producing?  What keeps you from bearing fruit?

The fourth and final soil was the only good soil.  Here the seed was able to grow and produce fruit.  In v. 20 Jesus explains that “those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”  This good soil represents those who have completely accepted the word.  They have not hardened their heart, their faith is rooted in the truth, and they are not distracted by the things of this world.  It is in the hearts of these people, who completely accept the word, that the power of the seed is made evident.  These individuals are fruit bearing members of the Kingdom of God.  They do not merely receive the word or hear the word; instead they whole heartedly accept the word.  Because of their willingness to accept the word, the power of the word works in them to bring about fruit. This is the kind of fruit that is described in Gal 5:22-23.  These fruits do not earn our way into the kingdom, but they are evidence that God has made us a part of His kingdom.  In fact, God will use these fruits in our life to advance His kingdom.

There is one final observation that I want to make from v. 20.  At the end of the verse Jesus says that some bear fruit “thirtyfold” and others “sixtyfold” and others “a hundredfold.”  From this we see that not everyone is going to bear the same amount of fruit.  Some will be more mature and will be more productive in the kingdom.  But we should not be comparing fruit with one another.  It is not a competition.  What is important is that we are growing, and that we continue to bear fruit.  This is the mark of a true member of the kingdom of God.  This kind of fruit bearing only occurs in the lives of those who completely accept the word of God.

So, the first requirement for entering the kingdom of God was that we must completely depend upon the sovereign grace of God. The second requirement for entering the kingdom of God we must completely accept the word of God.

[1]Walter Underwood, The Contemporary 12 (Nashville: Abingdon, 1984), pp. 86, 87.