Alfred Place Baptist Church

4:21-25 Consider Carefully What You Hear

Mark 4:21-25 “He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued. ‘With what measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”

The authorities in Jerusalem were very interested in the reports that were coming to them from Galilee concerning the outbreak of a new religious movement. Its message seemed to be that a new kingdom was going to be set up. So agents were sent to the north of the country, to the lakeside to listen to what the Lord Jesus was proclaiming. In the report they brought back later they confirmed that thousands were going to hear Christ. “What’s his message?” Well, when they heard him he was talking about . . . a farmer. “Farmers? Was this Jesus rousing the farmers about Roman taxation, and the need for the land to be free again? Did he say that he’d certainly be taking his stand against Caesar?” No; it was nothing like that. They’d heard Jesus tell them about an ordinary farmer sowing seed; some fell on the path, some fell on stony ground, some fell among the thorns where the wheat was choked by the weeds, and some fell on good ground which produced a crop. It was a bit like a story. “What else?” “Nothing else.” “Nothing else?” “Nothing about the farmer.” “Who was the farmer?” “He didn’t say.” “That’s all that he said?” “Yes.” Well, you couldn’t arrest a man for talking about a farmer sowing seed, could you? It was all very perplexing.

The Lord Jesus deliberately preached in this esoteric way, by kingdom parables, to the mixed multitude of curious and sick people and his enemies, but later he drew his own followers aside and explained lucidly to them the meaning of this story about the sower so that it is not a great mystery to us. Jesus has spelled out its interpretation in some detail for the church. He’s made his teaching spectacularly clear to us. The seed is the word, and the different soils in which the word falls are the various lives of the men and women listening to the preacher. This is how the kingdom of God is going to spread, by the word, and there’s going to be a variety of responses. People who once looked so promising as joyful converts were going to end up being killed by the weeds of the world system. Judas Iscariot himself was one of those, while others like Peter and John were going to be wonderfully fruitful. This is always how it is going to be until the end of the age.

In our text Jesus is clarifying his method in preaching parables, and making sure that we don’t misunderstand his reason in speaking like this or abuse it ourselves. There are four things that I want to draw your attention to:

1. THERE ARE NO ‘RIDDLES’ IN THE CHRISTIAN TEACHING.

“He said to them, ‘Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear” (vv.21-23). The Lord Jesus doesn’t want his disciples to be confused as to why he was telling parables. It was simply a stratagem which he was employing at this time when his enemies wanted any excuse to arrest him as a criminal and throw him into prison. Christ used these mysterious parables in particular when he preached about one aspect of his ministry – what kind of kingdom he was setting up and what kind of king he was. He could teach this unpalatable truth so that men could hear it and think about it long before they actually understood what had entered their consciousness. So he caught them with holy guile. Jesus developed this way of preaching these necessary truths to the Jews. People who wouldn’t have listened – if he had told them plainly what his kingdom was like – would listen to his stories of a lost son, and a good Samaritan, and a pearl of great price, and a man digging a hole and finding treasure. They heard the unpalatable truth and it had lodged in a memory cell in their brains almost before they were aware that it had stuck there. His opening words would be, “Today I am going to tell you what the kingdom of God is like.” A hush came over the congregation, and then, to their surprise, they heard those unforgettable stories – we can remember a minister’s illustrations in a sermon more than his teaching. What would the zealot make of the parable of the sower? What would the Jerusalem theologians make of the parables? Even the disciples could make little of them; the rest were baffled.

However, when Jesus preached the law of God to them and their need of repentance then he was totally straightforward. When he sent his disciples out to preach then they also preached repentance and faith in the Lord, but, when he preached about being a King and setting up a kingdom then he used parables. The Lord had years of work before him, and so he stuck his unforgettable kingdom parables like fishhooks right into the memories of his congregations. They couldn’t immediately understand the meaning, but then a few years later, after Pentecost, when Spirit-filled preachers came again to Galilee and told them that Christ was Jehovah Jesus, God in the flesh and exalted king of the universe, then the parable of the sower and all the other parables would become lucid. Those open to the truth understood them, while those not open to the truth didn’t understand.

