Mark (Gospel)

Judgment Day’s a’ Comin’

Jesus continues His teachings of the Kingdom Parables in Mark 4:21-29, where He warns us to be ready for Judgment Day. In these verses, Jesus warns us that all will be revealed in the parable of the candlestick. Therefore, we need to hear (listen, learn, believe and apply) His word. He also warns us to be careful what we believe, then He teaches that Judgment Day is certain in the Parable of the Corn. For more, listen to the sermon posted above.

The Parable of the Sower (Audio included)

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In Mark 4:1-20, Jesus begins teaching in a series of parables. His first, “The Parable of the Sower,” tells of a man sowing seed throughout his field, with some seed landing by the wayside and being snatched up by the birds, some landing in thorny ground, and being choked out by the weeds, some landing on stony ground, and being scorched by the sun, and others landing on the good ground, and bearing fruit.

It’s one of the most basic parables that has spawned books, blogs, sermons and teachings. You may be very familiar with this parable, and much of what you know about this parable is probably true. However, we need to go back to study the Parable of the Sower because that parable is the key to understanding all of the Lord’s parables. Jesus said so in Mark 4:13.

Understanding this parable, and the symbolism thereof will shape the way you interpret the Kingdom Parables (the parable of the leaven, the mustard seed, the treasure in a field and the pearl of great price) in Matthew 13. To see how this parable sets the stage for the Kingdom Parables, join Pastor Leland Acker and Life Point Baptist Church on April 14. Hint: The current state of Christianity is no surprise to the Lord.

In Mark 4:1-20, we learn three things through this parable. We learn about the sower, we learn about the reactions of the world, and we have our hearts revealed.

In verse 14, Jesus said, “The sower soweth the word.”

Matthew 13 identifies the sower as Christ Himself. Verse 14 in our passage today identifies the seed as the word. So, we see that our Lord Jesus Christ sows the word throughout the world (the field, also a symbol in this parable).

The word is the Gospel, how that Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day, according to the scriptures. The Gospel includes the proper application of repentance and faith in Christ to benefit from salvation.

The Bible says the sower sows the word. He spreads the Gospel. And with the sower being our Lord Jesus Christ, we see that the primary mission of Christ not only included fulfilling the Gospel, but also spreading the word of the Gospel. During His earthly ministry, our Lord spread the word of the Gospel, as Mark 1:14 tells us Jesus came forth preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.

For 3 1/2 years, Christ preached the Gospel as He conducted His ministry on Earth. Ever since then, He has spread the Gospel through His churches, whether that be through churches sponsoring missionaries, or whether that be through church members evangelizing the lost themselves.

Furthermore, the Lord sowed the Gospel seed indiscriminately. Seed was sown on good ground, thorny ground, stony ground, and by the wayside. Everyone got a chance to hear the Gospel. Likewise, the Gospel is being spread to all parts of the world today.

Seeing Christ as our example, and following the commands of scripture, we too should sow the seed of the Gospel. As the sower sowed the seed throughout the entire field, good ground or not, we, too, are to spread the Gospel to all people. We are to preach the word to everyone, not just those we deem worthy. We are to preach the word to everyone, whether they are receptive, would make good church members, or whether they wouldn’t. This is what the Lord commanded in Mark 16:15, when He said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.”

And as we preach, we should remember that we are not responsible for their reaction. Throughout this parable, you see the varied reactions to the Gospel. Some discard the truth as soon as they hear it, some are too distracted by the things of this world, some really dig the religion for a while, but never allow the Gospel to take root in their heart, and others fully receive it. We should not be surprised or discouraged by the rejection, and we should celebrate those whose lives are changed by the Gospel. However, we should never limit our efforts because we don’t feel that the soil is primed for planting, so to speak.

In the Parable of the Sower, the Lord showed us the different reactions the world has toward the Gospel so that we would understand what to expect as we spread the word. However, the Lord also gave us the Parable of the Sower so that we could examine our own hearts, and see whether we are ones who discard the Gospel, who are too distracted by the things of this world to allow it to take root, or whether our faith is superficial. The way we make this determination is to examine the fruit in our lives. Has the Gospel changed you?

That is an extremely important question, “Has the Gospel changed you?” Keep pondering that question and look within yourself for the fruits of that change. Meanwhile, we will continue our study into the parables of Christ over the next few weeks.

If you have any questions about the parables, or about salvation, feel free to contact us below.

If You Could Do Anything…

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If you had the power to do anything you wanted, what would it be?

If time were not a factor, if money were no object, and if you weren’t limited by physical ability or the laws of physics, what would you do?

