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Theology Lesson With Jesus: Theology of Growth

Mark  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  41:19
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Good morning to you where ever you might be watching from. We are so blessed that you would join us this morning and that God has provided such wonderful ways for us to worship Him even when we are separated from one another as we are today. Please open your Bibles with me to Mark 4, Mark 4.
If the events of the last few days and even weeks have driven home any point to us it should be that the world is not getting better. In a recent national debate Democratic Presidential hopeful Joe Biden quoted that there have been 150 million deaths from gun related violence since the year 2007. He overestimated that number a bit - the number is really more like 350,000. What he may (or should) have actually been talking about is the number of abortions that have taken place - between the years of 2007 and 2016 (the last year I could find data for) more than 7 million abortions took place. And yet this tragic sin is celebrated among many in our society. Keith Evans did an admirable job last week talking to us about storms in our lives and just a few days before his sermon a real physical storm hit in Nashville. Now we are all facing another storm which is the reason for our remote worship this morning. And whether we choose to agree with all of the markers or not - one thing is evident this sin-sick world is not getting better.
It is as the 18th century preacher Jonathan Edwards said
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans The World a Dark Place before Dawn

This world is a dark place without Christ, and therefore is dark till he comes, and until his kingdom of glory is set up.

So we as Christians may be tempted in several direction. For some there may be a despair of hope - how long will this continue. Will Christ ever return and how bad do conditions have to be before He does. Maybe you’re tempted to wonder if there’s really anything to look forward to. Maybe conditions tempt you to lose your joy and settle into the life of a bergen - the sad characters from the movie trolls where every day was just one drudgery after another.
The parable we’re going to have the privilege to look at this morning shines like a ray of sunshine on a dreary day. Within these few short verses there is hope for us, and the capacity to restore hope to those who may be wavering if you will allow the Word to wash over you and really see what it has to say to us this morning. Please look with me now at Mark 4 and we’ll be reading verses 30-34.
Mark 4:30–34 CSB
And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use to describe it? It’s like a mustard seed that, when sown upon the soil, is the smallest of all the seeds on the ground. And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the garden plants, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.” He was speaking the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, he explained everything to his own disciples.
The big idea for this morning - and the sure knowledge that I want you to take away from this if you get nothing else, is that we have nothing to fear because the Kingdom of God is going to grow. The proofs that this text give us to demonstrate this irrefutable fact are that the Kingdom demonstrates unexpected growth, assured growth and comprehensive growth. Unexpected growth, assured growth and comprehensive growth.

