11 And He said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12 so that ‘SEEING THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND HEARING THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND; LEST THEY SHOULD TURN, AND THEIR SINS BE FORGIVEN THEM.’ ” 13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?” (Mark 4:11-13)
The same parable would both reveal and conceal knowledge of the kingdom of God. The condition of the hearer’s heart determined whether or not the parables of Jesus were understood. A ready mind continues to be vital to understanding God’s word (Acts 17:11-12). Notice that Jesus expected His disciples to “understand this parable” of the sower. Knowing it unlocks all of His parables, since it explains the condition of the human heart (the soils) toward the word of God (the seed). You are in this parable; we all are. How do you react to the Scriptures, the word of God? Which soil are you? Read the parable and Jesus’ explanation to find out (Mark 4:3-9, 14-20).
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26)
April Fools’ Day is a time of practical jokes and light-hearted humor. But there is a deadly side to being spiritually foolish, and God’s word cautions those who consider their ways and seek wisdom. For example, the fool says there is no God (Psa. 14:1). The person who spreads slander is a fool (Prov. 10:18). The person who trusts his own way instead of godly counsel from the Lord is a fool; such a person is hopeless (Prov. 12:15; 26:12). The fool does not control his wrath (Prov. 12:16). These are just some of God’s warnings against being a fool. “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it” (Prov. 8:33).
3 Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. 4 So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. 5 And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. 6 So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude. (Luke 22:3-6)
Judas made a choice to betray Jesus. The fact that Satan entered Judas does not at all suggest he lost his freewill in the matter. Satan set the enticement before him, and he gave into the temptation. It is the same with all temptation to sin: An enticement coupled with a person’s own desires (“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed”, James 1:14). The tempter can be resisted: “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). No one forces you to sin; the choice is yours. And, so is the accountability before God. The wages of sin is death. God gift is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Choosing sin brings death. Choose faith in Jesus (Matt. 11:28-30; 7:21-23; Lk. 6:46).
15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:15–17)
Why preach the gospel? Because it is God’s power to save the lost. Why does the gospel possess such power? Because it reveals “the righteousness of God”. That is, the gospel reveals the means by which God counts sinners righteous; it is “by faith” (Rom. 5:1). Plus, the gospel produces personal faith in Jesus (Rom. 10:17). This is the thesis statement of Romans. The gospel teaches us how God saves sinners. The gospel teaches us about the personal faith we must have in Jesus in order to be saved. That is why the gospel must be preached.
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16 But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” (2 Timothy 2:15-19)
The Lord “knows those who are His”; they are approved before Him (verse 19, 15). We must present ourselves “approved to God” by properly handling God word to avoid error and to depart iniquity. Hymenaeus and Philetus failed to do so. They strayed from the truth and overthrew the faith of others with their error. It matters what we believe, teach and practice! If it does not, then why this warning? Clearly, here are Christians who lost their souls – not because God cannot save, but because they “strayed concerning the truth” (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2). Beware, lest you fall (1 Cor. 10:12).
1 Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” (Joshua 6:1-5)
A clearer picture of salvation “by grace…through faith” could not be given. Israel took Jericho by grace: “God has given you the city” (verse 2, 16). Yet, their faith in God had to be obedient for seven days (verses 3-5). Then, the walls would “fall down flat” (verse 5). Similarly, sinners are saved by God’s grace when, by faith, they obey Him (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-41; Titus 3:5). Obedience does not earn salvation any more than it earned Jericho. Yet without obedient faith, the gift is not received (the walls would not have fallen until Israel obeyed God). Saving faith is obedient as it relies on God’s grace for salvation.
25 He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. (John 12:25-26)
When you serve Jesus Christ you value His will more than life itself. Are you willing to lose your life for Jesus? Perhaps the more pertinent and pressing question is, Are you willing to live for Jesus? If so, then follow Him. Being His servant is far more than saying you love Jesus; it is following His word first and always. By following Jesus the Father will hold you dear and your life is preserved for eternal life.