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4. Understanding the End-Time Church

Phil Mills Sr.

Presenter

Phil Mills Sr.

Dermatologist in Northern Georgia

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Conference

Recorded

  • June 19, 2017
    11:00 AM
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“Father in heaven, as we study Your Word, we want to understand it. We want to have Your Spirit right here to guide everything we do. You stated that at general convocations such as camp meetings that Your Spirit can fall. We ask that Your Spirit fall on us as we study. May we see Jesus in a new and living way. May we see His compelling love. May we surrender to His loving commands. May we have eyes that see the needs of others and minister to their needs. We pray that You’ll touch my lips with coals from the fire and touch the ears that the things of God will be clear and plain today, we pray in Christ’s name, Amen.”

 

Did you ever notice that people from England talk with an English accent? People from Australia speak with an Australian accent. In fact, my staff in Georgia tell me that if you listen carefully, the only people who don’t have an accent are Southern. Have you watched people and noticed that people from South Africa dress like South Africans? Have you eaten in Mexico and noted that Mexicans like Mexican food while Chinese like Chinese food? There is a reason and it’s an important reason. In the course of our Bible study we will see why this is true and how it applies to us today.


The gospel writers have given us the outline of two very famous sermons that Jesus gave. One is the Sermon on the Mount, the ordination sermon for His twelve apostles. That’s recorded in two of the synoptic gospels Matthew and Luke. But a few months before that famous sermon, He delivered the Sermon by the Sea and this was given at the very beginning of Christ’s Galilean ministry about one and a half years into His total three and a half years of ministry. And the Sermon by the Sea is recorded in three of the synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke.  The setting is by the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had not left their occupation to follow Jesus full-time at this point and they had fished all night. They needed some funds to provide for their families. It was just beginning to become light as they rowed toward the land. Though it was not yet sun rise, through the mist they could see the form of Jesus walking along the beach and He was waiting to talk to them. Hoping to get private instruction from their beloved Teacher, they quickly brought their boats to shore but it was already too late for much private time with Christ. Already the depressed, the sick, the dying discovered Christ. Not wanting to miss their opportunity for healing, they looked for Him early and there is a deep teaching point here. If we want to find Jesus, if we want to be healed by Jesus, we should start at an early hour. Proverbs 8:17 says, “Those who seek Me early shall find Me.”

 

2 Selected Messages, page 377: “Ministering angels are waiting about the throne to instantly obey the mandate of Jesus Christ, to answer every prayer offered in earnest, living faith.” So you can see that early in the morning the angels gather around the throne of Jesus, finding their assignments for the day and as a prayer is sent, Jesus bids this angel on that project or that angel on this project.

 

The Scriptural account makes it possible to join the disciples as our imagination watches Him with tender compassion bending over the forms of the suffering, the despondent, and the dying. Every applicant to Christ was relieved. Not one mourner was left in pain. Every desponding soul was tranquilized by His words of hope and forgiving love as Ellen White described in a picnic talk to the sanitarium patients at Gludiel Place. Those that were healed didn’t immediately leave Jesus that morning. With interest they watched as Jesus healed others. They also knew that Jesus had more than healing to offer them and after the last sufferer was relieved, the great crowd waited expectantly to hear His instruction as they listened attentively.

 

In this glimpse of Jesus by the Sea of Galilee we are observing what can be our daily experience. Every morning we awaken sick as we roll out of bed, ready to die with the disease of sin. We cry for help there on our knees. We cry for the mighty Deliverer. He bends low to hear our requests and touches us and banishes our sins. He banishes and heals us but we don’t just hurry off to the day’s activities. After our healing, we wait for Jesus to speak to us just as He spoke to those He had healed there on that day by the lake. The crowd that early morning was great. Seeking to be close enough to hear the words of Christ, the multitudes jostled one another. The throng surged forward. Jesus was actually in danger of being pushed into the lake. Stepping into Peter’s boat, He pushed off slightly from the land and then humble fishermen’s boat became the podium for an unforgettable sermon.

