Sunday, October 23, 2022

The Parable of the Growing Seed: The Growth of God's Kingdom vs. the Kingdom of Babylon

“Lloyd was proud of his architectural marvel. He called it Taliesin in honor of a Welsh bard and his romantic poems. The Chicago architect planned to enjoy plenty of romance in his Wisconsin getaway. And that’s exactly why the locals were scandalized. Whenever they spoke about Lloyd’s house, they put the emphasis on the last syllable: Talie-sin. Some tried to get up a petition to bulldoze it. Others threatened to burn it down. The school superintendent warned that the goings-on there would corrupt the morals of area children.

What caused this firestorm? After Lloyd had finished the house of a wealthy client, he stole the man’s wife. When he ran off to Europe with Mamah Borthwick, he abandoned his wife and six children. That was scandalous enough in the big city of Chicago. But there was outrage in Spring Green when he built a love cottage for his mistress. Lloyd couldn’t care less. He was the world’s greatest architect. Laws and rules applied to lesser people. He once said to a reporter, “Two women were necessary for a man of artistic mind —one to be mother of his children and the other to be his mental companion, his inspiration and soul mate.” But Lloyd’s plans would be turned upside down on August 15, 1914.

Lloyd was away when his mistress and two of her children sat down to lunch on the porch at Taliesin. Workers were eating in the dining room. Barbados native Julian Carlton was serving lunch. After Julian served the soup, he took an ax outside, where he hacked Lloyd’s mistress and her children to death. Meanwhile, the workers in the dining room saw fluid spreading across the floor. Suddenly, the liquid erupted into a blazing inferno, and the door to the dining room was shut and locked. Some of the workers managed to bust through the door, only to be met by Julian with his bloodied ax. By the time townspeople arrived at the burning love cottage, seven people, including three children, had been brutally murdered. Julian had swallowed muriatic acid. It would take him seven agonizing weeks to die.

The conventional wisdom in 1914 was that Mamah got what she deserved for breaking up Lloyd’s happy family. But what about the man who was above convention? He immediately set about to rebuild his love cottage. A year later he moved in with another lover. The world remembers Frank Lloyd Wright for his wondrous architecture. But few folks remember the getaway that he built in Spring Green or what happened there. Maybe the Taliesin tragedy is a morality tale. Certainly, we ought to grieve for the innocent victims. But we should also question Lloyd’s assumption that we can ignore the laws indelibly written into creation by its Creator. When we are tempted to think that we are the exception to the rule, we ought to recall something Robert Louis Stevenson wrote:

Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” -Robert Petterson, One Year Book of Amazing Stories

Today we find ourselves in the gospel of Mark, which is the only place in the four gospels where our parable today is located.

Our parable today is nestled within a discourse of Jesus the messiah, where he teaches several parables in rapid succession. He teaches the parable of the sower, the parable of the lamp under a bushel, then our parable for today.

Jesus defines the meaning of the parable this way: “This is what the kingdom of God is like.”

Just like last week, the parable describes the kingdom of God, and in particular, how the growth of the kingdom of God works.

Last week we saw that the kingdom of God is like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a mighty tree, or like yeast that causes bread to rise. Today, we see the picture of a man growing a crop.

This is what Jesus says, in Mark 4:26-29 “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Here Jesus is speaking again about the growth of the kingdom of God, and how it works.

When you think of a profession like someone who builds houses for a living, him and his work crew, they put in their bids to build houses, and someone selects their offer, pays them, and they get to work. They come everyday to the worksite building the house.

I recall last year in town Scott and I would go over to starbucks for coffee in the mornings during kettle season and we’d see the progress the workers were making on the Frankenmuth credit union by home depot. Slowly but surely they got the work done.

What would happen if they had just sat at the work site and waited and watched? Would the materials begin assembling themselves? Would the ground be dug out, would the foundation be placed? Would the wood begin to rise and the shingles plop down from heaven onto the roof? Certainly not.

