Flourishing Kingdom // Matthew 24:1-14
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Young Adults Pastor Ben Hays on Sunday, January 29, 2023 at our Crosspoint Church-Bellaire campus. To view the sermon in full, check out the link below.
Hey, guys. Welcome. Thanks for watching today. Pastor Ben here with CityRise. Excited to continue along with you in the series. We’ve been in to start the new year called The Flourishing Kingdom. It’s really been a series about what is most important to us and what we value as citizens of God’s kingdom. It’s really been a great way to start the New Year together.
It’s a way to sort of realign our lives to biblical principles. It’s a way to prioritize God’s mission, to find our place in his mission. So last week, if you remember, we learned what the kingdom is built upon, that that confession that Jesus is Lord. And we learn how the kingdom grows and how it how it feels. The earth.
Today’s passage and a parable that we’re going to look at. It zooms in on the missional aspect of God’s kingdom and reminds us of our command to get the Gospel out to every part of the Earth. It’s a it’s a kingdom of proclamation that has believers we live in. Now, I just returned a couple of weeks ago home from leading a team here from CityRise to a really remote mountaintop village in Kenya.
And so one of the things we did there, we had the privilege of of going to to visit and preach in a brand new church. And this church was about as interior into the heart of the mountains as I’ve ever been. You know, we reached sort of our base camp village by four wheel drive truck, and then to go even further over the top of the mountain range and out through the bush to preach in more villages.
We actually went by motorbike. And so it was this crazy adventure where a bunch of us, we strapped onto the back of a motorbike and we went more than an hour drive through the mountains by motorbike on really small winding mountain trails. And we reached this brand new church that had just been built and we met the pastor and the people had gathered there for encouragement.
And it’s a church that had never had a visitor before. And we were able to have the really the privilege of being the first people from outside the tribe to to visit this church and to encourage them and share the good news. And so on that day, man, it really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
We were really out there and one of our team members, he said, You know, I’ve always heard that the Bible says something about going to the ends of the earth, but I really didn’t know what that meant. But on that day he said, Now I understand. It felt like that day we were literally at the ends of the earth with the privilege of sharing the good news and so I want to look at the verse with you quickly, where the Bible talks about that going to the ends of the earth, and it’s found in Matthew chapter 24 and verse 14.
This is in the Olivet discourse and and Jesus is teaching his followers here. And Matthew 2414 He says this, he says, and the Gospel of this Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world. Some translations say it’ll be proclaimed to the ends of the earth as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come and that is a powerful and far reaching verse and gets it right to the heart of our calling and our mission as the church.
Now, when Jesus talks about the gospel going to the ends of the earth and then the incomes, let me let me just share with you a couple of things here. There’s a couple of things that Jesus is not teaching here. First of all, he’s not teaching that there is empty anything preventing the return of Christ. We believe his return is imminent, meaning it could happen at any moment now.
Secondly, I’d say Jesus is not teaching, that there’s really anything we can do to speed up his return or make it happen faster. He taught us that it is a fix today, and the father already knows the day and his return will happen in the day that the father has appointed. And and so what is Jesus teaching here in Matthew 24:14?
I think a couple of things. I think he’s giving us both a command and a promise in this scripture about the proclamation of the gospel. The command he’s giving us this to go and tell, right? He’s saying this gospel. It should be preached to the ends of the earth. And of course, we have the great commission, you know, given to us.
And in all four gospels and in the book of of Acts. And so this command is to go and tell. But then he’s attaching it to this amazing promise. And the promise and it’s so encouraging is that the great Commission will be completed before Christ returns, according to the to the Plan of God and the will of God.
The Gospel will go out to every nation. And so that encourages me to to learn that, you know, in the church, we’re we’re on the winning team, right? Like, like as we go out and we share the good news of Jesus, we have an unstoppable mission, a mission that will be completed. I love Acts 1:8. It kind of says the same thing that Jesus said in Matthew 24.
It says, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses telling people about me everywhere in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and in Samaria. And here it is. And then to the ends of the earth. Another verse. I really love that that kind of reinforces our theme today is Psalm chapter two and verse said, I love this.
God says, Ask of me and I will make the nations, your and your heritage and the ends of the earth, your possession. So we’re being reminded today that as believers, we are citizens of this kingdom of Proclamation and from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we see that that God has a message He wants proclaimed, and he has entrusted that message to us as people to join him and proclaiming it throughout the earth.
