Category Archives: The Word of God

Mark 4:21-34 – Figuratively Speaking

Discussion question:

What do you remember about the parable of the four soils?

Read Mark 4:21-34


Jesus declared in Chapter 1 that he has come to preach the word about the kingdom of God (Mk1:14-15, 38, 2:2). In Chapter 4 he used a quote from Isaiah to explain that he will be preaching many things in parables so that those who have ears to hear will hear. It is those who hear and actively participate in their personal kingdom growth who will thrive (Mark 4:1-20). The kingdom of God is generous to those who will listen.



  • 21-25 The concealed message 
  • 26-29 The Kingdom of God grows mysteriously
  • 30-35 The Kingdom of God is not to be underestimated

21-25 The concealed message 

“He said to them…” The context tells us that he is speaking with his disciples (Mk 4:10) although the closing verse makes that ambiguous (Mk 4:34). This section is not simply more sermons to the crowd but a continued lesson on teaching in parables. The parables in this section continue on from the same conversation with the disciples.

“Do you bring in a lamp…” The question in Verse 21 has an obvious answer and yet Jesus seems to be doing the very opposite with his teaching. The point of the lamp is to be seen or to light up the room that it is brought into. Bad exegesis is to guess what the lamp represents. The context tells us that the lamp is to do with the kingdom of God (Mk 4:11) which is a message kept hidden or secret to those outside but revealed to those on the inside.

“…whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and …concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” At this time, Jesus wishes the kingdom to be taught in parables but explained to the disciples. There will come a time when what is hidden will be revealed to all. It is not hidden in order to stay hidden.

“If anyone has ears to hear…” Jesus said this already in 4:9. Jesus is not intending nobody to understand. But he knows that any time a prophet has spoken, people have closed their ears. It’s the same today. Churches preach the gospel all over the world with their doors wide open (when it is safe), even broadcasting their message across the internet. The kingdom is available to anybody who has ears to hear.

“Consider carefully what you hear…” Verses 24-25 are perhaps key to the whole section of 4:9-35. Investing in the kingdom of God through careful attention will return a blessing 100 fold. It is not a ‘works-based’ religion so that the more effort you put in the more you get out – but – the kingdom of God is full of truth and grace – as we listen and carefully consider all that God offers, we receive eternal life, his spirit and assurance plus more. Being careless with the gospel can result in being suffocated by the things of this world and falling away (see the four soils parable).

“…even what they have will be taken from them.” If this life is all you live and give no careful attention to the gospel, then even what you have will be taken from you. The kingdom of God needs careful and serious consideration.

26-29 The Kingdom of God grows mysteriously

“…what the kingdom of God is like.” Helpful to be reminded of what the subject matter is.

“…though he does not know how…” The kingdom of God is compared to gardening. There is cause and effect – seed sown and plants grow – but the mechanics are a mystery. Every day the garden changes shape and matures until it is time to harvest. The gospel will spread and spread as we sow and speak the word. The mechanics are a mystery. One day the ripe grain will be harvested. This is likely a reference to the kingdom of God being fully revealed (the second coming). We needn’t be anxious about how the kingdom grows any more than we are anxious about how wheat grows.

30-35 The Kingdom of God is not to be underestimated

“…like a mustard seed…” The size of the kingdom is not to be measured by its origin. A middle-eastern man growing up in backward Nazareth, for example, is revealed to be the eternal creator of the universe – our Lord and Saviour!

“…many similar parables…” The teaching method itself is like a mustard seed. It appears simple and weak and yet it has nourished the church for thousands of years. Everything was explained to the disciples and they would go on to write the New Testament for us.

Suggested questions for running this study.

Q1. Who is Jesus speaking to in this section? Look at Verses 10, 21 and 34. Is it clear or ambiguous? Looking at Verse 34, what does Jesus do differently in public to what he does with his disciples?

Q2. Jesus repeats in Verse 23 what he said back in Verse 9. What does this tell us about Jesus’ teaching?

Q3. In the first parable, the lamp is either the message that needs to be put in clear view or it is the thing that illuminates the room to reveal what was hidden. Which of those two options seems to fit best with the context? Does Verse 23 help you to decide?

Q4. How is the kingdom of God compared to growing seed? What do we need to be concerned about?

Q5. Considering the final parable in Verses 30-32, what are some unimpressive things that bloom into the kingdom of God? That is, what can the mustard seed be compared to?