 

The Sermon by the Sea was filled with stories. When we compare the three gospel accounts found in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8, we find that there are nine parables. Now in all of the gospels, there are forty parables. So almost 25% from all the parables that Jesus gave that are recorded for us, were in this one sermon. These were kingdom parables because they all tell about the kingdom of heaven. Four of the nine parables talk about seed-sowing and harvest and in the Bible, the sign language of seed-sowing and harvest is the sign language of evangelism. If you noticed, Christ’s approach that morning was to begin with medical missionary work, then move on to evangelism, to use that as His entering wedge.

 

To get the context for our Bible study this morning, please open your Bibles to Luke 8. Jesus started His Sermon by the Sea with the parable of the Sower. This is a simple story. It has a profound depth. You’re probably familiar with it. In this parable, Jesus told of a farmer who planted seed by throwing it on the ground. The farmer’s seeds landed in four different areas of his field. The farmer was systematic in his sowing and he sowed beside all waters. Some seed landed on the hard, unploughed soil on the outskirts of the field, on hardened pathways men walk on. Other seeds landed in areas filled with rocks and containing little soil. Some seeds landed on soil that was covered with thorny weeds. Finally, some seeds landed on soil that was ploughed, prepared and fertile. Then, using time-lapse photography, Christ told what happened to the seeds that season.

 

In the parable, what does the seed represent? Notice Luke 8:11—“The seed is the Word of God.” Jesus explained that the seed in the parable was the Word of God and was the Word of God spoken, proclaimed, written and preached. This is evangelism.

 

Leaving Luke’s account, please turn to the book of Matthew, the first book of the New Testament, and notice chapter 13. This morning we want to see what happened to the seeds on that fertile, prepared soil, so let’s start reading with verse 23: “But he who receives seed on the good ground is he who hears the Word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit, and produces, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” What happened to the seed on the good ground?  It germinated. It grew. It produced a crop. But we noticed that the crop yield had a great variability with some soil producing thirty-fold while other soil produced a hundredfold. That’s the end of the parable. But the ending of this story introduced the next story. Those who were listening must have wondered what was there in the soil that produced such an astonishing difference between crop yields. Why did some soil produce a hundredfold while others a mere thirtyfold?

 

To explain this, Jesus told the next parable. We’ll continue with the next verse, verse 24: “Another parable He put forth to them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus wanted them to understand what the kingdom of heaven is like on this earth. This is not talking about what the kingdom of heaven is like when Jesus returns and destroys the wicked while the righteous receive their reward. No. The purpose of this parable was to help hearers understand what the kingdom of God is like in the world that is ruled by Satan. The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. What is the kingdom of heaven like? An evangelist sowing good seed in the field. If you want to know what the kingdom of heaven on this earth is like, it’s evangelism. Sowing seed—that’s the kingdom of heaven. Where the seed of the Word is not being sown you do not have the kingdom of heaven. Who is the evangelist spoken of here who sowed the good seed. We don’t have to guess because Jesus explained the parable in verse 37: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man.” The evangelist is the God who became a man, Christ Jesus.

 

Returning to verse 24: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” We want to pause on that phrase “His field.” This world is an alien world. Satan rules. 2 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that Satan is the god of this world. But in this alien territory ruled by Satan, does God have a dominion He calls His own? Yes, He does. In the parable He calls His dominion His field. In the parable He had His field. Did God have His field in the Old Testament? Yes, He did. What was His field? The Jewish nation. Does God have His field in the New Testament? Yes again. What is it called? The Christian church, His church. Though it is in the world, it is His field. Over this field He claims ownership. It is in His field that He has His people. It is here that He has His pasture and His fold.

 

Psalm 100:3 “Know that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” God has His people. He has His pasture. He has His field.

 

Go back to Matthew 13. What does Jesus do in His field? Verse 24: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” He plants good seed in His field. What do the good seed represent in this parable? Notice verse 38: “The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.” What do the good seeds represent in this parable? Church members--sons of the kingdom.

