Sunday, December 16, 2018

Third Sunday of Advent 2018: What Child Is This?

LEFC Family Advent Readings: “What Child Is This?”
Matthew 3:16-17 :: December 16, 2018
Week #3: God’s Beloved Son

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent season, we are using the Gospel of Matthew to answer the main question in the title of the treasured Christmas carol “What Child Is This?”

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our first candle proclaimed that this child who was sleeping on Mary’s lap was “Immanuel.” As Isaiah predicted long before, the virgin gave birth to a child Who is “God-with-us.”

[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our second candle reminded us that this child for “whom shepherds guard and angels sing” is “The King of the Jews.” The Magi knew that the baby born in Bethlehem was true royalty. So they bowed down before Him and brought Him incense, gold, and myrrh–gifts fit for the King of Kings who brings salvation to His people.

[LIGHT THIRD CANDLE.]

The Bible also tells us that this child who lay “in such mean estate, where ox and ass were feeding” is “God’s Beloved Son.”

In the third chapter of his gospel, Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ baptism. Many years after His birth, Jesus came to Galilee to His relative, John, to be baptized. John tried to stop Him because he knew that Jesus was greater than he was, but Jesus in insisted.

Then when Jesus was baptized, the most extraordinary thing happened.

[READ MATTHEW 3:16-17.]

The voice from heaven answered the question once and for all. What Child is this? God the Father says, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Haste, haste to bring Him laud and praise!

[Matt's Messages] “What Is Really Going On?”

“What Is Really Going On?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 16, 2018 :: Matthew 13:24-43 

In this section of Matthew, we’re learning about Jesus’ parables of the kingdom.

Jesus has begun utilizing parables, riddles, colorful and enigmatic stories in his teaching, and this chapter is chock full of them.

Jesus told His disciples that He was using parables so much because they were the perfect kind of stories to both reveal His kingdom to those who trust and follow Him and to conceal His kingdom from those who do not want it.

For those who want the kingdom, they “get” the parables, and they get the kingdom.

For those who reject the kingdom, they don’t “get” the parables, and they certainly don’t get the kingdom.

In fact, Jesus told a parable to teach that very thing:

The parable of the sower, the seed, and soils.

Which teaches that there are basically two kinds of people:

Those who DON’T “get it,” who don’t receive the kingdom for various reasons. Jesus gave three.

And those who DO “get it,” who do receive the kingdom by receiving the King.

They produce an abundant harvest, so much more than what you might expect.

Well, in verse 24, Jesus tells another parable that involves sowing seed.

But this one is a little different. Because it doesn’t have just one kind of seed. It has two. In fact, there is just one kind of soil, but there are two kinds of seed in this story.

And then in verses 31-32, Jesus tells another parable, also involving a seed.

And then in verse 33, He tells another one.

And then verses 34 and 35 say just how much He taught in parables at this point in His ministry and how that was a fulfillment of Psalm 78, verse 2.

And then later, in verses 36 through 43, Jesus gives the interpretation of the first parable, the one with two different kinds of plants in it.

So that’s what we’re going to look at this morning. Verses 24 through 43.

And we’re going see how these parables relate to Christmas.

And how they relate to our lives today.

So let’s read the first parable and then pray together and then talk about what we see presented here in these stories. Matthew 13, verse 24.

Now, again, pretend that you have never heard this parable before in your life.

You are hearing this for the first time. And you haven’t heard the interpretation of verses 36 through 43.

What might you make of this parable?

Well, you notice that Jesus begins by saying (v.24), “The kingdom of heaven is like [this...]”

He doesn’t mean that the kingdom of heaven is like a man. He means that the kingdom of heaven is like this story. It is like this situation. It is like what is taught by this parable.

And you notice the story itself. V.24 again.

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field [That’s what every farmer tries to do.] But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”

Now, who does that?

Matt, have you ever had that one done to you?

Apparently this is a rival farmer.

And it is an act of bio-terrorism (ZNIVSB). If I can ruin your field, the value of my crops will go up. 

There was a Roman law against this very thing.

The weeds were probably what is called “darnel” which is actually a poisonous plant. It looks like wheat when it is young, but it’s more obvious when it’s grown to maturity.

The Old English word for this was “tares.” You might have heard of this as the parable of the “wheat and the tares.” Or you could call it the parable of the “Wheat and the Weeds.”

This is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

Here’s what happens next. Verse 26

“When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. [It became obvious that they were there.] The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' [That’s a very important part of this story. I think it’s the key, those questions.] 'An enemy did this,' he replied. ‘The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' [That makes sense. You might lose everything if you let those weeds take root. You might lose your whole crop! We should wipe them out now!] 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. [I’ve got another plan.] Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”

Do you “get it?”

Let’s look at this next one. I think it has a similar point to the story. V.31

“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.’”

Do you “get it?”

One more story. V.33

“He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”

“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: ‘I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.’”

Jesus was in a parabolic mode.

At this point in His ministry, it was all parables all the time.

And Matthew recognizes the prophetic pattern of that. Just like Asaph writing Psalm 78 as a kind of riddle. Jesus is teaching using these many parables that both conceal and reveal the kingdom of heaven.

Do you get it it?

What does this parable reveal about the kingdom of heaven?

What question is it answering?

Here’s my title for today’s message, “What Is Really Going On?”

I think that’s what Jesus is teaching with these 3 parables.

What is really happening here?

Because things must not be what they seem.

I was reading a really good book by Klyne Snodgrass on the parables this week, and it said that in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the key question that Jesus is answering is, “How can this be the kingdom?”

Have you ever asked that question when you look out at our world today?

I mean, Christmas happened, right? About 2000 years ago?

The Prince of Peace was born, right?

Well, how come there are so many wars then?

The King of Kings salvation brings, right?

So why isn’t everyone saved?

There’s these unsaved people, too.

How come there’s so many of them?

I think the questions asked by the servants in verse 27 hit it on the head:

“Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”

“I want to be respectful here, but are you sure you’re doing it right?”

I mean, I’m not sure yet exactly what the wheat is and what the weeds are symbolically.

But one is obviously good and the other is obviously bad, and an enemy has brought the bad into the good.

So why not fix it NOW?

I mean if the kingdom of heaven is here, why not weed out the bad stuff now?

What is really going on?

Is there something going on I can’t see?

Yes. I think that’s what Jesus is teaching.

That there is more going on than meets the eye with the kingdom of heaven.

Things are not always as they seem.

And these parables tell us what is really going on.