Jesus did not speak parables in order to make complex ideas easy to understand (a common fallacy) but so that the message could be offered to us to carefully understand. If we give attention to Jesus and his ministry, then the kingdom of God is opened up for us. If we close our ears and look past it, then we will miss the greatest offer ever and anything we think we have now will one day be removed. The harvest involves a sickle! Jesus was beginning with 12 odd men and from the seed planted with them comes the church of Christ and the kingdom growth.


Challenge#1 – Making the most of the bible.

The word of God is given to us for our growth and benefit. If Jesus’ challenge is for us to have ears to hear, how then are you hearing? What is your weekly bible reading plan? If it’s non-existent, then talk together about how to get started. Next, talk about the method. Some helpful things include 1) read small chunks, 2) read a whole book over time, 3) make notes and lookup cross-references, 4) don’t use google, 5) pray to begin and end, 6) use the bible text to construct your prayer, 7) note down questions and work out how you’ll solve them.

Challenge#2 – Valuing the mustard seeds

Weekly church services and weekly Growth Groups are often unimpressive. Not that they are terrible (I certainly hope not) but they are small things which contribute to gospel growth. Over time, we will consume most of the bible together, a lot of doctrine, prayer times, outreach opportunities and personal challenges and growth. Like a plant growing in the garden, it doesn’t grow before your eyes, but you will one day see fruit on the tree! Be dedicated to church and Growth Group for your own growth as well as the growth of others.

Challenge#3 – Live for the kingdom

It’s no good to be aware of the kingdom of God but invest in the kingdom of this world. Note what Jesus said in Mark 4:25. The gospel is about making your choice now: kingdom of you or kingdom of God. Is Jesus your Lord or are you keeping that title for yourself? Be careful with the kingdom of God else you lose both it and whatever you are clinging to.

Mark 4:1-20 The parable of the soils

Discussion question:

What is the biggest threat to your faith (or spiritual well-being)?

Read Mark 4:1-20


Mark’s gospel began quickly. Both John and Jesus’ preaching ministry was about repentance and belief that the kingdom of God has come near. Jesus has attracted attention from all around through his healing ministry but he has said that the reason he has come is to preach.

He has called a group of disciples to follow him and has already stirred up trouble with regard to understanding the Sabbath. One stand out event so far was the healing of a paralyzed man where Jesus declared himself able to forgive sins – like only God can!

He has declared the those who do God’s will are included in his family.



  • Ready to teach in parables (1-2)
  • The parable told (3-8)
  • The problem with parables (9-13)
  • The parable explained (14-20)

Ready to teach in parables (1-2)

“Again Jesus began to teach by the lake.” Lake Galilee is where he has preached before and has been referenced previously. Mk 1:45, 2:13, 3:7. The first reference doesn’t mention a lake but the second implies that he has preached by a lake before. He was not able to preach in the synagogues since Mark 1:45.

“The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat…” This seems like a very practical way of creating a natural staged area where he faced the whole crowd and wasn’t engulfed. The point here is that it was a practical solution.

“He taught them many things by parables…” As stories go, they begin with setting a scene before they introduce the problem. Verse 2 can be seen as the problem of this narrative. Yes, he will tell a parable and then explain the parable and we will learn a great message from the parable…but the problem in this narrative is that he teaches in parables. This is made clear by verse 2 and verses 9-13. The parable is one layer of the story but the outer layer is that the kingdom is being revealed to those who God reveals it to.

The parable told (3-8)

“Listen!” This is not an incidental word. Verse 9 ends the parable with Jesus’ challenge to hear if you can! Can we listen?

“…some fell on…” Verses 3-8 are not challenging to listen to on a literal level. He speaks easy words to understand which you can draw on paper. Jesus explains the parable later, but for now, we just observe the four stages of his story. 1) a path 2) rocky places 3) thorns and 4) good soil. Drawing them out can be very helpful. How many of the four scenarios are commendable?

The problem with parables (9-13)

“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” This is the challenge from Jesus. He began with “Listen!” and ends with “Did you listen?” 

“When he was alone… the others around him…” It seems odd to describe him as alone and yet accompanied by the 12 and others. Assuming that the writer is not an idot, this means that the large crowd of verse 1 was gone and now Jesus was alone – with those who were travelling with him.

