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August 13, 2017, 1:29 PM

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM part 4

Yeast & Dough

Matthew 13:33

Rev. Grady Davidson 081317

         

INTRODUCTION As we dig into these Parables of the Kingdom, we’re finding that the way the Kingdom of God grows and exerts its influence in this world is entirely different from the way that the Kingdoms of this world tend to grow and exert influence.

          How do the monarchies, republics, democracies & regimes of this world tend to grow? Primarily through conquest, by claiming and holding real estate that somebody else thought belonged to them.  Taking land from others.  (There are notable exceptions, e.g., the Louisiana Purchase, the Alaska Purchase, etc.) Conquest has been the norm for the growth of kingdoms since God divided the nations at the Tower of Babel. 

          How do the kingdoms of this world exert influence?  There’s economic influence, through trade agreements or economic sanctions.  There’s cultural influence – the USA has been the cultural leader of the world since WWII.  There’s the influence of military action, or threat of military action. 

          I’m not making moral judgments about any of these things. I’m just pointing out that these are the typical ways that the nations of the world grow and exert themselves in relation to the other nations. 

          In these kingdom parables, Jesus is telling us that His way is entirely different.  In these first 4 (of 7) parables, He’s speaking to the Galilean crowds who expected the Kingdom of God to arrive with an immediate, shock-and-awe display of brute force.  They were hoping Jesus would be the one who would lead them in a fiery blitzkrieg against their enemies.  Jesus is needing to “back down” these kinds of expectations. He’s not that kind of Messiah!

TRANSITION So that leads us into the parables of the mustard seed, and of the yeast.

  • Jesus does not provide an explanation for these (as he does for the Sower, and the Wheat & Weeds).
  • These brief word pictures are general enough that they’ve been taken in very different ways by different Bible teachers![1]
  • Having said that… the approach I’m taking this morning is consistent with the overall message of the Gospel of Matthew, and (I am convinced) makes the most sense when we consider what Jesus was dealing with on that day preaching to the crowds on the shores of Lake Galilee.

BODY OF MESSAGE Consider the parable of the yeast, verse 33.

THE INTENSIVE POWER & PROGRESS OF GOD’S KINGDOM[2].  A couple of observations.

a)Technically, it’s not yeast, but leaven, that Jesus uses in the parable.  Perhaps even some of the bakers in this sanctuary keep a small jar of grandma’s bread-starter for your own baking.  (Becky & I knew a chef with some bread-starter that he claimed had stayed in his family continuously for hundreds of years, literally having come across on the Mayflower! And one of our foster daughters saw it in the fridge, and was disgusted, and through it away!)

b) “Mixed into” (NIV 1984), lit., “hid in.”  She “hid” the yeast in the dough.  Christian, that’s a striking image of your life, wherever you’re serving the Lord.  He has hidden you in the dough of the world, and there you exert an influence for the Kingdom of God that is entirely out of proportion to all expectations! 

          You carry the intensive, pervasive power of the Fruit of the Spirit! (Galatians 5:22-23)

          You carry the intensive power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). 

c) A lot of flour! “Three measures,” i.e., 3 “satas.” Between 50 and 60 lbs of flour!  This was not a woman doing her weekly baking for her family; she was baking for a couple of hundred people.  I spoke with David at Mr. T’s Pizza about this. They use 50 lb sacks of flour, so he knew the math involved.  50 lbs of flour are leavened with .05 lbs of yeast – 1/10 of 1%!  This tiny amount, hidden away, goes to work exerting its intensive but silent influence, and doubles the dough as it rises.  50 lbs of flour makes 72 large pizzas – easily feeding 200 hungry people. 

          This is the intensive power of the Kingdom of God, exerting influence upon and in the world around us, an influence that is ridiculously out of proportion to our size!  Not a “shock and awe” kingdom, but an internal, transformative kingdom.

          Was Jesus correct about this quiet, but invasive and transformative influence that he was unleashing?  Yes he was!

          Who has led the way throughout history in establishing human rights – especially for women, for children? (Christians!)

Who led the way to put an end to the bloodshed of the gladiator games around 400 AD? (Christians!)

Historically, who has led the way to end slavery?  (Not Muslims, not Hindus, not atheists, but Christians!)

Who led the way to end head-hunting and cannibalism in the Pacific isles? (Christians!)

          How about charitable work – building hospitals, caring for orphans, feeding and clothing the naked and hungry?  What we don’t realize is that citizens of the ancient world, prior to Jesus Christ, were generally concerned with none of these things. 

 

There’s one more point to be made about this stinging article on the CNN blog.  The very fact that there’s a social conscience at work that is concerned for foster kids, is only because of the intensive power of the Kingdom that’s been silently at work in Western society for centuries.

          How about education? There is a strong argument to be made that wherever the Gospel has gone, that literacy has followed.  All but one of the first 123 universities founded in America were founded as Christian institutions. 

