Jesus continues His teachings of the Kingdom Parables in Mark 4:21-29, where He warns us to be ready for Judgment Day. In these verses, Jesus warns us that all will be revealed in the parable of the candlestick. Therefore, we need to hear (listen, learn, believe and apply) His word. He also warns us to be careful what we believe, then He teaches that Judgment Day is certain in the Parable of the Corn. For more, listen to the sermon posted above.
Does God seem distant? There may be a valid reason for that, and we might be the cause.
Manasseh, king of Judah, probably committed one of the biggest acts of blasphemy in the history of mankind. He commissioned a carved statue of the heathen idol Asherah, and placed it in the Temple of the Lord (2 Kings 21:7). It was this statue that the Lord referred to as the image of jealousy in Ezekiel 8.
Asherah was a goddess whom the people worshipped through sexual immorality. To make room for the placement of this statue, the altar of the Temple had to be moved aside.
In Manasseh’s mind, there was probably a valid reason for doing this. Many historical scholars believed that Manasseh helped spark an economic boom in Israel by obtaining a “most favored nation” status from the Assyrians. In order to attract Assyria’s favor, he led Israel to worship multiple false gods, including Asherah, who was regarded as the wife of Baal. However, economic gain is never an excuse to rebel against God, and God always deals with this behavior severely.
Manasseh was later arrested by the Assyrians, was treated severely by them, and was only reinstated after he repented and called out to God.
Yet, the damage of his behavior was done. The image of jealousy remained in the Lord’s Temple, and the altar had been moved aside.
Think about how this act violated the Lord’s presence, and the purpose for His Temple. The Temple was a place for people to go to pray, to seek God’s deliverance and guidance, and to be reconciled to Him.
It was a place of repentance, and a place where worshippers sought atonement for sin. The altar was the place where the lambs were sacrificed for sin. Every act of that sacrifice symbolized what God would do for His people through Jesus Christ.
The lamb was tied to one of the four horns of the altar. Those horns represented God’s judgment. So, that lamb was tied to God’s judgment upon us. He took our place there. That lamb was then slain, and its blood was the price paid for our sin. That blood would be collected and sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant on the day of atonement to show God’s redemption of us from sin. That blood was also placed upon the horn of the alter, showing that the Blood of the Lamb covered God’s judgment for our sin.
Likewise, the blood of Jesus Christ atoned for the sins of the world once and for all. Furthermore, the blood of Christ also covered God’s judgment for our sin. It was with this in mind that John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world,” as he introduced Christ in John 1.
Once the lamb had been slain, the body of the lamb was placed on the altar, where it was cooked, and then eaten by the worshipper, and the priest. The fat was left on the altar to be burnt up, symbolizing God eating His portion. That step in the sacrifice showed restored fellowship between man and God, a friendship and a family relationship that bonded man with God.
The Temple, and more specifically, the altar, was where man went to repent and be reconciled to God. It was where man went for assurance that His sin had been paid for.
Yet, Manasseh had moved that altar to make room for the statue of Asherah, a goddess worshipped through sin and immorality. It was such a betrayal to God, that He later told Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8 that He had been driven from the sanctuary of the Temple. God’s presence was no longer there.
Had the altar been moved for any reason, it would have been a sacrilege. God’s redemption of man would have been de-emphasized for the flavor of the month. However, to move the altar for the image of Asherah, was to move redemption out of the way in favor of licentious sin. This is an all out rebellion against God, and was the closest man could have come to spitting in His face.
Therefore, God’s presence was no longer in His Temple, leading the elders to say in Ezekiel 8 that the Lord had forsaken the earth. (That’s Old Testament for, “God seems distant.”)
So, if God seems distant, maybe it’s because we moved Him out of the way of our desires. Maybe we moved His altar from the temple of our heart to the back recesses of our heart in order to make room for something more pleasing to us… whether it is merely something of the world, or whether it is all-out sin.