Unexpected Growth

Jesus continues teaching His disciples using these parables with two rhetorical questions. “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God? Or what parable can we use to describe it? Really these are rhetorical because there really is no comparison that our human mind can make or comprehend to grasp the majesty, the beauty of the Kingdom of God. Even in using this parable to describe it, Jesus presents such a paradox to us that it is difficult, or would be difficult for the first century hearer without access to our modern day commentaries and, to understand exactly what He was getting at. We may be able to glean hints but to really grasp what Jesus is teaching without the luxury of hindsight or the distance that time provides would be impossible.
Mark 4:31 CSB
It’s like a mustard seed that, when sown upon the soil, is the smallest of all the seeds on the ground.
Jesus says that the kingdom is like a mustard seed - the smallest of all the seeds. It is important that we understand that even in the day that Jesus was teaching the mustard seed was not the smallest of seeds. There are several species of orchids that have seeds that are smaller than the mustard seed. The seed of the black mustard plant, a mustard plant grown in present day Israel, measures about 1 mm in length. There is a species of jewel orchid that measures 0.05 mm in length. But the point of the parable is not the accuracy of the size of the seed at the beginning it is the comparable growth that results from the seed. The 1 mm black mustard seed produces a tree that can measure 8 feet tall compared to the jewel orchid that produces a plant a mere 10 inches in height. This point could also have been titled outrageous growth, outrageous growth.
Mark 4:32 CSB
And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the garden plants, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.”
If we were going to plan for the success of an endeavor, such as the growth of the Kingdom of God, and we spent a thousand years and had a thousand of the greatest minds working on this - leadership gurus, church growth specialists, cultural prognosticators - we could never come up with a plan like the one instituted by Christ. And yet - what results. Keep your finger in Mark 4 and flip over to the book of Acts with me. We’re going to be in the book of Acts for a little while during this first point as we look at factors that contributed to this outrageous growth. Start off in Acts 2 verse 41.
Acts 2:41 CSB
So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added to them.
This is on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached and 3000 people were added to the church. Flip over to Acts 4 verse 4
Acts 4:4 CSB
But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
This is incredible growth - it says the number of men came to about 5000 - the total number was probably closer to 10,000. Ten thousand converts in one day - could you imagine. As the Gospel spread the church became known and noticed for the work they were doing. Look at Acts 17:6
Acts 17:6 CSB
When they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city officials, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too,
This is not a phrase that many would apply to the church today. Dr. Steve Lawson has said
“The problem with preachers today is that no one wants to kill them anymore.”
And this is true - there seems to be a disconnect between what we do as a church in our modern context and those who were called out for turning the world upside down. We seem to have lost track of our original mission and the methods that God gave us to implement that mission. First let’s look briefly at the original mission given to the church - turn back with me to the beginning of the book Acts 1:8, Acts 1:8
Acts 1:8 CSB
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
The church was charged to be witnesses to the power of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth - but how were they to accomplish this mission? The rest of the book of Acts reveals to us the methods. First, and you can see it right here in this very verse, they were to be Spirit led. Next they were to be prayer driven and finally they were to be Word focused. Spirit led. Prayer driven. Word focused.

Spirit Led

As we transition through the book of Acts there are four times that the text specifically tells us that the Spirit fell on people. The first is on the day we’ve already referenced, the day of Pentecost when the disciples were still in Jerusalem. You will remember that they were all together in an upper room and a sound like the rushing of wind came in - this is the same wind that Jesus was speaking of when He told Nicodemus in John 3
John 3:8 CSB
The wind blows where it pleases, and you hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
The Spirit blew into that room and filled the disciples with supernatural power.
Acts 2:4 CSB
Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them.
Now I’m not going to get into the issue of tongues in this message - that’s a different message for a different day. But what we can see in this passage and what we’re going to find as were traverse through the next passages is that the Spirit came on the disciples in a mighty way equipping them for ministry and it all started where Jesus told them to minister first - in Jerusalem.
Next He told them that they would be witnesses for Him in all Judea and Samaria. Following the stoning of Stephen in chapter 7, chapter 8 has the disciples scattering across the countryside moving out of Jerusalem into the rest of Judea and Samaria. Phillip travels north to Samaria and there he preaches the Gospel. Conversions begin to happen and word is carried down to Jerusalem that this is taking place. They dispatch Peter and John to Samaria and upon their arrival the Spirit again falls on the people. Look with me at Acts 8 verses 15-17
Acts 8:15–17 CSB
After they went down there, they prayed for them so the Samaritans might receive the Holy Spirit because he had not yet come down on any of them. (They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit not only leads the disciples out into greater regions of ministry but He validates their ministry there by conversion work happening. Charles Spurgeon once said

407The fact is, brethren, we must have conversion work here. We cannot go on as some churches do without converts. We cannot, we will not, we must not, we dare not. Souls must be converted here, and if there be not many born to Christ, may the Lord grant to me that I may sleep in the tomb and be heard of no more. Better indeed for us to die than to live, if souls be not saved.

