No Distractions Please
Mark 4:16, “And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;”
The second type of person Jesus describes is one who does receive the Word, even with great joy, but his commitment to the Word is shallow. Just as a plant must establish a strong root system to sustain its growth, so we must become rooted and grounded in God’s Word. Too much attention on visible growth will cause us to become impatient and not take the time to become firmly established in the truths of God’s Word. This will always result in fruitlessness.
A seed planted in shallow earth will germinate and grow faster than a seed planted in deep soil. The seed in deep soil will put all of its energy towards the roots first while the seed in shallow soil has no choice but to put its effort into the growth of the plant above the ground. The plant in shallow soil will look like it is far ahead of the other seed for a while, but that will not last. It soon withers and dies, while the seed with roots grows and brings forth fruit.
Notice that afflictions, persecutions, and tribulations are instruments of the devil and are used to stop God’s Word from bearing fruit in our lives. They are not good things that God brings our way to improve us. They are instruments of Satan. These things are designed to take our attention off of God’s Word, thereby stopping the Word from taking root in us. It’s like the runner who spends all of his time in the grandstands arguing with the hecklers over the way he’s running the race. He may win an argument, but he will lose the race. We must not let anything distract us from meditating on God’s Word day and night, for only then will we make our way prosperous and have good success… Joshua 1:8. By consistently putting God’s Word in first place in every area of your life, you will let that Word become so rooted in you that nothing can get it out.
God’s Word: Use As Directed
Luke 8:11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.”
This parable illustrates the importance of the Word of God. God’s Word contains total power, but it has to be planted in our hearts and allowed to germinate before it releases that power.
The seed is God’s Word, and the types of ground are the four major categories of men’s hearts. The Word was the same in each situation, but there were different results in each case because of the condition of men’s hearts – not because of the Word. The Word doesn’t work for everyone because not everyone will allow the Word to work. The variable in this parable is the condition of these hearts. God’s Word is always the same. It has the same potential in every heart.
Good ground doesn’t just happen; it must be cultivated. This is the reason why only one out of four persons in Jesus’ parable brought forth fruit. It takes a lot of time, effort, and diligence to be a fruitful Christian. The Christian life is not like a hundred-yard dash but rather a 26.2 mile marathon. It’s quicker and easier to raise weeds than it is to raise tomatoes or corn.
In this whole parable, it was the Word that produced the fruit. The ground simply gave it a place to grow. If we will simply put God’s Word in our hearts, protect it, and give it priority in our lives, the Word will produce fruit of itself. Satan has deceived many people into thinking that they don’t have the talents or abilities to be fruitful Christians, but they are not the ones who bring forth fruit; it’s God’s Word. When we protect the Word sown in our hearts, it will do the rest.
Being Yoked To Jesus
Matthew 11:28-30, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Yokes were made of wood with two hollowed out sections on the bottom portion that rested on the necks of oxen, which used to plow or to draw a cart. Figuratively, a yoke symbolized servitude or submission. Jesus is admonishing us to submit ourselves to Him, for true rest comes from serving Him – not ourselves.
A new ox was often trained for plowing or drawing a cart by yoking him with an experienced ox. The yoke kept the young ox from “doing his own thing” and he soon learned obedience to his master. In like manner, we are to commit ourselves to being yoked to Jesus. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps”… Jeremiah 10:23. Therefore, we have to “bear the yoke in our youth”… Lamentations 3:27, if we want to become mature Christians. The comparison ends at this point, though. Unlike the, sometimes, harsh treatment oxen are given to bring them into subjection, Jesus is “meek and lowly in heart,” and wins us by love. Jesus pulls more than His “share” of the load; therefore, our burden is light.
The most loving father in the world cannot compare with the love our Heavenly Father has for us. And yet, many times we find it easier to believe in the willingness of a father or mother or mate to help us than in the willingness of God to use His power on our behalf. Relatively few people really doubt God’s ability, but rather, it is our doubt of His willingness to use His ability on our behalf that causes most people to do without. Jesus assures us that God’s love, and His willingness to demonstrate that love, is far greater than we can ever experience in any human relationship. Not only does He want our love, but wants you to let Him love you today.
His Mercy Endures Forever
Matthew 12:20, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and a smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.”
One of the ways in which God’s goodness is revealed is in mercy. We may describe mercy as the readiness of God to relieve the misery of fallen creatures. Many times, mercy is called compassion or lovingkindness. It is expressed toward the sinner because of the misery that sin has brought upon him.
The “reed” referred to in this passage is probably speaking of the reeds that grew in the marshy areas in the land of Palestine. These were very fragile and could be easily bruised or broken. The term “smoking flax” refers to a linen wick which was made from flax and burned brightly when floating on oil in an open lamp. However, when the oil was depleted, the flax would just smoke until the oil was replenished.
The meaning of these illustrations is that Jesus is ministering in mercy to those who have been bruised or broken… Luke 4:18, and to those who have lost their oil (spirit). He has come to fill them anew… Matthew 5:3; Acts 1:5; 2:4). The Jews were used to the judgment of the law but Jesus came to minister grace and truth… John 1:17, even to the Gentiles… Matthew 12:18, 21.
God’s mercy to the believer is revealed by His act of taking away the misery of sin’s consequences through the New Covenant of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is given to us because of God’s mercy. It’s not something we’ve merited or earned. As the Apostle Paul states, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to HIS MERCY He saved us”… Titus 3 3:5. God is for you, not against you. Cast all of your care upon Him, because His mercy endureth forever!
Let Christ Live Through Us
Matthew 9:9, “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him.”
To “follow” means to come or go after; move behind in the same direction; to come or go with; to accept the guidance or leadership of; to adhere to the cause or principles of; to be governed by; obey; comply with… John 10:27-29; Romans 10:9-10, 13.
When a person first comes to Jesus, it is impossible to know everything that following Jesus entails. No one, however, should be fearful of making a total commitment because of some imagined problem that may never come to pass. There should be a willingness to forsake everything to follow Jesus. Once we make that decision, then Christ begins to live through us and we find a strength that is not our own, equal to whatever test we may encounter… Galatians 2:20.
It is Christ living through us that is the secret of victorious Christian living. It is not us living for Jesus, but Jesus living through us. Failure to understand this simple truth is at the root of all legalism and the performance mentality. The law focuses on the outer man and tells it what it must do. Grace focuses on the inner man and tells it what is already done through Christ. Those who are focused on what they must do are under law. Those who are focused on what Christ has done for them are walking under grace.
Just as the life of a root is found in the soil, or a branch in the vine, or a fish in the sea, so the believer’s true life is found to be in union with Christ. The Christian life is not just hard to live, it’s impossible in our human strength. The only way to walk in victory is to let Christ live through us.
Faith That Is Seen
Mark 2:5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Faith can be seen. Just as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3:8, faith is like the wind. Faith itself is invisible, but saving faith is always accompanied by corresponding actions which can be seen… James 2:17-26.
It was not only the faith of the paralytic that Jesus saw, but also that of his four friends… Mark 2:3. This demonstrates the effect our intercession in faith can have upon others. Jesus saw their faith. However, although our faith released on behalf of others is powerful, it is not a substitute for their faith. It is simply a help. The person who is to receive the miracle must have some degree of faith, also. Even Jesus could not produce healing in those who would not believe… Mark 6:5-6. In this instance, it is evident that the paralytic himself also had faith because he was not resistant to the four who brought him; and he got up and obeyed Jesus’ command (verse #7) without having to be helped.
Why did Jesus minister forgiveness of sins to this man instead of meeting the obvious need he had of healing? God is more concerned with the spiritual health of a man than his physical health. Or, Jesus, through a word of knowledge, may have perceived that the real heart-cry of this man was to be reconciled to God. In some instances (not all – John. 9:2-3, sickness was a direct result of sin. Therefore, Jesus would be dealing with the very root of the paralysis. Whether or not this man’s paralysis was a direct result of sin, sin in our life (that has not been forgiven) will allow Satan to keep us in his bondage. Through Jesus’ act of forgiving this man’s sins, the paralytic was free to receive all the blessings of God, which certainly included healing.
The point Jesus is making is that both forgiveness of sins and the healing of the paralytic are humanly impossible. If Jesus could do one of these things, He could do the other. He then healed the paralytic showing that He did, indeed, have the authority to forgive sins. In Jesus’ day, the people were more inclined to accept His willingness to heal than they were to accept His forgiveness of sins without the keeping of the law. Today, the church world basically accepts forgiveness of sins, but doubts His willingness to heal. They were never meant to be separated. Believe and receive all God has for you today.
Taking Thoughts – Or Not
Matthew 6:31, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?”
The Greek word used here for “thought” is “merimnao” and denotes “to be anxious or careful”. In this passage, as well as the parallel passage in Luke 12:22-32, Jesus is commanding us not to worry or be anxious about our material needs being met. It would be impossible to have no thought whatsoever about our physical needs. Even Jesus thought about His need for money to pay taxes… Matthew 17:24-27. We are simply not to be preoccupied with thinking about riches or spending our time worrying about necessities. These things will be added unto us as we seek first the Kingdom of God.
The way we take or receive an anxious thought is by speaking it. Doubtful thoughts will come, but we do not sin until we entertain them. According to this verse, speaking forth these thoughts is one way of entertaining them; therefore, don’t speak forth these negative thoughts.
It is imperative that we watch the words we say. Begin to speak words in faith that line up with God’s Word, then positive results will follow. If we speak words of doubt, we will eventually believe them and have the negative things that these words produce. There are no such things as “idle” words which will not work for or against us. Death or life is in the power of every word we speak… Proverbs18:21. Our words can be our most powerful weapon against the devil, or they can become a snare of the devil… Proverbs 6:2.
Today watch your words. Speak only things that will express your faith, trust, and confidence in the Lord and not your fear about the situations you face.
Singleness Of Vision
MATTHEW 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
Jesus is speaking of spiritual vision. If we keep our attention (eye) single upon Jesus, the Word, then all that we will be filled with is the light of His Word… John 1:1-14; Psalm 119:105. The key to victory is this singleness of purpose… Philippians 3:13. The strength of the laser lies in the fact that all of the light is concentrated on one single point. Likewise, the strength of the Christian lies in how single his or her vision is upon Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith.”… Hebrews 12:1-3.
You may have God and riches, but you can only serve one of them. In Matthew 6:24, the Lord amplifies this by saying that we cannot serve two masters. Why is this so? Because we do not have the capability of faithfully serving both of them. You will cleave to one more than the other. You cannot serve both with all of your heart. We just don’t have the capacity to do our best in two areas at the same time. God wants singleness of vision, singleness of purpose. He wants us to serve Him with all of our heart.
You may be wondering how you can still make a living without always thinking about money. Where will it come from? How will you get more of it? In verse 33 Matthew 6, Jesus goes on to say that He will supply all of your need when you seek first the Kingdom of God. All of these other things (food and clothing etc.) will be added unto you. If we will simply put God and His Kingdom first in every area of our lives, He will add to us all the wealth that we need. It’s when we covet after money that we “pierce ourselves through with many sorrows”… 1 Timothy 6:10. Put God to the test today. Put Him first in every area of your life and see if He won’t provide all the other things for you.