Today I found one miniscule advantage to having a 'Jesus words in red' Bible. It makes it very easy to work out the main thing that is happening in Mark 4. That is - Jesus is speaking. The other way to work that out is to actually read the chapter. Jesus speaks lots, and Mark reports 'And he said' numerous times. And all of it - red and black is the word of God.
As Jesus speaks he's announcing his rule as he has done since 1v15, with astounding authority. He came to preach. This is what he's doing. He preaches and it's clear that he's come to be a lamp shining to be seen, though he is intentionally hiding himself by using unexplained parables.
The rule of Jesus is more important than saving the most people possible, as he very deliberately masks the gospel. Outsiders miss out because they're not listening. But anyone can come and ask Jesus to explain and so become an insider. Entirely freely. Not by nepotism. Not by performance. Not by anything, except his grace. And whilst the crowds and flocked to him, he' stands accused of blasphemy, insanity and being demon-possessed. Any could listen, many will not listen. Those who have ears to hear...
When the word comes there are things that can prevent it bearing the harvest it should. It is powerful, and grows by itself with great multiplication. But still Satan can snatch it away, troubles can come because of the word and snuff out the life and alternate pleasures can threaten to drown out the voice of God.
Paul Tripp & Timothy Lane call these external pressures Heat. Heat is unavoidable. And Heat isn't deadly. The problem is the way that my (already crucified) sinful nature can respond to that Heat. That is, the problem is how I choose to respond to it.
The temptation is to believe Satan's lies, to drop the word to avoid the trouble (or facing it with bitterness, impatience, anger and self-pity - been there!) and to simply chase the alluring pleasures on offer elsewhere - to respond to Heat with sinful beliefs and action. Such a path leads to death.
Only when the gospel speaks into the situation of heat can there be life. Only when the word resounds with the life that Jesus offers. Only when the true perspective comes from the gospel word will there be abundant life. When lies are overcome by truth. When troubles are endured with God's help rather than escaped. When God's promises stand as anchors in the storm. When alternate pleasures are exposed by the greater joy in the gospel. When the praises of men are exposed for the empty words that they are. Only when we become those feeding on the life giving 'red words'. Let me have ears to hear that 'more precious than gold' word!
In other news, Stu & I went to the Driving Range at Exminster today with the fancy clubs that he got given by his Dad. I've done this once before, when I was about fourteen. A little under half a life-time ago. Stu reckons he's hopeless. I know I am. But it was kinda fun and rather humbling to try and hit a golf ball. The word flailing was invented for that occasion. How difficult can it be?! I really can't imagine I'll ever be any good at it, but I guess I'll do it again sometime. I was never all that likely to find security in my sporting prowess because I never really had much. This week has proven that again.
What I need is humility in those things I can do, and the humility to try the things that I can't do (sometimes). And I find that humbling grace only in the gospel word that Jesus speaks. I can't work up humility in myself, it comes from God.
How kind that he gives that word to a wretch like me, dragging me from the fumbling incompentence and rebellion of my life and placing me freely in his family. What kindness to speak and reveal the secret of his Kingdom. What grace. CJ Mahaney reminds himself that he's always doing better than he deserves. How true that is.
In the last month I've been wonderfully blessed by the generosity of others and that is truly humbling. More than that, in each of those days the word of God has been available to me, in language I understand, to hear the word of Jesus. The word that created me. The word that sustains me. The word that saved me. The word that gives me life day by day. May I be one who listens. Who repents. Who believes. And may the grace of God then make me generous with the grace I've been given.
Lane & Tripp - How People Change. (currently out of print)