Well, I’m going to ask you to turn back to Mark chapter 4. And there are quite a few things on my heart to say about this, and we’ll trust the Lord to give us direction to cover the things that are most helpful. This is another in our series of conversations with Jesus. This is a conversation Jesus has with His disciples, including the twelve, as is noted in the text that I read earlier, and it’s a very important conversation because it addresses an issue that had really struck them severely. The Messiah had come. They knew Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah. He had demonstrated His divine nature by daily miracles; power over demons, disease, death, and nature; and there were just no challenges that His miracles could not overcome. Clearly supernatural.
The miracles drew massive crowds, even, in this case, such a massive crowd that they forced Him off the shore into a boat just to put a little distance between Himself and the pressing crowd. He had basically garnered unparalleled popularity; never anybody in Jewish history so popular as Jesus. He banished illness from the land of Israel during the years of His ministry. He also taught with profound wisdom the likes of which no one had ever heard before. And the disciples are there for all of that; and they, along with Peter, are convinced that “You are the Son of God. You are the Messiah. You are the Lord. And not only that, but You have the words of life.”
This is the messianic moment that all history has been waiting for. But what was so difficult for them to grasp was that the response of their nation was so superficial. It was actually a kind of exploitive response. They were willing to exploit Jesus as far as fulfilling their desires would take Him: “Feed us, heal us, but don’t ask any more of us than that.” Very superficial response. In fact, John sums it up: “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not.”
Their exploitation of Jesus, their superficial interest in Him grew to become hostility. That hostility grew to become hatred. That hatred reached a point where they collectively said, “We will not have this man to reign over us,” and they screamed, “Crucify Him!”
Their hostility escalated all the way to the cross. It has already begun by the time you get to the third chapter of Mark. If you look back at verse 6, “the Pharisees” (the religious leaders), “the Herodians” (sort of the political side of religion) were together plotting how to destroy the miracle worker, to destroy the one who banished illness, who spoke like no one ever spoke, who created food to feed 25,000 people, created it out of nothing. How much they hate Him, to want Him dead when He provides so much for them.
So the disciples were trying to deal with this hostility at a high level, the level of leadership, and as well at a populous level. And additionally, there were so few real believers. As we saw back in Matthew 7, “There’s a narrow door and a narrow way, and few there be that find it.” And there were so few real followers of Christ, so few true disciples, that in Luke 13 the disciples themselves said, “Are there just a few being saved?” This is very difficult for them to grasp.
And furthermore, there were some who joined them, identified themselves as believers and disciples, but we saw in John 6 last week that after one of the greatest miracles of His entire ministry—feeding those 25,000 people with food He created—they turned and “walked with Him no more.” They turned their back on Him and defected. They deconstructed, you could say, to borrow the vernacular. So, few were willing to follow; and of the few that followed, there were lots of defectors. In fact, there were many who turned away from Him, it says in John 6.
What is the problem here? The disciples are having to deal with this because you understand that they were waiting, like all the rest of Jewish history, for the arrival of the Messiah. And the Messiah had arrived, and they knew that, but it’s not working out like they expected it. Massive crowds, profound miracles and teaching—but only a few followers, and of the few, many defectors.
Do they need a new strategy? Somehow, have they missed the right approach? They must have been thinking, like any Old Testament Jew would think, of passages such as Isaiah 9:6 and 7, this messianic prophecy: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
Well, the Son had been given, the child had been born, and the government was not on His shoulders, and He was not being designated as the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace. He had no ruling government. He was not on the throne of David. He had not established justice and righteousness permanently. What’s gone wrong? Why this meager response, when the prophets had such grand predictions?
And then there’s Isaiah 45, another messianic prophecy, where we read, verse 22, “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back . . . to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him”—meaning Messiah—“and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory.”
Well, that was not happening. Clearly, that was not happening. Every knee was not bowing to Him. Every tongue was not swearing allegiance. And then they, perhaps, thought of the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah, where the chapter opens with these words: “Arise, shine; for your light has come”—meaning the Messiah, another messianic prophecy—“and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you and His glory will appear upon you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
“Lift up your eyes round about and see; they all gather together, they come to you. Your sons will come from afar, your daughters will be carried in the arms. Then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice; because the abundance of the sea will be turned to you, the wealth of nations will come to you.” The whole world is going to come to the Light, the Messiah, the whole world. That wasn’t happening; not even the nation Israel.
