Archive for February, 2009

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Among Thorns

February 28, 2009

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

This parable is not really talking about four soils; we’re talking about four different hearts, that’s the soil, we’ve seen that already. Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit is sowing the word of the reign of God on hearts. The heart that is too near the world is not going to receive or understand the word and it’s going to be immediately plucked away. You’ve brought people to church, haven’t you? And you were just hoping that the word would just connect and it didn’t. Their hearts were still too close to the world and the enemy immediately plucked it away.

And then there is this rocky ground. You know you’ve seen those who have received… I’ve seen family members receive it and now it is no where in their life now. It’s gone. Difficult times come. And difficult times are coming. If there is no depth of soil and no moisture to sustain a root system, if the word isn’t working within, the moisture of the word, the water of the word, and no depth of soil that will enable a root to go deep, that one will be lost.

Here we see the seed sown among the thorns, on thorny soil.

“Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

The thorns came up with it. They were not there apparently when the seed was sown. If it were apparent when the seed was sown, many hearts would not have received it.

There are many who see the cost and just have no heart to pay the cost. They do not want to give up their drugs, their alcohol, their lifestyle, their wanting the best the world has to offer, their vocation, their future in the world. They see the cost and are not interested. They don’t receive the seed. They’re back beside the road. We are talking about lives that do not see the thorns when the seed is sown. The seed is received, but there are thorns that come up with it. That’s what it says; “the thorns came up with it…” They were not there to be seen at the beginning, but “the thorns came up with it and choked them out, and it yielded no crop.”

“And those on whom the seed was sown among the thorns are the ones who hear the word of the reign of God in the heart of man, and they go on their way and they are choked.”

It’s interesting that in these three texts you probably stumbled over this, this is difficult. You find two phrases, “they are choked,” and later, “and the word was choked,” the seed was choked; both are choked, and strangled is an accurate translation of the word “choked.”

And those on whom seed was sown among thorns are the ones who hear the word (of the Reign of God), and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the desires for other things.”

If that is not the American church, I don’t know what is. There is a reason the church in America is dying. There is a reason there are fewer churches this year, in the hundreds, than there were last year. And on the whole, almost without exception, the mega churches are seeing exponential growth, but this huge church growth boom is at the expense of hundreds and thousands of smaller churches. What’s happening is, we’re just moving around, finding that which appeals to us the most. There is some growth by conversion but it is very small. It does not keep up with those that leave the church every year. And that’s why the church in America is declining.

“They are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.”

I wonder what “deceitfulness of riches” means? You hear some of the Gospel that has been preached over the last twenty years, a Gospel that would make a Hugh Hefner or Bill Gates a saint. If the riches of the world is the promise of God, billionaire Bill Gates is a saint. The prosperity that is promised in the Scriptures is everything we need, but it is not going to include the deceitfulness of riches, because riches are a deception. That’s why not many rich enter the kingdom. It is extremely hard for the rich to enter the kingdom because it has a deceit in it.

We think that somehow there is some security in having enough. That’s a lie. All we need is God. His checking account is more than adequate. It’s a deceit to think that we can manage it better; that’s what we are saying. It isn’t that God is looking for those in whom He can entrust great riches. I’ve known very few men who are able to give the bulk away.

When I was making it, and had a very substantial income back in the ‘60s and early ‘70s, I had four companies. I was an elder in the church, speaking and preaching several times a week, giving well over a tithe; but I wasted most of it. I wasted most of it. It is lost to the kingdom of God.

He is not looking for the tithe. He wants to reign over it all. And if you can’t hear that, you need to set some time aside to deal with this, because the enemy will use that against you. And you’ll have a hard time finding the reign of life. You’ll have a miserable Christian experience. You will always be short of reigning in life. Sin will plague you and the battle will just be non-stop. You might daily have victory over it but it will be a miserable victory. And most of you here know exactly what I am talking about, a miserable victory.

I know – reigning in life requires the reign of God. Those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life (that word is basileia) in Christ Jesus. Well, it might not mean what I just said it meant, but it means something. You deal with it.

It reads just quite simply,

“and as they go on their way they are choked with the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things.”

The pleasures of this life enter in and choke the Word (of the reign of God), and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.

I’ll have to confess, in much of my earlier walk in Christ in leadership I did things differently. Somehow if two families came in and one family was struggling financially and was always in need and another family was financially secure and could really help out the cause, which family do you suppose I catered to more? No, John Brown wouldn’t do that.

Two men considered for the church board. Two men considered for the treasurer of the board. One is an accountant, the other is a farmer. Now, which one do you suppose we would choose? And, then I ask you, which one would spend more time praying over the management of the church funds?

