Robert Morris — Discipleship
Alright, I want you to turn your Bibles to Mark 4, and Ezekiel 2. So, we're in a series called, "You Are Here", and we're basing off the parable in Mark 4, "The Sower and the Seed". Mark 4, and then you can put a marker at Ezekiel 2. We'll flip over there later in the message. So, let me just catch you up. We're on the third week of this series, and again, we found out that there are four groups of people attending church, and I'm going to remind you what those four groups were.
Right here is the cross, so there are some people that are attending church, and we're very grateful, that haven't come to know the Lord yet. And I'm going to give you a quiz. This is for every campus, and you can answer out loud. I will tell you that the 4:00 Saturday service failed. I actually put an F on the board for them. So, you don't want an F, all right? So, the first group, remember two weeks ago, is the group we call what? "Exploring God". That's good. "Exploring God", and we put the word fellowship above it, because these people are coming to the fellowship, but they haven't come into a relationship, which is what we talked about last weekend, yet.
And we call this second group? "Beginning" that got quieter, did you notice that? Okay, "Beginning in God". That was just last weekend. "Exploring God", they get saved, they're "Beginning in God". This weekend we're going to talk about "Close to God", and we call this discipleship. And so, that's the title of the message this weekend, is "Discipleship". And the last group are people who are "God Centered". GC also stands for Gateway Church, that's right! And we'll talk about lordship, alright?
So, we also talked about that you make the move from group one to group two when you understand the truth of grace, that salvation is by grace alone, through faith, from group two to group three when you understand God's Word is the final authority for your life, and group three to group four when you understand giving, and that's not just giving our finances, but giving our life away. So, we base this on Mark 4.
Now, we're talking now about the third group, people who are close to God. But at every stage, the enemy is attacking, and when you read how the enemy attacks in this stage of your growth in the Lord, it reminded me of boating, and the reason it did is, I like to boat. You know, Debbie and I have had several boats, and we have one now. But when you're boating in the ocean, you have to be aware of currents and tides. You've probably noticed before, maybe when you were swimming at a beach and the tide was going out, you could feel that undertow, very strong undertow, trying to pull you out. It's the same with the current.
The point is, as a believer, there is a current in this world, you think about it, that's trying to pull us away from God, always. And we have to keep our props turning, and this is what keeps our props turning, is God's Word is the only thing that will help us against that worldly current. So in Mark 4, He talks about three groups of people. We're not going to read the whole passage, because we've done that in the weeks before, but look at Verse 7. This is the third group. It says, "And some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop". And then He explains it in Verses 18 and 19. He says, "Now these are the ones sown among thorns. They are the ones who hear the Word" notice they hear the Word. They're attending church. "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".
Okay, so He actually tells us, I'm going to tell you how the thorns are going to come against you, but He describes this attack as thorns. Now, last week we looked at some types and shadows, some symbolic and some parabolic language in the Bible that helps us understand this spiritual language that goes throughout the Bible. Okay. And we talked about how birds, many times, can represent Satan and his demonic forces. Jesus Himself said that. "The birds of the air come and steal the seed". They said, Lord, what does that mean? He said, that's Satan. That's Satan and his forces coming against you.
It's important for us to understand this parable, because if you remember, Jesus said, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all of the parables"? In essence, I think is what He's saying is, if you don't understand that there's a meaning behind some of these words, the enemy's going to come after you, and he's got a foothold on you because you don't understand that.
So, last week we talked about birds. This series has been different in that normally within about the first five minutes I go into my first point. I'm not getting to my points until about halfway through the message, and I'm doing it on purpose because I'm showing you some symbolic, parabolic language in the Bible to help you to be hungry for the Word of God. So, Jesus said thorns, thorns choke the Word. So, what are thorns? Well, before I can show you what thorns represent in the Bible, I need to show you another type, another symbol that will help you understand, and that's the word scorpions.
