Matthew 13:1-23 The Parable of the Soils

Pastor Kevin Miller continues in Matthew, heading into the parables. Please click here to listen to the sermon.

  • The Parable Itself
    • Matthew 13:1-3 The crowds follow Jesus as He goes out. At this point, they are so large that Jesus must get into a boat to be heard and seen by all. Jesus begins to teach in parables (short stories designed to illustrate a Biblical truth).
    • Matthew 13:4-9 The story is of a farmer scattering seed, however it is primarily about the soil in which the seed is planted. There are four types: the path/trail, rocky, thorny, and good soil. What is Jesus’ point? It is made in v9 – listen and respond! Only those who do so are of the __________ soil.
  • But Why Parables?
    • Matthew 13:10-12 Get ready for a difficult truth: the reason for parables is so that some will respond and others won’t. Those who don’t are those who have rejected Christ and so have hardened their hearts. This is a Biblical picture of God’s sovereignty and our human responsibility.
    • Matthew 13:13-17 This truth has been shown throughout the Scriptures – many people seem to “hear,” but don’t really. Many appear to “see,” but don’t really care to. Contrast that with the disciples (and all who follow Jesus) who really do hear and see – their asking JEsus this question ______________ His very point about their desire to respond!
  • The Meaning of the Parable
    • Matthew 13:18-22 Now Jesus goes on to explain the parable to the disciples. The first three types of soil do not respond to the seed just as the first three types of people do not respond to Christ with faith and obedience.
    • Matthew 13:23 But notice the last soil/person – they respond by not just hearing, but also understanding. This is the very root of faithfulness and fruitfulness for Christ.
  • Application
    • Wrestle with Christ’s teachings! Don’t give up and wither.
    • Be not just a hearer fo the Word, but also a do-er.

 

A Man You Should Know: J. C. Ryle

I just recently finished a wonderfully written biography of J. C. Ryle who was the Bishop of Liverpool England just before the turn of the century (i.e. late 1800’s). Here is the story of a man who never set out to serve God in full-time ministry and yet ended up laboring faithfully for over six decades of his life in varying positions throughout the Church of England. And while that last part may give us pause, we must also realize that Ryle was thoroughly evangelical and sought to reform the church from within. His efforts have produced good spiritual fruit even until the present day and we should thank God for such a “man of granite with the heart of a child” (or, to use the same phrase that John Piper quoted at the recent Pastor’s Conference: “The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle.”

I would encourage you to read biography, especially Christian biography and there is little better place to start than with J. C. Ryle…

If you would like a book length treatment, I would heartily recommend “J. C. Ryle” by Eric Russell (Amazon).

Perhaps you would rather dip your toe into Ryle as opposed to diving in headfirst. If that describes you, then I would direct you to John Piper’s biography of him which is available for free in written, audio, and video forms here.

Lastly, if you have joined us on Sunday mornings or listened to our sermon podcast, you may have caught occasional references from Ryle. For our Matthew series, one great resource that I can recommend (and which was written for everyday men and women in a very readable format) is Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Amazon).

Matthew 12:38-50 The Two Generations

Teaching Pastor Kevin Miller continues the Matthew sermon series. We have reached a confrontation with the Pharisees and scribes against Jesus. They are asking for a sign-miracle. Please click here to listen to the sermon.

  • The Wicked Generation
    • Matthew 12:38-41 Jesus is approached byt he Pharisees and the teachers of the law and challenged to give them a ___________. Jesus’ response is not what they might have expected – whereas they thought they could trap Him, instead He tells them that they have already been given a sign and rejected it. The “sign of Jonah” is the comparison between Jonah as in the belly of the whale for 3 days and nights just as Christ will be in the earth for 3 days and nights (by Jewish reckoning). The point? Even those who heard Jonah preach repented – but not the Pharisees and those like them.
    • Matthew 12:42 Similarly, even the Queen of the South (Sheba) recognized wisdom when she saw it. The same cannot be said for this generation of the Jews.
    • Matthew 12:43-45 Thus Jesus pronounces a judgment: He has worked powerfully to rid His audience of demons and sin and yet they have not sought to be filled with the things of God. Thus their spiritual emptiness will be filled only with the things of the devil. Remember, there is no neutrality when it comes to spiritual matters.
  • The Faithful Generation – Brothers and Sisters in Christ
    • Matthew 12:46-47 As Jesus continues speaking to the crowd, some come to Him saying that His ___________ is outside. But Jesus turns this into an unexpected teaching moment: “who really is my family?”
    • Matthew 12:48-50 Answer? It is those who do the will of the Father in heaven – they are truly the family of Christ.
  • There is Much to Apply Here
    • God in Christ has already done everything necessary for us to follow faithfully as disciples – the evidence is before you.
    • Which “generation” do you belong to? The wicked generation which rejects Christ? Or the faithful one that is called Christ’s “family”?

 

 

Risk and Success

We live in a society that minimizes risk. We like to be (or at at least think we are) in control. A person can purchase insurance for nearly anything under the sun and there are umbrella policies that cover most everything else. There are entire divisions within major companies dedicated to “risk management” and college degrees to equip such folks. But what if risk can, at times, serve a good role?

Why do I say all this – is it because I don’t believe in insurance? Certainly not! No, wisely carrying the correct insurance policies is certainly a good thing. Then why? I say this because I am becoming increasingly concerned that our risk-averse, “we can’t do _____ because of the risk involved” culture is having a detrimental effect both on the church and on individual Christians.

As individuals, we often think in terms of risk though we rarely would recognize it as such or call it so. When I plan a complicated church service I sometimes think in terms of “what should I do if something goes wrong?” At times in my life I have made decisions based upon asking myself “what is the safest way to do this?” whether “safe” here means physical risk or simply the risk of embarrassment. I suspect that if you are honest, dear reader, then you too can easily picture yourself in such situations.

