The Living Word Sprouts Life! (Mark 4:26-29)
We find ourselves again this morning in the midst of the series of parables on the kingdom of God. Verses 26-29 are going to be our focus today where Jesus speaks a parable about seed. Within Christ’s teaching here we are going to be shown the answer to the question:
How does the church grow?
Today may our thinking be reproved and corrected in accordance with the Scripture alone.
We live in a time where there are a number of resources that provide steps for “church growth”. Many of them are pragmatic in nature. Pragmatism has a sincere desire to connect with the lost and unchurched; however, there is no room in the Scripture for pragmatism in regards to church growth.
What is pragmatism? Pragmatism, by definition, is “the doctrine that truth is the verification of a prediction and that the value of any concept is determined by the result.”
In other words, if you set out to do something and it works it is good; if it doesn’t work it is not good. By its definition and practice: Pragmatic thinking is postmodern at its core.
Postmodernism teaches there is no absolute truth; truth is merely subjective to the individual.
When it comes to church growth pragmatism says, “What works for one church to grow may not work for others to grow.” In essence, “You need to find what works for you.”
How will you know it works? You grow numerically!
That is subjective truth, and not objective.
It looks at Christ’s church as a business rather than a living breathing organism manifested as His body.
Three of the most prominent pragmatic teachers who have impacted the church today are: Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley and Rick Warren. We will discuss their teachings tonight. As a shepherd, I warn you to avoid their teachings, for they weaken and distort the church.
How? Pragmatism is postmodern at its core!
Postmodernism, the very doctrine that declares the death of truth has subtly crept into the church, which is to be the pillar and support of the truth! Pragmatism is a plague that has ravaged Christ’s church for decades now. Every single one of us has been impacted by it. May pragmatic thinking be purged from among us! When this occurs we will find great comfort, encouragement and purpose in the Scripture alone.
Within the pragmatic mindset you are the builder of the church by discovering methods that work best.
Rick Warren boldly says,
“God expects both faithfulness and fruitfulness (Numerical Increase)…God expects to see results (Numerical Increase)…I contend that when a church continues to use methods that no longer work (Numerical Increase), it is being unfaithful to Christ!”
Based on Warren’s teaching throughout The Purpose Driven Church:
Who is the builder? You are!
What is the method? Whatever works for you!
It is imperative we answer this next question:
What does the Scripture teach regarding builder and method of the church?
Listen to Jesus’ words in Matthew:
“13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ 14 And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ 15 He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ 17 And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not over power it.’”
Based on Christ’s words:
Who is the builder of the church? Christ is!
What is His method? The light of the gospel alone!
There is but One builder and one method: The Christ and His gospel! Jesus Christ builds His church by the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the lost through the proclamation of His gospel message alone.He does this through His church, which is why He commands each and every one of us:
“15…Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.”
It is not a matter of trying different methods; it is a matter of faithfulness to Christ’s alone. Understand Christ’s method will not always produce vast numerical results among a church.
Why is this? Men hate the light of Christ’s gospel!
As we recall, however, the light of the living Word is the only One capable of imparting life! Therefore, the true church of Christ is built by Him and His life giving Word! Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ!
This is exactly what we see within this parable!
“26 And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. 29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’”
Let’s take a closer look at these verses:
“26 And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know.”
We are presented with a man sowing seed on soil. This is not practical gardening tips. There is a very clear spiritual message. You may recall Jesus’ words when He taught the parable of the soils and provided the key:
“13…’Do you not understand this parable? And how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word…15 the word which was sown in them.”
What is the seed? The Living Word of God!
What is the soil? The heart of the hearer!
Let’s now consider three things about this parable:
1.) This parable is not about different soils. Though this soil is clearly good by virtue of the fact it bears fruit.
2.) This parable is not about being a good sower. Though the man faithfully uses seed where it is intended to be used.
3.) This parable demonstrates the exclusivity of the Word of God alone in the production of eternal life!
By the way, only those who have eternal life make up the true church of Christ. Think on this: God is not fooled by churches who manipulate attendance by means other than His gospel. Pragmatic thinking says, “You’ve got to figure out how to get them in the door first.” Scripture says, “No! You need to go and proclaim to them The Only Door, The Christ; Who was crucified and risen again.” Teach them The Word in the flesh!
Let’s look at verses 26-28 again as a whole and get some questions answered about this man’s seed growing ability:
““26 And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; 27 and goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts up and grows – how, he himself does not know. 28 The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head.”
It is clearly emphasized that apart from sowing the seed, this man plays absolutely no part in its growth:
1.) He goes to sleep accomplished.
2.) He awakes in ignorance.
He does nothing to promote growth!
What does he understand? In order for there to be a crop, seed must be sown in the soil. So for a church gathering to grow in number the life giving word must be sown exclusively in hearts! It must also be noted that in order for a church gathering to grow spiritually the life giving word must also been sown exclusively in believing hearts!
Peter clearly demonstrates both of these:
1 Peter 1:23-2:3
“23 For you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God. 24 For, ‘ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, 25 BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ABIDES FOREVER.’ And this is the word which was preached to you. 1 Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 If you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
God’s Word will always accomplish His purpose! God says through Isaiah the prophet:
“So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”
Look at this final part:
“29 But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In other words he enjoys the harvest!
Notice, there are only two things the man does:
1.) Faithfully sows the seed.
2.) Eagerly enjoys the harvest of which he played no part in producing
How do we enjoy the harvest?
1.) Faithfully proclaim the Living Word!
2.) Eagerly gather with the new creatures God creates through His word!
Just as it was by His word everything was created out of nothing, so it will be by His word that old creatures will become new ones in Christ.
Be faithful to Christ’s method of building, for He alone is the builder of His church. He has promised that when He builds hell will not be able to prevail against it!
This should bring comfort and encouragement to all of us, because it means we do not have to frantically run around trying out new methods. Our purpose is to faithfully walk in His!
It is said a seed must die in order to produce life. Within this parable we see the Living Word alone being planted and producing life. Consider what Christ, The Living Word, did for us in order to produce life:
1.) He Stepped down from His throne and humbled Himself by becoming a Man obedient unto death!
2.) He took our sins upon Himself while being nailed to the cross despising its shame!
3.) As our sins were laid on Him the Father forsook His only begotten Son and poured out on Him the divine wrath we all deserve.
4.) Jesus, The Word, substituted His life for ours. The innocent died in the place of the guilty!
5.) By The Living Word’s bloody death our sins have been atoned for, so we can be forgiven through faith!
6.) Not only can we experience forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ’s work on the cross; but also eternal life in His resurrection! Since He lives eternally, we too shall live!
The Living Word has commissioned us to take the very message that imparted life to us, and to proclaim it among the lost and dying world.
May we worship God as He sprouts life among the lost through the Living Word being faithfully sown among their hearts by His Church!
 New Twentieth Century Dictionary: Unabridged, Noah Webster; Pragmatism: Page 1324
 1 Timothy 3:15
 The Purpose Driven Church: Growth Without Compromising Your Message & Mission, Rick Warren; Page 64-65
 John 3:18-21
 Romans 10:17