 

By way of review, in the first parable, the parable of The Sower, what did Jesus say the good seed represented? We saw this in Luke 8:11—the word of God. In the first parable, the seed was the word of God proclaimed. There it was the word of God said but in the second parable it is the word of God seen. It is the Word of God lived. When the Word of God is within us, it reproduces in our lives as it is written in 2 Corinthians 3:2—“Ye are our epistles known and read by all men.” In God’s field, the Word of God, the Scripture is open and the seed of the Word is planted in Sabbath School, in church, in Bible studies, in prayer meeting, at camp meeting. And the Word of God has light. It is seed that is implanted within a person, in that person’s soil.

 

The term “word of God” not only refers to the Bible, the written book of God, but the term “word of God” also refers to Jesus, the Word of God, the Man of God. The Bible is the word of God written out. Jesus is the Word of God lived out as it is written: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Just as Jesus’ life was the Word of God lived out, our life is to become the Word of God lived out. We are to live the Word we hear. The Word of God is powerful. From nothing, the mighty voice of God can create the universe but the more powerful word of God, more powerful than making a universe is the power of the Word of God in transforming the human person, that “still small voice” that recreates the man in the image of God. Our life is to show the Word of God in the action. The Word of God is seed reproducing the Word of God living and abiding in us.

 

Not just our words, our lives are seeds. Evangelism is not only what you say and how you say it. Evangelism is what you do and how you do it. As Edgar Guest’s well-known poem says, “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day. I’d rather one would walk with me than merely tell the way.”

True Christianity is not shown only by what we say but also by what we do. The measure of the power of the gospel is not what is preached in the pulpit but what is seen in the lives of the parishioner. Am I right?

 

In one of the largest Protestant churches in North America, a research study was conducted ten years ago. This influential mega church was premised on the notion that success was shown by the size of the crowd rather than the depth of the heart transformation. The sermons were designed to give people what community surveys showed they wanted to hear rather than what the Bible says they need to know. But it was found that church members were no different from the community at large. The percentage of divorce, marital infidelity was the same activity in the community at large. The church was not changing the community. It was not changing even its members. The members spent no more time in Bible study or prayer than the community at large did. Politicians measure the strength of their campaign by counting the number of people at their rallies. The gospel message, on the other hand, is not measured by crowds without but Christ within, the hope of glory. And just as seed defines the crevice, will germinate and grow and split a rock or break up a side walk, so the Seed defines access to our hearts, will break up our old lives and change them completely. Since it is Christ who is the Seed of the woman, when we are like Him, we become seed as well. Just as it is written: “If you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed.” The Word of God changes us but it is not an indiscriminate change. A tomato seed produces a tomato plant. A raspberry seed produces a raspberry plant and the Seed of the Word makes Jesus in the life. When we have faith in God’s Word, that Word changes us into the likeness of Jesus. We become good seed that Jesus places in His field. Matthew 13:38—“The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom.” We become “a new creation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17—“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.” Was the New Testament Saul that wreaked havoc on the church the same as the New Testament Paul that built up the church? Before he met Jesus, he was religious. He professed reverence for God’s Word. He was a member of a church but he wreaked havoc on the church.

 

Please turn to 1 Peter 2. We want to understand God’s field where His seeds grow. Look at verse 9: “But you are a chosen generation…” God’s field is made up of the seed He chooses. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people.” His field is His own special people. Look around you. You are with God’s special people—“a peculiar people” the King James says. ESB renders it “a people for His own possession.” The Bible in Basic English translates it “a people given up completely to God.” I like the way the complete Jewish Bible puts it: “a people for God to possess.” This is His field.

