Matt Carter speaks on Mark 4:1-35
Series: The Gospel of Mark
There is a book by a guy named Steve Farrar. It’s called, Finishing Strong. The whole premise is how so few people, even in the Scriptures, finish this Christian race well.
He tells a story of a pastor of a huge church in Houston. When he was young, in his twenties, he wrote down on the inside cover of his bible, all the names that he could think of, of men and women that were walking well with Jesus. He wrote down several dozen names, people who were on fire for the Lord, serving the Lord. He wanted to remind himself of the community that he walked in faith with. As he went through life, what he found was a lot of the people he had written down had, at some point in time, walked away from Jesus. It began to happen more and more frequently. Somebody would have an affair and would just walk away from the Lord and never come back. Or the things of the world would come into their life and they would get so consumed with them that they would quit walking with Jesus. He got to the point where he would mark a line through the name as each one walked away. The guy is now in his eighties. As he’s gotten to the end of his life, out of the dozens of names he wrote down, only three have not been marked through.
When I was reading this book at A&M in the 90’s, the campus was going through a massive spiritual renewal. God was moving in power. I remember reading this book and this illustration and I began to list off all the people in my mind that I knew who were walking with Jesus. People that were on fire for Jesus. I remember thinking that his illustration seemed so exaggerated and that it would never happen to me. As I stand on this stage, only twenty years later, I can tell you story after story of people that I was going to school with, that were walking with Jesus, that for whatever reason along the way in the last twenty years, have said, “I’m done, I’m out” and have walked away from the Lord.
Jesus says that this would happen. It’s called the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9). A huge crowd comes and gathers around Jesus. People are waiting in anticipation, wondering what is Jesus going to preach? Then Jesus tells them a story about a farmer that goes out, scatters some seeds around on different soils and how they all grew and produced fruit differently. The people had no clue what this story meant. After Jesus left, the disciples came up to him and asked him. Jesus explains that there are four ways that people (the seeds) respond to the Word of God (the soil). Everybody is going to respond to the teaching and the hearing of the Word of God in one of these four ways.
This is hard to hear, because Jesus teaches that three of the four ways people respond proves that they are not saved. This ultimately leads to destruction. Only one of the responses that Jesus talks about proves that a person is saved and leads to eternal life.
|Mark 4:3-4 – 3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it.||Mark 4:14-15 – 14 The sower sows the word. 15 And 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.|
The first response is the most clear cut and the simplest one to understand. People are going to hear the word and immediately reject it. These people won’t just reject it, but will also thinks it’s dumb. In 1Corinthians 1:18, Paul says, “For the word of the cross is foolishness, to those who are perishing, but to us, who are being saved, it is the power of God”. When you hear the message of the cross, the power of God explodes into your life and you believe it. But there are some people who receive the word of the cross as foolishness. The Greek word for foolishness is moronos. Its where we get the English word, moron or moronic. It’s saying that there are going to be people, who hear the message of the cross that think its moronic.
|Mark 4:5-6 – 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away.||Mark 4:16-17 – 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 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.|
Some will receive the word of god with joy, but it’s a temporary receiving. When affliction or persecution arises because of the word, they will immediately fall away.
The first group hears it and rejects it. The second group hears it, receives it, but after a while reject it. Jesus is NOT teaching that you can lose your salvation. If you are truly saved, covered in the blood of Jesus, the moment that you are saved, you are justified. He’s saying that there are people who look just like Christians, but are not. Look at the wheat and the tares. They look exactly alike, you can’t tell the difference until the end and then they’re separated. There are people that are going to look like they’re saved, but they will fall away. This will prove that they were never saved in the first place.
People are going to receive the word of God with joy until they experience affliction and persecution. Not many people walk away from Christianity today due to persecution. We do see people walk away, not because they’re persecuted because of the Word, but because they feel persecuted by the Word. Obedience to the Word of God becomes a burden. They have to choose between doing what they want or being obedient to the Word of God. They make the choice to do what they want and walk away from Christianity.
One of the biggest reasons is difficult marriages. A Christian couple gets married in their twenties. Life cruises along, they get jobs, get the house and start having kids. Then at some point in time something starts to go wrong in their marriage. They wake up and realize they’re life hasn’t ended up the way they envisioned it would. Their spouse isn’t meeting their needs or fulfilling their expectations. They’re just not happy in marriage anymore and God wants them to be happy. Somebody has an affair and it gets really hard. If you were to ask them in that moment if they were Christians, they would respond yes. But marriage has become too hard and they start thinking they’d be better out of it.
|Mark 4:7 – 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain.||Mark 4:18-19 – 18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 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.|
This group of people never actually rejects the Word of God. They walk in it for a long time, but the desires of the world slowly choke the Word of God from bearing fruit in their lives. These people go through the church routine their whole lives, but at the end of the journey, they love the world more than they love Jesus.
Several people say this means these people are actually saved, but they just never bear fruit. I don’t think that’s what Jesus is saying. Jesus says that you’re going to know a person is a believer by their fruit. So if you’re looking at your life and you never see fruit, it might very well be its because you’re not connected to the vine. Jesus said that if you’re connected to the vine, you are going to bear fruit.
This is the only response that Jesus gives where the response leads to eternal life.
|Mark 4:8 – 8 And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.||Mark 4:20 – 20 But 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.”|
There are three evidences that you are responding to the Word of God in a way that leads to eternal life.
1. You hear the word and you accept it. The Greek word for accept means to embrace the Word of God and to obey it. Obedience to the word of God is one of the evidences that the word has fallen of fertile soil.
2. You bear fruit. Galatians tells us that when you’re saved, the Spirit of God indwells you and He bears fruit. The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
3. You bear fruit...thirtyfold, sixtyfold and hundredfold. You can’t just look at how you’re responding to the Word of God today. You have to look at your life and look at the trajectory. Look at your entire life and ask yourself if you see growing love for the Lord? Do you see a growing obedience to His word? Do you see an increase of fruit over the course of your life?
My challenge to you is this; ask yourself, “How am I responding to the Word of God? Am I responding to the Word of God in the way that Jesus says leads to eternal life?”