The Mustard Seed and the Leaven

Matthew 13:31-33

31 “He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”

It’s like a Mustard Seed

The mustard seed is miniscule, about the size of the tip of a pencil lead. Your eye would barely notice it.

Nevertheless, if this mustard seed falls into the soil and if rain and sun nurture it, months later you could see a remarkable bush that has grown from that very small seed. How is that possible? 

When it was a seed, it looked like nothing. It seemed worthless and lifeless. But after it has nestled in the soil and received sun and water, the bird that didn’t notice the seed before might soon find this bush to be good place to build its nest.

Likewise, the kingdom of God may look insignificant, worthless, and lifeless to us. We might be tempted to pass over it in our thinking and instead dwell on things like earthly governments, the media, popular trends, political figures, human institutions, and so on.

The same would have been true of the kingdom of God in Christ’s time. If you had lived then, perhaps your atten­tion would have been focused on the Roman government as it controlled the then-known world. 

Uprisings, taxes, political intrigue – many such things would have seemed a lot more significant than a wandering rabbi from the back country of Galilee with a band of twelve followers. 

How many people in the Roman Empire do you think noticed what happened one Passover outside of Jerusalem, when Jesus was crucified between two thieves, with all His followers scattered and offended? 

Don’t you think what happened there seemed like just a mustard seed compared to things that must have seemed more important?

What lasting good could come out of an odd group of people spreading the news about things they saw and heard?

Yet, when we survey the growth of God’s kingdom since Christ’s death, what a gigantic “bush” has grown up! And it continues to spread, over lands and nations, across oceans and deserts. 

People from every corner of the earth have seen this “bush” branch out right in front of them, and, like birds, many of us have found a place to hide and shelter in its branch­es – all from a single, miniscule “mustard seed” planted in the soil outside of Jerusalem long ago.

Jesus goes on to teach another aspect of the kingdom of God and its growth. 

It’s like Leaven

Leaven or yeast is a fermenting fungus. What Jesus refers to would have been a piece of fermented dough from a previ­ous baking, which a woman would knead into a new batch of dough. 

Imperceptibly, the leaven would move throughout the whole dough, powerfully impacting all of it and making it rise.

Sometimes the Bible uses the picture of leaven for some­thing evil, such as “the leaven of the Pharisees” (Luke 12:1) or “the leaven of malice and wickedness” (1 Cor. 5:8). 

Evil can indeed move imperceptibly and powerfully. However, in this passage, Jesus is not referring to something evil; He is again referring to the kingdom of heaven and its growth within individuals throughout the world. 

So how does the kingdom of heaven work like leaven?

  1. Its work is hidden from view. The process of leavening cannot be seen with the human eye. Neither can the growth of the kingdom of God in a person’s heart. The Holy Spirit changes a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. This new heart is soft and pliable.
  1. It changes from the inside out. Jesus accused the Phari­sees of cleaning only the outside of their “cup,” while the inside remained dirty. Their lives might have seemed righteous on the outside, but their hearts remained unclean and evil. This is not how the kingdom of God works in the heart. Like leaven working from the inside out, the changed heart brings forth a changed life.
  2. It works as a comprehensive change in the end. Leaven makes the whole loaf rise. It makes it light and airy and tasty throughout; not one bit of loaf is left unaffected. In the same way, someone whose heart has been affected by the gos­pel, will ultimately show in his whole life that a change has taken place. 

It’s true that, on this side of eternity, believers will still continue to be plagued by sin. Yet, the growth of the kingdom within us will impact all of us: our thoughts, our habits, our actions, our words, our pursuits, our priorities – in short, our life as a whole will be dramatically changed.

So Let’s not despise the day of small things. Just because we don’t see anything happening on the surface doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is going on below the sur­face. Let’s continue to pray earnestly that the Spirit of God would do His mysterious invisible work. 

Let’s adore the secret work of God. The Spirit’s work in each heart is mysterious and powerful. It reaches where no one can reach. In the secret depths of sinful hearts, God implants a new principle that radically changes peo­ple in every possible way. 

Has this change been worked deep in the recesses of our hearts? Do our lives pass on the leaven of the gospel in our families, churches, workplaces, and communities?

The Mustard seed is small but powerful, and leaven penetrates and permeates everything, and a little of either will go a long way.

Why Does the Church Exist?

Church has become a negative word to many people these days. For followers of Jesus it can also be challenging, because they may have been hurt, let down, or disappointed by church people or leaders in the past.

However, God set up the church as the way to reach the world with the Good News about Jesus Christ. The church exists to bring glory to God. That is not only true in a worship service, but it is also true of us in life. Look at what 1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” . Whatever Christians do, they should be doing it to bring glory to God – in their careers, in their marriages and in the choices they make in life. The church was created to bring pleasure to God and bring glory to his name.

