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The Life Giving Word

Date: Jul. 7, 2019

Author: Michael Mark

Mark 4:21-25

Key Verse: Mark 4:24

"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more."

At work, on my boss’ desk is a book called “How to Read a Book.”  When I first looked at it, I thought to myself, isn’t it pretty obvious? But the book is a guide to reading a book intelligently, and teaches skills to help you reap the most benefit from reading a book.  Why are books so important?  An article summarizing this book says, “[Books are] the key to unlocking your mind’s full potential.  They’re a source of unending insight.  They’re a limitless well of flash-frozen wisdom from mankind’s best thinkers and doers. (www.fastertomaster.com).”  This could not be more true of the Bible itself.  It is a goldmine of flash-frozen wisdom from God himself.  God is the author of the Bible!  No other book can claim this amazing truth.  While great books may enrich or enhance your life, the Bible gives you life to the full.  No other book comes remotely close.  Only in the Bible can you learn and experience a love that is true, be given a hope that is true, and receive an inner joy that can never be taken away. Many books may give you life skills, but the Bible gives you the very life itself.  It is a book you cannot ignore.  In fact, ignore it at your own peril.  Today we will see why the Bible is not only a book you shouldunderstand, but it is also a book you canunderstand.

In this part of the book of Mark, Jesus has been teaching us about the kingdom of God. Facing opposition to his clear teachings, he began to teach in parables.  This had the double effect of protecting his words from attack, and at the same time deepening and reinforcing truth to those seeking to know.  Jesus takes a difficult to grasp concept, like the kingdom of God, and draws parallels to the natural world in things you can see, so that when you understand the parable, you will understand the kingdom of God. Last week he taught the parable of the sower and explained this parable to his disciples.  Today, Jesus takes a brief interlude to teach how we can understand his parables, and the importance of paying careful attention to God’s word.  One of the central topics in the parable of the sower is the word of God, and it is from this central topic that we will use to help understand today’s passage.

Look at v.21, “He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?’”  It can sound confusing here because right before, he talks about a farmer and his field, and now he suddenly switches to talking about a lamp.  What is this lamp?  It can be several things, and the Bible is consistent with many of these ideas. The lamp can be the knowledge of the kingdom of God, which is the main subject of his parables.  The lamp can also be Jesus, who is the light of the world. The lamp can also be us, his disciples, who are salt and light.  For today, we will seek to understand this passage from the point of view that the lamp is the word of God.  God’s word is also known as a light, a lamp that helps us to see things better. Ps 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”  There’s even a song we sing from this same verse.

Who here has a lamp that they put under a bowl or a bed?  Nobody does that.  If you do, let’s have a chat, I’d like to know why.  You might as well not have a light.  The purpose of the lamp is so that you can see everything in your room, and you will not break something or injure yourself on something, but be able to see where you are going and use something as it is intended.  So the word of God illuminates everything around us.  We know where we came from, created by God, we know who we are, a fallen race, we know right and wrong, according to the Law, and we know the way to redemption in Jesus Christ.  Look at v.22, “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.”  What was Jesus hiding in these parables?  He was hiding his kingdom.  Why?  Because it was not time to reveal everything yet.  When you want to surprise your friend with a present, do you tell them what it is before you give it to them?  If someone has not seen the Avengers End Game movie, do you tell them the ending?  Jesus had work to do.  He had many lessons to still teach.  He still had to show them the full extent of his love.  But the kingdom would not be hidden forever.  It was meant to be fully disclosed, and brought into the open.

The kingdom of God was meant to be published all over the world– to everyone of every nation, tongue and tribe. It is not some secret that only an elite group of people know about.  It is not some special knowledge that you have to jump through hoops to obtain. For you gamers out there, you do not have to level up to get to the next stage.  The kingdom of God can be found in the word of God.  The word of God reveals the kingdom of God, and it is something we all can know and understand, because God wants all people to know. The Bible, God’s word, can be comprehended by all people.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a hardest time reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel “The Scarlet Letter,” because the English was so old. Sometimes I struggle to understand the English in Shakespeare’s plays.  Even the King James Bible gets a little bit difficult to read.  But we have the Bible translated into modern English, and into all the languages of the world, by faithful people, so that all generations can come to a knowledge of God’s word.  Though the Bible is deep and profound, the English is far less complex than an academic white paper.  According to Biblegateway.com, the NIV translation is meant for a minimum 7thgrade reading level, so on average anyone over the age of 12 should be able to understand the Bible.  If you have graduated from grade school, God’s word should be quite accessible to you. That being said, the Bible is infinitely deep and rich.  The core concepts may be understood by even children, the barriers to entry are low (i.e., you do not need a college degree to read the Bible), but there is no limit to how deep you can understand the word of God.