However, God does not move to the back. He does not ride shotgun. He is either front and center, in the driver’s seat, or He is gone altogether.
So, if God seems distant to you, examine your heart, and see where your priorities are, and what your spiritual condition is. Then, repent, pray to God for restoration, and welcome Him back to your life.
Of all the things that Christians believe, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most incredible. Scripture teaches us that Jesus Christ was betrayed, and turned over to the Romans, who crucified Him, killed Him, then released His body to Joseph of Arimathea, who buried Him in the tomb. On the third day, Jesus was raised back to life, and He walked out of the tomb.
The belief is so incredible that a young investigative journalist by the name of Lee Strobel believed he could debunk the entire Christian religion simply by proving that the resurrection of Jesus never happened. Instead, Strobel encountered a mountain of evidence that supported the resurrection of Christ, from the number of copies of the scriptures that have been preserved over the centuries, to secular writings about the resurrection, to written testimony of the Apostles.
Strobel compiled this evidence into a book, entitled, The Case for Christ, which was later made into a movie. Strobel himself became a believer.
However, 2,000 years before Strobel embarked on his proof of the Gospel, the Apostle Paul had already laid out the case that the resurrection was indeed reality. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul noted that Jesus was seen after the resurrection by the 12 apostles, by Peter, and by 500 brethren at once, some of whom were still alive at the time of Paul’s writing, and could personally attest to the truth of the resurrection. Paul could produce eye witness testimony.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the third and final part of the Gospel, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Since the resurrection happened, we have proof that the Gospel is true.
But what does the Gospel mean for us?
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”
Paul told the Corinthians that they received the Gospel, and the Gospel was what made them stand, that is, have standing in the Kingdom of God. In other words, without the Gospel, they would have no standing in God’s Kingdom, and would be condemned. But they received the Gospel, and had standing, and therefore, by the Gospel, they were saved.
It works the same for us. When you receive (that is, believe) the Gospel, you are saved from God’s wrath and given standing in the Kingdom of God. This is all made possible by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is all proven by the resurrection of Christ.
In Romans 6, the Apostle Paul takes it a step further. Not only does the resurrection prove the Gospel, and not only does it secure our salvation, but it also transforms us.
In Romans 6:4-5, the Bible says, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”
When Jesus rose again, He did not walk out of that tomb in the same broken body that was placed within it. Instead, He walked out of that tomb with a new, glorified body. The only signs left from the crucifixion were the nail scars in His hands, and the hole in His side from the spear thrust into Him by a Roman guard. The Lord purposefully kept those scars as a reminder of what He did for us, and they were the reason why the Apostle Thomas repented of His unbelief and worshipped Christ.
When the Lord returned from the grave, He was transformed and glorified. Likewise, we also should be transformed by the power of the Gospel. How? The Bible tells us in Romans 6, to reckon ourselves dead to sin but alive unto God, and to yield our bodies as instruments of righteousness rather than sin.
If you have believed the Gospel, you have repented of your sin and trusted Christ to save you. If you have trusted Christ to save you, then that belief will change you.
Therefore, as we study the resurrection, we must ask ourselves, “Has the Gospel changed us?” If not, perhaps it’s time to do what Peter told us, to “make our calling and election sure.”
May God bless you as you follow Christ.
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” – Romans 6:23
The circle of life used to be a straight line, and the daily struggle didn’t exist. Such was life in the Garden of Eden, as God prepared a perfect place for man to dwell with a plentiful food supply, an automatic sprinkler system, no bad weather, and no problems. Adam and his wife, who would later be named Eve, were to enjoy the garden to its fullest, eat as much of the fruit as they wanted, and to do light gardening work as they desired. (Irrigation was covered, and there were no weeds, thorns or pests, so all work was recreational.)
In this perfect world, there was no death. Adam would not die. He would be allowed to live to see what his children, grandchildren, etc, would become. He would live to see what his work would produce. He would live to see the society he would build. It was perfect.