What do scorpions represent? All right, we'll get to Ezekiel in a minute, but Luke 10:17 says, "Then the seventy returned with joy". These are 70 disciples Jesus sent out. "Saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name. And He said to them", really? No, I'm just kidding. "He said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven". And here's what He's saying in that statement, I'm not impressed. If demons obey me, that doesn't impress me. When they crossed my dad, Satan was out, just like that. That's what He's saying. But, now watch what He says in Verse 19. It's very important. "Behold, I give you authority", I give you authority, "to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you".
Okay. Did Jesus not hear what they said, or did He respond to what they said? He responded to what they said! They said, "Lord, even the demons are subject". He said, uh-huh, you have authority over serpents and scorpions. That's clear there. Serpents and scorpions represent demons. I mean, that's clear! Either they represent demons, or in the next elders' meeting, James, we need to talk about bringing snakes into the sanctuary. Now, by the way, we're not going to do that, okay? You'd have to be out of your mind, to bring! And I know there are some churches that are out of their minds, but we're not one of them, so you know, if you're a guest, we don't do that, okay? Because we understand that Jesus is speaking in a spiritual language, so Jesus Himself calls serpents and scorpions demons. Okay.
Now remember, if that's what it is, if that's what they are, let's look at it somewhere else in the Bible. Remember, scorpions represent demons. Let me show you another verse about thorns, and it's used in the context of demons again, all right? Ezekiel 2, God is speaking to Ezekiel and this is what He says, Verse 3. "And He said to me, "Son of man, I am sending you to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against Me. They and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day, for they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them and you shall say to them, "Thus says the Lord God". As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse, for they are a rebellious house, yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, Son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words", watch carefully, "though briars and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions".
Okay, what's He saying? He's not talking about literal thorns there and He's not talking about literal scorpions. He's saying the children of Israel, My people, have gone away from My ways, therefore, because they've rebelled, the enemy now has come in. And when you go prophesy, you just know, you're going to be among thorns and scorpions. Okay, He's not saying literal scorpions. God wasn't teaching Ezekiel to avoid thorns so he didn't tear his robe. He's talking about demonic spirits. Do you understand what I'm saying? Okay. Why am I taking so much time every week to show you things like this in Scripture? Let me say it this way. I'm trying to teach you how to fish. I'm not just trying to give you fish each week, I'm trying to teach you to fish. I'm trying to get you excited about this book.
So, let me show you just a few other Scriptures on thorns. Now before I do, let me explain this to you before I show you this Scripture. This is a very well-known Scripture. It's amazing how we've missed the types and shadows, the symbol in this Scripture. The Greek word for angel is angelos, angelos, A-N-G-E-L-O-S. So, angelos, angel. It's in the New Testament 186 times, that Greek word. Seven times it's translated messenger, but it still means angel. So, watch this and watch thorn in this context. 2 Corinthians 12:7, this is Paul. "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me". Now, he's going to tell you what that is. Comma, "a messenger", angelos, angel, an angel of Satan, "to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure".
Here's what's amazing. Theologians say, what do you think Paul's thorn was? Well, I know what it was. It was an angel of Satan, because he told me that. So, that's not the question, what it was. The question you might want to ask is how did it manifest? See, you could say, some people think it was something with his eyes. So, you can go through all sorts of how it manifested, but there's no debate about what it was, because he tells us what it was. It was an angel of Satan, and he calls it a thorn. What's an angel of Satan? It's a demonic spirit. It's a fallen angel.
You do know there are good angels and bad angels, right? A third of the angels fell with Satan, so there are good angels and bad angels. But, you've got to understand, there are spiritual types and shadows, and when you don't understand it, you go into all of this conjecture. Here's what you do when you read a Word like that. When you read thorns or scorpions, you look it up in the concordance, and you read it everywhere it is in the Bible, and the Bible will define itself. The Bible will tell you what it means. It's clear. You don't just come up with something out of there.
