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Monday, July 26, 2010

How to Hear God’s Word – Mark 4.21-34

One primary discipline of grace often overlooked is the way we listen to sermons. Throughout our lives we will listen to many sermons and devote hours discerning or ignoring truth. Faithful church attendance probably yields 100 sermons a year. I’ve been saved for 20 years. That’s 2,000 sermons at an average of 45 minutes per sermon. In sum, I’ve spent about 1,500 hours listening to the Word of God being preached. Now that I’m preaching weekly, that has tapered off. Although, I still listen to sermons via the Internet.

Since we dedicate so much of our time to hearing God’s Word, it is necessary to have a passage such as the one mentioned above. Our objective as believers is to know Jesus Christ – this is eternal life. We know Christ through the Scriptures. This knowledge is deemed revelation. Revelation is an open invitation for the faithful to have even more light; a warning for the faithless because the light they have will be taken from them. Mark 4.21-34 presents three aspects of the revelation of God’s kingdom and great King…

1. The Shining Lamp of Revelation (21-25) – The Lamp introduced in v. 21 is a metaphor for the parabolic teaching of Jesus Christ in the near context. It also stands for all of revelation and ultimately for Christ Himself. Jesus is the Lamp or the Light of the World. The darkness cannot overcome the Light. It must not be hidden but it must radiate hope for the world. The world was plunged into the Dark Ages because of the attempt to hide the Word of God by religious men. No age should really be dark. Nothing should be hidden; God desires that all see (v.22).

Jesus demands that His disciples listen carefully to the Shining Lamp of Revelation (v. 23). The what and how are both important and included in His initial warning in v. 24. We rarely concentrate on the how. But the degree to which you hear God’s Word determines the measure of your understanding (v. 24). Those who have are those who hear and relentlessly knock at the door until it is opened. Those who don’t have won’t have. They don’t hear and their knocks are feeble and tentative. Therefore, those who have gain more, and those who don’t have slip it into neutral and lose what they had (v. 25). Many have access to the proclamation of God’s Word today, but surprisingly few benefit from this access.

2. The Steady Progress of Revelation (26-29) – Many underestimate the kingdom of God and the impact of its proclamation. The initial impact may not be particularly noteworthy, but the harvest has come. The progress of revelation is sure and steady. I would not parallel an ushering in of a kingdom with the scattering of seed (v. 26), but Jesus does. The seed is the Word of God. It proclaims the death of the King and His subsequent resurrection as He atones for the sins of the world.

Yet we go to sleep at night and awaken at dawn (v. 27). The seed grows, the progression is steady, and the timetable belongs to God. Men simply wait, the seed sprouts and grows, and we don’t know how. It sprouts through regeneration of kingdom citizens. It grows as these conform to kingdom principles and commandments. The earth yields the crop by itself (v. 29). That is, it does so automatically (Greek; automate). God gives the earth the power to do so; man cannot tamper with it. Once the progress ends, the harvest has come. It has come in the sense that the proclamation of God’s Word has yielded fruit – in the temporal and eternal realms.

3. The Significant Result of Revelation (4.30-34) – The mustard seed parable signifies results not progress. Something which started so small (vv. 30-31) becomes very great (v. 32). The kingdom of God may have has a small, insignificant beginning, but even today we are aware of the amazing results. How much more so when Christ establishes His literal kingdom.

Not all the parabolic revelation of Christ is recorded. Jesus spoke to His disciples according to their ability to hear (v. 33-34). He still does. Public and private explanation still comes through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Hearing the word of God must being with regeneration and continue with submission and surrender to what God reveals. Once we know the King, we have a choice to obey and surrender to His authority. If we do so, He enriches our knowledge with an even fuller understanding. This is how one truly hears God’s Word.