They work with the supplies provided by others, and put it together into a house. It’s a great deal of work, no doubt.

It’s quite different with farming, and growing crops. My great grandparents on both sides of my family were farmers, and came from farmers, one side from Poland, and they were potato farmers, and the other side from France and Austria, and Germany, they were also farmers.

Farming is an interesting profession, because, you plow the fields, you plant the seeds, you water the seeds, and then you wait. You wait and you wait as the crops grow. You don’t go out into the fields with the various parts of the corn stalk and or wheat stalk and begin gluing it all together piece by piece.

The seed grows from the fertile soil and from the nutrition it receives from the sun.

It’s a long, agonizing process, requiring a great deal of patience I assume.

I recall as part of a class project in grade school I was given tomato seeds and attempted to grow them inside in little planters. I cared for them and watered them and over weeks and months they grew. I was amazed and pleased to see them grow so well. Unfortunately then one day I found them knocked over and chewed to pieces by my cats. Which is terribly disappointing for me.

In any case, it takes patience. And if it doesn’t grow, it doesn’t grow. There’s nothing a human can do to make it grow, necessarily.

So it is with the kingdom of God. The man tosses the seeds out everywhere, and it begins to grow. Similarly, when we spread the gospel, God uses those seeds, and causes them to grow. And it does not happen on our time table.

It may happen quickly, even in just a few months and they get saved. Then again, it may take years and years and years. Only God knows how it happens and how it works.

We see this principle used by the apostle Paul in the book of 1st Corinthians 3:6, Paul wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

We plant the seed by sharing the gospel with someone, letting them know that they can escape from the empty miserable life of sin they are living. They can escape from a miserable one dimension life, a life of service to self. People of the world live that way, we all used to live that way, we lived to fulfill our basic desires, food, shelter, friendship, influence, romance. 3 instincts of life, security, social, and sexual instincts. Essentially, do what feels good. We live on emotion first, mind second.

We plant the seed. Someone else comes along and waters it. Another Christian comes along and fertilizes it. But God himself causes the seed to sprout up from the dirt, and grow.

And this person is taken from an empty life, to beginning to realize the true nature of the universe and the planet Earth, that it is the design of an infinite creative intelligence. And this God begins to lead them toward the path home, and this leads to the salvation we find in Jesus Christ, for our sins to be washed away.

This 2-dimensional person, living on emotion and selfishness, comes to Jesus, cries out to Jesus, and Jesus gives them a new nature, a new heart, new desires, and washes away their sins.

Suddenly, this person is rocketed into a new dimension of life, they go from desperately trying to fulfill the three basic instincts for security, socializing, and sexuality, to the 4th dimension, the dimension of faith in God, reliance on God. And instead of seeking security, social, and sexual instincts first, instead this approach is completely replaced by seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.

Instead of living lives of quiet desperation, fearfully trying to fulfill our desires for security, safety, friendships and romance, instead we live by the great mystery of Christianity, we live by faith in God.

We live in total trust with God. And as a result, God causes us to grow into new people, people made for the kingdom of Heaven.

Trust in God, that is what all this is built upon. If we want to be people who are like the growing seed, that is always growing, and if we want to be people who are soul winners, who are drawing people to Jesus Christ, we must have a radical trust in God.

To really trust God when everything is going wrong, to really trust God when we don’t see anything changing on the surface, to really trust God when we keep evangelizing and sharing our faith with people, and we keep inviting people to church but few ever come, can we really trust that our efforts have not failed, that God will be do more than we can imagine?

The farmer has to trust that the seeds are going to grow. No amount of effort over the months can force the seed to grow. They can create to a certain extent good conditions, they can plow good rows, they can water the fields, they can apply fertilizer, they can drive off wildlife, but they can’t make the seed grow and produce it’s fruit.