Let’s let Jesus explain the parable to us, and then I’ll try to give three points of new perspective. V.36

“Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ [What is really going on?] He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom [true disciples!]. The weeds are the sons of the evil one [kingdom-rejecters], and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

What is really going on?

#1. THE KINGDOM HAS COME.

In all three of these parables, the kingdom of heaven has truly begun.

It might not seem like it for various reasons.

For example, there might be so many weeds.

Do you see all of these weeds on the nightly news?

Do you feel all of the weeds on social media?

Do you look out and wonder why are there so many “sons of the evil one?”

And how come the Lord doesn’t just wipe them out?

Does He really know what He’s doing?

“Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”

It might seem like His field is out of His control.

But it’s not.

Yes, He has an enemy who is at work. “An enemy did this.”

There is an evil force at work in the world, sowing evil seed, trying to ruin the Lord’s good work.

And it might, at times, even seem like the enemy is winning.

But don’t you believe it!

Believe instead that the kingdom has come.

The good seed has been sown.

And don’t miss it because it’s small.

That’s the point, I think about the mustard seed in verse 31.

They new about the mustard seed. It was tiny. Some are just one millimeter in diameter.

You can’t hardly see it!

But it’s there.

Same with the leaven.  Can you see the leaven?

Can you see the yeast in the dough?

In verse 33, Jesus literally says that the woman “hid” the yeast into like 50 pounds of dough.

Can you see that?

No. But make no mistake. It is in there.

The kingdom of heaven has come.

It may seem unimpressive. It may seem small and inconsequential. It may seem inauspicious as it begins.

It may seem invisible and insignificant.

But don’t underestimate it. The kingdom of heaven has come.

I mean, just think about Christmas, right?

How small did the King of Heaven come?

He came as an embryo miraculously conceived in the womb of a peasant girl in a backwoods nation under the oppressive thumb of Rome!

He came in the form of a servant.

He came as a nobody among nobodies.

But things are not always as they seem.

What is really going?

The kingdom of heaven has come.

The baby born in Bethlehem is the King of Kings.

#2. THE KINGDOM IS COMING.

The kingdom of heaven is arriving, quietly, piece by piece.

The kingdom is growing.

All three of these parables are parables of growth, aren’t they?

V.30, “Let them grow together until harvest.”

V.32, “...yet when it grows...”

V.33, the yeast worked “all through the dough.”

The kingdom is coming.

There is an interval between the arrival of the king and the fullness of the kingdom.

And during that time, the kingdom grows.

More people come under its sway.

More “sons of the kingdom” are sown (v.38).

More good things happen that show that God’s kingdom is arriving.

It may not be obvious.

In fact, it will not be obvious.

But it is inevitable.

And ongoing.

I think a key application of this is to not become impatient.

The harvesters wanted to pull up the weeds right away.

But the Lord of the harvest said, “Wait.”

I think that too often we say (to ourselves if not aloud), “If the Lord knew what He was doing, He would judge those evil people right now.”

“If the Lord knew what He was doing, He would take care of that problem right now.”

But think about it. What if the Lord weeded out all of the weeds while you and I were still weeds?

These parables call for us to be patient.

To believe. To trust that God knows what He is doing.

To see that growth of the kingdom with the eyes of faith.

The Lord is growing His kingdom. He really is.

And He’s doing all around us and in ways that we can’t always see or measure.

And there is great opposition to it.

The weeds are growing, too!

Both are happening at the same time.

The wheat is growing and the weeds are growing.

That’s how I interpret Jesus’ parable.

The good grows and so does the bad at the same time.

The church is growing. And so is the anti-church. They “co-exist.”

And that’s how it’s going to be until Jesus returns.

So we need to be patient and wait for it. This could go on a while.

We need to keep trusting that the kingdom is coming. Bit by bit. Day by day. Person by person. Disciple by disciple. Family by family. Church by church.

It’s coming!

As a pastor of a local church, I take great stock in this truth.

Because it doesn’t always seem like it.

It doesn’t always seem like it.

But this is what’s really going on behind the scenes, in the soil, in the field, in the dough.

The kingdom is coming.

You look at 3 new members. And you say, “Well, that seems small. Just three.”

And we just lost one.

But don’t underestimate what the Lord is doing with those 3!

The Bible says to not despise the day of small beginnings (Zech 4:10).

This is what is really going on!

The kingdom of heaven is coming.

Irresistibly, inexorably, unstoppably.

It’s here. It’s growing. It’s coming.

#3. THE KINGDOM WILL COME.

In all of its fullness.

It may not seem like it now, but that is what is really happening.

The kingdom of heaven will most certainly come in all of its fullness.

And it will be glorious!

Think about these 3 parables.

The mustard seed. So tiny. So small.

But what about when it’s fully grown? V.32

“...it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches!”

If you could see it now!

How about the yeast?

It was hidden.

But what do you have now?

You have enough bread for a feast.

It just grew and grew and now, everybody gets fed.

That’s what’s going to happen.

And the wheat field?

There will be a harvest.

Which is scary thing if you are a weed. V.39 again.

“The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. [The end is most coming.] The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Make no mistake, the end is coming.

Sometimes we get to thinking that this world is all that there is.

But there is coming a day, a judgment day, a sorting day, when everything will be made right.

Justice will be done and will be seen to be done.

And all of those who have rejected the Lord will enter into eternal judgment.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth.

That’s Jesus saying that.

Some people think that Jesus is just meek and mild.

But nobody in the Bible talked about judgment more than Jesus.

It’s coming.

Not on our time table.

Not when we want it.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s never coming.

If you are not yet a believer and follower of Jesus, then this parable is a warning to you to repent while you still can.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”

The Apostle Peter said it this way.

That some people will scoff at the notion that the judgment will come like this one day.

But Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance...Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation” to those who turn to Him.

He is coming.

The judgment is coming.

The sorting is coming.

The great weeding of the field is coming.

You don’t want to get tossed into that furnace.

Repent now before it’s too late.

This same Jesus died on the Cross for the sins of the world so that sinners like you and me don’t have to spend eternity weeping and gnashing our teeth.

Repent.

And put your faith in Jesus Christ.

Because He is going to return some day soon.

And when He does, His kingdom will come in all of its fullness.

And for those who have trusted in Him and have followed Him and have waited for Him and have believed in Him and haven’t stopped working for Him, it will be glorious!

Look at verse 43.

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

That’s where John Newton got the idea for the last verse of Amazing Grace!

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years...”

What?

“Bright shining as the sun.”

We cannot imagine!

It’s everything we’ve ever wanted and ever longed for.

The kingdom.

It’s God King ruling and reigning in His majesty over His people over all the world forever.