Now our Lord is underlining a crucially important point in out text when he tells his disciples that they are to put their lamps on a stand and not hide them away. It is that they mustn’t be led astray by the fact that occasionally he told mysterious parables. The Christian religion isn’t full of enigmas; not at all. It isn’t what we might call an esoteric religion. It is rational. It answers questions. It gives meaning. Other religions and philosophies boast that they don’t give answers. They brag that that they don’t have the light, because, they say, no one has the light. Hinduism has a well-known saying, “The gods love the obscure, and hate the obvious.” A leading Taoist, Lao-tse, says, “Those who know do not speak. Those who speak do not know.” He asks meaningless questions as if they were profound, such as, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Buddhism prides itself in being a cryptic religion without answers because no answers exist. There was a Japanese poet named Issa at the beginning of the 19th century. His life was very sad. All his five children died before he was thirty and then his wife died. He went to the Zen master and he asked him an explanation for such suffering. The master told him, “The world is all dew. The sun rises and the dew evaporates, so on the wheel of suffering sorrow is transient, life is transient, man is transient.” He told Isis that he had to get over the selfish egoism of grief. “The world is dew.” The early church had to do battle with philosophies like that. Metrodorus, the fourth century Greek philosopher said that there are only two things that man could know: “None of us knows anything, not even when we know or do not know, nor do we know whether knowing and not knowing exist, nor in general whether there is anything or not.” That is the world without the Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

It is not far from our own civilisation. We are seeing the rise of Hinduism in a western form. Christians in the post-modern world of the 21st century have to do battle with relativism. In one of Jules Feiffer’s cartoons there is a man called Arthur trying to educate his girl-friend in the enigmas of life without truth or righteousness and without any answers. The dialogue goes like this:

Arthur: There is no truth.
Girl-friend: That’s true.
Arthur: That’s not true. If there is no truth, nothing is true. Listen to what I am saying
Girl-friend: I am listening. Everything is a lie.
Arthur: Nothing’s a lie. If there is no truth, how are we supposed to know what is a lie and what isn’t? Lies are beside the point!
Girl-friend: I know . . . we don’t know anything.
Arthur: How do you know that we don’t know anything when not knowing is the opposite of knowing and if we don’t know anything then we also don’t know that we don’t know anything!
Girl-friend: No matter what I say it’s wrong.
Arthur: How can you be wrong, if you’d listen to what I’ve been saying, you’d see that there is neither right nor wrong.
Girl-friend: Why are you so angry with me, Arthur?
Arthur: I’m not angry! With all I’ve just said don’t you realize that there is no such thing as anger!
Girl-friend: But you haven’t stopped yelling at me since we got engaged.
Arthur: Is that all the thanks I get when all I’m trying to do is make you bright enough for me to marry you?

That is amusing but it is a picture of despair. That cartoon is saying men and women cannot live on that plane because it denies what every fibre of our being calls for – abiding values to live for, rationality, meaning, communication, significance, dignity, worth. Nietzsche the apostle of such nihilism ended up in an asylum. Hemingway took his own life. Kafka lived a life of terrible tedium writing novels that boil down to the cry, “God is dead! God is dead! Surely he is, isn’t he? God is dead! Oh I wish, I wish, I wish he weren’t”

That cartoon dialogue shows us the dilemma of modern man who has abolished truth, who says that there is no light. The only interpretation of his own life that he possesses is his own experience. He has nothing at all outside his life that can shed some light on his existence and help him to understand its meaning. He is like a person going into a cinema and discovering that the film started half an hour earlier, and then having to leave twenty minutes before it ends. The meaning of the film can be derived only from that bit which we’ve experienced as we sat in the darkness and watched it. The total framework is missing, and so the whole experience is confusing. We need the beginning as well as the end to give us true understanding, and we need some certainty that the knowledge we have of the beginning and the ending is real, and then there can be meaning.

That is what we have in the Bible in the books of Genesis and in Revelation. Where did the universe come from? The answer’s in Genesis. Who or what made everything? The answer’s in Genesis. How long did it take God to create everything? The answer’s in Genesis. Why is there marriage? The answer’s in Genesis. Why do we wear clothes? The answer’s in Genesis. Why do we have fossils? The answer’s in Genesis. Why do we speak different languages? The answer’s in Genesis. Why is there death and suffering? The answer’s in Genesis. Then we can look forward and ask, what lies after death? The answer’s in Revelation. What is heaven like? The answer’s in Revelation. What will we do in heaven? The answer’s in Revelation. What is hell like? The answer’s in Revelation. What will happen just before the end of the world? The answer’s in Revelation. What will happen at the end of the world? The answer is in Revelation. What will the day of judgment be like? The answer’s in Revelation. You have the whole framework of knowledge to live by in the Bible and you can fit into it, but without that we are doomed to live perpetually in the twilight zone.