Only the sun, and the fertile soil, and the DNA of the seed can produce the harvest. Similarly, in your walk with Christ, I can provide a quality sermon, we can provide groups and social media encouragement, and instructions on prayer and bible reading, but only God can really cause those things to flourish in your life, and it also takes your submission to Him and your willingness to live out the Christian life on a daily basis.

If you struggle with that willingness to submit to God and give real time to Him, pray, ask God to help make you more willing to submit to Him. But there is something that will certainly disrupt your intimacy with God, it’s sin, if you allow sin a foothold in your life, it will disrupt your walk with God, and if you fill yourself with the world, entertainment, movies, videogames, music, parties, politics, hobbies, culture, all that, you may find yourself so filled with the world that God ends up with a backseat.

So in your own life, only God can cause your seed to grow, and connected in this is your willingness to let God control your life, practically.

So submit to Him. Make Him the true head of your life. Make Him King of your life. Maybe you’ve never done that. Maybe you’ve received Jesus Christ as your savior, but you’ve never received Him as King of you life, where you literally check your decisions with Him, and do what he wants you to do, well you can do that today, say Dear Lord Jesus, You are my savior, and I make you my King, I give my life to your service, guide me to know your will and do you will, I unseat myself, and give you the seat of kingship in my heart and my life. Use me as you see fit Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.

That is the personal application of our parable for today. Internally it looks like trusting God to do the work in you while submitting to Him. Internally it looks like trusting Him to provide for all your needs as you seek His plan and kingdom first. Internally it looks like trusting Him, as you spread the seeds of the gospel in Owosso, in this state, in this world, that even if you don’t see the fruit, God is still causing those seeds to grow, maybe not right now, but in years, or longer. Trusting God’s word will not return void.

Now, let’s flip to an external perspective on the parable of the growing seed, what does this look like in western civilization, in the United States and our world today?

Yes, this parable is an encouragement for us that God will cause the seeds we plant to grow, and yes it’s an encouragement that God will cause us to grow as we submit to His will, but this is also I believe a statement Jesus is making about the progress of history on planet Earth.

We’re talking about the march of two kingdoms, the march of God’s kingdom vs. the march of evil.

We’ve seen a battle on planet Earth over the last six thousand years between two kingdoms, the kingdom of Satan, often called Babylon, and the kingdom of God. The entire Earth has been under the control of the evil one since the fall in the garden of Eden, but slowly but surely God’s kingdom has spread, beginning with one man, Abraham, to the nation of Israel, a beacon of hope to the nations, but Israel fell over time to idolatry, which led God to come in human form, Jesus Christ, and his life, death, and resurrection from the grave began the spread of the kingdom of God across the planet Earth. It spread west through the roman empire, into Europe, and eventually to the new world, to the Americas, and then into Africa, and asia, India, Japan, and across the nations of the Earth.

But with the rise of modernism, technology, vast economies and wealth, and world wars, Christendom in western civilization began to decline as sin and wickedness and pride and self-focus spread. Christendom, Christianity as a controlling force in the United States and Europe, essentially collapsed completely in the last 50 years.

So today we find ourselves in an odd interplay between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Babylon. The kingdom of God is spreading like wildfire through the eastern world, China, India, the Philippines, South Korea, and through the continent of Africa, beginning in the southern half and spreading rapidly north, but at the same time in the western world, the United States and Europe, we see the decline and collapse of Christianity, and the rise of the kingdom of Babylon.

This is of course all part of the growth of the seeds of the kingdom of God upon the Earth. Piece by piece and part by part the kingdom of God grows, from a seed, to a sprout, then a stalk, then a head, and full kernels of the fruit of the crop in the head. Until it is fully grown, and then waits as the weather becomes increasingly cold, and windy, and bitter, until the harvest comes.

Perhaps those are the days we find ourselves in, the harvest of God’s kingdom moving toward being fully grown across the nations of the Earth, now waiting, as the weather grows increasingly cold, because, the last days are approaching.