His blessings will flow as far as the curse is found.

The glory of the Lord will fill the earth like the waters cover the sea!

That’s what really going on.

Don’t believe your five senses or the nightly news if they tell you something different.

Don’t believe your friends or your enemies if they have a different narrative to sell.

Don’t be snookered by the devil or by appearances.

Things are not always as they seem.

No, this is what’s going on.

The kingdom of heaven has come.

Quietly with little fanfare. But as surely as you know anything.

And the kingdom of heaven is coming.

Slowly perhaps. Bit by bit. Piece by piece.

And not without opposition.

There is an enemy at work.

But He is losing and will lose.

The kingdom is growing right under our noses.

And one day the kingdom will come in all of its fullness.

Let’s live now as we truly believed that.

What changes do you need to make to be ready for the kingdom?

Remember what Jesus said about how to live in and for this kingdom in the sermon on the mount?

Upside-down and inside-out.

Flourishing where you least expect it and from the heart.

That’s what it means to be righteous.

And “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear....” ...what is really going on.


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Second Sunday of Advent 2018: What Child Is This?

LEFC Family Advent Readings: “What Child Is This?”
Matthew 2:1-12 :: December 9, 2018
Week #2: King of the Jews

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent season, we are answering, from the Gospel of Matthew, the title question of the classic Christmas carol “What Child Is This?”

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE AGAIN.]

Our first candle proclaimed that the child sleeping on Mary’s lap was “Immanuel.” As prophesied by Isaiah, the virgin gave birth to a child who is “God-with-us.”

[LIGHT SECOND CANDLE.]

The Bible also says that this child whom angels greet with anthems sweet is “The King of the Jews.”

Matthew tells the story in the second chapter of his gospel of a mysterious group of people called the “Magi” who came to Jerusalem from the east looking for the King of the Jews. They had seen His star and had come to worship Him.

The Magi learned from wicked King Herod and the Jewish chief priests and teachers of the law that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem in Judea. They knew this because of the prophecy of Micah in the Old Testament.

[READ MATTHEW 2:6]

So they went to Bethlehem, still following that star, and that’s exactly what the Magi found–a newborn king. They were overjoyed and worshiped Jesus. They knew that He was royalty, and before they left by a different route to outwit evil Herod, they gave Jesus gifts fit for a king.

Jesus is the King of the Jews, and He is our King, as well.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings;
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.

[Matt's Messages] “Get It?”

“Get It?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 9, 2018 :: Matthew 13:1-23 

We’ve made it all the way to Matthew chapter 13!

We started this trek of “Following Jesus” through the Gospel of Matthew 365 days ago on December 10, 2017. But we’ve taken it kind of slow and taken a lot of breaks along the way, so that we’ve only had 33 messages so far in this series, and we’ve only made it up to the first verse of chapter 13, not quite half way. We’re picking up some steam, so I expect that sometime in 2019 we may finish the whole thing.

Chapter 13 marks a new section in the Gospel of Matthew.

Remember I said that there are 5 major blocks of teaching from Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew? We’ve gone through two of them so far.

The first and arguably greatest is the Sermon on the Mount, chapter 5, 6, and 7 which we spent a lot of time on this Spring and Summer. Jesus taught about His upside-down, inside-out Kingdom.

The second major block of Jesus’ teaching was in Matthew chapter 10, often called the “Missions Discourse” or the major teaching on missions and the mission of making disciples for King Jesus through the gospel of the kingdom.

Chapter 13 contains the third major block of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. It is also about the kingdom.

But this teaching in chapter 13 is delivered primarily through parables. We could call this whole section the “Parabolic Discourse” or Jesus’ Parables of the Kingdom. That’s chapter 13.

Jesus used parables elsewhere (we saw one just last week), but here a whole bunch of them are concentrated all in one place: Parables of the Kingdom. And particularly parables about how the kingdom is coming now.

Which is in some ways secretly. Quietly. Hiddenly. Stealthily. Undercover. Progressively.

Has the Kingdom come?

Yes and No.

Yes, it has. The King has come. “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near!”

But the Kingdom has not yet come in its fullness.

In fact, it’s still coming. It’s coming right now.

This chapter is all about how that kingdom is sneaking in, showing up, taking root, growing.

How the kingdom is arriving even as we speak.

And what we can expect as it comes.

One thing you might not have expected about the Kingdom of Heaven is that many people would reject it.

You might think that everybody would love to welcome the Kingdom of God!

But that’s not what happened, is it?

The last several weeks we’ve seen how the Pharisees and the teachers of the law and many others of the Jewish people were rejecting Jesus and rejecting the Kingdom that He claimed to bring.

It started out as fairly minor opposition and then it just grew and grew and grew.

It’s reached the boiling point now where they are looking for a way to kill Him.

And they are publicly saying that Jesus is either the Prince of Demons or at least in league with him!

So last week, Jesus called them, “This Wicked Generation.”

He claimed that they had snake-hearts, that they were a part of a snake-family, and that they were going to end up in a worse condition than they had started because they would not receive King Jesus.

They were rejecting the kingdom of heaven!

And there many people who joined them.

And there were some people who were fairly undecided.

Jesus says that you are either in or out. Either with Him or against Him. But there are plenty of people who are on the outside looking in and trying to make up their minds.

In the very last few verses of chapter 12, even His mother Mary and Jesus’ brothers were briefly on the “outside.”

I think that one of the reasons the Lord gave us Matthew chapter 13 is to explain this phenomenon. How do you process this wide scale rejection of the Kingdom of Heaven and its King?

It’s in this context–Matthew says on the very same day–that Jesus begins teaching many things in parables.

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed.”

Do you know what a parable is?

We learned about parables back in 2017 during Family Bible Week.

The adult class learned to say that parables are “stories with a shove.”

Parables are comparison narratives often told with familiar objects and aiming for application.

Stories with a shove.

Often Jesus’ parables end with a twist. An unexpected ending that catches the hearer off guard.

Things don’t turn out the way you expected, and the story ends up pointing the finger back at you.

I think this reflects the upside-down nature of Jesus’ kingdom. It’s not what you might expect.

Stories with a twist and stories with a shove.

Jesus was a master story-teller! And He loved using parables.

Another word for parable could be a “riddle.”

Parables often take some figuring out to understand, especially to understand how it relates to our lives.

There’s a puzzle-nature to many of the parables.

You have to chew on them for a while. Thinking about it until the riddle unlocks.

And then you–“Get It.”

I want to use those words (as a question) for the title of today’s message on verses 1 through 23.