“The secret of the kingdom of God…” Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark were “Repent for the kingdom of God has come near.” Now he talks about the secret of the kingdom of God. The key word here is secret. Paul will talk about the mystery of God which has now been revealed in Jesus (Eph 1:9; Col 1:26-27; 2:2). Jesus is the mystery of the kingdom revealed. He is the word of God. He will stand right before everybody and only those who will listen will see him.

“…has been given to you. But to those on the outside…” Jesus will speak plainly to his disciples but speak in parables elsewhere. These disciples will take the mysteries and give them to the world. Even then, only those who have ears will hear.

“They may be ever seeing but never perceiving…” Isaiah 6:9-10 are referenced here. There is not a word for word quote but idea for idea. Notably the original quote says healed rather than forgiven. When Jesus came, the big idea for God’s salvation was honed in toward forgiveness rather than prosperity. The idea is that the kingdom of God has come near – but who will enter? Once you understand grace and who Jesus is truly, and embrace him, the kingdom of God makes so much sense like you can’t understand why everybody else has a difficulty seeing it! It’s not rocket science. But people are kept from believing because of the deception of wickedness (2 Thess 2:10).

“Don’t you understand this parable?” The problem of the narrative of Mark 4:1-20 is about understanding and hearing. The good soils will be those who hear and embrace the truth – the word of God. What prevents producing crops in the kingdom is closed ears.

“How can you understand any parable?” I’ve come to notice that Jesus asks rhetorical questions from time to time (eg, Mk 10:18) but we actually need to answer the question! How will we understand any parable? What is the answer to that? Isn’t it that Jesus will tell us? That the word itself will explain it? How do can we have ears to hear? We must turn them on and turn to the bible and listen. The bible will explain what the bible means. There is more to it: The Spirit, who the Son and the Father sent, will lead us into all truth. There is an act of grace in having the secrets to the kingdom of God revealed. It takes the mercy of God. But on our par, it takes turning on our brain and opening our ears and listening to the bible. Jesus explained the parable to the disciples! That is how they would understand the parable.

The parable explained (14-20)

“…like seed along the path, where the word is sown.” The combination of the seed and the path are in focus. The seed is the word of God. God speaking. The bible. Sometimes when the word of God is shared, it falls on the path.

“…as soon as they hear it…” This is how the word is sown, by sharing it to those who can hear it.

“…Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” This is both sudden and criminal. Satan steals it away. The hearer treats it as junk. Message heard and ignored or ridiculed.

“…on rocky places…at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time.” These hearers receive the word of God with joy. It pleases them. Like a lovely and comforting story. Not immediately discarded but heard with a smile on their face.

“…when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.” Can Christians fall away? Not if they remain! But hearers with shallow roots quickly retreat when tested or challenged. Their understanding of the gospel is shallow. Any number of arguments or alternate options can knock them off their faith. Paul celebrated the church in Colossae because they had hear the true gospel and truly understood the grace of God (Col 1:3-8).

“…seed sown among the thorns…” The challenge to the third group is the struggles and worries of this life. If group 2 are easily challenged by their faith, group 3 are overwhelmed by the distractions of this world. Finances, ambition, entertainment, idolatry, everything else comes before Jesus. Colossians 1:15ff talks about the priority of Christ for life and salvation. 

“…worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word…” Matthew 6:19-33 contains Jesus’ advice to stop worrying and seek first the kingdom of God.

“…making it unfruitful.” The first three scenarios are unacceptable outcomes. It is not good enough to be 2 because it is better than 1! All three end in the same result – the word of God produces no fruit in them.

“…hear…accept…produce a crop…” This is the lesson. Listen. Adopt. Do.

“…some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.” The word of God does not stop with this one person but produces more. Both good works and more seed sown by the farmer. The Twelve listening to Jesus will produce an international church that has not and will not end until Christ returns.

Suggested questions for running this study

Q1. Verses 1 and 2 set the scene for Jesus’ sermon. What stands out in the description of this scene?

Q2. Draw the parable as explained in Verses 3-8. Which of the four scenes are commendable?

Q3. What does Jesus reveal to be the real problem here according to verses 9-13?

Q4. Talk about each type of soil where the word is planted. What are the differences between all three? And which of the four soils are fruitful?


