“Before Jesus commissioned Peter to be a shepherd, he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?” He asked him again, “Do you love me?” And a third time he asked: “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). He have to hear that question as being central to all of our Christian ministry because it is the question that can allow us to be, at the same time, irrelevant and truly self-confident.”
“Look at Jesus. The world did not pay any attention to him. He was crucified and put away. His message of love was rejected by a world in search of power, efficiency, and control. But there he was, appearing with wounds in his glorified body to a few friends who had eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand. This rejected, unknown, wounded Jesus simply asked, “Do you love me, do you really love me?” He whose only concern had been to announce the unconditional love of God has only one question to ask, “Do you love me?“
— Henri J. M. Nouwen In The Name of Jesus
How often we seem to be intoxicated with leadership, with control, with influence. But Jesus isn’t asking us to show our results. He’s asking us to show him love. We can work hard and get people to church. We get people to sign a petition. We can even get people to share nice scripture verses on Instagram. But do we love Jesus? Not the idea of Jesus, not the American Jesus, not the Republican or Democratic Jesus… But Jesus. Do we love Him?
Don’t be so quick to answer. Reflect. Do we love Him? Are we truly devoted to Christ Jesus above all else? Or is He just a side dish on the buffet line of life?
The kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness; the Kingdom of Heaven, and that of our enemy, the devil Satan. And at the end of the day, the end of your life, the end of the age, you either belong to one or the other.
But, what seems like a clear either/or proposition is not that simple. You see, in the Parable of the Weeds, or, as I am going to keep calling it, the “TAREable Parable” (copyright pending), Jesus says there is the wheat but growing alongside are weeds. The wheat represents sons and daughters of the Kingdom of God, and the weeds are people who actually belong to the kingdom of the evil one.
By studying the parable a little deeper, you discover that the weeds are a type of plant called darnel that mimic wheat. Looks just like wheat and their roots are easily entangled. In fact, it’s not until it gets close to harvest and each plant is producing its fruit, that you can tell the difference.
You see, darnel is dangerous. It doesn’t just look like wheat, but it is prone to a fungal infestation that can lead to some nasty side effects if consumed. If wheat and infested darnel are milled together and the resulting flour consumed as bread, the darnel can lead to a serious complication resulting in what appears to be intoxication only it can lead very quickly to death.
To recap: Darnel looks like the real thing but it is a counterfeit. Not only counterfeit but dangerous. Wheat=good, darnel =bad.
Fake believers, counterfeit Christians, don’t only appear to be something they aren’t but they can be dangerous. Thankfully, our Lord promises at some point to rid the world of the crop of weeds and thus ensure safety. But in the meantime, the darnel is still causing harm. And it is heart-wrenching to experience as well as observe.
Fake believers, counterfeit Christians, don’t only appear to be something they aren’t but they can be dangerous. Thankfully, our Lord promises at some point to rid the world of the crop of weeds and thus ensure safety.
As I study Scripture and learn from other believers, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a spectrum of false Christians that ranges from the deceived to the deliberately destructive. For the sake of clarification and argumentation, I’ll share the three main categories that I find in life and in scripture:
1. The Deceived. There are many people who for various reasons think they are “on good terms with God” only to be blinded. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “… the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”. For what it’s worth, I think this is probably the majority of “weeds” in our culture in the USA.
We have so many people that think that because they have some notion of a higher power that is vaguely similar to the Judeo-Christian concept of deity, have at least a notion of “traditional values”, and celebrate Christmas and Easter that they are born again believers. They talk the talk and will even use some occasional theological terms. Heck, they may even say grace before a meal.
They are sincere, but sincerely wrong. Perhaps well intentioned, but because the Holy Spirit hasn’t changed them, their spiritual DNA isn’t going to produce wheat. If it is producing anything, it will be more of that darn darnel.
2. The Deceptive. These are folks who for various reasons, intentionally or not, fake a walk with Christ. They are more self-aware than the previous category of people. They have an inkling that they don’t measure up to the Biblical descriptions of followers of Jesus. Yet, they will put on a mask on Sunday. And a heck of a good front on social media. They will even share scripture verses and say “God Bless You!” when someone sneezes. But they know full well they aren’t living for Christ. In my estimation, these make up far fewer than the “deceived” but there are quite a few of these weeds in the field. These are the hypocrites of Matthew 23 and elsewhere.