Let me show you just another Scripture on thorns. You need to remember though that the Promised Land does not represent heaven. Many people think that, but it doesn't because there were still enemies in the Promised Land. There aren't going to be any enemies in heaven. The Promised Land represents the overcoming Christian life. I mean, and if you drive the enemy out, then you can live in the land safely where God wants you to live, see?
And let me just show you what He says here. Numbers 33:55, "If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those who you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes", watch this, "and thorns in your side, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell". Is that clear? I'll give you one more. Judges 2:3, "Therefore I also said, "I will not drive them out before you". He told them to, and they didn't, so they asked Him to. He said, no, I'm not going to do it. "But they shall be thorns in your side, and their Gods shall be a snare to you".
Okay, you say, well, what does that mean to us today? Remember, Israel had literal enemies, we have spiritual enemies. Here's what He's trying to tell you. If you don't drive out bitterness, and unforgiveness, and resentment, and hate, and malice, and envy, and jealousy, and lust, and pride, and anger, it's going to be a thorn. It's going to become a thorn in your side. A spirit is going to start attacking you in that area if you continue to allow bitterness to stay in your life. That's what He's trying to tell us.
So, Jesus tells us about these three areas where these thorns attack, and so let's talk about them. All right, number one, the cares of this world. These are the three Jesus said - the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things. The cares of this world. 1 Peter 5:7 says, "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you". "Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you". Okay, so do you realize that we were not designed to carry burdens? Do you know that? I mean, God calls us sheep in the Scripture, right? Sheep. "We are the sheep of His pasture", Psalm 100:3.
Okay, sheep are not burden bearing animals. You've never heard someone say, I'm going on an expedition, I need to rent some pack sheep. We are not designed to carry burdens! What we're supposed to do is lay them at the feet of the Shepherd. But, here's the problem. We lay them, but we don't leave them. So, here's what we do many times. We say, Lord, I've just got this burden. It's just too heavy for me, Lord. Oh, I'm just going to put it at your feet, and I just can't carry it, Lord! I just can't. I just can't carry it anymore, God! I just give it to you, and I'm not going to think about it, I'm not going to worry about it, Lord. It's yours. If anything's going to happen, you're going to do it, because I'm not doing any more, Lord. No, I'm not. I'm, well, if you're just going to sit there. And Jesus said, "The cares of this world will choke the Word". Think about this. How many times have you been reading the Bible, and you stop and you think, I don't even know what I just read, because your mind was somewhere else? That's the enemy, trying to keep you from receiving this book.
So, number one, the cares of this world. Number two, the deceitfulness of riches. The deceitfulness of riches. Let me read you a couple of Scriptures. 1 Timothy 6:17 says, "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust", I want you to remember the word trust, "in uncertain riches, but in the living God". Don't trust in riches, trust in God, "who gives us richly all things to enjoy". Now, all right. So, the first thing he says is don't trust. Tell them not to trust in riches.
Then look at Verses 9 and 10. 1 Timothy 6:9-10, "For those who desire", remember the word desire, "to be rich fall into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition, for the love", remember the word love now, we've got trust, desire, and love, "for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows".
Okay. Here's what he's in essence told us in these three verses. Don't trust in money, don't desire money, and don't love money. Now, listen. Why would he tell us that? Don't trust in it, don't desire it, and don't love it. Why would he tell us that? It's simple. He's not trying to speak bad against being a good worker, or praying for your company to succeed, or trying to get a promotion. That's not what he's talking about. He's talking about a heart issue here, and here's what he says. Don't trust in, don't desire, and don't love money. Here's they reason why, because we're supposed to trust, desire, and love God. That's why. See, it tries to take the place of God.
If you think about it, money will promise you everything that only God can give you. It will promise significance, identity, security, happiness, peace, joy, a better marriage, a better house. Listen, only God gives us true significance, identity, joy, love, happiness, peace. It comes from God! Money is always trying to take the place of God. That's why Jesus said you can't serve God and Mammon, He called it, which is an Aramaic word which refers to the Syrian god of riches. He said you can't serve both. It's one or the other. You'll never be happy serving riches. You'll only be happy serving God. So, the deceitfulness of riches, and the third is the desires for other things.