The kingdom of God is about hearing the gospel (Jesus the mystery of God revealed). To unlock the secret of the kingdom of God we need to listen, adopt and do what it says – like it is worth listening to (not to be stolen or discarded), like it is rich in knowledge and truth (deep roots), and like it is of highest priority (not strangled by the things of this world. Jesus is offering us the keys to the kingdom. What we need to do is stop and listen – have ears to hear and do what it says!


Challenge#1 – Sharing the word to those who don’t care.

There will be many who don’t know what to do with the message of the gospel. It will be either white noise to them or they will be repulsed and hate every word of it. Our task is not to only plant where there will be fruit, but to speak the word everywhere. There is nobody on the planet that doesn’t need to hear the gospel and have a chance to listen.

Challenge#2 – Hearing the depths of the gospel.

Simply knowing that God loves you and that Jesus is awesome is not enough to sustain you in your faith. Believing that church is lovely but not knowing your bible well is not a healthy place for anybody. The word of God is written for adults to dig deep and understand as well as for children to read and grasp. But we don’t want to remain children in the faith. The knowledge of God is vast and the bible is filled with robust theology. It can handle scrutiny and can stand the test of time. Only shallow readers and mockers think that it is not worth reading and knowing or that Jesus is only 2 dimensional. Set goals to continue to grow in your knowledge of God and his word.

Challenge#3 – Riches I heed not nor man’s empty praise

Knowing what the Kingdom of God is about ought to set our compass on eternal things and not the things of this earth. Read Matthew 6:19-34; or Luke 12:22-31; or Colossians 3:1-18 during the week to pray about seeking our eternal treasure and setting our minds on heavenly things and not on earthly things. Write a list of all the things that fill your mind regularly with worry and take them all to God in slow and concentrated prayer. Cast your anxiety on him and seek first the kingdom of God. Once you have ears to hear, it makes perfect sense.

Firm Foundations – Study 4 – Colossians 1:24-2:8

The word of God, faith and maturity

Topics covered:
The life of faith
What is the bible and how can we trust it?
The point of Growth Groups (discipleship and maturity)
Glossary: maturity; false teaching; bible; preaching and teaching.

Discussion Question

What makes a person mature?


The church in Colossae had received the message of the grace of God and, because they had truly understood God’s grace, they are responding to it with love and faith spurred on by their new hope found in Christ. Paul is so thankful to hear of the work that God is doing in them and reminded the readers about how central Christ is to all things. He is the reason for life itself! He is the cornerstone of any church of the real God. He is now the only focus of Paul’s life.

Outside of Christ, we were alienated from God. But in Christ, we are reconciled to God. It took Jesus’ physical body to make this real. This gospel is not just for some, but it is the only gospel for the whole world because it is give to us from God himself. Jesus is the universal Christ.

Read Colossians 1:24-2:8

24 Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness—26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. 

2 I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. 

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. 

What did you see?


  • God’s mystery is now revealed (24-27)
  • So, we train one another in Christ (1:28-2:3)
  • How to grow up in the faith (2:4-8)

God’s mystery is now revealed (24-27)

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you…” The Christian faith looks at suffering and does not teach us to avoid it or rush too quickly to remove it, but to see why it is there. Paul equates the suffering he is undergoing as a necessity for proclaiming the gospel in the world.

“…I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions…” The New Testament is clear that it is the cross of Christ that redeems and makes the unrighteous believer truly righteous before God (Colossians 1:20-22; 2:14). So, Paul does not mean that Christ’s death is not enough for salvation. He means that the gospel must now get proclaimed and spread across this earth – it must not be kept secret but made known to all. We live in this same age as Paul, where the gospel is taught to all nations.

“…for the sake of his body, which is the church.” Another way of saying that the gospel must be spread. The church is born out of the gospel being preached. The cross of Christ has made the guilty righteous, now the message of the cross must be preached in order for the church to be born and built up.

“…I have become its servant…to present…the word of God in its fullness.” Paul sees himself as someone called by God to finish the story of Christ in this world. The bible has been written for generations by prophets who were lead by the Holy Spirit to speak and write down what they saw and heard. Now, in the same tradition as the prophets, Paul is proclaiming and presenting the completed work of God in Christ. God has commissioned Paul as one author of His story.

“…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages…is now disclosed…” The mystery is the missing piece of the puzzle which is Christ crucified. 1 Peter 1:10-12, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow…” Christ is the missing piece of the puzzle. The mystery is not a mystery anymore. See 2 Corinthians 1:20; Ephesians 1:9-10.