Would you go to that certain place you’ve always wanted to visit? Would you see the world? Would you go into space?

Would you seize control over the entire world and declare yourself the ruler of all?

Would you buy a big house, put a giant wall around it, and hide away from the world?

Would you solve all the world’s problems?

Or would you exact revenge on all those that hurt or betrayed you in the past?

The possibilities are endless.

The fascinating part about reading the Book of Mark is that you see Jesus, a man who was also God, and thus had all the power of God. Christ is literally God in flesh. His power and ability were never limited, except by choice.

Yet, when we see Jesus wielding that power, He is helping people. In Mark 3:7-10, Jesus withdraws Himself from the Pharisees, and the multitude of people follow Jesus. They brought people to Him who had diseases, disabilities and were possessed by evil spirits. Jesus turned none away, but spent time healing them.

It’s fascinating, really. The One Who created the universe took on the form of His creation, man, lived among man, and embarked upon a mission to redeem man from sin by dying on the cross for him. His primary mission of redemption shows His love and compassion for us. Yet, as important as His mission was, He took the time and used His power to meet the needs of the people. He healed those who needed healing.

Jesus used His infinite power to meet people’s needs.

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As we read Mark 3, we see four great needs. There are the needs of people. There is the need for apostles. There is the need for commitment. And, there is the need for family. Today, Christ works through us to meet those needs.

As we read Mark 3:7-10, we see that the people had needs. They needed healing. They needed deliverance. Jesus met all those needs.

Today, people still need healing. They need physical healing, emotional healing, and Spiritual healing. Physical healing from the diseases, disabilities and ailments that plague us. Emotional healing from the pain of losing loved ones, being betrayed, or worse, abused. Spiritual healing from the lostness that comes natural with this human experience.

Just as Jesus healed the multitudes in Mark 3, He will heal you, too. On numerous occasions, we at Life Point Baptist Church have seen God provide physical healing. We have prayed for Him to deliver a friend from death, and He did. We prayed for another friend to be cured of cancer, and the cancer disappeared. We prayed for one of our members to recover from the effects of diabetes, and they did. In many cases, God provided physical healing. In others, He comforted those suffering by giving the same message He gave to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

Jesus provides emotional healing. This is a tough one, because emotional healing requires a deliberate decision, and a willingness to endure the transformation required for this healing. Emotional healing requires faith, and a willingness to forgive. Still, Christ provides this healing. If you have been hurt by betrayal, abuse, neglect, or you’ve had a loved one pass away, Christ can heal you of that emotional pain. You have to be willing to turn to Him, to lay that pain at His feet, and trust Him to heal you.

Most importantly, Christ provides Spiritual healing. This is the healing of redemption, of being rescued from the condemnation brought on by sin, and being brought into peace with God. This healing is salvation. It brings you into God’s family, and gives you the hope of eternity with Him in His Kingdom. This healing requires repentance from sin, and faith that Jesus Christ will save you. You are fully trusting Him for salvation. This kind of healing brings you peace within your heart.

These types of healing are freely available to any who will turn to the Lord. However, in order for people to know this, the church must actively tell people about Jesus. Which brings us to our next need.

We need apostles.

Now, before you think we’re getting weird, understand that the word “apostle” simply means “one who is sent with a message.” In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus called out His 12 apostles from his disciples, and sent them forth to preach, giving them power to heal and cast out devils.

The apostles were sent forth to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and to preach preparation for the kingdom through repentance and faith. Likewise, the church today is sent into the world to preach about the coming of the Lord, and to call people to repentance and faith. We are sent forth with the message of the Gospel, how Christ redeemed us by dying on the cross for our sins, and resurrecting to give us eternal life. We are sent to preach that the Lord’s salvation, and that eternal life, are obtained by repenting (turning away from) our sin and trusting the Lord for salvation.

God works through His people to accomplish His will on earth. He always has. He worked through Adam to begin the human race. He worked through Abel to show Godliness and highlight sin. He worked through Seth to build a Godly lineage. He worked through Noah to warn the world of judgment, and to continue the human race after the flood. He worked through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to birth the nation of Israel. He worked through Joseph to save Israel from the famine. He worked through Moses to deliver Israel from the slavery of Egypt.

He worked through Joshua to conquer the promised land. He worked through Ruth to bring forth the Messianic lineage. He worked through David to call the Kingdom to the Lord. He worked through Hezekiah to bring Jerusalem to repentance, thus temporarily delivering them from captivity. He worked through Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn of the captivity.

