Sermon Notes

Is Tradition Bad?

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Are church traditions inherently bad? Does a traditional worship service indicate that a church is Spiritually dead? Does a contemporary service indicate Spiritual life?

Or is it the opposite? Does a traditional service demonstrate a commitment to the Word, while a contemporary service indicates a willingness to compromise truth?

To pose these questions is to ignore the one thing that God actually assesses, the condition of the human heart.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” In all we do, God examines our heart.

We can be the most religious, most progressive, most forward thinking, or most moral people in the world, but if our heart is not right toward God, none of it matters. If our heart is far removed from God, we are at odds with Him regardless of our actions.

No place is this better illustrated than in Mark 7:1-23, where Jesus is confronted over the fact that His disciples do not participate in ritual hand-washing before eating.

In His rebuttal to their criticisms, Jesus chastised the Pharisees for disregarding the commandment of God in favor of the traditions of men (Luke 7:8). This verse, combined with the restlessness of Christians anxious to see change in their churches, has led to many using Mark 7 to attack ALL traditions in church.

Those who see tradition as the problem use Mark 7 to criticize the use of hymnals in church, the presence of pews and not chairs in the sanctuary, the lack of audio/visual aids to the sermon, and even the way others dress themselves. Such criticisms, however, miss the basis for the Lord’s contempt for the traditions of the Pharisees.

In Mark 7:6, Jesus said, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.”

The issue was not that the Pharisees had traditions. The issue ran deeper than the fact that the Pharisees elevated their traditions to the same level as scripture. The real issue was that the Pharisees’ hearts were far from God, yet they portrayed an aura of righteousness by hiding behind their traditions.

In learning from the mistakes of the Pharisees, we see that we must evaluate the condition of our hearts. To do this, we’ll apply three tests:

  1. If we are more focused on our own traditions than the Word of God, we have a heart problem.
  2. If our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God, we have a heart problem.
  3. If we express anger, bitterness, illicit lust, or other forms of darkness, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if we are more focused on our traditions than what the Bible teaches. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had the entire Old Testament, with its numerous passages teaching God’s love, grace and redemption. Yet, if you attended a Bible class taught by a Pharisee, you would be more likely to hear a lecture on proper hand-washing technique than you would about repentance and faith.

If our churches are spending more time teaching their viewpoints on Bible translations, politics, financial management or social justice, rather than the Gospel as revealed in scripture, then we are more focused on tradition than God’s word. If that’s the case, we have a heart problem.

Our heart is the problem if our traditions lead us away from the commandment of God. That brings up the question, “What is the commandment of God?”

In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus said the greatest commandments of God are to love God, and to love your neighbor. Basically, the commandment of God is love.

The Pharisees abandoned the idea of loving one another when they challenged who was actually one’s neighbor, and when their tradition of Corban allowed them to neglect their aging parents. The Pharisees failed to follow God’s commandment to love, and this was expressed in how they observed their traditions. But make no mistake, their heart was the problem.

If our traditions hinder our love toward God, or our love to others, we have a heart problem. If we see people as the problem, different groups as opponents, or disdain those who don’t meet our expectations, we have a heart problem.

Finally, if we express darkness in our lives, it’s an indication that we have darkness in our hearts. Jesus explained that our problems have more to do with what’s going on inside us, rather than what happens around us. In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus said:

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

If we find ourselves focused on evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications (sexual immorality), then we have darkness in our hearts. If we hate someone to the point that we’d like to kill them, if we desire to steal, or if we desire others’ possessions, we have darkness in our hearts. If we rebel against God, we have darkness in our hearts.

That darkness within our heart is the problem. That’s what separates us from God. How we treat our traditions are merely the symptom.

Once we learn to examine our hearts, we can correct our thinking to return us to where God wants us. God wants us to learn from His Word, love others, and express the righteousness He has placed within our hearts. When we follow this plan, we’ll be too busy glorifying Him and reaching others to be concerned with what color the carpet in the sanctuary is. That will be a beautiful day.

Love Means Endurance

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One of the most profound statements made in the Bible is found in 1 Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

In essence, this verse teaches us everything we need to know in relation to Christ, and in our relationships with each other.

Christ suffered for us. He was arrested, mocked, beaten, flogged, scourged, rejected, then nailed to the cross, where He suffered the wrath of God for our sin, clearing us from a debt owed to God that we could never be able to pay, thus purchasing our eternal salvation and giving us the confident expectation that one day we will enter His Kingdom.