Why? Often times it is social pressure. For decades in our culture, if you wanted to be liked or well respected, you would go to church services on Sunday and if you weren’t a genuine follower of Christ, you knew you had to pretend to be one so people would patronize your business, come to your cookout, or vote for you in the next election.
As society becomes more and more anti-Christian, we are, thankfully, seeing this idea disappear. In many places in our country it is becoming less and less culturally important to attend church, so in a lot of cases these weeds are dying off.
But we still see it in people who feel pressured by family members who are believers. Maybe it’s the wayward son or daughter from a Christian home who want mom and dad to be proud, but they are just faking it.
Maybe it is the person who began to spin a good yard of being the “good kid” and now they find themselves a volunteer or even on staff of a Christian organization or local church. They have to keep up the façade if they want to keep their job or their social circle.
3. The Deliberately Destructive. These are folks who are under the wholesale influence of the evil one. I wouldn’t say possessed, but the enemy has a lot of control and influence in their lives. These are ones who will intentionally infiltrate the flock to purposely sow discord, entice others toward sin, bring destruction in their paths.
I would love to say these people don’t exist. I mean what kind of twisted person would intentionally try to sabotage the Kingdom of God? What kind of person would intentionally teach false doctrine? Who in their right mind would do some of this stuff on purpose?
I think this is why this category, though I would estimate it to be the fewest in number of the three, is so dangerous: we don’t want to believe it is real. We want to believe the best about people we love and care about, so we convince ourselves that they are well-meaning but deceived.
Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, talks about these people when he says, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4, ESV).
So, which kind of person are you dealing with? That person in your mind as you have read this… Which one are they? I don’t think we can fully know until harvest, until it’s too late. And that’s ok. We need to be on guard for the darnel.
But we also need to pray. Pray that if they are deceived, that the Lord would open their eyes and their hearts to Him. Pray for the deceptive to have a conviction from the Lord, a holy rebuke that brings them to genuine repentance. And pray that the Lord would safe guard us from the deliberately destructive.
I would love to tell you that Jesus is able to save all of these, that the Holy Spirit can do a work transforming the darnel into a good crop of wheat. I believe that I have seen it happen in the case of the deceived and the deceptive. What about the last category? I don’t know. I don’t doubt the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ, but I do seriously doubt that a heart so hardened, so dark, would ever be receptive to the life-changing message of the Gospel. But I hope I am wrong.
So, friends, there are two kingdoms. But there is also some nuance. Just because someone hasn’t truly accepted Christ doesn’t mean they are a wolf. But it does mean they need to repent and trust Jesus.
“Ouch!” That was how I discovered I had a pear tree. Well, that’s how I discovered I had a pear tree that had actual pears on it.
When we bought our home, I was delighted to have so many trees on our property. I like trees. Sure, they’re a pain to mow around, but I love them. Our property had several ornamental pear trees, if they produced anything, it was a tiny inedible fruit that was perfect for birds.
This one particular tree in the backyard didn’t even produce these in the 4 previous years we had lived at our home. Then one morning in June I was mowing around this tree and forgot to duck. My head brushed against a branch and I was showered with 3 or 4 baby pears hitting my noggin.
We were delighted to know we had a fruit tree that would actually produce fruit! That summer we got a nice little harvest of pears, so sweet and juicy. We decided then and there to plant some more fruit trees.
But good fruit takes time. You don’t plant an orchard expecting a bumper crop in just a few months. It takes a long time for a tree to produce much, and patience is a must. I doubt the previous owners, who planted this pear tree, ever got to sample its fruit. But we’re thankful they planted a sapling that we can now enjoy the fruit thereof.
Jesus used a lot of agricultural parables in his teaching, something most of his audience could relate to. In Luke 13:18-19, He said,
He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.”
