And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 21, Number
In this issue:
12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ The King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, NKJV)
The Passover feast of the Jews was approaching as Jesus entered Jerusalem. People laid palm branches (and even clothing) in His path as symbols of festive joy (Matt. 21:8; cf. Lev. 23:40; Rev. 7:9). The people verbalized their anticipation of victory with shouts of praise from the Psalms: “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Psa. 118:25-26).
“Hosanna” (“save now” or “oh save!”) punctuated their excitement that Jesus was the “Son of David,” the “King of Israel” (Matt. 21:9). But, Jesus was not riding upon a mighty steed as a conquering hero, but upon a lowly donkey (fulfilling a prophecy depicting the humble nature of the King and His kingdom, Jno. 12:14-15; Zech. 9:9). The salvation He brought was redemption from the bondage and death of sin, not freedom from their oppressive Roman overlords (Isa. 62:11-12). His kingdom is “not of this world,” and when their vision was not realized, they viciously turn against Jesus and shouted, “Crucify Him!” (Jno. 18:36-38; 19:14-16).
Jesus saves lost souls and adds them to His kingdom, the church (Jno. 8:32-36; Acts 2:47; Col. 1:13-14). Hosanna! His kingdom will never be like the kingdoms of men. We must not conjure up false images of Jesus and His gospel. If we do, we join hands with the faithless crowd that crucified the King of Israel, the Savior of the world.
-Sword Tips #1801, adapted
“The sower sows the word. And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mark 4:14-15).
Satan wastes no time snatching away the word of God from hardened hearts. Like birds eating seeds off a well-traveled path, Satan plucks away God’s word from hearts that are closed against the truth. Closed minds refuse to give the word of God a fair hearing, therefore, they are not penetrated by the word of God. The gospel remains powerful to save, but it will not save the person who refuses to listen to and heed God’s message of salvation (Heb. 4:12). God does not force His word down people’s throats. The deceitfulness of sin darkens many hearts, calcifying their sensitivity toward the gospel of Christ. So, be very careful never to let sin deceive you into hardening your heart against the word of God (Heb. 3:13). Heart condition matters when it comes to hearing and receiving the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble” (Mark 4:16-17).
Stony ground is not a productive seed bed for plant growth. The rocky soil prevents the growth of a stable root system that is necessary for nutritious, vibrant development and fruit production. Without sufficient roots, the sun scorches the plant and it dies. Even so, a heart without spiritual depth does not give rise to strong, faithful discipleship. This heart is likely driven by emotion, and being joyful over initially hearing the gospel, receives it gladly. But, with discipleship comes external pressures that test one’s faith. Tribulations or persecutions will arise when one follows the word of God (2 Tim. 3:12). When tested by the heat of spiritual conflict, the person with a shallow, emotional heart (instead of a secure faith) will “fall away” (Lk. 8:15). Emotion, without a deeply rooted faith producing it, is not spiritual strength. This is a good reminder for us all, lest we confuse spiritual excitement with strong faith.
“Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:18-19).
A crop will not have a good yield when thorns and thistles take over a field. Weeds choke out the good plants, robbing them of nutrients, rain and sunshine, and eventually they die. Christ used this to describe the heart that is so crowded with internal influences there is no room for the word of God to grow and bear its fruit in one’s life. We must make room in our hearts for the word of God, or our overcrowded hearts will choke out God’s word from our lives. Jesus identified the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things as the culprits we must weed out of our hearts. Life is brief and uncertain, so we must live for heaven (Col. 3:1-4). Riches are deceptive, and will never satisfy our yearnings of eternity (Eccl. 3:11; 5:12). Desiring other things instead of seeking first God’s rule and reign in our lives will choke out God’s word from our lives (Matt. 6:33). Pull these weeds out of your heart, lest you wither and die spiritually.
“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:20).
Good seed, when planted in good soil, produces good fruit. This simple principle is used by Jesus to illustrate the type of heart that listens to the word of God, accepts it and bears abundant fruit. According to the parallel verse in Luke 8:15, this is the “noble and good heart” that patiently keeps the word of God. We must be honest with ourselves when we hear the word of God. Otherwise, God’s word will not convict us of our sins, correct us, and save us. (Note: Jesus did not assume the heart is filled with total depravity and therefore incapable of hearing, receiving, and keeping the word of God.) The “noble and good heart” bears fruit upon hearing God’s word, and so obtains divine approval and blessings. The Bereans exemplify this heart (Acts 17:11-12).
Our hearts must be good soil. Our hearts must receive and keep the word of God. Let us refuse to have a hardened heart (like the wayside soil), a shallow, ungrounded heart (like the rocky soil), or an over-crowded heart (like the thorny soil).
We should each ask ourselves, “What is the condition of my heart?” The answer to this question will be is found in how we receive and use the word of God.
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:32-44
Keeping our focus on things above is the ongoing challenge of life on earth,
I. WHEN WE LOOK AT THE CROSS…
A. We See Jesus, Heb. 2:9; 12:2; Acts 3:14-15 (13:27-28); 10:38-39; 2:36;
Heb. 9:26, 28; 10:5, 9-10; Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8-9.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
The latest political controversy consuming Washington D.C., Capitol Hill, and cable news concerns a whistleblower and allegations the president pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rival. The official record of their conversation and the whistleblower complaint have been made public. The different conclusions being drawn from the same information is often diametrically opposed to each other. Confirmation bias is on full display.
Confirmation bias is “the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s existing beliefs. This biased approach to decision making is largely unintentional and often results in ignoring inconsistent information. Existing beliefs can include one’s expectations in a given situation and predictions about a particular outcome. People are especially likely to process information to support their own beliefs when the issue is highly important or self-relevant” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Simply put, it means we hear what we want to hear.
We are warned against having any bias when we use the Scriptures. For instance, we must rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Bringing a predetermined conclusion with us when we study the Scriptures will prevent our ability to hear and follow the truth (Acts 17:11-12).
Jesus faced confirmation bias from people who were only interested opposing Him and not interested in truth. See Luke 7:28-35, where Jesus exposed their bias toward John and Himself. They had made up their minds. Therefore, whatever John and Jesus said or did was objectionable.
We must work hard to clear our hearts of every prejudice so that we may hear and receive the pure word of God. It will help us to remember, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 09/29/2019
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA