Saturday 22 July 2017

Matthew 13 v, 24 =35
To-day’s gospel reading is really a continuation of the parable of the sower, which you heard last week. I imagine it will cause some preachers more than a little difficulty in facing its teaching.

When Jesus was teaching He always took scenes from life which people could understand and then He applied this to convey a message.

When looking at a Bible passage it is helpful to consider three questions. What does it say; what does it mean; how does it relate to me?

The farmer has sown wheat seeds but an enemy came and sowed weeds amongst the wheat seed.

The weed was called darnel, a bitter poisonous weed which could cause serious consequences. When sown it so closely resembled wheat that it could not be recognised and it was only when it began to grow that it became identified and by that time the roots were intertwined so that to pull them up would disturb the good seed. Therefore it was not practicable to separate one without damaging the other, so the separation had to wait until harvest when the reapers would gather and pick the bad seed out and use it as fuel to burn on the fire. That is the story.

The meaning is that the farmer is our Lord; the good seed are those who gladly acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. The weeds are those who are not followers of Jesus. There is no in between, you are inevitably either on the Lord’s side or if not, on the side of the evil one.

The field is the world; the harvest is at the end of the age; and the reapers are the angels, who will gather Christ’s people and make the separation.

What then is the explanation that affects us?

We are reminded there is always the presence of hostile powers in the world seeking to destroy goodness.

This parable is not a discourse on farming, but rather the theme is that of separation and judgement. Jesus used imagery to deal with the reality of emphasising what can be for ever lost. Some people think that Jesus was just trying to frighten us which raises the question is there something to be frightened of?

If you travel on major roads you will see signs warning of speed cameras, which infer a penalty if you drive over the limit.
There are also signs telling of the number of accidents and fatalities due to careless driving. Yes they are trying to frighten us, but they are also reminding us how close death can be and any sensible person will heed the warnings.

Jesus is here warning of the consequences of what faces us if we reject Him, and showing His love and care for us through the death He suffered at the Cross that we may be forgiven for all our wrongdoings..

Jesus always made it clear that this life is a preparation for eternity and we face a choice now. He taught there were two roads in life, a broad one leading to destruction which many take, a narrow one leading to eternal life. There are two masters, Jesus and the devil; two destinies, heaven and hell.

To suggest hell is for many people, including clergy an anathema. There will be preachers this morning putting a completely different interpretation on this parable. But if we are keeping to the Bible’s word there is no room for personal opinion or sensitivity.

Verse 42 clearly states, referring to the evil ones, ‘they will be cast into the fiery furnace.’ Jesus used this term elsewhere also to signify hell

I am a fond follower of Charles and John Wesley the founders of Methodism. I had the joy of studying Charles life in order to lead a service in his honour, and I have no doubt whatsoever what his interpretation of this passage would be.

People have various views of what happens when we leave this earth, such as, there is no such thing as a soul or spirit so that when we die, we simply cease to exist; or a loving God would never send anyone to hell, everyone eventually ends up in heaven. It is true God will not send anyone to hell; people just make the choice for themselves by rejecting Jesus Christ.

In all the world there is only one source of authoritative information about the afterlife, and that is the Bible. Outside of the Bible, everything else is only speculation and wishful thinking. If we want to know what God has to say on this important topic, it is to the Bible we must go.

Turning first to consider the reality of heaven, on the night before He was crucified, Jesus told His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house where there were many mansions; the Bible states heaven is–God’s dwelling place where Christ is today and where Christians go when they die.

People don’t believe in it like we used to. They are all too busy making a living to worry about what happens after we die. To the unbeliever such words seem either sentimental or simply incredible. But to the one who accepts God’s Word at face value, they are nothing less than the sober truth

So let us turn to consider what the Bible says about hell. Jesus believed in a literal hell. In fact, he spoke of hell more often than he spoke of heaven. For instance, Jesus told a story in Luke 16 about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. When Lazarus died he went to heaven but the rich man went to hell.

Some people have grave difficulty with this story because they reject the notion that Jesus believed in a literal hell. Here Jesus plainly says that there was a rich man who was tormented in the fires of hell.

We don’t talk about it nowadays because it isn’t popular to suggest that unbelievers are tormented for all eternity for their sins. Yet the Bible teaches the eternal punishment of the wicked in many passages.

I was once told of a mural which was quite well spoken of in a Church not far from my home. Shortly after hearing of this I had occasion to attend a clergy meeting at that Church. The mural was pointed out to me and I said that I found it hard to distinguish what it meant, when a fellow clergyman said it had been meant to show people being dragged off to hell but it had not received attention so had faded as we don’t preach about people about going to hell now. I replied, ‘I do’, and he looked at me completely astonished, as if I was some stranger from another planet..

Those who fail to repent now and turn to Jesus will find it will be too late for remorse, too late to give your heart to Jesus.
The day will be long past.

Since some people scoff at the notion of an afterlife, let’s pause for a moment and ask why the Bible reveals heaven and hell to us. What do we gain by knowing about these things and why are they important to the Christian faith?

1. To right the wrongs of this life.So many crimes go unpunished while the perpetrators are set free to hurt others. Hell must exist, if for no other reason than to balance the scales of justice.

2. To Reward those who serve the Lord.
Heaven must exist so that those who served Jesus faithfully may enter their eternal reward.

3. To fulfill the promises God made to his people.

4. Redeem the suffering of this life.

The Bible states that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

We constantly hear of people whose suffering seems to be overwhelming. It may be cancer or some other disease, it may be a broken marriage or a child in trouble, it may be financial disaster or trouble at work or at school. God’s people endure many hardships in this life. Most of the time, we can’t fully understand why God allows certain things to happen to us.

But we have this promise. When the books are opened and the scales are balanced, we will discover that the things we went through in this life are nothing compared with the glories of heaven.

It has been said, for the unbeliever, this life is the only heaven they will ever know. For the believer, this life is the only hell we will ever know.

Each person must make an intelligent and informed decision about heaven and hell. If what I have said is true, then you must do whatever it takes to make sure you go to heaven and you must make sure at all costs that you do not go to hell.

Sometimes we are ready to think a person is a wonderful Christian when in fact they may well not be, and on the other hand wrongly condemn someone. Judgement must wait for the harvest, when we will be judged not anyone aspect of our life, so much as our whole life.

It is often thought that the fact a person attended a Church and was accepted as a Christian would automatically be at the Messianic banquet, but the Bible makes it clear that is not necessary so. Many Church people these days live lives which do not measure up to what the Bible expects. Indeed, there are preachers who are living and supporting ways which are so totally against the teaching of Scripture. Judgement however is in the hands, and at the mercy of God, who alone knows the secrets of all our hearts.

Let’s go back one more time to the words of Jesus Christ. When Thomas asked him the way to heaven, Jesus gave this answer: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. Those words are clear; it is not enough to have a casual approach to Christ, there has to be a firm commitment to believe and act according to His teaching.

The way to heaven is as narrow as the Cross. Only those who trust Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord will enter the gates of heaven.
It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. By the same token, the road to heaven is paved with the blood of Christ. Let us all be assured we are on the right road.

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