Those of you who regularly attend our church know that we have been talking about the power of seedtime & harvest and how to bear fruit in our lives. Well, today, I want to tell you about a Christmas miracle that occurred exactly like these things we have been learning. I want to teach you how Mary conceived a miracle and the Word was made flesh in her life.
You know, we all desire to see God’s Word—His promises—manifested in our life. Yes, we desire that His Word be made flesh—that is, real, tangible, etc.—in our lives. As the apostle John said in his first epistle—he was declaring to them the things which he had heard, seen, looked upon, and handled concerning the Word of life. Likewise, we want to experience the truth and not just hear it. Amen?
Well, there is a girl who gave birth (i.e. manifested) exactly what we all desire to experience, and her name was Mary. So, I want us today to look at what transpired in this young lady’s life that caused her to conceive her miracle.
THE WORD IN THE BEGINNING
But let’s begin in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, and we will go through the first 14 verses:
Verses 1&2 say, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”
Here, we have an obvious reference to both the account of Genesis 1:1 (i.e. “In the beginning”) and of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, in His preincarnate position as “the Word”—or, the Logos. Now the term “Logos” basically describes “a statement, the expression or transmission of a thought, or a divine revelation or declaration.” The Scriptures are oftentimes what is being referred to when the word “logos” is used in the Word of God, but the fact is that both God’s Word and Jesus are one and the same in that they both reveal and express God’s love, goodness, grace, and truth.
Notice as well that the Word was said to be “before all things” (Compare Colossians 1:17). Likewise, God’s Word is already true, self-existent and eternal. It’s true—the only true reality—whether we see any fruit of it in our lives or not. This is critical to understand because the very source of everything is the Word. So, if we do not esteem the Word, then we can essentially miss our miracle. This is reiterated in the next verse.
Notice that John goes on to say in verse 3— “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
So, in the beginning, we see God making the heavens and the earth with His Word—that is, by speaking into existence all of the things that we see today. This is how God framed the world we live in today, by His Words. And notice that John said that without His Word nothing was made that was made—teaching us that God’s creative power is His Word. So, if we want to see life, light and love created in our life, we cannot have it apart from His Word.
John 1:4-9 goes on to say, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.”
Again, we see an obvious reference to the Beginning (i.e. Genesis): First of all, we see that life originated from within Him. Secondly, we see a reference to the very first words God spoke in the beginning— “Let there be light.” Many believe that the literal rendering here is— “Light be!” So, the Lord looked out into the darkness—to the world which was without form and empty—and called forth what this world needed, LIGHT.
And, church, this is how God’s children ought to operate as well—calling forth the things we desire to see with our mouths. But someone might say, “Well, I just believe it calling it like I see it.” Well then, that’s exactly the way you will continue to see it. That’s not what God did. He called into existence what He desired to see, which in this case was LIGHT.
Verses 10-13 go on to say, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
Likewise, Jesus was not born on this earth simply of blood, nor by the will of the flesh or the will of man; He was born of God. We see this in the Gospel of Luke when the angel appeared to Mary, explaining to her that this miracle would occur the same way that the original creation occurred—by the Holy Spirit overshadowing her and the Word conceiving in her. (We will get into this in a moment)
And finally, in verse 14, John said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
So, here we see again Jesus being described as the Mighty Logos, and John goes on to say He became flesh and dwelt among us. The word used for “dwelt” here literally means that He “tabernacled” among us. So, I see Jesus as being the One that even the Tabernacle itself was a type and shadow of. Glory!
But notice that it was this Word—the One who was, is, and evermore shall be the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the Life, the Light, the Creator, and the Only True and Living God—it is this One who became flesh and dwelt among us!
But how did this miracle happen? How was the Word made flesh? In answering these questions, I believe we will find the answer of how God’s Word is manifested in our lives.
We’ve looked at these verses in John one, that echo the verses in Genesis one. So, let’s go over to Luke chapter one, and see how Mary conceived the Word—the Light of the world—in her life:
Verses 26-28 tell us: “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’”
Notice that the first word Gabriel spoke to Mary was “Rejoice.” Church, rejoicing is such a significant part to conceiving a miracle in our lives because, as you have probably heard me say before, our attitude determines our altitude. If we are downcast, depressed and discouraged, our hearts are not the fertile ground they need to be to have strength to conceive seed.
Now we have an interesting parallel here: Do you remember how Hebrews 11:11 said, “By faith Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised”?
Now we know from studying the account in Genesis chapter 18 when this happened that Sarah was far from being full of faith when she initially heard the Lord’s messengers say that she would conceive and bear a child. We are told she actually laughed. Now we do not know if this was the kind of laugh that scoffed at the Word of the Lord or not. I personally do not believe it was. I believe it was more of a laugh that was saying, “Are you serious? Really?”—certainly not a laugh of “What a joke!” There is big difference in that. And the reason I believe this is because after Isaac was born, Sarah named her son, Isaac, meaning “laughter” and said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6). So, Sarah actually rejoiced in the promise of the Lord that she would bear her own child.
And guess what that did? Her rejoicing was the key to receiving the strength to conceive seed, for as Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” Amen! So, by first telling Mary to “Rejoice,” the Lord was positioning her to receive the strength to conceive His Word! Amen!
Do you remember what the Lord prophesied in Isaiah 54, immediately after giving us the great redemptive chapter of Isaiah 53? He says in verse 1— “Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than of the married woman, says the Lord.” We see again here that the key to the barren bearing children is found in this word “Rejoice!”
So, I believe we are seeing a pattern here: In order for us to receive the strength to conceive God’s Word, our attitude must be that of joy. We have to be excited at His Word. We must get thrilled with His Word. We must have a heart filled with praise, thanksgiving and worship for what the Lord has promised us. This is where the strength will come in us for the supernatural conception of our miracle! Amen!
And we know that Mary did this because later on in this chapter, Mary indeed did sing and rejoice in God her Savior (see Luke 1:46-55).
But that’s not all Gabriel greeted her with— He also called her “highly favored one” and told her both that “God was with her” and she was “blessed among women.” Let’s quickly look at what exactly we should be rejoicing in:
In Luke 11:27-28, we have an account of Jesus teaching, “and it happened, as He spoke these things, that a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!”
Now we know that this woman was referring to Mary, the one who bore and nursed Jesus. She was evidently overwhelmed at the miracle she had seen of Jesus casting out the mute spirit and then hearing the words of wisdom that proceeded from His mouth. So, she apparently could not contain her excitement anymore and interrupted Jesus’ teaching with this exclamation.
Now do you think that she might have been speaking out of what she could relate to? She, obviously being a woman, was probably thinking—“Wow! Whoever the lady is who had the privilege of giving birth to this Man was super blessed! What an honor to carry and nurse this prophet that God has sent to us!”
But we still do this today! We look at the Mary’s, the John the Baptist’s, the Peter, James, John’s, etc., and think that these people were more blessed than us because they got to be a part of the Word being made flesh and walking among us.
But notice what Jesus responded to this woman’s statement with: He said, “More than that, (STOP!)”
More than what? More than the virgin Mary, who was favored and chosen by God to mother our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Wow! So what Jesus was saying here is that as blessed as Mary was and is to be chosen to be the mother of our Messiah, there are those out there who are more blessed than even her!
Now this is not an attempt to diminish or take away from her, for Mary was a blessed woman to be handpicked to be a handmaiden for the Lord, but this is an attempt to raise your value and make you to realize how these saints of old are not more blessed than you and I are today.
So, who is it that Jesus said is more blessed than even Mary? He goes on to say, “More than that, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it!”
Now we’ve been talking for over a month now about the importance of the Word of God in our lives. We have been seeing how having the Word sown in our hearts is what produces kingdom results in our life. Well here, we see this reinforced because Jesus is essentially saying that those who apply this kingdom principle into their lives (i.e. hearing the Word and keeping it) are the ones who are blessed all the more. Amen!
So, since Jesus is the Word of God, we can see what Jesus was alluding to: If hearing and keeping the Word of God is like it being sown into our hearts, then Jesus was basically saying that those who hear the Word and keep it are doing the same thing that Mary did.
You see, she physically carried the Word of God, Jesus Christ, in her womb, but those who hear and keep the Word are carrying the Word of God, Jesus Christ, in their hearts spiritually. Glory to God! Therefore, every one of us who have received the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, into our hearts are doing spiritually what Mary did physically—we are carrying Christ in us, the hope of glory! (Colossians 1:27)
Therefore, we can be confident that just as Gabriel declared to the virgin Mary that she was “highly favored,” that she was “blessed among women,” and that “God was with her,” we can rejoice in the truth that we too carry the same blessedness and favor that she did and that we carry God in us. It doesn’t matter what our experiences were or what our situation is; we are blessed and highly favored because God is with us! Amen!