He worked through Ezekiel to give hope during the captivity. He worked through Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem after the captivity. He worked through John the Baptist to prepare the people for the coming of Christ. And He worked through the apostles to spread the Gospel throughout the entire world in the 1st century.

Today, God works through the churches to spread the Gospel, and to lead people to salvation. Therefore, we need apostles, faithful church members who will go forth with God’s message.

We need commitment.

In Mark 3:25, Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Jesus spoke those words after the Pharisees accused Him of using the power of satan to cast out devils. Jesus told the Pharisees that their accusation made no sense, because if satan operated that way, his kingdom would collapse.

The greater application is that you cannot be both Godly and ungodly. You cannot be both Spiritual and worldly. You must either commit yourself to Christ, or commit yourself to the things of the world. You cannot do both. If you are divided against yourself, you cannot stand.

Many Christians today are hurting themselves by pursuing the pleasures of the world and the desires of the flesh, while trying to enjoy the things of God at their convenience. Christians today need to make a choice, to serve the Lord, or to serve the world. You cannot do both.

Finally, we see the need for family. As Mark 3 closes out, Jesus proclaims that all who do the will of God are His family. As Christians, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are family. We need to spend time with family. Scripture teaches us to gather, fellowship, worship together, and lift each other up.

Therefore, gathering with your brothers and sisters in Christ is important. The best way to do this is through a local church.

We all have needs in this life. The best way to see those needs met is to turn to the Lord, and commit ourselves to Him.

Are you in need of healing? Contact us, and we will be glad to pray with you, and minister to you in any way we can.

 

God Took A Day Off (Mark 2:23-3:6)

One of the most satisfying parts of a home improvement project is stepping back, and looking at the finished product. Isn’t it awesome when a home improvement project turns out right. The paint color perfectly matched the bedroom. The new deck greatly expands outdoor living space. That above-ground pool will provide refreshing entertainment all summer long. Sitting back, and enjoying the fruit of your labor is one of the great pleasures in life.

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Scripture tells us in Genesis 1 that God created the universe, and all life therein within 6 days, and on the 7th day, He rested. God rested on the 7th day, not because He was tired, but because He wanted to enjoy the beauty and goodness of His creation. He wanted to enjoy that pleasure of life. Enjoying a sabbath day’s rest, God saw that man would greatly benefit from such a day. So, He told man to remember the Sabbath, and to keep it holy. In Exodus 20:8-11, God told the Israelites that they were to set the Sabbath aside, rest, and worship. They were not to do work on that day, and they weren’t to force others to work for them. They were to enjoy the same day God enjoyed in the beginning.

As with all things, man found a way to turn the Sabbath, a day of rest and relaxation, into a burden. By the time Jesus came, Sabbath laws had become so complex that men were forbidden from picking corn to eat on the Sabbath, and they were prevented from healing on the Sabbath. It is those two issues Jesus confronts in Mark 2:23-3:6 when He said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”

In essence, Jesus told the Pharisees, “The Sabbath was made to benefit and bless man, not the other way around. Man wasn’t created to worship the Sabbath.”

Taking that statement, we can learn three things. (1) The Sabbath is a gift from God. (2) Observing the Sabbath takes faith. (3) Observing the Sabbath glorifies God.

God gave the Sabbath day to us as a gift. God knew our nature. He knew without a Biblical command to stop and rest, we would continue our daily grind day in, and day out, without rest. He knew this would be harmful to us. Therefore, He commanded us to break the daily grind once per week. We are to take one day to set the struggles of life aside, rest, and enjoy the goodness of God, whether that be by enjoying His creation, or whether that be by enjoying the fruit of our labor. Either way, the Sabbath was God’s gift to us. We should be willing to accept that gift, but doing so requires faith.

Observing the Sabbath, like obeying all of God’s commands, requires faith. It requires faith in God to set aside the daily grind in favor of spending a day in God’s presence and blessings. It requires faith that God is not going to allow us to lose everything by taking a day off. It requires faith that God will provide for us on that day.

A good example of the exercise of that faith would be Chick-fil-A. When Truett Cathy founded the chain, he made the commitment to close the restaurants on Sundays to allow his employees to enjoy the Sabbath. Closing on Sundays is a huge sacrifice and step of faith in the restaurant business. Not only are Sundays the busiest days, but chicken restaurants are especially popular on those days. Yet, Cathy committed to closing on Sundays, which resulted in a number of blessings, including employee retention and increased business the rest of the week. Today, Chick-fil-A is winning the fast food wars, and they are winning on character and image. God has blessed because they honored the Sabbath. This glorifies God, which brings us to our final observation of the Sabbath.

