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Emmanuel

Sunday, December 7th, 2014 at 4:15 pm

In the Bible, God is called by many names. One of those names is Emmanuel. Emmanuel is a name that has significance for this time of year – the Christmas season. The first time we see the name Emmanuel is in Isaiah 7:14. It says:
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

This prophecy refers to the time when God became flesh and dwelt among us – when Christ was born in Bethlehem – which is what we celebrate at Christmas.

We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in Matthew chapter 1. Verse 23, which quotes Isaiah 7:14, tells us what the name means:
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Emmanuel is “God with us.”

Throughout the Old Testament, we see God introduced his various names at different times. The names have special significance in relation to the events at the time the name was introduced. God didn’t just randomly say “sometimes I’m called Jehovah, and sometimes Yahweh, and sometimes Emmanuel.” He revealed specific names at specific times to reveal more about his character or his plans. To get a better understanding of the significance of the name Emmanuel, we need to understand the events leading up to the time when the prophecy in Isaiah was given.

The time period was about 700 years before the birth of Christ. The book of Isaiah begins with God rebuking Israel for their rebellion, for their sin. God calls them a “sinful nation, a people laden with evildoers.” He promises judgment and destruction of the unrighteous. In this book we see prophecies of God’s judgment on Israel and other nations, but we also see some of the best-known prophecies of the coming Messiah, in particular in chapter 53. It is in this light where we begin to see the significance of the name Emmanuel – God with us.

Isaiah 7:14 reminds us of the proto-evangel, the first gospel message, in Genesis 3:15, which says:
And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

God promised a Messiah all the way back in Genesis 3, and here in Isaiah, a few thousand years later, God is still promising the Messiah – Emmanuel – God with us. Every generation since Adam & Eve has been looking for the coming Messiah. When Eve gave birth to Cain, she thought he might be the fulfillment of the promise in Genesis 3:15. Down through the years, when a new king was anointed, or a new prophet came on to the scene, people wondered if he might be the Messiah. We see this all the way to Jesus’ day. In John chapter 1, the people thought John the Baptist might be the Messiah. They came to him and asked “Who art thou?” Of course, John denied being the Christ. A couple weeks ago, Pastor spoke about John, and we heard that even John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” The people were still looking for the fulfillment of God’s promise. There was always a remnant that was waiting on God’s promise. God’s chosen people were looking forward to the day that God would dwell with them. They were looking for Emmanuel – God with us.

God coming to dwell with man certainly was a big deal for the Israelites. But what does it mean for us? Why is it important to us that he is Emmanuel – God with us? It is important for at least two reasons.

The first reason is, just as Israel was a sinful people who needed deliverance from their sin, so are we. We all have sinned. An honest evaluation of our lives in light of the Ten Commandments would reveal that every one of us has broken most if not all of them multiple times over. We are told that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. We are also told that the one whose blood is shed must be perfect, without blemish. We certainly cannot die for ourselves. No other human can die for us either, for no other human is without blemish, without sin, except for God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. Only Jesus was perfect, without sin, and only he could take our sins upon himself and suffer God’s wrath, so that we could be free from the guilt and punishment of our sins. For this reason, the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, was important for Israel and important for us.

The second reason it is important that he is Emmanuel, God with us, is that we are his children under his care. God never promises an easy, trouble-free life for the Christian. In fact, it is just the opposite – filled with trials, persecution, and tribulation. But just as a child receives comfort from the presence of a parent during troubling times, so we receive comfort from the presence of God during the troubling times. God promised to never leave us or forsake us. Even when Jesus was getting close to his ascension to Heaven, he told his disciples that he would not leave them alone, that he would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

Even now, he is Emmanuel, God with us.

There might be times when we feel like Elijah sulking under the juniper tree, thinking that we are the only ones who are trying to do right. God will bring others into our lives. Do not be discouraged. Be encouraged. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.

We might be worried about test results for some ailment or physical issue. God numbers every hair on our head and is the great physician. Do not be anxious. Be calm. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.

This time of year often seems bleak and despairing for many. God makes his light shine into the darkness. Do not be dismayed. Be hopeful. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.

