Higher

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Matthew 16:21-23

Peter was articulating the common expectation of the Messiah. Everyone expected the Messiah to overthrow the oppressive powers of Rome. Peter’s reaction was a logical reaction to the idea that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. Peter had in mind human concerns but he missed God’s plan. God didn’t just want to overthrow Rome, He wanted to overthrow the very power of sin and death itself. God’s vision was much bigger!

Notice that Jesus first rebukes Satan. Jesus can hear in Peter’s voice the accent of the enemy. Jesus understands that the source of Peter’s rational and reasonable thought was Satan himself. Satan often does his best deceiving when he sounds reasonable and rational. This is how the enemy sounded in the Garden of Eden. It’s how he sounded when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4). And here the enemy was doing it again.

This is a stark reminder that just because something sounds rational and reasonable doesn’t mean it is from the Lord. The concerns of God are clearly different than the concerns of humanity. God spoke this truth to the prophet Samuel.

“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The prophet Isaiah also gives us a powerful word from the Lord in this regard.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible gives us helpful analogies in our relationship with God so that we can understand how to interact with Him. We have the family analogy where we are sons and daughters of the Father. We have the marriage analogy where the Church is the Bride of Christ. We have the anatomical analogy where the Church is the Body of Christ. We have the friendship analogy where Jesus no longer calls us servants but friends. We have the sibling analogy where Christ, the firstborn from the dead, is our brother. We have the Kingdom analogy where we are a royal priesthood.

All of these analogies and pictures help us understand how to connect with and relate to God. But we should never assume God is just like us. In fact, the goal in the Christian life is to become more and more like Him. This should tells us that our starting line is the truth that we are not exactly like Him. Yet, the fact that were originally created in God’s image, that in Christ we are new creations, and that we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us gives us hope that we can grow to become more and more like Jesus.

God is so loving that He can’t help but want to draw near to us. But He is also completely “other” than us. He thinks differently, acts differently, and feels differently than we do. Our job is to learn His ways so that we can conform our life to His (not to demand that He conform His ways to ours).

Where is God calling you to conform your ways to His, your plans to His, or your thoughts to His?

God Is Not Your Enemy

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Matthew 13:24-30

This is one of the most important parables in all of the Gospel accounts. This is Jesus explaining how the Kingdom of God in the world interacts with the kingdom of darkness. More people need to spend time meditating on the truths of this parable, especially people who struggle with idea of why there is evil in the world.

One day God will end history and bring an end to evil in the world. One day all wrongs will be made right. One day God will intervene in the most dramatic of ways. There will one day be a harvest and a judgment, and no one will escape this reality.

But until then, we have to understand that the wheat and the weeds will both grow. The Kingdom of God will grow but so will the kingdom of darkness. The spread of the gospel, the bringing of justice, the power of God on display in the world will continue to increase. Yet, so will the ways the enemy sows his seeds of evil. Evil will also continue to increase. According to this parable of Jesus, God will one day remove evil from all of creation, but if He does so too early it does damage. Peter explains this phenomenon this way:

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:8-9

God is not being slow as He waits for the final harvest. God is being patient. He wants more and more people to enter the Kingdom of God. The moment God removes evil from the world, history transitions into eternity. And once that happens, the doors shut on the wedding feast of the Kingdom (Luke 14:24) just as the doors of Noah’s ark shut before the rains came (Matthew 24:36-39). God is keeping those doors open as long as possible.

As we see the pain and suffering in the world, our reaction to the evil we witness should be the same as the farmer’s reaction to the weeds, “the enemy did this.” As Jesus later explains the parable to His disciples, He makes clear, “the enemy who sows them is the devil“(Matthew 13:39). God gets blamed for so many awful things because people don’t understand the truth of this parable. Satan is actively sowing seeds of evil and darkness into people and into the world. We have a real enemy and it’s not God.

As followers of Jesus, we should be encouraged that the Kingdom of God is growing and advancing. The Church will continue to prevail around the world. As Jesus said to Peter, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it“(Matthew 16:18).

And just as we are encouraged by this truth, we need to be vigilant about the reality that the enemy will continue to try to advance the kingdom of darkness everywhere he can. As Peter says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour“(1 Peter 5:8). We need to be alert and of sober mind, aware that we will run into growing weeds even as the wheat grows.

Not every situation in your life is from God.

Have you been blaming God for something He’s not responsible for?