The secrets of the kingdom of God have already been revealed to us.  They were not revealed to all the disciples at the time Jesus walked the earth, but they are revealed to the whole world now.  The world is not ignorant of Jesus Christ.  In fact much of the world rebels against this.  But in our Bibles, in the word of God, we know God created the world out of nothing by the power of his word.  We know that the Messiah was prophesied through Isaiah as a suffering servant.  We know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has come into the world to save sinners, and to destroy the works of the devil.  We know the interpretations of his parables, as we can read them right here. We have the words, teachings and actions of Jesus Christ, all documented here.

Knowing that the word of God was meant to be given to all people, Jesus gives an invitationin v.23.  He says, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”  He does not say, “If anyone has ears to hear, do not let them hear.” He says, “If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”  He calls out to his disciples, and to us through time, through his unchanging word. He invites us, if you want to hear the word of God, if you want to understand the word of God, come, and listen. Jesus extends his invitation out to you. Do you want to hear what he has to say? Then come, and listen.  Give him your ears and your undivided attention.

What does Jesus say to us next?  Can we all please read v.24, “ ‘Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.”  The first thing Jesus says is to “Consider carefully what you hear.”  To consider carefully means to give Jesus’ words a lot of thought.  It means to pay close attention to what he is saying, to look intently into what is being said.  We see an example in the Bereans from Acts 17:11, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”  The Scriptures are to be examined, they are to be studied, and considered carefully. All the words that we need to hear from Jesus are contained in the Bible.  Think about a time when you considered something someone said to you.  When it has impacted you, good or bad, what do you do? You think, what did that person mean? Why did they say that?  Is it true?  You apply all the same things to the word of God.  Try to discover its meaning. 

There may be times when we study something repeatedly.  Sometimes when you are trying to learn a new concept or skill, you might go over a section of a book over and over again, gaining more insight each time, or you might watch a portion of a video over and over again, trying to figure out what the person is talking about.  If the subject matter is deep, you learn something new every time.  Some good movies are like that – you catch more when you watch it more than once.  For those of us who have been in the church for some time, we will often run into the same passage over and over again, like last week’s parable of the sower. How many times have some of you heard or studied that?  But we must guard against the attitude that we heard it before,that there is nothing new to learn, and instead give it careful consideration every time, to try understand it more, or review what we may have forgotten.

To consider carefully also means to consider correctly.  There is a right way and a wrong way to read the word of God.  The right way is to read the word in context, and to dig out its meaning.  The wrong way to read is to take the verse out of context, and put your own meaning on into it, or to accept certain parts of God’s word because you like them, and reject other parts because you don’t.  The right way is to objectively study the word, the wrong way is to manipulate the word.  Let’s say a major newspaper or TV show wanted to interview you, and get your thoughts on some topic.  You would expect them to present what you said fairly, but you would not want them to take your sentences out of context and make you say something you didn’t. So when you study the word of God, you want to get into the mind of the author, carefully considering what he means. There may be some things difficult to interpret, but we give it our best effort.

The word of God is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the part where we see the power and fruit of the word of God.  Jesus gives us first a great encouragement to carefully consider his word, and then a strong warning at the end.  Let’s look at this encouragement first, from v.24b-25a: “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.  Whoever has will be given more.”  How much do you want to know the word of God?  How deep do you want to go and dive in?  That is the measure.  It’s like coming to a freshwater spring.  How much water do you want to take and bring back home?  You can fill a small bottle, or a gallon jug, or you can back the truck up and fill up a swimming pool.  What you receive will be based on that measure, and even more. Jesus taught in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Not only will you be filled, but it will be overflowing.  This is the “even more” of verse 24.  It refers to those who hear, to those who have.  Those who have are those who have the word of God, and the overflowing blessings are the fruit that grows 30, 60 and even 100 times what was sown.