Now, if you’ve read the Gospels, you’re familiar with the idea of faith the size of a mustard seed, a tiny seed that produces a large shrub or tree. In this instance, Jesus uses the mustard seed to illustrate the Kingdom of God. A quick study of this passage will lead you to the conclusion that Jesus’s teaching, which seemed insignificant to Jews seeking a political revolution, would lead to a surprisingly large change.
But I don’t know that this is the only application. I think there is some personal application here as well. If we compare this mustard seed the the mustard seed of faith, we see that a little faith can lead to a major impact.
Mustard seeds can be tiny. Imagine trying to plant these suckers. I’d probably lose half of them. But they can develop into quite the plant. Faith is like that. Many times when a person comes to faith in Christ, the change, the difference, may seem tiny, even insignificant.
Sometimes as people of faith, we can get upset, angry even, with a new believer’s seeming lack of fruit. Don’t get me wrong, there should be fruit, just don’t expect a lot of it. Our sanctification and spiritual maturity aren’t instantaneous. In fact, in the parable of the soils in Mark 4, Jesus warns about those who immediately receive the Word with joy and spring up quickly. He says that because they have no root, they wither and die.
You see, when most seeds begin to sprout, they first send roots down into the soil to get nutrients and to find stability. This is what Paul is telling us in Colossians 2:6-7 which says:
6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
If a tree or bush as a solid root system, it can grow and weather just about any storm.
Over time, with a solid root system, the mustard plant will grow strong and big. It’s the same with a Christ follower. As we draw strength from God’s Word and have both a vibrant prayer life and walk with the Holy Spirit, we grow. We begin to bear fruit. It may seem little at first, just a bloom here, a bud there. But given time, consistency will lead to a bigger and bigger impact.
Eventually, this plant that was barely producing fruit will be able not only to produce fruit, but able to have a significant impact on the world around it. Nests for birds, a place of rest for the traveler, a whole ecosystem impacted.
As we grow in Christ, we will impact the world around us in ways we never thought possible. But it takes times. Good fruit always takes time to develop. The spiritual fruit of our lives, made possible only by the work of the Holy Spirit in us, will grow exponentially. All coming from a little seed of faith. So don’t be discouraged with the lack of spiritual growth in your life or the lives of others. Pray for a work of the Holy Spirit and for consistency. After all, fruit takes time.
This past Sunday at Mount Hermon Church we finished the series “Twisted” where we looked at the most some of the most commonly misunderstood Bible passages. You can listen to Sunday’s message here: Twisted: Root of All Evil. One of the key thoughts I shared was this: When we think “What I really need is more money,” we’re deceived. Money is not the answer to our deepest needs. JESUS IS! We don’t need more money, we need more Jesus. So as you go through the week, and maybe think, “I need more money. More money would make my life easier right now.” Remember, Jesus is the answer to your greatest needs. Money isn’t bad. But loving it is more dangerous than you can imagine. So let’s pursue Jesus instead of money. He’s the real answer to our problems, the real source of our joy, the genuine provider of security and forgiveness. Hey, are you a pastor, church leader, or Bible study facilitator? You need to check out Open.Church! They are a group of several churches who give away everything they do for free! From sermon outlines, to teaching videos, to church graphics, to original worship music. Open.Church has saved me countless hours of detail work. For this series, Twisted, I was able to use graphics and other media to give the message some extra oomph. I was able to take the outline for this series, and customize it to make it my own. Again, you need to check them out.
As the church where I serve, Mount Hermon UB, has grown, so has the amount of criticism that I and our church face. And while I’m all about constructive criticism, because I want to get better at what I do, there is one thing I don’t handle as well: lies about me or the organization I serve.
I’m not talking about differing opinions, or even differing interpretations of the facts. Those aren’t lies, those are opinions, and like bellybuttons, nearly everyone has one. And like bellybuttons, just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to tell and show the whole world. Congrats. We get it.
But lies. What do you do about the lies? In our era of social media, they go viral, are shared dozens of times, or at least seen dozens of times by people before you even have time to see them for yourself, let alone react. Don’t we have a duty to correct, to rectify an injustice?
