Are you ‘good enough’ for your church?

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My Christian training was built around experience and ‘doing good.’  I learned to approach worship primarily through emotions as a Pentecostal. Church in my childhood years included joyous shouts, crying, exuberant singing, and some crazy, unexplainable things done in God’s name. We were also taught about holiness and it was easy to feel like a bad Christian, or even ‘not a Christian’ when temptations took root and grew into some sinful behavior. There was a great deal of emphasis on being pure, some impossible standards set in place, and some people who would not or could not ‘conform’ were treated as second class, on occasion even rejected by the church.

The tendency to try to make Christ’s work happen by human effort has not diminished over time. Christians still tend to decide who is in and who is out, failing to account for the immeasurable grace of God and the persistent power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told a story that calls on us to leave the judgment to Him and to trust that He can preserve His work in the world. “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 root up 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, NIV)

His story made little sense to anyone familiar with agriculture. Getting the weeds out of the field was basic to getting a better harvest. But, in His field, the separation of wheat and weeds IS NOT the work to be done by us. What a radical concept but it is perfectly aligned with His message of supernaturally inspired love and grace. The farmer leaves the weeds; the farmer forgives the weeds.  The citizens of God’s kingdom deal with evil by forgiving it. We set aside temptation to “moral superiority”  and we let the weeds grow right alongside us because we are secured in God’s grace, not our own righteousness.

 Jesus teaches the full meaning of His story to the disciples. “His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36-43, NIV)

There will be a day of judgment! God will not ignore disbelief and sin. It is not pleasant to read of the destruction and punishment of those who refuse the grace of God, is it?

His story leaves us with two important conclusions.

First is that He will take care of His children and keep us as we live among people who care nothing for Him, even those who are impostors that sit with us in the congregation of God. IF we are walking with Him, living in the Spirit, we need not fear that somehow the sin of the world will overtake us. We live with full confidence that God is greater.  It is for us to continue to hold out the grace of Christ, to accept people with the hope that they will believe and receive, being changed along with us into saints of the Living God. If we wrongly shut the doors of the Kingdom to those we deem unworthy, beyond help, or too sinful; we are stepping into the role that belongs to God alone.

Second, there is a time when God will separate good and evil and those who have loved Him will become radiant with His goodness, when the ‘weeds’ are removed in the Judgment. Hopeful? Yes. Sobering? Yes, too.

We are making our way into the second week of Lent, a time to reflect, repent, perhaps even practice some form of self-denial. Let’s keep our focus on Jesus! We are not ‘better’ because we fast two meals instead of one, because we are willing to give up social media and some others will not. Those kinds of choices must be made for the sole purpose of inviting Christ to be Lord of our lives, to remind ourselves that we are more than flesh and appetite, people of soul and spirit. The moment we choose to decide, even subtly, who is more worthy, who is a ‘real’ Christian by our own estimation, we assume the role that belongs exclusively to Christ at the End of the Age.

Our word from the Word comes from Paul’s final letter, written to Timothy. He reminds that timid pastor of God’s wonderful grace for us. May these words inspire us to love Him, waiting patiently for the full revelation of His Kingdom.

But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “Those who claim they belong to the Lord must turn away from all wickedness.” In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a utensil God can use for his purpose. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” (2 Timothy 2:19-22, NLT)

Don’t slip into the error of trying to be ‘good enough’ by comparing yourself to others in your fellowship. Instead, thank God that He is making you complete in Christ and grow on in grace.

______________

O Come To The Altar
(an invitation song … from Elevation Worship)

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ

Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling
Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t he wonderful
Sing alleluia Christ is risen
Bow down before him
For he is Lord of all
Sing alleluia Christ is risen

Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found

Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye © 2015 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

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