This is the hour for the Gospel of the Kingdom to be preached in all the nations. It is not just happening in your heart, it is happening all over the earth. Everywhere I go now, I am hearing it, and I think that if you are listening, you are hearing it too. This Gospel of His Reign is going to raise up an army here in the states that love not their own lives, that love not their own lives even unto death, because they found the King and the realm of His reign within and it’s all that matters; nothing else matters. There isn’t a second in the picture.

“…and they bring no fruit to maturity and yield no crop.”

We have just looked at three kinds of soil. We’ve looked at three kinds of hearts that cannot understand the things of the kingdom, cannot receive it, will not find fruit in their lives. And all three you’ll find in the church.

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THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown in Rocky Places

February 25, 2009

Here is the harmony of the Soil in Rocky Places.

“Other seed fell on the rocky ground or soil where it did not have much soil: and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil.”

By the way, a farmer is suspicious if it comes up too quickly; he knows he’s got a problem. A too quick response is not always a good response.

Bear with me. When we get to the second book in the series, A Radical Discipleship, (Follow Me and I Will Make You), Jesus lays out some very heavy demands on those who are going to follow Him. He says things like: “No one of you can be My disciple unless he takes up his cross daily. You can’t be My disciple; you can’t be with Me if you do not hate your father, mother, sister brother, husband or wife in comparison to your love for Me.” Notice that He is not leaving room for even a close second. “He can not be My disciple who does not say good bye to all his own possessions.”

These are pretty heavy demands but woven into the middle of these in Luke 14 He makes this statement: “What king of you before he goes into war does not first make an assessment of the enemy’s strength and size to determine if he with his five thousand can overcome the enemy that is coming with ten thousand?” “What man of you who builds a house does not first count the cost lest he begins and not be able to finish?”

Jesus makes it very clear that it is not to anyone’s advantage to get a decision that is not based on a clear understanding of what is being asked or sought. We are not doing anyone a favor by getting them to sneak up their hand at the end of a service and believing they are saved without them understanding that what they are being asked to do is going to cost them everything that they are and everything that they have been entrusted with for the rest of their life.

We are not doing a plant any good that is going to spring up quickly, but the conditions are so that there is no depth of soil, no room for root. Are you getting the implications of this?

That’s why those who come to Christ in China or North Korea or Uganda or in Nigeria or Ethiopia or Sudan or Iran or Syria or Indonesia all know the cost. They know what coming to Christ will cost them. That’s why the church is multiplying there and she is declining here at a fairly rapid rate. That’s why over there the church is increasing in the 100s of percent, because they have considered the cost and have determined that He is worth it. His reign in their heart is worth it! Being filled with the life of God is worth it! And we in the West or in America have approached it as if it were worthless, costless.

“…and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And as soon as it grew up, and after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no moisture it had no root.”

It had no moisture so it had no root. I wonder what the moisture could be. It is where there is no sufficient depth of the word, the water of the word in the soil of the heart that will feed and nourish and sustain the root system. The foundation of this life is choosing to follow after Christ and seeking the reign of God in their heart.

“…and because it had no moisture it had no root. And because it had no root it withered away.”

I have seen untold numbers of those who have withered away. It’s the reason why our whole approach to mass evangelism ends up with 1%, 2%, and at the most 3% who are in church a month later. Because there was no depth of soil there was no understanding of the need for the word to do its work.

“In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places. This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation when affliction or persecution arises because of the word of the Reign of God, immediately they fall away.”

And I can promise you if you have not discovered it already, the more you hear, the more you will be proven. “Through many tribulations must we enter into the reign.” Tribulation means pressure from the outside. It’s God’s way of driving the roots deeper for those who have the moisture and the depth of soil – it’s necessary. But to those who have been deceived into believing it is a costless, shallow experience, sin forgiven, heaven bound, no more hell in their future, but no love for Him; no real depth of understanding what God is all about and what God is doing.

“Yet they have no firm root within themselves, but are only temporary.”

THE KEY PARABLE – Seed Sown Beside the Road

February 19, 2009

Here is my commentary on the harmony of the Soil Beside the Road.

“Listen to this! Behold, the sower went out to sow his seed and as he sowed, some seed fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the air came and ate it up.”

Now, here we are looking for those who have received a particular word, and you can’t read this particular segment without recognizing that in one of the texts it refers to the ‘word.’ In one of the Gospels the seed is the word, and in one of the other Gospels, it is the word of God, and in the third, it is the word of the kingdom. The mystery is, the seed that this sower is sowing is the word of God regarding the reign of God. It is the word about the kingdom. This word about the kingdom is a very broad word. It is referred to in the Gospels as the gospel of the kingdom, and good news about the reign of God. It is not just any word. It’s not just any word of God. It is the word concerning the reign. The parables have to do with Jesus sharing words concerning the reign of God in the lives of His disciples.