Some might be faced with unemployment and struggling to put food on the table. God takes care of the sparrows, even more so his children. Do not be fearful. Be confident. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.

There could be some here whose spouse or children have forsaken them. God will not forsake us. Do not be saddened. Be cheerful. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.

Emmanuel is a term of hope and deliverance. Roughly two thousand years ago, Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 when he became flesh. He has since returned to Heaven, but God is still with us in the person of his Spirit. And one day soon, God will be with us forever more in all three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Be of good cheer. He is Emmanuel. God is with us.

Posted in Sermons
by Gordy

Facing the Giants: David & Goliath: my lesson from VBS

Friday, July 31st, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Note:

This year the theme of our Vacation Bible School was Facing the Giants and I taught on David & Goliath. Following is pretty much the lesson I taught. I have reordered a few things, added some, and taken out others, but the main points and thoughts remain. I also varied it slightly for the different age groups.

Also, I thought it was interesting how I was able to teach this lesson. In the first VBS meeting, the theme was announced as Facing the Giants. As soon as I heard that, I knew I was going to teach this lesson. Then it was announced there would be 4 stories that would be used: David & Goliath, Noah’s Ark, Daniel & the Lions’ Den, and the 3 Hebrew Boys. I was asked first which one I wanted. I wanted to say David & Goliath, but I said to let the others pick first. The other 3 teachers then picked which ones they wanted and the only one left – the one I would teach – was David & Goliath.

Introduction

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. John 5:39

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

All scripture is about or points to the Lord Jesus Christ. The entire Bible is God’s revelation of himself and his plan of redemption. While there are some good examples of exemplary behavior as well as bad behavior in many of the scripture passages, if we do not grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, then we are not learning the main point of the passage. It is all about him. In him, we have our being. As Charles Spurgeon has said about how he preached, from whatever text we preach, we need to make a beeline to the cross.

Let us look at the passage about David & Goliath in I Samuel 17:17-54 and look for Christ.

Sent by his father

And Jesse said unto David his son, Take now for thy brethren an ephah of this parched corn, and these ten loaves, and run to the camp to thy brethren; And carry these ten cheeses unto the captain of their thousand, and look how thy brethren fare, and take their pledge. Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. And David rose up early in the morning, and left the sheep with a keeper, and took, and went, as Jesse had commanded him; and he came to the trench, as the host was going forth to the fight, and shouted for the battle. For Israel and the Philistines had put the battle in array, army against army. And David left his carriage in the hand of the keeper of the carriage, and ran into the army, and came and saluted his brethren. 1 Samuel 17:17-22

David’s father, Jesse, sent him to his brothers. Jesus was sent by God the Father to his brethren.

As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. John 6:57

But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Matthew 15:24

He was rejected by his own

And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them. And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. And the men of Israel said, Have ye seen this man that is come up? surely to defy Israel is he come up: and it shall be, that the man who killeth him, the king will enrich him with great riches, and will give him his daughter, and make his father’s house free in Israel. And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? And the people answered him after this manner, saying, So shall it be done to the man that killeth him. And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle. 1 Samuel 17:23-28

David’s brothers were not happy to see him. They wanted him to leave. Jesus was rejected by many of the Israelites. The Pharisees feared he would take away their power and authority.

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. John 1:11

And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. Mark 11:18

God’s people feared the enemy

And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him, and were sore afraid. 1 Samuel 17:24

All the Israelites, the people of God, feared the enemy Goliath and fled from him. There is an enemy that we face today that people fear and try to flee from it. That enemy is death.

The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:26

And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2:15

He defeated the enemy that the people could not

And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine. And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field. Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands. And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled. 1 Samuel 17:40-51

David faced the giant. He knew God would deliver the giant – the enemy that the people feared and could not defeat – into his hands. Jesus defeated death. He rose from the dead to show that he had power over death. He gave the victory to the people.

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

Why is death our enemy?

