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Who Are You Sharing God's Word With?
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are king or queen. You’ve received a kingdom, you have faithful subjects, but there are renegade or rebel forces scattered throughout the domain of your kingdom. How would you go about bringing everything in your kingdom into subjection under your reign?
My first inclination would be to raise a massive military force and beat those rebels into the ground. Maybe a less violent approach would be to play the political game and leverage diplomacy and political compromise to endear the rebels to get what they want and still honor your reign.
You’d probably laugh if you were seriously advised, “just say you rule! Tell those rebels you’re the king, and they will repent of their treason and love and follow you.” That doesn’t work…
Or does it?
In Mark 4, Jesus has been teaching the crowds in parables about His kingdom and reign—specifically, making a significant point about how His reign will spread. To set up the particular of that, though, Jesus gives an illustration to get this into our hearts. In vv. 21-23, he tells us a lamp doesn’t come into a room to be concealed. Instead, it’s put up on a stand to shine its light. In the same way, you don’t play a game of hide-and-seek by hiding something without intending to reveal it later. Jesus identifies Himself as the lamp “coming into a room” and the secret that will be revealed and “come to light.”
His point is that through the proclaiming or sharing of Him as King, the kingdom of God will advance in this world. It seems counter-intuitive to how things work in the world today, but Jesus is calling His followers to participate in the advance of His kingdom by putting the lamp on the stand and letting the light shine. Or, in other words, sharing His Word with the world around us.
But how do we do that well?
And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” – Mark 4:24-25
Now, Jesus has already said that He is the lamp that will shine. He is the secret that was once hidden and is now being brought to light. His word is the message that is going out into all the world, and we should pay much attention to it (vv. 21-23). But before He moves on to laying out how we should go about sharing the word, Jesus invites us to consider how the word works in our own lives. This principle is about the depth of our own hearing and the participation of the word in our own lives.
In this passage, Jesus is exhorting His disciples to “pay attention to what you hear.” That is, listen up! Give extra effort and discipline to listening to and examining the word of God. What Jesus is calling His followers to is to give deeper attention to His word. If we will through faith and obedience pay much closer attention to the word, we will find greater impact of it in our lives.
This does not mean that every one of us should go to seminary and get a master’s degree in theology. There are far too many who think more Bible knowledge equals more holiness. The problem is that we can know truth and not live truth. Christians should not be what I call “theological bobble-head dolls” who are full of intellectual knowledge about God, without experiential knowledge of God: all head, no heart, no hands. What it does mean is that we should be intently listening to, believing, and obeying God’s Word. Everyone can do that! This is an attitude of our hearts. When we hear Jesus’ word preached, do we run off and forget or even worse ignore it? Or do we seek to understand it, believe what was said, and actually obey what we’ve been taught and share it with others?
Jesus continues in verses 26-29,
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
One of the tensions for pastors, Christian missionaries, and those in professional work of teaching the word of God is that we want to see results right away! I think about William Carey who labored in India for seven years before having one convert. If he was a pastor in America today, we’d think of him as highly ineffective, and he probably wouldn’t have a job with a church. We’d critique his methods of ministry and deem him a failure.
Yet, Jesus has made it clear that the sharing of the Gospel word is the methods by which His kingdom advances. So, Jesus, here in this parable, lays out the principle of sharing that fights discouragement, disillusionment, and even deviation from the faithful sharing of the gospel word. The sower “scatters seed on the ground.” Then, just like in farming, a waiting period comes.
The surprise for Jesus’ audience is that they thought the kingdom of God would come all at once, in very visible and dramatic ways. “The expectation was that God’s kingdom would arrive suddenly and all at once, either by a political uprising, that is, the reestablishment of Israel’s theocracy, or at the time of the last judgment, thereby replacing the present eon.” Jesus’ vantage point is that the kingdom comes through the faithful, ordinary, long-term sharing of the word of God in the world.
If Jesus’ reign advances through the shared word, then we know how to see the kingdom of God advance in the world. It’s a calling to every Christian, every follower of Jesus, to be “sowers” of the Gospel in our lives.
So maybe the question isn’t how will you go about sharing the message of king Jesus. It’s to whom? Who is your “one”—the friend, neighbor, co-worker, family member, client, or associate that you are deeply, faithfully, and in ordinary even small ways sharing the word of Jesus’ reign with?
Let’s not hide the light under a basket, or keep the secret hidden, but let’s put Jesus up on the stand and allow his light to shine for all to see.