And you will not understand the power of this word of God, this word of the kingdom, this word of the reign; you will not understand how it is the power of God unto salvation unless you understand the mysteries. These things will only be understood by those who seek them out, those who search them out. “It is the glory of God to hide a matter; it is the glory of kings to search out a matter.”

We need to recognize we are a realm, a nation of priests and kings, referring to the text in 1 Peter and in Revelation. We are a kingdom, a realm of kings and priests, that’s who we are. We’ve been called to rule and reign with Christ, to share the reign. And, you will not understand how to enter into the fullness of that reign, you will not understand how that reign is going to work in your heart and in your life and you’ll not understand how to exercise the reign in sharing the reign with Christ and how to relate to Him as the head unless you understand these mysteries.

So, it is not just any word. A harmony of this particular seed thrown by the road makes it very clear it is a particular word; it is the word concerning the kingdom.

“Hear the parable of the sower. Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of the kingdom (the reign, realm, and people of the realm) of God.”

The word, the seed, is the word of the kingdom of God.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom (reign of God)…”

Not just any word. But when anyone hears the word that the Spirit of God is putting out concerning the reign of God, “and does not understand it, immediately the evil one, Satan, the devil…” Now how is he referred to in the first part of the parable, this evil one, this Satan, this devil? It’s the bird!

There is a bird that is watching over what is coming into our life, and if Christ is trying to speak to us by His Spirit concerning the things of the kingdom, if it is not taken in, if it is not understood, there is a bird that will rob you and I of that word, quickly, immediately. So it is clear that you cannot understand the mysteries of God if you are not able to understand the word that He is sharing. If you are not in a place where you can receive the word, hear the word, understand the word, it is not going to lie around for a later date. We would like to believe that it is back here in the background and some day we’ll get a hold of it, but it will be taken from you and me if it is not planted where it can bear fruit.

Now where is this place where the seed is sown where it is not planted and can be stolen by the bird? It’s by the road! The Luke text adds this little phrase, “and it was trampled under foot.”

Do you know the person who can not receive and understand the word concerning the reign? I just told you! They are out on the road where the world is traveling. If your heart is too close to where the world lives, the seed of the word will not find any ground to be planted in. It’s on soil that cannot receive it and it will be trampled under foot and immediately stolen by the devil. What does that mean?

You can’t watch much of what is going on on TV; you cannot find your pleasure in the humor of the world; you cannot live vicariously where the world lives; you cannot spend your life where the world is walking and expect to receive and understand this word concerning His reign in your heart. The seed that is on the ground that cannot be buried and is trampled is the heart that is living near to where the word is walking.

I was raised on a farm and I have done everything relating to seeding from manual broadcast to machine casting. And as you make your rows and come along to the end of the row, particularly the side that is next to the road, and if there is no fence there is no growth there by a fence, some seed will get out there by the berm of the road. And it will be eaten by the birds; run over; walked over; it’ll not even spring up; it’ll not even come forth; because it is out there where the world travels.

“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom (the reign of God) and does not understand it, immediately the evil one, Satan, the devil comes and snatches it away, takes away the word (of the reign of God) that has been sown in his heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.”

Only one of the texts adds, “so that they will not believe and be saved.” It is this word of the kingdom that is the word that is the power of God unto salvation. That’s what it says. The word of God that the sower is casting is the word concerning the reign of God in the heart of man. It is that word that, if it is not believed and received, and planted, then it is the absence of that word that keeps one from salvation.

The issue is, if you don’t understand that, if your heart is too near the road where the world is traveling, and you don’t understand that, you’ll not get your heart out of the world. A lot of Christians are suffering and miserable in their walk because they are living too close to the world. Their hearts are just too close. Does that communicate with you? You know what I am talking about, don’t you?

THE KEY PARABLE – “Introductions”

February 14, 2009

Let’s look at the Introductions. We find the Introductions in Matthew 13:1-3a, Mark 4:1-2, and Luke 8:4. Now, what I am going to do is to take you through the three different texts and then we’re going to come down to the “Harmony” of the Introductions. I suggest that you write these out for yourselves and underline those things that are not found in all three. And so I’m going to read the Harmony.

That day Jesus went out of the house…

You find that “went out of the house” in verse 1 of Matthew 13. You might not think it’s significant and it does not seem to have a lot of significance, but it does set the scene. You do not find the fact that Jesus had spent some time in a house in Mark 4 or in Luke 8. He evidently stayed in somebody’s home which was, incidentally, by the sea. You can infer all sorts of things from this little bit of information. Things like that house “by the sea” could have been the home of Simon and Andrew or it could have been the home of a man called Zebedee who was the father of James and John. Both families had their homes by the Sea of Galilee because both families got their living as fishermen from the sea.

That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea, and those from the various cities were journeying to Him.