And the early church demonstrated conversion work - it was the sole focus of their ministry. Yes the cared for one another, yes they provided for one another’s needs but that all came second to conversion work. And they carried it through the Spirit’s power to the ends of the earth as they knew it…Turn to Acts 10:44
Peter is summoned to the house of Cornelius a Roman centurion and a gentile. For Peter to enter the house of a gentile would have been unthinkable. For him he might as well have been going to the ends of the earth. Yet he followed the Spirit’s leading and went and preached the Gospel to Cornelius and his household. Acts 10:44 tells us
Acts 10:44–45 CSB
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came down on all those who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles.
Again just as in Jerusalem and Samaria the Spirit led and validated the ministry and the conversions. But there is still one more instance to look at. Acts 19:5
Read Acts 19:1-6
Acts 19:5–6 CSB
When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in other tongues and to prophesy.
Paul, commissioned by God to be His emissary to the gentiles, witnesses to the Ephesian believers and the Spirit again validates their conversion.
We live in an age in the church where we don’t talk much about the Spirit except maybe in times like now where we use Him as a sort of talisman quoting 2 Timothy 1:7 to say that we don’t have a spirit of fear and so we will stand against the panic related to coronavirus and COVID-19 but when events like this are not taking place we don’t speak of Him at all. In some cases we’re afraid to because the more liberal, charismatic believers talk so much of Him and in ways that He doesn’t even move that we don’t want to be lumped in with them. We don’t want to be associated with fake faith healers who claim to heal the coronavirus through tv screens or with healing ministries that shut their doors this week as the epidemic reaches epic proportions. Instead we seek to work in our own power and our own wisdom and our own guidance. I have just one question for you - how’s that working out for you?
And we’re in this situation because many of us have forgotten the next two principles that the disciples lived in. They were prayer driven and word focused.

Prayer Driven

They were prayer driven. There is not a single ministry initiative that is undertaken in the entire book of Acts that did not begin with prayer. Unlike the growth strategists today who say you should poll a neighborhood and determine what the population there wants in a church and give it to them, the church in Acts started by asking their Father what He wanted from them.
Acts 2:1 CSB
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place.
They were all together but look a little further back with me at Acts 1:14
Acts 1:14 CSB
They all were continually united in prayer, along with the women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.
We could use a little unity in prayer right now with everything that is transpiring. Are you praying for your state and national leaders or just critiquing them on social media? It is very easy to sit back and arm-chair quarterback every decision that leaders have to make right now - especially when you aren’t the one who will be held responsible when decisions aren’t made and bad things happen. Our leaders are in a hard spot because they really can’t win either way. Do nothing and things get worse and we’ll crucify them for doing nothing. Act and we crucify them for making decisions that inconvenience our lives for a few weeks saying they’re panicking. What we should do is log off our social media, log off of the news websites and pray for those who are making decisions during these difficult times.
With all the growth that took place in the early days of the church, there were bound to be challenges. The Apostles faced one early on with how to feed all the widows they were responsible for. Flip over with me to Acts 6
Acts 6:4 CSB
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
If you back it up to verse 3 you will see that the Apostles were laser focused on their mission. They were not going to get distracted from their main purpose. They had learned well the lesson from Jesus that we saw when we looked at the passage in Mark 1 where Jesus went out and spent all night praying after a successful day of ministry in the town of Capernaum. When the disciples found Him the next morning and asked what He thought He was doing out there He said “let’s move on because I have other places to preach”. The Apostles were putting into practice the example of their teacher.
The same singular focus is demonstrated later in Acts as the church in Antioch seeks to send out Paul and Barnabas on a missions trip. Look with me at Acts 13:3
Acts 13:3 CSB
Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.
The early church did nothing without prayer. They were Spirit led, they were prayer driven and this led to them being Word focused.