There was one stipulation. The tree in the midst of the garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, was off limits. This was for two reasons. (1) God wanted man to obey, love and worship Him by choice, and (2) God did not want man to experience the evil he knew Satan already had planned for His creation.
Therefore, God warned Adam, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Adam likely did not have any concept of death. Prior to his sin in the garden, there was no death. Adam had never mourned for his dog who died, had never suffered that separation from a close loved one, and had never experienced lost fellowship with God. He had no concept of death. However, if God warned against it, it must be bad, and therefore the tree of knowledge of good and evil must be avoided.
The Biblical meaning of death is separation. Separation of soul from body. Separation of man from God. The day that Adam ate the fruit, his soul wasn’t separated from his body, but he was separated from God. Death happened. And death, both the separation of the soul from the body, and the separation of man from God, happened the day Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.
Since that time, man has sinned, and his sin has become progressively worse. Man has become ever estranged from God. Man rebels against God, His word, His law, His design. As man does this, things on earth get progressively worse. Adam didn’t live to see a great society built. He lived to see the world become so bad that God decided to destroy it with the flood. (Adam didn’t live to see the flood, but he did live to see the conditions that led to it.)
Sin separated man from God, therefore man died, and sin reigned. And so it was.
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The death prescribed by God in Genesis 2 went beyond physical death. It also meant an eternal death, an eternal separation of man from God, where God was no longer man’s Father and Provider, but rather man’s judge, jury and executioner. Sin brings death. Death brings judgment.
Yet, God loves us too much to leave it at that. Romans 5:8 says “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
The death Christ died was the death brought on by our sin. The death Christ died was the death we deserved. The death of Christ on the cross was not a mere physical death, from which the Lord could easily heal Himself. It was a separation… His Spirit from His body, but moreover, His separation from His beloved Father.
As Jesus hung on the cross, saying, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” He was not merely shouting out in agony. Neither was He sad that God “turned His back on Him.” Jesus cried, “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken Me?” because the relationship had changed.
The perfect union between God the Father and God the Son had been converted to the relationship of judge and executioner. Instead of lovingly comforting His Son, God was now judging His Son, and pouring out His wrath on Christ for all the sin of the world. This was done to satisfy the requirement for death, so that man could be saved from God’s wrath, if man repents and believes.
Out of all the cruelties that Christ endured on the cross, the hardest part was enduring the wrath of God.
Pastor Bobby Sparks of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Greenville, Tex., who also heads up the Tabernacle ministries, says that on the day of the crucifixion of Christ, man was given one “hour” to do unto God has he pleased. Pastor Sparks then points out how man treated Christ with more cruelty and shame than has ever been dealt to any other human being in history.
The cruelty of the Romans, the scourgings and beatings, the mocking of the crowds, merely demonstrated the evil and sin within man’s heart. It was the wrath of God poured out onto Jesus that settled our sin-debt, cleared us from guilt, and makes reconciliation with God possible.
Jesus Christ died that death, so we don’t have to. Yes, we will one day close our eyes as our soul leaves our body. However, we do not have to suffer an eternity separated from God. Are you willing to trust what Jesus Christ did on the cross for your salvation? Do you trust the Lord? Then turn from your sin and follow Him.
May God bless you.
This is the one thing that all people seek. Redemption.
It is romanticized in literature, sought through accomplishments, and desired for lifetimes. Redemption.
Redemption is often called by different names: liberation, validation, triumph. At the heart of these desires, however, is redemption.
Last weekend, millions across America celebrated Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters. Woods’ first Masters victory in 11 years, coupled with his recovery from injury, personal failures, and controversy, prompted many in the media to hail his “redemption.”
Redemption was a theme interwoven into the NFL careers of Carson Palmer and Bruce Arians, whose careers had been sidelined due to firings and trades, then re-ignited when they were signed by the Arizona Cardinals, before making it to the NFC Finals.