You do not find the information about people from “various cities” coming to hear him in Matthew and Mark. You only find that mentioned in the Luke passage.

…and those from the various cities were journeying to Him.

And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.

In the last part of verse 4 in the Luke text we find: He spoke by way of a parable. This is important, because if you were to read this same passage in Mark chapter 4, verse 2, you will see that it says that, He was teaching them many things in parables, plural. Not only does He teach this parable in particular but on this occasion He teaches a number of other parables too.

Turn to Matthew chapter 13, verses 34 and 35.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:

“I will open My mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden since the

Foundation of the world.”

This is very important. You will find teaching in the Gospels that is not in parables but when there was a crowd, He always taught by way of parables. And, as we will see more clearly in a few minutes, He taught by way of parables to hide it from most in the crowd.

Have you heard the teaching, on the radio, the TV or directly from pastors over the years, that Jesus taught in parables referring to natural things in life, simple things in life, to make it understood, to make it easy to understand? Well, that is a lie from the enemy! Jesus taught in parables to hide the truth. He taught in parables whenever there were those in His presence to whom it was not granted to understand.

There were always two kinds of people in the crowds. And He spoke in parables because there was always this kind of people or there was this other person or persons present. And it was for their sakes; it was by way of grace that He hid it from them. And this is the way of Jesus.

It seems as if there were some things that we would like to know but there are occasions where Jesus said, “I would like to speak to you, but you are not able to bear it. You can’t handle it.”

He hides it because, for whatever reason, it cannot be handled yet. There are things that you or I just cannot handle. There are things that I know I cannot handle or He would be explaining them to me. He would tell me because He wants me to know His ways and His heart in matters. But if He does not tell me, it’s probably because I cannot handle it, or bear it, or it’s for other reasons too, like if I’m not willing to do it. But there is this reason that He hides things from me: I’m not able to bear it. “Many things I would speak to you but you’re just not able to bear it.” And so there is this second person in the crowd that is not able to handle it, and Jesus in His grace and mercy hides it from them.

The point of Matthew 13:34 & 35 was that parables are both to hide and to reveal. Jesus spoke in parables to the crowds that are on the outside in order to hide and then when He got the disciples alone and all those who were His followers, and they asked Him for clarity, He would then explain the parables.

I’ll do this for you when we finish this section so you can see how to harmonize the Gospel accounts of this parable. It’s a good exercise and I recommend that you do it on your own. These completed harmonies will be done for you and posted in the “Pages” section of the blog.

I suggest that you take the four types of soils Jesus mentions and harmonize each with the three Gospel accounts found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The soil types that the seed is sown in are: 1. soil beside the road, 2. soil in rocky places, 3. soil with thorns, and 4. good soil.

The scripture references will be as follows:

1. Soil Beside the Road: Mt. 13:3-4, 18-29; Mk.4:3-4, 14-15; Lk.8:5, 11-12.

2. Soil in Rocky Places: Mt. 13:5-6, 20-21; Mk. 4:5-6, 16-17; Lk. 8:6, 13.

3. Soil Within Thorns: Mt. 13:7, 22; Mk. 4:7, 18-19; Lk. 8:7, 14.

4. Soil That is Good. Mt. 13:8, 23; Mk. 4:8, 20; Lk. 8:8a, 15.

Write out each section of the parable with only one reference to the passages that are in harmony while underlining those passages that are different in one account. A harmony is the combining of all of the elements to make sure that everything that is said is included. What you will get is a complete picture of what Jesus said to the crowd and to His disciples and what He is saying to us today.

THE KEY PARABLE – Two Kinds of Hearers

February 13, 2009

Then Jesus teaches that there were always two kinds of hearers. There is another text and I’m only going to introduce it because it’s another one that is misunderstood that operates on the same principal. In 1 Cor. 14 it talks about speaking in tongues. In verse 26 it talks about our gathering together, and some have a word and some a psalm, some have a tongue and some have an interpretation. But then Paul goes on with this admonition, “If there are any among you who are unbelievers or unlearned” – two different words. He’s talking about, “Even among yourselves, if there are those there who are yet to understand what God is doing with this foolishness of tongues, don’t go speaking in tongues out loud.”

One of the reasons there has been so much confusion about this is they have not understood this principal. There is a time when John Brown is not ready for this level, or this place in his walk. I can’t bear it. There are things that He is not sharing with me because I can’t bear it. It would just swamp me, and overwhelm me so that I would be discouraged. And, it’s that way with many who are yet to come to Christ. They have not been brought to a place where they are ready. Their heart is still closed. If you were to convince them, they would accept Him but they wouldn’t love Him. They would accept the forgiveness but they have no intent of Him reigning over how they live. The church is full of those who do not want Him to reign over them. We’ve done them a grave injustice. It’s like we’ve sterilized them. Many are sterilized because they feel as if everything is alright and nothing is alright. They don’t love Him. They really don’t want Him. They are not interested in spending more time with Him. They had rather watch the TV then cut out a little bit of time for Him. They would rather see a ball game or go fishing instead of investing in the kingdom. They’ve got to lay a little up in store. They’re on the fence. They’ve got one foot in but the other foot and the rest of their body and their mind and their whole life on the outside of the fence.