Now this greeting provoked something in Mary. Verse 29 says, “But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.”
And this is exactly how many of God’s people react when they hear God’s messengers telling them that about the good news of Christ. They cannot “conceive” how God highly favors them, how God is with them, and how He would bless them. But again, the key to conceiving the miracle is in rejoicing in the gospel before we see the manifestation. We must get happy and believe in our hearts the good news of all that Christ is in us and all that we are in Him no matter what our experiences say to us. Hallelujah!
Then the angel said to her in verses 30-33: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God...” So, Gabriel encouraged her not to be afraid, and there is a specific reason for this: It is because fear stunts our faith. In short, he was saying to her— “Don’t fear because you’ve found favor.” Church, I’ll tell you—When you discover the favor you have with God, fear will be a distant memory.
And in verse 31 Gabriel continues to say, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
So, what Gabriel was essentially explaining to Mary was that the Word was going to conceive in her. The same WORD that created everything we see today will be the same WORD that will create this miracle in us. Glory!
And notice Mary’s response to this news and then Gabriel’s reply: “Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Does this sound familiar? This is exactly what was happening in Genesis chapter one when God spoke light into existence—the Holy Spirit was hovering over the face of the waters. What this shows us is that while the Word has its part in the miracle working process, the Holy Spirit has His part. He is the One who performs the Word—the power of God that brings into manifestation the Word spoken. Amen! Thank God for the Holy Spirit! The Spirit and the Word agree!
Then notice what Gabriel goes on to say in verses 36-37: “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Amen! Nothing is impossible with God! And as Jesus told us elsewhere, all things are possible to them that believe His Word—which is exactly what Mary did in the next verse: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
So, if you are barren and have a need to conceive a miracle in your life today—desiring fruit—then your key is taking God’s Word and speaking it over the barrenness in your life, calling forth the fruit you desire, and letting the Holy Spirit do the work of bringing that miracle to pass. When you take God at His Word and essentially say, “Behold, the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word!” this is how you too can conceive the Word and see it made flesh—that is, manifested and birthed in your life. Amen.
So, let’s quickly go back and review some of the things we have learned thus far: We have spent the first four parts of this series essentially talking about the kingdom principle. No, not a kingdom principle; the kingdom principle. That’s right—we have learned that just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is one way, truth, and life of the kingdom—and that is seedtime & harvest. And we have learned that everything in God’s kingdom operates according to this principle.
So, we have spent time studying other parables that Jesus taught where He illustrated what the kingdom of God is like and how it works. We’ve looked at His Parable of the Growing Seed from Mark chapter four, and we saw from this the process of the kingdom. Then we looked over at His Parable of the Sower and saw the basic building blocks of the kingdom by studying both what the seed and the soil are. So, from all of this, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the soil is the ground of our hearts. Therefore, we learned that if we will just take the seed of God’s Word—the specific seed for the fruit we desire to see—and plant it in the good ground of our hearts, we will eventually see the fruit we desire. Yes, we indeed can count on this because it is a law in God’s kingdom. This is how we get a harvest every time!
Then last week, we answered the question: How do we sow God’s Word? And we saw that we sow the seed of God’s Word by saying the seed of God’s Word. Yes, sowing is saying and saying is sowing. So, we looked at another parable that Jesus taught in Mark chapter four—the Parable of the Mustard Seed—and we saw how from other Scriptures that Jesus taught us that if we have faith as a mustard seed, we will say something. In other words, speaking the Word of God is how our faith works. Therefore, it is imperative that not only do we become a Word person in terms of getting into God’s Word and believing it, but we also need to become a word person in regards to understanding the power that is in our tongue.
Church, these are all kingdom laws. And this is why we can count on verses like John 15:7—because the Lord has taught us how to receive our desires that are in accordance with His will.
But herein lies the mistake of most believers: They never learn the process, they don’t know what the seed is, and they don’t discover where the soil is, much less how to cultivate that ground. My point is—if we want to receive from God, then we best find out how He has set things up because it is not good enough to hope and pray that God comes through for us because, after all, He has the power and ability to do it. No, just like we must learn how to function on this earth—respecting its laws like gravity, seedtime & harvest, etc.—we must also respect the laws (i.e. the principles) of the kingdom of heaven. That is the only way we are going to live in the fullness of His blessing and bear much fruit. Amen?
So, now that we have become established in the kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest—understanding the importance of the seed, the value of the soil, and how to sow that seed in the soil—there are a couple of other things that we need to understand that are also important in regards to fruit-bearing. And those things are the plant getting sunlight, being watered, etc.
So today, I want us to move into those two very important truths that Jesus gave us in John 15:7 that position us to receiving the desires of our heart and the fruit that glorifies God. In fact, I see these two qualifications as being both the hydration and the sunlight that a plant requires for growth. So, let’s look at this verse again and see how to remain in the light and be watered continuously:
Again, Jesus said in John 15:7— “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Now what are the key verbs that Jesus uses here to describe how one of His branches will bear much fruit? It is the word “abide.” Yes, the two key components to seeing the fruit of the things we desire is abiding in Him and His word abiding in us. In fact, this word “abide” is the key word in this entire parable. So, what we need to do is camp on this word “abide” and truly come to know what it means and how Jesus was using it.
Now again, we talked about how this passage in John 15:1-8 was a part of Jesus’ last words to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. And in these last words of exhortation, Jesus was preparing His disciples for His soon departure by telling them repeatedly that He was leaving them. So here in John 15:1-8, Jesus was giving them an extremely important piece of information—to abide in Him.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ABIDE?
Now the word “abide” comes from the Greek word meno, which literally means to “stay, remain, live or dwell.” So, when we hear this phrase “abiding in Him,” we need to think of “staying, remaining, living, or dwelling in Him.”
Let’s look at a few other New Testament Scriptures that use this same word meno in order to illustrate what it means to “abide”:
So, when Jesus told His disciples to “abide in Him” several times in John chapter 15, what did He mean? What did He have in mind when He essentially told them to “Stay in Him, to not depart from Him, to remain, stay, live and dwell in Him, and don’t leave Him.”
You see, in order to correctly understand Scripture, you must meditate the Word correctly. And one of the ways that you and I do this is by asking questions—like, for instance, who was Jesus talking to here and why would He be telling His disciples this? These are important questions to ask, and if you ask them, it will bring more clarity.
You see, I used to assume that “abiding in Christ” was the same as those “in Him” and “in Christ” truths that the apostle Paul made popular in his epistles. But just by asking those questions I just mentioned caused me to find out that this couldn’t be true. Why? It is because it wouldn’t have made any sense for Jesus to tell His disciples to be “in Him” like Paul was referring to because He hadn’t gone to the Cross yet and all of those “in Him” truths are spiritual realities that took place after Jesus’ resurrection. Plus, by considering the meaning of the word “abide” we can see something specific Jesus was saying: He was telling His disciples who had been with Him over the past three years, to remain with Him. In other words, it was as if Jesus were saying, “Don’t leave the house that you have been staying in for the past three years. Do not depart from it. Continue to stay in this place.”
Now what have we learned here at HPC about the house of the Lord? For example, when David said in Psalm 27:4 that his one desire was to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, what did he mean? He didn’t mean he wanted to go to church every day; no, he was saying that he wanted to dwell (i.e. abide) in God’s presence all the days of his life. This is essentially what Jesus was encouraging His disciples to do—to continue living in His house even though the house itself will be moving.
You see, it needs to also be understood that the terminology Jesus used of abiding “in Him” can also mean to be “in the midst of someone” and not necessarily “inside” of them. Now it can mean both, but the obvious meaning here in John chapter 15 is to be “in the midst” or “in the presence” of the Lord Jesus seeing that this is what His disciples had been experiencing for the past three years.
HOW COULD JESUS’ DISCIPLES STAY IN HIS PRESENCE?
So, the following question begs to be answered then: How could they stay or remain in His presence when He was about to no longer be present with them? That’s a good question, isn’t it?
What Jesus was obviously instructing His disciples to do was to stay close and connected to Him. Now what is interesting about this is that He was telling them this in the same breath as telling them He would soon be leaving them—obviously referring to His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God. So, Jesus was letting His disciples know, in His last and (you could say) most vital words to them, that they must make sure that they stay in His presence—even though He would soon not be present with them.