For that reason, we live with hope, we gather as a church, we teach our children and we minister to our communities. “For hereunto were we called,” for this purpose, and as a result of this.

It is in that context that Peter gives us marital advice in 1 Peter 3. 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.”

That verse starts with “likewise,” which refers back to 1 Peter 2:21, “that Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.”

Basically, like Christ suffered for us, we should be willing to suffer, or better yet, endure for each other. Peter’s call for wives to submit to their husbands in 1 Peter 3 differs from Paul in that Peter acknowledges that this can be rather difficult, especially if the wife is married to a non-believer or an idiot.

He is saying, “I know it’s difficult, but Christ suffered and endured for you. You can in turn glorify Him by enduring with your husband.”

Furthermore, Peter writes that by enduring with (suffering) your husband, you can actually win him to the Lord, just as Christ redeemed us through His suffering.

*NOTE: This is assuming that this is a safe marriage. This verse neither justifies abuse, not encourages a woman to remain in an unsafe situation.*

You see, when we love, suffer for, and endure with each other the way Jesus suffered for and endured for us, then good things happen. In 1 Peter 3:5-6, Peter points out how Sarah did the same thing, when she obeyed Abraham, calling him, Lord. As a result, she gave birth to Isaac, who fathered Jacob, who fathered the nation of Israel, from which Christ was born. God’s promises to Abraham were fulfilled because Sarah obeyed him, even when Abraham acted like a fool.

When we trust the Lord, good things happen. When we trust the Lord enough to love one another as Christ loves us, really good things happen.

After addressing the wives, Peter addresses the husbands, saying in 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Again, that word, “Likewise.” Husbands get a double-helping of “likewise.” Peter was saying, “Like Christ suffered for you, and like your wife continues to suffer with and endure with you, dwell with her!”

When Peter said to “dwell with our wives according to knowledge,” he meant more than sharing the same address and roof. To dwell with our wives according to knowledge means to live with, do life together, get to know, become more intimate with, understand, and fully love our wives. This is something a husband should want to do, if he loves his wife as Jesus does.

However, our flesh does not love as Jesus loves. Therefore, men find it just as hard to “dwell” with their wives as wives find it to “be in subjection” to their foolish husbands. Wives would rather handle business than watch their husbands bungle it, and husbands would rather talk to solve a problem rather than communicate to connect. Therefore, scripture must teach us to go against the flesh and do that which takes a little more effort. Wives, be in subjection to your husbands, and husbands, dwell with your wives.

“Giving honor unto the wife as the weaker vessel” simply means to cherish her as you would a fragile, priceless antique. We should want to love, cherish, protect and spoil our wives.

Yes, it can get exhausting, which is why Peter gives us the suffering of Christ and the patience of wives as examples.

Finally, Peter discusses Christians at large. In 1 Peter 3:8, we are commanded to “be all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”

This verse teaches us to be unified, gathering together around our common belief of Jesus Christ as our savior, and our faith in the redemption He purchased for us on the cross. Doing this, we should be compassionate and sympathetic to one another, and love one another.

This may seem like a tall order, but Christ loved us before any of us were lovable. So should we love one another.

All of these concepts are premised upon us loving each other as Christ loved us. Such glorifies the Lord. Are we willing to learn to love each other, endure with each other, and work to help and edify each other. May God bless you.

Through It All…

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Life had been no bed of roses for the Apostle Peter. He had witnessed firsthand the arrest of Jesus, was stopped when he tried to defend Him, saw Jesus carried away to trial, and ultimately watched from a distance as Jesus was crucified.

Earlier, Peter had proclaimed his love and commitment to Jesus, saying that he would fight and die for the Lord, (and to his credit, he tried). Jesus replied by telling Peter that he would deny the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. It happened.

Faced with accusations and pressure from those around him, Peter told the crowd that he didn’t know Jesus. The rooster crowed. Peter’s heart broke, and he went out and wept bitterly. He failed. He failed the Lord. He failed himself.

Peter would go on to be imprisoned, sentenced to death, and ultimately executed for the Lord. Yet, through it all, Peter praised the Lord, and proclaimed His goodness. In the midst of so much suffering, how could Peter say that the Lord is good?

Because through it all, Peter saw the blessings that the Lord showered on him.

