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?

The One Who Is Victorious

“To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:

These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

Revelation 2:8-11

A couple observations:

First, the lie of universalism becomes more obvious in light of passages like this in scripture. These are the direct words of the ascended Jesus. If all will be saved one day, what is the point of suffering persecution? What is the point of being faithful? What is the point of Jesus saying that “the one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death” unless there are those who will be hurt by the second death?

This passage couldn’t be more clear–there will be some who are saved and others who are not. Jesus is encouraging the church of Smyrna to withstand persecution for their faith and not fall away so that they can inherit the victor’s crown of eternal life.

Secondly, when Christians around the world today undergo persecution and imprisonment for their faith in Jesus, there are many reasons offered up by our culture. Some offer a political reason. They say, “We need political pressure so that religious freedom and human rights will be adopted by that country.” Others offer a social reason. They say, “We just need greater concern for the religious minorities, and all minorities, in countries across the globe.” And while there is truth in both of these approaches, the political and social realities are just symptoms of the deeper reality that is being missed.

Jesus is clear about who and what is causing the persecution of Christians around the world. He tells the church in Smyrna that it is the devil who is testing them and persecuting them. It is the enemy, Satan, who tries to get Christians to turn away from Jesus by causing suffering. Everyone else is just a pawn in this game the devil is playing. Jesus couldn’t be more clear.

How ironic it is that people then blame God for their suffering. Jesus warns us that suffering will come (“In this world you will have trouble…John 16:33). Then Jesus tells us who the author of that trouble is–the devil himself (also see Ephesians 6:12). Finally, Jesus encourages us that if we stand firm in the faith we will be rewarded. And what do we do? We turn around and blame God for our suffering…(smh).

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

God Is In Charge

We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:19-20

Passages in the Bible like this one are why I tend to say, “God is in charge” and not “God is in control.” I do believe in the sovereignty of God and that, ultimately, He is in charge. But saying that God is in “control” of everything starts to attribute all the evil in the world to God. John makes clear here in 1 John 5 that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” The enemy has his evil tentacles in everything.

This truth is why I don’t understand when people equate “born this way” with “it must be God’s will.” If sin has infected all of creation (Romans 8:20-21) and if the enemy has his evil tentacles in everything, why would we assume that things can’t go wrong in the womb?

Lots of things go wrong in the womb, and we shouldn’t attribute them to God. Miscarriages happen, still births happen, kids are born with cancer and other life-threatening diseases. None of this is God. This is result of the fallenness of creation and the work of the evil one who loves to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).

We have to separate, “I was born this way,” from, “God intended this for my life.” We were born into a war against an enemy that doesn’t fight fair (Ephesians 6:10-18). And the womb is not some kind of safe “home base” that is precluded from warfare. Am I saying that things happen in this world that God doesn’t want to happen? Absolutely!

How can I say that?

1 Timothy 2:4 says that God our Savior, “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” This is what God wants. This is His will. And yet, many people don’t come to a knowledge of the truth. Many people aren’t saved. What God wants to happen doesn’t happen. Our sin and the schemes of the enemy resist God’s will. God’s word is sent out but the enemy and the condition of our hearts affect whether that word gets planted and bears fruit. Jesus taught us this through the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23).

Because of the freedom that God has given humanity, He allowed us not to be robots. We have the ability, because of that freedom, to enter into an authentic love relationship with God. But that also means it is possible to resist what God wants. We have misused this good gift of freedom, and it has led to all manner of evil.

All of creation was given this kind of freedom. The natural world has a similar freedom that we were created to have. And because we who were supposed to rule over creation (Genesis 1:28) gave away our authority to the enemy (Genesis 3), the freedom that was given to the natural world has also run amuck (Genesis 3:17-18).

Christians have become way too passive because of a poor understanding of God’s sovereignty in the world. We’ve accepted far too much as “God’s will,” and as a result have both blamed God for evil and embraced that which was not God’s intention as “God’s design.”

This sort of passive spiritual shrug-of-the-shoulders combined with statements full of resignation (like “It is what it is”) reveal how subdued and domesticated the Church has become. This milieu of resignation has left the Church even more vulnerable to attack from our enemy. The more we embrace the enemy’s work as if it is the Lord’s work, the more weak we become.