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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Tempted to Quit on Jesus

James Meehan - Tempted to Quit on Jesus

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    James Meehan - Tempted to Quit on Jesus
TOPICS: Giving up, Temptation, Persistence

Well, today we are looking at a passage of scripture that illustrates Jesus' surprising strategy for separating the crowd from the committed. Now, show of hands, how many of you would say that you have ever been confused by the Bible? Show of hands, how many of you? Okay, just about every hand. How many of you would say, keep 'em up, if you've also been confused by some of the stuff that Jesus said? Both hands up. If your hand is not up, my assumption is that either, A, you're lying, B, you weren't paying attention, or C, you just so happened to be one of the most brilliant Bible scholars in the world as a teenager, and you need to like apply to some Bible colleges and become a Bible teacher because that is a gift.

Now, for me, when I became a Christian about 10 years ago, Jesus had so radically changed my life that I knew I needed to read the Bible. So I committed. Every night before I went to bed for 30 minutes I was going to read the Bible. And every night before I went to bed for 30 minutes, I read the Bible. And after three months of that, I had no idea what any of it meant. And the thing is, is like I was tempted to like give up, to throw in the towel, but because of how much Jesus had changed my life, I decided to dig in, to stick it out, to ask for some help, to learn from other people, and to do the best I could to simply keep showing up.

And I can tell you now that after a decade of following Jesus, after a decade of reading the Bible, that I am more confident than ever that the Bible is God's word. That it was written by people, but inspired by the Holy Spirit so that every page and passage points to Jesus and teaches us how to become more like Jesus. And at times it can be really confusing, but I believe it is always worth it. And my life is wildly different because of how God's word has worked its way into my heart. But at the same time, I have seen so many people do a similar thing that I did where they start following Jesus, they get excited about the Bible, they start reading, and then they run into a brick wall, and they stop reading the Bible altogether, or they stop following Jesus at all.

And, to me, that's so sad because I know how much Jesus has changed my life. I have seen the way that Jesus has changed the lives of so many other people. And what I hope for you is that you would be willing to commit even when you are tempted to give up. Now, this kind of thing where people start reading the Bible and then some of them stop or people hear something that Jesus says and they don't have any idea what it means, so they walk away. It's not like a new thing. This isn't a modern phenomenon in our current society. This is something that has been happening since the earliest days of Jesus' ministry.

And in today's message, we're gonna look at a time where Jesus was teaching to a crowd of people. And as he's teaching them, everybody gets confused and almost everybody walks away. We're gonna begin in Mark chapter four. At the very beginning, we read about Jesus teaching on the side of a lake, and there's this big crowd of people who have come to hear what Jesus has to say. And so he starts telling them a bunch of things, and then he goes into the story known as the parable of the sower where he says, hey, there's this farmer who is scattering some seed in his field. Now, some of the seed, it fell along the path and it got eaten by birds.

Some of the seed fell along some rocky soil and it got scorched by the sun. Some of the seed fell among a bunch of other plants and got choked out by the thorns. But some seed in verse eight, Jesus tells us, "Fell on fertile soil and they sprouted and they grew and they produced". That word produced in other Bible versions is translated yielded. That's important. We're gonna come back to it later. But these seed they produced, they yielded "a crop that was 30, 60 and even 100 times as much as had been planted. Then Jesus said, 'Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.'"

Can I confess something to you? I have ears, two of them, and I did not understand what Jesus was saying for years, like years of going to church, years of reading my Bible, I would read this and have no clue what it meant until recently. And so if you're sitting there wondering what in the world does this story about a farmer and some seeds and some soil have to do with my life, you are not alone. As a matter of fact, the very next verse tells us that later when Jesus was alone with the 12 disciples, these were the 12 guys who had committed their entire lives to following Jesus and learning from him, those 12 and with the others who were gathered around asked him what the parable means because they were confused too.

And then in verse 11, Jesus begins to tell them some really important words. He said, hey, "You are permitted. You get to understand the secret of the kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders so that the scriptures might be fulfilled When they see what I do, they will learn nothing. When they hear what I say, they will not understand. Otherwise, they will turn to me and be forgiven". Okay, pause. I'm sorry. Did Jesus just say literally the reason he teaches in parables is so that people on the outside won't understand what he's saying? Because if they did, they would turn to him and be forgiven of their sins.

Like, isn't that the whole reason Jesus showed up, was so that outsiders could become insiders so that sinners could be forgiven? Absolutely. So what is going on here? Like, what is Jesus doing, and why is he saying so many confusing things one after another? Well, that's what we're gonna spend the rest of this message talking about. So if you are taking notes, I want you to write this down. Jesus teaches in parables to separate the crowd from the committed. Jesus teaches in parables to separate the crowd from the committed. Jesus was intentionally confusing people because he wanted to know what the people would do when he did not give them what they wanted. He wanted to know who was there just to get something from him and who was there because they were actually committed to following him.