As we’ve seen, abiding in Him is what Jesus exhorted His disciples to do because He was about to leave them. In other words, because they had been abiding in Him through His physical presence in their lives for the past three years, now He is telling them to remain in Him—especially in the wake of Him leaving. So, in other words, He was telling them He would soon be leaving them, but for them not to leave Him. Likewise, we too can see how we can obviously stay in His presence even if He is not physically present. Amen! This was what Jesus was teaching His disciples.
But we must come into this truth with this foundational understanding—that Jesus is always present with us. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Other Scriptures teach us that He will never leave us or forsake us and even describe Jesus walking in the midst of the church (Deuteronomy 31:6 & Revelation 2:1).
So, we need to understand that God is always present, but that does not mean that we are abiding in His presence. There is a big difference between these two positions. Sure, God is omnipresent—meaning He is everywhere, all the time. But that does not mean that He is tangibly felt and experienced everywhere, all the time.
You see, there is a difference between the Lord being present in the spirit realm and being present in the physical realm. And, oh, how there are so many benefits to Him being in the natural all around us!
This is such an important lesson for us, because with our tendency to be carnal, we want something tangible and want to “feel” something. Jesus was exhorting His disciples in the wake of Him leaving them, to where there will be no more physical Jesus around anymore, to make sure they “remain in Him.”
So, the Lord was exhorting His disciples then (and us as His disciples today) to stay in the midst of Him like He was still in their midst. Amen.
And He uses the analogy of a vine and its branches to describe this principle of abiding. So, what would be some words or phrases you would use to describe a branch “abiding in” a vine? You might say, “a branch staying connected to the vine” or “a branch remaining attached to the vine.”
So, what if a branch did not stay connected to its trunk? What if one day it was attached and then others, it was off doing its own thing? What would become of that branch? It might not completely lose its life, but it will never be able to produce its fruit. Why? Because as is with everything in life—being consistent is the key. We cannot plant seeds one day and dig them up the next. We cannot be connected to the Lord one day and then disconnected the next. This is what Jesus was teaching them and us in this parable—being consistent, connected and attached to Him.
This is why Jesus went on to say in verse four— “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.” In other words, unless we abide (remain, stay or dwell) in the vine, we cannot bear fruit. Why? Because we cannot bear fruit of ourselves. We must stay connected to the vine so that the entire process of fruit production can transpire.
This is important in every area of life: For example, when it comes to the healing of our bodies, we cannot bear the fruit of healing ourselves. Healing, as any other fruit of our covenant relationship with the Lord, comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every manifestation of God’s promises—barring special manifestations of the Spirit—is going to come through this process.
WALKING WITH GOD BY FAITH
Now this describes the part faith has to play in this whole thing. Did you know that you can have just as good of a relationship with the Lord by faith as you do by feelings, by sight, etc. Faith has substance! (Hebrews 11:1)! So, when we make a decision that we are going to walk with Him by faith, we can have all the natural effects of walking with Him physically. Amen!
Do you remember how God came down and was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8)? This Scripture implies that this was not an uncommon occurrence. Apparently, the Lord came to walk with Adam & Eve on a regular basis because we see how they were familiar with His sound walking in the Garden. But then, when sin entered and they were banished from the Garden, a man named Enoch—being Adam’s great (x4) grandson—who was born outside of this Garden experience said, “I’m going to walk with God by faith!
I like to imagine that what happened here was that Enoch heard about how his great, great, great, great Grandad, Adam, used to walk with God in the Garden. Perhaps he went to see his great (x4) granddad and listen to him tell stories of what it was like to walk with God (Adam was still alive during Enoch’s lifetime, living for 930 years). So, this stirred Enoch up! Therefore, he determined that he was going to walk with God just like his great (x4) granddaddy did. But the difference was that he was going to have to do it by faith—which he obviously did successfully.
Now while we do not know if this is exactly what happened, what we do know is that Enoch indeed walked with his God by faith. We know this because Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch was translated because He had this testimony—that He pleased God, which was because He did this “By faith.” Then verse 6 goes on to echo this truth by saying that faith is how one pleases God. And that Scripture in Genesis says that He walked with God (see Genesis 5:24). That’s all it told us. So, we can see that what Enoch did that pleased God so much was He walked with Him by faith. Not because God physically walked with him in the cool of the day, but simply because he chose to walk with Him by faith. So, this excited God so much, that He just had to take Him a little early.
And this is exactly what we, as Christ’s disciples, are called to do—to walk with Him by faith and abide in His presence all the days of our lives. This is how we can please our Lord and Savior the most—by abiding in His house every day. Along this line, let me encourage you to not waste your trials - they are opportunities to please God by “seeing by faith” the resolution of that trial while you are still in it.
HOW DO WE ABIDE IN HIM?
Now that leads me to the practical part of this message. Since we are called to walk with Him by faith, the obvious question we should be asking is—How do we abide in Him? In other words, how do we practically stay, remain, live and dwell in His manifest presence like He has told us to?
Well, let me recount to you something that the Lord told me before along these lines: The Lord opened my eyes to this truth that we have been studying several years back concerning the importance of abiding in the Lord. You see, I saw vividly how “apart from Him we can do nothing.” Therefore, I saw how important it was that we indeed do learn how to abide in Him because He is our source for any and all fruit we desire to produce.
Now I had obviously experienced this connection with the Lord to a degree at various times during my life as we all probably have. But what I had failed to experience was a consistent and continual abiding in Him that Jesus was talking about here in John chapter 15.
Well, this prompted me to hunger and thirst for this abiding relationship with the Lord. So, one day, I was asking the Lord to teach me to continually abide in Him. I was saying, “Lord show me how to consistently abide! Teach me to continually abide in You!” and as I had intended on these words to come out of my mouth, I uttered a different prayer that by passed my understanding. Instead, the words of my prayer turned into— “Lord, let your praise be continually in my mouth!”
Now this was obviously a Holy Spirit inspired prayer because I was not thinking this in any way, shape or form. Then the Lord revealed to me that this was how we continually abide in Him—by His praise being continually in our mouth. Amen! In other words, the way we continually abide in His manifest presence is by His praise being continually in our mouth. Amen!
The obvious Scripture that the Lord was leading me to pray was from Psalm 34:1 that says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” And you have to know that the Lord, would not give us directions like this unless it benefited us in some way. Why? Because He is a God of love, and love is always seeking the welfare and benefit of someone else.
You see, God does not seek praise and worship because He is some glory hunter that just can’t get enough of everyone telling Him how great and wonderful He is. No, the Lord gives us repeated instructions to praise & worship Him because He is trying to get something to us, not just something through us. In other words, He knows how much our continually praising and worshiping Him ministers to us.
And so, what He was teaching me is that one of the greatest benefits of us learning to bless the Lord at all times is that we will abide in Him. Now this should be rather obvious to us because of all the Scriptures that teach us how God inhabits the praises of His people and how worship draws us into the holy of holies.
You see, our feelings and experiences are directly tied to our thoughts and focus. So, when we fix our eyes on Him—His greatness, glory and power—we begin to sense, become aware of, and feel His tangible presence. In other words, it begins to affect our surroundings. Amen!
We see this clearly illustrated in Philippians chapter four: In verses 4-8, we see the apostle Paul giving us some clear instructions that range from rejoicing always to thinking only on things that are praiseworthy. But then he goes on to give us one of the primary benefits to applying these things to our lives.
Notice how in Philippians 4:9 the Apostle Paul says, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Now, first of all, what does Paul mean when he said that the God of peace will be with us? Didn’t the Lord promise to never leave us nor forsake us? Didn’t He promise that He would be with us, even to the end of the world? He sure did! So, what does Paul mean when he said that God will be with us if we do the things that He taught and walked out in his life? That seems contrary to these other Scriptures that teach us that we don’t have to do anything to keep God with us.
But we must understand that there is a big difference between God being with us spiritually (i.e. as pertaining to the spirit realm) and Him being with us physically (i.e. tangibly in the natural realm around us). God most certainly is with us all the time positionally, but we also have the ability to have Him be manifested in our lives in an experiential and tangible way.
But we need to understand that this physical experience of Him is not automatic. That is easy to see. Few believers consistently carry the presence of the Lord around with them. But this is a blessed place to live—where His presence is experienced, felt, and tasted. Amen!