The word, “redemption,” may not be used, but it has captured the hearts of writers, poets and artists. Redemption is celebrated in songs, such as Aerosmith’s “Amazing,” fairy tales such as “Cinderella,” and countless movies and TV shows. Every story about the aging athlete seeking one last championship, every story about a child seeking a long-lost parent, every story about a businessman seeking one last deal, or the advocate seeking one more victory over Wall Street, is a story about a protagonist seeking redemption. Redemption is a theme of every rags-to-riches story, and every story about overcoming loss.
We frame it in so many ways, but at the end of the day, all we are really after is redemption. And true redemption cannot be found in one last championship, one last victory, or in a dream come true. No matter what victories we score in life, we will never receive the fulfillment we seek, unless our redemption is a Spiritual one.
And that’s what Christ purchased on the cross for us.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul lays out the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds the Corinthians in verse 1 that they have received the Gospel, and it is the reason they have standing in God’s Kingdom. He then reminds them that the Gospel is the basis for their salvation. Essentially for them, and for us, the Gospel is the source of our hope for the future, our hope for eternal prosperity in God’s Kingdom, and our hope that all that is wrong will be made right.
Then, in one of the most important things ever written, Paul defined the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul wrote:
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
How did Christ purchase our redemption? He died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day in fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures.
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross paid the price for our sin. 1 John 2:2 says that He is the propitiation for our sins. A propitiation is a payment made to God to atone for sin. A propitiation cancels a debt owed as a result of sin. To make this payment on our behalf, Christ gave Himself, and was nailed to the cross, and gave up His life.
In doing this, Christ not only paid our debt, but He also removed the stain and guilt sin left on our lives (Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow.”) Essentially, the old has been washed away, and all things have been made new. New life, new Spirit, new us, new hope. (Isaiah 43:18-19, Revelation 21:5, Ephesians 2:15, Ephesians 4:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Historically, churches have commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross on “Good Friday.” (In all actuality, He was likely crucified on a Wednesday, but that’s a story for another day.) On Easter Sunday, we celebrate His resurrection.
In 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, Paul wrote that the Gospel is how Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, that he was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures. He then spends the rest of the chapter defending, and advocating, that Christ rose again from the dead. When you see how adamantly Paul argued that the resurrection happened, you will understand not only how important this doctrine is to Christianity, but also how much hope it gives us.
As Phil Robertson once said, “A dead savior can’t do much for you.” However, a living Savior advocates for you and opens the doors of Heaven for you.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows us His victory over death, which will also be our victory if we know Him as Savior. And that’s true redemption. To be rescued from the pain of this life into an eternal life with no pain, to be transformed from the old you into a gloriously new version of you, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness is the ultimate redemption, and that is truly what we celebrate, not just every Easter, but every Sunday as well.
Come join us for Sunrise Service, 7 a.m. Sunday, April 21, 2019, at the Early Visitors and Events Center at 419 Garmon Dr. in Early, TX.
In Matthew 13:31-33, Jesus gave the parable of the Mustard Seed, which goes as follows:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed is one of the most misinterpreted parables in the Bible. Because of the beauty of the songbirds that line our trees, and possibly even the portrayal of birds in Disney princess movies, we tend to think of birds as good, beautiful creatures. However, the birds that Jesus referred to were nothing like the mockingbirds, parakeets and robins we see today. The birds who inhabited Israel during Jesus day were more like vultures, buzzards and crows.
That explains why these birds were symbolic of demonic forces. In explaining the Parable of the Sower, Jesus said the fowl of the air symbolized the evil one which snatches up the seed of the Gospel before it takes root. Since the symbols of the parables remain consistent throughout them all, then the fowl of the air in the Parable of the Sower symbolize the same thing as the birds of the air in the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
So, to interpret the Parable of the Mustard Seed, let’s put the symbols to work. The man who sowed the mustard seed in his field is the Son of Man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The field is the world. The seed is the word, the Gospel.