The thing you've gotta understand about Jesus is he was not some like ancient Taylor Swift or Harry Styles traveling around the world trying to draw as large of a crowd as possible so that people would listen to what he has to say, buy all of the tickets, show up to the TED talk and be inspired by his wonderful words. I'm not saying those are bad things. But Jesus came for something so much bigger. See, the Bible in 1 John 3:8 tells us that Jesus the Savior King and son of God showed up in history to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus showed up in history to wage war on sin and death. He's not just trying to inspire people to listen to his words. He's inviting people to join him in the fight against evil.

And here's the thing. If you don't wanna fight, you probably shouldn't join the army. Like, if you don't wanna go to bootcamp, you would be really upset if somebody leads you into battle. In this moment where Jesus is teaching in parables, he's intentionally confusing people to see who's willing to stick with him when things get a little bit more challenging. Another way to think about it is like this. If confusion is all it takes to send you packing, you will never make it when temptation comes knocking. And if you follow Jesus, temptation will come knocking.

The first thing that Jesus did after he got baptized was he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And if you are following Jesus where he goes, if you are doing the stuff that he does, if you are trusting the words that he says, and you are becoming the kind of person who loves how he loves, you will be tempted by the devil because he does not want you to do the things that God has called you to do. He will try to take you out. So, Jesus, separating the crowd from the committed is not cruelty, it is mercy.

Imagine if you showed up to a football game because you wanted to watch it, and at halftime the coach said, "Hey, I actually want you to now play on the offensive line. Now, I know you are 5'3" and 100 pounds and the defensive line are 6'5" and 300 pounds, but this is what we're here for, to play football". And you're like, "No, I just wanted to watch". This is why it matters that Jesus figures out who's actually in it for the long haul, who just wants to hear what he has to say, who just wants to see the things he's going to do, and those who are willing to devote their lives to him.

Now, here's what's really important is, yes, Jesus is using confusion to figure out who's actually committed and who's not. But what's really important is that when he taught this parable, nobody knew what he was saying. The crowd didn't get it, and neither did the committed. We read about the disciples, Jesus' closest followers, and the other people who stuck around did not understand the parable. Because being able to understand the parable, being on the inside in the kingdom of God, isn't about being better, smarter, or more holy than anybody else. It is about committing yourself to Jesus, sticking close to him when confusion and temptation show up.

You don't have to be better. You've just gotta show up and you've gotta say, "Jesus, I am here for you, not just the things that you do". And those people who stuck around when the rest of the crowd left, they got to hear the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. They got to be in the room with Jesus when he explained to them the message within this parable. So if we keep reading, verse 13 tells us this, that then Jesus said to them, "If you can't understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other ones"? Here's what it means. The farmer, now, the farmer represents Jesus, "The farmer plants seed by taking God's word to others.

Now, the seed that fell on the footpath, it represents those who hear the message only to have Satan come at once and take it away". These are the people who hear God's word and because of the enemy, the spiritual enemy, who is against the things of God, they hear it, but it is taken away. It goes in one ear and right out the other. And our spiritual enemy loves to use deception and distraction to separate us from God. So sometimes he will try to convince you that whatever the Bible says isn't true, and other times he will try to distract you so you don't actually hear what's being said. And maybe right now there are some of you who aren't hearing what I'm saying because you are scrolling through TikTok or talking to your neighbor.

Next verse, "the seed on the rocky soil," oh no, go back. There it is. "The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and they immediately receive it with joy". Next slide. "But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word". These are the people who show up to places like this and they hear the worship songs and they get the goosebumps. They hear the message, and they feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking to them. Maybe they even get to the end of the service and in this moment of excitement, they raise their hand and say, "Jesus, I wanna give you my life".

But then they wake up the next morning and now that the feelings have faded and real life starts to hit them, they fade away because their faith in Jesus wasn't actually built on truth. It wasn't built on who Jesus is. It was built on their temporary emotions. If we continue reading, we see that there's this other seed in verse 18 "That fell among the thorns," and this represents others who hear God's word, "But all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things. so no fruit is produced".

These people follow Jesus for a little bit, but then they get tempted by power, popularity, money, fame, you name it. And because those things are more attractive to them than Jesus, they leave Jesus to chase after those things. But then we read about this other seed that fell on good soil, and this represents those who hear and accept God's word "And they produce a harvest of 30, 60, or even 100 times as much as had been planted". The good soil are the people who hear what Jesus says and they accept it. It doesn't say that they understand it. It says that they accept it, and eventually their life produces a harvest 30, 60, or 100 times as much as was given to them. That represents the committed, the people who just keep showing up.

