Sermon Notes from Pastor David Yoder’s sermons. Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Parables Explained

A sower, seed, and soils comprise the elements of the story before us.  The story is also known as a parable.  Parables are NOT used to explain spiritual truth as much as they are designed to HIDE spiritual truth. The kingdom parables are specifically designed to bring understanding to the citizens of the kingdom while hiding it from Jesus’ enemies.
The sower, while not identified properly, represents Jesus and all who speak the gospel.  The seed represents the gospel.  The soils represent the heart response to the good news of the kingdom.  The heart response of those who are “path” is that of dullness and non-understanding.  Because they do not understand, the enemy takes it away.  For the rocky soil, a passionate and emotional response to the gospel is normative.  They wilt in the face of external pressures.  The thorny underbrush represents that heart response that is quenched by schedules and resources.  Finally, the good soil is that heart response that humbly receives the gospel which yields appropriate fruit.
We can note some things now.
 
First, God is sovereign in withholding spiritual truth from some while revealing it to others.  This may seem harsh at first.  We do see a divine policy though and it goes something like this:  withhold spiritual truth from those who scoff at it. Jesus calls us to this as well in Matt. 7 when he says do not cast your pearls before swine.
So what is going on here?  Spiritual discernment is being called for here.  While explaining the “why” behind certain responses, Jesus is also giving us “assessment” tools.  If we as a church or as individuals give out the gospel and are met with perplexing responses, chances are, those responses can be explained by the four soils.  This will help us as we discern what we do after sharing spiritual truth.
Second, the sower can ask himself a few questions too.  Regarding the path, are we speaking in clear intelligible categories?  Foreign missionaries often struggle greatly in communicating the good news to a culture whose thinking is very different.  For the rocky soil, are we selling a self-help prosperity gospel?  The sower can sell a lot more wares if he promises individual prosperity but external pressures will extinguish that growth rather quickly.  For the thorny context, have we challenged the individual enough?  Does he/she understand the Lordship of Jesus?
Third, rest in God’s sovereignty.  The sower sows, this is his job.  We cannot control the response of the human heart. This can save us anxiety because we can only do so much.  Additionally, the worth of the sower does not go up or down based on what kind of soil he encounters.  The heart response of the soils is not contingent upon the sower.  This may sound contradictory to our second note (see above).  It is not.  As sowers we need to make sure, as far as it depends on us, that we are on point but beyond that we do not control.
This message comes from Luke 8:4-15.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

John Expresses Doubt

The last we heard about John the Baptist, he had been put into jail (Luke 3:20).  He is still there but things are starting to get to him.  Imaginations, doubts, and questions have taken their toll.  The man who had once definitively recognized the Son of God for who he was, is now unsure.  It happens.  It happens to all of us, we doubt and clear words from the Lord become vague and we lose our orientation.
We have some options when this happens, and it will.  We can continue to check in with ourselves, referencing our own reason, and spiraling out of control.  This is a natural response if not misguided.  Yes, it is a normal and natural course but it is not helpful.
When we are in such a state, we want to start talking.  John was probably taking a risk in that his disciples would pick up on their leader’s questions.  Yet, they were for real.  In seeking out Jesus, John turned toward the Lord and not away, in his struggles.  We see Jesus communicating with him but not delivering an overbearing lecture.  As we honestly inquire of Jesus as to the deepest struggles of our faith, we will not find a harsh rebuke.  What we will find are answers.  Jesus while being silent for a season will speak to our questions.  So, let us not turn away, rather, turn to him in our doubts.
This message comes from Luke 7:18-23.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Building Permanently

Jesus closes out his Sermon on the Plain by talking about a life lived well. He says that our words reflect the condition of our heart. Out of our mouths come either blessing or cursing. The heart, then, feeds the supply of words. The way Jesus leaves his saying is, we are responsible for what comes out of the mouth. Do we build up, encourage, support? Or do we tear at others, demean, or accuse? We want to think deliberately about our speech so as to reflect the grace of God.

Jesus also speaks to us about 1. coming to him and 2. hearing what he says and 3. doing what he says. To come to Jesus is to do so consciously, with an open heart, ready to receive instruction. We don’t have answers, we need him to guide us. And, when we come, we listen to what he says. This means “scheduling” time with him. Sometimes this means we get away for a half-day, a full day, or several days to a week. Why? Business is a good way to not hear him. Thirdly, once we do hear him what is the plan to obey? Are we thinking deliberately about how we systematically obey him? This means we set up infrastructure in our lives to facilitate obedience. We pursue this and leave nothing to chance.

As we walk in Jesus, which is what this closing section is about, we build a structure out of our lives which will endure eternally. We forge character, humility, godliness and good works which will stand. Why? Because Jesus stands and whatever stands with him will last.

 

This message comes from Luke 6:43-49.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Put off Judging and Put on Grace

Have you ever said to someone, “Don’t judge me?”  Has anyone ever said to you, “Don’t judge me?”  This is one of the more commonly known references to Jesus’ message in Matt. 5 and Luke 6.  If we are honest, we sometimes use this to get people off our backs, particularly when they are pointing out a sin in our lives.