In 1 Peter 2:1-3, Peter wrote:

Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Focus on that last part, “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” In other words, “If you have experienced the graciousness and goodness of the Lord, do this!”

Peter told his readers that if they tasted (experienced) that the Lord is gracious, lay aside all malice, deceit and hypocrisy, and desire the sincere milk of the Word. The sincere milk is the Gospel, God’s love expressed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our sins according to the scriptures.

If we have tasted that the Lord is good, if we have experienced His salvation and His love, then we should desire the teaching of the Gospel from the scriptures. We yearn to be comforted by reminders of God’s love toward us, and the redemption we have through Jesus Christ.

You see, the central theme of the Bible is the Gospel, Christ dying for us to redeem us, and giving us eternal life through His resurrection. The deeper you dig into scripture, the more you find the Gospel, the deeper understanding you have of the Gospel, and the Gospel becomes sufficient for your happiness.

But how can Peter, who saw so much suffering in his life, say “The Lord is gracious?”

If all I told you about Peter was how he saw Christ die, how he denied the Lord, how he was beaten and imprisoned for the Lord, then I would have only told you half of the story.

You see, after Peter denied Christ, and after Christ rose again, Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples on the shores of Galilee. In an exchange recorded in John 21, Jesus gave Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love for Christ, and Peter did all three times. Jesus then reaffirmed Peter’s call to the ministry, telling him to “feed His sheep.”

As time moved forward, Peter learned to see the Lord’s blessing through all the suffering. He wrote in 1 Peter 1 that the trials of faith refine us like gold is refined by fire. In 1 Peter 2, Peter wrote how the Lord is building us all up together into a Spiritual house, implying that the fellowship that we enjoy as Christians is a gift from the Lord to give us comfort, encouragement, and a purpose. That purpose being to share the good news of the Gospel with the world, and by so doing to see lives changed by the Lord.

Peter concludes 1 Peter 2 by reminding us that the Lord suffered for us in order to save us, therefore we should be willing to suffer for Him to glorify Him and further His Kingdom.

In this life, we have a multitude of troubles. Sometimes, trouble converges upon us from all sides. But peace and Spiritual security come from us learning to see God’s blessing in the midst of the pain. Through it all, God is good.

To learn more about how to see God’s blessings in hard times, and to be inspired to live your purpose, listen to Pastor Leland Acker’s sermon below:

Relax, Jesus Loves You

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If the only gift God gave us was salvation, He went above in beyond in demonstrating His love toward us. But God loves us beyond salvation.

God’s love for us did not end when Jesus went to the cross, it was just beginning. Christ went to the cross to purchase our salvation, then He rose again to give us eternal life in His Kingdom.

This act of salvation was not a momentary act of mercy where God merely offered an escape hatch from His wrath. It was an act of redemption, whereby Christ saved us and began an eternal relationship with us.

The love of Christ goes beyond the cross. His compassion toward us extends in all of life. Scripture says in Hebrews 4 that He was in all points tempted like as we are, meaning Christ has experienced every human trial and temptation that we do. He empathizes and understands.

That being the case, He works in our lives to alleviate our struggles and provide for our needs.

In the message posted below, Pastor Leland Acker discusses how the compassion of Christ prompted Him to give His disciples rest, and likewise He gives us rest.

Where’s the Love? (Mark 6:1-13)

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In Mark 5, multitudes of people are following Jesus. They come to Him for healing and deliverance. A crowd had met Jesus in Capernaum when Jairus came to beg Him to heal His daughter. A woman with an issue of blood came to Him to be healed. Crowds listened to Jesus teach and preach as the One who authored the scriptures they had spent their lives learning.

Yet, in His hometown of Nazareth, the people were unimpressed. In Mark 6:1-13, Jesus returned to His hometown synagogue, and began to teach. His ministry and teaching had stirred up controversy, and the people began to question His authority.

They said things like, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son? Aren’t all His brothers and sisters here? Where did He get this wisdom, and how is He doing these great works?”

Basically, their reaction was, “Who does Jesus think He is? He ain’t no better than the rest of us!”

The people of Nazareth had a front row seat to the arrival of Christ. They watched Him grow. They were told of His virgin birth. They were among the first to hear Him preach, and to see Him work miracles.

Yet, their advantage in seeing Jesus grow up was also their stumbling block. Having seen Him grow up among them, and being home to His carpentry shop, Jesus had become too familiar to them. As a result, they took Him for granted and overlooked His divinity. So, they reacted to His ministry with incredulity.