But the Apostle of faith had a specific fruit of God’s tangible presence in mind here. Mind you, the context here of all that he was teaching revolved around peace. So, it can be surmised that he is concluding his instructions on walking in the peace of God by saying “the God of peace will be with you!”
So, again, why did he call God, “the God of peace” here? It was because the subject up to this point in Philippians chapter four is the peace of God. Now here is a powerful truth: The fruit of having the God of peace manifested in our lives is having the peace of God manifested in our lives! In other words, when we have the God of peace in our lives, we have the peace of God in our lives. When we have peace, we’ve experienced a piece of God. Hallelujah! That is what the Holy Spirit had in mind as He inspired this truth to be recorded!
In other words, the example that Paul gave through his words and deeds is how we can experience more of the God of peace in our lives which in turn causes us to experience more of the peace of God in our lives. Peace is the manifest presence of the God of peace.
You see, peace is the manifest presence of God. This is why time spent in the presence of God is so important! Strife is the manifest presence of the devil. But when you have the peace of God all around you, it is proof that you have God all around you. Fear and strife is the devil personified. Love, joy and peace is the Lord personified!
So, herein lies a great way to know when you are walking in the experiential, tangible presence of the Prince of Peace—you will walk in His peace.
So, if Paul said that all we need to do to experience the peace of God in our lives is follow his example and his teachings, what is it that we need to follow? Well, what did he say in verse 9 again? “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and…”
So, the key to experiencing the manifest presence of the God of peace in our lives—which results in us walking in the peace of God—is “doing” these four things in Philippians 4:4-8. And, church, that is what all of this boils down to—being doers of these truths. Deliberately, rejoicing in the Lord always. Purposefully, not being anxious about anything and taking everything to Him in prayer. Intentionally, thinking on these things. If we keep our attention on Him through these things, we can expect the manifest presence of Jesus to go with us everywhere we go. Amen.
You know, the Scriptures teach us very clearly that walking in peace is directly related to our minds. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”
Now when you see the words “perfect peace” it is actually, in the Hebrew, “shalom, shalom.” So instead of translating this verse as “peace, peace,” they just needed to add the emphasis that was being made—thus the translation of the words as “perfect peace.” So, we are talking about some major league peace here—not just peace, but peace upon peace.
You could say that we are talking about what the Apostle Paul described in Philippians 4:7, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! This is perfect peace—the peace that surpasses all understanding! Amen!
But another good point to make here is that, as Paul said in Philippians 4:7, this peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard (or, keep) our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. And doesn’t Isaiah 26:3 say that He will “keep” us in perfect peace when our mind is stayed on Him? It sure does! So, what we see here is that when we keep our minds stayed on Him, He will keep us in absolute peace! Glory to God!
Romans 8:6 teaches us this same principle: In it, Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
The Apostle Paul had just gotten done in verse 5 saying that those live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. In other words, where the mind goes the man will follow. Our outward lives are a reflection of the way we think. This is why I like to say (like the world says that we are what we eat) spiritually speaking, we are what we think! Amen!
But what Paul is referring to here is the “setting of one’s mind” on fleshly things or spiritual things. The phrase “set their minds on” comes from the Greek word “phroneo” and means “to regard or be mindful.” It describes where our interests lie—what we entertain and how we are directing our mind.
ABIDING IN THE LIGHT
So, in conclusion, this walking with the presence of the Prince of Peace is simply another way of describing “walking in the light.” Now I made reference earlier that just as we must have seed, good soil, and the knowledge of how to sow the seed into the soil, we also need to have sunlight and water to continue the growth process of the plant. Well, I see abiding in Him as the keeping ourselves in the SON-LIGHT. Let me explain:
Doesn’t the Bible teach us that God’s very presence is the LIGHT? 1 John 1:5 says, “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” James 1:17 also describes Him as “…the Father of light with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” So, we can clearly see because of the light 😊 of these two passages of Scripture that God’s very presence is light.
So here is my point: Just as the “Sun” is the source of energy of the plants, the “Son” is the author of life itself and He is the only One who enables us to grow to maturity. In fact, just as plants grow closer to the light that is shining on them, so also, when we spend time in His presence, we will grow towards His image and likeness.
You see, all of this goes back to the saying- “You become like who you are around.” In other words, who you fellowship with will determine the fruit you have. We need to “hang out” with Jesus in order to be like Him because we will adapt to the environment that we are placed in.
Therefore, we must spend time in God’s presence if the seed inside of us is ever going to grow. This is why I stress the importance of having a relationship with God. We can go to church, be around other believers, and even hear good sermons and never grow. It is not until we start spending alone time with God—worshipping and fellowshipping—that we are capable of growing towards Him.
Church, this is how we position ourselves to walk with God—by putting our attention on Him. If we can train ourselves to continuously praise Him and to set our mind on Him, we can pull into this physical realm what is always a reality in the spiritual realm. This is abiding in Him. Even when we cannot see Him, we can be with Him. Let’s stay in His house—that is, in His presence. This should be our one desire as it was with King David—that we would dwell in His house (i.e. His presence) all the days of our life (see Psalm 27:4)—never leaving Him or forsaking Him. And when we abide in His secret place, there are a myriad of benefits including peace, protection and provision. And according to John 15:7, we will begin to see the fruit of the things we have desired of the Lord. Amen.
A few weeks ago, the Lord had us pitch camp in John chapter 15 where Jesus taught His disciples that He is the True Vine, that we are the branches, and how we can bear much fruit for the glory of God the Father. So, let’s quickly go back and review some of the things we learned:
We have spent the first three parts of this series essentially talking about the kingdom principle. No, not a kingdom principle; the kingdom principle. That’s right—we have learned that just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is one way, truth, and life of the kingdom—and that is seedtime & harvest. Everything operates according to this principle. Amen.
Now when you bring up this principle of seedtime & harvest and you start talking about that we will reap what we sow, there seems to be negative connotation to it. For example, when someone says, “You reap what you sow,” everyone seems to only think how this works negatively. But how many of you know that the same principle that can certainly work against you can also work for you? Yes, we should get excited when we hear this because we are learning how to get good seed planted in our ground so that we can reap the harvest we desire. Amen?
So, up to this point, we have spent time studying this very thing: We have been looking at other parables that Jesus taught, where He illustrated what the kingdom of God is like and how it works: We’ve looked at His Parable of the Growing Seed from Mark 4:26-29, and we saw from this the process of the kingdom. Then we looked over at His Parable of the Sower and saw the basic building blocks of the kingdom by studying both what the seed and the soil is. So, from all of this, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the soil is the ground of our hearts. Therefore, we learned that if we will just take the seed of God’s Word—the specific seed for the fruit we desire to see—and plant it in the good ground of our hearts, we will see the fruit we desire. Yes, we indeed can count on this because it is a law in God’s kingdom. This is how we get a harvest every time!
You see, saints, this is why we can count on verses like John 15:7. It is because the Lord has taught us how to receive our desires that are in accordance with His will. But herein lies the mistake of most believers: they never learn the process, they don’t know what the seed is, and they don’t discover where the ground is much less how to cultivate it. My point is—if we want to receive from God, then we’d best find out how He has set things up because it is not good enough to hope and pray that God comes through for us just because He has the power and ability to do it. No, just like we must learn how to function on this earth—respecting its laws like gravity, seedtime & harvest, etc.—we must also respect the laws (i.e. principles) of the kingdom of heaven. That is the only way we are going to live in the fullness of His blessing and bear much fruit.
So, now that we have looked at two of the parables that Jesus gave us that describe how the kingdom operates, let’s look at a third parable today because I feel it answers the next important question that needs to be asked concerning this kingdom principle: If the process is seedtime & harvest, the seed is the Word of God, and the soil is our hearts, then how do we sow the seed into our hearts? That’s a great question, and the answer is found in this right here—a mustard seed.
Today, I want to talk to you about this very little, seemingly insignificant seed, which in Jesus’ day was considered to be one of the smallest seeds on the earth. You see, the mustard seed was an object lesson that Jesus used three different times during His ministry. And what I want us to do today is look at all three of these references in order for us to answer this question: How do we sow the seed of God’s Word? So, let’s begin answering this question by looking at two of the three different references that He made to the mustard seed—two references that echo each other.
FAITH AS A MUSTARD SEED
We see Jesus twice using the analogy of a mustard seed in teaching His disciples how faith works, saying that if they just had faith like this mustard seed, they could see supernatural results:
In the first instance I am referring to (see Luke 17:5-6), Jesus’ disciples heard Jesus teach on the importance of forgiveness. So, His disciples immediately responded to the call for unlimited forgiveness by saying, “Increase our faith!”
