Publication:Pastoral Letter,May 2017
Dear Friend in Christ,
I am writing this letter during Easter weekend; of course, you are receiving it a few weeks later. But, as I’ve been meditating on Jesus’ Resurrection, I am struck by how timely these truths always will be. The Cross and the Resurrection are profoundly tied together and demonstrate so much beyond our ability to describe.
The Cross is God’s demonstration of His love, forgiveness, atonement, and offer of reconciliation. We have been purchased out of bondage to self and culture for His purpose. The Resurrection demonstrates the power of divine life over death, hell and judgment. It declares that the sting of death has been removed and that in Christ, we have “The Blessed Hope.” I lack the ability to tell all that this history-making event means to us and the world. It is the heart of the Gospel—the very best news!
What I do want to do is describe the power of life to break through its various stages and oppositions to fulfill the purpose of the One who gave it. I want to look at history and a brief parable given to us by our Lord.
The Cross and Resurrection are historical events that changed so much of the world and the trajectory of truth. These events delivered a world-changing and history-making payload! Life since the days of Adam has always been in a struggle to fulfill its purpose. Yet, life has continually broken through boundaries and oppositions. Jesus gave us the ultimate breakthrough in history and in the struggles that we face.
While I love history, I do not live there. My task is to learn from it, take its lessons into the future, and pass them on. The problem that we have is that too many of us live in the past. Life is here, not there.
When we do the same things over and over or when the sense of adventure has gone and taken joy with it, we are no longer really living and allowing life to break through. Life continues to move toward its purpose; but when we cease moving, we gradually cease living. Life is not preoccupied with or imprisoned by a stage or season. So it was with the early disciples.
The Mystery of the Seed
In Mark 4:26-29, Jesus is likening His kingdom to a seed. Seeds are a mystery to me, as is His Kingdom. Jesus spoke in parables to obscure truth from those who did not want to hear or move forward in God’s purpose. The mystery of the seed was for those whose hearts were open and committed to God’s unfolding plan.
Jesus said, “The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground” (Mark 4:26). This is not about the man; it is about the seed and the kingdom of God. The man sows, then sleeps, but the seed begins its work.
A seed, though dry and seemingly dormant, contains within it the blue-print of life. A tiny seed can become a great tree or whatever its mystery contains. Once planted in a friendly environment, it begins to germinate, break through its outer shell, and draw nutrients from its surroundings. Then in its own death, the seed brings forth life.
It was Jesus Who said, “Except a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). He spoke of Himself as the seed that would die and bear much fruit. He also spoke of the process of His manifest Kingdom; it began with a seed that died, but the life literally broke out of all boundaries: the tomb of death, the religious culture, a race of people, and human thinking. This seed has produced immeasurable fruit in all the world!
Jesus is the eternal, divine seed of new life and the kingdom of God. He is also the “genetic” source of the life He produces. In other words, what He produces is destined to look like, act like, and break through as He did. He is “the first born of many brethren” being conformed to His image (see Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 4:19).
Since Jesus was speaking of His kingdom in Mark 4, we are not only talking about our personal life maturing, but of how the kingdom of God is progressively revealed and bears fruit. It begins with the seed but His life continues on to break through various stages. Divine life does not remain dormant or in the past.
First the Blade
The first appearance of the seed’s success is a tiny blade, a small shoot that has struggled through the soil. It may appear like other blades but a different kind of life is inside it. While the blade is rooted in the past, it is moving toward the future. Soon the blade becomes a stalk that supports the life within and the future ahead.
As the life continues to flow toward its destiny, the stalk may turn from its flexible green leaf to a brittle brown as the life climbs higher. The seed, blade, and stalk are where life was; now they are history.
If the blade and stalk could speak, what might they say? Would they remember the “good ole days” when they were where the life was? Would they be critical of the new developments? My friend Derek Prince, now with the Lord, used to say that it is the last wave of the sea striking the beach that fights the next incoming wave. That is true. The good is often the enemy of the best and dying traditions often struggle against more advanced life.
So it is that new developments must break through the status quo. Divine life will always continue to progress toward its destiny; it will overcome.