Observing the Sabbath glorifies God. It shows faith in the Lord, and it shows His provision and protection of His people. Therefore, Christians ought to not only observe the Sabbath, but should also be willing to minister to others on that day.

The Sabbath is a beautiful gift God has given. Do we have the faith to accept that gift, and take that day to rest, enjoy His blessing, and worship Him?

The Power to Forgive (Mark 2:1-17)

In Mark 2, Jesus is in a house teaching the people about the coming Kingdom of God, their need to repent, and how salvation comes by faith. Many were bringing their sick and disabled loved ones to Jesus for healing, and a crowd had gathered to the point that no one could enter the house.

Then, four men show up carrying their friend who is “sick of the palsy.” Being unable to get him in the door, the men carry him up on the roof, break a hole in the roof, and lower him down in front of Jesus. It is at that moment that the Lord says something peculiar, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Seeing this man disabled and in pain, the first thing Jesus said was, “Your sins are forgiven.” Why?

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Because whether or not we realize it, forgiveness of sin is our greatest need. We need forgiveness more than we need anything else. In this life, we face problems, and there are times we are not sure whether we will make it. Sometimes, our finances are in the tank. Sometimes, our relationships struggle. Sometimes, we suffer health problems. However, no cure to these problems will bring us the peace that comes through the forgiveness of sin.

If we suddenly obtain wealth, we still face the problem of future expenses. If our relationships are healed, there are still the scars of former hurt. Our health will progressively get worse as we get older. Yet, forgiveness of sin is not only an eternal blessing, it removes the fear of the next life from us. Forgiveness of sin will give us an eternal blessing that no earthly blessing can give.

Has God forgiven your sin? Has He forgiven your neighbor?

Take a listen to the above-posted sermon, and give God the glory for forgiven sin.

Let’s Go Fishing

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If I were to invite you to go fishing with me, what would you expect?

You would probably expect a relaxing afternoon on the local lake in a small boat, holding a fishing pole, and making casual conversation while waiting for the fish to bite. And why wouldn’t you? Living in America, all we’ve seen of fishing is canes, poles, lines, tackle and bait. Fishing in America is recreation. (Unless, of course, you work on a shrimp boat on the Gulf Coast.)

So, when we read that Jesus told His disciples that He would make them “fishers of men,” we tend to envision fishing poles, spoon lures and minnows.

In the Bible, Peter was a fisherman. Popular tradition holds that he was an expert fisherman, and had honed his craft well, building a great fishing business that he walked away from upon becoming a disciple of Jesus. However, if you were to travel back in time, and hand Peter a rod and reel, he would look at you like you were crazy. Peter had never seen such.

Fishing for Peter, and the other disciples so employed before following Jesus, involved the casting of nets in order to draw in as many fish as possible. This was not recreation to them, this was survival. It was how they gathered food, not only for their families, but also to sell for necessary provisions. Fishing was work. Fishing was business. Fishing was absolutely necessary for survival.

The casting of nets not only enabled Peter and his colleagues the ability to draw out as many fish as possible, but it also required a team effort. You never see the disciples fishing alone. In fact, in many cases, it took two boats to cast and draw a net. There are fish in that sea. We need the food. Therefore, we are going to draw out as many as we can.

With the modern American approach to fishing involving a rod and reel, many get the wrong idea when Jesus said, “Come, and I will make you fishers of men.” Some church leaders have taught that this means that the church should use bait to lure unsuspecting sinners in the door, then hit them with the surprise Gospel. Others have advocated that this means “finding the right fishing hole.” As a result, Christianity’s evangelistic efforts have suffered. As a whole, Christianity is not reaching as many as it has in the past, and new converts are not being properly discipled.

However, if we apply the imagery of casting a net, and drawing it back out of the water, we get a more beautiful picture of what Christ was referring to when He called His disciples to be “fishers of men.” Instead of targeting outreach to certain “fishing holes,” or trying to find the right “bait,” we should instead cast a wide “net,” reaching as many people as possible, regardless of location, demographic, or socioeconomic status.

In essence, our evangelistic efforts should be an all-out effort to reach every individual in our communities. This is accomplished when the membership of the church takes on the responsibility of personal evangelism, and when the church openly promotes, propagates and teaches the Gospel. When the church commits itself to its message, the Gospel, and relentlessly communicates that message, people will be reached and lives will be changed.

The mission of Life Point Baptist Church is to cast as wide of a net as possible, reaching as many as possible with the Gospel. This we will do, if we follow the example of the disciples, and follow Jesus as we continue to learn from Him.