Do you “Get it?”

A couple of days ago I told Heather what I thought was a very very funny joke.

And she just gave me this blank look.

I’m like, “Let me repeat the punch line!”

And she’s like “Oh, that was a joke? I don’t get it.”

And I’m like trying to explain the joke, and you know when you have to explain it, it probably wasn’t that funny in the first place?

And she’s like, “Yeah, let’s just drop it.”

Okay.

I think this passage is all about answering the question “Do you get it?” And that’s why it’s full of parables.

Jesus, teaching before a great crowd on from an aquatic amphitheater begins with a parable. It’s very familiar. You probably all know it.

What I want you to do right now is wipe your mind clean. And pretend that you’ve never heard this story before. Can you do that?

Pretend that you don’t know what anything in this story is or means. Can you do that?

Let me read it to you. Verses 3 through 9.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed.’ As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. He who has ears, let him hear.”

In other words, “Do you get it?”

“He who has ears, let him hear.”

“Get it?”

Now, you’re pretending that you’ve never heard this one before.

You never went to Family Bible Week, where they had little cups of soil with rocks and weeds and good stuff in there, and they checked the plants every day to see what came up.

All you know is that Jesus just told this story.

There is a farmer who is broadcast spreading his seed, as farmers in these days did.

And the seed landed on 4 different kinds of soil.

3 kinds that performed badly.

And 1 kind that performed way beyond expectation. A bumper crop in Israel would be 1 plant produced 10 or 15 more. Making 30, 60, or 100 is phenomenal!

So do you get it?

There’s kind of a riddle or puzzle kind of feel to it, isn’t there?

We don’t know what the point is yet.

We need more help.

And even if we did understand, we may not like it.

We may not receive it.

This is a parable about parables.

And the disciples pick up on that. Verse 10.

“The disciples came to him and asked, ‘Why do you speak to the people in parables?’”

What do you think the answer to that is?

I might guess to make things easy for people to understand.

They are like sermon illustrations.

Like my story about that “great joke” that Heather did get.

Everybody knows that kind of experience, and Jesus used things that everybody knew.

Well, that’s part of it.

But there’s another part that you might not expect. V.11

“He replied, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.”

That’s quite a sentence!

The disciples have something that some other people do not have.

They have the “knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.”

They “get it.”

They are on the inside track.

They have entered into the mysteries and possess them.

They know the secret. The riddle is plain to them.

And specifically the secrets of the kingdom of heaven.

They “get it.”

Now, stay with me. Remember what question is answering. “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”  Verse 12.

“Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. This is why I speak to them in parables: ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’”

Now that confuses me just about every time I read it.

But the idea is actually pretty simple.

Jesus says that He uses parables because they are the perfect genre to both reveal and conceal the kingdom.

Jesus says that He uses parables because they are the perfect kind of story to both reveal and conceal the kingdom.

I don’t think it’s actually because they are so hard to understand for some people that Jesus is hiding things that some people just can’t “get.”

I think it’s because they are like that that it’s appropriate or fitting to use them because that’s what the spiritual content of Jesus’ teaching is like for people.

Some people “get it” and some people don’t “get it.”

And that’s what it’s like with Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom, too.

Some people “get it,” and other people don’t “get it.”

Now, this is what Isaiah brings into it. Jesus quotes Isaiah chapter 6 here.

And the point he’s making by quoting Isaiah 6 is that some people don’t get the kingdom because THEY DON’T WANT TO GET THE KINGDOM.

They have rejected the kingdom.

They have rejected the King.

They would never say that. But that’s what they have done.

And here is the punishment for rejecting the kingdom: you don’t get the kingdom.

You don’t get it.

So it’s really perfect to use stories where someone might say, “I don’t get it.” to illustrate that very fact.

You with me?

What were the Pharisees saying when Jesus was saying that He was the King of Rest?

What were they saying when Jesus offered rest for their souls?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest?”

What were they saying–“La la la la la la la la. I can’t hear you! I can’t understand you! I don’t get it!”

And Jesus said, “Okay. Let me tell you a story.”

These parables were judgments for those who were rejecting King Jesus.

And yet, they were blessings for those who were receiving Him! Look at verse 16. Don’t miss verse 16.

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

How blessed you are!

Do you realize how blessed you are?

I have three points of application this morning, and here’s number one.

#1. REJOICE IF YOU ‘GET IT.’

I mean spiritually.

Rejoice if your eyes spiritually see the kingdom.

Rejoice if your spiritual ears have heard the kingdom.

Rejoice if you know and understand the kingdom of heaven in Jesus!

How blessed you are!

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

He’s talking about the Old Testament.

He’s talking about the prophets.

He’s talking about how the Old Testament predicted the kingdom, predicted the king, predicted the Messiah, predicted the Advent of Christ.

But they never saw it.

Isaiah never saw.
Jeremiah never saw.
Hosea never saw.
Malachi never saw it.

But you guys! You have seen it.

You know that His name is Jesus.

Rejoice that you “get” the kingdom because you have gotten the King.

Remember the words of “O Little Town of Bethlehem?”

“The hopes and fears of all of the years are met in thee tonight.”

And the disciples have eyes to see and ears to hear.

They get it.

But the Pharisees looked at the same facts, the same Jesus, and they rejected it all.

They listened to the same parable, and they came up with a different interpretation.

Application point number two:

#2. REPENT IF YOU DON’T ‘GET IT.’

The Pharisees needed to get their fingers out of their ears.

They were in danger of the unforgivable sin–of completely rejecting the witness of the Spirit in the Person of Son–of completely rejecting Jesus.

They didn’t “get it,” because they didn’t want to.

And the punishment would be more not getting it.

And that is a warning to us today to repent you still can.

And that’s the application of Jesus’ parable of the sower.

In verse 18, He begins to explain it:

“‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”

Now stop there for a second.

Jesus tells us the meaning of the parable.

He doesn’t tell us who the sower is.

It could be Jesus Himself. I think that’s likely in this context.

It could be any gospel preacher. Anybody who shares the gospel of the kingdom with someone else.

It could even be applied to you and me as spreaders of the seed of the gospel.

It doesn’t say, so that’s probably not the point.

It does say what the seed is.

What is the seed?

Is it is the “message about (or the word of) the kingdom.”

That’s the seed.

Is the seed good or bad or mixed?

It’s all good.

Unlike my bad jokes, if you don’t get this seed, the problem is not with the seed.

The problem is with the soil.

And the soil is four different kinds of people.

Or two different major kinds of people:

Those who don’t “get it” (and there are at least three kinds of them).

