The Power of God's Kingdom (CC)
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Zion Ev. Lutheran - WELS Torrance, California Guest Preacher: Rev. Jim Sherod June 24, 2012 Sermon Text: Mark 4:26-34 www.ziontorrance.info We begin with Mark 4, Verses 26 through 34, our Gospel Lesson for today: HE (JESUS) ALSO SAID, "THIS IS WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE. A MAN SCATTERS SEED ON THE GROUND. NIGHT AND DAY, WHETHER HE SLEEPS OR GETS UP, THE SEED SPROUTS AND GROWS, THOUGH HE DOES NOT KNOW HOW. ALL BY ITSELF THE SOIL PRODUCES GRAIN -- FIRST THE STALK, THEN THE HEAD, THEN THE FULL KERNAL IN THE HEAD. AS SOON AS THE GRAIN IS RIPE, HE PUTS THE SICKLE TO IT, BECAUSE THE HARVEST HAS COME." AGAIN HE SAID, "WHAT SHALL WE SAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE, OR WHAT PARABLE SHALL WE USE TO DESCRIBE IT? IT IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED, WHICH IS THE SMALLEST SEED YOU PLANT IN THE GROUND. YET WHEN PLANTED, IT GROWS AND BECOMES THE LARGEST OF ALL THE GARDEN PLANTS, WITH SUCH BIG BRANCHES THAT THE BIRDS OF THE AIR CAN PERCH IN ITS SHADE." WITH MANY SIMILAR PARABLES JESUS SPOKE THE WORD TO THEM, AS MUCH AS THEY COULD UNDERSTAND. HE DID NOT SAY ANYTHING TO THEM WITHOUT USING A PARABLE. BUT WHEN HE WAS ALONE WITH HIS OWN DISCIPLES, HE EXPLAINED EVERYTHING. Let us pray: Dear Lord, may my words this morning and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable in Your sight, our only source of hope and comfort. Amen. Please be seated. [Text taken from THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, 1973, 1978, 1984, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.] Grace and peace are yours from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dear fellow brothers and sisters in Christ: Surely one of the great wonders of creation are those sequoia trees that are found in Tulare County only 4.5 hours away from here. Those trees are truly an experience to walk through. As you walk through the giant groves of sequoia trees, some of which are said to be 3,500 years old. It's hard to grasp how huge they are. General Sherman is 102 feet in circumference. Its first branch is 130 feet high. And its thickness is as big as a huge tree itself, 7 feet in diameter. Truly sequoia trees are an awesome part of God's creation. And yet, as awesome as they are, you've seen this morning from what humble start they come. Such a small little seed. They're not very awesome to look at when they're small seeds. And yet, from those small seeds grow the largest trees on earth. It reminds me of Jesus' words in our text this morning. "WHAT SHALL WE SAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE, OR WHAT PARABLE SHALL WE USE TO DESCRIBE IT? IT IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED, WHICH IS THE SMALLEST SEED YOU PLANT IN THE GROUND. YET WHEN PLANTED, IT GROWS AND BECOMES THE LARGEST OF ALL GARDEN PLANTS, WITH SUCH BIG BRANCHES THAT THE BIRDS OF THE AIR CAN PERCH IN ITS SHADE." (MARK 4:30-32) The comparison is that the Kingdom of God is like a tiny seed, like a mustard plant, which as the smallest seed in the garden, one would not expect to grow into the biggest plant. And yet as the mustard seed grows, it grows so large that every bird can come and nest under its shade. Obviously, both parables that Jesus uses in our Gospel this morning, He used to describe what the Kingdom of God is like. And to describe it, He used very physical pictures. Seeds being sown in a field and sprouted out. A mustard seed growing to be the largest plant in the garden. So what was the purpose of Jesus' illustration? Was it to have us look for physical signs of the Kingdom of God? While the physical beauty of this world surely does show an awesomeness of our God, it points to the existence of God to anyone with an open mind. Ask anyone who's gone to Yosemite and seen El Capitan or the Half-Dome, the beautiful scenery as you enter in from that tunnel is just breath-taking. While the beauty of creation points to the existence of God, it doesn't speak at all about God's Kingdom of Grace. Jesus plainly said to Pilate when He was on trial: "MY KINGDOM IS NOT OF THIS WORLD." (JOHN 18:36) Jesus pointed away from a physical earthly kingdom. Jesus' kingdom is His rule over everything, but especially over our hearts. It is not now manifested visibly, even though Ephesians tells us that Christ now rules over everything for the good