 

But notice that God has a specific purpose for His field. Notice how His people are His seed: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people “that you may proclaim… That is evangelism by life and lip “the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.” This is how we become seed as we proclaim the praises of Jesus. His seed is like Jesus: chosen, royalty, priestly, holy, specially possessed by God. He wants this seed to grow and produce fruit. But can plants grow in the dark? What do plants need? They need light and so He calls us out of darkness into His marvellous light, His field, His church in the world. This is evangelism, bringing people into God’s church, His field. These seeds are to reproduce for Jesus. And Jesus said in His final charge: “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” What a wonderful introduction into what Christ’s kingdom on earth is like. It is people from every nation, tribe, tongue and people, “elect from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth; her charter of salvation, one Lord, one faith, one birth; one holy name she blesses, partakes one holy food, and to one hope she presses, with every grace endued.” But that’s not the end of Jesus’ story.

 

Matthew 13 continues in verse 25: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” Remember Jesus is telling His listeners what His kingdom on the earth is like. Remember Christ is explaining why some portions of His field had a thirtyfold yield while other portions had a hundredfold yield. He said that within His field, two different sowers with two different seeds will be planting two different crops. And this is a tale of two evangelists planting two very different seeds within Christ’s field, within Christ’s own church. These seeds will yield not only a crop of wheat, they would also yield a crop of tares because the different seeds will yield a different fruit. But what are tares?  Tares are sometimes referred to as darnel. They are, described in Christ’s Object Lessons, “noxious weeds that, while growing, closely resemble wheat.” Christ’s Object Lessons, page 71. The tares reduce the harvest. They take up soil space. They consume nutrition that is needed by the wheat. They take the labourers’ time and attention and thus, they greatly increase the labour needed for a crop while, at the same time, they greatly diminish the yield of the crop, in some cases, reducing the crop by 70% so that it produces thirtyfold in place of a hundredfold. The fruit that the tares do produce is bitter, poisonous, causes dizziness, nausea and blindness. Who could promote such a thing? The farmer had an enemy. The enemy could not keep the farmer from taking ownership of His field but he could increase the farmer’s labour and decrease his crop yield.

 

Look at verse 25 again: “But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” Did anyone see the tares get planted? Why didn’t they see it? They were sleeping and when the plants sprouted, did anything look unusual? No. If you look at Christ’s field, His church, what would you see? A bumper crop, church growth. Lots of sprouts for telling us a wonderful future crop. The green fields were lush and thick for they not only had the seed that Christ had planted but the seed that Satan had planted as well and if you look over the green field, you could not tell any difference. You might predict a large harvest but the number of sprouts cannot tell you the size of the harvest.

 

Romans 9:27 says “Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel. Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, the remnant will be saved.” Is the church God’s field? Yes, this is His kingdom but growing within the church are two very similar-looking plants but very different plants. One group of seeds planted in the field was selected and placed there by God. Another group was selected and placed within the church by Satan. To outward appearances, the church is one united group, one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But Jesus said that there was really division among them and they are really two groups. One group is daily surrendering all they have and are to Jesus. They are becoming more and more like Him. Another group on the outside look like Christians. They have a form of godliness but not the power of godliness. And day by day, they are becoming less like Jesus. What is the difference between the two groups? To understand the answer to this question, we must first answer another question. We looked at this yesterday but I want us to expand it a little today.

 

Why did Jesus come to this earth? What was the purpose? You remember our series is called “Prepared for the Crisis” and we have been looking at how to prepare for the crisis. The first subject we looked at after our introduction to it was the character of God. Next we looked at the government of God. Yesterday we began our study of the purposes of God. I want us to continue that study today. What did we discover yesterday was the purpose that Jesus came to this earth? He came to seek and to save that which was lost. That was His purpose.

 

Notice 1 John 3. This is so important. 1 John 3:5—“And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins.” Why did Jesus come to this earth? He came to take away our sins. “And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins.”

