Tag Archives: Sin

Don’t Whack the Weeds

But he said, ‘No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them.’ (Matthew 13:29 NET)

Each time I read through Scripture I’m amazed at what God brings to my attention. Things which I’ve read many times will sometimes jump out like they’ve never been there before. I had that experience the other evening while reading through Matthew. I read the parable of the wheat and the weeds like I have many times before. I stopped to ask myself, “What was Jesus telling us in this short tale?” The funny thing is Jesus gives an explanation.

The more I thought about it the more I realized I couldn’t remember a single sermon I’d heard on this parable. I’m sure it was mentioned somewhere but apparently not noteworthy enough for me to remember. Often this is tied in with sending more workers into the fields but I see here an accurate description of the world, including the church and dealing with the evil which invades.

For some reason, Christians feel they need to cast their eyes across the world looking for weeds. We think these insidious plants, when found, need to be either converted into proper wheat or culturally eradicated by insuring they behave and look like wheat. Granted these damaging weeds are taking up some of the nutrients, water, and soil space that could otherwise be used by the wheat. It makes sense to us to remove the items which hinder proper growth of the wheat. But Jesus has a different approach in mind.
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Instead of weeding out the invaders Jesus says leave them where they are. Allow them to receive the same fertilizer, water, and care as the remainder of the wheat field. Now why would we leave them there? The Lord makes it clear that their removal would cause damage to the faithful wheat in the process of eradication. Apparently, we’re not very good as farmers in this process. It’s only when they’re harvested together that they can be properly separated without damage. So, the separation of the faithful and unbeliever is left to the final harvest by the reapers (angels). Only then will the true wheat shine in God’s kingdom.

I think of the damage done to the body of Christ by overzealous believers who take their understanding of God’s righteousness and attempt to forcefully weed out the evil in the world. They’re trying to pull up the weeds while their roots are still intertwined with the believer’s. I’m not discounting our call to exercise proper discipline within the church as Paul expressed to the Corinthians. After his call to expel the sinner from their midst he writes back and tempers his harsh commands in order that they show forgiveness and care so they do not cause excessive sorrow.

I also understand the admonition not to associate with those known for their flagrant sinful behavior within the church. But weeding goes directly to the destruction of the sinner and indirectly to the detriment of the faithful as our roots are intertwined. One cannot be ripped from the ground without damaging the other. Sinners are as common in a sinful world as weeds are in the wheat field. Regardless of what we try to tell ourselves we’re intertwined in a way that cannot be undone until the final harvest.

As tenders of the field we need to insure the nutrients of God’s grace, love and care are sowed throughout the field regardless of the plant. I’m convinced God won’t run out of fertilizer this side of eternity. Then we can allow God’s angels to harvest the field and separate the good from the bad. They know how to do this without irreparable damage to the plant, apparently, something we don’t do very well. We need to stop whacking at the weeds and aerate the soil with God’s grace and love. As missionaries and pastors this is our calling. Cultivate the field. The harvest we leave up to the one who knows how to save the good and toss out the bad, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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Privilege Requires Responsibility (1 Peter 1:10-16)

Have you ever had a hero in your life? I’ve had a number in my life. I remember how I watched with wonder as John Wayne rode across the High Sierra to stop the bad guys. I remember meeting Carlos Montoya, a world renowned flamingo guitarist. I’ve met Van Clyburn, Peter, Paul and Mary, John Glenn and a host of other “famous” people who were heroes in one form or another. I’ve always held my parents as heroes. Anyone who can live with me that many years and still love me deserves a medal. My wife, Beth, is another of my heroes. There are many heroes that have crossed the path of my life. I’m sure you can think of heroes who have touched your life through personal relationships, messages or movies.

Whether it’s someone’s musical prowess, their theological expertise, their loving care, different people have impacted our lives. Most never know we look up to them as examples to be emulated. But we try to copy something in their lives which we think is cool, exciting, proper and right. As Christians, we look to Jesus as the ultimate hero to be emulated. But does anyone look at us that way? It’s an interesting question Peter touches briefly in this passage. Let’s begin in 1 Peter 1:10.

1 Peter 1:10-12 NASB

(10) As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries,  (11)  seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.  (12)  It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven–things into which angels long to look. 

I’m encouraged when someone does something for my benefit. Whether it is a word of encouragement, a good meal, or a loving hug, they all lift my spirits. Peter lets us know that, in case we missed the point, the prophets were working for our benefit. They weren’t working for themselves but for us. The Holy Spirit was guiding their efforts. Throughout their investigations, God revealed to them their work was for the future generations. They knew God’s grace would be revealed in an unique way, in a special person and through His suffering, and glorification.

That’s good history to know. Our salvation wasn’t defined by some haphazard interpretation of God’s word. It was carefully orchestrated by God through the prophets before Christ’s appearance. But what really caught my attention was the last phrase, “things into which angels long to look.” What? Angels are already privy to the heavenly throne —aren’t they? And still they have questions . . . amazing! Our relationship to God the father is a curiosity to the heavenly angels.