of the Church. Christ's kingdom of Grace IS present in this world, though it remains hidden from our eyes. Jesus explained that to a group of Pharisees who thought that the Kingdom of God would come visibly. He said: "THE KINGDOM OF GOD DOES NOT COME WITH YOUR CAREFUL OBSERVATION, NOR WILL PEOPLE SAY, 'HERE IT IS,' OR 'THERE IT IS,' BECAUSE THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS WITHIN YOU." (LUKE 17:20-21) God's Kingdom is hidden and invisible to us for it is in the heart where only God can see. Although God displays His greatness and His power through the universe, God's Kingdom of Grace is hidden. Not displayed in the blazing sun, or in the earthquakes, or in the typhoons or in tsunamis, the lightening and the storms ... but in the quiet of God's Word. In the reading for today, God uses those two parables to show us that we can trust in the power of His Word. The power of God's hidden Kingdom is the power and the seed of the Gospel. That Gospel which produces a great Kingdom. So we focus in today on the hidden power of the seed of the Gospel. Jesus certainly was a Master Teacher. He used common, everyday teachings ... pictures to teach spiritual truths. But the key to understanding any parable is to see that the spiritual truth of Jesus is being taught ... or taught to us. Listen to the first of the two parables that Jesus said. He said: "THIS IS WHAT THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE. A MAN SCATTERS SEED ON THE GROUND. NIGHT AND DAY, WHETHER HE GETS UP OR SLEEPS, THE SEED SPROUTS AND GROWS, THOUGH HE DOES NOT KNOW HOW. ALL BY ITSELF THE SOIL PRODUCES GRAIN -- FIRST THE STALK, THEN THE HEAD, AND THEN THE FULL KERNAL IN THE HEAD. [AND] AS SOON AS THE GRAIN IS RIPE, HE PUTS THE SICKLE TO IT BECAUSE THE HARVEST HAS COME." (MARK 4:26-29) Jesus is teaching us an essential truth about the Kingdom of God. He uses an example everybody is familiar with: A farmer planting seed in the soil to teach His point by comparing that the power of the coming of the Kingdom of God is like the power of a seed that grows. While the farmer may care for that seed, as it develops and the earth nourishes that seed, the power of the seed is in and of itself. Where Jesus says: "ALL BY ITSELF THE SOIL PRODUCES GRAIN." (MARK 4:28) The original Greek says: "automatos" which you can hear very clearly is like automatic. It happens automatically! The power of the Gospel causes that seed to grow, that faith to grow. And the key point is that the growth doesn't come from the seed itself. The farmer doesn't know what power is needed to make that seed generate; he only needs to appreciate that it will happen ... and trust in that power and plant the seed. Now we know that in and of ourselves ... we are powerless. We have to confess with the Apostle Paul: "... NOTHING GOOD LIVES IN ME, THAT IS, IN MY SINFUL NATURE." (ROMANS 7:18) Because of our sins we were born spiritually dead in this world. And the grim truth that God declares in His Word is that we all belong in hell. Everyone falls under this sentence of condemnation. No one is excluded. "FOR ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD. (ROM 3:23) THERE IS NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, NOT EVEN ONE." (ROMANS 3:12b) Apart from Christ, we would only be rotting seeds that disintegrates in the soil. We would not experience the joys of heaven. We would only experience the anguish of eternal torment in hell. But the Gospel tells us something miraculous! The Gospel tells us that we have been bought by Christ's own blood! We have been purchased from death, from slavery to Satan and brought into the kingdom of His glorious Light. God shed His blood on the cross to save you and I and we have been given spiritual life. To be alive spiritually is to walk with God. To be apart from Him ... there is no life. And we are in Him; and He remains in us when we remain in His Word. He is the resurrection and the life and He has promised you and I that: "BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU ALSO WILL LIVE." (JOHN 14:19b) And our life has begun with Him even now. It is through that life-giving Gospel that Christ made us alive, combined us with Him in His death, and raised us with Him in His resurrection. Jesus says to us: "I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, UNLESS A KERNAL OF WHEAT FALLS TO THE GROUND AND DIES, IT REMAINS ONLY A SINGLE SEED. BUT IF IT DIES, IT