In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the man, (Jesus Christ), sows the seed (the Gospel) into His field (The world), and it grows into a mighty tree. Good story… now what does it mean? To answer that question, we must remember the reason Jesus gave us the parables. In Matthew 13:11, Jesus said, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom.” The Lord wants us to understand what will happen with the Christian movement as we get closer to His return, and as we get closer to His establishing His Kingdom on earth.
Each of these parables follows a common theme. Things start out pure, then corrupt as time moves forward. The same can be said for the Christian movement. It started pure, with Christ preaching with His disciples on the shores of Galilee. Over the past two millennia, we’ve seen false doctrines, sin, and impure motives infiltrate Christianity to the point that there have been massive splits within the movement, with some denominations following heretical teachings, and others following scripture, but being marred with sin and scandal.
Seeing these things develop would most certainly be discouraging, if we did not understand how they fulfill the prophecies of Christ. Jesus told us 2,000 years ago that this is the way things would be, and that things would progressively get worse until His return. Thus, we have the Parable of the Mustard Seed.
In the parable, the man (Jesus) sows the seed (the Gospel) in the world. The seed is the least of all the seeds. Likewise, the Gospel is regarded as the least of all the philosophies in the world. Think about it. In academia, we study the philosophies of Aristotle, Plato, Thoreau, Mark Twain, Jefferson, and many others. How much time is spent in academia studying and parsing the Gospel? Very little. Christianity is often criticized, with little attention paid to its central theme, redeeming love.
Yet, as disregarded as the Gospel is, it has transformed the world. Christianity spread rapidly in the Roman Empire, and even influenced people at the highest level of government. As disregarded as the Gospel is, Christianity has been extremely influential in western literature and culture.
With that in mind, let’s continue to follow the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Jesus said that the mustard seed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest of all herbs, and becomes a tree. Thus, we see the words of Christ fulfilled.
So far, so good. All who interpret the Parable of the Mustard seed agree on the interpretation I’ve given so far. It’s when the birds enter that we have controversy.
Most people interpret these scriptures to say that the kingdom started out small, but grew in power and influence into a huge, beautiful tree until the birds of the air came and built nests and sang beautiful songs from the branches. It’s a beautiful vision, but not one based on reality, and even more importantly, not one based on the prophecies of Christ.
Given the true symbolism of the birds of the air, and what a bird was to the people of Israel in the 1st century, we see that birds are not a good thing. It’s why Christ used them as symbols of demons. They pollute. They ruin. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen what a group of buzzards will do to a tree? Furthermore, would you park under a tree in the Walmart parking lot that was inhabited by grackles?
When Jesus said, “the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof,” He was predicting that as the Gospel influenced the world more, and as it spread throughout the world, Satan would seek to pollute its presence and influence. Satan does this through inserting false doctrines into church teaching, by placing false Christians, teachers and pastors among the Lord’s churches, and by tempting Christians to sin in very public and profane ways.
That’s why there are so many scandals surrounding churches and Christian denominations today. Satan’s birds have roosted in the tree of the Lord’s Kingdom. Christ predicted it. And with the tree coming to near maturity, we know that the return of the Lord must be near, so we can take comfort in that. The Lord will return, and correct everything. And He will heal us.
So, when you see sin in the church, or you see a church rocked by scandal, don’t be discouraged, and don’t let your faith be shaken. The Lord told us these spiritual attacks would come. Keep looking to the sky, for your redemption draweth nigh.
It’s Superbowl Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020, and you’ve got tickets! How exciting!
You’ve spent the weekend in Miami, and now you are waiting in line, eager to enter Hard Rock Stadium for one of the biggest sporting events in the world. For once, you are going to be a part of sports history.
Then it happens. The gate attendant tells you that your tickets are counterfeit. You had bought them on a ticket exchange site, and you fell victim to a scam artist. There is no recourse. They will not let you into the stadium. You’ve lost your money, and you are dealing with massive disappointment.
