Archive for February, 2018
“Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matthew 13:30).
It is with great anticipation that we look ahead to God’s final judgment. For his people, it is a doctrine of not only theological richness but, also, one of great encouragement. God’s judgment is the moment of vindication for a people who have labored to live faithfully and, when, finally, his justice will prevail. Judgement is not our dread but our destiny.
“The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them” (Matthew 13:28b-29).
Jesus does well in heading-off the zeal of those desiring to judge others. Human judgement is too subjective; each person having their own criteria for what qualifies as orthodoxy. God, alone, has the discernment, knowledge, and wisdom to apply objectively a standard of measure that is without error. When patient, we are able to see and celebrate the growing and maturing faith of those we might have once judged and condemned. It’s only as we extend grace to others that we will receive grace from God (See Matthew 7:1-2).
“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this’” (Matthew 13:27-28a)!
How to reconcile an all-powerful, all-loving Creator God with the suffering and injustice that exists within the created order has spurred theological and philosophical debate for thousands of years. It’s the very issue raised in the question posed by the slaves of the landowner. While Jesus’ five-word response doesn’t fully satisfy our curiosity of such things, it is enough to redirect blame and remind us that the brokenness of this world did not originate with the hand of God. The faithful understand that God’s justice will prevail in a way, and at a time, our finite minds cannot even fathom.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).
Listen closely to the conversations of professing believers in America when they speak of God’s blessings. More often than not, it is done in association with some financial gain. For those desiring more than the temporal veneer of success offered by this world, the greater blessing is recognized in the salvation that is ours; the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives; the eternal reward that is to come, and the peace that passes all understanding here and now.
“Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).
Unceasing prayer should not be thought of in terms of a continual folding of the hands, closing of the eyes, or a posture to be maintained. Rather, unceasing prayer is the attitude and spirit of prayer we are challenged to maintain in every waking moment of the day. It is only as we see ourselves in constant communion with the Father that we have the eyes to see both the blessings and the needs of the world around us.
“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away” (Matthew 13:25).
Despite the alarmist cries of the spiritual watchdogs in any given church, we should not be surprised that congregational life gives rise to both believers and unbelievers; the converted and the unconverted. Jesus alerted us to this reality 2000 years ago. The Divine activities of the church have always been done in the midst of evil realities. As Martin Luther described it, “Where God hath a temple, Satan will have a chapel. And twill be found upon investigation, the latter has the larger congregation”
“And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matthew 13:23).
Two verbs capture the litmus test of genuine faith—bears fruit and brings forth—not sitting in a sanctuary, not religious verbosity, nor sour-faced piety. The numbers expressing the fruitful possibilities of one responding rightly to the word of God are not exaggerated hyperbole but actual potential, representing the capable seed yield from any single grain in Palestine. Only in Christ is there any chance of maximizing the Divine potential that exists within any one of us.
“And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).
The greatest threat to a professing Christian living in the western world isn’t persecution but prosperity. The affluence afforded us, in comparison to the rest of the world, can easily skew our perspective and decision-making processes. Instead of the full counsel of God’s word informing how kingdom-life is to be lived, we cherry-pick bible verses that support and justify the lifestyle we have already decided to pursue. We dupe ourselves into believing that the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of men can co-exist with one another.
“The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Emotion is never an accurate barometer in matters of faith; easily deceiving the gullible. Too many have had an initial excitement about the gospel because it was delivered by a charismatic messenger; couched in a hot, flavor-of-the-day topic, or they were drawn in by an emotional group of friends running to the altar; only to fall away once the “buzz” has passed. Emotion doesn’t validate faith; staying the course does.
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This the one on whom seed was sown beside the road” (Matthew 13:19).
The side of the road is the walking path of human traffic. It is receptive to the activity of men but not the activity of God. For such as these, on any issue, their ears are attentive to the learned opinions and informed judgements of men, but they reject any form of counsel from God’s word. While apathy and indifference may characterize many in the life of any congregation, it is never an identifying quality of one born-again in the life of faith.