Our Lord Jesus is concerned that his disciples don’t listen to his fascinating parables and then start to think that Christianity is rather esoteric, and so try to talk in parables themselves. It is easy to do. We were walking on the miles of sand on Ynyslas beach last month and I was thinking about this text, reading Warfield’s sermon on it while Iola was collecting shells. It was so easy to think of a parable: “A woman went collecting seashells. She collected 7 brown shells, and 9 white shells, but she did not collect any black shells. Then when the sun went down she threw all the seashells into the sea.” End of parable. What does it mean? Unless you give meaning to the shells and the colours and the collector then it doesn’t mean anything at all . . . but it could be the one part of this sermon that some of you will remember. It doesn’t mean a thing like that. How dangerous for Peter to listen to these parables and to think, “This is preaching!” That was the risk Christ had taken in telling parables. So that is why he earnestly tells them firmly in our text to set their lights on a stand to illuminate the room.

Of course, you have to balance that with the fact that Christ has been very plain with the people so far whether speaking in homes, or from a boat, or in the synagogues. So to the twelve who are his disciples and friends he makes sure that he explains to them the simple meaning of the parables. He is insistent that they are not left confused. “Illumination must always be the goal of your teaching,” he is telling them. Peter learned the lesson well didn’t he? In his four sermons in the book of Acts and in his two letters he doesn’t tell a single parable. They were a device suited for a certain time in redemptive history.

Jesus’ teaching is a lamp, and a lamp has only one single end and that is to shine the light. Parables are also light from heaven, Jesus is saying that; but it is later on that their light is going to shine. At this particular period, with spies in every gathering, some truths needed a temporary protection. The understanding of the crowds by the lake was weak, and his enemies were there, so the truth was spoken under the veil of parables, but this was in order that soon it could be revealed. Jesus is making it plain in our text that there is to be no crypticism and no apocryphalism allowed in Christianity. “I don’t what you to think that being mysterious and enigmatic is the mark of divine religion,” Jesus is saying to the disciples. The coming of the gospel is like someone bringing a lamp into a room and putting it on a stand so that its light fills the place. The meaning of these initially mysterious parables is intended to be known. “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open” (v.22).

Listen to these words of Stuart Olyott: “Have you ever been so struck by something you have read in a book that you have said to yourself, ‘My life will never be the same again’? This is what happened to me as I read chapter 16 of ‘The Incomparable Christ’ by Oswald J. Sanders. The chapter is entitled ‘The Teaching of Christ’ and it refers to James H. McConkey who, says Sanders, ‘pointed out that there was a threefold method in our Lord’s flawless teaching.’ And what was it? It was to State – Illustrate – Apply. Those three words changed my whole understanding of how preaching was to be done” (Stuart Olyott, “Ministering Like the Master,” Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 2003, p.2). Stuart Olyott is emphasising my first point, that there were no riddles in the teaching of Jesus. He stated the truth, illustrated the truth and applied the truth to his hearers and we must do the same. Let us develop this in our second point:

2. LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE MEN.

So first of all in our text Christ is declaring something of great importance to us, that there are no riddles in Christianity, and then he presses an urgent exhortation upon us: “let your light shine before men.” Those are the Lord Jesus’ precise words in the Sermon on the Mount. That command is laid on the disciples with great vigour and given a place of unmistakable priority. The Lord began that Sermon by going through the beatitudes, and then he says to his followers, “Now live like that. You are the light of the world. Let your light shine!” So also here in Mark 4 he has told them the parable of the man sowing the word of God, and he is exhorting them to be like him. Scatter the word far and wide, or to change the metaphor, let the light you’ve got shine forth. Or you can change the metaphor again; a city set on a hill – everyone can see it. That’s the kingdom of God. Or you can go to the hill of ascension where you will hear Jesus saying plainly, “Teach men to observe whatsoever I have commanded you.” Everywhere in the New Testament there is this stress on the openness and accessibility of the gospel.

There were mystery religions in the first century and only a special elite would be invited to join, descending a staircase into a dark vault, and going through scary initiation ceremonies to become a devotee of this god, and then they had to keep all the mysteries oaths and symbols and rites a secret – on penalty of death. It is not to be like that in Christianity. Even these parables shall one day be preached from the housetops. That is why Christ has given them. They are not to be permanently unclear but rather the very reverse, and so, one day – for example two thousand years later – in a church on the Irish Sea in Wales, a hundred people would benefit from the parable of the sower.