          How about science? Modern science could not exist except for a Christian world view, that believes in a rational God who created this universe with order that can be observed, studied.  Nearly all the founders of modern science were Christians:   Kepler, Boyle, Pascal, Pasteur, Newton.

          CONCLUSION Christians, I want to encourage you.  Your influence for Christ is far greater than you know.  It’s the influence of you being who you are, where you are.  It’s silent.  It doesn’t call attention to itself.  But it’s pervasive, and supernaturally fueled by God the Holy Spirit.  We are the leaven in the dough, and through us God feeds the thousands. 

The world is a better place for everybody, because you are who you are, where you are. 

When you write your letter and send your monthly payment to sponsor your RTR child in Uganda, you’re leavening the dough.  Jesus is at work.  The Kingdom is exerting its intensive power. 

When you come to our LV Community Gathering at LVMHS on October 1, to raise friends and funds for a new Bible History teacher in our local school, you are leavening the dough!

When Tuesday Tutoring kicks off in a few weeks, and you sit down with a child and look at their assignments, you’re “doing” Matthew 13:33. 

When you rise early and pray for God’s Kingdom to come, bathing your family, your neighborhood, your city, in prayer, struggling with the rulers and authorities of the kingdom of darkness, you are leavening the dough for others.  Life in the world is better for somebody who didn’t pray, because you prayed.

When you do your work… in education, industry, government, commerce… and do it well for the King, something is happening!  The dough is being leavened. And it’s good, and people are blessed.  

Concluding Hymn:  “Little Is Much, When God is In It”

 

 

 

 

[1] For an example of the other main approach to these parables, read James Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1, Chapter 28.

[2] The parable of the mustard seed (13:31-32) teaches the corresponding principle of the extensive power & progress of God’s Kingdom.




August 7, 2017, 7:30 AM

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM part 3

The Wheat & Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Rev. Grady Davidson 080617

         

INTRODUCTION Today’s parable is recorded only in Matthew’s gospel.  Recall with me that Matthew was the evangelist to the Jews, writing to convince the Jews that Jesus really is God’s Son and their long-awaited Messiah.  As a Jew himself, writing to the Jews, Matthew knows exactly the kinds of doubts and questions and indeed frustrations that Jews wrestled with when it came to believing in Jesus as the Messiah. 

          There were many such concerns, but one in particular was the question, “Where is the Kingdom of God? If Jesus is God’s King, and if Jesus came announcing the Kingdom (which He did), then where is it? Or why is it taking so long to get here?” 

          This chapter contains 7 parables, and in parables 1-4 Jesus is speaking to those very concerns about the nature of the Kingdom and why it did not and does not seem to be arriving all at once.  For us, those concerns might seem irrelevant at best or boring at worst, but in fact these are concerns in every generation.

          Let me put it this way.  If Jesus is the King, possessing all authority in heaven and on earth (28:18), then why doesn’t he do something about this 3rd generation madman Kim Jong Un, who is holding a gun to the head of the free world? 

          If Jesus is the King, then why is it that every one of us have known the pain and destruction of alcohol and drug abuse – if not for ourselves, then for loved ones?  Why does He allow that? 

          Why in one of the most “biblical cities” of America (according to the ABS), can it happen that a couple be on the Northshore in the beautiful Renaissance Park, and be approached by three violent young men who take a young woman’s life in an unprovoked altercation (July 16)? 

          If these kinds of questions bug you, then pay attention to the parables of the Kingdom.  Jesus is talking to you!

          So in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus began answering those kinds of question.  It turns out that the Kingdom of God doesn’t come with immediate fiery judgment and holocaust… but with a much slower process of God planting the Good Seed of Kingdom people all over the world, who will reproduce and multiply, and producing more people of the Kingdom, producing more gospel-filled Kingdom people.  God’s method is that of the patient farmer.  He knows that some of that good seed is going to be lost.  But the multiplying power of the few seeds that find good soil will more than make up for the seed that is lost to the birds, to thin rocky soil, or that is choked out by the weeds.

          Why isn’t the Kingdom coming any faster than it is? Why aren’t we making more progress?  The Parable of the Sower says it’s because so many Christians have fruitless lives. They never see the life of Jesus in themselves multiplied in others.

          That brings us to the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds.

THE LORD’S STRATEGY (v 24)– This verse connects the two parables.  It’s the same scene, with the same symbolic representation. 

          The man who sows the good seed (37) is the Son of Man – Jesus. 

          The good seed (38) isn’t the gospel, it isn’t faith – it’s people. The Sons (and Daughters) of the Kingdom.  The good seed refers to people full of faith and the gospel, whom the sower sows across His field.

          The field (38) is the world.  The Lord’s strategy for the growth / advance of the Kingdom is to sow gospel-people in all the world, who will grow more gospel-people in all the world.

          A sidebar thing to notice in 24 and 38 is that Jesus lays claim to the whole world. It’s all his.  He’s the farmer. His field is the entire world!  Every place that men, women, boys and girls lay down their heads to sleep at night belongs to Jesus. It’s his field. I love the audacity of Jesus. 

