Wheat in the Midst of Weeds

Wheat in the Midst of Weeds

As I came to conclusions for the Parable of the Weeds, I had jotted down a few sentences which I did not share publicly. I would like to take this brief article to share those thoughts. When studying this particular parable, one quickly begins to understand that Jesus is calling on us to be faithful even in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. The Bible teaches this in multiple places, and the Parable of the Weeds adds another dimension to this teaching.

For example, we are to be wheat in the midst of weeds (Matt 13:24-30, 36-43); salt in a flavorless society and light in a dark world (Matt 5:13-16); stars in the night sky (Phil 2:15); in the world but not of the world (John 17:15-16). In more straightforward language, the king says, “Do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path” (Prov 1:15); and the apostle says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).

We are to be different. We are to be set apart to serve the Lord in the midst of those who are hostile to His reign. That is why endurance is needed. We must be prepared and alert to fight off the pollution of this present, wicked age and the deceptions of the devil and his demons.

It is time that we awake from our slumber and carry out in our lives what we confess with our mouths. There is no excuse for spiritual weakness and faithlessness due to laziness, apathy, unpreparedness, or any of the like. We must unleash our faith. The same old drudgery is not getting us anywhere. We are not living in the kind of freedom that the Spirit is offering us in the Gospel. Therefore, let us wake up; live by faith; experience the fullness of life in Christ; be prepared, alert, and all the more fruitful as wheat in the midst of weeds!

To Be or Not To Be . . . A Church Member

To Be or Not To Be . . . A Church Member

To be a church member is not to be a member of a club, something like a golf club, or a Moose Lodge, or a YMCA even. Those organizations have their places in society, but they are not analogous to church membership. To be a member of a church means that you are a part of something, obviously. But, more than that, when you belong to a church, you are part of something bigger than you, something bigger than your life, something that the Lord Himself has created.

To be a church member means you are committed to the Lord, attempting to please Him in every way, knowing that you were bought with a price—the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Church membership also means that you are responsible for others. You are bound to them by Christ—He is the glue. You must pray for others, care for others, love others, worship with others, and so much more within the context of a local congregation. To be a Christian in isolation, forsaking regular gatherings with the church on the Lord’s Day is to be a fish out of water. Yet, on a more positive note, what a wonderful thing it is to join with fellow believers to praise our Lord and Savior and to love on one another! How often are you missing out on these things?

To be a member of a church is also to submit to leadership and to not only be accountable for others but to be accountable to others as well. Your leaders should know for whom they are responsible. Are they responsible for you? Do they know that they are responsible for you? Are you allowing them to shepherd your soul? They will have to give an answer to the Lord on the Last Day for those who have been entrusted to their care—are you making it difficult on them? The Bible teaches that we are to be loyal and even submissive to one another, our leaders and all of our brothers and sisters in Christ. To be a disciple is to be a learner. We ought to be learning about the Lord, life, faith and salvation from our leaders as well as from our fellow Christians in the local church.

Some of these things about church membership are not so clearly taught in the New Testament precisely because membership was assumed in the apostolic age. Every believer belonged to a local body! So, where are you on all of this? Have you made your identification and allegiance to the local church official by making your desire to be a member public? What about those of you who are already “members”? Are you living up to that high calling? Are you at least attempting to fulfill your duty as a member of a local church of the Lord Jesus Christ? To be or not to be a church member—THAT is the question.

Christians, Living Stones for a Spiritual Temple

Christians, Living Stones for a Spiritual Temple (1 Peter 2:4-10)

In previous weeks, we have seen Christ figured as the Chief Cornerstone and the apostles as the foundation of the church. Now Peter turns his attention from Christ to the church, in 1 Peter 2:5, and continues the imagery of a building project, calling us living stones.

Notice that in verse five the apostle says that the church is being made into two things based on our association with Christ, the Living Stone: (1) a spiritual house (or, a temple for the Spirit to dwell) and (2) a holy priesthood. This is for the purpose of offering up spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God. We are living stones, no doubt, because we have put our faith in the resurrected Christ. His resurrection life becomes ours (Schreiner). Like stones which are stacked together, we are being built together to form a spiritual house, a temple for God Himself to come in and dwell. The old temple pointed to the church, which is the new, spiritual temple. Not only are we the temple, but we are the priesthood. This is a major distinction of the Protestant Reformation—the priesthood of all believers. I am no closer to God than you are. He does not favor the prayers of a pastor more so than the prayers of those in the pews.

What does a priesthood do? They offer up sacrifices to God. My question is, what are spiritual sacrifices? First of all, even the Old Testament begins to tell us that God desires something beyond law-keeping and the temple cult. The Lord says through the prophet in Hosea 6:6, “For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” And Micah 6:8 also affirms, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” God does not ultimately desire animal sacrifice, we know that Christ was the once-for-all sacrifice which brings to an end the Old Testament sacrificial system and Law, but God does still desire spiritual sacrifices. So, the New Testament commands us to sacrifice things such as:
          1. Bodies offered to God as living sacrifices (Rom. 12)  
          2. Money or material goods (Ph. 4, Heb. 13)
          3. Sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13)
          4. Sacrifices of doing good (Heb. 13:16)

These are the things acceptable to God. Now, does this fit with the context in 1 Peter 2? I think it does. Consider verse nine. We are all these things so that we “may proclaim the praises of Him.” I think this is our spiritual sacrifice. We are those devoted to the proclamation of the Gospel deeds of God. The sacrifice is giving of our resources to support that proclamation, giving of our time, enduring ridicule or persecution because of it, and much more. Of course, it is a small price to pay considering that Christ has gone before us, suffered, and died to absorb the sins of the world in Himself.

The Apostles, the Foundation of the Church

The Apostles, the Foundation of the Church

Ephesians 2:19-22 affirms, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

In the last edition of the Midweek eBulletin, we discussed the imagery of Christ as the Chief Cornerstone of this “spiritual temple” or “household of God.” Today we turn our attention to the foundation. The foundation in a building is set according to the cornerstone. It is measured, set against, and finds its course in relation to the cornerstone. Moreover, the entire structure must rest upon the foundation. In these ways, the foundation must be carefully laid, robust, and unrepeatable.

The New Testament affirms that the apostles are the foundation of the church (also see 1 Cor 3:10). The apostles are, specifically, those original men (minus Judas, plus Matthias, plus Paul) chosen and commissioned by the Lord Jesus Himself to be His authoritative representatives. The preaching of the apostles hurled the Gospel into the world and established the church of the living God. The uniquely inspired writing of the apostles and their close associates has given us the scriptural doctrines which have instructed the church for centuries and will until Christ returns.

Thus, we must look to the apostles for all matters of faith and practice. We tap into their authoritative ministries by engaging the Holy Scriptures. However, many ministries today have attempted to shift congregations off of their original foundation (Christ and His apostles) and onto a new foundation. This does not work but only leads to disaster. If one shifts the congregation’s foundation, or builds a new one, then that crowd has become just that, a crowd, and not the people of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus. There is only one, true foundation. So then, we must be a people of the Book. We must be a people standing to learn, believe, teach, and defend the Bible as the Word of God, delivered through His apostles, and serving as the unrepeatable foundation of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.