On a side note, why did they respond this way? What was it about Jesus’ statements on forgiveness that prompted them to think they needed more faith? It was because Jesus’ disciples understood something that most in the church today do not, and that is that we forgive by faith. We don’t forgive just because the ill feelings for the other person have left. Forgiveness is a choice—a choice to not hold the other person accountable for their offense any longer. Jesus described it like erasing a debt. If you forgive somebody of some money they owe you, what does that have to do with how you feel about them? It has nothing to do with it because you have already released them of the debt. Likewise, when we forgive others, it is simply a conscious decision that we are loosing that person from what they did to us, and any time feelings try to come back up when we see them, we respond to those feelings and say, “No, they are forgiven. I have forgiven them and I’ve asked God to forgive them. Now I will just love them. And flesh, if you keep it up, I will do even more good to them.” Now that doesn’t mean that you place them back in a position in your life and put your trust back in them immediately; but it does mean that you move on and don’t continue to stroke those feelings of resentment.
Then Jesus goes on to explain to His disciples how faith works, which I see as Him countering their plea for more faith with— “Guys, you don’t need more faith! You just need to know how to put your faith to work.” He said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6).
You see, most people believe that the reason Jesus used the mustard seed was only because of the size of it. In other words, He would use the mustard seed to describe how we only need a little faith to get the fruit we desire. And while there is some truth to that (we will see more of that shortly), I believe Jesus was teaching us how faith works—it must be planted like a mustard seed and then it will grow and produce the fruit of the thing we desire. We will get more into that in a moment.
In the other instance where Jesus used the mustard seed as His object lesson, He was referring to the casting out of the demon from the epileptic boy, and when His disciples asked him why they could not cast it out, Jesus responded— “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you had faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20).
So, when Jesus’ disciples asked Him why they didn’t get the same results with this boy that they had come to expect when praying for people, Jesus bluntly told them— “Guys, it is because of your unbelief.” And this unbelief is not simply the absence of faith; it is the polar opposite of faith that counterbalances the effectiveness of our faith. If we have a ton of unbelief it can outweigh our faith. That’s a whole other message. But along this line, we need to understand a few opposing truths: carnal people act on what they feel, whereas spiritual people act on what they believe; faith is spiritual while unbelief is carnal; and prayer increases our sensitivity to God, while fasting decreases our sensitivity to our flesh.
But what Jesus was saying here was— “Guys, the reason you didn’t get the fruit you desired here is because of the unbelief that’s in you. However, I’m telling you the truth, if you just had faith like a mustard seed…” Again, not necessarily a reference to the size of their faith, but to the way in which faith works—like planting a mustard seed and getting a mustard tree harvest.
So, in both of these instances, faith is the subject and it is likened to a mustard seed. Again, the obvious point that Jesus was making in these Scriptures is that we do not need great faith to see great results; all we need is faith as a mustard seed—which while widely-viewed in their days to be the smallest of all seeds, had the capability to grow and become a great herb bearing tree.
But allow me to reiterate this point: Many Christians err today regarding this, believing that they just need “more faith” in order to see “more fruit.” But this is exactly what Jesus was countering in both of these passages. No, friends, we do not need more faith; all we need is to use a little of the faith that we already have. But someone will invariably respond to this, “But Trey, I do believe! I do have faith! Yet I am not seeing those results.” But this is when we need to consider what else Jesus was saying in these verses.
Concerning this, it is noteworthy that Jesus said in Matthew chapter 17 that if you had faith as a mustard seed you will say, and in Luke chapter 17, He said that if you had faith as a mustard seed you can say. This teaches me that if I have this faith and understand how it operates, then I both can and will say something—teaching us that our faith is voice-activated. Yes, we have the ability to speak faith-filled words, but we also must speak these faith-filled words if we want to see results. Amen.
You see, a little mustard seed does you no good if it is not planted and allowed the opportunity to grow and produce, does it? And as we are about to learn in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, this particular seed has a supernatural ability to produce and grow to become greater than all other herb bearing trees. To me, this is the point Jesus was making: It is not about having more faith; it is simple about learning to plant the faith we have and allowing it the opportunity to grow and produce its supernatural results.
So, then the obvious question is: How do you plant those mustard seeds of faith? And the answer to this question is found in both of these passages of Scripture: Again, Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’” And also, in Luke 17:6, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea.’”
What is the common thread that you see here? It is that the way we plant our faith into the situations and circumstances that are currently in our lives to see them removed is by speaking to them. Yes, we sow little mustard seeds of faith by speaking faith-filled words!
This is how we sow, church—by saying! Never forget this right here, saints: Saying is sowing and sowing is saying. We plant God’s Word by speaking God’s Word! Let me say it this way: When you say the seed of God’s Word, you are sowing the seed of God’s Word.
This is how faith produces wonder-working results! It must be planted, and then allowed the time to germinate under the ground until it springs up in the natural and changes those situations and circumstances! Hallelujah!
But where you see this kingdom principle fail in so many believers’ lives is in that time between when the mustard seed is sown and when it begins to bear fruit in the natural. And sometimes that is a long period of time, saints. But this is how the kingdom generally works: First seed, then time, and then, after what generally is a longer period of time than our flesh would like, the harvest! In other words, His kingdom does not usually manifest when we want it to. This is why we must say it, and keep saying it until we see the fruit. I liken this to planting the seed, then watering the seed we’ve sown with the Word itself (Ephesians 5:26). As Paul said, “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (see First Corinthians 3:6).
And this is exactly what Jesus was teaching in this parable that we are about to look at in Matthew chapter 13—that the kingdom of God is progressive and it is growing with the increase that comes from God. But the key in understanding seedtime & harvest is in knowing that it grows underneath the ground first. In other words, its progress is usually unseen. And that is when we must believe that God is working—not when we see it, but when we know He said it. This is faith, and this is kingdom living.
So, finally, let’s look at Jesus’ last reference to the mustard seed—the Parable of the Mustard Seed in Matthew’s gospel (it is actually located in all three accounts of Jesus’ “Sermon by the Sea”).
THE PARABLE OF THE MUSTARD SEED
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus said— “Another parable He put forth to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Now, again, the key item in this parable is the mustard seed. Notice that this is what Jesus was comparing the kingdom of God to when He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.”
Now it is important to note that in both Mark & Luke’s account of this parable, they both quote Jesus as saying, “What is the kingdom of God like? And with what parable shall we picture it?” This shows us that Jesus was drawing on the best natural example He could to paint the picture of what the kingdom of God is like. In other words, this parable is the specific illustration Jesus chose to use to describe to us what the kingdom of God looks like.
Well, notice the next statement here in Matthew 13:31— “which a man took and sowed in his field.”
Now we know, in its purest interpretation, the man here in this parable is Almighty God. He took He Whom was from the beginning, the Logos (i.e. the Word), and sowed Him to the earth. And we understand that from the time Jesus was born in a stable to the time of His death on the Cross, He had “no form or comeliness” (i.e. no majestic form or splendor) and there was “no beauty that we should desire Him.” As the prophet Isaiah also stated- “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground.” (see Isaiah 53:2).
Yes, saints, Jesus was that mustard seed—that tender plant that grew up out of dry ground! He was the Word sown by the Father into this world which is His field. Indeed, our Heavenly Father said, “Light be,” and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. (Compare John 1:1-14).
GOD SAID TOO
But sticking with this biblical account, aren’t you glad that when God stood over the earth that was without form and void and beheld the darkness that was over the face of the deep, He didn’t say, “Man, its dark in here! What a mess! I wish this darkness would go. Me, I beg and plead with you to bring Me some light.” No, what did God do? Genesis 1:3 says, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” He spoke of what fruit He wanted to see, and not the lack of fruit that He currently saw. (This becomes more literal on the third day).
And, church, this is the way God operates—He says what He desires to see, not what He sees in the natural. We see this also in Mark 11:22-24 when Jesus taught His disciples more about how faith works:
We know the story: how Jesus cursed the fig tree on the way to Jerusalem, and then when they passed back the next day, they saw it dried up from the roots. So, when Peter said, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away,” Jesus answered with— “Don’t try this at home, guys, because I am the Son of God, and you are not…” No, that’s not what Jesus said! He answered with— “Have faith in God!” Now the literal rendering in the Greek language says, “Have God’s faith.” So, while it is certainly important for us to put our faith in the Lord, and that absolutely has its place, Jesus was telling us here to have faith like God has it. In other words, have His very own faith and practice it like He does. Amen!
