Posts Tagged ‘the Christian life’

I want to share with you about growing and moving forward in our Christian lives – from the Scriptures and from my heart.

Our Scripture comes from Mark 4:21-25 –

“And he said to them, ‘Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ And he said to them, ‘Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.’” (See outline)

Paul Nolt once said to me, “What you put into something, is what you get out of it.” He was talking about church involvement. And I thought, “Hey that would make a good sermon.”

What he said also reminded me of Jesus’ words in Mark 4:24 – “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Or as I’m putting it – you get what you give.

I want us to look at this principle of the kingdom, first of all to see what it means in its context. And then I want to make some suggestions about applying it more broadly to our Christian lives.

Our principle is a part of a section in Mark 4 focused on –

Understanding Jesus’ teaching

As we know Jesus’ teaching is often hard to understand. Even his close disciples struggled (e.g. Mark 7:17-18; 8:14-21). This is especially true of his parables, which were meant to conceal as much as reveal (Mark 4:11-12). Jesus is telling parables in Mark 4.

But here, Jesus is saying that his teaching really is meant to be understood. He compares it to a lamp in v. 21. “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand?” (also Matthew 5:15; Luke 8:16). Just as a lamp is meant to shine out, so his teaching is meant to give light to all.

Jesus’ intention is expressed in v. 22 – “For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light” (also Matthew 10:26; Luke 8:17; 12:22) Everything Jesus hides, he wants to come to light. Everything he veils, he wants to be made known.

But, we have to do some work. Jesus hides his teaching so that only those who really seek after it will find it. The two exhortations tell us what we need to do:

  • v. 23 – “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” We need to listen.
  • And then he says in v. 24 – “Pay attention to what you hear.”

Today we would say, “pay attention to what you read,” since Jesus’ teaching is now written out in the Scriptures.

If you want to understand, you need to listen carefully to Jesus. You need to put some effort into understanding what he is saying.

And then comes our principle. Mark 4:24 – “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you . . .” Jesus uses this principle in other places (Matthew 7:2/Luke 6:38), but here the focus is on understanding his teaching.

What he’s saying, is that there is a relationship between the effort we put in and the understanding we receive from God. To say it another way, the amount of careful listening you put in, equals the amount of understanding you will get. The more reading, seeking, puzzling, discerning, the more understanding you receive. And likewise, the less of these things you do, the less understanding you receive. Again – you get what you give.

But then, there’s the generosity of God for those who put in effort. The end of v. 24 says “. . . and still more will be added to you.” So, if you pay attention and receive from God in proportion to your effort – God will give even more understanding on top of this; a surplus; an added bonus.

In the first part of v. 25 Jesus says, “For to the one who has, more will be given . . ..” This is just how the kingdom of God works. God is amazingly generous.

The disciples are an example here: they are carefully listening, trying, asking questions, hanging in there with Jesus. And they have some understanding of his teaching and what he is up to. So more is given.

  • In Mark 4 Jesus gives them some private explanation of what he is saying for some of the parables.
  • But even beyond this God helped them understand in various ways. Think of how God helped Peter understand in Mark 8 that Jesus is the Messiah. This came from God.

So these words of Jesus are a promise to us. This is what God will do for us when we put in the effort.

And then we have a warning. The last part of v. 25 says – “. . . and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (For this whole saying see also – Matthew 13:12/Luke 8:18; Matthew 25:29/Luke 19:26). This is the other side of the coin, as it were, of God’s generosity. Those who don’t listen to Jesus, who put in no effort, will lose even what they have.

The examples here are the Pharisees and to some degree the crowd. The Pharisees have already rejected Jesus and only seek to argue and find fault. The crowds are apathetic. They don’t seek after Jesus, but hang back. In both cases Jesus’ teaching goes right over their head. They might get a bit of it, but they end up walking away scratching their heads. The light of Jesus’ teaching is hidden from them.

Now let’s look at –

This principle in other areas of the Christian life

What do you put into Bible study? This is the context of Mark 4, after all. The measure you give, is the measure you will get. How much careful reading are you doing? Are you more like the crowds – casual, apathetic? You know, you pick up your Bible every once in a while. Or are you more like the disciples – trying hard?

What about seeking out God in prayer? Being in God’s presence? How much time and energy do you put into this? Does God feel distant? Have you not heard from God lately? You get what you give.

More broadly, what about growing in your Christian life? How much focus and effort do you put into this? Is it an afterthought? Or is it a priority in your life? The measure you use, will be measured to you.

What about being part of a church? God uses congregations to minister to us, to give us support and encouragement and equipping for ministry. But what do you put into a congregation? What effort do you make? What commitment do you have? And do you expect to receive . . . without giving?? Remember our kingdom principle – what you put into a congregation is directly proportional to what you will get out of it from God.

We could go on and on. Have you ever been in a worship service and said, “God didn’t speak to me?” Well, what did you put into the service in terms of being prepared? Often we just drag ourselves in to worship expecting to have someone give us energy and inspiration for another week – when we haven’t done anything. It is measure for measure. The measure you give is the measure you get. If you come and sit and do nothing, should you expect anything from God?

What would it be like if we all came having put in much effort? Can you imagine how much God would bless us?

Finally, don’t forget the bonus. If you put effort into these things – bible study, seeking God, growing in your Christian life, in your church, into worship, not only will you receive from God in each of these areas – you will get even more. God’s gonna poor more blessings into your life.

But also, don’t forget the warning. If you don’t put in effort; if you are apathetic – even what you have will be taken away.

There is no standing still in the kingdom of God. You are either moving forward or you are moving backwards. You are either going forward and being blessed or you are going backwards and losing God’s blessings in your life.

So I encourage you this morning, move forward – and receive God’s abundant blessings!

William Higgins

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