Jesus was familiar to them. Familiarity breeds contempt, and contempt breeds rejection.

This is a real danger to us today. It is possible for us to become too caught up in the day to day activities of life, and the weekly activities of church, that we forget Who our Lord is.

We can fall into a routine of religious habits, begin living by our works rather than the grace of God, and start thinking that we have somehow elevated ourselves to a place where we have earned God’s favor.

We can get caught up in trying to build a church, expand a ministry, and improve our lot in life that we forget about our Lord, who should be the center of it all.

We can continue this trend until our Lord finds Himself on the outside of the church, and on the outside of our lives, knocking on the door in hopes that we’ll open up, and let Him in. We can forget our first love. (Incidentally, this was the same sin committed by the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2, and the Lord threatened to take their candlestick.)

When we do that, we commit the same sin as the synagogue in Nazareth.

We must never forget God’s love, and we must never discount the effect His love has had upon us. We most never forget how His love redeemed us and transformed us, and we must never forget that His love is our primary motivation in life.

In Mark 6, Jesus goes on to send the apostles out two-by-two. They went through the villages, preaching the Gospel, calling the people to repentance, and ministering to their needs by healing them and casting out devils. Likewise, we understand that the Lord has sent us into this world to spread the Gospel of His death, burial and resurrection for our redemption from sin.

It’s a mighty calling, and one God has blessed us with. Our primary purpose as Christians, and as a church, is to publish and preach that Gospel wherever we have opportunity, as the Lord commanded us to “preach the Gospel to every creature.”

Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we are not motivated by God’s love for us, our love for Him, and our love for others, our preaching will be in vain. Furthermore, if love is not our motivation, then our message will stray.

All too often, church social media pages, Web sites and blogs will contain more information about why the church is different, or better, than other churches. Many churches have replaced the message of the Gospel with the message of themselves. In this regard, many church Web pages, social media accounts and blogs don’t differ that much from the local car dealership, furniture store and insurance office. It becomes about branding, and not carrying forth God’s message.

The same holds true for Christian Web sites which debate issues within Christianity (pews vs. chairs, powerpoint vs. hymnals, to politic or not, etc). We spend so much time talking among ourselves and promoting ourselves that we fail to do what God told us to do… to preach the Gospel to every creature. This happens when we forget our first love, Christ becomes a mere theological concept, and we become like the synagogue in Nazareth.

As we wrap up our exploration through Mark 6:1-13, we see the apostles anoint the sick with oil. This is how they applied medicine. The olive oil they used had medicinal qualities, and proper medicine was all but non-existent. The people who came to the apostles were in agony, and the apostles did what they could to alleviate that pain as they preached the Gospel.

These actions reflected the love of Christ. You see, Christ is not only concerned with our Spiritual well-being, He is interested in our physical well-being also. Christ does not merely sympathize with our pain, He empathizes with us.

You see, Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are. This means that as He lived the human experience on earth, He experienced all the same problems we do. Financial problems. Family problems (His brothers initially rejected the idea that He was Messiah). Social problems (many rejected Him). Rejection. Betrayal. Persecution. Hunger. You name it.

He knows what you’re going through, and He knows by experience.

After experiencing the worst that society had to offer, He gave Himself over to the Pharisees, who gave Him to the Romans, who crucified Him. As He hung on that cross, He endured the wrath of God for the sins of the world so that we can all be spared, if you repent and believe.

The Lord loves you immensely. Not only that, but He is concerned for your well-being also. When the apostles ministered to the physical needs of the people as they preached their Spiritual needs, they reflected the love of Christ.

Jesus loves us. He told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. He also told us to love each other as He loved us. May we never lose sight of His love.

Pastor Acker: Faith means trusting God by placing yourself at His mercy

What is faith?

Faith is defined as a deep-rooted trust, or conviction of the truth. Toward God, this means you deeply trust Him and you are convinced of His truth. How, then, is faith applied?

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith, it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

In today’s sermon, Pastor Leland Acker shows how Jairus, and the woman with the issue of blood, demonstrated this type of faith by turning to Christ for help, and placing themselves at His mercy.

Liberated (Mark 5:1-20)

In Mark 5, Jesus travels to the land of the Gadarenes, where He meets a man that was possessed, not by one, not by two, but by a legion of demons.