PRODUCES MANY SEEDS. THE MAN WHO LOVES HIS LIFE WILL LOSE IT, WHILE THE MAN WHO HATES HIS LIFE IN THIS WORLD WILL KEEP IT FOR ETERNAL LIFE." (JOHN 12:24-25) Through the Gospel, God has created life in us. Our sins are forgiven because Jesus ... our substitute ... paid that awful price. "THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH, BUT THE GIFT OF GOD IS ETERNAL LIFE..." (ROMANS 6:23) He paid that awful price by His sacrificial death on the cross. And nothing can take away that implanted Word which He has placed into our hearts ... which has created that faith in you, and continues to sustain us and makes it grow. It is the power of the Gospel that causes our faith to grow. "THE POWER OF GOD FOR THE SALVATION OF EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES ... (ROMANS 1:16) In this parable, the seed the farmer sowed is the seed of faith the Christian sows by sharing the Gospel message with those around. As the power is within the seed, so the power of the growth of faith is within the Gospel itself. The power of the Gospel creates faith and sustains faith; it causes it to take root and grow and mature. Spiritual life exists only by the power of the Holy Spirit and He uses that Word ... the Word of the Lord to continue our faith. And to make it grow. Why does Jesus want you to know this? There's such a great temptation to trust in our own power. To trust in external means in order to try and grow the Kingdom of God. It's a desire to see God work in majestic ways. It's easy to confuse earthly glory with divine glory. I remember visiting Europe with my parents and seeing the wonderful cathedrals; some of the wonderful cathedrals in Germany and Austria and how beautiful and awesome those cathedrals were. And I thought to myself when I saw them: Surely great things must happen here. One watches the pomp and circumstance of a high church service and falls for the idea that God's glory and God's power must be on display there. Many fall for the notion that God's work is done by external things rather than by the quiet inward working of the power of the Gospel. And if you doubt that, look at the mega churches and what they rely on for their growth. Not to say that the great choirs and audio- visual presentations and all those things are bad in and of themselves. But the power of God's Kingdom of Grace does not rest on external outward things. We sin against God when we rely upon something else besides the power of the Gospel. When we rely on something more than the Word of God we're tempted to think that it's our own effort that will create faith in people; that will sustain faith in people. But the power of God is hidden. Its glory is hidden. As Paul tells us: "FAITH COMES FROM HEARING THE MESSAGE, AND THE MESSAGE IS HEARD THROUGH THE WORD OF CHRIST." (ROMANS 10:17) The use of God's Word is powerful and effective as Isaiah reminds us: "AS THE RAIN AND THE SNOW COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN, AND DO NOT RETURN TO IT WITHOUT WATERING THE EARTH AND MAKING IT BUD AND FLOURISH, SO THAT IT YIELDS SEED FOR THE SOWER AND BREAD FOR THE EATER, SO IS MY WORD THAT GOES OUT FROM MY MOUTH: IT WILL NOT RETURN TO ME EMPTY, BUT WILL ACCOMPLISH WHAT I DESIRE AND ACHIEVE THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH I SENT IT." (ISAIAH 55:10-11) This is important for us to believe for it shows us that we have no business looking for a different kind of power to grow the Kingdom of God. But rather that we should turn to the hidden power of God's Word, the Gospel. It means that we must trust the Gospel as we evangelize, as we share the Good News of our Savior's death and resurrection. It means that God has given us the best means ... the best means of spreading His Kingdom. In fact, the ONLY means of spreading that Kingdom ... is His Word. Therefore, to say: I do not need to try and share my faith, after all I'm not eloquent and I don't know all that much about the Bible. That's the pastor's job. It's best left up to him. Or to others who know more. To say that is a denial of the power of the Gospel. God gives us no other way than to use that hidden power of the Word found also in the Sacraments. And God has called us ALL to be planters of the seed. Spread the Word to all creation. YOU are my disciples: "THEREFORE GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE EVERYTHING I HAVE COMMANDED YOU." (MATTHEW 28:19-20a) And what does Paul