Monthly Archives: October 2014

Do You Have Ears to Hear and Understand? Afterthoughts on Mark 4:1-20

We plowed through Mark 4:1-20 yesterday and a whole lot more could have been explained and proclaimed. Therefore I wanted to give a brief synopsis of the sermon and provide a few extra comments from John MacArthur and Jonathan Edwards. I hope you will take five minutes and serious consider and digest what is being said.

A Mark 4:1-20 Synopsis

The big idea of the text is that Jesus is using a parable to compare the crowds with fruit-bearing disciples. The crowds are interested in the show – the signs and miracles – but they ultimately reject the teaching of Jesus and bear no fruit. They reject the truth that Jesus has already explained and proclaimed, and because they reject what has already been said to them, they will get no more (Mark 4:9-12, 25). They are hard of heart and are not true disciples.

There are three non-producing soils – the hard soil, the rocky and shallow soil and the weed-infested and crowded soil. They all look different but they all produce the same result: no harvest! The sower would have considered his time and effort a complete failure if the seed only landed in these soils, because they produce nothing of lasting value. There is only one soil that produces a harvest. It is fertile and supernatural. This is the kind of soil that produces a crop that is truly of the Kingdom. John MacArthur says, “There is no such thing as a fruitless Christian.” See Galatians 5:16-26.

MacArthur and Edwards Commentary

The quote/unquote Christian church is full of all kinds of people who believe in Jesus Christ. the devils believe, James 2:19, devil faith. But it’s about holy hatred of sin. It’s about brokenness. It about self-denial. It’s about repentance. Charles Spurgeon said, “There are people who come forward under an emotional appeal and then immediately go backward into their sin. They go into the inquiry room (walk an aisle) and get converted in five minutes and have nothing to do with godliness the rest of their lives.” It’s always the temptation of the church to cheapen evangelism and all it does is create superficiality. Look, false converts are going to happen any way, aiding and abetting them is not acceptable.  Dr. John MacCarthur

“If someone’s confession of the Christ doesn’t come from a deep inner contrition, a broken and contrite heart, a desire to be delivered from sin and come under the holy Lordship of Jesus Christ in a life of self-denial and sacrifice and service and even suffering, the you have no root…you have no root…” John MacArthur

“A holy life of holy love is the chief sign of grace.” Jonathan Edwards

A little tension from a Jonathan Edwards quote: “The true saints may be guilty of some kinds and degrees of backsliding, may be foiled by particular temptations, and fall into sin, yea great sins; but they never fall away so as to grow weary of religion and the service of God, and to habitually dislike and neglect it, either on its own account or on account of the difficulties that attend it.”

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7 Ways Core Groups Can Cultivate a Culture of Evangelism

We are already a week removed from a six-week sermon series on speaking of Jesus (Evangelism), and overall I was very encouraged by the response and continue to be encouraged when I hear of people who are investing and wanting to invest in others to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I am convinced that many people in our church want to know the joy of testifying about our Lord and Savior.

And while we will continue to hear about the life-changing gospel as we work our way through Mark for the next six months, there won’t be the singular, weekly emphasis on proclaiming the gospel. This is a cause of concern for me because I know that most good and Godly things in life don’t happen by accident. Rather they happen when we discipline ourselves for the purpose of Godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). Evangelism, like many aspects of the Christian life, is a discipline and a discipline is something we determine to do, when we ordinarily would not do it. It is easy to sit on the couch and watch the Biggest Loser. It is quite another thing to regularly exercise. One is easy and the other is not easy and requires discipline. Evangelism is a joy-bringing discipline that we have to determine to do – or most of us simply won’t.

We were not meant to follow Christ and love others alone. We need the help of other brothers and sisters to spur us toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25). One way we can encourage the discipline of evangelism is through consistent reminders when our Core Groups meet.

However, I want to offer a word of caution. Well-meaning efforts could frustrate, discourage and alienate those we are trying to help. If the same question is asked every week and the results are the same, we might discover we are hurting more than helping; we are frustrating more than inspiring. We must aim to inspire speaking of Jesus, but we must do it in a humble and varied ways.

Here are 7 ways to regularly inspire and stir others up to speak of Jesus.

  1. As a leader, determine to consistently bring up evangelism in your Core Group. Ask someone who shares leadership with you to hold you accountable to do it faithfully.
  2. Ask your group if any of them have attempted to share the gospel since you last met. I would not ask this question every week, especially if you are getting the same result from the same people. Start here but vary the approach.
  3. Ask someone in your group to briefly explain the gospel as though they were going to share it with someone they were investing in. This is a more subtle way to remind your group that they should be sharing the gospel with others.
  4. Ask someone in your group too briefly share the story of how the gospel changed their life. Again, this reminds people that they should want for others what they themselves have received.
  5. Ask your group members to share who it is they are trying to speak of Jesus with so that the group can pray for opportunity and boldness.  Then pray for them and ask about them regularly.
  6. As a leader, model for the group the ability to admit failures in sharing the gospel. Be honest when you are not speaking of Jesus. Explain missed opportunities. Express desires to want to speak boldly of Jesus. Ask the group to pray for courage and clarity.
  7. Identify and joyfully celebrate successes. Obedience is success and there is joy in obedience (John 15:11). When someone works up the courage to invite someone to read the Bible. Celebrate it. Even when they are rejected, or the response is uncertain. Celebrate it.  When someone shares the whole gospel with someone. Celebrate it. Good intentions are not obedience, but sometimes we need to encourage and celebrate right desires that lead to obedience.

A warning: Be careful that this does not turn into a time of self-righteousness or a brag-fest, but also keep in mind we have all heard that what gets celebrated gets done.

What are some others ways to encourage the discipline of evangelism in your small group? We won’t cultivate a ongoing culture of evangelism if our Core Group Leaders fail to prayerfully and carefully encourage the discipline of speaking of Jesus.