Then, Jesus goes on to further explain how we have the faith of God by saying in verse 23, “For assuredly (Now that means that you can be confident in this. It’s a sure thang!), I say to you, whosoever (Now we made this point during this series about how it doesn’t matter who the sower is. You can be the poop of a bird that swallowed a seed that simply carries the seed to the ground, and that seed will bring forth its fruit) says to this mountain (So, we see here that we are not talking to God about the mountain; this is us talking to the mountain itself), ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.” Notice that in this verse, the word “says” is mentioned three times, and the believing aspect is only mentioned one.
So, I believe that all of this means that the saying part is super significant, mainly because God Himself operates this way. Amen?
THE LEAST OF ALL SEEDS
And as I was making the point of earlier, God did this very thing with His Word, the Lord Jesus! Yes, Jesus was sown into this earth just like a seed is sown. But, again, how was the Word sown? By God saying…! Yes, His Word was spoken and it was made flesh!
But although Jesus came to be the Light of the world and to shine in the darkness of this dark and perverse world, the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:5). As the Parable of the Mustard Seed went on to say, “which indeed is the least of all the seeds.”
Sticking with the interpretation of Jesus being the mustard seed spoken of in this parable, the kingdom of God and its Christ did not come in a grand and glorious fashion. Jesus and His kingdom came as the least, humbly to be a servant of all. From His own mouth, He said, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).
And, herein lies another great principle of the kingdom of God: It is that the first will be last and the last will be first. As this same passage in Matthew chapter 20 states— “whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave.” (Matthew 28:26-27). This is how God’s kingdom operates, beloved. We see this by how the Christ and His kingdom came in an unassuming way. And it will operate the same in our lives as we lay down our lives and learn to become “the least of all seeds” ourselves. May it be so in all of us, Lord! Amen.
But I want us to look at this from a different perspective: Since Jesus was (and obviously still is) the Word of God, then let’s look at this parable from that standpoint. God spoke the Word, saying, “Let there be the Light of the World,” and the Light Himself was made manifest. So, God sowed His Son—His Word—to the earth, and as Jesus went on to describe in the Parable of the Mustard Seed, “but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree…” We certainly see this in the life of Jesus, Who was sown and now has become highly exalted, being given the name which is above every other name! Yes, as Jesus went on to describe in this parable that when this little mustard seed grows to become this great tree, even “the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
Saints, Jesus has received a more excellent name through His death, burial, and resurrection! And now that He has been seated at the right hand of His Father and has been given the name above every name, He is far above all principality, power, might, dominion, and every name that is named! (Ephesians 1:20-21). Hallelujah!
MUSTARD IN YOUR MOUTH
But, again, He did not start this way when He was sown to the earth. He had no form or comeliness that we should desire Him. This means that He seemed all too natural and didn’t seem to be significant according to the flesh—likewise our words seem like there’s nothing to them.
In other words, since Jesus is the Word of God, but came in a package that didn’t necessarily convey how powerful He truly was, many discounted His power and glory. Likewise, the words of Robert, the words of Minton, the words of Shannon, the word of Trey, etc. might not give us the impression that they hold any weight. But, bless God, if we would just sow those words, they have the capability to grow into a great fruit bearing tree! Amen!
You see, people will hear messages like this on the power of our words and say in their hearts, “Yeah, well, I just can’t see how our words hold that kind of power. What difference does it make what I say?” Well, that’s the problem right there. We are seeing our words like a mustard seed, and not in what the mustard seed has the power of producing! So I have to learn to have faith in MY words. But in order to do this, I must be a person of my word. If I make a habit of not doing what I say (like telling someone I’ll be there in 10 minutes and always showing up much later than that), my heart will not believe what I say when I try to speak words of faith.
We have even seen recently from the Book of Proverbs just how many Scriptures there are on the power of our tongue. And I’ll tell you—if both the second wisest man (i.e. Solomon) and the wisest (i.e. Jesus) had this much to say about our words, then we must be convinced that there is absolute wisdom in words and power in our tongues.
Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” So, the ability to speak both death and life is in our mouth! Then he goes on to say, “…and those that love it shall eat its fruit.” So, now we have come full circle back to how to be fruitful because this verse describes to us that the power our mouth possesses is to eat the fruit that we desire. Yes, the way to partake of the fruit begins with the tongue. So, why does the fruit come this way? It is because our words are the way the seed is sown. We sow by saying, the words are made flesh, and then we partake of their fruit! Amen!
Moses said, in the 91st Psalm, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.’ ” He was making a confession that he was going to make a confession. In other words, he was premeditating that he would always say this.
This is the power of the mustard seed, church! So, can somebody say, “Pass the mustard, please.”
So, we began a new series a few weeks ago that we are calling “The True Vine,” which is essentially a teaching on how to be fruitful. And we have been learning that just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is a True Vine which shows us the Way of the kingdom, the Truth of how His kingdom operates and the Life we can have in His kingdom. Yes, this is the kingdom principle.
So, we opened up this series by asking the question: How do we bear this fruit that He spoke of? How can we practically apply this truth to our lives so that we can produce His fruit in and through us? And the answer to these questions is found in John 15:7. Yes, this profound verse teaches us the two steps to receiving what we desire from God. Now I am hesitant to even say it that way because receiving from God is not in a formula; receiving from God is simply like receiving fruit. It just comes by submitting to His kingdom principle. Amen.
But what I want you to see in John 15:7 is that there is an absolute, concrete, and positive way to receiving all of these desires that we ask the Lord for 100% of the time! In other words, there is a fool-proof way to always getting the results we desire from God.
Notice that Jesus tells us the two things at the beginning of verse 7 that cause us to enter into the manifestation of our heart’s desires:
So, if we want to receive what we desire from the Lord, we need to find out two things: What does it mean to abide in Him? And what does it mean for His Words to abide in us? Because Jesus said if these two things are a reality in our lives, we will ask what we desire and it shall be done! How many of you want this? Amen! So do I! So, as we go through this series of teachings, we will answer these questions.
In part one of this series, we looked at one particular parable that the Lord taught us in Mark 4:26-29—the Parable of the Growing Seed. And we learned some very basic, practical ways in which Jesus said that His kingdom operates. In other words, we looked at the overall process of the kingdom—how it simply grows in our life by the principle of seedtime & harvest. No, it is not by our own self effort or our own intellect; the kingdom comes by sowing & reaping.
But again today, let’s go back to the beginning of this chapter and look at what Jesus taught that led up to John 15:7 in order to get the proper foundation laid:
We have seen in verse one that Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” Again, by Jesus referring to Himself as the “True” Vine, He is implying that there are false vines out there too—that is, there are people, belief systems, all sorts of things that man tends to see as their source of life, peace, joy, etc. Likewise, there are things that we can tend to rely on, thinking they will make us fruitful and produce what we desire, such as our church, our pastor, a new teaching or ministry, etc.
And so our King—the Lord Jesus Christ—has given you and I the very laws of how His kingdom operates. Yes, the True Vine has taught us the very principle of His kingdom and we will see today that again, the physical laws of seedtime, harvest, and fruit-bearing are involved. And that is why I call this the “Kingdom Principle (for bearing fruit)” because it is only going to come by our connection to the True Vine Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then, last week, we looked at verses 2&3 and saw how the Lord went on to tell His disciples: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
We saw how we must be careful to not let our experiences and things we’ve seen in others form our interpretation of what it means to be “pruned.” Many interpret this “pruning” to be sickness, disease, tragedy, suffering, etc., but we need to let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. In verse three, we see Jesus telling His disciples that they are “already clean…” The word for “clean” here is from the same Greek word translated “prune” in verse two! So, Jesus was telling His disciples that they were already pruned. How? Because of the word which He had spoken to them. In other words, His Words are what purge us—not circumstances and situations. So, His Word has a cleansing effect on us and what causes us to grow!
Jesus said something similar in John 17:17 when He prayed to His Father, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your Word is truth.” Therefore, it is clear that it is the Word of God that makes us fruitful—not circumstances, like some have interpreted John 15:2-3 to mean. No, church, it is not our circumstances that bring forth fruit; the Word does! Therefore, we will not yield more fruit simply by the situations we find ourselves in throughout our lives. The way God grows us is through the Holy Scriptures! In fact, we saw how Psalm 119:9 tells us— “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your Word.” Again, how are we purged, pruned or cleansed? By taking heed according to His Word! And God wants us to remind Him of His Word (Isaiah 43:26). Not that He has forgotten, but He wants us to stand on His Word and say, “God, You said…” and claim what His Word says about the situation you are dealing with. Once we have done this, God is obligated to perform what He has promised.