It is an enemy that everyone must face eventually. No matter how healthy we try to eat and live, death will come. Some will face it sooner than others, but all will face it.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Hebrews 9:27

The reason we all have to face it is because of sin.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

What is sin?

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 1 John 3:4

Sin is the breaking of God’s law. When we break one of man’s laws, it is called a crime. When we break God’s law, it is called sin.

What are God’s laws?

Some of God’s laws are what we call the Ten Commandments.

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s. Exodus 20:2-17

God tells us not to murder, not to steal, not to lie, to obey and honor our parents, and to always put him first. If we are honest, we have to admit that we have broken some if not all of God’s laws. Who hasn’t told a lie? Who hasn’t stolen something? It doesn’t matter how much the item costs – it could be a stick of gum or a little toy. Taking something that belongs to someone else is stealing. Now, some may say they haven’t murdered anyone, but God says if you hate someone, that is the same as murdering that person in your heart. God doesn’t just see our actions. He can see our hearts. He knows what we think and feel. When he sees that hatred in our hearts, he sees us as a murderer. How many of us haven’t disobeyed our parents? How many of us always put God first in everything?

We’ve all broken God’s laws. We’ve all sinned. And just like a criminal who has to stand before a judge for his crimes, we too must stand before God who will judge all the earth in righteousness. God is holy and just and cannot let sin go unpunished. The Bible tells us how God punishes sin.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

The Good News

We cannot just tell God we are sorry for our sins or promise to not sin anymore and expect him to let us go free. A murderer who says he is sorry must still face the penalty for his crime. Promising to not murder anyone else will not cause the judge to excuse him. Justice must be served. The crime must be punished. We must either face the punishment for our sins or have someone else face it for us. Thankfully, God provided someone else to take our place of punishment. God sent his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to die in our place and to endure all of God’s wrath for our sins. Jesus was able to take our place because he did not have to face punishment for himself. He was perfect. He never sinned. He did always those things that please the Father. When Jesus was on the cross, he endured all of God’s wrath for your sins and for mine. Isaiah wrote that when God saw the travail – the suffering – of Jesus’ soul, he would be satisfied. That means God’s justice was satisfied by the suffering of Jesus. After suffering on the cross, Jesus died, was buried, and then rose again. He is now seated at the right hand of the Father.

Just because Jesus died on the cross does not mean that everyone goes free. We must have his righteousness applied to our account – to our record. The Bible says we must be found in him not having our own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of the faith of Jesus Christ. So how are we found in him? Scripture says we must have repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance towards God means that we turn from ourselves – from trusting in ourselves to get us to Heaven, from serving false gods (our idols) – and turn towards God – seeing him as holy & just & good, hating sin and unrighteousness. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ means that you trust that Jesus’ suffering was sufficient to satisfy God’s justice for your sins, and that he has power over death and the grave to be able to raise you from the dead to life everlasting.

Conclusion

David’s defeat of Goliath was not necessarily written as an encouragement for us to face the giants in our lives. It is written as an encouragement to let us know that the Lord Jesus Christ has already defeated the giant that we cannot defeat. What have we to fear when our King has already given us the victory?

Posted in Sermons
by Gordy

The Root of Bitterness

Tuesday, December 5th, 2006 at 3:20 pm

Have you ever been bitter about something? Are you bitter now? Listen to this sermon, The Root of Bitterness, by the late Adrian Rogers.

Posted in Sermons
by Gordy

From The Sheep Seats

Friday, August 18th, 2006 at 10:11 am

Every year, we go to a camp meeting in Nancy, KY called Camp Canaan. This is always my favorite week in the year. I’ve created a podcast and uploaded all the messages to http://voicecrying.podomatic.com/ so you can listen to them too.

If you have iTunes or another podcatcher, you can subscribe to the podcast with it.

Posted in Sermons
by Gordy

Go

Monday, August 14th, 2006 at 9:44 pm

A woman came upon a terrible car accident. Multiple cars were involved. She stopped and exited her car and noticed there were several people with serious injuries. She became frantic and began to hyper-ventilate as she wondered what she should do. She prayed and asked God to help her. She then remembered the first-aid class she had taken recently. So she sat down, bent her legs, and placed her head between her knees. (paraphrase of a story told by Adrian Rogers).