And those who do “get it” (and they are the kinds people Jesus wants us to be).

The first kind of soil is the kind on the path. Where the birds ate it right up.

Jesus says that they “hear the message of the kingdom and ‘don’t get it’ and the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in” their hearts.

Don’t blame Satan for this one. He’s involved, but he’s not the main problem.

These folks are the folks from Isaiah 6. They don’t get it because they don’t want to get it. And that makes Satan so happy!

They are not just dumb, they are foolish in the Proverbial sense of the word.

A fool says in His heart, “There is no God.”

“There is no kingdom.”

“Jesus is not the Christ.”

“Jesus is not the Son of God.”

“I don’t believe. I don’t get it.”

If that’s you, I’m scared for you.

Jesus calls you to repent while you still can.

If you still can.

The second and third kind of person SEEMS like they get it, but then they show that they didn’t really get it. V.20

“The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root [remember the thin soil], he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.”

Don’t let this be you either.

I’ve seen people like this.

They say, “I like the sound of that!” when they hear the gospel.

Maybe they raise their hand or go forward at evangelistic meeting.

Maybe they begin to attend church regularly.

But then it becomes a little hard to follow Jesus, to live as a citizen in His kingdom?

And then they aren’t so sure.

When people begin to laugh at you.
When you start to get persecuted.
When your paycheck doesn’t come.
When they are trolling you on social media.
When your friends give up on you because you are getting serious about the kingdom.

Then you’re not so sure.

And before you know it, you’re no different than you were before.

This is a warning!

Jesus is asking us to check out the state of our hearts.

And make sure that we are real.

The third one is the one that we see the most in our affluent, comfortable American culture. V.22

“The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

Again, at first, they seem like they are disciples of the kingdom.

But then life happens.

And stuff happens.

The weeds of worry and wealth choke the message of the kingdom.

Just making ends meet.
Just getting by.
Just making a buck.
Just making a living.
Just trying to get ahead.

And money becomes the replacement for Jesus.

Remember what Jesus said about worry and money in the Sermon on the Mount?

Go back this afternoon and read chapter 6.

Worry and greed can keep you out of kingdom of heaven.

Because in time you show that you don’t “get it.”

You can only have one master.

How do you know if you “get it?” How can you show it and prove it? V.23

“But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’”

#3. BEAR FRUIT TO SHOW YOU ‘GET IT.’

I almost made it “replicate.”

Rejoice, repent, replicate!

Because Jesus says that those who “get it” bear fruit and produce an abundant crop. A hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

If you “get it,” it will show in your life.

You can’t make it happen on your own.

And you can’t earn it!

But if you get it, it changes you.

From the inside out.

What does this fruit look like?

It looks like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

It looks like living out what we learned in the Sermon on the Mount. Upside-down and inside-out. The good life. The flourishing life of a disciple.

It looks like going on mission for Jesus. Taking the gospel of the kingdom to those who need it most.

It looks like resting and trusting in the King of Rest.

It looks like you “get it.”

Because your life has changed.

I’m excited that at our meeting today, we not only get to affirm a new set of officers and an operating budget for 2019. But we also get to affirm three new members whose lives have been changed by following Jesus.

They “get it,” and it shows.

And we all get to rejoice.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:

Sunday, December 02, 2018

First Sunday of Advent 2018 - What Child Is This?

LEFC Family Advent Readings: “What Child Is This?”
Matthew 1:18-25 :: December 2, 2018
Week #1: Immanuel

“Advent” means “coming.” Christmas is coming. Jesus has come and is coming again.

During this year’s Advent season, we will be answering the title question from the beloved Christmas carol “What Child Is This?” from the Gospel of Matthew.

What Child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

The Bible says that this little child on Mary’s lap was “Immanuel.”

[LIGHT FIRST CANDLE]

Matthew tells the story in the first chapter of his gospel of how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: “His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” Joseph considered divorcing her quietly, but an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him to marry her instead and that she would give birth to Jesus.

And then Matthew tells us why all of this happened. It was a fulfilment of Isaiah 7:14, predicted by the prophet over 700 years before this moment.

[READ MATTHEW 1:22-25]

The name “Immanuel” literally means “God with us.” And that is literally what Jesus is. He is God the Son come in the flesh to be with us as one of us. This is the mystery of the incarnation, and it is the greatest news in all of the world.

God has not left us alone. He has not abandoned us even though we have sinned against Him. The Lord promised that a virgin would give birth, and she did! The Lord promised that He would be with us, and He is!

Haste, haste to bring Him laud and praise. Immanuel, the Son of Mary!

[Matt's Messages] "This Wicked Generation"

“This Wicked Generation”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 2, 2018 :: Matthew 12:38-50 

For all of Matthew chapter 12, Jesus has been in a conflict with the Pharisees.

First, He healed someone on the Sabbath, which they thought was criminal.

But Jesus said that He could heal on the Sabbath because He is greater than the Sabbath.  He is Lord of the Sabbath. He is the King of Rest.

And then He went and healed someone who was blind and mute and demon-possessed.

And the Pharisees said that He could only do that because He was in league with Satan. “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” Which is just about the most evil thing you could say.

Jesus basically said that it was unforgivably evil to say, if that was their true position to take.

And then Jesus said that it’s no wonder they said something so evil because their hearts were so evil. Because they had snake-hearts. And it’s out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks.

And that everyone will have to give an account for every careless word they have spoken.

And that brings us right up to verse 38.

What do think the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are going to say next?

What do you think Matthew will report to us that came out of the overflow of their hearts next?

“We’re sorry?”
“Sorry for doubting you?”
“Sorry for rejecting you?”
“Please forgive us?”

No, I’m afraid it was not repentance at all.

Instead, it was a demand for further evidence.

And by the way, you and I don’t demand anything from Jesus.

It doesn’t work that way!

When Jesus answers their demand, he calls them a “a wicked and adulterous generation” and later on He repeats and calls them “This Wicked Generation.”

So that’s what I want to make the title of today’s message.

“This Wicked Generation”

Jesus uses some pretty strong words here.

He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t mince words. He tells it like it is.

He tells the truth.

He tells them what they need to hear.

And what we need to hear, as well.

This morning, I have picked out 3 key words to center our focus on this passage.

And the first word is the main thing that this wicked generation was UNWILLING to do.

#1. REPENT.

The very thing that John the Baptist was preaching. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

And the very thing that Jesus was preaching, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

And the very thing that Jesus’ disciples were to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near. The King of Heaven Himself is near!”

But this wicked generation would have none of it.

Instead, they asked for more proof.