They faced a situation not unlike the church today. Massive exposure of Christianity happening in our world, in our country. Megachurches seem to abound everywhere. Christian preachers have managed to garner great space in the media, radio, television, Internet. Seems like there are churches everywhere, but few true Christians. And the people who lead the nation, the people who lead politically in our world, are hostile toward Christianity, hostile toward Scripture. There are obviously many false Christians and false disciples; and as we saw the last couple of weeks, there are people turning away, deconstructing, the #exvangelicals. And true and faithful churches are being criticized as being irrelevant to the desires of the culture. We’re actually being ridiculed by some of the supposed church-growth experts, as if it’s our fault that there’s not an exploding growth of Christianity because we’re stuck in traditional past. We’re conducting church in a way that’s irrelevant to the world and doesn’t communicate or connect with them. We’re out of touch with the culture, out of touch with their felt needs. We’re not good at the psychology of the human behavior. We’re missing the style, the trends, the music, the clothes, the popular thinking, and we’ve got to make some serious adjustments if we’re going to make any progress. That’s the philosophy behind all of the evangelical adjustments in style to make the gospel easier to tolerate.
So the church is suffering not unlike the disciples, with trying to figure out, “What do we have to do to start this movement up at a level that we would like it to be? How do we crank up Christian response? How do we actually change the world? How do we change cities and countries? What’s happening?”
Well, this is the very question that the disciples were holding in their minds when Jesus spoke what He spoke in Mark 4. And this is a kind of Magna Carta on the growth of the kingdom, kind of a Magna Carta on how to do evangelism. And the things that He says here also appear in Matthew and Luke. So three times in the four gospels, this particular set of teachings is laid out on the pages of Holy Scripture.
It’s about a year before the Great Commission, about two years into Jesus’ ministry, and they’re wondering why things are not turning out the way they thought they should. So in this chapter—and we’re going to take kind of an overview of it—the Lord gives them a comprehensive and somewhat detailed explanation of His kingdom. It’s easy to misunderstand, it’s easy to be ignorant, it’s easy to misinterpret the Lord’s intentions for His church unless you look at the Word of God, and then everything becomes crystal clear. So the question is, then, Why are we seeing what we’re seeing? Which is very similar to what the disciples were seeing: all this exposure, and so much hostility, and so much false discipleship.
Now to begin with, I want you to look at verse 26; it’s where I want to start. It’s the next-to-the-last of the parables here, and it only appears in Mark, verses 26 to 29. And among these parables which He is using to explain the nature of His kingdom and how it grows, He was saying this: “The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know.”
“The kingdom of God” is what He’s talking about, “the kingdom of God,” meaning the sphere of salvation, the realm of salvation over which the Lord rules in the hearts of believers. You have to understand it this way: It’s “like man who casts seed upon the soil” and then “goes to bed” and “gets up,” and goes to bed and gets up, and the days and the nights pass, and “the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know.”
Now to start with, seed itself is paradoxical, paradoxical in the fact that a seed is very small and appears dead. In fact, it has to decompose to give life. That’s only explainable by divine design. So the seed is paradoxical. It’s small. It’s seemingly dead, dormant. But out of it comes a life that flourishes and grows in a prolific way.
So is the wonder of the gospel. The gospel is hidden in small truths, small realities, small doctrines, but it breaks out into massive production of spiritual life. The seed dies and gives life, but no farmer has anything to do with that process. Farmer doesn’t do anything—can’t make a seed die, can’t make a seed grow, can’t make a seed produce life, can’t make a seed produce more life. The only human act is to plant and go to sleep, while the crop mysteriously grows. All the forces of life are beyond the man, beyond the farmer, even the best farmer.
It’s similar to what our Lord says in John 3 when He says the Spirit does what the Spirit wills. It’s similar to what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3, “It’s God who gives the increase.” Life and growth and fruit are divine operations, divine operations. No human contributes to spiritual life, to regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification. We make no contribution.
All the life comes from the seed. “I’m not ashamed of the gospel [of Christ],” says Paul, Romans 1:16, “because it is the power of God unto salvation.” It is the gospel, it is the seed that has the life. Peter, 1 Peter 1, you’re begotten again by the word of truth. It is the word itself, the gospel truth, that has the power.