Christians today are a lot like this woman. We see something terrible in the world and panic and pray to God or read the Bible so that we can get something that will help us. We are concerned about helping our own lives rather than helping the lives of others. We need to quit focusing so much on our own lives and change our focus to what others need.

What is the world’s biggest need? Before we get to that, let us look at an event in 1 Samuel 15. God commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites including their wives, children, and cattle. However, Saul thought it would be good to spare the best of the sheep and cattle and use them to sacrifice to God. God was not pleased and sent Samuel to confront Saul.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

Even though Saul said he was going to use the cattle to sacrifice to God – an attempt to please God – God said he was not pleased. God had already told Saul what would please him and if Saul would have obeyed, God would have been pleased.

What command has God given us to obey?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20

If we would obey this command, we would be meeting the greatest need of the world. However, we don’t obey. We don’t go to the lost with the gospel. Rather, we tell the lost to come to church and secretly hope they will get the gospel there. Our disobedience to God’s command to go causes us to circumvent God’s purpose for the church services. We expect that if we invite the lost to church, the preacher will preach the gospel to them. Many preachers will tell you that they gear the Sunday morning service more as an evangelistic service to reach the lost. But this goes against God’s purpose. The preacher is not our hired gun to do our soul-winning for us. In Ephesians 4, we are told that God gave us pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16

Church services are for the perfecting of the saints – not for the winning of the lost. Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Praise God if a lost person comes to church and gets saved. I was saved in a church after services. But God designed the church services for the saved – to perfect what is lacking in us so that we are not tossed to and fro by false doctrine and deceitful men. I have a whole lot that needs perfecting and if one out of three services per week is not used for that intended purpose, then Christians are not getting the spiritual nourishment they need. Try skipping one out of three meals every day and see if you don’t feel hungry and undernourished. And yet this is what we are doing to ourselves spiritually if we treat the preacher as a hired gun to do our soul-winning for us. In the building of Solomon’s Temple, God gave us an example of how it should be done.

And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD. 2 And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits. 3 And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house. 4 And for the house he made windows of narrow lights. 5 And against the wall of the house he built chambers round about, against the walls of the house round about, both of the temple and of the oracle: and he made chambers round about: 6 The nethermost chamber was five cubits broad, and the middle was six cubits broad, and the third was seven cubits broad: for without in the wall of the house he made narrowed rests round about, that the beams should not be fastened in the walls of the house. 7 And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in building. 1 Kings 6:1-7

Notice in verse 7, the stones were made ready before being brought to the temple. The stones were cut and shaped outside and then when they were ready were brought inside. There was no work done on the stones to convert them inside the temple. Once inside, the stones were just put into the proper place of service. Now compare what Peter said about the Christian.

Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

A saved person is likened to a stone used to build a spiritual house. Just like in the building of Solomon’s temple, all the work in making the stones ready – of converting the stones – should be done outside and then brought inside where God can place it in its proper place of service. God wants us to go and preach the gospel to the lost outside the church and then when they are converted they are brought inside.

How should we make ready the stones? First, let us look at the parable of the sower in Mark 4.

And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land. 2 And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, 3 Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4 And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5 And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6 But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. Mark 4:1-8

Jesus then went on to explain the parable.

And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? 14 The sower soweth the word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. 18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. Mark 4:13-20

Jesus said in verse 13 that understanding this parable is key to understanding all the other parables. It is very important that we understand this parable. In it, we see 4 types of hearers when the word is preached: way side, thorny ground, stony ground, and good ground. The way side hearer is an unintended recipient or unprepared ground. Many times when the gospel is preached, there are others who might be within ear shot and hear the gospel without it being directed towards them. These people quickly have the seed taken away by the devil. These people may dismiss it as religious nonsense or as something they don’t need at the moment because their hearts have not been prepared to receive it.

The thorny ground hearer is someone who cares more about riches, fame, power, or some other worldy thing. These people do not respond to the gospel because their riches get in the way or their lusts get in the way.