Word Focused

Look with me again quickly at Acts 6:4. The Apostles early on demonstrated a focus on the ministry of the Word.
Acts 6:4 CSB
But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The modern church could learn a lot from these words. Today we have men in the pulpit who are more interested in giving their ideas and opinions than they are simply preaching the unadulterated Word of God. And that wouldn’t be too bad or objectionable if they would just stop calling themselves preachers. Call themselves motivational speakers or life coaches or something like that - anything but preacher. Worse than those are the ones who take the Word and through some massive gymnastics twist the Word to make it say something it doesn’t and was never meant to say. Three verses from Paul to his young protege Timothy help us understand what we should be doing here.
Turn to 1 Timothy 4:13
1 Timothy 4:13 CSB
Until I come, give your attention to public reading, exhortation, and teaching.
He tells him to give his attention. Stop there for a moment. This entire phrase is summed up in one word in the Greek προσεχω (prosecho) and it is a verb in the present tense. Meaning that this should be the ongoing constant factor in Timothy’s ministry. There is never a time in his ministry that Timothy should ever consider getting away from the Word of God. Paul follows this up with two other charges to Timothy. Look at 2 Timothy 2:15
2 Timothy 2:15 CSB
Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.
And a little further over to 2 Timothy 4:2
2 Timothy 4:2 CSB
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.
This verse has an even greater emphasis when taken in conjunction with 2 Timothy 4:1. These verses should be engraved on every pulpit in America, on every pulpit anywhere and more importantly on the heart of every minister of the Gospel to remind them of the gravity of the Word they are charged with handling. But equally these words should impact anyone who endeavors to share the Gospel as the words, the treasure that you are sharing is not your own - you are merely a steward of these truths on behalf of a greater One who not only allows for outrageous growth in His church but also assures that growth will happen.
Another 18th century evangelist and preacher, John Wesley said
Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and I care not a straw whether they be clergymen or laymen, such alone will shake the gates of hell, and set up the kingdom of heaven upon earth.
Turn back to Mark 4 as we observe a few more things in the text for this morning.

Assured Growth

Mark 4:32 CSB
And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the garden plants, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.”
It comes up is another phrase in the present tense - meaning that it will never stop growing. It’s growth is continuous and unstoppable because the power behind its growth is incomprehensible and unstoppable.

A Person not a Practice

Sometimes we get so caught up in the practice of ministry that we forget Who we are representing in ministry. This applies as easily to the individual Christian as it does to the pulpit. We try and devise sure fire strategies to get a sinner to the Gospel. If I look at him the right way. If I rehearse this script and say it in just the right manner she’ll be open to hearing and then I can lead her in a prayer and pronounce her saved. As Jesus ministered to the nation of Israel they were so caught up in what He was doing that they missed the truth of who He was. Talking to His disciples in Matthew’s Gospel chapter 16 He asks them who the people thought He was. Some said Elijah, some said John the Baptist. But then He gets right to the point.
Matthew 16:15–18 CSB
“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
We could, and we will later in the book of Mark, write an entire sermon on just this confession but it is this confession that provides us the sure assurance this morning that the Kingdom will grow. Christ says I will build my church.
Commenting on this verse Charles Spurgeon said
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Modern Church Christ’s Steadfast Love for the Church

Before the first star was kindled, before the first living creature began to sing the praise of its Creator, he loved his Church with an everlasting love. He spied her in the glass of predestination, pictured her by his divine foreknowledge, and loved her with all his heart; and it was for this cause that he left his Father, and became one with her, that he might redeem her. It was for this cause that he went with her through all this vale of tears, discharged her debts, and bore her sins in his own body on the tree. For her sake he slept in the tomb, and with the same love that brought him down he has gone up again, and with the same heart beating true to the same blessed betrothment he has gone into the glory, waiting for the marriage day when he shall come again, to receive his perfected spouse, who shall have made herself ready by his grace. Never for a moment, whether as God over all, blessed forever, or as God and man in one divine person, or as dead and buried, or as risen and ascended, never has he changed in the love he bears to his chosen.