In context, to judge or condemn someone is to sentence another or to put another person in a box.  It has to do with having a harsh and critical spirit.  We have various motives for doing this, none of which is pure.  Jesus says to not judge another because the manner in which we judge will determine how we are judged.  Don’t judge!  God will take care of the judging.  Of course, we speak here of being harsh and critical of others’ personhood, not being candid in our assessment of foolishness and sin itself.

Be gracious!  Let’s be a people who are giving to others.  We have received forgiveness for free so we need to give it away.  Being giving means we are liberal in the favor, grace, encouragement, exhortation, and praise we give to others.  There is no harm in this.  Nothing of our spiritual standing before God is hindered by giving.  To the contrary, we will reap all the more richly if we give richly!

Finally, Jesus warns against pointing out others’ sins when we ourselves are under the control of a sin.  Concern yourself with applying the gospel to yourself!  Get yourself in a healthy place and then you can lead others.  But if you are not in a healthy place then do not presume to lead others because they will reject you outright.  Concern yourself with being a disciple of Jesus.  Then things will fall into place.

This message comes from Luke 6:37-42.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Jesus Establishes His Authority Over the Sabbath

Jesus does it again.  He takes on conflict, sets the record straight, and does so with wisdom and compassion.
There are two stories back to back which establish one truth:  Jesus is in charge of setting policy for the Sabbath.  The first story is about recognizing human need as more important than rules and regulations.  Jesus ignored established Sabbath Day application because it closed with physical need, namely, hunger.  Insofar as we relate to the law, we never suspend human need in order to keep law.  These two ideas are contradictory.  The Pharisees unfortunately had elevated law above human need.  They became computers, robotic and severe as they fleshed out their views upon the backs of people.  Our takeaway is twofold:  have compassion on people who are in need and trust Jesus’ leadership in setting people above law.
The second story is about a man whose hand is withered.  The Pharisees, being bound by their lawless view of law, wanted Jesus to heal the man so they might have grounds to criticize.  However, their own views of law trapped them into preferring obedience to law over good things.  How terrible!  This is a complete reversal of God’s original intent.  Jesus heals the man, rebukes the Pharisees, and convinces us that he is our guy.  He sides with people over law.  Individuals are more important and this is good because we, you and I, are individuals before him.  He won’t overlook us.  Once again, we look to him for leadership and protection.
We would be remiss if we didn’t caution ourselves too.  Do I reference law over goodness?  Surely the tendencies of the Pharisees are alive and well.  These tendencies are fallen and human before they are Pharisaical.  Do I reference technicality at the expense of a greater good?  In accepting Jesus’ teaching we need also exercise caution lest we abandon all law and regulation for license.  Jesus’ abandonment of law was governed by love of people, not love for flaunting his will and satisfying his passions.
This message comes from Luke 6:1-11.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Jesus Speaks on Propriety

In some respects, this is an odd section of Scripture.  Wineskins, wine, garments, patches, bridegrooms, and fasting are words we do not normally use.  But Jesus puts them together in order to make a point.
First, he says it is inappropriate to fast and pray during a wedding.  To fast and pray during a season of celebration is not godly nor does it earn extra credit points spiritually, its stupid.  It is obtuse to force forge ahead with disciplines at inappropriate times.  There is no gain, actually, there is setback.  Here Jesus exposes self-righteous behavior that views the disciplines as a mechanical means of grace.
Second, Jesus says it is inappropriate to hang on to old ways when God is doing something new.  To compromise ruins both the older and the newer ways.  When it is time to move on, we need to move on.  Those who hang back will not receive God’s doting blessing.  They will be left to their own devices.  This may seem harsh but it simply underscores the leadership of God.  We do not have the privilege or the power to stop his initiatives.  New wine requires new wineskins, using old ways to accommodate new revelation is unworkable.
Jesus is leveling this talk to the disciples of both John and the Pharisees.  His message is clear:  join my team because your ways are now a thing of the past.  On the surface this saying is nice but looking at it in context, you can understand how much of a blow this was to the establishment.
So where are we?  Are we hearing God say its time to move forward?  Are we ready to lay aside old ways so that new ways may come?  When the time for change comes, let us embrace it.  Jesus is the leader and we follow him.  To hang back, kick against the goads is only hurtful to oneself.  Let’s be ready for his leadership and embrace it.  A new revelation is only another step towards a greater knowledge of him.
This message comes from Luke 5:33-39.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Jesus Calls People to Himself

