2015-06-12 - God's Garden: Wheat and Weeds
Lastly, we can see an important meaning for the church. This is a long-term meaning for the church that would be established after his ascension. I believe this is the message he has for us as the church today. He knew, from early on, there would be both real and fake in the church. Among his disciples was Judas, and in one of the Revelation letters to Laodicea, he talks about the existence of good and bad in the church.
The wheat and weeds were planted together. Just as Satan makes corrupt copies of other things - love, peace, and sex to name a few - he also offers counterfeit salvation and makes counterfeit Christians. They look saved and act saved, but are not saved. You see, 99% saved is 100% lost. Counterfeit salvation is offered to real seekers who know they need something. It is a substitute something. These people get a guilty feeling, do something like cry and repeat a magic formula called "the sinner's prayer" - without knowing anything about what it means - and they feel better so they feel saved. They feel satisfied like drinking sweet tea made with some substitute, but sadly that substitute is just causing cancer in their souls. A "similar experience" between true and fake salvation allows for a testimony of your experience. True repentance, recognition of sin and need for a solution outside yourself will often separate the two. Counterfeit Christians may have started with counterfeit salvation and realized it wasn't real, but by then, they held a position, and pride keeps them from admitting they aren't real. Other counterfeits grew up in church, so they just assume themselves to be Christians. And some counterfeits may lack a testimony altogether.
Not only were the wheat and weeds planted together, but they also progressed together. All plants grow. So we can look positive, on this fact. "Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world." Yeah, there are weeds, but the wheat is growing. The church is still alive, and doing the work of God as Christ's visible body on Earth. Look at the lukewarm church in Laodicea; the church has always had its frauds, but it survives. The same is still true today, of any church including our own. Rejoice – we will survive! Jesus more or less says, "Be encouraged. The way things are now, isn't the way they will always be. It will work out in my time frame, and all the evil in the world, hypocrisy in the world, and sin in your life will be removed." We should not only be positive, but also be patient. Plants that you think are weed today, may in fact wind up being wheat. Concentrate on being the best that you can be, and let the rest take care of itself.
At this point, let me throw out a few notes about weeds. Don't worry; I won't charge extra for these tidbits, but I thought they were too good to skip.
Weeds confuse the appearance of who is a believer and who isn't. Being a Christian and a Church member are not the same thing. "Not everyone who says Lord Lord will enter God's kingdom." (Matt 7:21a) A sermon I read on this parable said, "You can sing the songs and talk the talk – but without the Spirit of God living inside you, you won't change on the inside – your character won't be transformed – it's all cosmetic changes."
Also, weeds tangle the roots of real plants and impede growth. Unredeemed people will try to tangle you up in all sorts of stuff that won't help you grow closer – just look at the Pharisees, with all their rules. The first Christian council (Acts 15) met because early Jewish Christians thought Gentiles needed to become Jews, in order to become Christian (circumcision, follow the law, etc.). Luckily, the early church saw the error in this; otherwise to get "saved," you'd be asked to come down front and talk to the pastor and the surgeon.
Weeds rob the soil of nutrients. The unsaved use lots of energy on the unimportant. Pastors spend more time on troublemakers than on the good people. Tares divide the church, attack other members, and dilute the gospel with trivial things.
Additionally, weeds produce no fruit - but lots of seeds. Non-believers plant many seeds. There are hundreds of people on the church roll, but few will do the work. Why is it so hard, for nominating committees in churches everywhere, to find people to do the work of the church? Because too many of us are weeds and bear no fruit. They struggle to find wheat in the group. Weeds are so selfish with our own ideas, that we choke out the good ideas of others around us.
Lastly, we can note that weeds dry up quickly, but are always present, and return year after year. Just as a church thinks it's taken care of a weed problem, they will resurface.
Because of these facts, not only must we be positive and patient, but also perceptive. You can look Christian in almost every way, and still be lost. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test?" I "grew" in faith as a child and a teen. I said no to sex drugs and rock-n-roll. I turned to Christian literature and music. I taught Sunday school. I witnessed to kids at school. Then after years of appearing Christian, I got saved, when I went to college. Like my own life, the weeds in my yard actually outgrow the grass, most of the time. The world has more religion than ever before, but many are fake. There is a consumer mentality present, so people shop around for a church, and if they get poor customer service, they will leave. There's kind of an unspoken "all about me" mentality, where the questions asked most are "What can you offer me, or do for my kids?". There's also a mentality of "Easy believism;" churches teach that salvation is super easy – just believe. Just repeat this little prayer. But sadly, even demons believe. And for still others, there's a social club mentality which is evident when more of the church budget is spent on benefits and buildings, than on outreach to the community. Billy Graham has said that of the thousands saved under his ministry, seventy percent were already church members. No wonder his greatest mission field is the church rolls.
Do you attend the Lukewarm church of Laodicea? Do you think we have it made, because we have nice, paid-for facilities? Are you content coming each week, and seeing the same people all the time? Are you satisfied and in need of nothing? God help us to see that there's more devil in us than we'll let ourselves admit, and that we need more of you.
"Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe 'good Christians' do, so they go.
The wheat and weeds were planted and progressed together, and finally they were processed together. Harvest time comes for both. We're all God's creation, but not all his children. We're all in God's field, but not all our worthy wheat fit for the Master's table. The Bible is full of warnings about false brethren and false teachers, like 2 Cor 11:13, 26 and Galatians 1:7, 2:4.
I love jelly beans. At night, when I sit and eat them with just a dim lamp on, it's hard to tell the purples from the blacks. Now purple beans are the grape nectar of the gods. But then there's the black – licorice tastes nasty, like sin. So when I pop one of those in my mouth by mistake, it is spit back out. The flavor reveals the nature of the bean, and the fruit reveals the truth about the plant. The fate of weeds is to be bundled, bound, and burned. Bundled, they are gathered together for judgment. Bound, they are imprisoned with no escape. Burned, they are cast into hell fire forever. In contrast, the fate of wheat is to be harvested and housed. Harvested, they too are gathered together. Housed, they are put in the Master's house for his use.
In closing, no matter the level we look at, there is some common truth that runs through it all. In the end, it all comes down to two things: the weeds and the wheat. Hot or Not? Washed in the blood or washed in the baptistry? Judas was among them but not one of them. Where do you stand? If Satan can deceive Adam & Eve, though they walked with God, and if he can deceive one-third of the angels, he can deceive you. Whether you know you're a weed of the world, or a phony in the pews, you can become the wheat of God's garden – the apple of his eye. Examine your life today, to see where you stand.
Author's Note: this devotional is based on a sermon I preached on 5/16/2010, but I hope that the words will ring as truth to you, as they did with the original audience.
All scripture references from KJV (King James Version) unless otherwise noted