This measure then, is measured by faith. Do you accept God’s word?  Do you believe in it?  Do you believe in it enough to obey and to do what it says? This is the way to reap the rewards. Faith without actions is dead, but actions are a sign of the faith in the heart.  The seed that is the word you received is the gospel.  It is the good news that Jesus came and died for our sins, and on the third day, he rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures. From this seed comes the fruit. When you believe this, then you know that God loves you.  When you believe this, then you know that all your sins have been paid for in full. When you believe this, you know that in Jesus, you have a right standing with God, and that when he returns, you will be given the glory and resurrection he revealed to us, and a place in his kingdom.  When you believe in Him, you know that no one, not even the devil, can take this away from you, come hell or high water.  Jesus has given you eternal life.  How do you know this?  The Bible tells me so.  And so we develop a hunger, a thirst in our hearts to know God through his word, and the rewards pour forth from the moment we believe.  2 Tim 3:15-17 says, “…[the Holy Scriptures]…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Notice that Scripture is also useful for teaching, and training.  One of the best ways to learn and grow God’s word, is to study it and teach it to others.

The apostle Peter tells us to make every effort to add to our faith goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self control; to self control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love (2 Pet 1:5-7).  We bear fruit in all these things.  When you study God’s word, you begin to know God more.  You learn that this is God, as he reveals himself to Moses in Ex 34:6-7 “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parent to the third and fourth generation.” We know that all of those punishments have been paid for in Jesus Christ, and that there can never be any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:1).  We learn what God requires of us– to love him with all our heart and soul and mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31), and we strive to obey his command to forgive and love one another, until he comes again.  When we live in love, we are living life to the full, and we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).  We learn all of these things in the word of God, the Bible.  It is worth our careful consideration and study, and the rewards are great.

At the end of this passage is a strong warning. Look at v.25b “whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken away from them.”  These people are similar to those in the parable of the sower that had hard hearts, rocky hearts and thorny hearts.  That word of God they had received had died.  Remember earlier when Jesus said “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  It goes in the negative direction also.  Instead of accepting and receiving the word of God, there is a rejection of the word, and the judgment for that is similar to the extent of the rejection.  The Pharisees thought Jesus was some manifestation of the devil, and they themselves came under Satan’s power.  Those who reject grace and embrace legalism will be judged by the law that they cannot keep.  Those who reject grace and embrace despair will be lost in hopelessness.  The sign of the rejection of God’s word is disobedience and negligence of it.  Like a muscle, if it is not used, it will atrophy.  Those who reject God’s word will lose the benefits they gained, if they had any, when they had tried to live by it but stopped.  Rom 1:21 tells of those who knew God, but neither glorified him nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  They begin to seek after the things of this world, not storing up treasures in heaven. In the end they will lose even these things, because they are temporal, and they will not inherit the earth. Jesus taught in Matt 6:22-24, “They eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve both God and money.”  The Bible makes a clear distinction between those who have the word and those who do not.  It’s black and white.  Those who have the word are devoted to God.  They believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of the Kingdom of God.  Those who do not, are not devoted to God.  They do not believe in Jesus at all.  Ultimately their sins will lead them to death, and the second death.  There is no middle ground, or middle way.  The word of God leads to life, and is the only way there.

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. In Eze 33:11, God says to the people of Israel, “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn!  Turn from your evil ways!  Why will you die, people of Israel?”  We see the grieving heart of God pleading with sinners.  In the same chapter we find the noble Bereans in Acts 17, Paul tells the people of Athens that God commands all people everywhere to repent.  So where do we turn to?  Turn to Jesus, who has the words of life.  He came to give us the words of life.  When many people deserted Jesus because of his hard teachings, he asked the Twelve disciples, “You do not want to leave too, do you?”  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.”  He adds, “We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”  (John 6:67-69).  Jesus’ words were not meant to be hidden, but to be made known to the whole world. Share the gospel, teach it and make disciples.  If Jesus’ words are truly the words of life, then accept it, obey it, consider it carefully.  Thirst for it, study it diligently, daily, and you will produce a crop 30, 60 or even 100 times what was sown.  By receiving the word of God, in the end you will receive the object of your faith: the salvation of your souls (1 Pet 1:9) and eternal life in the kingdom of God.

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