Do you understand that in speaking in parables the Lord Jesus was not suppressing the truth? Rather this was a way of teaching the truth despite the threat of spies, and prison, and death. Christ is not yielding to pressure from men to speak in parables; he is triumphing over men. This is the commission he gives to us; Put your lamp on a stand and fill the place with that light. There was a man who joined the army and when he came home a year later some of his friends in church asked him was it difficult being a Christian in the army. “No, it wasn’t difficult,” he said. They were puzzled, ” . . . not difficult?” He said, “I haven’t told them I’m a Christian.” That is an option Christ has not given us. “Don’t hide your light under a bowl or a bed. Put it on its stand,” Jesus says. When you quench your light you are not imitating Jesus. You only imitate him when, in spite of opposition, you find a way to make your voice heard, and the truth with which you are charged becoming a power among them. Silent – Christ was not; compromising – Christ was not. He was inventive in how he brought the word of God to bear upon the people facing him.

Now there are some even in our congregation who are being given a gift to preach the word of God in areas that know little of the Light of the world. God be with them always! I have recently been learning something about John Hunt of Lincolnshire, a ploughboy, who when he was 17 years of age (in 1829) heard the gospel in a Methodist meeting, was converted, educated himself, and went to a Wesleyan Theological College. Then in 1838 he went to Fiji for ten years, preaching powerfully; he sparked a revival in 1845, translated the Bible and then became very ill in 1848. The Fijian preachers gathered around his bed and prayed for him: “Lord, spare Thy servant; take ten of us, but spare him.” John Hunt died there aged 36. His last words were, “Lord, save Fiji!” He hadn’t been a Christian twenty years. He lit up Fiji! Some of you are called to take the light of Christ to today’s twilight zones.

But all of us are to shine for him where we are. Let me say one word about personal evangelism which might encourage us and not increase our sense of failure. A number of us have to learn what the Holy Spirit says in 1 Thessalonians 2:8 where Paul says, “we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” Christ has freed us from the dominion of sin to be authentic human beings. It is not just a message we communicate to others but ourselves. People are judging us for that. Let me illustrate it like this: a non-Christian rugby player was talking to a friend of mine who is minister in South Wales who had been witnessing to him. He mentioned a very evangelistic sportsman he had met and asked the minister, “But is he real?” In other words, “Is what I see and hear genuine? Is he giving me his life as well as his message? He is sharing words with me but am I seeing his total life? Is he hiding himself from me?” If you are not involved in Christ as a whole complete person you will see evangelism as a ‘project’ instead of a lifestyle, and you will tend to see non-Christians more as ‘objects’ of our evangelistic efforts than as authentic persons.

You can ask a Christian student if she feels comfortable about evangelism. “Oh, yes!” she can respond. “I do it twice a week.” She is talking about “Tea and Toast” late at night when the college bar and dance are over, and Christians give out coffee and talk to people the worse for wear because of drinking too much beer, and then there are also the lunch-time meetings in the College chapel. That’s great. They are both examples of biblical grass-roots evangelism, but somehow her form of reply – “I do it twice a week” – is not judicious. It sounds more like taking multiple vitamins. Evangelism isn’t just something you “do” – out there – and then get back to normal living. Evangelism involves taking people seriously, getting across to their island of concerns and needs, and then as you pray in secret, bringing Christ as the light of the world to light up their natural living situations.

We have to be realistic with them about our own limping staggering walk with the Son of God. Sometimes we have difficulty in believing that God is glorified in our utter humanity; we want to offer a well-oiled spiritually programmed response. We cover up some basic struggles thinking we won’t sound spiritual if we reveal them. But in doing this we forfeit our most important asset in evangelism, ourselves – the real persons we are. A consciousness of our weakness can drive us to God, and that’s the strongest place to be, asking God for help. You bring the light of your humanness into every situation and relationship, and then you ask for the illumination of the word and the Spirit on actions, and silences, and listenings, and words, and deeds. That is a very important way that you let your own light – and no one else’s – shine before men. Not to accept our humanness means we lose a point of authentic contact with our neighbours. Followers of the man Christ Jesus, of all people, should be ready to present to the world what it means to be truly human. We don’t parade our inward sins before other people. Let there be modesty in our testimony, but we needn’t cloak our authentic humanity. Jesus says here, “whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” You consider how at times Paul writes in letters about his own discouragement, his failure to do good, and his readiness to do evil and what a wretched man he is. Every Christian feels the same, but so few will acknowledge such frailty because they think it’s a poor witness. Sometimes Christians seem to fear their own humanity more than they desire other people come to true regeneration. As we develop a growing relationship with Jesus we can see that it is not our humanity we need to escape from. Our nervousness as we evangelise – men and women, we are trying to cast the light of God into someone’s life! is not a weakness. That human fear is an indispensable asset. It saves us from glibness. So let your own particular light shine. Raise it high on its stand.

