Wednesday 15 July 2020

MATTHEW 13 V24/30 AND 36/43

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?

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.

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 followers of the evil one, (Satan, the devil, call him/her what you will).  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 from Bedford to Northampton there are 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 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.

I was told of a mural in a Church not far from my home which was a particular feature of the Church, and the Chuuch became known for its possession. 

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 not received attention so had faded as we don’t tell people about going to hell now.  I replied, ‘I do’, and he looked at me completely astonished.  However I feel it should be me being astonished.
This passage gives many preachers problems, as they are unable to face the reality taught in the Bible.  One Vicar said it brought out the worst in some preachers and irreverently referred to those of us who accept our Lord’s strict teaching as ‘tub thumpers’.  This only goes to show there is no one as illiberal as a liberal.

A preacher has no mandate to express his  own opinions, he is there to state truthfully what the Bible says, and if that is not possible, he is in the wrong occupation. Just writing people off with childish banter is demeaning. If more preachers were honest, the Church would not be in the dilapidated state it is

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.

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.

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.     

Hell is referred to 48 times in the Bible to my knowledge, and was frequently taught by our Lord Himself

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.

Jesus is here warning us of the consequences of what we face if we reject Him, at the same time showing His love and concern for us. 

Jesus always made it plain that this life is a preparation for eternity, and we face a choice now. 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.

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.

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