The good ground hearer is obviously someone who responds to the gospel in repentance and faith. This hearer is someone whose heart has been prepared and the seed produces fruit.

Finally, the stony ground hearer is sometimes said to refer to someone who responds to the gospel and is saved but never produces fruit. That is not correct. First, the stony ground hearer is someone who has an emotional response to the gospel – he receives the word immediately with gladness. In Acts 2, we see another group of people who gladly received the word and these people were saved, but there is a distinct difference between this group and the stony ground hearer. Those in Acts 2 first had their hearts pricked – they were convicted. The stony ground hearer has no conviction. Secondly, the stony ground hearer endures for a time. That means this hearer is in our churches today. I’m not sure how long a time is – it could be one week, one month, a year, twenty years – I don’t know. But it says they endure for a time. We know that true converts don’t just endure for a time, but continue.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. 1 John 2:19

For whatever reason, these stony ground hearers play the part of a Christian without being converted, but after a time – when the heat comes, when persecution arises, they fall away.

During our Vacation Bible School and at the Warren County Fair, I had opportunities to talk to many about salvation and I believe many of them had been stony ground hearers – their hearts were not properly prepared to receive the seed. As I would talk to them, I would show them from the scriptures how they had broken God’s laws and would be guilty and condemned if God would judge them at that moment. It was obvious by the looks on their faces they had never heard that before and it greatly concerned them. I then showed them how Jesus took the punishment for their sins when he died upon the cross. Then I would tell them the only way to escape Hell – the only way to Heaven – was to confess and forsake their sins and trust that Jesus Christ paid for their sins – to which all of them replied that they’ve already asked Jesus into their hearts. Somewhere along the line, either a phony TV preacher or someone else had told them that if they want to go to Heaven, all they have to do is “pray this prayer to ask Jesus into your heart.” It was obvious to me that none of them had heard anything of sin and the judgment to come. The message they were given and their response to it was purely emotional. Who in their right mind doesn’t want to go to Heaven? If you tell a kid all you have to do to go to Heaven is “pray this prayer,” what kid wouldn’t do that? Since I can’t really tell who is and isn’t saved (see Jesus’ instructions on separating the wheat from the tares), I usually would tell them that if they are saved, they need to be reading the Bible everyday to be able to grow. I then was leaving it in the hands of the Holy Spirit to tell them if they were really saved or not. If anything, they at least got a good plowing by hearing about their guilt and pending judgment and condemnation. Don’t ever tell people they are saved or are not saved. You cannot know. Someone who responds favorably to your presentation may be a stony ground hearer and you may be laying a stumblingblock if you tell him he is saved. It is not our responsibility to tell people they are saved – we are to tell people how to be saved. They are responsible for making their calling and election sure. They are responsible for examining themselves to see if they are in the faith. The most we can say about another’s salvation is to say that if he has repented and trusted Christ, then he is saved. Let him figure out if he has done that.

So now we see that there are four types of hearers. In this parable, is Jesus trying to teach us that we should sow the seed everywhere and just expect to see all four types of hearers? I don’t think so. I think he gave us this parable because he knew we wouldn’t make very good farmers. He is teaching us that if we want the preaching of the gospel to be fruitful, we should prepare the ground first before sowing the seed. Because of our laziness, our fields are grown over with thorns.

I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Proverbs 24:30-31

We are told to break up our fallow ground – our unprepared, hardened ground, and sow not among the thorns.

For thus saith the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. Jeremiah 4:3

So how do we break up the fallow ground of lost, stony hearts? What can we do to prepare them so when the gospel is preached, they will be good ground hearers? What would make a person want or need a saviour? Obviously, if a person sees he needs saving, he will want a saviour. How do we get a person to see he needs saving? If he sees he is a guilty sinner and condemned, he will see his need for saving.

First, we need to show a person he is a sinner. A sinner is someone who sins. This is the Bible definition of sin:

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. 1 John 3:4

A sinner is a transgressor of the law. To show a person he is a sinner, we must show him that he has transgressed God’s law. The law is key in converting a sinner.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7

What converts the soul? Psalm 19:7 says the law does. How does the law convert the soul? First, it brings the knowledge of sin.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

Paul said he did not know what sin was until he knew the law.