          How did Abraham Kuyper say it? In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’  Jesus is Lord. He lays claim to the entire earth. He lays claim to every corner of your life!  Deal with it!

SATAN’S COUNTER-ATTACK (v 25).  Why isn’t the Kingdom coming any faster?  Why isn’t the Kingdom more visible on planet Earth?  Here’s part of the Lord’s answer. 

The enemy (39) is the devil.

The weeds sown among the wheat represent (38) “the people of the evil one.”

Satan has launched his own counter-attack. 

In the ancient world, if two farmers had a feud, one might threaten another, “I’ll sow weeds in your field.” There were laws prohibiting this very thing.

The weed in view is bearded darnel. It biologically derived from the wheat plant.  When it comes up, it’s indistinguishable from wheat.  The weeds sap the soil of moisture and nutrients.  The crop is compromised, less than expected. 

As it grows, you cannot tell the difference, until it comes to maturity.  Then at the time the wheat is forming heads of grain[1] the counterfeit is at last revealed! 

What is Satan’s counter-attack against the Kingdom of God? His counter-attack is the counter-feiting of counterfeiting Christians.  It’s a strategy of infiltration, so that the Kingdom is weakened from within.  Meanwhile, the sons and daughters of the Kingdom grow alongside the sons and daughters of the devil.  They are indistinguishable from one another. 

THE SECRET OF THE KINGDOM.  Each of the parables reveals some particular “secret of the Kingdom” (11).  The secret disclosed here – the thing about the Kingdom that nobody anticipated – is that as the Kingdom grows, there is some uncertainty, ambiguity, about those who are and aren’t the sons and daughters of the Kingdom.  Verse 30 – the two will grow alongside one another until the end of this age, represented by the final harvest.

          I don’t like that!  I understand the impatience of the Master’s servants (28).  But that leads to one more very subtle point that the Lord is making in this parable. It’s easily overlooked. 

          Why is it that the Lord knowingly permits this situation to continue? Why not rip out the weeds already?  (Because it would tear out the wheat as well.)

          The Lord always has his eye on the fruitfulness, the abundance of the harvest!  Each grain represents an individual soul to be saved and brought into the glories and joys of heaven! 

          The Lord tarries because there are untold numbers – perhaps billions of the elect who are yet to be saved!  Every precious grain will be garnered away in the Lord’s silo.  Not one will be lost. 

          We saw in the Parable of the Sower that “fruitfulness” is about the spiritual life of Jesus in you, being reproduced in others, who will then reproduce in others, yielding exponential growth (23).  That was last week’s parable.

          Today’s parable builds upon that theme, telling us that a) when we look around at the Lord’s field, there’s some ambiguity about who belongs to Him and who doesn’t – and that this is a direct strategy of Satan to muddy the waters; and b) that on the last day, the distinguishing mark of the sons and daughters of the Kingdom will be fruitfulness. 

          THE HARVEST (30, 39-43).   

          The harvesters (30, 39 -the angels).  This is another sidebar, but I love the lordship of Jesus Christ – the angels are his angels.  Jesus is Lord of earth and of heaven!

          Judgment (42).  Ongoing personal misery!

          Salvation (41) – Deliverance from evil people and from all causes of sin.  Personal glory! (43). 

CONCLUSION This parable drips with the kindness and patience of God!  The parable resonates with 2 Peter 3:9, The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  God, why doesn’t Jesus return at this instant and put an end to the mess of this world that’s in rebellion against His rule?  Because the crop hasn’t grown to maturity yet!  Yes, Satan infiltrates the people of God with counterfeits, but God knows the difference, and He would rather leave us with some ambiguity, than rush the harvest before every precious grain is ripe.

          If you’ve never surrendered your life to the Lord Jesus Christ, then today’s text gives many wonderful incentives for you to turn away from sin and receive the gift of salvation today. 

          a. There’s the incentive of the looming threat of eternal judgment (42).  That’s big.

          b.  That threat is coupled with the picture of God as the Patient Farmer, who says to his servants, “Hold on, wait, not yet, the harvest hasn’t come in yet.” 

          Today is the day of salvation! Tomorrow isn’t promised!  Believe in Christ, confess and turn away from sin, receiving Christ as Savior, and surrendering to Him as Lord of All!

          For everyone:  this week, there will be plenty of things happen that make us long for Jesus to return and wrap things up.  May the cry of your heart be, “Lord, if you’re going to give me and this world another day, then I’m not going to waste it.  I’m going to bear fruit for you.” 