Let’s read Matthew chapter 12, verse 38.

“Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.’”

Now if that was all that we had ever heard about these folks, it might be okay.

In general, it’s not a sin to ask God for a sign.

It is a sin to demand a sign from God!

And that’s basically what they were doing.

“Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you.”

“Get up here and dance!

We want to see some pyrotechnics. Turn on the magic show!”

This is not a request. This is a rejection.

I mean, what more do they need?

What has this chapter been so far? He just did some miracles! Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. Jesus healed a demon-possessed mute and blind man.

Remember all of the miracles of authority in chapters 8 and 9 and 10 and 11?

Remember what Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples, “See what I’m doing?!” “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me!” (11:4-6).

And the Pharisee and the teachers of the Law are like, “Is that all you got?”

“We want some more proof. We want some more highly symbolic miracles to prove that you are who you say you are.”

“We want a spectacle. We want fireworks. And we want incontrovertible proof that you are the Messiah.”

Jesus knows that this is not a request. This is a rejection.

Nothing will convince these guys because they don’t want to be convinced.

And that’s a problem!

So here’s how Jesus responds. Verse 39.

“He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”

Now when Jesus says that this generation is “adulterous,” I don’t think he means that these people were especially given to extramarital affairs.

He’s talking about spiritual adultery, right?

Being unfaithful, not to your spouse, but to your Lord.

That’s a theme that runs through the whole Old Testament, doesn’t it?

Spiritual adultery.

Hosea and Jeremiah and Ezekiel especially talk about that concept.

The Lord should be our first love above all others.

But idolatry is being unfaithful to Him and putting something else in His place.

And Jesus says that this generation, this cohort of contemporaries, is wicked and spiritually adulterous. And you can know it by their demanding of a sign.

A miraculous sign. A heaven-sent proof.

After everything that they have been given–and on top of it all–they want a sign.

SMH. “Shaking My Head.”

That’s what Jesus is doing right here, right now.

And He says, “The answer is no.”

v.39 again “But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

“This is the only miracle that I will do on demand.

I will be like Jonah.”

Remember Jonah from the Old Testament?

He was a very reluctant prophet. Didn’t want to preach repentance to the Ninevites  because he knew that the Lord was gracious, and he didn’t want his enemies to be forgiven.

But the Lord did want Jonah to preach repentance to the Ninevites, and He sent a giant fish to make sure he got there!

Everybody thought that Jonah was dead! He got tossed overboard, into the sea! Nobody lives from that!

But Jonah chapter 1, verse 17 says, “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.”

And then it spit him up onto dry ground. And he went and preached to Nineveh.

I wonder what he looked like! After being in fishguts for 3 days.

I wonder what the Ninevites thought when they saw him and heard him?

Whatever they thought, they repented. V.41

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here.”

There He goes again.

Who does He think He is?

Earlier this chapter, He said that He was greater than King David. That He was greater than the priesthood. That He was greater than the temple. And that He was even greater than the Fourth Commandment.

Now, He adds to the list. He is also greater than the Prophet Jonah.

Jonah didn’t really die. He just got swallowed up by a fish.

Jesus is going to really die and on the third day rise again!

And He’s on a roll. So He goes one more. V.42

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”

Do you remember the “Queen of the South?” The Queen of Sheba?

We learned about her back in the Books of Kings. 1 Kings chapter 10.

She was probably from modern day Yemen at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

She had heard about the splendor and wisdom of Solomon so she came up to check him out, and the Bible says that she was breathless. {gasp}

She couldn’t believe what she saw.

And Jesus says, “And now one greater than Solomon is here.”

And He’s talking about Himself. Everybody knew that.

What a rebuke this is.

Do you get the rebuke here?

The principle is that the more you know about Jesus the more accountable you are.

The more you know about the Lord the more you are accountable for what you know.

Where the men of Nineveh Jewish?

Far from it?

Was the Queen of the South Jewish?

Was she a Pharisee? Was she a teacher of the Law?

How much more should the Pharisees be able to recognize their messiah than the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba?

But did they?

No. They asked for “another sign, please.”

“We might follow you if you do another good trick.”

The more you know about Jesus, the more important it is to act on it.

To repent.

And these people had Jesus right there in front of them.

Jesus says that the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will give testimony against this wicked generation at the judgment.

Because they knew less about the Lord and they still repented.

What do you know about the Lord?

You are accountable for what you know.

You need to act on it.

You need to repent.

Repent of any and all spiritual adultery.

Repent of any and all wickedness.

And that includes, especially, the wickedness of religiosity!

Remember! When Jesus calls these people wicked. It’s not because they were selling drugs or molesting children or trafficking women.

They were the most religious people in the land.

They had their lives “straight.”

But they were rejecting Jesus.

And they were putting all kinds of things in His place.

Of what do you need to repent today?

Where are you working at repentance?

What areas of your life are in danger of taking the place of the Lord and need to be ruthlessly rooted out?

Have you repented in the first place and trusted Jesus as your Savior?

Because that’s the first and most important place to turn around.

To repent and (number two):

#2. RECEIVE.

To receive Jesus.

In verses 43-45, Jesus tells a parable.

It’s a really strange one. At first, it seems like He’s teaching us how things work in the demonic world. And secondarily, He might be.

But His main reason for telling this story is the punch line about this wicked generation in verse 45.

So you have to understand that to understand the parable. V.43

“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

So this chapter has been all about exorcism and who is the prince of demons and who is Jesus. So Jesus uses an exorcism as an illustration.

He says that suppose somebody does an exorcism and the evil spirit has wander in the desert in the while and can’t find a place to rest, and then comes back to the original host person and finds that the person is still EMPTY.

He hasn’t filled up the house of his heart with a new occupant.

So the spirit calls his seven bad buddies and they turn the place into a demonic frat house.

“The final condition of that man is worse than the first [condition was].”

What is the point of this story?

Look at the punchline again.

“And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

It’s a parable.

He’s saying that King Jesus has come and is cleaning house.

The demons are getting booted left, right, and center.

The strong man stands no chance against Jesus the home invader.

But!

But this wicked generation isn’t inviting Jesus in.

Jesus is cleaning house around here, but this wicked generation is rejecting Him.

And the final condition of those who reject Him is worse than the first.

I almost titled this message after the line in “Joy to the World:”

“Let every heart prepare Him room.”

But it’s more than just prepare the room.

It’s receive Jesus right on in to the room.

So that the Holy Spirit Himself takes up residency in your heart.

Receive Him.

That’s the opposite of what this wicked generation was doing.

