Read Mark 4.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not hard to understand.
- God is holy and hates sin.
- Humanity–as a group and individually–has rebelled against God and chosen to sin.
- Christ died for our sins and rose again to give us spiritual life.
That is the Good News in a few basic bullet points. There is depth behind those bullet points to be learned and explored, but the message is not difficult.
So why don’t more people become Christians?
Mark 4:1-25 gives the answer. The answer, in a brief statement, is that most people aren’t prepared spiritually to receive the gospel. Either their hearts are hard and Satan can steal the message from them (v. 15) or their hearts are shallow so, even though they like the message, it never transforms them (vv. 16-17) or they are distracted by common human struggles (vv. 18-19).
More people don’t become Christians because their hearts need to be prepared by the Holy Spirit to receive the message of Christ.
This parable of Christ is emphatic that the problem of unbelief is not a problem with God’s word. God’s word is widely distributed (vv. 3-4, 21-23). It is powerfully productive as well (v. 20).
Yet, too often, Christians want to change the message instead of asking God to change the hearts of those who hear it.
Christians want to de-emphasize the doctrine of God’s eternal justice (aka hell) to make the message easier to hear. Or God’s love is given more emphasis than God’s holiness. Or God’s law–his righteous standards–are denied or re-defined.
Unbelief is not the result of a defective gospel; it is the natural product of sinful, unprepared hearts. The answer, then, is to ask God to prepare and open the hearts of people to receive the Word. That’s what makes some soil “good soil” (vv. 8, 20). It is also what Jesus is getting at when he said, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you” (v. 11). God opened the minds and hearts of the disciples to receive the gospel. That’s why they were saved.
As Christians, who are commanded by God to spread the gospel message, two points are crucial to take from this chapter:
- Don’t mess with the message! It produces great results on its own (v. 20) because it is God’s word (v. 14).
- Do pray for those you want to reach for Christ. Ask God to prepare their hearts to receive the good message of God’s word.