 

 

         

 

[1] Springtime – a winter crop




July 30, 2017, 11:46 AM

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM part 2

The Sower, the Seed, and the Soils

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Rev. Grady Davidson 072317

         

INTRODUCTION I want to start with a question for you to be ruminating on:  What is God’s strategy for the advance of the Kingdom of God on planet earth?  What is God’s game plan for the fulfillment of prophecy, that “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”?  Or the prophecy of the universal and visible reign of Christ, that “he shall reign from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth”?  Say that someone came to you and said, “Christian, I’ve been reading in the Bible about the reign of Christ over all the nations, but how is that going to happen?”  How would you answer them? What is God’s strategy for the advance of His Kingdom? Think about that—we’ll come back to it.

SETTING. The setting was Galilee. It was during the height of the Lord’s great Galilean ministry, with crowds of tens of thousands pressing upon the Lord Jesus.  The crowds were so great that the Lord couldn’t see or speak to them all, and in fact was in danger of being pushed out into the water (Matthew 13:1). So the Lord commandeered Peter & Andrew’s fishing boat, and pushed out into the water a few yards from which he preached to the crowds from the boat.  With no introduction, and with no explanation, the Lord Jesus launched into His “parable of the sower, the seed, and the soils.” 

          This parable is included in Matthew, Mark and Luke’s gospels (synoptic evangelists). They all recognized it as of special significance in presenting Jesus Christ.  And Jesus suggests (Mark 4:13) that until we grasp the truth He is revealing in this parable, we will be deaf and blind to all of his other parables.  It’s that important!

THE TYPICAL APPROACH Let’s talk about the “typical” approach to understanding this parable.  I’m working with the assumption that you’ve heard a few sermons on this parable, that you’ve read and studied it for yourself.  If you have, then most likely you’ve heard something like this:  the seed is the gospel, and the four soils represent four different kinds of people, and the effect the gospel has on four types of people. 

Seed along the Path. One person hears the gospel, and the word has no effect on him at all.  (In ancient agriculture, the farmer would sow the seed first, and then plow it under.)

Seed in Rocky Soil.  A second person might hear the gospel and get very excited about Jesus, but a few weeks later their newfound faith has fizzled out. 

Seed in thorny soil.  A third person hears the gospel and receives Christ, but then they get distracted and busy.  The change in his life turns out to be fairly superficial. 

The good soil.  But there’s a fourth kind of person, who hears the gospel.  His life is totally transformed by the grace of God.  He goes on to live a wonderful life for God. 

The takeaway is that we should ask ourselves, “What kind of soil am I?  Am I good soil? Or am I shallow or weedy soil for the gospel?” 

I’m saying this is a “typical approach” to this parable, and it’s not a bad one.  If a week later, someone from the crowd came to Jesus and said, “Lord, my heart is rocky and weedy soil – help me!,” He would have been happy to sit down with that person and talk about it.  If you’ve taken it this way, and it’s led you to examine your heart, that’s fantastic! 

          However, I would suggest to you that this familiar way of talking about this parable falls short of the primary point the Lord is making.  (Becomes evident when we study this one along with the other six in this chapter.)    

THE MYSTERY OF THE GROWTH OF GOD’S KINGDOM THROUGH THE FRAGILE SEED OF PEOPLE.  Jesus tells the disciples that the “knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given” to them (v 11).  This parable discloses one of God’s secrets of the Kingdom. It was the secret of God’s strategy that Jesus is disclosing in the Parable of the Sower.  It was a strategy that absolutely no one understood. 

          Example:  John the Baptist, the greatest and final of the Old Testament prophets.  How did John see the Kingdom coming?  With God’s wrath and blazing fire and judgment. God separating the wheat of the righteous from the chaff of the wicked and ungodly. John was right – all of that will happen.  (It comes up in this cluster of parables.)  But what John the Baptist did not foresee, and in fact what no one grasped, was God’s basic strategy of advancing His Kingdom by sowing “gospel-people” throughout the earth! 

          Seen this way, God is the Sower. And you, and you and I – carrying the message of Jesus with us – we’re the seed.  God has planted us in His world – to multiply! To produce fruit!  God’s ultimate purpose is to fill the earth with a people who worship Jesus as the Son of God, who trust in His shed blood for the remission of sin, and who obey Jesus as Lord.  How is God doing that? What is his strategy?

          By planting us – we’re the seed – gospel-people who will grow to maturity in Christ, and live to see our spiritual life in Christ multiplied, reproduced in others… who then reproduce in others.

PRINCIPLE Jesus understood God’s strategy.  Consequently, Jesus was always “aiming big” and “thinking and acting small” at the same time. 

          From this perspective, the “one who received the seed that fell on good soil” (v 23) refers to the 12 disciples.  We surmise from Mark’s gospel (chapters 4 & 6) that Jesus told this parable as part of His training for the 12 disciples before sending them out on a “short term mission trip” to the villages of Israel.  “You embody the gospel, now go and multiply the Kingdom life in you, in others.” 

          To put it differently, the Lord’s vision – His Master Plan – for the growth of the Kingdom of God into all the earth and amongst all nations – was by pouring his life into a dozen men.  Jesus aimed big, by thinking small. So should we. 