This is my thesis. In Mark 4:13, Jesus says, “If you do not understand this parable you will not understand any of the other parables.” This parable explains how to know the mysteries of God. This parable is to teach and train those who are among the initiated using that word ‘mysteries’ in its original form, those who are on the inside. Beginning in that place we are looking for an understanding from this parable of who are those who cannot hear and be fruitful, and who is the one who can hear, understand, do and bear fruit. And all the other parables have to do with some facet of this mystery or these mysteries concerning the reign of God.

THE KEY PARABLE – The Way of the Cross

February 10, 2009

Have you ever read any of the Voice of the Martyr’s publications? I’ve been involved with the Voice of the Martyrs since the ‘60’s and have been to China, and have worked with the church there. There are some powerful testimonies coming out of China, and have been coming for some time. There have been more martyred in my lifetime of 60 plus years than in all previous lifetimes back to the day of Christ. But you read those testimonies and you see the grace and the lovingkindness of God coming forth because there is no running from death, there is no trying to save their lives. It’s a marvelous testimony.

Another book by Voice of the Martyrs is “Extreme Devotion.” I try to read one or two of the devotions very morning. It’s to help me relate to the parts of our body that is suffering. And it is a good discipline. You will find in books like “Jesus Freaks” and “Extreme Devotion” jewels and precious stones that will encourage and enable you to face what is coming.

And, if I were a prophet, I would prophesy because the scene is being set. The church in the West is about to be humbled. And in our immaturity we will call it persecution, but it is not. It will be first judgment. And then, after that, when that which is not of Christ has been dealt with, then it will be persecution because only God judges and He only judges that which is not from Him. And, He does not persecute. The ruler of this world and this age persecutes that which is from God.

There is a reason why there is still persecution in America. Now there are Christians who are suffering in a number of ways. I have a number of friends who have suffered for the cause of Christ. I have one friend who has been in prison since 1982, a dear woman. She was first in prison as a child under Hitler for being a Jew. And then she was imprisoned by the Russians as a teenager and young lady for being a German. And she has spent most of her years since 1981, when I was in prison with her, for praying at abortion clinics to save babies. When she is out she’ll be out for maybe a month or two months and then she’ll go back across the street from a clinic, not even on the property, and will set to praying.

She’s really praying for two things: she’s praying for the babies that are being slaughtered there, but she’s also praying for that which is being aborted in the church. And, because she has a restraining order, she can’t be within 1500 feet of any abortion clinic anywhere, they just come and arrest her. She spends a year or 18 months in jail, winning inmates to Christ. That’s her ministry. Praying in front of abortion clinics is not violent and it saves babies. She’s a dear lady from Akin, South Carolina.

There are others here in the states doing what she is doing but there are many around the world that are choosing the way of the cross too.

Mysteries –

The third thing you will find in the parables is that He does not intend for everyone to understand the mysteries of the kingdom. He hides a matter. He has hidden them from the wise and intelligent, and reveals them to infants and babes. Something about our intellect gets in the way. Boy, that’s hard to accept. That won’t fly in a lot of seminaries. But our intellect can get in the way. But it will not get in the way once you have the key. The intellect then becomes a servant of God who has given it to us. I am not in any way suggesting you turn your head off. I’m just suggesting you bring it under the reign. You let the Spirit rule. And then He leads the intellect. And then He gives you understanding.

I know that if you have read the paper or watched the news you have said to yourself, “How can men be in such high places and be so foolish?” You know what I’m talking about, don’t you? Can men be in high places and be foolish? Can they be blind to obvious truth that most of the world can see but they, somehow, can’t see? It’s because their intellect got in the way. Sometimes it gets in the way of common sense. But God speaks in mysteries because He intends to hide it from some. And we have seen that.

“To you have been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables.”(Mark 4:11)

There’s a text in Mark 4:34, and in Matthew 13:34 that are the same situation, the same time, the same place. Jesus did not teach except by parables. I hope you are getting this. Whenever Jesus taught in public, He only taught by parables. Look in Matthew 13 to see this. Verse 34 says,

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables…

You will find teaching in the Gospels that are not in parables. You will find Jesus teaching without parables but it was at a particular time. Can you think of a time when He did not teach in parables? It was when He was only with those who were on the inside. Whenever there were those who were on the outside, He would always teach in parables. Whenever He taught and there were those there who were uninitiated into the mysteries, He would teach in parables.

