Interacting with the Sermon
Synopsis of the Sermon
This weekend, Pastor Rich preached on the mystery of the Kingdom of God. He opened by discussing one of the most challenging questions confronting the Christian faith: If Jesus is who he said he was why is the world still in such bad shape? Why, If Jesus really is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, is there still war, rape, disease, death, and pain 2,000 years later? Rich said that they key to understanding this is in the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
Before we can understand the mystery, however, we must first understand the message. Rich said that the message of the Kingdom of God basically comes down to this idea: That the Kingdom of God is whenever the will of Jesus is being done without competition. That Jesus’ will is the only will in operation, and that all other wills only seek to do the will of Jesus. So if Jesus lived on earth 2,000 years ago, and he is who he says he was, and we read in the Bible that he said such things as “The Kingdom of God is near” (Mark 1:15, NIV), and the Kingdom of God is Jesus’ perfect will being done all the time, then why do we still see pain and suffering in the world? This is where, Rich said, the mystery of the Kingdom of God comes in.
Rich said that the mystery of the Kingdom of God is this: God’s Kingdom comes in two stages. In the first stage, which came with Jesus, the Kingdom came in secret. You have to search for it and seek it. Jesus’ will is being done, but it is being done in competition with other wills such as our own and Satan’s. Jesus wants followers who respond to him out of a willing and submissive will, and so in this stage the Kingdom has come but it can be rejected. In the second stage, which will come with Jesus’ return, the Kingdom will come gloriously and obviously, and all other wills will cease to compete with the will of Jesus.
So how do we impact the world for the Kingdom of God now, when we are still in the first stage of the coming of God’s Kingdom? To answer this, Rich taught from the parable of the sower. First, he taught that we must sow God’s word generously. Contrary to modern day marketing schemes, that teach us to sow what we have to very specific, “target markets,” we are to sow the word to everyone without restriction. Secondly, we must be patient. In Rich’s words, “Our responsibility is to share the gospel. It is the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to produce results.” We are called to scatter seed. We cannot make seeds grow. That is God’s work. We must be patient and trust the work of the Spirit in people’s hearts.
Lastly, Rich laid out the responses to the word that are presented in the parable of the sower. When seed is scattered, it lands on one of four types of “soil,” or conditions of our heart: Hard, shallow, crowded, or good. Hard soil, Rich said, is what happens to people’s hearts when they allow their hearts to be packed hard by the business of life. Busy foot traffic in our hearts makes them unresponsive. A heart of shallow soil is a heart that gladly hears the word at first, but when trials and persecution come, the word withers because it has no root. These are people that have only grasped on to one aspect of the word, but have left other areas unaddressed. They are emotional Christians but have never wrestled through tough questions about their faith, or they are intellectual Christians that can tell you everything about the Bible but, like the Pharisees, do not live in their hearts what they know in their heads. A heart of crowded soil is a heart that does not cultivate the Kingdom of God within it, and so all of the things natural to the heart choke out the Kingdom. Lastly, a heart of good soil is “a person who welcomes God’s word at every level of their being − their intellects, their wills, their emotions.”
In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.
Getting the Conversation Started
These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.
- What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
- How does understanding the mystery of God’s Kingdom change your view of the world?
- How do you now understand your role in spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth?
- What types of soil characterized your heart at different points of your life?
Study Goal: We want to be people whose hearts are made of good soil. What does this look like? In order to see an example of good soil in action, receiving and responding to God’s word, let’s look at an example from the life of King Josiah, perhaps the best King in the history of the nation of Israel.
Context: Josiah become King over Judah (the southern kingdom of the nation of Israel, created after a civil war between Solomon’s sons) when he was eight years old. The state of affairs was torrid. Josiah’s father, King Amon, was assassinated after a short two year reign and his grandfather, King Manasseh, committed more detestable acts than any King before him. Judah had consistently and rebelliously sinned against God, and where only a few short years from God’s judgment at the hands of Babylon. Josiah, however, was a different kind of King. He did what was right in the eyes of God. Our story opens in the 18th year of Josiah’s reign, when Josiah is 26. The temple has been in complete disrepair, and at Josiah’s orders the Levites have been charged to repair and rebuild it. Let’s enter the story.
