Friday, March 21, 2014

"Sowing seed in the kingdom of God …"

Day #84:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - March 22nd

Scripture Reading:  Mark 3 - 4 …

A pastor whose sermons I listen to occasionally online always introduces the time of receiving the tithes and offerings of God's people by saying, "We're going to sow seed into the kingdom …"  While I understand that he is referring to Paul's words in II Corinthians 9, where he is talking about giving an offering, "Remember this:  Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously" (verse 6) … too many people today seem to think that this means if I give of my finances to the Lord, God will bless me financially with more to give.  God may do that, but He also may not.  The deeper lesson Paul is teaching is what Jesus refers to in His parables of the kingdom:  the seed that is sown is the Word of God.  The financial gifts of the Corinthians and others were enabling the Gospel to be proclaimed, even as their gifts were meeting the needs of those in Jerusalem and in other places, and the result was that people were glorifying God!

The ultimate goal in God's kingdom is always that God would receive glory, and the way that happens is when the Word falls on good ground and produces a harvest of righteousness.  That's why Jesus came to preach the good news and to call people to repentance and faith.  The Pharisees didn't understand this concept of giving glory to God through a life of faith and obedience.  They were still living under the law, so they continually tried to set Jesus up.

As Mark 3 begins, it appears that they brought a man with a shriveled hand into the synagogue to see if Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus met them head-on by asking them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath:  to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill it?" (3:4).  When they didn't answer, Jesus looked at them in anger and was "deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts" (3:5).  They plotted how they might kill Him.  Their hearts were NOT good ground!

They accused Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebub, as though His power came from Satan.  THIS is the unforgivable sin:  to attribute to Satan what is being done by the power of the Spirit of God (3:29).  Even His mother and brothers did not yet understand.  But Jesus came to teach, to lay the foundation for His Church, to explain how the kingdom of God "works" and to call people into it.  His Word had power because God's Word has power.  Do you "have ears to hear" (4:9)?  Do you understand the "secret of the kingdom of God?" (4:11).

Like the crowds then, the crowds today want God to do things for them HERE and NOW!  When He does, they're happy ... if He doesn't meet their expectations, they are discouraged or depressed or angry, and wonder why.  But those who have been made good ground by the grace and power of God receive His Word and trust Him in every circumstance, living their lives to tell others of their loving, good and faithful God, who is at the same time holy, righteous and just.  They confess that they are aliens and strangers in this world, and they look for a better country, a heavenly one (Hebrews 11:13-16).

For these, Jesus calms the storm and calls us to get rid of our fear and believe!  The disciples asked, "Who is this?" (4:41).  We KNOW who He is!!  This is Jesus, the Christ, the eternal Son of God, our Savior and our Lord!!  The crowds would leave Jesus when His teaching didn't suit them (John 6), and Jesus would turn to the disciples and ask them, "Do you want to leave me, too?"  (John 6:67).  But in a moment of clarity, Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  YOU have the WORDS of eternal life.  We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" (6:68-69).

I pray that as you read Mark's Gospel, and as you hear Jesus' words, YOU know who He is and believe in Him.  And I pray you are good ground and that you will bear fruit for His kingdom!!

"Heavenly Father, I thank You for sending Jesus to teach the truth of Your kingdom, and then for giving the perfect sacrifice on the cross to open the door for those who believe to enter it.  I praise You for the work of Your Spirit, by whose power You bring the dead to life ... for You have brought ME to life!  Continue your work in me, so that I may produce a harvest for YOU.  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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