This man was in as bad a shape as anyone can get. Scripture tells us that he cried out night and day, that he cut himself with the rocks, and he lived among the tombs. Safe to say, the man was in total agony.

We don’t know how the man came to be possessed with a legion of demons. Demonic possession is not something you catch like a virus. You can randomly catch a cold, or pink-eye. However, you don’t randomly catch a demon.

Demonic possession is something that happens when you give Satan space to work in your life, and we have at least one example in scripture where a man was specifically possessed by Satan. It was Judas Iscariot in John 13:27, who had Satan enter into him after he decided to betray Jesus for a payoff. Multiple demonic possession often comes by trying to battle demons without the Lord’s power.

The lesson we learn is the dangers of sin and rejecting Christ. Sin promises endless pleasure and freedom. What it actually delivers is agony and bondage.

So, here we are in Mark 5, and this man is completely degraded and destroyed by the demons in his life. Perhaps you understand what that’s like. Perhaps you don’t.

Either way, we know that this man was powerless to help himself, and he was powerless to deliver himself from the demons. In fact, when Christ showed up, all he could do was throw himself to the feet of Jesus in hopes of receiving the mercy of Christ.

Likewise, when we are beset by sin, all we can really do is throw ourselves at the feet of the Lord and trust His mercy and grace.

At that point, Christ commanded the demon to come out of him. This man could only trust in the grace and mercy of Christ, and Christ rewarded that by liberating him from the demons.

You see, when we come to Christ, He does not demand that we do certain things to obtain His grace. He simply rewards that faith by giving His grace.

Once this man was liberated from his demons, he wanted to go with Jesus wherever He went. He wished to follow Jesus, learn from Jesus and serve Jesus. This should be the response of every redeemed child of God.

Instead of welcoming him to the team, Jesus commanded the man to go and tell everyone back home what the Lord did for him. Likewise, Christ wants us to lead others to faith by sharing our testimony.

The message of liberation in Mark 5:1-20 is one of blessing and encouragement. Take a listen, and then share Christ with others.

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If a farmer plants his seed, he plans to harvest

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In agricultural operations, seed is planted for survival. For many, farming is not a recreational hobby, it is a means of providing for oneself and one’s family. It’s also a risky proposition. Seed planted may grow, or may be wiped out by drought, catastrophic weather events (like hail or windstorms), or by pests.

A farmer’s income is also subject to the whims of the market, with sudden drops in commodity prices cutting into his bottom line. Therefore, when a farmer plants seed, he prepares his field, and he sows in such a way to maximize the yield from his field. Efficiency is a matter of life and death. And if the farmer has made the investment of purchasing seed, then planting it in the field, he has every intention of reaping that harvest, and getting a return on his investment. It’s the only way he keeps the farm, and provides for his family.

The idea of planting a seed without harvesting is not only foolish, but unheard of in the agricultural community. If a farmer plants a seed, he intends to harvest that seed, and he will.

It’s this concept that Jesus teaches in Mark 4:26-29:

And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.

In those verses, Jesus likens the Kingdom of God to a man who plants his seed into the ground, and watches it grow. When it has fully developed, the man harvests his crop. Simple concept. So, what does that have to do with the Kingdom of God?

To answer that question, we need to go back and look at the pattern set forth in the other Kingdom Parables, namely, the parables of the sower and the wheat and tares. In those parables, Jesus explained that the field is the world, the man is the Son of Man, and the seed is the Word, the Gospel.

The man in the story plants, and harvests. Likewise, Jesus Christ sowed the seed of the Gospel, and He will harvest His believers.

You see, 2,000 years ago, Christ came, preached the Gospel of His Kingdom, called the world to repentance, and then was crucified for our sins, thus taking the punishment of God for those sins, thus freeing us to be able to enter His Kingdom if we repent and believe.

Over the centuries, the Gospel has spread throughout the entire world, with billions being saved over the history of Christianity. As time moves forward, prophecies are fulfilled, and we see that the time of the return of Christ draws closer.

The day is coming that the time will be fulfilled, “the full corn in the ear,” and it will be time to harvest, that is, it will be time for Christ to return to Earth and establish His Kingdom.

What the parable of the growing corn teaches us is that as certain as a farmer will harvest his crop, you can depend upon the Lord to return and establish His Kingdom. Are you ready for that day?

The Kingdom Parables (Sermon Audio)

For more background on this message, check out The Most Misinterpreted Parable Ever, The Counterfeiters, and Understanding Why Things Happen.