Isaiah Chapter 62 In verse 11, the Prophet said, Behold, the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth. So here’s the message he wants proclaim to the end of the earth, say to the daughter of Zion, Behold your salvation comes. Behold his reward is with them and his recompense is before him. And then over in the New Testament, Paul is talking to young Timothy Second, Timothy, Chapter four and verse 17, and he says, The Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that watch this through me, the message might be fully proclaimed and that all the Gentiles might hear it.
And so we see in the Old Testament and the New Testament that God has called us to, to proclaim this message from cover to cover in the Bible, there’s there’s this resounding call to proclaim the good news that God reigns and that Jesus saves. And so what I want to do with you for a few moments is I want to look at one of the parables that Jesus gave us.
It’s a kingdom parable we’ve been looking at these week after week, and I want to get really practical about how we are to live in this kingdom as the people of proclamation. Now, remember, a parable is just simply a story that Jesus tells to point to something very common, very relatable, as an object lesson, to teach us a truth about the kingdom.
And so we see that today in the parable of the seeds. And so I want you to turn with me to mark chapter four, and we’re going to read versus 26 to 29 together. Listen to this parable. Mark Chapter four. It says this and he said, It’s Jesus talking the Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground.
Then he sleeps and rises night and day and the seed sprouts and grows. And he knows not how the earth produces by itself. First the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is arrived at once, he puts in the sickle because the harvest has come. So Jesus tells us a story here.
And Jesus also uses often uses this common metaphor about farming and about sowing and about reaping to talk about the kingdom, specifically this this imagery of planting seeds is analogous with spreading the gospel. It’s it’s an understandable image of how that we’re supposed to go out and share the gospel planting seeds. And so in this parable, we see three principles about being the people of proclamation.
We’re going to talk for a moment about planting and then growing and then harvesting. Those are the three principles that we see about the kingdom and being the people of proclamation and from this parable. So in verse 26, as we talk, first of all about the the planting side of it and verse 26, it says a man should scatter seed on the ground.
And so this parable calls to mind this really familiar image of a man going out to plant seeds in his field now. And Jesus original context, the hearers that day. This would have been a very common analogy. It might be hard for us to connect with this analogy in the same way that the original hearers would have in their agricultural society, because, you know, selling seeds is not what we do every day, right?
We don’t wake up and go out to the field and plant seeds every day. But it is what they did every day. And so the seed is representative of the gospel. And the implication in the parable is this that our job description as a believer, as a follower of Christ, is to plant gospel seeds. That’s what we’re about.
That means both sharing with our mouths and then also showing with our lives every day. The good news about Jesus. I love Titus chapter one and in verse three, where Paul says, In his own town, in God’s own time, he has revealed his message and the proclamation that I was entrusted with by the command of God, our Savior.
I love how that Paul, He recognizes that God’s got a proclamation. He wants his message proclaim, and he’s trusted me with that. He’s he’s given me that message to proclaim to others around me. We do that by planting gospel seeds. Now, here’s the deal. Planting takes intentional effort, right? Planting takes work. It takes sweat, right? It takes time.
It takes investment and sacrifice. And planting is hard work. Now, I come from a family of farmers actually back in East Texas. And so my grandfather was a watermelon farmer. I’ve got an uncle who’s a watermelon farmer, and I’ve got a cousin who spent time as a watermelon farmer as well. So I can remember one time when I was I was a small boy, maybe eight, ten years old, I was hanging out with my family and it was the day to plant the seeds and the watermelon fields.
So I went out to the field with them and and it was this giant field. It was plowed and it was ready. And you had these really long rows. In fact, the field was so big. If you’re standing on this side of one of the rows, you could almost barely even see the other side of that row where it ended.
And the idea was, is they gave me a sack of seed and they’re like, okay, pick a row and just start walking up that row, planting seeds. And so, you know, you’d been down, poke a little hole in the dirt, put a seed in, and you’d walk three steps and do it again. And so it’s like, up, down, up, down all the way to the to the other side.
And you get done with that row and you come back down the next row. And it’s the only one day in my life I’ve ever actually done that. That was enough for me because it was it was really hard work. And I think what this parable is teaching us is this is that it takes hard work, it takes commitment, it takes sacrifice.