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. Romans 7:7

The law also stops the mouth – it stops the lost person from being self-righteous and from justifying himself.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Romans 3:19

The law is like a mirror so we can see our sinfulness and our need for cleansing. When I wake up in the morning, I go to the mirror and see what needs to be washed. I don’t use the mirror to wash up – I just use the mirror to show me what needs washing. The law does not help us; it just leaves us helpless. The law was added that the offence might abound – that it would be easier for us to see we are sinners (Romans 5:20).

Finally, the way the law converts the soul is by driving us to Christ.

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Galatians 3:21-25

The law prepares the ground because it brings the knowledge of sin, it stops the mouth of self-righteousness and self-justification, and then it drives us to Christ.

When we use the law, though, we need to make it specific. Suppose you were driving down the road going the speed limit and a police officer pulled you over and gave you a speeding ticket. When you protest that you were not speeding and he says “Well, everyone speeds so here’s your punishment,” how would you feel? You would be angry and think he is unreasonable. How do you think a lost sinner feels when you tell him he is condemned to Hell because the Bible says that everyone has sinned? Isn’t that an unreasonable approach? If we use the law as God intended it to be used – not as a means of righteousness, but as a tool to drive the lost to Christ, condemnation becomes reasonable and even just. We need to make the sinner’s guilt and condemnation personal.

When we go through the law of God with a lost sinner, we can show him that by telling lies, he is breaking the Ninth Commandment and is a liar. We can show him by taking anything that does not belong to him – regardless of value – he is breaking the Eighth Commandment which makes him a thief. We can show him by looking with lust he is breaking the Seventh Commandment which makes him an adulterer. We can show him by hating another he is breaking the Sixth Commandment which makes him a murderer. We can show him by using God’s name as a cuss word he is breaking the Third Commandment which makes him a blasphemer. Once a person sees he is a liar, a thief, an adulterer, a murderer, and a blasphemer, we can show him where murderers and liars will be punished.

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. Revelation 21:8

We can show him that thieves and adulterers will not be going to Heaven.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Some, when faced with the reality of condemnation in Hell, will think that maybe God will let them off. That’s when they need to be told that God is a holy and a just judge.

And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. Psalm 9:8

God said “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” He is not going to let people get away with breaking his laws. Justice must be and will be served. Some may argue that God is love and will forgive them. I looked up all the passages that tell us how God shows us his love and they all had a common theme. Here is a partial list:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 1 John 3:16

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:10

Do you notice the common theme? God does not show his love through forgiving us. He already showed his love by giving his Son to die for our sins.

Faced with condemnation and knowing God doesn’t just freely give out forgiveness, the lost sinner may offer some other excuses. He may ask, “What if I say I am sorry?” Well, he should be sorry, but saying you are sorry won’t satisfy justice. What if he says he won’t do it again? He better not do it again because he would have to face another charge against him. Still justice must be served for the first offence. What if he says he has done a lot of good things since then? Would a murderer go free if he told a human judge he’s done a lot of good things since then? No. It won’t work with God either. What if he says it was a long time ago – he was just a young child when he did it? Time does not erase sin. Justice must still be served. What if everyone else is doing it too? Imagine a courtroom where there are 100 cases waiting to come before the judge and each one is for the same offence. Does the judge look at all 100 and and let them all go because everyone else did it too? No, each case is looked at individually and justice is served in each case.

The most popular excuse is “I’m a pretty good person – I’m not as bad as others.” While that may be true, God does not compare us to other people when he judges us. A human judge will not let a man go who has only murdered one person because there are others who have murdered and raped multiple people. God’s standard is his perfect law. If we are guilty of breaking his law, justice must be served. A lost person needs to see that no excuses will help.

So now we see that the ground is prepared. The stony-hearted man has been made to see his sin, his guilt before God, and his condemnation according to the law. Before we go on to see the results of first preparing the ground, let us look at a few ways that will not break up the fallow ground and will not produce fruit.