3. CONSIDER CAREFULLY WHAT YOU HEAR.

“‘If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Consider carefully what you hear,’ he continued” (v.24). All of us preachers have got little phrases that we repeat too frequently to our hearers’ irritation. My apologies. But if a phrase is on the lips of the Lord Jesus very often then it should makes us pause and ask why. It is obviously very important, and we discover that Jesus says these words of verse 23 very often, in fact at the end of each of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor recorded in Revelation 2 and 3 after all those letters’ great encouragements and rebukes, you meet these words: “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” They suggest to us that we can possess a physiological sense of hearing so excellent that we can hear the proverbial pin drop, but spiritually and inwardly the ears of our hearts and souls are hearing nothing. Like Judas who heard all the Sermon on the Mount and yet heard nothing. The Lord Jesus is saying, “Listen! Listen carefully so that your life may be affected by what you hear.”

There’s a lady and she is always talking about the ways she believes God speaks to her. He tells her to phone a friend, or to turn on the radio, or to go shopping, or to pray for someone, or to find a parking place down the next street, or to take even more bizarre actions. She feels that her life is being led by God in a series of daily hunches. Other Christians are perplexed as they watch her because their only confidence that God is speaking to them is through the Bible, where God says, “Be this sort of mother, or wife, or church member. Listen to these doctrines week by week. Be a member of this sort of New Testament church. Treat your neighbours in this kind of way. Treat your enemies in this sort of way,” and so on. They have more than enough to do in heeding what God tells them there and doing it.

Listening to preaching is important because God speaks by his word. To fail to listen and heed what God says is an insult. In the garden of Eden God spoke, and Satan spoke. Adam listened to them both and he decided to ignore God and to listen to Satan. The issue from the fall of our father Adam right down to today is always the same, are you going to listen to God or someone else? Everybody listening to something. Everybody is following someone. Don’t you see how important it is to do what Jesus says here, “Consider carefully what you hear” (v.24).

The pulpit is a solemn place, where the word of God is proclaimed. Yes. But the pew is also a solemn place, where the word of God is heard. What does the word of God find? Ears that hear? A heart that loves? A will that bows? Or does it find a heart of stone and all kinds of sins? What we are the word of God is going to find. Whatever is hidden will be disclosed. Whatever is concealed will be brought out into the open. Thomas Edwards was a Scottish naturalist and one week he was out collecting insects. He always wore an old jacket with many pockets in which he had many small cardboard boxes where he kept the bugs. One evening he was returning home his pockets filled with these boxes full of insects. Suddenly he was overtaken by a mighty storm. The thunder roared around him and the lightning flashed and it teemed with rain. The water cascaded down from heaven like a bucket held all over him. He was drenched to the skin, but he could see in the distance a farmhouse and he begged the farmer’s wife to let him shelter there until the storm was over. She was very agreeable and put him to dry out in front of the fire. She threw on some dry peat and he was soon steaming away in front of the flames. After 15 minutes she returned to the room, glanced at him, and then screamed. She picked up her broom and drove him out of her kitchen. He look down and saw that the rain had soaked all the cardboard and the hundreds of insects had got out and drawn by the heat of the fire were crawling all over his clothes. He was covered with them from head to foot. So it is when sinners first hear the word of God the Holy Spirit shows them their sins, discloses this one and that one, convicts and condemns him for his darling sins which have been drawn out by the hot preaching of the word of God. What does the word you hear find in your life? Sin? Yes. Abounding sin? Yes, but more than that, abounding grace. Grace that is greater than all my sins.

