Robert Morris — Fellowship
Turn to Mark 4, in your Bibles. And that's the only passage that we're actually going to turn to this weekend. We're beginning a new series called, "You Are Here", and I'm extremely excited about this series. It'll be a four-week series. I'm excited about this series, because I believe that Jesus gave us a teaching that shows us exactly where we are in our life with God, our journey with God, and how to get to the next step. And the reason I titled it, "You Are Here", everyone knows about, you know, the, "You Are Here" — you've seen it in a mall, or you've seen it in — you know, at an amusement park or something. It is for the purpose of showing where you are in this journey that you're on, but also, how do you get to where you want to go? And there's a passage of scripture in Mark 4 that shows us that.
Now, before I show you this passage, let me show — let me tell you about a survey that we actually participated in about seven years ago. The purpose of the survey was to see how well we were, as churches, disciplining people and teaching people God's Word. And it helped pastors and leadership to be able to see that, but what came out of this survey was it showed that everyone that's attending church is in one of four groups of people. In one of four stages in your walk with God. And not only did it show that, but it showed how you get to the next stage, or how people — when they answer the question, it showed us how they made that step to the next stage. And immediately, when I saw the results of that survey, I thought of Mark 4.
And so, let me just show you, first of all, a little bit about these four groups, 'cause we're going to talk about this the next four weeks here. So let me just show four groups. Don't make any snide remark to the person beside you about my artistic abilities. So what this survey showed was that everyone is in one of four groups of people. The first group are those people who — and I'm just going to put the initials, who are exploring God. And we'll put up on the screen, so you can see it, so if you want to write that down. People who are exploring God.
Now, I want to show you something else. If you're taking notes and you want to put this, it'll help you. Put a cross right there, because these are people that are actually attending church, but have not come to know the Lord as their Savior yet. And we love these people, because this is where we all start. All of us have a journey, and people start exploring God, but they just haven't come to understand that they need to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior yet. So — by the way, this survey was only people attending church. So there's a whole other group of people over here that aren't even attending church, and we would call them far from God.
So that's the first group. The second group are people who are beginning in God. These are people who have accepted Christ now, and they are now beginning in God. The next group are people who are close to God, and they're growing in their relationship even more. And then, this last group are people who are God centered. And I'll show you the difference between close to God, and God centered. By the way, God centered, GC, Gateway Church. Anyway. It's just something I noticed. And what I'm doing is each of these, each week, I've given 'em a name. And this week, it's fellowship.
These are people that are learning about fellowship, the people in the first group, and each week, there'll be another word like this over each of these. I'll go ahead and give it to you, so you can kind of understand. I don't mind. These people, they've begun their relationship. These are people who are learning about discipleship. And then, these are people who've really entered into, and are experiencing on a daily basis, the lordship of Christ. And so, we're going to talk about this for the next four weeks. All right? Okay.
Look at Mark 4:1. "And he again began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to him, so that he got into a boat and he sat it — in it on the sea. And the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea. Then he taught them many things by parables," — remember the word parables: "And he said to them in his teaching: 'Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside. And the birds of the air came and devoured it. Some fell on stony ground,'" — this is the second group "Where it did not have much earth. And immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up and it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away". Here's the third group. "Some seed fell among thorns. And the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop". And the fourth group. Mark 4:8. "But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirty fold, some sixty, and some a hundred". Mark 4:9 says: "And he said to them, 'He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'"
Now, for those of you that have been in church awhile, this phrase, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear"! is familiar to you. But if you've never been in church, you know, if you think about that phrase, it's a little odd, because it sounds like that there were people that day that didn't have ears. And so, you know, they were thinking, okay. Oh, that guy, he doesn't have any ears on the side of his head, so Jesus isn't talking to him. Obviously, he's not talking about literal ears. He's talking about spiritual ears. So he said, "I'm talking about something spiritual".
