Sermon Summary (April 2, 2017)
Mark 4:1-25 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Main Point: Fruitful disciples strive to B.F.A.T.
In Mark 3:6-6:13, Jesus calls and trains his disciples. In the parable of the sower, he reveals many important lessons.
After teaching the large crowd that gathered around him in parables, Jesus said to his disciples, The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never under-standing; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven! (Mark 4:11-12)
— Jesus identified with Isaiah the prophet was called to proclaim God’s word to the people of Israel who are incapable of understanding the message (Isaiah 6). Jesus uses parables to explain why we have selective hearing. Human nature is prejudiced. For example, when I taught at Denver Seminary, a student gave me a negative review. He said that he didn’t understand me because of my thick Chinese accent, which struck me as very strange.
— Then Jesus explained the parable of the sower to his disciples. Each of the soils represent a response to hearing God’s voice (the word).
1. THE PATH (v. 15) Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them
Some people are predisposed against hearing the full gospel. One time, a visitor came to our church and then approached me. “Why doesn’t your church have a doctrinal statement about whether you believe that the rapture will come before the tribulation or afterwards” Another time, a guest asked me, “Why does your church allow women to be elders?” It didn’t matter what answer I gave, these individuals were not going to listen to my theological or biblical explanation. Why? Because they were predisposed to only hearing what they wanted to hear. Like the path where the soil is packed so hard, they could not listen. What is the implied solution?
—> To be BROKEN. The soil on the path needs to be broken, i.e., our hearts and minds need to repent and, therefore, be open to hearing God’s word.
2. THE ROCKY SOIL. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.
My denomination, the American Baptists, has a long history and about 2 million members. Unlike the Southern Baptists, American Baptists took a stand against slavery. Today, it is a very broad and diverse denomination. Our General Board, the governing body of the denomination, includes fundamentalists, evangelicals, progressives, and liberals. When I served on the General Board, I made friends with everyone. Overall, we were a friendly group. But when I told people that I was an evangelical, some of the liberals and progressives stopped talking to me. When I told people that I was a Democrat, some of the evangelicals and fundamentalists stopped talking to me. Our relationship remained shallow because of the rocks of prejudice. The same thing can be said about our relationships with God and people in church. As we go deeper into relationships. we discover things about each other that we may not like, initially. So the relationship never gets deeper because we stop trusting each other.
—> Solution: Be FAITHFUL. Remaining committed to each other and to God – that’s what it means to be faithful. Faithful people remain committed even after finding stuff we don’t like beneath the surface. Faithful people will continue to dig deeper and clear away the rocks of prejudice. The word cannot grow relationships with God and our fellow humans unless we remove the rocks of prejudice from our hearts. Because of a commitment to the good of the American Baptist denomination, many of our General Board members were able to overcome our mistrust and differences and became good friends.
But what if your family disagrees with your pastor? When that happened at our home church, we were determined to first show our children that we trusted and respected our spiritual leaders even though we disagreed. We also showed our children that we recognized that we have prejudices, too. We can be corrected. And we never made negative accusations. In the end, we wanted to show our children that faithfulness meant commitment to the good of all people and a good relationship with God.
3. THE WEEDY SOIL 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.
This is most familiar of the problem soil. We wrestle with controlling our desires for what this world has to offer. And this struggle often hinders us from hearing God’s word and from making his purpose and his people our priority. You’ve heard it all before – sometimes we have to choose between Chinese school and Everglow fellowship on Friday nights; seeking comfort and convenience versus sacrifice and service; being a consumer of spiritual “products” versus a contributor to the church’s mission. And when we try to choose everything, we get choked by busy-ness and become unavailable for the most important things.
—> Solution: Be AVAILABLE. Remove the weed and thorns – prioritize the soil.
4. THE GOOD SOIL 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.
The good soil differs from the other three soils in one simple way – it is clean and soft. It is not hard, like the path, so that seeds can actually take root in it. It is not filled with rocks and weeds, so the seed is not crowded out can therefore flourish.
—> Goal: Be TEACHABLE. Real disciples are challenged to become good soil. They display attitudes of humility and readiness to learn.
So in order to to bear fruit, Jesus teaches us that we must undergo an unlearning and learning process: Brokenness, Faithfulness, Available, and Teachable (BFAT). This is the way to discipleship. When we pray, let us ask God to help us BFAT.
Jesus has one last thing to say about this to his disciples…
21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.
In other words, the secrets of the kingdom of God are not meant to be kept secret. Why? So that those whose ears are opened by the Holy Spirit can hear the gospel of Jesus’ kingdom. Yes, there will be many who cannot hear, there will be many who are not yet good soil, but we are responsible for bringing the gospel to the public. But this puts a big responsibility on us…
24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued.
Reflect carefully on what we hear to be the gospel, the word of God. Don’t rely on formulas or simplistic presentations. Don’t just google for answers. Disciples are serious about listening to God’s word through sermons, bible studies, theological reflection, and life practices. We are challenged to go deeper. Why?
“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The more we aspire to become good soil, the more fruitfulness we’ll experience in this life. Disciples will invest time and effort into removing prejudices, remaining faithful, being available and teachable (B.F.A.T.), so that God’s word can grow within us.
On the other hand, if we don’t try to BFAT, the less we try to become good soil, the less our lives will feel fruitful. Indeed, we simply may not experience the joy of fruitfulness in our lives.
This is not about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. It a simple principe of reaping what one sows. Paul says, Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Gal 6:8).
So let’s learn how to be authentic followers of Jesus Christ and invest in our making lives bear fruit for him!