Read 2 Chronicles 34:14-33
14 While they were bringing out the money that had been taken into the temple of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law of the Lord that had been given through Moses. 15Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” He gave it to Shaphan. 16Then Shaphan took the book to the king and reported to him: “Your officials are doing everything that has been committed to them. 17They have paid out the money that was in the temple of the Lord and have entrusted it to the supervisors and workers.” 18Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. 19When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes. 20He gave these orders to Hilkiah, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Abdon son of Micah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king’s attendant: 21“Go inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that is poured out on us because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written in this book.” 22Hilkiah and those who the king had sent with him sent to speak to the prophetess Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the Second District. 23She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people − all the curses written in the book that has been read in the presence of the king of Judah. 25Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and provoked me to anger by all that their hands have made, my anger will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.’ 26Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you have heard: 27Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before God when you heard what he spoke against this place and its people, and because you humbled yourself before me and tore your robes and wept in my presence, I have heard you, declares the Lord. 28Now I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place and on those who live here.’” So they took her answer back to the king. 29Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. 30He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites − all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. 31The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord − to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations, and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book. 32Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. 33Josiah removed all the detestable idols from the territory belonging to the Israelites, and he had all who were present in Israel serve the Lord their God. As long as he lived, they did not fail to follow the Lord, the God of their fathers.
- (v. 14) What did Hilkiah the priest find as they were restoring the temple?
- (vv. 18-19) When Shaphan the secretary read the book out loud to Josiah, what was his response?
- (vv. 20-21) What did Josiah immediately do upon hearing the Word of the Lord in the Book of the Law?
- (v. 25) What does the Lord say through the prophetess Huldah is going to happen to Judah as a result of its sin?
- (vv. 26-28) What does the Lord say through the prophetess Huldah is going to happen to Josiah as a result of his response to the Book of the Law?
- (vv. 30-33) What did Josiah do to restore the people’s relationship with God? (a. Read the word of the Lord aloud so all could hear, renewed the covenant, dedicated his heart and soul to keeping the covenant, had all of the people re-dedicate themselves to the covenant, and removed all idols from Israel)
- (v. 33) What was the result of Josiah’s actions?
- (v. 14) Somehow, beyond all understanding, the Israelites had managed to lose the Book of the Law, perhaps the most important possession they had. What do you imagine made this happen? How did they get to a state where it was acceptable for the Book of the Law to be lost? What are some parallels in our own lives? How do we “lose” God’s law in our life?
- (v. 19) Upon hearing the word of the Lord, Josiah’s heart is completely torn, as he outwardly shows by the tearing of his robes. How does this exhibit the good soil that we want to see in our own hearts? How can we be as responsive to God’s word in our own lives as Josiah was?
- (v. 21) Not only has Josiah had a proper response to hearing God’s word, but he immediately seeks God in response to the word he has heard. How does this model what a heart of good soil does? How can we apply this to our personal dialogues with God?
- (vv. 24-28) Judgment was coming to Judah for her sins. But God delayed judgment because of one man’s humble heart. What kind of encouragement does this speak to you today?
- (vv. 29-33) Josiah acted in response to his encounter with the word of the Lord, delaying judgment upon Judah and temporarily repairing the people’s relationship with God. How does Josiah’s commitment to action model a heart of good soil? When we encounter God’s word, what can we do to always be committed to coming away changed and acting differently?
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
- All of us go through peaks and valleys in our spiritual lives. Maybe someone in your group is in a valley, and they feel like they have “lost the book of the Lord.” Pray for those people.
- Pair up in twos and honestly talk about what kind of soil you think your heart has been this week. Then minister to one another, praying that God would be transforming all other forms of soil in our hearts to good soil by his Holy Spirit. Pray that our hearts would be responsive and humble as Josiah’s was.
- Practice cultivating good soil in your hearts. Spend time in contemplative prayer, listening to the Lord. Ask the Lord to speak to you. Then share with the group what you feel that the Lord said, with the emphasis being on really receiving whatever it was the Lord spoke to you about. Be quick to encourage one another as you do the hard work of cultivating the soil of your heart.