Now, what I wanna do real quickly is I wanna zoom out and take all the pieces and put them together. So this chapter of Mark's gospel begins with Jesus teaching a parable to a crowd of people. Jesus is the farmer. The parable is God's word, it is the seed. And the people are the different types of soil. And at the beginning of the chapter, there is a crowd of people, but it doesn't take long for the crowd to leave and for the disciples and a few others to stick around. Those who left were the first three types of soil. Those who stayed represent that fourth soil. They were the committed.

So how does this apply to your life? Like, what is the lesson within this parable? If you're taking notes, write this down. The lesson is that if you want God's word to take root in your heart and produce fruit in your life, you have to stay committed to Jesus. If you want the word of God to take root in your heart and produce fruit in your life, a change in your life, the thing you've gotta do is just stay committed to Jesus. It's not about being better, smarter, or more holy than anyone else. It's about deciding to trust Jesus. Even when you're confused, even when you are tempted, you choose to not give up.

Now, the thing is, is that's not actually super duper easy. Like, it's a lot easier to talk about than it is to live out. And so what I wanna do is suggest to you something that's been really helpful for me, and I know for many others to actually train ourselves to become the kind of people whose God's word takes root in our heart and it produces fruit in our lives. So what I wanna talk to you about is this spiritual discipline called study. It's called study. What study is, is it's simply devoting your time and attention to reading the Bible so that we can become more like Jesus. We devote our time and attention to read the word of God. We work on God's word so that God's word can work itself into our lives and produce fruit in our conversations, in our actions, in our decisions, so that we actually start to look different.

So we start to become the kind of people whose lives produce a harvest 30, 60, and 100 times as much as has been given to us. For those of you who play sports, like, you get this. What you put into something determines what you get out of something. What you put into a thing determines what you get out of a thing. Like, the more you practice, the better you will be in the game. When it comes to your English final, the more effort you put in class, the better you're gonna do on the test. The same is true when it comes to our faith in Jesus.

The more we devote ourselves to the habits and practices that make us more like Jesus, like studying the Bible, the more we train ourselves to become the kind of people who stick around when most everybody else walks away. So how do we study the Bible practically? I'm gonna give you four super simple tips, and if you pay attention, you will see that each of those tips, the first letter spells out an acronym.

So tip number one is this. To pray for God to speak to you. Before you even start reading, pray, "Jesus, speak to me through your word".

Tip number two is to read slowly and carefully. Read slowly and carefully. This could look like reading the same passage twice from beginning to end. It could look like reading really quietly out loud so that you're not just reading it and looking at it with your eyes, but you're actually saying it with your mouth and hearing it with your ears. It could look like writing down the verses that stand out to you as you read. It's anything you can do to slow down and read with more care.

Tip number three is to ask questions as you go. In this passage of scripture, we saw Jesus said some confusing things, and so the disciples came to him with their questions. You absolutely have permission to do the same. When you have questions, bring those to God. Talk to your small group leader. Schedule time to meet with your youth pastor. Bring those questions, and that's gonna help you learn so much more than if you just keep it all bottled in.

And then tip number four is this. It is to yield. It's a word that means to submit, produce, or contribute your thoughts, words, and actions to God. Yield, submit your thoughts, words, and actions to God. Produce fruit in your life through your thoughts, your words, and your actions to God. Take all the stuff that you read and figure out how to apply it to your life because we study the Bible so that we can become more like Jesus. And then I got a bonus tip for you. Invite people to join you. Because all of this stuff, I'm telling you, it is better when we do it together.

Now, if you notice, P-R-A-Y. If you want to study the Bible well, I think the best thing that you can do is pray through the scriptures. Take your Bible reading and make it a conversation with God where you are hearing him speak to you through His word, and you are bringing your questions to him and asking him to help you live it out because this is how we follow Jesus. We choose not simply to be a part of the crowd, but to be committed to Jesus. And what we know is that if we commit ourselves to Jesus, then over time we will become the kind of people who produce, who contribute 30, 60, and 100 times as much as has been given to us.

This is why at our church we say that we are spiritual contributors, not spiritual consumers. The church does not exist for us, but we are the church, and we exist for the world. We devote our lives to Jesus. We don't just consume, we give back. We contribute because all that Jesus has given to us. In Galatians 6:9 the apostle Paul says this, he says, "Let's not get tired of doing what is good. For at just the right time, we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up". This is how we follow Jesus. We commit to show up even when we are confused and tempted because we believe that Jesus is better than anything, and following him changes everything.

So, Lord Jesus, we thank you for your word. We thank you for your truth. We thank you for your love. And we ask that you would help us become the kind of people who stay close to you even when it gets hard, that we would become the kind of people who devote our time and attention to studying your words, so that we can become more like you, so that we can share the love you have given to us, to the rest of the world, produce a harvest in us so much greater than what we can imagine. All of this we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.

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