          This is so contrary to the way the world operates in this age of “bigger is better.”  Bigger isn’t better. It’s just bigger.  Smaller isn’t worse. It’s just smaller. 

          The Son of God frequently stepped away from the crowds to intentionally invest himself in twelve people. He saw that basic strategy as the key to making disciples of all the nations.  He understood math. He worked with twelve.  How many do you think you can handle?  For myself, if when they lay me in the ground, I can point to 5 people who have been firmly rooted in Christ, who will then go on to multiply themselves likewise in others, my life will have been extraordinary.  If the life of Jesus from me is passed onto 5 others, who likewise each pass it on to 5 others, who likewise each pass it on to 5 others – we’re way past the 100-fold harvest described in verse 23.

          This was Jesus’ basic strategy. It’s the strategy that we see in the example of the Apostle Paul in Acts.  It’s the strategy taught in the Pastoral Epistles. 

          Who are you investing in?   Think big, by thinking small. 

ILLUS from LVPC ministry. 

          The main point of this parable: The mystery of the growth of the Kingdom through the fragile seed of people. 

          There is a corresponding point to be made (and this closes the loop): THE MYSTERY OF THE SLOW GROWTH OF GOD’S KINGDOM THROUGH THE FRAGILE SEED OF PEOPLE

          Of the first three seeds sown (along the pathway; rocky ground; and among thorns), which one plagues “us” the most? 

          I’m pretty sure it’s the thorny ground (22).  We’re busier than ever, and we rarely accomplish much of eternal value. 

          The parable reveals to us why the Kingdom isn’t advancing any faster than it is.  The problem isn’t with the gospel, now with the Kingdom itself. The problem definitely isn’t with the King. The problem is with us. 

CONCLUSION: THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST.  The 3 Synoptic Gospels all include this parable.  John’s gospel doesn’t – John wrote his gospel last, and he didn’t seem to feel the need to repeat the stories that his fellows had already recorded very well.  So John doesn’t record this parable; and yet I think He tags it in a different way. 

          Review: John 12:23-26.  Jesus is THE Seed, who falls to the ground and dies and multiplies, producing many more seeds. 

          Jesus gave His life for sinners, so that we might be forgiven, “walk free,” and live!  But like Jesus, we only find life when we die to ourselves.  And then, the Christian paradox – that when we die, we find that Jesus gives us life, and even better, that Jesus starts giving life to others through us. 

 




July 16, 2017, 1:30 PM

WHO IS LIKE THE LORD OUR GOD (06)

Delighting in God for Who He Is (PART 06)

God’s Holiness

1 Peter 1:13-16 et al

Rev. Grady Davidson / 071617

 

Previously in this seriesGod’s eternality and self-existence; immutability; transcendence; sovereignty; omniscience & wisdom.

This morning, I want to remark briefly on the twin themes of “A Holy God” and “A Holy People” (1 Peter 1:15).

          As I begin, a picture comes to mind of linemen who work for the power company.  There’s a very good lineman training center, the Southeast Lineman Training School, just down the road in Trenton, Georgia.  One of the skills they teach is called “live line hot-sticking,” in which the lineman up in the bucket uses a fiberglass rod with various attachments on the end to work “up close and personally” on a live electrical line.  That kind of work isn’t for everybody!  And if there’s anybody out there who respects the power of electrical voltage, it’s that lineman.  Yet in our homes we flip the toggles of light switches and turn on the oven and click on the cable TV without giving that power a thought—until it’s temporarily gone!

          In the church of our day, we have largely lost the sense of the holiness of God that is taught throughout scripture. 

          With the loss of the sense of His holiness, we have dismissed the scriptural teaching of sin and coming wrath.

          With the loss of sin and wrath, we have lost biblical repentance.  Romans 3:18 is true of our generation: There is no fear of God before their eyes.  If we are going to know God, we must know that He is holy.  If we’re going to delight in God for Who He Is, we must find joy in the contemplation of His holiness. 

As an approach, I want to take four “snapshots” from Scripture that present to us the Holiness of God.

          (1) Moses at the Bush (Exodus 3).  No need to turn to it; just recall the story with me. The Lord revealed himself to Moses through fire – the strange site of a bush in the wilderness that was ablaze without being consumed by the blaze.  The Lord spoke to Moses out of the burning bush: Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground (Exodus 3:5). God’s holiness means that there is this necessary distance and separation between God and sinful man.  God’s holiness is such that because of a single act of disobedience, a single sin, that our first parents were expelled from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden. 

And yet this Holy God, whose holiness is like fire – fierce and raging and beautiful – reveals himself there at the burning bush…doing what?  Raising up a Deliverer—Moses-- to redeem a people out of slavery to be his very own holy people.   A deliverer to call his people back to himself, to be in fellowship with him; a people set apart from the world, unto God.