So it’s foundational to all who engage in gospel ministry to understand this: No human being, no human strategy, no human technique can produce any spiritual life, no matter how persuasive you might be, how clever, how good your illustrations might be, how culturally savvy you might be; no matter how you may structure the environment to make people feel like they’re at home in the world, nothing that a human being does plays any role in spiritual life and growth. You can’t produce the new birth. You can’t cause spiritual growth. And that’s what we saw in John 6 last week, verse 65, that no one comes to salvation unless the Father draws him. It’s a divine work. We’re “saved by grace through faith; but that’s not of ourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
So this is where all of our understanding of how the kingdom moves has to begin: that we make no contribution to spiritual life and growth. This should be obvious to everyone: that Scripture says the power is in the truth, the power is in the Word of God. There’s no reason to be seduced by strategists. And in fact, it’s explicit in verse 28. In verse 27 it says the farmer doesn’t know how it grows. It does, but he doesn’t know how. He doesn’t know how life can come out of the death of a seed. And it’s explicit in verse 28: “The soil produces crops by itself,” automatē in Greek, “automatically.” The soil produces crops automatically. That word is rare, but it’s also used in Acts 12:10, where the angel came to release Peter from prison, and the door opened automatē, automatically, to let him out of the prison.
All the farmer can do is show up, in verse 29, when it’s time to harvest. He has no role to play as the crop grows “by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.” No farmer gives life, no farmer energizes cell division, multiplication; it’s all God’s work. We have no role to play but to wait and enjoy the harvest.
So sow and sleep. People ask me occasionally, “Do you sleep well?” The answer is, I do, I sleep very well. But I’ll promise you one thing: If I thought that anybody was going to be left out of heaven because of some failure in my strategy, I couldn’t sleep at all.
Success of the gospel does not depend on our power to give life or to manipulate. Life is divinely automatic. That’s where we have to start. It’s going to happen because God has His power in His truth unleashed in human hearts. That is beyond us; we sow, and then we enjoy the harvest.
So with that in our minds, I’m going to have you look back at chapter 4, and the Lord is going to give us four attitudes that we should maintain. The first is we are to approach evangelism humbly, humbly because it’s not in our power to change hearts. It’s not in our power to change hearts, and that is proven in this parable, starting in verse 3, parable of the sower and the soils.
“The sower [goes] out to sow,” in verse 3, and some of it falls on the road, “beside the road.” It’s hard-packed, and it doesn’t penetrate at all; and “the birds come and [eat] it up.” Other soil is rocky soil, verse 5, and when seed falls on rocky soil, it can only go down a little bit because the soft dirt is only at the top, and below is bedrock. “Immediately it [springs] up because it [has] no depth of soil.” So it looks responsive, but “after the sun [has] arisen, it [is] scorched . . . because it [has] no root”; it can’t penetrate to the water; “it [withers] away.” And then “other seed fell among the thorns,” verse 7. “The thorns”—or the weeds—“[come] up and [choke] it, and it [yields] no crop.” So you have three fruitless soils.
And then you have “the good soil,” in verse 8, that has fruit that is abnormally productive: “thirty, sixty, a hundredfold”—and that’s shocking. Those numbers are ridiculously beyond anything that would be expected. But the message here is the gospel has the power to do the things that are supernatural. The power of life transformed by God is far greater than we might expect.
So our Lord says in verse 9, “If you have ears, listen. Do you get it? Do you get what I’m just telling you? I know all of you don’t.” He explains that in verses 10 to 12. But to the disciples, verse 11, it’s “been given [to understand] the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” “Those who are on the outside,” they just get parables, and it obscures the things that the disciples understand. How do the disciples understand them? Because they have ears to hear and because the Lord explains them to them.
And so in verse 13 He says to them, “Do you . . . understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?” In other words, “This is the one that’ll help you to understand all the rest.”
So the Lord begins His explanation in verse 14, “The sower sows the word.” What is the seed? It is the Word. It is the Word. Who is the sower? Anybody who sows the Word, anybody who spreads the Word. The seed is the Word of God. Luke 8:11, “The seed is the word of God,” in the parallel passage in Luke. It is the gospel revelation.