When It Happens…

On Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001, there were very few empty seats in the churches across America. Over the prior week, Americans had seen the worst terrorist attack executed on the homeland in history. In the following days, we learned that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by a Middle-Eastern terrorist group called Al-Qaeda, and that we were almost certain to go to war in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern wars and world wars have a way of shaking us from our slumber, because they have the potential to fulfill Bible prophecy, which means the end times could be near, and judgment is coming.

Believing the end may have been near, and that judgment was coming, Americans flocked to their local churches to learn whether the attacks of the prior week had prophetic significance, and to learn how close we were to the end.

Within two weeks, fears of the end had subsided, and church attendance slipped back to normal.

There is something about seeing prophecy fulfilled, or believing that the Lord’s return is imminent, that drives people to sudden repentance and religion.

Such was the case in Mark 1:1-15. Mark opens his account of the Gospel by quoting Old Testament prophecies about the forerunner to Christ. In verses 2-3, he writes:

As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

These verses, taken from Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1, promised that before Christ came, His messenger would arrive and call the nation to repentance. Mark then went on to discuss how John the Baptist fulfilled this scripture:

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

-Mark 1:4-5

Seeing the messenger promised in the scriptures, the people flocked to John the Baptist to be baptized with the baptism of repentance in preparation of the coming of the Lord. Not long after that, Jesus came, was baptized of John, went into the wilderness, and re-emerged preaching repentance and belief in the Gospel.

In recording these events, Mark makes two observations. (1) Those events indicated that the Kingdom of God was about to arrive, and (2) with those events having happened years prior to his writing, we are even closer to the day of judgment than we were before.

Thus, Mark writes his Gospel with urgency, quoting Jesus Christ as He called the nation to repentance.

Bloch-SermonOnTheMount

The words of Jesus in Mark 1:15 are not only the theme of the Gospel of Mark, but they are the sum of the Lord’s teaching. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

The Lord warns us that the time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.

What does it mean, “The time is fulfilled?”

If you have ever baked cookies, or even heated a frozen pizza in the oven, you have likely set a timer according to the instructions on the box. When that timer goes off, the time has been fulfilled, and your cookies or pizza is now ready.

When Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled,” He essentially said, “Time’s up! Time to repent. The Kingdom is here.”

We tend to live life as if we have all the time in the world to straighten out our Spiritual matters. Within two weeks after 9/11, we collectively decided that Jesus was not coming back, yet, and thus we quit going to church. We tend to put off Spiritual decisions, commitments to Christ, and resolve to take on those decisions on a more convenient day, which somehow never seems to come.

However, the day will come when our time will be up. And that day is closer than you think.

Whether Jesus comes back tomorrow, or whether he comes back next century, you are still closer than you think to judgment day, for scripture tells us, “It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” While I could tell you stories of people who passed away unexpectedly before their time, the truth is, even if you live to be 100, the end of your life will arrive faster than you think. Consider how fast your life has passed by up until now.

Therefore, we need to place urgency upon our Spiritual lives, and bring ourselves into alignment with the will of God sooner rather than later.

After pointing out the time-sensitive nature of our Spiritual lives, Jesus then called us to repent.

To repent means to change your mind regarding your sin, abhorring the sins of the past, and making the changes in your life so that you never go back into that life of sin. This goes beyond sorrow for sin. It includes a decision, and a change to never allow yourself to be owned by that sin again.

This practice is commonly seen by alcoholics and recovering drug addicts. Sorrowful for the way they’ve destroyed their lives with drug/alcohol abuse, they resolve to never allow that to happen again. Therefore, they avoid certain places, people and things that could trigger a relapse. The repentant sinner would do well to follow this pattern.

Jesus then called us to believe the Gospel.

The Gospel is defined as how Christ died for our sin, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again, according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Our hope, our confident expectation of salvation and heaven comes not from anything we’ve done, or overcome, but rather what Christ did on the cross. His death on the cross paid our sin debt and cleansed us from all unrighteousness. Being willing to completely trust that, we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Christ called us to repent and believe, and so we should. Our salvation experience is not only a life-changing event, it is a total life change.

Seeing then that our time is short, and Christ called us to repent and believe, we should do a self-assessment. Have you repented and believed? Are you saved? Are you different now than you were before?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then it is time to get right with the Lord. Go to Him in prayer. Confess your sins to Him. Ask forgiveness. Trust Him to save you based on His work on the cross. Then, as you arise from that prayer, make the changes in your life to leave sin behind.

If you need encouragers to rally around you during this time, we’d love to help at Life Point Baptist Church. Contact us, or come visit our services. We’d love to be there for you during this important time.