(2) The Call of Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-3).  Isaiah is given this remarkable vision of the LORD, high and exalted, with the train of his robe flowing down from heaven and filling the temple.  Most likely because Isaiah had to turn his face away from the brightness of God’s glory, his attention came to the seraphim, these 6-winged angels.  The very name is (probably) connected with fire (seraph: fiery serpents).  (Compare Ezekiel 1:4-5.) These fiery angels fly around God’s throne, eternally singing the holiness of God:  Holy, holy, holy.  With 2 wings, they cover their feet, in modesty. With 2 wings they fly. And even these holy beings, in God’s presence cover their faces with their other 2 wings. 

Recall with me how Isaiah crumbled in the presence of the Holy One: (6:5) “Woe to me! I am ruined!”  He became psychologically and emotionally disintegrated. 

But what was the Holy One doing? The entire scene is about the Holy God raising up a prophet, to call His sinful and unbelieving people back to Himself.  A prophet who would see with great clarity the coming Holy Servant of the Lord, who would bridge heaven and earth and create a Holy people, purified from all sin.  

(3) The Miraculous Catch (Luke 5:8) Here we skip over to the NT, and the calling of the first disciples.  You remember the story: the fishermen Simon, James and John had fished all night, and caught nothing. Jesus told them to put out into deep water and let down their nets again.  They did, and the nets came up so full that they were breaking and their boats were starting to take on water.  Simon Peter, when he came back to himself and realized what was happening, he was undone by this glimpse of the eternal and Holy God right in front of Him. Simon (5:8) fell on his knees before Jesus, and said, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” 

It was an “Isaiah-moment.” Simon Peter was undone.  I bet you’ve been there too. 

What does the Holy Son of God say? “Don’t be afraid. Follow me; and from now on you’ll catch men” (Luke 5:10 with Matthew 4:19). 

(4) At the Crucifixion (Psalm 22).  Recall with me at the crucifixion, the Holy Son of God cried out “the cry of dereliction,” “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  He was singing a psalm.  As the Lord withered on the Cross, a hymn was on his mind and in his heart and whispered on His dying breath.  Notice verse 3 of Psalm 22. 

Psalm 22:3 “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel.” I don’t think it’s going too far to say that God’s holiness was on the Lord’s mind as He suffered on Calvary. There on the Cross, Holy God whose eyes are too pure eyes than to see evil, and cannot look at wrong (Habakkuk 1:3), poured out His Holy Wrath on His own Son, the sinless Son of God.   Why?

          To atone for your sins! To purchase a people for Himself, a people who would be distinct, set apart from the world and unto God, a holy people.  Here’s a good place to remember that Christ accomplished in reality, what Moses and Isaiah and all the other OT heroes could only do symbolically. 

Moses led Israel out of slavery in Egypt, and Moses gave Israel God’s Law. But nothing Moses could do would ever remove sin.  The Law, delivered through Moses to Israel at Mount Sinai, could reveal sin, but not remove it. 

Christ is the Greater Moses who revealed the holiness of God in his own conduct and life, and then gave his life so that God could condemn sin without destroying the sinners, making a holy people.

          In a similar way, the prophet Isaiah condemned Judah’s rank idolatry and prophesied the coming judgment on Judah when they would be sent away from God’s presence into exile in pagan Babylon. 

Christ is the Greater Isaiah, who received God’s judgment upon Himself, so that you and I can live in God’s holy presence, so that you and I can have intimate fellowship with the Holy God, even calling Him “Abba,” Dear Father, and not be sent into the exile of punishment in a devil’s hell. 

          What’s more, after his ascension to glory, Christ sent the Holy Spirit upon his redeemed people, to change us from the inside out so that God’s holy requirements which used to be an impossible burden, become a joy and delight!  Because Christ returned to the Father, we was able to send the  Holy Spirit who empowers us to live holy lives, no longer conforming to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance (1 Peter 1:14). 

          So now it’s the testimony of all truly born again people, that God’s holy requirements, against which we used to bristle and despise, is now a great joy.  And although in Christ I am more aware of my sin than ever before, nonetheless, I can see the work of sanctification happening.  WSC #35: “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and to live unto righteousness.” 

           Return with me to the EPB technician in the bucket lift repairing the lines. There’s an advanced certification that you may have heard of or known someone who has attained it. It’s called Live Line / Bare Hand work.

From OSHA’s website:  “Live Line/Bare Hand Work (LLBHW) is different—269-qualified employees are in direct contact with energized conductors….This work is frequently performed from an electrically insulated aerial lift (for example, a bucket truck), which has its platform insulated from the ground or earth. The workers on the platform electrically bond, or connect, the platform to the power line and are literally charged to the same voltage as the line. This is the "bird on the wire" concept like birds landing on overhead power lines safely. In addition, PPE for LLBHW consists of conductive rather than insulating materials. Workers performing LLBHW wear conductive hooded coveralls and gloves and are bonded to the conductor…”

I don’t pretend to understand electricity. All I know is that my weed eater shocks me every time my sweaty elbow brushes the motor.  But what I get about this “Live Line / Bare Hand Work” is that the lineman is safely charged to the same voltage as the line.  The lineman isn’t insulated from, but charged to the power running in the line.   