But it’s necessary because our command is to get the gospel out. Now, in Romans chapter ten, Paul makes this very clear to the church at Rome. He he says it’s something that we must do that’s that’s necessary. So look with me at Romans chapter ten, and we’ll start reading in verse 13. He says this For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be say, That’s the good news, right?
That people can be saved by believing in the gospel of Jesus. Now, now listen to what he says about our mission here. He says, How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed, and how are they to believe in him, of whom they have never heard? He’s like, Look, people can’t believe if they don’t hear the message.
Right? And he says, And how are they to hear without someone preaching? He’s like, proclamation is necessary going out and doing the hard work of planting those seeds is necessary because otherwise people will not be saved. And then he gives us this great, beautiful image in verse 15 says, How are they to preach unless they are sent as it is written?
How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news? And so the question is this is, is are you willing to get your feet dirty? Are you willing to do the hard work of planting seeds? Now, it’s important to know our job is not to cause the seed to sprout. We’ll get more more on that in just a minute.
But our job is simply to plant the seeds and be faithful to do that, Ecclesiastes got a great scripture. Chapter 11, verse six. It says, So your seed in the morning and do not be idle. Underline that. Do not be idle in the evening for you do not know whether in the morning or in the evening your sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good.
What Ecclesiastes is saying is, is be diligent, do the work in the morning in the evening, just be faithful and keep planting. Now, you know, I told you about going to this mountaintop village way out in the middle of nowhere to preach the gospel at the ends of the earth. And. And maybe that’s not an opportunity that that most of us have on a regular basis.
And so what does this look like? What does it look like to plant seeds in your everyday life here and now in Houston? You know, sometimes it involves going around the world on a mission trip, but sometimes planting seeds is as simple as walking across the street. It’s going to your neighbor’s house and and being present and being active and being attentive in the lives of the people that God has placed around you.
I think planting seeds can be as simple as asking good questions as you converse with people, ask good questions, and really listen to their response so that you can have, you know, real life conversations with them. And planting seeds ultimately is as simple as taking normal, everyday conversations with the people around us and pointing those conversations towards Jesus and the good news that we have in the gospel.
So let me just ask you this question. When is the last time that you planted what is the last time you walked down a long row and and did the hard work of of planting seeds in the lives of those around you? God has called us to do that. That’s the planting. Secondly, we learn another kingdom principle in this parable, and it’s growing.
Now let’s look back at versus 27 and 28 back in March, chapter four, verse 27 and 28. So after he plants two seed in the ground, verse 26, watched as he sleeps and rises day and night and the seed sprouts and grows and he knows not how the earth produces by itself. First the blade, then the air, then the full grain.
And so I think this is so cool where it talks about the growing, you know, what’s the farmer doing after he does the hard work of planting? What’s he doing? He goes to bed, right? He he rest. I think that’s so amazing. I think it speaks of of trust in the Lord and the rest in the Lord. You see this farmer.
He understands that the seed has everything in it. It needs to produce, live and to bear fruit. And he understands there’s there’s really not. After he plants that seed, there’s not much he can do to bring about life. The power is in the seed itself. And you know I’ve I’ve dabbled in gardening a little bit through the years.
I’m actually not very good at it, You know, to come from a family of farmers, you’d think I’d be good at it. I’m really not. But I have tried my hand at growing tomatoes in my backyard and peppers and this kind of thing, and there’s something really mysterious and wonderful that that I always I’m in all of it.
I just enjoy. And it’s an amazing thing to participate in. And it’s this that, that when you plant that seed, there’s something happening beneath the soil that that you can’t see and you can’t quite understand. Right. And you plant that seed and, you know, day one, nothing happens and day two, nothing happens. And you wonder, is anything going on, you know, with this seed, then all of a sudden you come out there about a week later and you see this, this, this little blood coming up and you see this new life coming and it just comes all by itself.
And there’s nothing I did to make that happen. After planting the seed, maybe I water it. If it’s dry, maybe I’ll try to keep the weeds out of it. But I can’t make that seed sprout. But it does all by itself and it produces new life. And what Jesus is teaching us here is this is that the power is in the seed itself.