Such is not only common with tickets to sporting goods, it also happens with currency. Working as a cashier at a local truck stop, I have on more than one occasion broken the news to a customer that the $20 bill they handed me was counterfeit. Their faces showed expressions of deep betrayal, as the bill had been given to them as a payment for a service rendered.
These situations are extremely disappointing and sometimes tragic. But nothing is as horrible as spending a life believing a counterfeit gospel. In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus tells the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares goes as follows:
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
- The man – the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.
- The good seed – the Word of God, the Gospel.
- The field – the world.
- The wheat – the children of the Kingdom.
- The tares – The children of the wicked one.
While the primary message of this parable is that Satan will place false converts and false believers among the children of God to derail the Lord’s work, the implied warning of the spread of a counterfeit Gospel cannot be ignored.
The tares, the children of the wicked one, were sown into the field as seed. Bad seed. Counterfeit seed. If the good seed is the Gospel, then it follows that the bad seed is a counterfeit gospel.
Counterfeit gospels take on many forms. Some teach that you must perform certain works, are take part in certain rituals to be saved. Some teach that you can lose your salvation. Some teach that God loves all people and all will be welcomed into Heaven. Some teach that salvation is so simple, one does not even have to repent to obtain it.
The counterfeit gospels and false doctrines being taught are so rampant, we cannot possible address them all in one blog post, neither do we have to. To identify a counterfeit Gospel, one need only know the true Gospel.
Interestingly enough, this is also how the U.S. Secret Service learns to spot counterfeit currency. They don’t study counterfeit currency. They study the true currency to the point that if anything on that bill is out of place, they instantly identify the error, and thus conclude the currency is counterfeit.
So, with that in mind, let’s be reminded of the true Gospel, summarized in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 as how “Christ died for our sins, according to the scriptures, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”
Christ died for our sins. In dying for our sins, He took the punishment for our sins, thus shielding us from the wrath of God. This payment for our sins cost Him His life. Thus, He died for our sins, and was buried. However, on the third day, He took His life back, and rose from the grave.
So now, Christ has not only cleared our sin-debt by giving His life for our sins, but He rose again, and ever lives to intercede for us. In other words, Christ rose again to advocate for us and to open the gates of Heaven for us. This is salvation.
Scripture is clear on how to access that salvation, how to accept it. Romans 5:1 says “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Isaiah 45:22 says, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth. For I am the LORD, there is none else.”
And the verses that drive it all home, Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace that you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.”
Based on these verses, we see that the true Gospel:
- Is how Christ paid for our sins by dying on the cross.
- That Christ rose again to save us and give us eternal life.
- That salvation is gained by repenting of sin and trusting (believing) in Jesus Christ.
Deviations, additions or subtractions from that Gospel are counterfeit. What a tragedy it would be to live a good, religious life, only to realize that you never believed the true Gospel. What a tragedy it would be to live life believing a lie. If you have never placed your faith in Christ for salvation, make that decision now.
The implied warning of a counterfeit gospel is only a small sideline to the Parable of the Wheat and Tares. The real point to this parable is that Satan uses false believers and counterfeit Christians to derail the cause of Christ.
Imagine the huge inconvenience for the farmer who had to go through the process of separating the wheat from the tares at harvest time.
Likewise, the cause of Christ can be frustrated by the antics of those who claim to be Christian, but are not. This is one reason bad things happen in good churches. Understanding this can help prevent discouragement and disillusionment when the unthinkable happens. Satan is working to derail, discourage and discredit the Lord’s churches.
Notice, however, what the parable says about the man’s reaction to finding tares in his wheat field. The man told his servants not to root out the tares, because the wheat would be uprooted and damaged in the process. Instead, the wheat and the tares would be allowed to come to full maturity before being separated at the harvest.
As the wheat and the tares mature, you can tell which is which by the fruit they bear. Likewise, Jesus said you could tell the true believers from the false believers by their fruit.
The application to this passage is that we, as Christians, need not be concerned with identifying and distinguishing the true believers from the false believers. Instead, we are to grow and bear fruit, and allow the Lord to judge in the end time.