It’s a strange parable, but is that not what God is doing in your life, Christian, when He says, “Be ye holy as I am holy”?

Our Holy God is a consuming fire.  The only way to survive the fire… is to become fire!

(1 Peter 1:13-16)

 

 

         

 

 




July 10, 2017, 8:13 AM

PARABLES OF THE KINGDOM part 1

Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35

Rev. Grady Davidson 070917

         

INTRODUCTION  A good place to begin our survey of this chapter of parables of the Kingdom of Heaven is with the question asked by the puzzled disciples in verse 10:  “Why do you speak to the people in parables? Why not just spit it out, and say what exactly what you mean?”  Further down in the chapter, Matthew goes so far as to declare that when teaching the crowds, Jesus always used parables; he never taught them anything without using a parable.  So why parables?  Why these story lessons?

          Many people would answer the disciples’ question by saying that Jesus used parables to illustrate a truth, to make a point.  From my own childhood, I remember dear Mrs. J. Walker, a childhood Sunday School teacher with long gray hair knotted in a tight bun on the back of her head, her kind and beautiful smile accented with bright red lipstick: “Parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings.”  The idea is that Jesus was the Master Story-Teller, and unlike a boring college lecturer, and unlike a boring preacher, Jesus knew how to tell a good story using common subjects to teach spiritual truth.  Almost 20 years ago, I attended a preaching workshop taught by Rev. Rick Warren, who has been called “America’s Pastor.” Rick Warren exhorted us to “never make a point without painting a picture.”  Be like Jesus, and use good story illustrations to emphasize your point and to keep your people awake.  Three or four minutes into a sermon, and your congregation’s mind is going to start to wander. So wake them up with a delightful little story! After all, that’s what Jesus did, and He was the Master Teacher.

          Now listen: I’m all for good illustrations and interesting stories to help teach truth.  A good sermon illustration is worth its weight in gold!  But when the disciples ask the question (v 10), Jesus gives a 2-part answer. I want to suggest to you that in the Lord’s own words, his purpose for the parables is much, much more than simply giving memorable stories to teach spiritual truth.  In fact, in the Lord’s own words, one of his stated purposes for the parables is actually to conceal truth.  To bury it, to hide it, to put it where the crowds can’t get to it. 

          So what is the purpose of the parables? To reveal, and to conceal!

THE PARABLES REVEAL (11-12, 16-17).  Jesus has just taught the first and greatest parable, the parable of the sower.  He has taught from a boat on the Lake, speaking to massive crowds on the shore.  The disciples are nearby, and after he spoke the Parable of the Sower, the disciples ask him “Why do you do that? Why do you speak in parables?”  Essentially, Jesus says that it’s because of the difference between “you” and “them.”  To you (disciples) I am disclosing the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven!  To you, I am using the parables to reveal spiritual truths that the OT saints and prophets were desperate to hear and learn and understand (17). Mysteries and secrets of God’s Kingdom that Moses and David and Elijah and Isaiah saw only in shadowy prophetic visions – I am going to unfold to you.  And I’m going to use the parables to do it. 

          The disciples were spiritually hungry. They wanted to know more of Jesus, and His plan for the world.  By faith they had received the Lord’s teaching on entering the Kingdom of God in the SOTM (chapter 5-7).  By faith they had embraced the Lord’s instruction on doing Kingdom ministry and Kingdom mission in chapter 10. 

          Everything the Lord had taught them, had thrilled them.  Even what they didn’t fully understand, they still believed.  Jesus (in v 12): “You have believed my word; you have received from me; and now I’m going to give you so much more that it’s going to blow your minds!” 

          There’s an awesome principle in verse 12. Do you want to learn more from the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you want more revelation from Him?  Do you want spiritual insight and understanding into his word, to strengthen your faith and equip you for ministry?  If you do, then believe the last thing He taught you!  When you believe and receive and act on His word with obedient faith, then you’re in a position for Him to give you more.  When you reject his word, when you disbelieve his word, or when you believe it intellectually but don’t obey it, the Lord will (typically) leave you right there at that place of unbelief or disobedience until you believe it and live it out.  Then He’ll show you the next thing.

          How infinitely patient the Lord is!  Where there’s a shadow of disobedience and unbelief, He will leave his disciple right there until the issue becomes settled.  Many seasoned Christians will attest to this.  The same issue in life keeps coming up again and again.  But only when it’s settled through faith and obedience, does He lead us on to the “next thing.”

          The parables reveal to the Lord’s disciples.  What is it that He’s going to reveal through these parables? Please skim the chapter with me. I want to do a brief overview.

1. The Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils (vv 1-9).  This parable teaches the origins of Christ’s kingdom through the preaching of the gospel by Christ’s messengers.