You go into the book of Acts, starting in chapter 4 through all the way through chapter 13, and repeatedly it says, “And the word spread, and the word of God spread, and the word of God spread, and the word of God went forth,” et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That’s the development of the church. That’s the building of the kingdom in the book of Acts. It’s the Word of God going forth. To those who are perishing, the word of God is foolishness; but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation, 1 Corinthians 1 says.
So the sower is anyone who sows. And please note: There are no adjectives to describe an effective sower, it’s just a sower. There’s no distinguishing between the sowers because the success of the seed does not depend upon the strategy of the sower, it depends upon the nature of the seed, first of all. Nothing is to be said about the sower. So the sower needs to know one thing: The seed is the Word of God; and so that’s what you sow. It’s not about you and your cleverness and your design, it’s about the seed. Anyone who throws seed, anyone who casts gospel truth is a sower; the power is in the seed.
Seed is created by God, spiritual seed, in the Scripture—not to be altered, or you’re going to come up with a mutation. Don’t tamper with the gospel to make it more palatable. Touch the seed in any way, alter the seed, and it has no power. So it’s pretty simple when you think about how the kingdom grows: It grows by the Word of God.
Now the third issue is obviously the soil, the soil. What are we talking about? What is this soil? In the parallel text of Matthew 13, it says, “That which [is] sown in [the] heart.” So the heart is the soil. So we have a sower, seed, and the heart. We have someone who proclaims the gospel, the gospel itself, and the heart.
And there are several different kind of heart conditions. First, there are fruitless heart conditions, and then there are fruitful heart conditions. The fruitless ones we see in verse 15, “the ones who”—the seeds that are sown—“beside the road where the word is sown; when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which was sown in them.” This is if they hear the Word, but it sits on the surface, easily snatched away by Satan who controls their lives with his lies. These are unresponsive people, callous people, hard people. This is the fool of Proverbs 1. This is the unplowed heart, the unprepared heart, the indifferent heart, the hard heart; and nothing is going to happen.
But secondly, there is the rocky heart, in verse 16, “the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky place,” and that means rock bed, below the surface a little bit with just a surface amount of soil—sown there. These who have it sown on their rocky hearts, “when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; [but] they have no firm root in themselves” because of the rock underneath the surface; the roots cannot penetrate to the water. So it’s only very temporary. And “when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away.”
Now these are people who are impulsive, emotional. This is a kind of a selfish response to the gospel. This is the danger of appealing to people’s problems: “Would you like Jesus to fix your problem?” “Well, I’d like somebody to fix my problem. Jesus, I suppose, would be as good as anybody, if He can do it.” This is the danger in appealing to people’s felt needs: “Would you like to be happy? Would you like a better marriage? Would you like a better job? Would you like purpose in your life? Would you like soul satisfaction? Would you stop being lonely? Do you want some friends? Do you want to belong? Do you want to have a future?”
All those are playing to selfishness; and that’s the kind of soil where you get an emotional response, and it looks like some life is there; and something comes up rather quickly. He defines it as “joy.” This is an immediate kind of emotional reaction to the fact that you now think all your problems are solved: “I’ve been accepted. I now have God in my life; everything’s going to work out great.” But when instead of everything working out great—because you’re not really converted at all—things become difficult, and there’s pressure, and even persecution for a professing Christian, you can’t take it, and so you become part of the deconstructing crowd.
Jonathan Edwards in his masterful treatise on religious affections, which he wrote in 1746, said he was very concerned to make it known that fallen human nature is fertile ground for fleshly religiosity, which is impiously spiritual and ultimately rooted in self-love. It’s like, “Do you love yourself enough and want for yourself something better than you have enough, to come to Jesus so that He can give you what you want for yourself?” That’s the convoluted approach of the supposed gospel: high emotional experiences, Edwards said; effective, gushy, religious talk. Even praising God, even experiencing some kind of emotional feeling for God or for Jesus can be self-centered and totally self-motivated.
But in contrast to that, experiences of genuine renewal by the Holy Spirit are God-centered. You come not saying, “I want something for myself,” but pounding on your chest saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner. I deserve nothing.” Genuine experiences, genuine repentance, genuine faith produces humility, Edwards said—humility, not pride; meekness, not self-satisfaction.