Peter is showing us the unique place we hold in God’s kingdom. We have a “new birth,” a “living hope,” and an “inheritance” which never perishes. Through fiery trials and tribulations, we are kept safe in God’s mighty hands. Our faith is tested and proven genuine. And in these verses, we see it was all part of God’s eternal plan. It’s a plan He has revealed to us through the prophets that even His angels didn’t decipher. God didn’t leave His children’s eternity to chance, but carefully revealed it through the ages. We are privileged. And with privilege comes responsibility. In the next four verses Peter begins to explain our responsibilities. Let’s dissect God’s word beginning in verse 13.

Verse 13; “Therefore, . . .” A great and simple word. It can be translated, “for this reason.” Whenever you see this word you should look at the previous verses. They are leading up to the point which follows the “therefore.” Because of our new privileged position, we have a response to make. Let’s continue; “Therefore, prepare your minds for action.” Literally this would translate, “gird up your minds.”

In Peter’s time everyone, men and women, wore long flowing robes. If something was about to happen they would grab the extra material and stuff it in their belts. Then they would be girded up (their belts stuffed) freeing their feet for quick action. And there always seems to be something calling for action.

Life just doesn’t stand still. It’s so busy there are times I would like to put my brain into neutral and coast for a while. But Peter is calling us to be prepared. He’s building up to a point. It’s like the flag man shouting to drivers in the Grand Prix, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” All the horsepower of their finely tuned engines comes to life with a roar. Mechanics make last minute checks to insure everything is just perfect. They’re ready to go, ready for action.

In the same way, we’re called to start our engines, put our brains in gear and get ready for the wave of the flag. All this takes careful preparation for insure success. When things are not properly prepared engines run rough and slow. The writer to the Hebrews mentions some of the things which make our motors run rough. He tells us, “Therefore,” that special word pops out again, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

If our lives are filled with sin then we aren’t prepared for action. Think about a race car. If the engine is filled with the gunky sludge of the past it won’t work well. It will fail when put to the test. The same is true in our walk with God. If our lives are filled with sin we’re not going to function well. We might get out of the starting gate but somewhere along the way that sin will bog down our engine and smoke will start to billow out of our lives.

We need to change the oil, reorient our thoughts, our lives and remove the sin which easily entangles us. We need to discipline our thinking. God gives us the strength through the presence of the Holy Spirit but we are called to do our part and act. What interferes with your Christian walk? Is it TV? Is it the Internet? Is it the people you work with? Is it . . ..? I could go on with a long list of questions but we each know what’s corrupting our life. Maybe it’s time for some internal evaluations.

We need to prepare our minds, tune our thoughts and be ready for action. Let’s read further; (13)Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit. . .” What’s Peter saying? He’s not only talking about our drinking habits. The word has another meaning in English. The NIV translates this as “self-control.” I think that’s a good choice of words.

Our minds control our actions and therefore our self-control. If we are not mentally prepared our actions will be uncontrolled. We need to be sober physically and mentally to be properly prepared for action. We can’t know what will come our way. Eugene Peterson expresses it well in his translation, The Message, for 1 Peter 3:15. “Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you’re living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy.” Are we ready this morning . . . or are we side tracked with all the activities from last week? Are we distracted by the activities we see today and in the future?

Peter goes on to help us focus. It’s much easier to prepare our minds for action when we focus on the right things. Let’s finish verse 13; “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

When we focus our life on the grace of God we are better prepared for action. What is this grace from God which should hold our attention so fully? When I think of grace I think of many things. Someone once taught me a simple definition, “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.” I’m not sure who figured that out but I like it. I’m also drawn to Ephesians chapter 2 verses 8 and 9 where we read, “(8) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—(9) not by works, so that no one can boast.

God has already finished what is necessary for our salvation. He’s extended His grace through Christ’s death on the cross that we may be redeemed. Nothing you or I can do, no matter how righteous and good, will make us fit for God’s kingdom. It’s only through His grace, only through belief in Jesus, that we can cross the chasm between our sinful nature and God’s holy house.

As we focus on what God has done for us it’s easier to keep our thoughts in order. Our actions reflect our salvation. As James wrote, “(18) But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:18 NIV)

Action is the active result of faith, not the cause of faith. God calls us to be prepared for action and to obedience. Look at verse 14; “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance.” (1 Peter 1:14 NASB)

The phrase “do not conform” is used only one other place. Glance over at Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB) Before salvation we were lost in sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 NASB) At salvation we are born again. Just like new born children we learn and grow.

As we learn and grow we make mistakes. It happens. But we need to be growing from those mistakes and leaving the former “lusts” behind. Paul writes a lot about this in Romans. After a long discussion, he writes this great summary; “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14 NIV) We have a new master to obey. He calls us from our past to a new life.

Look over at (Eph 4:17) “So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind.” And then down at verse 22, “that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph 4:22-24 NASB)

We were ignorant before but now we are learning and growing. We are looking for a hero to follow and we find it in God.

1 Peter 1:13-16 “(15)  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  (16)  because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’” (NASB)

I started talking about heroes as people I look up to and try to imitate. I want to be like them because they have it all together. God is telling us that He has it all together and we need to try to imitate Him. A desire for holiness should weave its way through all our behavior in this world.  But what is holiness?