say? "I PLANTED THE SEED, APOLLOS WATERED IT, BUT GOD MADE IT GROW. SO NEITHER HE WHO PLANTS NOR HE WHO WATERS IS ANYTHING, BUT ONLY GOD, WHO MAKES THINGS GROW." (1 CORINTHIANS 3:6-7) This parable also helps us see that faith is a progression. Just as a seed becomes a stalk, and then a head, and then a kernal ... and the progression of our faith through the hearing and the studying of the Word of God. The question every Christian should ask is: Where am I in my growth? Am I growing? Or am I static? Am I serving the Lord by planting and sowing that seed of the Gospel? Because that seed produces a great kingdom! Jesus taught His second parable by saying: AGAIN, "WHAT SHALL WE SAY THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS LIKE, OR WHAT PARABLE SHALL WE USE TO DESCRIBE IT? IT IS LIKE A MUSTARD SEED, WHICH IS THE SMALLEST SEED YOU PLANT IN THE GROUND. YET WHEN IT IS PLANTED, IT GROWS AND BECOMES THE LARGEST OF ALL GARDEN PLANTS, WITH SUCH BIG BRANCHES THAT THE BIRDS OF THE AIR CAN PERCH IN ITS SHADE." (MARK 4:30-32) The comparison is obvious, isn't it? The Kingdom of God is like that tiny seed of the mustard plant, which grows into the biggest plant in the whole garden. One would not expect it; it's a miraculous thing! And yet the mustard seed, is only a picture of that more miraculous thing, the Kingdom of God. The two parables Jesus used in our Gospel Lesson this morning are very similar but with a twist. The first parable deals more with the individual, but it also touches on the Kingdom of God. The second parable deals with the Kingdom of God at large, and yet it also touches and concerns the individual. The parable of the mustard seed is the assurance of God's hidden power; the power of the Gospel will bring about great growth in His Kingdom at large. And we confess that power like no other power. It's an important principle of Christian living for some fail to appreciate again, that the Gospel is the ONLY power that God uses to grow His Kingdom. It's the ONLY thing He's given us to spread that Kingdom and to make it grow. Sadly, throughout Church History, we've seen how the Church has relied on other things to grow itself. Some have relied on the power of the government to help grow the Church ... telling natives that they must convert to the Gospel, to the belief of the Holy Christian Church. Or to be put to the sword or gun. Others say: Well, if only we would enact certain laws then our nation could be a Christian nation. And you can see in Church History that the Scandinavian countries, they declared by fiat everyone must be Lutheran. But it didn't work out too well, did it? Christian growth doesn't come by laws that are passed. You can't legislate someone into being a Christian. Christianity only comes from the proclamation of God's Word. Only from the Gospel. And the Church in the past would have been much better off if It had relied upon the power of God's Word rather than other things. Mark goes on to tell us: WITH MANY SIMILAR PARABLES JESUS SPOKE THE WORD TO THEM, AS MUCH AS THEY COULD UNDERSTAND. HE DID NOT SAY ANYTHING TO THEM WITHOUT USING A PARABLE. BUT WHEN HE WAS ALONE WITH HIS DISCIPLES, HE EXPLAINED EVERYTHING. (MARK 4:33-34) Everything that is written, is written for our learning, so that we can by example of those before us learn from it and walk closer to God. And Jesus put those parables into His Word so that you and I could study and meditate upon them and learn from them also just as His disciples did. The amazing thing about a sequoia is that it grows from such a small seed into one of the largest trees in the world. But we plant a seed that is far more magnificent than a sequoia tree. For we plant a seed of the Gospel which creates faith and which will grow into a kingdom which will include all the birds of the air. For the REVELATION (7:9-12) says that multitudes beyond number will be before the throne of God praising Him and glorifying Him ... the Lamb, who has taken away the sin of the world. So trust in the power of God's Kingdom. Trust in the power of the Gospel ... that hidden power of God as you go forth and plant the seed. Amen.
Duration: 21 minutes and 56 seconds
Country: United States
Producer: R & M
Posted by: hischild on Jun 28, 2012
Rev. Jim Sherod, former missionary to Japan, shares God's Word with us on Sunday, June 24, 2012, from the pulpit of Zion in Torrance, CA
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