Some will try to win people to Christ by saying things like “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Try telling that to the apostles and others in the early church as they were beaten, imprisoned, stoned, mocked, and martyred. Try telling that to Christians today in places like China, Sudan, and the Middle East. Try telling that to the countless number that were burned at the stake. Some wonderful plan that is! Others will promise a little less with a plea like “Want a better life” or “Want a better marriage” or “Want your kids to be well-behaved?” But these make Hell unreasonable. Why would God send a person to Hell just because they didn’t want a better marriage or a better job or better kids? Jesus did not die on the cross to give us a better marriage, better kids, or a better life. This is why he came:

Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: 52 For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. Luke 12:51-53

The only thing that makes Hell reasonable is for a person to see he has violated the laws of a holy and just God. Nothing else should be used in an attempt to bring a person to Christ.

Let us look at two examples of how Jesus witnessed to people. The first is the rich, young ruler.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22

Notice what Jesus did not do. He did not just tell the man that soon he would be going to die on the cross and if the man believed that and said a prayer, he would be saved. Jesus first gave him six of the commandments – all the ones that deal with a person’s relationship towards others. After that, Jesus used the essence of the remaining four – the ones that deal with a person’s relationship towards God. This young man had made his possessions his god. His riches meant more to him than God. Because he could not give up his false god, he went away sorrowful – but the ground was plowed.

The next example is the woman that Jesus met at the well.

Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour. 7 There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink. 8 (For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.) 9 Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans. 10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water. 11 The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water? 12 Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. 15 The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. 17 The woman answered and said, I have no husband. Jesus said unto her, Thou hast well said, I have no husband: 18 For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. 19 The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. 21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. 26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. John 4:6-26

With this woman, Jesus only had to use the teaching of one commandment: Thou shalt not commit adultery. The woman admitted to breaking it. After her guilt was established, then Jesus gave her the good news of who he is.

When we witness, we need to make sure the ground is prepared before we sow the seed. If we use the law to establish guilt, then the heart will be softened, the ground will be good, and the seed will bring forth fruit. We will get the right results. The intended purpose of preaching the gospel is repentance and faith (Acts 20:21). When we use the law, people will see God’s holiness – his goodness.

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Romans 2:4

Seeing God’s goodness, his holiness, will bring about godly sorrow.

Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. 2 Corinthians 7:9-10

There will also be a sense of urgency as the lost sinner realizes he could die at any moment and be cast into Hell. It has been said that most of the lifeboats that left the Titantic as it was sinking left half-empty because the passengers on board did not think they were in any danger. If we use the law and show the sinner the danger he is in, it will cause him to move quickly – he will give his own invitation like the people in Acts 2 – “What must we do?” and the jailer in Acts 16 – “What must I do to be saved?” These people didn’t need twenty verses of “Just As I Am” to prod them to get saved. These people saw the urgency and didn’t want to wait for someone else to push them into the next step.

Using the law to prepare the ground and then sowing the seed on that good ground will produce repentance and faith. And faith is not just believing in Jesus. It is trusting that when Jesus died on the cross, his suffering satisfied the justice of God.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11

In conclusion, we don’t need to learn about other religions. We don’t need to be a theologian. We don’t need to know a bunch of apologetics. Those things can help us win arguments, but they are not needed to win souls. God has given us his law which is to be used to bring the knowledge of sin, to stop the self-justifying mouth, and to drive the sinner to Christ. And then planting the seed of gospel – the death of Jesus Christ as payment for our sins, the burial, and the resurrection – will produce the fruit that we so desperately want to see. We need to be a witness – not just a testimony. Being a witness means we open our mouth and tell others the truth. Why are you waiting? If you were given $1000 for each person to whom you witnessed, would you witness more? That means if you witness to ten people, you would get $10,000. If you would witness more, doesn’t that say you love money more than you love God?

God has given us a command. We don’t need to look for other ways to please him. He has given us what will please him. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obey! Go!

Posted in Sermons, Witnessing
by Gordy