It’s really the people that make up the church, and the people that make up a church are to bring glory to God, we do this in several ways. Jesus gave this compelling vision to the church just before He returned to heaven. in Matthew 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Five Purposes of the Church

  1. To Make Disciples.

Very clearly one of the main purposes of the church is to make disciples. What is discipleship? It’s exploring God’s ways, it’s becoming more like Christ. It is a life-long process of maturing and growing in your faith. Disciples are learners, learning the ways of Jesus, and walking with him on the narrow road.

2. To Share the Gospel.

In order to become a disciple you first have to meet Jesus and believe in Him as your Lord and Savior. So another important purpose of the church is evangelism. The church is here in order to expand God’s kingdom. Introducing people to the authentic, real Jesus will transform their lives. The people in a church play a big part in this, because as they grow as a follower of Christ, they become more like Jesus and therefore allow other people to see Jesus in them. Everything we do should bring glory to God and draw people closer to Jesus. When we share the love of Christ with others, the Holy Spirit can do transformational work in their hearts.

3. To Worship God.

Another purpose of the church is worship. Christ followers glorify God through worship in all areas of their lives. Worship brings the church to life and life to the church. Worship is exalting God’s worth. We do that many ways in a church setting. We worship through music and singing, through giving and serving, through prayer and reflection, through reading and preaching God’s Word, through communion and baptism. We were created to worship, and the church helps us to live that out in our lives, not just in a church gathering.

4. To Fellowship Together.

We need each other. God created us for community. It is not good to be alone. The church is a great place to build meaningful, life long relationships. It’s a place were we can connect with one another. A place where we can be real and authentic. We do that by worshipping together, serving together, eating together, caring for each other, encouraging each other and doing life together.

5. To Minister to Others.

This last purpose of the church is vital. Everywhere Jesus went, he extended his grace and mercy to those who need it most. When we serve unselfishly, we become extensions of Jesus. Ministering selflessly to a broken and bruised world should characterize every follower of Jesus Christ. This is how the church lives out the mission of making disciples, by being the church to people inside and outside the church. Finding ways to show the love of Christ is ministry.

The church is not perfect, it’s filled with people that are in process with flaws and problems. Yet as we grow and live out these 5 purposes, the church can have a huge impact on the world around us. I hope you will consider being a part of a local church. Pray and ask God to direct you to a church where you can be a part of making a difference in the world, and grow as a disciple.

Thoughts about Church – Part One

Most people have experienced some confusion or frustration with the church. The word itself can pull up bad memories or hurtful circumstances for some. Maybe you feel it was ineffective or irrelevant to your life. The church has been, and continues to be attacked from the outside and compromised on the inside at times.

It’s easy to criticize the church. It’s full of human beings that make mistakes and bad decisions, and sometimes hurt one another. Church leaders can be controlling and overbearing sometimes. Church leaders can also be weak and afraid. sometimes.

Yet God wants us to love the church. It was His design for reaching the world. The purpose of the church is to be an extension of the purpose of Jesus Christ. That purpose is to spread the good news about Jesus. To make disciples, baptize them, and teach them the ways of God.

To understand what the church is, we should look at what it is not:

  • The church is not a physical building. The building is simply place for the church to gather.
  • The church is not an institution or organization. It’s not a denomination or an affiliation.
  • The church is not a set of services or activities.
  • The church is not just a congregation.

The Bible describes the church in four ways:

  1. The words church refers to the universal church, which is all believers on earth at any given time.
  2. The word church refers to a particular location. The New Testament places the most emphasis on the church in its local setting. The churches in Galatia, the church in Cenchrea, the church in Sugarcreek.
  3. The word church refers to the actual gathering of believers in any place of worship.
  4. The word church refers to the body of Christ. Christ is the head. It is through the church that Christ does His work. As His followers, we are Christ’s hands and feet and voice.

How should the church function?

  • Believers in a church should use their gifts to serve.
  • Believers in the church should submit to one another.
  • Believers in the church are priests, each one loving, serving, and caring for each other.
  • Believers in the church should be striving for unity and growing in their relationship with Christ.
  • Believers in the church should be supporting the church through giving, serving and praying.
  • Believers in the church should be inviting others to come and meet Jesus.

The church is also compared to a flock of sheep, with Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The church should have elders/shepherds that care, oversee, serve, and lead the people. These shepherds set the vision and direction for the church. They provide protection, provision and care for the flock.

The church is also referred to as a family. God’s Word says we are sons and daughters of God, united together by our faith in Jesus Christ. As family members, we are free to enjoy a mutual, intimate relationship with God our Father and other children in His family. In a family, people are always more important than policies. Relationships are always more important than roles.

A healthy church will thrive and have an impact on the lives of the people that gather together. Those lives will have Kingdom impact in lives outside the church in our world. The church can also be unhealthy and cause a lot of damage to peoples lives which causes damage to the world we all live in.

In Part Two I will talk about Why the church exists.