“…disclosed to the Lord’s people.” The Lord’s people are those who he had chosen. In the Old Testament, it was promised through the line of Abraham but in the New Testament, we see that there is only a remnant of believers who are called the true Israel – not by birth but by faith in Christ. See Romans 4. 1 Peter 2 describes all the church of God through Christ as the people of God. He has revealed his word to his church. And the Lord’s people teach the nations (Gentiles).

“…the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” The message of the gospel is both a spoken word and an outworking of faith in the church. The church will be known for their hope in Christ and their understanding of the future blessed by God. Heaven is our hope which transforms the people of God because we don’t strive for success at the expense of others but we live by faith in Christ.

So at the end of this section, let’s note that God has been speaking in this world for generations but now, the final piece of the puzzle has been revealed and it is Christ, the promised Messiah, and we live in the age where Christ is proclaimed! Special reference to the word of God.

So, we train one another in Christ (1:28-2:3)

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone…” The ‘he’ is Jesus Christ. We do not preach and teach doctrine or religion, or good works, but we preach and teach about a person. Christianity is about Jesus Christ. Proclaiming is like standing up and declaring something as true and necessary. Admonishing is similar to proclaiming but comes with a sense of urgency – like this is not just opinion but truth that you need. Teaching is easy to understand but we don’t just tell people what to think, we train and instruct and show the reasons for and give people the clues that point to Jesus.

“…with all wisdom…” This is something about the method. We choose times and places and tone and the appropriate illustration and so on.

“…so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” This is the aim. Not everyone will get there because many will reject the truth and turn from it. But we teach and admonish so that people will mature in Christ. This means that people will not remain shallow in their faith. There is a personal growth expected in Christianity. A Christian ought to be older in the faith as time goes on – not simply because of age but because of instruction and understanding. Hearing the gospel and believing it is only the beginning of faith. Ephesians 2:8-10 states that we are saved by grace but this is so that we will become what God has intended us to be. Every adult in this world was once upon a time a child. But they were never meant to remain as a child. The nature of life is to grow up. This is the same in the faith. When we move from death to life in Christ, we also mature and grow up in this faith.

“To this end…” Paul wants people to hear the gospel and grow up in the gospel and this is his mission. His work is not passive and accidental, but he is intent on how he gets the news of Jesus out and training people up.

“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love…complete understanding…know the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1 that he resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ crucified. This is such essential knowledge to Paul and he knows that this is the great mystery that God wants all of his people to fall in love with and own for themselves. No church member is simply a passenger. We are all urged to know Christ with complete understanding.

“…all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Sounds like a plot to a sci-fi adventure movie – a trek to discover the treasures of all wisdom and knowledge. But God has it for us. We don’t need more than Christ. We don’t need something other than Christ. The richest treasure of knowledge that God can offer us is found in Christ. 

At the end of this section, let’s notice that all of Paul’s efforts are poured into making Christ known, carefully, thoughtfully, persuasively and universally.

How to grow up in the faith (2:4-8)

“…so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” Paul is concerned that, in his absence, other people may persuade and admonish the church with something other than Christ. 10-steps to better living. The real secret to happiness. The missing gift of God. Things like these distract us from celebrating in unity the good news that God has saved us in Christ.

“…delight to see how disciplined you are…” Despite Paul’s warnings of being mislead, he seems pleased to hear about the discipline of their faith. Notice that faith takes discipline – namely to hear the proclaiming, admonishing and teachings about Christ.

“…how firm your faith in Christ is.” Note that faith is not a substance or a spell but a commitment to the knowledge and trust in something or someone. A weak faith is something like a hesitation to trust Christ. A firm faith is where someone stands on the rock of Christ with both feet without needing a second option.

“…just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him…” You know how to mature in Christ? Keep calling him Lord and saviour without hesitation in all things. Grow up in the faith in the same way that you received Christ. You heard about him and was drawn to the fact that in him is life and there is no life without him. He is Lord. He is our boss, chief, master, leader, sovereign king! Keep treating him this way!

“…rooted and built up in him…” We don’t put Jesus on a shelf and look to him occasionally. He is the foundation for our lives. Our firm foundation is to be in Him. He is the cornerstone. You don’t lay down a slab and then build your house a metre away from that! Find your hope in Christ and then continue to grow in that understanding and knowledge.