Now, I like how he phrases this, other things. Let me show you a very famous passage here, and watch the word things, all right? Matthew 6:31-33, "Jesus said, "Therefore do not worry, saying what shall we eat, or what shall we drink, or what shall we wear, for after all these things the Gentiles seek". They seek these things. "For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But", you, is what He's saying here, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you".
Now, I want you to notice what He said. He said the people that don't know about God seek these things, but your heavenly Father knows you need this. Later He says, "Your heavenly Father knows the things you need before you ask". Now remember, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find". Here's what He's saying. Don't seek things, seek God, but you can ask your Father to meet your needs. You just ask Him.
When I was growing up, my mother had a big thing about us asking at the table, and not reaching. Did you ever have a mom like that? You know, I'd reach for the salt shaker. She'd hit my hand and she'd say, don't reach, ask. I wonder if that's the way our Father is sometimes, our heavenly Father, when we start reaching for things, if He's saying, don't reach, just ask? Just ask, don't seek. Don't get your focus on that. See, this Word, the desires for other things, is the Greek word epithumeo. Epithumeo. The reason I'm bringing this out is it's in the New Testament, like 38 times. It's only translated three times, desire. Only three times. The other times it's translated lust. The Old King James actually uses the word lust, the lust for other things.
Now, it's interesting, by the way, to note the times that it's translated desire. In Mark 4, but it's translated desire two other times. One time it's when Paul's talking about going to heaven. He said I have this desire to go into heaven, but I know I need to be here with you. It's more profitable for you that I stay, but I have a desire. But, it's the word that it's translated lust. Let me tell you why. The root of this word is passion, strong passion. Here's the other place it's used. Jesus, when He's talking about the last meal, He said, "I have fervently desired to eat this meal with you". It's the same word.
So, you've got to understand then. You say, well, Paul and Jesus, they wouldn't be talking about lust. No, they're not! They're talking about passion! Passion. See, God gave us passion. Satan tries to turn it into the lust for other things. But, God wants us to be passionate about Him and His kingdom. Seek God. Be passionate about God and His kingdom. Be passionate about it!
When I was young though, as I told you, in my 20s I had a real struggle in this area of sexual lust, and I remember going to Pastor Olen, who was the pastor of Shady Grove, and now that's our Grand Prairie Campus. And I went to Pastor Olen one time and I said, Pastor Olen, I'm having a real problem with my thoughts again, and I'm wondering if there's a book you could recommend, or you know, something. And I remember he kind of did, you know, if you know him, when he's thinking, you know. He looked at me, and then he kind of did his arms like that, and put his hands on my head. He said, Father, and I remember thinking, oh, we're praying, you know? So, I didn't know! It was just that fast. He said, Father, I pray that Robert will fall passionately in love with you.
And then he just turned around and walked off, and I remember thinking, no book? You know? Just a five second prayer, you know? But the next morning in my quiet time, the Lord brought it back to me, and the Lord said to me, son, passion for me drives out lust for other things. Passion for me drives out this. And that's what Jesus is trying to tell us. He's trying to tell us, listen, the Word can drive these things out. But He's also trying to warn us that those things can drive the Word out, can choke the Word, if you don't allow the Word to do its work in you.
Every week I say to the congregation, what's the Holy Spirit saying to you through this message? And that's what I want to ask you today. What is God saying to you through this message? The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things all pull us away from the Word of God. So if there's something trying to pull you away from God's Word and from God Himself, just take a moment and just confess it to the Lord. Say, Lord, I don't want to drift away from you. I want your Word to have its perfect work in me. We want to be disciples, and we want to grow up in the Lord, and I know that's why you watch the program. So, I'm so grateful that you watched. We have one more message in this series. I'll see you next week.