As churches, our individual thinking moves upward to the congregational level in which all of the questions and concerns that we have individually affect our decision-making corporately. “What if we fail?” becomes an all too common question asked during planning sessions and it’s a fine question to ask, but it also shouldn’t be a conversation-stopping question. “What if this new idea doesn’t work – how will we ever get that money back?” is another question that often springs to mind when evaluating a ministry proposal that might be otherwise brilliant and sound. But what if the thought moved in a different direction? Perhaps it is worth trying even though success cannot be guaranteed?

On the one hand, we cannot mitigate all risk. It simply isn’t possible because we are not God. And that’s the first point I’d like to make – while there is wisdom in assessing risk and considering what is acceptable and what is not, we must also learn to lean upon and trust God. He is in control, not us. He knows what will happen, we don’t (here’s an interesting study – use a Bible concordance or the internet and look up how many times “be not afraid” and similar phrases appear in the Scriptures – perhaps you will be shocked as I was to see how fearful and untrusting of a people we often are and yet how faithful, tender, and firm our God is).

On the other hand, taking risks can become something of a spiritual idol – “Look at us – we don’t worry about anything! Let’s not ask questions or evaluate – let’s just go for it!” As if not planning is somehow more spiritual than taking the time to consider how best to serve (think Proverbs 15:22 here)!

Where can faithfulness be found, then?

Faithfulness is found in taking calculated, God-honoring risks that are necessary for ministry but no more risky than needed.

What this means is that sometimes (perhaps more often than we are comfortable with) we are called to take risks as Christians. Normally, this isn’t so much risk to life and limb as it is risk to our personal ego and to our reputation: “Do I go talk to that person about my faith – what if they reject me?” Indeed, what if? But then again, you carry the greatest and most hope-filled message that anybody could ever hear – isn’t that worth the risk to deliver? “What if our church tries a new ministry and fails?” What if? It isn’t the end of the world. Nobody will perish. God isn’t displeased with you. He may actually use that failure to accomplish something far greater – but only if you take the risk.

As was once said in the movie The Trueman Show, “I’ve got a what if…”

What if our getting outside of our comfort zones is exactly what God will use to grow and mature us?

What if we need to fail so that we can learn to trust?

What if God would use our failures for His glory?

What if our failures would lead to something so wonderful and joyful that they turn to successes even larger than we could have dreamed of had we played it safe?

Think to Christ – He took many risks. He spoke with people who hated Him. He healed folks knowing full well that He was being watched and that rumors would swirl about. Eventually, He pays for all of this with His very life. From a human standpoint, Christ took a terrible risk and lost. He failed.

But from a spiritual standpoint, Christ gained everything by that well-calculated and loving risk. Because Christ didn’t stay dead – no He rose from the grave. If that’s not a definition of success, then I’m not sure what is. God is truly in control and what we risk for God is so much less costly than the grace He has already given to us.

I’m reading a fascinating book right now called “Wilderness Mountaineering” in which the author notes that when climbing a mountain the tendency is to lean as close to the rock as possible. And yet – ironically – this is exactly the wrong thing to do because it removes all leverage and friction that your feet have on the rock thus causing you to slip and fall. On the other side, leaning too far from the rock carries obvious consequences as well. What does safety look like? It looks like a fine balance between too close and too far.

What about you? Take inventory this week and ask yourself how your trust in God reflects your actions day to day. Do you avoid risk at all costs? Then perhaps it is time to move a little further from the rock. Are you a risk-taker who carelessly jumps off the ledge? Then perhaps it is time to consider your plans a bit more and lean in a little bit. In all cases, we must learn to take careful risks so that we will be found faithful to our calling to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)

(See also where I’ve written on this topic before…)

Matthew 12:22-37 Anatomy of a Pharisee

Teaching Pastor Kevin Miller continues the sermon series in Matthew, where the Pharisees level a serious charge of sin against their enemy Jesus. Please click here to listen to the sermon.

  • Jesus Heals… But How?
    • Matthew 12:22-23 A demon-possessed man is brought before Jesus and is healed. What is so special about this?
    • Matthew 12:24 The crux of the matter: the Pharisees no longer deny what Christ is doing, but they cast it in the light of doing __________ rather than doing good. (see also 9:34)
    • Matthew 12:25-28 Jesus’ response forms a very direct and potent argument: 1) He isn’t working for the devil because He would be working at cross-purposes; 2) The fact is the the demon was driven out; 3) Because the demon is driven out, Jesus must be doing this by the power of God. This demands a response of faithful belief.
  • Jesus Heals… But Why?
    • Matthew 12:29-32 Truth be told, this passage isn’t only about healing and Jesus’ power – it’s primarily a passage about the _______________. There is no middle ground in this spiritual battle: either one is with Christ or one is against Him, you and I cannot be neutral. The “unpardonable sin” is that the Pharisees – knowing differently – ascribe Jesus’ work to the devil. Thus they are not forgiven because they are entirely unrepentant.
    • Matthew 12:33-37 The final point that Jesus makes regarding the Pharisees concerns their character: if a bad tree produces bad fruit then it is clear that the Pharisees produce that bad fruit by their words and actions. This is because their very hearts are corrupted. All will be judged – the question is whether a person will answer that judge with their faith in Christ or with their own words.
  • What about us?
    • Let us not miss the connection between words and heart.
    • Where do you stand – with Christ or against Him? Not sure? Look to your words and actions because they’ll tell you.
    • True joy is found in being judged righteous in Christ.