And they were going to pay for it.

First in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD and then in the eternal judgment.

Because if you reject Jesus, there is no hope for you.

Instead, receive Him!

“...to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

How do you know that you have truly received Him?

Number Three. You:

#3. FOLLOW.

Matthew tells one more story before the chapter ends. It’s a little surprising, too. Look at verse 46.

“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. [They were outsiders that day.] Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ [At this point, they apparently had some doubts about Jesus and his actions.] He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ Pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Now, Jesus doesn’t really disown his biological family.

Notice that He has brothers. I think that answers the question of whether or not Mary stayed a virgin all of her life.

But Jesus doesn’t really disown Mary or his brothers. We know that He loved her and arranged for someone to take care of her when He was going away.

But Jesus is making a profound point that spirit is thicker blood.

Jesus’ real family are those who are His disciples.

And, praise the Lord, it looks like some, maybe all, of his biological family was also part of His spiritual family. Mary, of course. And James, too, right?

But what Jesus is saying is that you know you belong to His family if you follow the will of His Father.

If you are His disciple.

If you do what He has set out for you to do.

If you accept His invitation.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke [of discipleship] upon you and learn from me [same root word for disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

That’s how you join Jesus’ real family.

“For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister [notice that ladies?] and mother.”

Is that you?

Are you following?

Are you doing the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven?

Do you know what He wants from you and are you carrying it out?

This wicked generation would not follow.

They would not repent even though the Messiah was standing right in front of them.

This wicked generation would not receive Jesus as their Messiah.

And they were in big trouble.

And there were probably many who thought they were on the fence about Jesus.

Maybe at this point Mary and Jesus’ brothers were undecided.

But we know that there really is no fence.

You are either in or out.
With Jesus or against Him.
Following Jesus or resisting Him.

Which are you?

Don’t be like this wicked generation that Jesus confronted.

Learn from their mistakes.

Repent. Receive. And Follow.

***



Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

[Matt's Message] "Overflow"

“Overflow”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
November 25, 2018 :: Matthew 12:33-37 

Let me give you a quick reminder of what has happened in Matthew chapter 12 so far:

Jesus has done two major healings and has claimed to be the King of Rest, the Lord of the Sabbath. And His enemies, the Pharisees, have been angry that He did these two healings and have counter-claimed that Jesus is, in fact, the King of the Demons or at least in league with Beelzebub, the prince of demons.

As they say, “That escalated quickly.”

You can see that there is no middle ground between these two positions.

Jesus has all but said that He is the Son of God because He has claimed that He is Lord over the Fourth Commandment from God!

But the Pharisees have said that Jesus is actually Lord of the Flies. Lord of the heap or at least working for him.

There is no middle ground, no compromise, between these two extreme positions.

And Jesus has used this moment of tension to invite people to trust and follow Him.

Jesus has invited us to come to Him in our weariness and under our burdens, and He will give us rest. He has invited us to take His yoke of discipleship on ourselves and walk with Him, learning from Him, and He will give us rest for our souls. Because His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. He is gentle and humble in heart. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smouldering wick He will not snuff out.

Jesus is not in league with Satan.

His kingdom is diametrically opposed to Satan’s kingdom!

And Jesus is so much stronger than Satan. Satan may be a “strong man,” but Jesus can tie up the strong man and take anything from his house that He wants.

So you and I need to choose to follow Him and take His side. Because whoever is not with Jesus is against Him, and whoever does not gather with Jesus scatters.

We didn’t get to finish this section last time. There are only 5 verses left where Jesus finishes His response to the Pharisees, verses 33 through 37.

I decided to leave this last paragraph to this week because we were running out time, and because these 5 verses are really powerful and really practical for our lives today.

They should be familiar to you. They are really familiar to me as I studied them and studied them and then wrote about them in my doctoral project and then my book and then have preached about them from out of my book for the last 8 years.

They key word in the 1984 NIV is “Overflow,” and I’m going to make that the title of today’s message. The 2011 NIV has “full of.” The English Standard Version and King James Version have the word “abundance.”

The Greek word is perisseumatos.

“Overflow.”

Jesus starts by talking about trees.

He just got done talking about the unforgivable sin of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Attributing to Satan what is clearly the work of God and rejecting Jesus forever.

And then the very next verse, Jesus is talking about trees.

“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.”

Is Jesus talking about horticulture?

No. He’s talking about people.

Why would the Pharisees say what they said about Jesus in verse 24?

“It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”

How could they say that?

Where did that come from?

Well, Jesus says, “People are like trees.”

If a tree is good, and by that He probably means healthy, then its fruit will be good.

If the root system and the trunk and the heart of the tree is healthy, then it will produce healthy fruit.

Or if you make a tree bad (or unhealthy), guess how the fruit is going to be? Rotten.

And you can always recognize what kind of tree (healthy or unhealthy or even what species of tree: apple, orange, fig, whatever) it is by its fruit.

So Jesus says, it’s no wonder that these men said what they said in verse 24.

Jesus says (v.34), “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Jesus goes from calling them “trees,” to calling them “snakes.”

“You family of snakes.”

“That’s who you are.”

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?”

“It’s no surprise that you are saying the evil words of verse 24, because you have evil hearts.”

“You have snake hearts. That is clear from your snake words.”

And then He says, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

A few years ago when I was preaching this text, I poured out a water bottle onto the stage, and I said, “Why is there water on the stage?”

And you looked at me like, “Uh. Our pastor has lost it.”

And then I said, “Why isn’t there Kool-Aid or Pepsi or Orange Juice on the stage?”

And the answer was “Because Cindy would hurt you!”

The answer was, “Because there was water in the bottle.”

What comes out of the bottle was what was in the bottle.

Jesus says that what comes out of the heart was what “the heart was full of.”

“The abundance of the heart.”

“The overflow of the heart.”

So here is application point number one (of just two) this morning:

#1. GET REAL ABOUT YOUR HEART.

The reason why Jesus uses such strong language is to wake these Pharisees up to reality.

They are a brood of vipers.

They are bad trees.

They are saying these bad things about Jesus because their hearts are bad.

And they need to wake up to their condition and tend to their sinful hearts.

In other words, they need to repent.

And if they are too far gone to repent, then the people around them and the people listening (like us!) need to take note and not go down that road themselves.

Your words reveal your heart.

I’m sure that these men thought they had good hearts.

But they were self-deceived.

Jesus is calling them to get real about their hearts.

What is the “heart?”

The heart is the real you.

The inner you.

The you on the inside.

The heart is control center of the human being.