At the core of this parable is the instruction to believe the true Gospel, and trust the Lord to judge righteously on the day of judgment. If we do this, we will not be discouraged by the antics of the tares, for we will have the understanding of why they do what they do.
The tares have been sowed to frustrate our purpose. The more they frustrate our purpose, the closer we grow to harvest day. At harvest time, we will be gathered in the Lord’s presence. Be encouraged. Satan’s attacks are evidence that you are being effective for the Lord.
May God bless you as you continue your walk with Him.
Church hurt is real.
Too many times in my personal history, I have been betrayed by people who claimed to love me and pray for me. Too many times, this hurt has been done, “in Jesus name.” None of the following experiences happened at Life Point. In every case, reconciliation was made.
My personal experiences involve false accusations of alcohol abuse when I was still a teenager in youth group. I had a senior pastor try to end my ministry through character assassination before my ministry even began. I had a church member make the baseless accusation that I was compromising the word of God. (He even admitted he couldn’t identify any false doctrine I taught.)
I once called upon a lay minister in a congregation I pastored to preach in my absence. The Sunday I was absent, he called an emergency business meeting to discipline me for the behavior of my kids (all three of whom were preschool aged.)
Those are just my personal experiences. I have heard countless stories of others who have been hurt by the misbehavior of church members and clergy. I have ministered to those who were discouraged by high profile scandals.
As all of this continues, we are increasingly seeing leaders and churches abandon Biblical truth, and attack other churches who refuse to follow suit.
What is happening to Christianity? What is happening to the church in America? How can God be real, and in control, and allow such misbehavior among the people who are called by His name?
There are two simple answers, and then the really deep answer.
Simple answer #1.
People are sinners. The church is an assembly of scripturally baptized believers who have come together to carry out the Lord’s work. These scripturally baptized believers are Christians. They are saved. But they are still sinners. Sinners saved by God’s grace.
With the sin nature still tempting and deceiving these believers, they are still susceptible to sinful choices and self-deception, hence the hurtful behavior. Man’s base instinct is selfishness and pride. Most church hurt is caused by those two things. Selfishness and pride.
Furthermore, many who claim to be Christian aren’t. They don’t believe. They aren’t scripturally baptized. And they don’t gather with the church to advance the Kingdom of God. These false Christians (many of whom have deceived themselves into thinking they are) are often the culprits of church hurt, but not always.
Simple answer #2.
God has a history of being patient with sinners, and with His disobedient children. This patience is marked by His willingness to defer punishment in order to give His children time to repent. Read the history of Israel. They openly rebelled against God for 390 years before He allowed them to be taken captive by the Babylonians. God is patient.
While God’s grace and patience may aggravate those of us who scream for justice, it is incredibly important that we realize that the same patience God has extended to them, He has extended to us. We, too, benefit from God’s patience, for we, too, have sinned, and in some cases, are responsible for the church hurt of others.
And now, the really deep answer.
It’s safe to say that many Christians and churches are not following God’s word, and many have done wrong in the name of the Lord. Many Christians and churches have blasphemed God’s name by tailoring their beliefs and actions to the values of the day, rather than conforming their beliefs and actions to the Bible.
Over the past two centuries, we’ve seen people use scripture to justify racism and segregation, and to justify the marginalization of certain groups of people. We’ve seen people deny the truth of the Bible.
Even worse, we’ve seen high profile preachers fall to sexual sin, some refusing to repent, and others committing financial fraud. Many of these preachers were charlatans to begin with, but the sins of charlatans blaspheme the name of God.
It is easy to focus on our personal church hurt, and the public sins of high-profile Christianity, and (a) become discouraged, (b) assume that Christianity is bad, and (c) walk away from the faith. Such reactions, however, come from not understanding God’s plan with man. The things we see in today’s society do not surprise God. In fact, 2,000 years ago, Christ told us to look for them.