He always taught in parables whenever there were those who were on the outside present because He wanted to hide it from them. He did not want them to understand.

Many stumble over this Intermission in this particular parable. He makes it very clear in Luke 8:10 the specific reasons for His teaching in parables.

And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”

That is as concise a quote of Isaiah 6:9 as there is:

He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking but do not understand.’ ”

That’s why Jesus taught in parables. It was because He was in the presence of those He did not want to perceive and He did not want them to understand.

Who would these uninitiated be? Do you think it may have been you before you were ready? He does not want you to reject it or accept it for the wrong reason or on the wrong basis. We have tried so hard to make the Gospel so simple that anybody can say, “Yes!” We have even tried to put it into such a context that it would be very hard, once it is heard, to turn it down. Who wants to go to hell? Think about it. If we can convince them that they are going to go to hell, who is not going to accept the forgiveness of their sins?

It’s out on the water. It’s the one who has gotten into the boat, he’s understood the parable, he’s come under the reign, he’s living in intimacy, he’s being made by Christ Himself. And the day comes when we are in the boat and the storm is raging and we are struggling just to get on with life. He comes walking on the water, and says, “Come out here. You’re there because I put you there but come on out here, out of the boat and onto the water with Me.”

That comes out of intimacy. That’s the life. And we see that in this little intermission here. We see all four of these issues dealt with in this intermission.

THE KEY PARABLE – Death Is Life

February 7, 2009

Paul makes the same point about mysteries in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. These “mysterious” things, even if you were to try to explain them, are foolishness to the world.

Some of you perhaps are a little bothered by my emphasis on our becoming nothing. Our choosing blindness, our choosing not to hear with our outer ears, and if I were to use another illustration from Matthew 5, our choosing to be poor in spirit, absolutely destitute of any strength of our own. This will certainly seem to be absolutely foolishness to the natural mind. Come on, face it. Isn’t that a bit foolish? I’ll tell you when you’ll face it. You’ll face it when He’s trying to bring you to nothing in some area, and you’re doing everything you can to hang on for dear life. But the one who would save his life in the very area that God is trying to bring death, he’ll lose life. That’s foolishness to the carnal mind. It’s foolishness because the carnal mind cannot understand that they were created in the very beginning for God. And you cannot even function without God, as a normal human being.

Just like you can make a car go; you can push it along; you can hitch a horse to the front end of the car; you can get 10 people behind the car; you can make the car go. But the car was not made to go by pushing or by pulling. The car was made to go by gasoline combustion in the engine. You and I were made for God and until that sinks in in fullness, we will continue to try to save some remnant of our old life. I want to save some reputation. I admit it. I want to have at least some reputation with you. There’s death in that! There’s death in that!

For example, I’ve pastored so I have first hand knowledge that every pastor goes through things like the example that follows: I love the Smiths. I poured my life into the Smiths. My wife and I were with them when their first baby came. We counseled with them when they went through difficult times. I poured my life into them. They loved me too. But another servant of the Lord has come along and he is teaching some things that the Smiths are identifying with. And they really feel like God is calling them to be under this other ministry.

Now what do you think is going on in John Brown’s heart when that happens? Why do you think that we in the church are so territorial? It’s because we don’t want to die. We’ve staked out a claim of our own. We have our own kingdom. And I feel that threat. We are liars if we say that we do not feel that threat. The carnal man is still here. Sin still dwells in the flesh. But it is embracing dying; it is choosing to say, “God reigns. Brother, if God is calling you over there, let me bless you and introduce you to your new pastor. And I’ll pray you’ll find a way to share whatever God is sharing over there with us.” Is it possible they have light we don’t have? Well, why do you think they are going over there? It doesn’t make any difference how much light I have, I don’t have all the light, and I don’t have all the truth. I actually have a very narrow, little bit of the truth.

God’s given me a little narrow portion. I think it’s an important portion. I think it’s a very significant portion, but it’s not everything. It’s only a bit. I’ve come to realize that. That’s why I’m not starting another church. I believe if it’s God in this teaching, the whole church needs to hear it. And I need to be able to hear from my new relationships that which I don’t have. But, it only comes by dying. That’s why Paul goes on to say, “Always carrying about in the body the dying, that the life of Christ Jesus might come forth” (2 Cor. 4:10).

These two are always working in us. If they are not, if they are trying to save their life, trying to preserve the old self, then they have only one working, and it is death. But if you are allowing the old self to come to death, something else is working in you. It’s the life of Another.