This is particularly true when the gospel is presented as if it was enough to move somebody’s emotions; and in order to do that, they usually have to take out the hard parts of the gospel. So the person gets the promise of something that is going to give the sinner what the sinner already desires in his flesh, and it’s explained in a totally inadequate way. And what does it do? It produces false conversions, which lead to deconstruction, and #exvangelicals.
No, the Scripture says you have to be willing to do this: Deny yourself. “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.” That’s the starting point: Deny yourself—not take up your prosperity, your riches and all the blessings; but take up your cross, lay your life down. This makes acceptance hard, because it calls for self-denial—to hate your own self. It’s hard to enter.
It’s not enough to make Jesus attractive. It’s not enough to make Jesus the one who will solve everybody’s problems. You can make Jesus attractive, more attractive than any other person who ever lived. You can go to a movie like The Chosen, and you can see a very attractive Jesus, and you can be drawn to that attractive Jesus but never have truly resisted self-will, personal desire, the hankerings of the flesh, and never have exercised genuine repentance. Those things are hard; and that’s why it’s a struggle to genuinely enter the kingdom.
The third fruitless soil our Lord lays out in verses 18 and 19: weeds. “Seed [is] sown,” they “[hear] the word,” looks like a response, “but the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things enters in, chokes the word, it becomes unfruitful.” This is another pathway to deconstruction. This is not so much just the emotional issues that we saw in the second soil, this is the distractions of the age, the distractions of the world.
It’s dangerous, by the way, to import those distractions into the church and think that if you can bring the world into the church, you can gain a hearing from people and then transfer them to the kingdom. The problem is, if you seduce them by the distractions that are already dominant in their hearts, you’ve done them no favor. You’ve legitimized the very things that they must abandon.
No, the proof of real salvation is not a speedy response and somebody saying, “I feel happy now.” Not temporary joy. No, it’s when you have dug deep in your own heart, and the repentance is real, and you understand that salvation is not for your fulfillment but for God’s glory, and when you turn your back on the flesh and the world. Edwards said true conversion is marked by “humble broken-hearted love” for God.
First John, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world”; they have no part in the desires of a true believer. “The desires of the saint . . . are humble desires . . . humble hope,” writes Edwards, “humble, broken-hearted joy [that] leaves the Christian more poor in spirit . . . more like a little child . . . more disposed to . . . lowliness . . . . [True grace reaches to] the [very] bottom of the heart,” countering, forfeiting sin, depositing grace and destroying the “reigning power” of the flesh. And Edwards said the holy life is the chief of all signs of saving grace.
So we can see in the soils that the disciples are being helped, and so are we, to understand that we sow the seed; the seed is the Word of God. The issue is the heart—we can’t determine the heart; that is for God to do, not us. That’s again back to the point that nobody comes unless the Father draws him. Only God can plow the heart. We simply sow the seed; the results are determined by heaven.
But then look at verse 20 and the good soil, quickly: There are “those . . . on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” The good soil has to be prepared by the Lord.
Listen to Deuteronomy 30, verse 6: “The Lord . . . will circumcise your heart . . . to love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . with all your soul, so that you may live.” The greatest command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind—and God has to say He will circumcise your heart to love Him that way. That’s why in the New Covenant text of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 it says that, God speaking, “I will give you a new heart; I will put My Spirit in you. I will transform you; I will write My law in your heart.” Heart work is God’s work.
So the first thing we have to do in approaching the matter of advancing the kingdom is to do so humbly. Secondly, obediently—and these are very brief—obediently. What do you mean by that? Well, what I mean by that is precisely what in verse 21 our Lord says: “A lamp is not brought to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light.”
Here’s the second thing. You are to present the glory of the gospel obediently. You’re to let your light shine, get it out from under the basket, out from under the bed; that’s the point. Those things are absurdities. You don’t put a lamp in a place where the light can’t be seen, you put it where it can be seen.
So in our humility we also have responsibility to obediently let the light shine: “Let your light shine so that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 5. And then Philippians 2, you shine as lights in the dark and corrupt world. Second Corinthians 4, let the light of the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ shine through you.
So this calls for obedience. Don’t hide the message, reveal the message with boldness, obediently proclaiming, faithfully communicating the message. That’s verses 21 and 22. And that is our second attitude, and it should be obvious that this is so clear that he adds in verse 23 again the reminder, “Are you listening? Did you get it? Did you hear? You do have ‘ears to hear’; understand you’re supposed to make sure the message, the light, is being seen.”