The Most Misinterpreted Parable Ever

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In Matthew 13:31-33, Jesus gave the parable of the Mustard Seed, which goes as follows:

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed is one of the most misinterpreted parables in the Bible. Because of the beauty of the songbirds that line our trees, and possibly even the portrayal of birds in Disney princess movies, we tend to think of birds as good, beautiful creatures. However, the birds that Jesus referred to were nothing like the mockingbirds, parakeets and robins we see today. The birds who inhabited Israel during Jesus day were more like vultures, buzzards and crows.

That explains why these birds were symbolic of demonic forces. In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said the fowl of the air symbolized the evil one which snatches up the seed of the Gospel before it takes root. Since the symbols of the parables remain consistent throughout them all, then the fowl of the air in the Parable of the Sower symbolize the same thing as the birds of the air in the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

So, to interpret the Parable of the Mustard Seed, let’s put the symbols to work. The man who sowed the mustard seed in his field is the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The field is the world. The seed is the word, the Gospel.

In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the man, (Jesus Christ), sows the seed (the Gospel) into His field (The world), and it grows into a mighty tree. Good story… now what does it mean? To answer that question, we must remember the reason Jesus gave us the parables. In Matthew 13:11, Jesus said, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom.” The Lord wants us to understand what will happen with the Christian movement as we get closer to His return, and as we get closer to His establishing His Kingdom on earth.

Each of these parables follows a common theme. Things start out pure, then corrupt as time moves forward. The same can be said for the Christian movement. It started pure, with Christ preaching with His disciples on the shores of Galilee. Over the past two millennia, we’ve seen false doctrines, sin, and impure motives infiltrate Christianity to the point that there have been massive splits within the movement, with some denominations following heretical teachings, and others following scripture, but being marred with sin and scandal.

Seeing these things develop would most certainly be discouraging, if we did not understand how they fulfill the prophecies of Christ. Jesus told us 2,000 years ago that this is the way things would be, and that things would progressively get worse until His return. Thus, we have the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

In the parable, the man (Jesus) sows the seed (the Gospel) in the world. The seed is the least of all the seeds. Likewise, the Gospel is regarded as the least of all the philosophies in the world. Think about it. In academia, we study the philosophies of Aristotle, Plato, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Jefferson, and many others. How much time is spent in academia studying and parsing the Gospel? Very little. Christianity is often criticized, with little attention paid to its central theme, redeeming love.

Yet, as disregarded as the Gospel is, it has transformed the world. Christianity spread rapidly in the Roman Empire, and even influenced people at the highest level of government. As disregarded as the Gospel is, Christianity has been extremely influential in western literature and culture.

With that in mind, let’s continue to follow the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Jesus said that the mustard seed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest of all herbs, and becomes a tree. Thus, we see the words of Christ fulfilled.

So far, so good. All who interpret the Parable of the Mustard seed agree on the interpretation I’ve given so far. It’s when the birds enter that we have controversy.

Most people interpret these scriptures to say that the kingdom started out small, but grew in power and influence into a huge, beautiful tree until the birds of the air came and built nests and sang beautiful songs from the branches. It’s a beautiful vision, but not one based on reality, and even more importantly, not one based on the prophecies of Christ.

Given the true symbolism of the birds of the air, and what a bird was to the people of Israel in the 1st century, we see that birds are not a good thing. It’s why Christ used them as symbols of demons. They pollute. They ruin. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen what a group of buzzards will do to a tree? Furthermore, would you park under a tree in the Walmart parking lot that was inhabited by grackles?

When Jesus said, “the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof,” He was predicting that as the Gospel influenced the world more, and as it spread throughout the world, Satan would seek to pollute its presence and influence. Satan does this through inserting false doctrines into church teaching, by placing false Christians, teachers and pastors among the Lord’s churches, and by tempting Christians to sin in very public and profane ways.

That’s why there are so many scandals surrounding churches and Christian denominations today. Satan’s birds have roosted in the tree of the Lord’s Kingdom. Christ predicted it. And with the tree coming to near maturity, we know that the return of the Lord must be near, so we can take comfort in that. The Lord will return, and correct everything. And He will heal us.

So, when you see sin in the church, or you see a church rocked by scandal, don’t be discouraged, and don’t let your faith be shaken. The Lord told us these spiritual attacks would come. Keep looking to the sky, for your redemption draweth nigh.