Jesus is walking when he comes upon a tax collector sitting at his desk.  After sizing him up, Jesus says “Follow me.”  The man, named Levi, gets up and follows.  From this point on he is a disciple of Jesus.  Here we see the authority of Jesus being exercised in his management of the human soul.
We all desire significance.  This is demonstrated in our pursuit of things and people, often to our own hurt.  Only Jesus can give what we truly want which is significance.  He is God come in flesh and when God invites us into relationship, then and only then do we find what we are looking for.  In this we see Jesus’ authority over your soul.  When he calls, we answer.  This is the deepest most important and most meaningful interaction we will ever have.  Enjoy him.
We also see Jesus moving Levi into mission.  It is not enough to have a relationship with Jesus.  That relationship, necessarily, leads to mission.  Immediately Levi invites his friends for a big banquet.  Here they come and they get to meet Jesus.  The Pharisees protest a little at the nature of this meeting.  Fellowshiping with “Muslims” and “Atheists” doesn’t seem to be a productive exercise.  Where would this go, anyway?  Jesus defends his actions and by default those of his followers by his reply.  I’ve come to see the sick, not the righteous.
In hearing Jesus’ call, and responding, we are satisfied and equipped to enjoy him.  In enjoying him, we join him in his work which is the people who are without him.
This message comes from Luke 5:27-32.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Jesus Has Authority to Forgive Sins

Luke 5 is focused on establishing Jesus’ authority.  Jesus can command a school of fish to go into a net.  He can force a disease of leprosy to leave a man’s body.  But Jesus can also do something not hitherto imagined.  Here is the story.

Jesus is teaching and people are watching.  Having heard of Jesus’ power to heal, some men bring a friend who is paralyzed.  They can’t get in because the crowd is too packed.  So, they head to the roof, remove some tiles, and drop their friend down into the gathering!

What would you think if you were an audience member?  Is this proper?  What will the homeowner say?  Isn’t this disruptive to the spiritual food we are receiving?  Jesus perceived the hearts of the men, the paralyzed man and his friends.  He declares to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Its ok to help someone catch fish and its pretty cool that you made leprosy go away but this?  Understandably, some people were bothered by this comment.  You would be too.  They (Pharisees and scribes) now suspect him of foul play because nobody but God can forgive sins.  Conflict, heavy conflict was in the air.

Jesus confronts them and says he will prove that he can forgive sins by healing the man.  He will prove that he can forgive sins (something you can’t verify with human tools) by healing the man of his paralysis.  He turns to the man and says, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk.”  Enough said.

Responses?  Awe.  The people were filled with awe, which is another word for respect.  They gave him space in their hearts but also maintained a safe distance from him, as  Peter did when he said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.”

This story is in the Bible to prove one thing:  Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins.  That said, let’s approach him as such and ask for absolution.  This is much easier than seeking it by our own self-righteous acts.

This message comes from Luke 5:17-25.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

Jesus Can Heal You

A leper came to Jesus and asked for help.  A leper?  Most of what we know about leprosy comes from the Bible.  The leper didn’t have much going for him because the disease was eating away at his flesh.  His countenance was grotesque and his outer extremities would eventually fall off.  Additionally, he was a social outcast.  He didn’t fit in and wasn’t allowed to fit in.  Protocol was for the leper to necessarily live away from “normal” people.
The man had heard about Jesus and we can detect a sliver of hope in him.  Maybe, just maybe there was a way out of his predicament.  Maybe, this man Jesus could help.
He approaches Jesus, throws himself down on his face, and appeals to him for help.  He is convinced that Jesus ‘can’ save him but he isn’t sure Jesus ‘wants’ to save him.  That is why he says, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”  He is conceding that his only hope is in Jesus ‘wanting’ to possibly cleanse him!
Reaching out to touch the untouchable, Jesus says, “I will, be clean.”  With that one gesture the leper was set free!  What a joyful encounter and how happy he was as he went to the temple to prove his cleanness.
So what is Jesus saying to you this morning by this interaction?  He is saying, I can heal if I wish.  I care about people who are down and out.  I can do something about it but solutions come through me!  We want to interact with him as someone who heals.  His healing power extends from the spiritual to the physical to the emotional.  Would you admit your non-health and ask him for help?  Are you afraid, do you feel shame?  He cannot help you unless you actually admit your problem and ask him to help.  Appeal to his will.  We have healing in the atonement but it is our Lord’s will that is THE additional factor in healing.
This message comes from Luke 5:12-16.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

No Condemnation

When Adam and Eve sinned they brought condemnation upon themselves, and all their descendants.  This sense of condemnation is evidenced in our feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, instability, and the general sense that something is fundamentally wrong.  We can ignore these feelings, get distracted from them, argue them away but they cannot be ignored.  They are real.
For those who are not Christians, this sense of condemnation is true, not false.  Jesus said that condemnation rests upon all who do not believe on the Son of God.  For those who do believe, there is no condemnation, whatsoever.
So, if you are a believer how do we explain feelings of condemnation:  depression, fear, loneliness, and anxiety?  It has to do with a lack of understanding and a lack of belief.  God has declared believers free from condemnation.  It does not matter if others condemn us, God accepts us so we needn’t yield to the opinions and projections of others.  Sometimes such projections come from a desire to control and manipulate.  Believers also can condemn themselves.  Such condemnation might be believed to serve as a motivator to greater holiness and godliness.
We are free and if God declares us accepted in the beloved then we need to live like it.  Living free and happy in Christ glorifies the Father and aligns us properly with him.
This message comes from Romans 8:1.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.