And that is what we camped on last week: Last time, we talked about the seed itself from this seedtime & harvest process: We saw in Mark 4:14 that Jesus said that the seed is the Word. Therefore, we saw that if all fruit began with a seed, and the seed is specifically referred to as the Word, then how on earth (and in God’s kingdom) do we suppose we will ever bear any fruit without God’s Word? It’s just not going to happen! The Word is the most critical element in us bearing the fruit that we desire in our lives. Amen.
Now one very important point that we made was that there is a big difference between one who sows and one who is a sower. For example, a farmer is different than one who farms occasionally. Why? Because a farmer is one who does this for a living, where one who simply farms might just be doing it as a hobby or for fun. In other words, one who farms for a living describes his or her lifestyle. Anyone can plant seed here and there, but if we are a sower—meaning, we do this as an occupation or a profession—then we are living our lives focused on sowing & reaping. The fact is that this sower in Jesus’ parable was intentional. In other words, He went out specifically for the purpose of sowing to get a harvest. Therefore, we need to see ourselves as “sowers” and live purposeful lives of going to and fro sowing seed wherever we go.
But we also learned that we need to be intentional in what specific seed we are sowing. I brought this out because it sparks a very good point: We need to know specifically what kind of seed we are planting. In other words, what is the specific Word that we are planting? You see, it is not good enough to just be general. We need to be specific and sow specific seed that we want a specific harvest in. You see, we wouldn’t go into a nursery and just grab a bunch of miscellaneous seeds to sow in our garden or field, would we? We wouldn’t say, “Oh, this looks like a seed. That’s what I need” and take it to go plant. No, we would search out the specific seed that we need, right?
You know, many Christians say things like, “Well, I’m just trusting God.” But what are we trusting Him to do? Specifically, how are we trusting Him? What is our trust based on? We need to be specific in our faith and not just general. When we do that it just shows our ignorance of how His kingdom operates.
No, when we are planting a garden, we prepare the ground. We buy specific seed. We systematically sow it. We then guard our garden—sometimes with some pretty extreme measures. We go through certain concentrated and calculated steps to get the fruit, flower, vegetables, etc. we want. So why would we do it any different in God’s kingdom? Saints, I’ll tell you, we need to become more deliberate, purposeful and intentional in what we are sowing into our lives—because, as a general rule, our lives are a fruit today of what we planted yesterday! Amen!
But we also looked at the fact that there is both a natural and a spiritual side to all of this. Many get in one ditch or the other when it comes to these things. Either they will get totally spiritual, believing that all that is important is God’s Word and it doesn’t matter what they do in the natural or they will put all their hope in their observance of natural laws. But we need to do our best to sow good seed first naturally and then after that, spiritually.
But we learned that as important as these natural things are, just doing them will in no way guarantee one that they will not lose all of their wealth or their health. The reason is because we live in a fallen world that leaves us subject to economy crashes and sickness & disease that do not come because we did something wrong. This is where God’s kingdom principles come in!
So, we learned last week how we sow the seed of God’s Word so that we can receive the fruit we desire in these specific areas. We used the example of our mental & emotional state and if we need to see fruit in that area, how do we sow God’s Word to reap that harvest in our soul. So, from this example, we saw that after we have gathered the specific seed that pertains to our area of need—this being what God’s Word promises us in that area—we now have the seed to sow.
Then I illustrated to you how we then take that seed and begin to sow it: Regarding the example of prosperity in our soul, we would take those promises and say something to the effect of: “Father, I thank You that You, as my Lord and Good Shepherd, restore my soul (Psalm 23:3). You have promised to do so, to restore even the years that have been stolen from me. Thank You for restoring my soul. And I praise You that you have given me Your Word that You said converts my soul. So, I implant that Word in my heart and it is saving my soul. Glory to God, I have a sound mind that is already delivered and prosperous in Jesus name.”
So, I say all of this to say, what do you want to see changed in your life? Where would you like to see growth? What is your need? Well, I’m here to tell you that for every need, there is a seed. So, our only real need is to find out the seed and then plant it!
YOUR ONLY NEED IS THE SEED
Friends, the fact is—everything starts with a seed? Yes, everything with life in it starts with a seed! For example, you started with a seed. Each and every one of us started out as the seed from our father and then when that seed was planted, you and I were conceived.
It is the same spiritually: The new creation that we were born again into, started with a seed. As the Scriptures teach us, we were born of God and His seed remains in us. And First Peter 1:23 tells us that we were born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible seed, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever.
Now Peter had the same kind of seed in mind here as our physical birth: He is referring not to a seed of a plant, but to the seed of a man. The Greek word used in this verse for “seed” is sperma—which is obviously where we get our word “sperm” from. Peter was saying that just as we are physically born after the seed of a man is planted in the womb of a woman, likewise we are spiritually born again after the seed of God is planted in our hearts. Yes, the analogy is correct. When one is born again, he or she has received God’s spiritual seed!
Now we understand that the seed of a man is the carrier of all the nature and attributes of the man that it originated from. Therefore, it should not surprise us that the seed of God that we receive when we hear and receive the gospel contains the nature and attributes of our Heavenly Father! Wow! That is a powerful truth! And we know from Scripture that we are spiritually recreated in His likeness and image which includes His holiness and righteousness (Ephesians 4:24). The reason this is possible is because we have been born of Him! This changes everything! As Paul said, “Old things have passed away. Behold, all things become new!”
This is why the Apostle John said in 1 John 3:9– “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” What this verse is saying is that when we are born-again, we will not continue to practice sin because we have become new creations and, therefore, no longer have the same sinful tendencies. Certainly, we do still commit sins after we are born again. That is not what John was saying. He was saying that the difference between our former life in the world and our new life with Christ is that our nature has changed and the lack of awareness of sin and the desire for sin has been crucified with Christ. We now have the law of God written on our hearts and have God’s divine nature that causes us to desire the things He loves and abhor the things He hates.
Yes, when we were born again, we received a new nature that will compel us to grow up to be like our Daddy. Just like we grew up to resemble our natural parents in appearance and personality, likewise we will grow up to resemble our Heavenly Father in spiritual appearance and personality. It is in our spiritual DNA!
Therefore, when we heard the Gospel and it impacted us, the seed of God was placed in our hearts and we were born again. Hallelujah, the Gospel was God’s divine seed that impregnated us and now Christ is being magnified in us until we end up having the same testimony as the Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20— “It is no longer I who live but Christ living in me!” Glory to God!
But another point that 1 Peter 1:23 was making is that, naturally speaking, when one is born into this world, that natural seed that he or she is born from has death abiding in it. Therefore, mankind is corruptible. Eventually, after we have grown and matured, we will begin to decline and will eventually die. Our physical bodies will begin to become wrinkled, spotted and will begin to slow down. This is the inevitable consequence of the curse of sin that is in this world.
Of course, we as believers have the ability to supernaturally live above this curse-ridden world to a certain degree, but there are certain things that are inevitable such as physical death. This is just a part of being born of “corruptible seed.” But the good news is that although the outward man is perishing, when one is born again, the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16)! This means that although our physical self has death abiding in it, the spiritual part of us never ages. It maintains the same newness and perfection day after day. In the spiritual, eternal realm we do not go from birth to death; we go from glory to glory. Our flower will never fade. Hallelujah, this is the beauty of the new birth!
The seed of God has no death abiding in it—only life everlasting! Therefore, we are born again of an incorruptible seed because the Word of God lives and abides forever! Hallelujah! We now have eternal life!
WHAT IS THE SOIL?
So that leads me to this next part of this series: We found out what the seed is; now where are we supposed to plant it? In other words, what is the soil that we plant the seed of God’s Word into? Well, just as Jesus tells us plainly what the seed is, the Parable of the Sower also plainly tells us what the soil that we sow this seed into is: It is our hearts.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus specifically referred to the ground as being the heart of man (Luke 8:12&15). This should be fairly obvious even if Jesus would not have specifically mentioned our heart, for where else could the Word have been sown on the inside of us? Our hearts are the ground that, when seeds are planted in it, will produce the fruit of the seeds planted therein.