Paul saw that. Paul saw that he needed not to impress others with his intellect. “I came to you, not with wise and persuasive words,” but he could have. If there was ever a first century preacher that could have, he’s the man. He chose not to. “I did not come to you with wise and persuasive words that the life of Christ, that the Spirit of God, that your faith might rest on the power of God.” In weakness, in frailty, if you think that Paul or that John Brown is much, then you are wrong because he’s not much, he’s not much at all.

So that if anything comes forth, you know it is God. That’s where He is taking you. You are in trouble now; you know that, don’t you? You may have read or been exposed to all of this before but at least in my menu of it, even if you are reading or experiencing it for the first time, and you are being reminded that you are without excuse. God is choosing for you the death of the old man.

God is choosing to bring to fullness the departure of Adam’s life in you and me. And if you can bear this, that’s all that is holding back the last ticks of the clock, the Bride making herself ready, the church finally believing God, that she is made for Him and only Him. As soon as we believe and set to getting our self ready as a bride for the bridegroom, our coming into full intimacy with Christ, He then sets the clock upon the last seconds of what must take place. And what is it all about? Actually, that is exactly what this book is really all about.

We can’t even choose death on our own. If it were up to me to kill myself, I’d mutilate myself. I’d do as bad a job of killing myself as I do of everything else I do on my own. He did not say, “Kill yourself!” What He said was, “Take up your cross.” He’ll handle the dying bit. And if you’ll let Him handle the dying bit, it will be marked with His mercy and His grace, His everlasting lovingkindness. He’s just asking you to say, “So be it. I will be with you. You make me. I’ll say yes to, ‘Follow Me and I’ll make you.’ Lord, You can cause it to happen.”

And once He sees that happen in the Bride, the Church, once He sees that take place, that she is set to make herself ready, then He will declare that the work is finished and will return in glory. And that’s why that final work is not like what we would like to believe it is. We would like to believe that when we become mighty warriors and overcomers, it would bring the whole world to its knees. But that’s not how it plays out in the Scriptures. It plays out in the Scriptures with the power of the holy people being absolutely pulverized. He brings to an end our own strength, but we would have said, “Do it!” And He will do it by His grace and His lovingkindness.

THE KEY PARABLE – Mysteries Revealed

February 4, 2009

Before we look at the Introduction, I’d like to just note four things from that little section between the parable and its explanation which we are calling the Mysteries. So before you read the Introduction, Parable Text and Explanation, we are gong to read the Mysteries Section. I want you to see that it is in this text which is in the middle of the parable, for example in Mark 4:9 – 13, that He is saying some things that point out how important this particular parable is.

And He was saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” As soon as He was alone, His followers, along with the twelve, began asking Him about the parables. And He was saying to them, “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom (reign, realm, people of the realm) of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCIEVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN.” And He said to them, “Do you understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables?”

If you cannot understand this parable, you will not understand any of the parables. This parable is key. Everyone who reads a parable, who hears a parable, assumes he understands the parable. He’s convinced he has heard and understands, he sees and perceives. But it’s clear that Jesus is speaking in parables to hide truth to those who are outside, whatever that means.

I encourage you to spend a little time writing your own harmony of the Intermission. You will discover things that are hidden that will help you to understand the mysteries. There is a harmony of this intermission in the appendix but don’t look at it until you have tried to write it out on your own.

First, I’ve already mentioned that in Mark 4:13 it says that this parable is a key – a parable for understanding all the other parables. If you do not understand this parable you cannot understand the other parables. This means you should be looking for those things in this parable that unlock understanding to all the other parables. The first thing you need to make note of is that this is a key parable. If you do not understand this parable you cannot understand any of the parables. By the way, you do not find that statement in all three texts of the parable. You have to look at Mark 4:13 to discover that if you do not understand this parable, how can you understand any of the parables? This parable is a key parable. Understanding how parables work and understanding what God is doing with parables can only be understood if you understand this particular parable of the Sower and the Seed.

The second point that is revealed in the Intermission or Mystery is that there are mysteries to the kingdom; there are mysteries of the realm. We’d like to believe that just by some teaching, just by seminary training we can understand the things of God. That is not so. There are mysteries that can only be revealed when the Holy Spirit reveals it. They will not be revealed in this book by John Brown alone. You may get some superficial understanding, and that is all I can touch on. All you are doing by reading this book, unless you have done this before, is borrowing from John Brown to get the surface knowing. If you want to own it you’ve got to enter into it. I cannot stress that enough. I want you to enter into this. I would like for you to, on you own, enter into discovering these mysteries. The parables are about the mysteries of the kingdom, mysteries of the realm, mysteries of the reign. Parables are about mysteries concerning the children who are born not of the flesh but of the Spirit, children who are born for the unseen realm, the eternal realm, not the seen, temporal realm. We are only here for a time. And you can only understand those mysteries if the Holy Spirit reveals them to you. But they are found in the parables. The parables are all about the mysteries.