Striving for holiness is to do what Jesus would do. I’m not a lover of “Christian” slogans but there is a good lesson in this thought. Whatever we approach, if we consider what Jesus would do in that circumstance, and then follow his example, we will be working on Holiness.

Ravi Zacharias, a well known Christian apologist, says this about the pursuit of holiness;

“Our response to the holiness of God is to reflect his character in our lives—in one phrase, the pursuit of holiness. In our endeavor in this direction, however, we need to be careful to note that what we have come to call personal holiness—what is inward—is only a potential that has to be constantly actualized in interpersonal relationships. The time I spend with God must enable me to relate to a world of people and things in a right way. In fact, I can be holy when I am by myself; it is when I come out of my room and meet the world of people and things that I run into serious problems! I am afraid that the emphasis on holiness that we often talk about is my preoccupation with my hands being clean and my conscience clear for my own sake, and that happens to be a pretty selfish motive. A selfish motive to be selfless, indeed! It would be almost as if Moses, on coming down from Mount Sinai, began to enjoy his shining face in a mirror!” (Zacharias, Ravi, ed., Beyond Opinion, Thomas Nelson, 2007, p.247)

We need to form our character to be like God’s character. It is in the confines of relationships to one another and the world our character is tested and proven faithful to the original. This includes justice, faithfulness, fairness, love, grace, and a long list of other aspects of God’s character.

Unlike the other creatures which God created we were created in His image. We fell from that but can still try to reclaim that image in our daily walk. When someone looks at you or me, what do they see? Do they see what Jesus would look like? Do they see the reflection of the one true God? This is our calling. Our minds need to be prepared to act like God would act.

I don’t believe we reach perfect holiness this side of Heaven but we can do our part to show the world a glimpse of God’s holiness. God has a plan for His children. He has a plan for you and for me. We are privileged to be part of his family. We need to be prepared, constantly ready for action, with our focus on God’s grace and not our past. Over and over I remind myself of Philippians 3:13, “(13) Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. (14)I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

Will join me in the race today? Let’s get our engines tuned and our focus on the goal. Together let’s seek to behave like our Savior would and give the world a glimpse of His holiness.

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Chewing – 072

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are profitable. “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things build up. (1 Corinthians 10:23 WEB)

When we first arrived on Guam the number of fast food restaurants was limited. The ubiquitous McDonald’s were spotted about the north half of the island. The children loved that sight.

I wasn’t so thrilled even though I’d grown up with a great love for fast food. Restaurants such as White Castle and Krystal make my heart flutter with excitement. I’m not sure if that is joy over the food or an arterial reaction to the blood clotting fat in the meal. Regardless, I’ve always enjoyed such fine eating establishments and occasionally sneak a bite even in the face of my present dietary restrictions.

McDonald’s was as close as we got when we arrived in the tropics. With careful research, known as driving around the island, we eventually discovered a Pizza Hut way up in the north. A couple years later we were thrilled when they opened a second shop close to our home.

When the spirit of fast food, mixed with the grain of available cash, moved, Beth and I would stop by Pizza Hut for lunch. One time, while Ellice was in school, we took Joel along to enjoy the treat.

We selected a booth by the window with a view toward the main road. Joel took a seat beside me as we ordered our pizza and drinks. Joel played while Beth and I chatted about the week’s events and our up coming schedules.

After a few minutes Joel decided he’d have more fun sitting by Mommy. So, with the usually shifting of our legs Joel descended beneath the table and arose again beside Beth. We continued our conversation as the waitress brought our drinks.

Out of the side of my vision I saw Joel coloring on the placemat and chewing on some appetizer. At least I thought it was an appetizer. Glancing about the table for the crackers he appeared to enjoy I couldn’t find them. I wanted a little something to chew on while waiting for the cook to finish the pizzas. I asked Beth if she gave him some gum and she said, “No.” We stared at each other a moment then turned toward Joel.

Looking at Joel I asked, “What are your chewing Joel?”

“Gum,” he replied without looking up as he continued to fill the paper before him with color.

“Gum,” I mused, “where did you get it?”

“From under here,” he said, without concern, as he pointed under the table.

Needless to say Beth and I had Joel spit out the gum. We then instructed Joel in no uncertain terms never to take it from under a table again. We promptly lost our appetite! Our son was passing by the attractive collection of colored temptations on his way from Dad’s side to Mom’s side. In the joy of his colorful discovery he partook of the offering and enjoyed himself, for a while. He wasn’t aware of the potential danger.

Sin has a way of entering the Christian life as we casually saunter by temptation out of the sight of others. The appearance is good and no one is looking. We take a bit and off we go . . . until we get caught.

We were glad to catch Joel and provide proper instruction for the future before something tragic happened. He survived his short episode as we sometimes survive our tripping into sinful situations. If he had asked before he partook of the secret temptation he could have saved himself some trouble. As believers we can save ourselves some trouble if we pause and take time to ask before we start chewing on the wrong thing in our walk with God.

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