Then the Ear
Jesus describes the next development of the Kingdom as “the ear” or head as it appears. Now it is green and flexible while below, the plant is brittle. The ear is being formed to protect the mystery produced inside. It shields the forming seed within from the hot sun and other destructive elements.
I might liken the ear to many traditional churches that nurture the mystery of life and protect people from harmful theology or other kinds of elements that are destructive. It is right that church leaders be protective; that is one of the major tasks of shepherds, in addition to feeding and leading. But the ear is only an important part of the purpose; it is not THE purpose. The purpose of the life is beyond the ear; it is to produce more fruit that can reproduce—grain, seed.
Soon the ear will also turn brown and rigid and begin to fall away revealing its fruit. Then comes the harvest. The harvest is when the individual grains, the recipients of life, mature and are ready to be reproductive. One measure of maturity is the ability to reproduce.
The Full Grain
Let me be clear, analogies are limited and not the entire story; we need the whole Bible. There have been mature believers in every stage of history who lived the Christ life and were reproductive. But the Church which contains and propagates Kingdom life has generally not produced reproductive disciples. It has for centuries “cloistered” believers or “contained them” rather than matured and released them. In some cases, it has matured and released, but in my view, not typically. That will change and is changing.
The “full grain” is when individuals are conformed to Christ’s image in ways and works. It is when we are willing to be planted in friendly or unfriendly soil and die to ourselves as Jesus did. It is when the “Word” dwells richly in us to the point that the vessel dies and releases its treasure (see 2 Corinthians 4:7). That is already occurring in some places of the world. As Romans 8:28 tells us, all things are working together for good to those who love the Lord and are called to His purpose. We must die to self and to the past in order to reproduce is His purpose.
Leviticus 23 records the feasts on the Hebrew calendar. Verses 33-43 describe “The feast of booths” or harvest (fifteenth day of seventh month). This was the celebration of the harvest that was produced, and it represented life. Some of it was presented to the Lord; this was a time of great joy. It is important to note that what was celebrated was the culmination of seed, blade, ear, and full grain. It was not celebrated prematurely, but at the actual harvest of grain and fruit. They didn’t celebrate the blade or ear but the full grain and fruit, the culmination of it’s purpose.
I believe that the Hebrew calendar is prophetically pointing to where the seed’s blue-print pointed—fruit. Jesus continually focused upon fruit and voiced His displeasure with fruitless religion. Every stage is designed to produce the harvest!
Lessons from Mark 4:26-29
Bear in mind that parables are only “bite size” truths about the kingdom of God and we need to confirm our “take-away” from the entire Bible. We only know in part.
The kingdom of God comes to us in seed form—words from God that contain the mystery of life. The seed and its destiny are given to those of open and committed heart.
The kingdom of God comes as a seed (Jesus Christ the Word) but works in history, in us and in the world, progressively through stages and not all at once.
As Christ’s life works in us and the world, we are not to criticize the past but continually break into the future as life works in and through us. We are grateful for the people and the process that got us here.
The past will often struggle against the future as Israel did toward Jesus and the early Church. It is normal to try to maintain tradition but unwise when life is changing. (That does not mean to cast off Biblical principles, but rather to follow the Holy Spirit.)
The seed’s purpose is to reproduce and multiply more seed that bear the image of the original.
The harvest comes when that original purpose is fulfilled.
Allow me to add: if your life has become dull, habitual, and lacking joy in the Lord, it is time to ask the Lord to show you the next stage and obey Him. His life in you desires to break through and know the joy of harvest! I would encourage you to seek out one or two others who will make the journey with you (see Ecclesiastes 4:9).
P.S. Please continue to keep CSM in your prayers and in your budget. This month is very full with travel ministry and our annual Gatlinburg Leadership Conference. We have many opportunities and also many challenges. See the enclosed card for more information and visit us online at csmpublishing.org. You can also “like” our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Page and follow us on Twitter @CSMinPublishing.
Scripture References: Mark 4; John 12:24; Romans 8:28-29; Galatians 4:19; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Leviticus 23:33-43