But when it comes to Jesus’ explanation of both the seed and the soil in His Parable of the Sower, it is noteworthy the vast difference in how much time He took describing them both: In fact, in Mark’s account of Jesus explaining this parable, we have 5 words used to describe the seed and around 150 words used to describe the ground. So, for every 30 or so words that describe the various conditions of man’s heart, we have one word for God’s Word. That teaches me that the issue is mainly not with the seed; it is with the heart of man that the seed is sown into. And the truth is that this is exactly where we see the difference in most Christian’s ability to be fruitful: the answer is found in the condition of our own hearts.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HEART
Now, let’s look at a few Scriptures in the Bible that describe just how important the heart truly is:
So, our hearts are evidently super important, and through these Scriptures we can clearly see why: It is because it is where both the good treasures and the evil treasures of man’s life are conceived. Yes, how we think in our hearts is what we become in our lives. It is because we will bear the fruit of whatever we have treasured in our hearts. This will also produce the fruit of our lips—which are very important. And, finally, God is not just looking for the fruit that is produced from our hearts; He is looking at the heart itself.
So, the condition of our hearts is vital. Just as it is with the earth, our hearts hold the power to produce whatever is planted in them. You see, the earth’s soil does not discern what seeds are sown into it and then decide which ones to produce. It does not say, “I don’t want to produce these corn seeds that are planted in me. I think I will just produce tomatoes instead.” No, it does not have the ability to discern between good seed and bad seed. The earth will simply produce the fruit of whatever seed that is planted in it.
And our hearts are no different: Just like the earth’s soil, our hearts will just accept whatever seed we allow to be sown into it and then begin to produce the fruit of that seed. This is why it is so important that we watch what is sown into our hearts! Again, it is because as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. It is just that simple.
So, just as that little muscle that weighs less than one pound plays such a vital role in our physical life, likewise our spiritual heart plays a similar vital role in our spiritual life, with even the power to affect the natural as well.
GUARDING THE HEART
The wisest king Israel ever had understood this very well: We see Solomon exhorting us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts with all diligence for out of it spring the issues of life.
First of all, notice what Solomon says comes from the heart: He says out of it spring the issues of life! Now the words “spring” and “issues” give us a word picture that I believe is extremely helpful to understanding the heart: The word “issues” oftentimes was used in the times of the Old Testament to describe the “outgoings” of a body of water or you could say the “channels” that come from that body of water. So then when you combine this definition with the word “spring” the picture is painted of water that flows up out of our heart like a fountain or spring.
But it is not water that Solomon says flows from our heart; He says that the issues in our life are what flow out of our heart. You see, most of the conditions of our life are directly tied to the condition of our heart. Whew, that was a powerful statement! Let me say it this way since we are talking about a spring of water: The purity and satisfaction of our life is determined by the fountainhead of our heart! If our heart is corrupt and impure then our life will be corrupt and impure.
In the Middle East—especially during the days of Solomon—fountains and wells were watched over with special care. Why? It was because if the source of their water was contaminated, then their supply of water was useless. There were not many sources of water in those days, so they protected the ones that they had at all costs. It was vital for them to do that! Likewise, the part of us that all the issues of our life stem from must be protected at all costs, lest we allow the enemy to contaminate our life. This is a vital issue for us as well!
But not only do we see the analogy of a wellspring being used, but we also see the analogy of a garden:
Any of us who have ever had a garden understand fully well that it takes work to keep a productive garden. In many cases, if you do not spray it down with insecticides or put an electric fence around it, different kinds of bugs and animals will devour your harvest. Likewise, our hearts are like the garden and we must keep it with all diligence.
Let’s now look at this phrase— “Keep your heart with all diligence”: The word “keep” literally means “to guard.” It describes keeping something in a safe, secret place, and then, guarding that place. So, Solomon was saying that we are to keep our heart in a safe and secret place similar to how we would keep our wallet, checkbook, or jewelry in a safe and secret place.
Did you know that in the world an extremely valuable jewel is oftentimes placed in a high security vault with all kinds of motion detectors, etc.? And they do this for a rock which only has temporal value! How much more, should we apply this same kind of diligent guarding to our heart, which has eternal value?
Notice what Solomon goes on to say: He says that we are to guard our heart “with all diligence.” Actually, the Hebrew word for “diligence” here means “keeping or guarding.” That’s right—It has the same meaning as the word “guard” at the beginning of this verse! So, what the first portion of this verse literally says is— “Guard your heart above everything else you guard!” In other words, the Holy Spirit through Solomon was saying that the most important thing you have to guard is your heart. Therefore, guard your heart more than you would guard your most valuable possessions.
BREAKING UP THE FALLOWED GROUND
But the point I want you to get today is this: there is the principle that we see in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower: Once one takes the seed of God’s Word and sows it in a heart that is good, soft, & unadulterated, there will be a harvest that will come—for some thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and others one hundredfold. It absolutely, positively will work 100% of the time!
But the fact is that Jesus taught us in this parable that only one out of the four conditions of ground bore fruit that remained. That means that the odds are not in our favor that we will bear the fruit that we desire. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean we just throw our hands up in the air and say, “Que Sara Sara.” No, we can purposefully and deliberately cultivate the ground of our hearts, so that it is the good ground that Jesus said bore much fruit. Amen?
So, if the ground of our heart is so vital to the seed’s ability to do what it is programmed to do, we ought to first guard it above everything else we guard. One of the ways we can do this is by paying particular attention to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower which deals directly with the four different conditions of the heart of man. Now, a couple of years ago, we did a very thorough teaching on these four different types of ground entitled “Guarding your Garden.” In this series, we looked at Luke’s account of this parable and saw how these four different kinds (or better yet, “conditions”) of hearts according to Jesus’ teaching are the wayside ground, the stony ground, the thorny ground, and, last but not by any means the least, the good ground. It was a very good teaching that went into much more detail than we will in this series. So, if you are interested in learning more on those four conditions of heart and their remedy, just let me know.
But the fact is, some of us have hearts that have already been molded and shaped into the condition they are in. Therefore, we need help, not just in guarding our hearts going forward, but in fixing the ground that is already in the condition it is in.
So, what I felt led to do this week is give you a good, general way to reshape and refashion our hearts to becoming the good ground that bears the fruit we so desire. So, are you interested in learning how to do that? While it is very simple, it is not easy. But if it were, then everyone would be doing it, right?
So, considering this analogy of cultivating good ground, a good question would be—How do we “till” this ground and make it good ground that receives the seed, understands it, and keeps it? The Lord showed me the answer. So, are you ready?
Second Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” So, what we see here is how we can eliminate the wayside, stony, and thorny ground from our hearts.
First of all, it’s diligence! It’ll take work, and you need to understand that! That ground did not get that way overnight. It has taken years to get in the condition it has gotten into, so it isn’t going to get softened overnight either. It will require diligently working that ground. How? By, first of all, being a laborer of that field who is unspotted from the world (i.e. presenting ourselves approved to God)—that is, not conformed to the world. This worker is not half-hearted and double-minded. They have removed themselves from the world and have set their hand to the plow, not looking back. Amen? This echoes what we see in Romans 12:1-2—that the first and foremost key to not being conformed to the world is by the renewal of our mind.
Finally, Paul tells us this by telling Timothy how we do this: By rightly dividing the Word of Truth! The words “rightly dividing” in the Greek literally mean, “to cut a straight line.” This Greek word was used to describe the cutting of a straight furrow in a field or laying out a straight road. The making a straight furrow can refer to preparing the ground, which is making it good ground to produce the seeds planted in it. And laying a straight road can refer to laying concrete and a new path to travel on. So, the way we break up that wayside ground and make it good ground again is by cutting straight furrows in it—which comes through rightly dividing the Word.
Saints, the key to seeing the ground of our hearts changed is diligence in the Word of God—letting His Word renew your mind through diligent study, reading and meditation. As the Apostle Paul says in Second Timothy 2:15: this is what digs and lays straight furrows in that ground! So, as Hosea 10:12 & Jeremiah 4:3 say, “break up your fallow ground.” This means to break up that untilled ground so that the seed you sow gets where it can perform what it is meant to perform! But Hosea tells us how break it up. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; Reap in mercy; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord, Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” So we can break it up by using declaration such as, “Thank You, Lord, there is therefore now NO condemnation for those in You, so this that I’m feeling in my heart is not from You. I am not condemned, I am free from sin.” And we need to worship Him, focusing on Him and being changed into the image of who we behold. As we break up that ground, as well as being diligent to study the Word, we make room for that good seed to be planted and thrive. Selah!