There are “mysteries” of the kingdom. There are “mysteries” of the reign. There are those things that are hidden that He calls “mysteries.” And that word for mystery, by the way, is from the Greek word musterion (moos-tay’-ree-on). Even in the Greek it sounds a little like the English word mystery. This Greek word musterion literally means to “silent the mouth.” And its primary use is that by agreement, those on the inside, the initiated, choose not to speak about these mysteries , or secrets, to those on the outside. This word was primarily used in secret societies. Mysteries are most prevalent in secret societies like the Masons. They have secret handshakes and they will have words whose meaning is other than their apparent meaning. And only the initiated, only those who have gone through the different levels within a secret society understand the mysteries. They are initiated into the mysteries. Those who are on the outside cannot understand the mysteries because the mysteries have not been explained to them. That is how this word is being used in these passages. These mysteries that the Lord is speaking of in this parable are those things that those who are on the inside, those who are initiated into the realm, those who are under the reign, are the only ones who can understand these things.

THE KEY PARABLE – The Parable of the Sower and the Seed

February 2, 2009

Now we are going to go to the key parable that is the parable of the Sower and the Seed.

Repetition in Scripture –

In the last verse of John 21, John makes this statement, “If everything that Jesus did and everything He spoke were put into books, I suppose the whole world could not contain the volumes.” Jesus did a lot more, a whole lot more than what is recorded in these four Gospels. Well, that raises a question. If there is so much that is left out, why do you suppose the Holy spirit would go to the effort of taking one incident and inspire three different Gospel writers to record the same incident? Why would not the Holy Spirit have used all those Gospels in an efficient way and just simply recorded one time every one of the events? Instead, we find this ‘parable of the sower’ in three of the four Gospels: Matthew chapter 13, Mark chapter 4, and Luke chapter 8. Why in the world would God take all of that space for this one parable when there was so much more to uphold. Why would God want to tell about the same event three times? Why do you suppose? It must be important! Well, it is important. But it is more than important because God’s ways are not our ways.

Things Hidden and Revealed –

I believe He gives a hint of what He is about in Proverbs 25:2 where it says,

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter.”

You know, the skeptics use these different accounts in the Gospels to try and discredit the Word because the accounts often have differences. Every time there is more than one account of the same event, there will be a difference. You will not read the same thing in both. And it has to do, I believe, with God concealing. And once you recognize that, you will start disciplining yourself because you want to know the truth; you want to know what God is hiding. Because, as you go through these verses and discover what is hidden, you’ll find two of the verses in two of the texts will be exactly the same and the third one will just add a word or a phrase that just gives it so much more meaning or even a different meaning than the other two standing alone – not a contradictory meaning but short of what He is really trying to say.

There is another text in Luke chapter 10, verse 21 that relates to this issue of things hidden and revealed. Jesus is speaking: “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants.”

Who was Jesus praising God for revealing things to? Babes! Infants! It’s the way of God. In this parable of the Sower and the Seed we find the same account in three texts, because there are things hidden in there you could only discover by comparing the texts to each other. And we are going to do that in the next several pages.

Jesus teaches in parables because, as He will show us here in this very parable, He intends to hide the secrets, the mysteries, the keys, from a particular class of people, from a particular group of people. And until you realize this, you will read one of them and assume that you’ve gotten out of it all that God is trying to show you or to say to you about it. And if you are lazy enough to just take one text and not pursue the others, you’re going to come up short of that which is to be understood by those who want to know what God is trying to reveal. There are things revealed in this parable that can only be discovered by comparing the different texts. That’s an important little principle.

But I want you to see in this particular parable all of the differences in each text which will help us to discover its secrets.

The Parable of the Sower and the Seed –

I have broken the texts into four parts. All three Gospels have these four parts. The following chart will identify for you the four parts and their place in each of the Gospels.

Parable Text             Introduction            Parable            Mysteries        Explanation

Matthew 13:1 – 23          1 – 3a                     3b – 8                9 – 17               19 – 23

Mark 4:1 – 20                1– 2                        3 – 8                 9 – 13               14 – 20

Luke 8:4 – 15                 4                           5 – 8a                8b – 10              11 – 15

To give you an example of how each of these sections fit within the parable, I will give you an example from the Mark text. There is an introduction to the parable, and in the Mark text it is verses 1 – 2. And then there is the parable itself in verses 3 – 8. And then, before He explains the parable, there is a group of verses that He explains are the mysteries of parables, which in Mark are verses 9 – 13. It’s interesting to note that in the Matthew text the section on the Mysteries is longer than any other section. And then He gathers His inside group together and gives them an explanation in the final section of the meaning of the parable, and answers the questions about who the parables are for and how to understand the mysteries. This section in Mark is verses 14 – 20.

Next will be Mysteries Revealed.