It brings about life all by itself. In fact, Paul talks about this first Corinthians chapter three verses six and seven. Paul says, I planted Apollo’s water, but watch this. But God gave the growth. And so Paul’s like, Look, it’s neither he who plants nor he who waters that’s anything but only God who gives the growth. And so the power is in the seed itself, right?
God causes the growth. We our job is to plant and we plant and we watch and we pray and we wait and we watch and we pray. And then God does the work. In fact, note note how it says the earth produces by itself, like like God has designed in nature with physical seeds and plants. He’s designed the world to work this way.
In fact, if you go back to Genesis chapter one and you just glance at verses 11 and 12, he talks about sort of the creative order says God said, let the earth sprout vegetation and plants yielding seeds and fruit trees bearing fruit, which is in there. See, it’s a lot like God designed that when you see the apple and you take a bite and there’s the seed inside, like God created that each according to his own kind on the earth.
And it was so and so the earth brought forth vegetation and plants yielding seed according to their own kinds and trees bearing fruits, which is in their seed, each according to its own kind of God saw that it was good. And so in the same way that that the earth naturally produces fruit from seed and it reproduces itself, here’s what Jesus is teaching.
That’s what the gospel does in the hearts of men. The gospel, when it’s planted, the power is in the seed and it reproduces itself. And and we should never forget church about how powerful the gospel message is. We planted and there’s life going on beneath the surface and it’s taking root and it’s changing hearts and it’s. It’s opening minds and it’s transforming lives.
And and then it grows until faith is a place for regeneration and people are born again. The gospel has the power all by itself in itself to make that gospel seed grow into a new believer. First Corinthians Chapter one in verse 18, it says, The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing. But watch this, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.
Romans 116 says something similar I’m not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. And so the power is in the gospel. We do our part right. We plant the seed, and then we have to let go and let God do the part that only he can do, and that is bringing regeneration and new life in the hearts of man.
So so we look in this parable at planting. That’s our part. We look at growing, that’s God’s part. And then finally verse 29, we look at the third principle of the kingdom here in this Kingdom of proclamation, and it’s the principle of harvest. Verse 29 says, But when the grain is ripe at once, he puts in the sickle because the harvest has come.
Don’t miss this little phrase when, when, when, when the grain is ripe. I love that little word when you almost blow past it, but it says when the grain is right. So there’s this timing aspect to the harvest, right? You you can’t rush it. You can’t force it. It just has to be ready. And God has a time for harvesting.
He has a time when he knows that seeds is going to bear fruit. Ecclesiastes Chapter three And verse two says, There’s a time to plant and a time to harvest. And if you glance back at verse 29, I love I love how it it has this little phrase it says at once, right? And so when the time is right, the farmer, the farmer at once with no hesitation, right?
He’s got no procrastination. He’s got no lethargy. When the harvest is time at once, he goes to work and he gets the sickle out. So I want to talk about this, this, this thing of harvesting for just a minute because there’s really two aspects of of harvesting. And we see this in scripture. There’s a judgment aspect and then there’s a salvation aspect.
And we really see this in another parable that Jesus gave us is the parable of the wheat and the tares. And so look with me back at Matthew 13 just for a minute, and you’ll see that how that when the harvest comes, when the time is right, there’s this there’s this judgment aspect and there’s this salvation aspect. And so Matthew chapter 13 will start reading in verse 24.
He put another Here’s another Kingdom parables. He put another parable before them saying, The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. So kind of starts the same, right, same story. But while his this man was sleeping, his enemy came and he sowed weeds and among the wheat and then went away.
So when the plants came up and bore again, then the weeds appeared also. So. So he’s got some some good crops growing, but then he’s got these these pesky weeds in the middle of it all. And the servants of the master of the house came to him and said, Master, did you not so good seed in your field.
They’re like, you don’t know what you’re doing man. Like you didn’t put good seed out there. Where do these weeds come from? So they’re saying verse 28. And he said to them, An enemy has done this. So the servant said to him, then, do you want us to go out and gather them up? Should we just start over?
Go, go, just go, bring it all in. And he said, Now verse 29 last, In gathering the weeds, you also uproot the wheat along with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest. There’s the key work. So what happens when when the harvest comes? Watch this. At the harvest time, I will tell the Reapers, gather the weeds first and bind them into bundles to be burned.