Do we trust Christ to build His church? Do we really trust in the sufficiency of His Word to make converts? We just saw how the first century church functioned - Christ as the Master Architect uses the tools of Spirit led, prayer driven, Word focused believers to build His Kingdom.
Ephesians 2:21–22 CSB
In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.
No one except the financier of the building project can assure it’s completion. A prime example of this is the national monument of Scotland. Planned in honor of Scotsmen who died in the Napoleonic Wars of the early 1800s, the National Monument of Scotland atop Calton Hill near Edinburgh was intended as a recreation of the Parthenon, but a lack of funding left the building only fractionally complete. The project was priced at £42,000 in 1822, but after they raised only £24,000 the project’s committee was ultimately only able to afford the construction of the monument’s foundation and 12 columns. Construction halted in 1826 and the monument has remained in its unfinished state since. The money ran out and the workers stopped building.
The growth of the church is guaranteed by Christ - He provides all the resources necessary. Even the faithfulness of the workers comes directly from Him.

Guaranteed by a Better Truth?

What greater truth could there be for us this morning than to know that God has everything in control. That His Son is the architect and builder of His church and that we have been included in it. Oh the joy that should engender in our hearts.

Comprehensive Growth

Mark 4:32 CSB
And when sown, it comes up and grows taller than all the garden plants, and produces large branches, so that the birds of the sky can nest in its shade.”
Christ told His disciples they would carry this message, carry the truths of the Gospel to the ends of the earth - and that is what is alluded to in the last phrases here in our passage.

Home for the Nations

Daniel 4:10–12 CSB
In the visions of my mind as I was lying in bed, I saw this: There was a tree in the middle of the earth, and it was very tall. The tree grew large and strong; its top reached to the sky, and it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit was abundant, and on it was food for all. Wild animals found shelter under it, the birds of the sky lived in its branches, and every creature was fed from it.
Psalm 104:12 CSB
The birds of the sky live beside the springs; they make their voices heard among the foliage.
Revelation 7:9 CSB
After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands.


Oh Christian, have no fear this morning. Despite the conditions that seem to carry the day around us, the Kingdom of God marches on. There have been other pandemics and there will be others in the future. There have been other holocausts such as what is happening to the unborn and there will be others in the future. There have been other natural disasters such as the tornados that ripped through Nashville and there will be others in the future. And yet the Kingdom of God marches on.
We have nothing to fear, we have only to work with the sure knowledge that our King will return and on that day He will take each of us home to a place where there will be no pandemics, there will be no holocausts and there will be no natural disasters. But until that day comes we must, we must be about His business living under the sure and solid knowledge that His Kingdom will grow.
That it can grow outrageously when we are Spirit led, prayer driven and Word focused.
That its growth is assured because it is built on a Person not on our practices.
And that its growth is comprehensive. From the beginning of time this Kingdom was meant to go to the ends of the earth and to encompass people from every tribe, tongue and nation.
The question this morning, the most important question is always, are you in the Kingdom. If you are then rest in the assurance that this parable should give us - no it doesn’t appear that things are getting better but we know the ending and we can rest in that.
If you are not - what are you waiting for? Even this pandemic is merely God calling out to you, imploring you to repent and place your trust in His Son. It should not be that strange to think that a God who would be willing to sacrifice His own Son for you would not be willing to go to great lengths to get your attention or to demonstrate His mercy for you as He who controls the whole universe even now continues to provide the power for your heart to beat, for your lungs to fill with air, for your brain to continue to direct your nervous system to facilitate all the other systems that contribute to your life.
All the while, if you have not placed your faith in Him, you shake your puny fist at Him and repudiate His Lordship over your life. What greater lengths must He go to before you will recognize your sinful state, the justice of your current condemnation and the beautiful hope He has provided for you in salvation through His Son? What prevents you from this moment crying out to Him for mercy and forgiveness?
To close out this passage - it says that Jesus was speaking to them with many parables as they were able to understand and that privately He explained everything to His disciples. Friend, this morning you have had this parable explained and have heard the implications that it holds for us. What joy to the Christian that we have assurance and what hope to those who have not placed their faith in Jesus that there is a future that is outrageous, that is assured and that is comprehensive enough to include them.
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