It’s the part of you that worships, that wants, that desires, that prioritizes, that is loyal to something or someone.

We tend to use the word “heart” just for the emotions.

But it’s a lot more than the emotions. It’s bigger than just your feelings.

Your heart is the worship core of you that directs your being.

The Proverbs say that the heart is the wellspring of your life.

The Lord Jesus has already taught us how important our hearts are in the Sermon on the Mount. Remember, His kingdom is not just upside down. It’s what? Inside-out.

From the heart out.

And that includes our words.

Our words come from our hearts.

Joe Stowell likes to say, “All talk is heart talk.”

Jesus was calling these men to change at their very root.

It wouldn’t be enough to just stop saying these things about Jesus and Beelzebub, they would need to change at the very root of their beings.

They would need a new heart!

How about your heart?

Do you have a new heart?

The good news is that Jesus is in the business of giving out new hearts to those who repent and trust in Him.

Have you done that?

I hope so.

If not, I invite you to do that right now.

Turn from your sin and turn to the Savior.

Because we don’t just naturally have good hearts.

No, naturally, our hearts and deceptive and wicked.

But Jesus died on the Cross to forgive us our sins and to give us a new heart.

Don’t lie to yourself and say, “No. I’m good. I don’t need that. I’m a good person. I’ve got a good heart.”

That’s what these Pharisees believed about themselves.

Get real about your heart.

Do you need a new one?

But we who are already followers of Jesus know that even though we have been given a new and good heart that we still need to tend to our hearts.

They still need renewing.

We still need repentance and growth in faith.

We need to stay real about our hearts.

If things are coming out of our mouths that should not come out of our mouths, then we can know that there is “heart work” that still needs to be done. V.35

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”

That’s how it works.

And if you’re finding that there is still evil things come dredging up out of you (and I’m sure you do), then there are still things in your heart that need repenting of and turning from.

We can’t just fix things on the word-level.

We have to have them fixed on the heart-level.

And that requires getting real about our hearts.

What are you worshiping?
What are you wanting?
What is your heart desiring above other things?

What has your heart?

Because what controls your heart will control your life and come out in your words.

I’ve been fighting with anxiousness the last month or so.

And it’s come out in my words.

It’s come out in anxious words.

Self-protective words.

Defensive words.
Manipulative words.
Exasperated words.

Those words would not have been my words if my heart had been in the right place.

I’m thankful that my words were not, “Jesus is the devil.”

But some of my words may have communicated, “Jesus is not enough for me.”

“I’ve got to have this, this, and this to be happy and content and peaceful.”

And I apologize to those of you who have been affected by my words.

Because you’re getting a taste of what’s in my heart.

How about you?

If you got real about your heart, what would you need to change?

Of what would you need to repent?

What do you need to turn from?

What promise of Christ’s do you need your heart to claim?

Because this is serious stuff. Verse 36.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Now, let’s be clear.

Jesus is NOT saying that you can save yourself on the day of judgment by having good words.

Jesus is saying that on the day of judgment (which is coming!), the words you have said will be evidence of what was in your heart.

If you have trusted in Jesus, there will be plenty of words that show it.

And if you have not trusted in Jesus, there will plenty of words that show that, too.

“For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Because they will reveal the reality of your heart.

Did that happen for the thief on the Cross?

Yes, it did.

Sometimes we think that the thief on the Cross didn’t have time to change.

But his words changed, didn’t they?

He went from hurling insults at our Lord to defending Him and asking Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom.

His heart changed, and so did his words.

Now, notice this.

Notice how deep this accountability goes.

Jesus doesn’t just bang on those who speak maliciously about His identity.

He goes after every “idle” word. V.36 again.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every [malicious, hateful] word they have spoken.”

Is that what it says?

No it says, “every careless word they have spoken.”

Not just the big ones.

But all of the little ones.

Any of our words that don’t come out of a good heart.

Application point number two (and last):

#2. GET CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR MOUTH.

You can’t do that without getting real about you heart!

But it comes out in what you say.

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

So, that’s talking about gossip.

But also about slander.

And also about sinful exaggeration.

And flat out lies.

And meddling in other people’s business.

And telling dirty jokes.

And passing on falsehoods.

And ridiculing people.

And “obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking” (Eph 5:4).

Every careless word.

Our Lord says that we will have to give account for every careless word.

Not just every malicious word that we intentionally threw out there.

But every one that we weren’t even really thinking about, but out it popped from our sinful hearts.

We will have to give an account.

Think about every conversation you had at Thanksgiving this year.

Are you happy with everything you said about anything you said at Thanksgiving this year?

When you sit down with your Lord someday for this accountability review, is there anything that you said that you will be embarrassed that will be brought up?

I’m guessing, “yes.”

If your answer is no, I’d say both “Good for you. Your heart is better than mine.” And also “Get real about your heart. Because it’s deceptively wicked.”

Now multiply that by every single conversation you’ve ever had.

And that’s what you will need to be accountable for on judgment day.

If you belong to Jesus, then all of your sinful talk will be forgiven. And it has been.

But you will, apparently, still need to go over it with Him.

“What were you thinking here, my child?”
“What should you have said then, my daughter?”
“What were you worshiping at that point, my son?”
“What were you trying to accomplish?”

“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”

And that counts for every word you have tweeted and posted and texted, as well.

Once a week, I go back over all the emails that I have sent in the previous week and remind myself of what I’ve been saying and working on.

And I also go back over my social media accounts once a week to see what I have liked and shared and posted and said.

Someday, I’ll have to do that with my Lord.

Every “like” and “share” and “status update.”

Every DM on Twitter and every PM on Messenger.

Everything said under my breath in the checkout line or in the intersection.

Everything I only said to my bestfriend and my wife.

There will be an accountability review.

So now’s the time to get careful about your mouth.

Again, you can’t do that by just focusing your mouth.

You’ve got to go to the heart level.

If you are ripping people up one side and down the other, you can’t just stop that by sheer force of will.

You’ve got to repent and trust in the promises of God for there to be real and lasting change.

But you can’t let your mouth just run on where it wants to go.

Because someday soon you’re going to have to talk to the Lord about all of your choices, and not just the big ones.

It turns out the small ones are big ones, too.

Where do you need to start?

I recommend starting with prayer that the Lord would reveal to you the sinful words that you most recently have uttered, that came spilling out of the overflow of your heart.

And then take those words to the Lord and ask Him for forgiveness.

And if they were uttered to someone else in a way that hurt them, then go to that person and ask for their forgiveness, too.

Better to talk it out now than for it to be a big surprise on judgment day.

Where do you need to start?