In Matthew 13, Jesus began teaching in parables by giving us the parable of the sower. The parables that followed in Matthew 13 are known as “The Kingdom Parables.” The Kingdom Parables are a prophecy of the future of the Kingdom on Earth, prior to the return of Christ. In them, Christ shows us the future state of the church.
These parables not only explain what is happening in modern Christianity, but they also show that the more these problems persist, the closer we are to the return of Christ. The Lord wants us to understand this, as He said in Matthew 13:11, “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Jesus begins the Kingdom Parables with the Parable of the Sower. In Mark 4:13, Jesus said the Parable of the Sower is the key to understanding all parables. That means that the symbols used in the Parable of the Sower carry over to all of the Kingdom Parables. This is an important detail, because failing to apply the same meaning to the same symbols leads to the misinterpretation of the parables, which leads to false expectations, which leads to disillusionment.
Over the coming week, we will explore the Kingdom Parables. However, here is a quick summary.
- The parable of the sower – A man goes forth to sow. Some seed falls by the wayside and is snatched up by the birds (the fowl of the air). Some falls among the thorns and is choked out. Some falls upon stony ground and never takes root in itself. Some falls on good ground and brings forth fruit. Jesus later explains that the sower is the Son of Man (Jesus Himself). The seed is the word. The field is the world. The birds (fowl) is the evil one (Satan and his demons.) Again, these symbols carry over into all of the parables.
- The Wheat and the Tares – A man sows good seed in his field. His enemy sows bad seed (tares). As the plants grow, the man realizes what his enemy has done. Instead of rooting out the tares, the man allows them to abide, fearing that he would lose the wheat in the process. At harvest time, the wheat is separated from the tares. The wheat is gathered into the man’s barns, the tares are burned. This parable symbolizes the effects of a false gospel being spread throughout the world, and how the followers of that false gospel can infiltrate God’s churches. Instead of trying to root out the followers of the false gospel, we should bring forth fruit to honor our Lord. Doing so draws a contrast between the believers of the true Gospel, and the believers of the false gospel. This parable reinforces the symbolism of the Parable of the Sower.
- The Parable of the Mustard Seed – This is one of the most misinterpreted parables. A man (the sower, the Son of Man, Jesus Christ) sowed a grain of mustard seed (the word) in His field. The seed is small, but grows into a mighty tree, such that the birds (Satan and his demons) lodge in the branches thereof. This parable teaches that, as the Gospel and Christianity gain influence in the world, Satan and his demons will show up in order to pollute it. (Seriously, ever seen what an abundance of birds like grackles and buzzards will do to a tree?) This parable explains why bad things happen in churches.
- The Parable of the Leaven – Leaven is always symbolic of sin. It’s why the bread we use for the Lord’s supper is unleavened. Christ was, and is, sinless. It’s why the Israelites were told to sweep out the leaven from their homes in preparation for Passover. That massive cleaning effort symbolized repentance. In the Parable of the Leaven, a woman takes the leaven and hides it in three measures of meal, until the whole lump was leavened. This parable shows how infectious sin is. It can infiltrate everything, and it does. This parable shows that a time will come when even on its best days, sin will be rampant in the church. (And this should be no surprise. The Apostle Paul wrote that even when he would do good, evil was present within him.) This parable not only explains why bad things happen in churches, but also why sometimes it seems that everything is self-serving.
Following the parable of the leaven, the Lord further explains the wheat and the tares before giving a few more parables that explain our salvation and redemption. All together, the parables explain why things go wrong, and how the Lord redeems us from such.
So, when I experience church hurt, I remember that the ones who offended me were merely acting out of their own hurt and misunderstanding, that the Lord loves them, and that He loves me too. Understanding that, along with the fact that the Lord is still in control, and He is still coming to establish His Kingdom on Earth once and for all, I am able to better heal from such hurt, with my faith and relationship with the Lord in tact.
Have you experienced church hurt? Feel free to share your story with us.
Pastor Leland Acker has led Life Point Baptist Church since its founding in 2008.