2.  The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (Weeds) in vv. 24-30, and the Parables of the Mustard Seed & Yeast (31-33).  These parables are going to show how Christ’s Kingdom grows to fill the Earth, in spite of Satan’s antagonism and struggle against the Kingdom.

3.  The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price (44-46).  Jesus demonstrates the attitude of those who vigorously lay hold of the Kingdom in spite of Satan’s chicanery. 

4.  The Parable of the Dragnet (47-50), which shows the Consummation / Fullness of the Kingdom, and the end of the world. 

          Taken all together, these parables are going to teach the disciples that Christ’s Kingdom is going to be victorious, through the preaching of the gospel, until Christ comes again.  Notice the summary question (51): Have you understood? Do you get it?  Yes!  Everything they thought they knew about God’s Kingdom was now turned on its head!  It was through Jesus intentional, deliberate use of these parables, that the “lights came on.” 

          And frankly, none of that should be terribly surprising to any of us. But the blade of the parables is sharp on both edges, and cuts in both directions, so that these stories on the one hand reveal truth to the disciples, while they conceal truth from the crowds. 

THE PARABLES CONCEAL (13-15).  I’ve talked about this quite a bit already, but do you see it? 

          I don’t want anybody going into this series thinking that the Lord chose to teach in parables as some kind of a clever pedagogical tool to win over the hearts of spiritually lazy or disinterested people.  He didn’t speak in parables to draw them in, but to shut them out.  The very same parables which reveal amazing prophetic insights about the Kingdom of Heaven to the disciples, actually blinded the spiritual eyes, and deafened the ears, and hardened the hearts of the crowds. 

          So what has happened? Why does the Lord begin speaking to the crowds in parables here in chapter 13?  Because the crowds, by and large, have already rejected Christ (see 11:16-24).  They are walking around following Jesus, not because of Who Jesus is, not because of any love for the Son of God, but because of their selfish hopes of what He might do for them. 

          Jesus adopts the parables as a deliberate strategy to conceal additional truth about himself and his kingdom from the crowds; but to reveal additional truth about his kingdom to those who believed in Him and were hungry for more.

ILLUS (from a sermon in 2007).  I had been frying up greasy meat in the kitchen, and loved the rich smell of animal fat.  B walked in the door, and said, “Ugh! That’s disgusting!”, and started throwing open windows and spraying air freshener.  The same scent can be a pleasing aroma to one person, and a sickening odor to another person.  That’s the power of the parables in the mouth of Christ.   The disciples savored every word; the crowds heard the parables and concluded: “He’s nuts.  He’s talking out of his head.”  (Compare 11:25-26)

          So what’s the difference between “You” and “Them” in 13:11? 

A) Faith! A personal relationship of faith with the Lord Jesus! 

B) The power of God’s Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the spiritually and to take hearts of stone and turn them to flesh!  (See 11:25-26, which follow the unbelief of the crowds.)

APPLICATION

1. These parables call us to examine our relationship with the Lord.  In terms of verse 11, are you a “you” or a “them”?  You can hang out in the crowd, and observe Jesus, cheer when He feeds the 5000, be near Jesus, and yet never to have surrendered to Jesus!  You can hide amongst believers, so that you can fool many people – but in your heart of hearts, you’re not fooling yourself and you’re sure not fooling the Lord.  Jesus calls you to take up your cross and follow Him as Lord.  The cross means that you’ll lose the respect of people whose acceptance and admiration of you are important to you.  The cross means that His Word is Law, both when His word is culturally acceptable, but especially when His word is culturally unacceptable.  The cross means confessing before God and Man that you’re a sinner, doomed to eternal loss, except for the grace of God offered through the life, death, burial, resurrection & ascension of the Lord Jesus. 

          In our sanctuary this morning, no doubt there are those who find themselves in the crowds of verse 2.  Today, make that step of faith! Leave the crowd behind, and become a disciple of Jesus!  That you would trust Him as your Savior, and obey Him as your Lord!

2.  What do you do with truth the Lord reveals to you?  If you read your Bible at all, there will be times when a verse pierces your soul like an arrow!  A word to obey, a truth to believe, a promise to claim, or a principle to apply.  Receive it, and Jesus will give you more!  Receive it, and you’ll be in a position to receive more from Him!  (v 12) Reject it, and He will conceal more truth from you—or even take away what little you “had.”

3.  Evangelism and witness for Christ.  There’s something instructive to us about witnessing for Christ.  The parables cut both ways, revealing to one and concealing from another.  So when we are seeking to witness for Christ – and this is particularly true in one-on-one evangelism—we don’t know how the person might respond. Are they going to receive the scent of the gospel as a pleasing aroma, or a stinking odor?  

          Our text suggests that a wise thing to do is to lay some truth on the table.  Set it out, and see how they respond to it.  Do they turn their nose up, or attempt to change the subject? That may mean to drop it, to “let it go.”  Do they reply with interest? Is there a sense of spiritual hunger and desire for truth?  Give them some more of Jesus!

 

 

 


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