I can’t imagine anything worse than believing you are alright with God and when you stand before Him, hear those words, “I never knew you.” Yet, in the “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares,” Jesus acknowledged that there are many sitting in churches who don’t belong to Him. How can we know?
Isaiah 47 & 48
Wheat, Tares & Hypocrites
Isaiah 47 & 48:
Trusting in Self, False Gods or Sorceries
In chapter 47, the Babylonians thought they were strong and secure and untouchable. They trusted in themselves, their false gods, and their sorceries. They had set themselves against God and would soon be judged.
Like the Babylonians many today are busy enjoying their ease and success and power. Many of them have set themselves against God. They belittle His people as weak and God as merely a crutch. They want to make their own rules. Their first commandment is “Thou shalt not be intolerant of anything I want to do!” Even when they claim to believe in Him, they pervert the Word of God, twisting it to make it say the opposite of what it does.
They wrongly interpret God’s patience and tolerance.
“They have lied about the LORD and said, ‘He won’t bother us! No disasters will come upon us. There will be no war or famine’” (Jer. 5.12 NLT).
Instead of seeing God’s patience and mercy as an opportunity to repent, they decide there will never be a day of accounting.
Wheat, Tares, and Hypocrites
Then in chapter 48, God speaks to those who call themselves His people. Though He continues to assure them that He will not utterly destroy them because of His mercy and grace, he promises to judge those who hypocritically claim to believe one thing while practicing another.
In the New Testament Jesus told “the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.” He acknowledged there are many tares, unbelievers, growing alongside the wheat, believers. But he said:
“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Matt. 13.30).
Many, even in our churches, are in danger of hearing the shocking truth when they stand before Him:
“‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matt. 7.23).
Paul said in our New Testament reading, “But let each one examine his own work …” (Gal. 6.4). And in his instructions for taking the Lord’s Supper:
“But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged” (1 Cor. 11.28- 31).
2 Corinthians 13.5 instructs us:
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.”
Another translation says “unless you fail the test.”
Going to church doesn’t make us a Christian. Performing Christian activities doesn’t make us a Christian. Neither do being baptized, having the right label, being born in a Christian home, going forward in a church, or praying a prayer. Only responding in faith to the truths about Jesus Christ—the Gospel—can save us.
Faith may be expressed through a prayer or going forward in a church and should be followed by believers’ baptism, a desire to read His Word, fellowship with other believers, and a willingness to serve Him. A truly saved heart will bear fruit worthy of repentance (Matt. 3.8)—a changed life. But none of those things has the power to save us!
Today’s Other Readings:
Verse 10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom …” No wonder in a society claiming to be so wise and so enlightened, we find such utter foolishness!
“Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1.22).
A Dog and His Vomit
Verse 11, “As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly.”
Pretty disgusting imagery! But nothing in God’s Word is there by accident. Strong imagery is intended to make a strong and important point. As believers we’re not “dogs.” We have God’s Word to guide us and the Holy Spirit living inside of us so we can change and become more and more like Christ. We don’t have to be fools in our thinking and acting. We can “have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2.16) and grow to become progressively more like Him (Rom. 8.29).
Verse 12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”
But how dangerous it is to allow ourselves to become puffed up with knowledge and self-importance! Pride blinds us to our own shortcomings and foolishness. Instead, we need to humble ourselves and stay teachable. 1 Corinthians 10.12 says:
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Verses 1-2, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
So many today are afraid to get involved. And yet, when our brother or sister is “overtaken in a trespass,” it is often the loving thing to do, to come alongside, confront in a spirit of gentleness and help to restore them to usefulness in the body of Christ.
Proverbs 27.6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
How has God spoken to you today? Did you see a passage in a new light? Did you see an area where you need to grow and change? Did you find a promise to hold on to? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
In the next few days we’ll talk about laziness, the prosperity doctrine, true freedom and more.
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Using Scripture, personal stories, and examples from Christians who left a lasting legacy, bestselling author Chip Ingram offers practical steps for becoming great in all areas of life, in spiritual growth, family, relationships, and career. This updated edition features a new foreword by Bob Buford, a new introduction, and helpful discussion questions to facilitate group or individual study.
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