I want to remind you that the Bible is a spiritual book, written by a spiritual being, to spiritual beings. So according to 1 Corinthians 2, the natural mind can't understand this book. You can't understand it, unless you understand it through the Spirit. All right? So notice Mark 4:10. "When he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parable". Now, watch Mark 4:13. "And he said to them, 'Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?'" Now, think about that. This is Jesus. Here, in essence, is what he said. "If you don't understand this one, you can't understand any of 'em". "How are you going to understand all of the parables, if you don't understand this one"? So this one's pretty important. That's why we're going to spend four weeks on it.
All right, look at Mark 4:14. "The sower sows the word". He's explaining it now. So seed represents the word in this. "And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan," — so the birds of the air represent Satan in this parable. "Satan comes immediately," that's a very important word. Immediately: "And takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. These likewise are the ones," here's the second group: "Sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it," they receive it: "With gladness. And they have no root in themselves, so they endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble". I'm not saying they fall away, just said they stumble.
Mark 4:18. "These are the ones among — sown among thorns". And we — and I'll show you it later, what thorns represent in the Bible. "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". In their lives, in other words. Mark 4:20. "These are the ones," fourth group: "Sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirty fold, some sixty, and some a hundred".
Okay, let's talk about this for a moment. First of all, the word parable. The word parable comes from a Greek word, para — it's two Greek words put together. Para, bole. Parable. Para, bole. Para means alongside. Bole means to throw. Now, that doesn't make much sense to us, unless we think about it. It means to throw something alongside. That's what a parable is. A parable is a story that Jesus would use to throw alongside a truth. So you could see the — understand something in the natural, and see the truth.
There's another Greek word that para as it — as part of it, and it's parakletos. Now, we say in English, kind of a version of it. People say paraclete. It's really not the best way to say it, but it's parakletos. And that is the Holy Spirit. Para, again, means alongside. Kletos means to come or to walk. So this is really good news, the Holy Spirit is someone who would like to walk alongside you. So that's what that means. So this is what Jesus is doing. He's telling us this story, so that we understand a truth.
Now, I misunderstood this parable for years. I actually thought, and many people believe this, that it was talking about three people who were bad people. And one person who was good. Three people who didn't receive the word, and one who did. But it actually — even, very clearly says on one of 'em they receive the word. So this isn't talking about bad people. Listen carefully. It's talking about a bad enemy. And it's talking about how you overcome the enemy, at each stage of your growth in God. All right?
So if you notice, there are four groups, and you could actually put — if you want to, over all four of these, you could put the word growing. Because all of these people are growing. They're all growing. Even this person who's not saved. You say, "Well, how's that person growing"? Okay. Well Jesus said when you get saved, it's like being born again. Born from above. Born spiritually. Okay, let me just ask you something. Does a baby grow in the womb? Are you there? You know I'm talking to you, don't you? Okay, all right, all right. Okay, so, yes. So people grow in their understanding of God before they're born again. So we're all growing. By the way, these people who are God centered haven't arrived. They're still growing. And if you ever stop growing, you'll start going backwards. We call it backsliding, right? Okay?
All right, so I want you to notice. There are four groups. If there are four groups, there are three movements. Three steps. You see that? In other words, if I have four fingers here, how many gaps are there? One, two, three. If I were to move from this finger to this finger, that's one move. That's a move. And that's a move. So in this survey now, this is 180.000 people. And it was just to find out how well are we doing as churches, disciplining people, and helping people grow in their understanding of God and his Word? And it was just amazing how it boiled down to these — that every person attending church was in one of these four groups, and every person attending church, it was easy to see one truth that caused them to move from group one to group two. All right?
So let me show you that truth. If you move from group one to group two, it was because of this one truth that you understood finally. It was the truth of grace. That's how people moved. Let me say it another way. People in this category, when they talk — in all three of these, but when they talked about salvation, they said, "I strongly agree that nothing I have ever done or ever will do could earn my salvation". But people who were over here, thought, no, I have to do something to earn it. But once they understood grace, they could move over here. That's how you become a believer, is you understand Jesus paid for your sins, and you accept that. You accept him as your Savior. You follow me? Okay.