Because we know in the time of the tribulation, the end times in revelation, the kingdom of Satan will have it’s time of control of the Earth, to test those who remain on the Earth, so they may make their choice, whom will they serve, God or Satan, obedience to God or rebellion against God?

That is the fundamental choice before every human soul on Earth. Rebellion to god’s system or obedience to the kingdom of God? What is your choice?

Today in the United States it feels a lot like me, to the kingdom of Gondor in the Lord of the Rings series. Yes, a Tolkien reference, you thought you might escape without such a reference but here we are.

Gondor had once been an incredibly powerful kingdom with vast armies. But over the ages Gondor became increasingly weakened by corrupt leaders, a plague that spread across the land, and a civil war. This had increasingly weakened Gondor. Plus, Gondor as a nation was placed just to the west of evil Sauron’s kingdom. So they had to constantly fight off attacks by ork armies, to protect the rest of the Earth. They grew increasingly corrupt and weak, their armies exhausted and defeated, and soon, even Osgiliath had fallen, the city closest to the capital of Minas Tirith.

Hordes of orks moved freely throughout middle earth, because Gondor could no longer keep the rest of the nations safe.

This reminds me of the state of Christianity today. We’ve grown weak in our constant battles against the kingdoms of hell and darkness. We’re not particularly united amongst our denominations, and western civilization has turned against us, favoring modernism, technology, sin, and debauchery, in favor of truth and beauty and light. They’ve declared their victory of the old fairy tales of the past, and declared that science will now light the way, and Christianity is of no particular value to the west any longer.

And so as we see the west reject Christianity, we see the multiplying of evil across the west, they invent new ways of doing evil says the word of God, that is certainly true of this nation, pornography, human trafficking, domestic violence, abortion of unborn children, gender ideology, relativism, increased crime, assisted suicide, we see all the precepts of Christianity that once held the west together, from the sanctity of life, to marriage and the nuclear family, and the ten commandments and concepts of law and justice, all derived from Christianity, slowly being pulled apart by the west and replaced with Marxist darwinistic theories of justice, truth, politics, economics, psychology, and ideology.

So we find ourselves as Christians, as a holy remnant of God, in a civilization increasingly hostile toward Christianity, hostile toward Christian values, and hostile toward us. We are like a anti-body, or a white blood cell in a system, that once functioned to protect the system, but now is regarded as a foreign adversary to the system, regarded as alien and to be removed, if not now, someday.

Yet still, a holy remnant remains true, maybe only a few million strong across all 50 states, acting as guards and watchmen and women, groups of us fight the kingdoms of darkness still in the fallen lands of the USA, like a resistance movement, like a secret movement, we still fight in these lands, drawing people to Jesus Christ, battling sin in society, upholding what little justice and truth remains in our government systems and law and culture, praying against the kingdoms of darkness, striking at their rulers and authorities and foot demons in the heavenly places across our lands.

It reminds me of groups of soldiers in Tolkien’s middle earth called “rangers of Ithilien.” They would move about secretly in groups of 50 or 100 or 20 or a few hundred, ambushing orcs and enemy troops as they moved across the lands of middle earth.

Though hordes of demons and sin and darkness freely roam across the 50 states of the USA, they are never safe from groups of Christian soldiers, who ambush them and crush them where they are found attacking the free people of the USA. We’re weak, we’re battered, we’re barely holding on, but we have not given up, and we continue to fight the enemy, and win souls to Christ, across all 50 states of this nation, day and night. And we will never surrender, though the night get darker still, we will grow ever brighter, we will not give up, we will keep winning souls to Christ, we will keep casting our the demonic hordes, we will keep praying angels to fight them, we will keep speaking up boldly for Christ everywhere we possibly can.

Because we know that the end is near, and everyone needs Jesus. The harvest of God’s kingdom is ripe, but the workers are few, so we are praying hard for God to send workers into these fields, they are ripe for harvest. One day soon, brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ will return to this Earth, like the man in the parable, to harvest the grain that has grown and been made ready by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. Praise the Lord!