So we approach ministry in the advance of the kingdom humbly and obediently. Thirdly, diligently, diligently. Verse 24, “And He was saying to them, ‘Take care what you listen to.’” Again, “Are you listening?” He keeps saying that. “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.” Diligently. We are to be diligent because we know that our usefulness is proportionate to our obedience. Our reward is proportionate to our obedience.
Look back at verse 24; it’s this simple, folks. “Take care” to know this. You set the standard by which you will be measured by your standard of measure: “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you.” In other words, your eternal reward for advancing the kingdom will be in direct proportion to the level of your commitment. This is another truism. This is axiomatic.
Usefulness in gospel ministry is proportionate to the seed sown; it’s proportionate to the obedience. Second Corinthians 9:6: Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. The more you sow, verse 24 says, the “more will be given you besides.” What do you mean? Your reward. Your reward will be given based upon the measure of your commitment. And if you’re not going to be faithful to proclaim the gospel, the Lord will bring in His elect by means of someone else.
But in verse 25 He even goes further and says, “For whoever has, to him more shall be given.” In other words, there’s no limit. You’ve been faithful, you’ll receive a reward. You be more faithful, you’ll receive more reward, and more, and more, and more, unbounded.
But on the other hand, “Whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” What is this referring to, “Whoever does not have”? Well, Luke puts it this way: “What he thinks he has shall be taken away.” What does that mean? You remember Matthew 7: “Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we did this, we did that in Your name. We proclaimed the truth, we did many wonderful works in Your name.’ And He says, ‘Depart from Me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity.’”
If you’re a true disciple and you’re sowing the seed, in the measure that you sow, it will be measured back to you more and more and more and more. But there’s another category of people: again, the fruitless, false disciples. Even though they spoke the gospel, even though they used the name of Christ, as Matthew 7 says, there is no reward for them. They may think they have a reward coming, but what they think they have will be removed. Only condemnation: “Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity.” And it’s true. There are people who have come to Christ from a gospel message presented by a false Christian, a false prophet, a fraudulent preacher; but there’s no reward for the fakes, only condemnation.
So we sow, and we sleep; and we advance the gospel humbly, obediently, and diligently—and finally, confidently. It sounds a little bit daunting, doesn’t seem to be working out that well. But that’s not the final picture. Go to verse 30. Here’s the final picture. “He said, ‘How shall we picture the kingdom of God?’”—“Where’s it going to end up? What’s the final picture look like?”—“‘By what parable shall we present it?’”—“How can I illustrate the end, the finale?”—“‘It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil, yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.’”
What is this saying? We sow and sleep humbly because we know that the results don’t depend on us. We sow, and we do so obediently, because we know that there’s an eternal reward for our faithfulness. We sow diligently. And here He says we sow confidently, because we know that God has already determined a great outcome. You might not see it, you may not see it in your lifetime or in mine, but ultimately there is a great outcome, and He says, “I can illustrate it this way: a mustard seed.”
That’s the smallest seed that was actually planted. It could grow to a 15-foot-tall bush, 6 feet wide, dense, thick, out of one tiny, little seed; and strong enough, basically, to hold birds in it. That one little, tiny seed looked like nothing. The final outcome was way out of proportion with the size of the mustard seed. It’s essentially microscopic, but it can produce something that is huge.
So understand this: That’s where the kingdom’s going. Christ will come; He will become King of kings and Lord of lords; He will rule over the whole world. Every knee will bow to Him. He will subdue every king, every potentate, every ruler, every president, prime minister—all will fall before Him. And He will establish His earthly kingdom, where He reigns supreme and rules with a rod of iron over the whole world. And then He will create a new heaven and a new earth.
Just maybe a word from Daniel on this, Daniel chapter 7: “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days”—meaning God—“and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.” Christ will establish His kingdom—He’ll establish over the entire world, over the entire created universe, and then forever in the new heavens and the new earth. So we sow and sleep humbly, obediently, diligently, and confidently.
Father, thank You for Your Word to us, for its clarity, its power. I pray that it would go forth even this day and bring life to dead sinners; that’s our desire. Fulfill Your will, we pray in the Savior’s name. Amen.
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