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“For indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more” (1Thessalonians 4:10).
No matter how well we might think ourselves doing in the life of faith, we should seek to excel all the more. Do not think Paul is espousing some worldly competitiveness for the purpose of political and socio/economic advancement. His concern is in our service to the Lord and ministering presence in the world; that we never arrive to a place of self-satisfaction. No matter how much we have loved (v.9), we must seek to love all the more.
“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness” (Matthew 13:41).
For those committed to following Christ, these words of the coming judgement offer encouragement and vindication for a persevering faith. The warning is to be dreaded only by those within the church who are stumbling blocks (Literally, ta skandala, the scandals impeding the discipleship of others), and the lawless who live with no regard for the principle and precepts set forth in God’s word. That these are among us now cannot be a distraction from the outwardly focused missional task to which we have been commissioned.
“And the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels” (Matthew 13:39).
Previously (v.25), Jesus stated that the enemy of the one who sowed good seed was responsible for the tares. Now, he identifies the enemy as the devil. While enlightened modernists would prefer us think otherwise, there is a dramatic dualism played out in scripture—good and evil, light and dark, God and Satan. Evil cannot be reduced to a condition. Jesus teaches that evil has a personality that acts with intentionality. In both life and mission, we are better off acknowledging the reality of a Christ-conquered devil than we are ignoring a rationally denied devil. The former keeps him in check, while the latter naively opens the door and lets him in.
“And the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one” (Matthew 13:38).
If not focused outward with missional intent, faith becomes isolated to church buildings; soon deviating into just another expression of institutionalized religion. You will know your faith has been taken hostage by institutionalized religion when your preoccupation is the promotion and protection of policies and procedures, processes and protocols, for the purpose of preserving your past preferences. Both faith and mission die when sequestered to sanctuaries.
“Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field’” (Matthew 13:36).
What a privilege! To go into the house with Jesus is the equivalent of going to church with Jesus; to learn from him; to access his mind; to learn from him. It is something of an absolute necessity if we are to properly be his ambassadors out in the world. In the gospels, the house is associated with catechism—family devotions and being educated in the things of God. There is nothing wrong in acknowledging our ignorance and having the need to be instructed. Asking questions and being life students is vital to our missional task.
“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psalms19:6). “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).
I’m greatly intrigued by the things I do not understand. I am awed by the inexhaustible glories of God’s creative wonders. To speak of God’s creation as a one-time, one-dimensional, static event is both unbiblical and unnecessary. The redemption of all creation; the making of all things new points to a transforming and ever-evolving dynamic within His creative order. Embrace the majestic and glorious expanse of His creation. Be awestruck! Be fascinated by all that you do not know, and inspired by new discoveries. Do not reduce our God to one that is limited to what you can understand and explain.
“…I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews; therefore I beg you to listen to me patiently” (Acts 26:2-3).
Apologetics is a theological discipline that seeks to defend the tenets of the Christian faith. However, making an argument for one’s faith should never be argumentative. We cannot rightly commend Christ when His Spirit of grace is absent from our voice and demeanor. It is neither our passion nor volume that carries the day but his power and presence that is most compelling.