“…strengthened in faith…” Faith is like a muscle. When it is not exercised, it gets weak and cannot support us. But when we apply the knowledge of Christ, the hope of the gospel to all of life, then our faith is strengthened. But Christ is still the object of that faith.

“…as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Faith in Christ is like most things we learn. We were once taught how to ride a bike. We enjoy riding the bike just as we were taught and respond with joy and thankfulness that someone showed us. The difference is that Christ, unlike the bike, has gifted us with truth, life and eternity with God. This is why we came to Christ to begin with! So continue just as you received Christ as Lord.

“See to it…” Just as we are actively engaged in growing up in Christ, be actively aware of the dangers of being blindsided by some other smooth talking gospel. Grace plus anything is no longer grace. Christ plus something is no longer Christ alone. Multiple truths is not longer the truth.

“…depends on human tradition…” Paul is probably thinking of circumcision or some other Jewish tradition. Religion is not a dirty word but it has such a power to overshadow Christ like access to Christ is only through certain rituals or days or ways of living.

“…and the elemental spiritual forces of this world…” This phrase appears again in verse 20 and is expanded on there to indicate things that you get told in this world which seems to make sense but has no eternal impact. Why the NIV places the word ‘spiritual’ here is a mystery. The phrase is simply, ‘the basic principles of this world’. The way to spot something that is empty and deceptive is to study the faith in Christ and be aware of what is leading us away from that!

“…rather than on Christ.” This is where Paul wants to land us. Start, continue and find everything in Christ. Remember that nothing exists without him. He is not an afterthought in this world. He is the reason for life. We need him for salvation but we also just need him.

What did we learn?

God has always been pointing people to Christ – even before the first Christmas! But there is no mystery among men any more. Jesus is the international Christ. There is no other philosophy or greater knowledge than knowing Christ. He is our salvation and he is our King and God’s word has always been working toward revealing him to us. We receive Christ as the foundation of our faith and we continue firmly established in him. The best way to spot counterfeit truths is to grow up and study the only truth that matters.

Now what?

Topic A: The Bible: what it is and what it isn’t. It is eye-opening to realise that the whole bible is really about Jesus. Especially when you consider that the bulk of the bible was written hundreds of years before he came in the flesh. Some treat the bible like a book of quotes that you can just jump into anywhere for some personal inspiration. This is incorrect. Some use the bible like it is a library of loosely related stories all tied together by the theme of God. But this is both untrue and leaves the bible open to include any inspirational stories about God. But the bible is the unfolding story of God’s salvation to the earth through Christ. A course like “God’s Big Picture Plus+” or “Introduction to the Bible” (study 1 in the Preliminary Theological Certificate course) will help you gain a clearer vision of how God has used the prophets of the Old Testament to speak and write for our benefit. The bible speaks of itself as given to us by God himself. And the contents of the bible prove itself to be true and trustworthy. It is given to the people of God and is embraced by them because it speaks of the gospel of Christ.

Topic B: How to be trained in Christ? As a church, we have a number of strategies to see people grow up in the faith. Firstly, our weekly church services always present a part of the bible read and taught in light of the gospel of Christ. Secondly, our mid-week Growth Groups are offered to help train one another up in reading the bible well while being encouraged in Christian community. Thirdly, we encourage people to read the bible for themselves. There is no mystery to reading the bible well, but we have found that there are many distractions and ways that people can fail to listen well to what the bible is saying. So, courses on how to read the bible such as God’s Big Picture, Firm Foundations, regular Growth Groups or The Daily Bible Project are all attempts at helping people to grow in their Christian maturity.

Topic C: How to spot a counterfeit gospel. It is said that the best training to spot counterfeit money is not to study the many counterfeits but to study the authentic currency. We learn to know Christ. Not just know of him but learn to know Him and the Father who sent Him (John 17:3). Think of Christianity like walking a path. You started on the path, presumably, because you saw the sign that said, “this way to know life, to know truth and to have peace with God” and so you liked what the sign said and you followed that way. This path begins and continues in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord. To leave the path is to leave Christ and go down some other journey. The other path may promise great things too, but you cannot have two journeys. Jesus Christ is revealed to us in the bible. Get to know your bible, and you will grow in your knowledge of Christ.