Monday, November 23, 2009

11/23/09- Mark 4:1-10, Ways we respond and fall away

(The Sower- Pieter Bruegel the elder Flemish- 1557)
Devotional using the gospels, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Mark 4:1-10

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: 3 "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times." 9 Then Jesus said, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear." 10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables.

Calvin abridged; 4- The path- These are the barren and uncultivated, who do not receive the seed within, because there is no preparation in their hearts. He compares such people to a stiff and dry soil like what is found on a public road which is pressed down like pavement. These are those who come out to hear but do not respond. . 5- “Rocky places”- This is temporary faith and promises some fruit, but their hearts were not soft enough for their continued nourishment. These eagerly embrace the Gospel, but fall off not long afterwards because of some trial or persecution. The honor these give to the Gospel resembles faith, but they are not truly regenerated by the incorruptible see which never fades (1 Pt. 1:4). 7- “thorns”- This third class are those who would have grown in faith had they not permitted other things to corrupt and kill it. Christ compares the thorns to the pleasures of this life, wicked desires, or covetousness and other anxieties of this life. We should tear these thorns away from us- for not one of us whose heart is not filled with a thick forest of thorns. How few of us reach maturity (scarcely one out of ten). Christ says that riches are “deceitful” thorns so that we would guard against falling into their snares. 8- “Good soil…producing a crop”- Is it possible to find anyone pure and free of thorns? Christ does not speak of perfection here, but only of those in whom God’s word yields fruit. Those who do not fall away are reckoned “good and fertile.” Each of us should endeavor to pull out or deaden the thorns that threaten our faith, so that the fruit of the word is not hindered. All do not yield fruit in an equal degree, and we should not make much of that as the Lord gives the fruit.

Thoughts: by most accounts this is the first parable of Jesus, and it has to do with how people respond to Him. Even speaking in parables is a method by which some “get it” and others are utterly confused. The seed is the word, the farmer is God, and the soil is how we respond. We live in a day in which many Christians are in a free fall away from their faith, and are not trying in the least to stop it. There are temptations all around us, and the Church in America is trying so hard to become like the society around it that we are giving no or little aid to those who are resisting temptation. The idea of temptation and repentance are downplayed in our church and certainly in our secular society. Many have given into the deceitfulness of riches, but in this recession so much of this deceitfulness has been unveiled for what it truly is- temporary and poisonous. Many a marriage and the ability to parent has been lost to those who overwork in order to obtain more riches. The worries of this life are mounting in our society to a crescendo point. The good news is that it is possible to escape the thorns of life and still have fruitful and productive years. We escape by listening and responding to the Word. The fact that some are reading this today is God’s grace and Spirit at work. Perhaps He is calling us to resist the temptations around us and focus on Him.

Prayer: Lord, temptations abound all around us. Lead us away from them and toward your love and presence. Nourish our souls by your Word and Spirit.

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