4. WHAT MEASURE ARE YOU MEASURING LIVES BY?

“With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (v.25). In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord speaks of a man who can spot a speck in someone’s eye from across the other side of a street. “Did you see that?” he says to his friend, “that horrible blemish in that person’s life.” He can find the smallest fault in another person in a moment. But that same man has the most enormous faults of his own – like a plank of wood sticking two feet up in the air coming out of his eye – but he won’t acknowledge that. The Lord Jesus is here warning us that the measure we use to measure the faults of others will be used on us – and even more. You can see the little blemishes on others? Every one of yours will be seen in the day of Christ. Isn’t that enough to be concerned about? Why be troubled about others’ blemishes?

The Lord is using here the picture of weights and measures. Consider this mean-spirited grocer who weighs out the rice and the biscuits in the village shop, and can’t bear to see the needle go above the exact mark for a measure. His nickname in the community is ‘Split-raisin.’ Jesus is saying that that same exact measure which you use to measure the lives of others will be used to measure you in the day of judgment. God will say, “Thou hast been weighed in the balances and found wanting.” He will say that to the professing Christian who never seems to remember the children’s birthdays; he never sends a Christmas card; he never greets others in the street; he puts the bare coin in the Sunday offering; he never offers hospitality; he will never do anything to the joint wall he shares with his next door neighbours; he’ll never offer to do the washing up; he always wants to travel in another’s car, never offering to take his own, and giving nothing towards the petrol, and so on. Aren’t we glad that he doesn’t live next door to us? Take heed Mr. Mean Spirit! With the measure you use, it will be measured to you – and even more.

But there are Christians who are the exact opposite, who measure out so generously money and time and friendship and love and kindnesses and good works. Think of the measuring out in public prayer, and giving to the church, and working with the young people, and doing all the mundane duties that every congregation needs to be done. How impoverished our lives would be without them. With the measure they use, it will be measured to them – and even more. “You did all that to the least of these my brethren and so you did it to me,” the Lord Jesus will say. My niece and her four children were in town last week and a Christian saw them, was overjoyed and thrust a ten pound note into her hand for her and the children. With that measure it will be measured to her in the day of judgment and more for that kindness.

Then Jesus makes a promise: “whoever has will be given more.” You have a forgiving spirit? You will be given more. You have gentleness and patience? You will be given more. You have faithfulness and brotherly kindness and strength? You will be given more. You hope all things, believe all thing and endure all things? You will be given more. You have prayerfulness, an evangelistic concern, victory over the sins that easily beset you? You will be given more. You have a love for the unseen Jesus, a fellowship with the Spirit, and delight in the word of God? You will be given more. You have a concern for the name of Christ, the spread of his kingdom, the salvation of the lost? You will be given more. You have patience in affliction, trust in times of unanswered prayer, peace in sorrow? You will be given more. You have wisdom in relationships, soundness in doctrinal understanding, hunger and thirst for righteousness? You will be given more. That is the inevitable consequence of the indwelling Spirit, and the Father’s determination to transform you into the image of his Son. That is effectual sanctification. That is glorification. Whoever has God will be given more of God, for ever and ever, more and more of the infinite God. “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Cors. 9:6).

Then Jesus ends with a word of solemn warning: “whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (v.25). Today some of you don’t have God as your Father, nor Christ as your Saviour, but you have a merciful Christ in the offer of the gospel. Even that will be taken from you. You have the longsuffering of God checking his anger toward your sins, waiting for you to repent. Even that will be taken from you. You have the tender Spirit restraining you from behaving like a demon. Even that will be taken from you. You have the presence of a hundred Christian people from whom the light of Jesus Christ shines. Even that will be taken from you. You have every good and perfect gift, but even they will be taken from you. You have the privileges of going to the house of God and coming under the influences of the blessed Jesus Christ. Even those will be taken from you. In hell you will have no good thing, and there your worst day on earth will seem like heaven itself.

If the seed of the word is being sown here today, then cry mightily to God that it will enter your prepared heart and that you will be fruitful in Christ’s service, receiving much and giving more and more. If you have ears to hear what we’ve said then please listen and obey! Become a giver and discover the more you give the more you will get to give. The alternative is unthinkable – even what you have will be taken from you. Ask yourself, are these things I am spending my life for of any consequence in heaven? Do they have any place? Will I be engaged in that in the presence of Jesus Christ? Then why spend your precious life for something of such little consequence. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Please consider carefully what you have heard today.

4th May 2003 GEOFF THOMAS