When the lie is about you, or even your organization, I’m going to say, under most circumstances, NO. Yes, that goes against every instinct we have. That goes against our pride, our righteous indignation. But it’s usually the right call.
See, getting into an argument with someone who is lying about you is like wrestling a pig. You both get dirty and only one of you is going to like it. Reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:6, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” (ESV) I know that may not be the proper exegesis of this passage, it just reminds me of what happens when you engage a person spreading lies about you.
So what do we do? Here’s 5 STEPS to deal with lies and the lying liars who lie.
1.Recognize This Isn’t Personal, But Spiritual.
“But Adam, of course it’s personal, they’re talking about me!” While technically correct, remember the words of Paul the Apostle to the church at Ephesus: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (NLT)
I know Billy Bob may be telling a lie about you, but the issue isn’t Billy Bob himself. It’s the forces of the enemy, Satan, trying to take you down or to discourage you. See, if the Devil can get you to give up, or to sin while trying to defend yourself, he wins. The problem isn’t the person who’s lying. It’s the underlying spiritual issues.
Is that person saved? Is that person going through some sort of traumatic life circumstance? After all, hurting people hurt people. I’m not saying that they have a pass to say whatever they want. No one ever has a pass to say whatever they want (including you). But the issues are deeper.
2. If There is a Specific Accusation or Attack, Refute It Once And Move On.
But if it’s specific enough, refute it ONCE. Don’t be constantly trying to defend yourself. Again, then you find yourself in an argument that you can not win. But if you refute it, then the people whom are closest to you can say, “Nope, Jane didn’t do that. She refuted that charge.” I believe that your character will show the truth, at least to those open minded enough to give you the benefit of the doubt.
We have to be very careful about continually insisting on our innocence, because it then becomes very easy for us to think we are fighting the battle. It becomes easy for us to insist on our own righteousness. It becomes about our justification.
And for the Christian, we recognize that a, we’re not always innocent, in fact we have sinned just as everyone else has. B, It is God who is to fight for us. Vengeance is His. He promises to deal with it. C, apart from Christ, we have no righteousness. Sorry but without Jesus you might as well be guilty of what they’re accusing you of. And lastly, your justification comes only from what Jesus did for you on the cross, not from the opinions of others or the reputation you or your organization enjoy.
3. If You Have a Personal Relationship with Them, Reach Out.
Now this can be tricky. But if it’s someone you have had a decent report with in the past, someone whom you have been in relationship with before, try to reach out to them. Humility is key here. Don’t reach out with a “What the heck are you doing” attitude. But humbly, kindly, ask them what is going on. Do they have a misunderstanding of what occurred? Perhaps they aren’t mentally well, and are lashing out? Ask them to correct the matter to the best of their ability.
They likely won’t listen. But you have fulfilled your obligation as stated in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceable with all.”
4. Keep Going.
If the enemy can get you distracted, he’s won. You’re likely getting attacked because you are doing something worthwhile. Keep reaching people for Jesus. Keep being kind to others. Keep making the difference in people’s lives.
In the Book of Nehemiah, there is a guy named (wait for it) Nehemiah who is rebuilding the walls around the desolated city of Jerusalem. And people don’t want him to continue. They try to discourage him by trying to scare him and his workers. That doesn’t work so they resort to telling lies. “Hey Nehemiah, come down from the wall so we can talk about all the stuff you’re doing.”
Nehemiah’s response is great: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you.” (Nehemiah 6:3b ESV)
Did you catch that? “Sorry guys, I am too busy to play your game or get caught up in your little drama.”
Man, if more of us would keep going, imagine what we would get accomplished!
5. Bless Them.
Yep, you read that right. Bless them. Jesus told us repeatedly to love our enemies. Bless those who curse you and lie about you. Why? Because that demonstrates the genuineness of our faith in Christ. It shows the world the power of God’s love.
Paul tells us to repay evil with good in Romans 12:14-21. In verse 20-21 Paul says, “To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by doing so you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
I hope I have given you some steps you can take when people say false things about you. It hurts. And it’s okay to hurt. But allow God to use this to shape your character to more reflect the image of Christ. He is for you. And you are never alone.
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