People that move from group two to group three was people who began to have an understanding of God's Word as the final authority in their life. In other words, when a person gets saved, he thinks the Bible's a good book, and it is, it's God's Word, but once you understand, no, no, no. Wait a minute. This is God's Word to my life. This is how I run my life. I want to know how to run my business, I want to know how to be married. I want to know how to raise my children. It's in the book. This is not just a good book. This is THE book, and once people begin to recognize God's Word as the final authority in their life.
You know, when I used to be able to talk with people about their marriage, going through marriage difficulties, I'd always have to come to that point. Let me just ask you something, sir, ma'am. Is God's Word the final authority in your life? Because if it is, we can fix this marriage. If it's not, I can't help you. So people who begin to move and grow in their relationship with God, they understood that. Now, this third move, I got really excited about. And I want to remind you, this is a survey again, 525 churches, 180.000 people. But one truth, people move from the third group to the fourth group — watch the word, you're going to see that I really like it. When they understood the truth of giving.
This was a survey now, okay? It just proves I was right. It just proves I was right. All right? But that's the theme of the Bible right there. But, listen, it's not just giving money. It's giving your life. It's giving your life away for the Kingdom of God. These people understood, I'm not on the earth for me. I'm on the earth for the Kingdom of God. And this is when God became — God Centered. And they began to give of their time, their talents, and their treasure. So these are the four levels. You could also think about this as I got fellowship/relationship — you could also think about this as friendship.
You know, they all have -ship. I'm gifted that way, but you could think about it, this is friendship. Okay? These people really don't know Christ, they've never met him. They've only heard about him. He's not a friend yet. Okay? These people, now he's a friend. He's become their friend. They have actually met him and been introduced to him through salvation, so he's a friend. These people, he's the best friend. They talk to him. As a matter of fact, in the survey, these people rarely talked to God. These people occasionally talk to God. This is how we could tell the difference. These people frequently talked to God, and these people talked to God often. So this is best friend.
You say, "So, what? What's a higher than that"? Well, in our society, unfortunately, it's difficult sometimes for some people to relate to this, because of the society we live in. The sin, the fallen nature that we live in, and it's gotten to such a degree, we don't understand this. But I'm going to show you. I'll give it to you in another term. This is the person that not only are you married to, but it's your soulmate, it's the person you've been married to 35 years, and you lay your life down for that person. That's — when you see all of a sudden the Lord is now your husband. Your spouse. And you enter into a deeper relationship.
Now, this took me awhile to lay this out. I understand that. But we're focusing on people who are exploring God this weekend. All right? So let me just show you again — look back at Mark 4:14. It says: "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". Okay, couple things I want to share about this. This is Jesus talking, remember. First of all, this is going to shock you. But Satan can take the word out of your heart. That's what Jesus said. So if you disagree with me, I don't need an email on it. Email him. Tell him — say, "I don't believe Satan can take the word out of your heart," but don't email me. Email him. 'Cause I didn't say that, he said that.
Satan could — this is in red, by the way, okay? Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. Now, I'm going to get in this series — I'm going to get into this later. This is why you need to protect your heart, 'cause your heart is the ground that can produce thirty, sixty, or a hundredfold. Or, Satan can take the word out of your heart. So it's very important. Now, you say, "Well, I'm not in that group. I don't need to hear this message". Yes, you do. Because even if you're not in the group, exploring God, you know someone in this group. Is that right? You know someone in that group. You're either in this first group, or you know someone in this group. And here's what's amazing.
Have you ever had someone that you've been working on, and they go through a difficulty or a tragedy, and they're all of a sudden open to God? You ever had that? And they're real open to God, and they even talk to you, and they ask for your prayers and all. And a few weeks go by, and they're not open anymore? You ever seen that? You know why? Because Satan followed up on 'em immediately. The word was sown in their heart, and Satan came and took it out. So I have a question for you. If Satan follows up on people immediately, why don't we? Why don't we follow up on 'em immediately?
