Mark 4:1-12 ESV
“Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them:
“‘Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
“And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
Jesus Christ, when he lived on this earth, often spoke in parables. The parables were a way of explaining biblical truths in a manner that was applicable and understandable and relatable to the people. Some preachers and writers of devotionals today will tell stories to help the people to connect with the passage of Scripture and to apply it to their lives.
But the parables were spiritually discerned, and only those who were willing to seek the Lord out for understanding were able to discern what they meant and how they were to be applied. So, those who did not have ears to hear did not understand them and so they did not learn the lessons from them, either. For their ears were stopped up and they would not listen.
Mark 4:13-20 ESV
“And he said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.
“’And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.’”
Jesus then explained what the parable meant, and it is important that we understand today what it means, too, because it has to do with our salvation from sin and our eternal life with the Lord, and its meaning is consistent with many of Jesus’ other teachings and with the teachings of Paul and the other apostles who taught about salvation and eternal life with God.
The gospel is going out to the world but not everyone will receive it and believe it. Some people will hear it but will never believe it, nor will they even make a profession of faith in Jesus. Others will hear the preaching of the gospel and they will receive it with joy initially, but it will never take root in their lives, so when tribulation or persecution comes, they fall away.
And then there are those who hear the word but it does not bear fruit in their lives, for the cares of the world and the desire for other things enter in and choke out the word. So, they may make an initial profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and it may appear that they are Christians, but the word never gets applied to their lives. They never put the word into practice.
So, what this is saying, basically, is that you can make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ, and you can have the appearance of being saved from your sins and think you are on your way to heaven, but if the word never bears fruit in your life or if your faith is surface level only and it never takes root in your heart and life, then you aren’t saved and you don’t have eternal life.
But those who hear the word and who accept it, in truth, and who bear fruit for God’s eternal kingdom, in abundance, they are the ones who are saved from their sins and who have the hope of eternal life with God. For it is not enough just to hear the word but we have to be doers of the word. We have to put the word into practice in our daily lives.
So, we don’t “get saved” and then heaven is secured for us when we die. Our salvation is a process of sanctification and it is ongoing until the day that we die or until Jesus comes to take us home, as long as we continue in Christ and in obedience to him and to his word, and as long as we are walking (in conduct) according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
And, no, this is not works-based salvation because it is what Jesus taught, and it is what the New Testament apostles taught, including and particularly Paul. For Jesus taught that if we are to come after him that we must deny self and die daily with him to sin and follow (obey) him. And Paul said we must walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.
And then we have all the Scriptures that tell us if we make sin our practice, or if we walk in darkness (in sin) or according to the flesh, and if we don’t walk in obedience to our Lord and to his commands, and if righteousness is not what we practice, or if we don’t continue in Christ and in his word to the very end that we will not inherit eternal life with God.
So, we need to take this seriously. Our salvation and our eternal life with God are not guaranteed us on the confession of Jesus as Lord, or on the profession of faith in Jesus, or on the basis of a prayer we prayed after someone else to receive Christ, or on the basis of a mere acknowledgment of him or a mere confession of acceptance of his grace and forgiveness.
We must forsake our lives of living for sin and for self and we must follow our Lord Jesus in obedience to his commands. And we must bear spiritual fruit (results) in keeping with repentance, and we must not live in sinful addiction if we want to be saved and to have eternal life with God. For we are to no longer live like the world, but we are to be like Jesus.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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