That’s an image of judgment, right? That’s the image of those who have not placed their faith in Jesus Christ at the at the final judgment being punished. And then he says, But gather the wheat into my bar. So you see, there’s this sort of double sided process when harvest times comes, right? So some are judged and some are saved.
The cycle, you saw that word cycle there in the text. It’s it’s a symbol of of judgment in scripture. Actually, we go back to the Old Testament, Joel, chapter three and verse 13, it says, Put in the cycle for the harvest is right, go and shred for the wine press is full, the vats overflow for their evil is great.
So that word cycle was this idea of God is coming to judge and I just want to give up an earnest warning here. If you’re listening to this and you’re not yet a follower of Jesus Christ, you don’t know him as your personal savior. I just want to plead with you and remind you that that we believe, according to Scripture, there is coming a time when the harvest will be final, when the sickle will go into the field and and believers will be separated from nonbelievers, and believers will enter into the eternal joy and heaven to be with God forever and ever where every tear is wiped away.
But then nonbelievers, those who have refused to repent and trust Christ, unfortunately, will be separated from God for all of eternity. Now, at the same time, those apart from Christ are judge those in Christ are saved. And so the harvest can can also represent that moment, that moment in someone’s life when they place saving faith in Jesus that the harvest can represent the second coming, the second advent of Jesus.
But it can also, in the here and now, in our daily lives, represents that moment when someone is born again, when they trust Jesus as their personal savior. And I got to tell you, there’s no greater joy than the harvest. There’s no greater joy than that moment when you get to help someone because you planted the seed and you prayed and you waited.
And God has done his part of growing the seed. When you get to see someone place their faith in Jesus as Savior. The last time I was in Kenya back in October, we were down in the Maasai Mara and we were sharing the gospel during a medical clinic with some some very, very old men and in the village.
And these are men who had never heard about Jesus before. And we were able to actually lead some of these old Maasai warriors to Christ. And it was a new thing for them to hear the good news of Jesus. And it was so amazing to see their countenance change, to see before how that their heads were kind of, you know, low with what sort of burden in life.
And then and then there’s this brightness in their eyes and smile on their face. And man, there’s no greater joy than getting to be a part of the harvest. So let me encourage you from Galatians chapter six and verse nine, Paul says, Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap the harvest if we do not give up.
So don’t give up. We keep planting and we keep praying in the power of the gospel. Does it sting, you know, beneath the soil? And then? Then we get that joy when there’s harvest time. There’s nothing more exciting than to see people come to know Jesus. You know, this is how the promise of Matthew 24:14 will come to pass.
When Jesus said this gospel, it’s going to be preached to the ends of the earth, and then the end will come. The way that’s going to happen is you and I, being faithful to go out, do the work of planting seeds, going across the world and across the street to plant seeds, and then God’s faithfulness comes alongside that to sprout and to grow those seeds, and that we get the privilege of joining him in the harvest.
Let me leave you just with this one verse. It’s Matthew, chapter nine, verse 37 says this thence Then Jesus said to his disciples, Don’t miss this church. The harvest is plentiful. Think about that. The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. I want to leave you with this chance.
Listen, I dare you to pray that prayer. I dare you to pray to God. God send out laborers into your harvest because you know what’s going to happen when you pray that prayer. He’s going to call you and you’re going have the opportunity to say what Isaiah said, Lord, here in my sin, me, the harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few.
Will you be a citizen in the kingdom of proclamation? Will you go and be the one to go around the world and across the street to announce the good news? Let me give you one announcement. We’ve got a great event coming up that that fits right with today’s text on on March 5th. That’s a Sunday evening. We have our dinner and deploy event.
You can come to the church. You can hear all about the different mission partners, the mission trips that you can go on. And so I want to challenge you, if you’ve never done it before, come to dinner and deploy this year, Sunday evening, March 5th, go on a mission trip this year, and then maybe also just walk across the street this week and talk to that neighbor, because we are the people of proclamation.
Let’s pray heavenly Father, thank you for your word. It’s rich, It’s good. It sends us out. God, I pray that that we would have a bigger heart for our neighbors. I pray that we this very week that we would plant gospel seeds, that we do the hard work of being intentional in people’s lives and planting the gospel so that you, through the power of your spirit and the power of the gospel, can can sprout that seed and it can grow to reach a harvest.
We love you. We praise you. God help us to be the people of proclamation this week, in Jesus name, Amen.