Okay. Now, this same parable in Mark 4 is in Matthew 13 and Luke 8. You don't need to turn to those, but I'm just going to read you that one verse in those passages as well, and hopefully, the next few weeks, you could read this in all the gospels, and maybe in different versions. Matthew 13:19 says: "When anyone hears the word of the Kingdom" when anyone hears the word of the Kingdom, the gospel: "And does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart".
Now, why does God want you to understand it? Well, Luke 8 tells us. Again, same verse. Luke 8:12. "Those by the wayside are the ones who hear. Then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved". Did I not tell you that these people haven't been saved yet? See? Lest they believe and be saved. So either you know someone in this group, or you're in this group. So I know I'm getting to these points late, but I won't spend much time on 'em. But here are three things that you need to know if you're in the exploring God group, so that you can understand the word, and be saved.
Number one, this is on salvation, it's not based on works. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast". Listen, I've got good news for you. If you want to go to heaven, it's not based on your works. That's good news. It's based on his work. John 6:28-29. "They said to him, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?'" Even plural, work the works, plural, of God. "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he sent.'" That's how you get saved.
Now, let me just say something, by the way, okay? These people are still growing. I have noticed, more than anything, one of the greatest battles against people I know who are in this group, it's to get them back in works. It's amazing to me. Because when you got saved, you knew that you didn't deserve it. There was no doubt, you didn't deserve it. But now, it's 20 years later. And you're a leader in the church, and you know the Word of God, and you tithe. You still don't deserve it. It's still by his grace. It's by his grace. Ephesians says it's a gift.
So, point number one, it's not by works. Here's number two, it's a free gift. I've got even better news for you. Not only is it a gift, it's free. Romans 6:23 says: "For the wages of sin is death," notice, wages, that's what you get if you work for it. That's what you get paid, death. "But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". I know there's an old hymn, but listen to me carefully. Jesus paid it all. He did not make a down payment on your salvation, and you have to pay the rest. He paid it all. Is that good news? That's good news, isn't it? He paid it all. You just receive it. It's like he made a deposit in your name, and if you'll just go and sign up, you can receive it. That's what this is.
And here's number three, it's easy to receive. We're talking about salvation. It's easy to receive. Romans 10:9 says: "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved". That's the Bible. Don't complicate what God made simple. God took the most complicated issue in the world, how can a sinful person have a relationship with a holy God, and he made it simple. Confess with your mouth, and believe in your heart. And you'll be saved. That's pretty simple, isn't it?
A few years ago, Debbie and I were in Guatemala, and we took an afternoon, and just went by some shops there. And we walked into this shop, and we heard Christian music. So I found the owner and I said to him, "Are you a Christian"? And he said, "No, I'm not". I said, "Why are you playing this music"? He said, "I like it. There's something about it that I like". And I said to him, "Did you know that it's easy to become a Christian"? And he said, "No. I've heard just the opposite". And I said, "Oh, no. It's very easy".
And I took a few moments and explained to him exactly what I've told you in this message, that God took the most complicated issue in the world, and that is how can a sinful person be in a relationship with a holy God, and God made it simple, because Jesus Christ, his Son, died for our sins. I'd like for you to accept Jesus right now, as your personal Lord and Savior. Just take a few moments right now, and just follow me in this prayer. Just say, "Dear God, thank you for sending your Son to die for my sins. And I receive you today, as my Lord and as my Savior".
Hey, if you prayed that prayer, according to the Word of God, you're a Christian now. And we'd love to help you and send you some resources to help you in your new relationship with Christ. And I want to encourage all of you, watch next week, because I'm going to continue this series. We're going to talk about where we are, and how we go to the next step in our relationship with Christ. God bless you.