 

Please turn back to Matthew 1. Joseph was told by the angel Gabriel that he should not hesitate to marry pregnant Mary and with this instruction Joseph was told to name the child Jesus. Notice why in Matthew 1:21—“Thou shalt call His name Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.” Why did Jesus come? What was His purpose? It was to save us. But what does it mean to save us? What is He saving us from? His purpose was to save us from our sins. Why would Joseph name Mary’s child Jesus? He was a Deliverer who would save His people from their sins. What is the difference between His people and those who are not His people? His people He is saving from their sins. Moses was to save God’s people from their bondage to the Egyptians. David was to save God’s people from their bondage to the Philistines. But Jesus was to save and deliver God’s people from the greatest of all bondages, the cruellest of all tyrants. Jesus came to be the Deliverer from sin. His people are those seeds He has chosen to place in His field. Those people are allowing Him to save them from the bondage of their sins. But do the vast majority of people want salvation from sin? They want salvation in sin. That’s what separates the wheat from the tares, the sheep from the goat. Tares may enjoy listening to a good sermon but their lives don’t change. Tares love their sins more than they love their Saviour. They cherish their sins. They enjoy their sins. They don’t see their sins as that bad. They may not even recognize that they have sins that need to be taken away. They want a gospel that removes the consequences of their sins but leave the sins. Though the tares profess to love Jesus, just as Judas did, they cannot truly love Him for those who love Him keep His commandments. Though they might deny even to themselves, they hate the real Jesus because He wants to take away from them that which they love and that they want to keep.                  In time, tares will call evil good and good evil. They refuse to look in the mirror of God’s law so they won’t see that their sins are disfiguring them. They look at their sins and deformities as normal. The gospel that they desire is the gospel that promises the Jesus who will indulge them in their sins while condemning the others in their sins.

 

In the wilderness, the people delivered from Egyptian bondage actually appointed a captain to lead them back into Egyptian bondage. And people still appoint leaders to take them back to Egyptian darkness and slavery, that will indulge them in the sins they love. But the purpose of Jesus’ life is to take away our sins. He was manifested to take away our sins. That was the reason for the mission into this earth. For this cause He left the opulence and splendour of heaven. He left the adoring and obedient angels. He left the constant companionship of His Father. He left the peace, comfort and tranquillity He came down to this dark earth, bringing heaven’s marvellous light with Him. He endured fatigue and hardship. He endured slander and rejection. He endured abuse and cruelty. He endured Gethsemane and Calvary. Why? To deliver us from the bondage of sin. He came to break the sin shackles of the adulterer, the liar, the thief, the gossiper, the addict, the gambler, the covetous. He came to deliver me from the almost overmastering temptations of my besetting sins. “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee. Let the water and the blood, from Thy riven side which flowed, Be of sin the double cure, cleanse me from its guilt and power.” And it is this double cure that we must have and this double cure that only the genuine true gospel can give us. In Christ’s field, His church, His kingdom, there are two groups and everyone here is in one of those two groups. What is within His kingdom? Wheat and wheat look-alikes, the tares. It is illustrated by young people.

 

Notice this quote from Youth’s Instructor, February 1, 1874, an amazing quote: “There are some young people who have Christian parents and have been taught to observe the Sabbath from their childhood. Many of these are affectionate and obedient to their parents and have good principles but they do not give their hearts to God. Some feel that they are almost right because they do not commit out-breaking sins and because they live moral lives. All who live have sins to wash away. They may have good intentions and good purposes. They may have noble traits of character and live moral lives, notwithstanding they need a Saviour. Sleeping parents, sleeping teachers don’t realize that these good kids are lost kids.

 

Although we’re studying two groups, there’s another group we’re not looking at. That’s the open sinner. Tares compare themselves with open sinners and believe they are much different. Tares think they are wheat because they don’t look like the open sinner. But they are not. They are tares. The tare is not the person who openly chooses a life of sin, who is unrepentant to reproof and persistently choose a life of sin in place of a life of holiness. Such are not gospel look-alikes.  To apply Christ’s parable of the tares to such is to misapply the Scripture. The Bible is crystal clear on this. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:11 “But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother who is actually immoral or covetous or an idolator or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even to eat with such a person.” Paul is not here referring to tares. There’s nothing in this list that looks Christian. Those who are openly, persistently, unrepentantly breaking the Ten Commandments are not tares. Paul also instructs in Titus 3:10, 11—“Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped in sinning, being self-condemned” and in Ephesians 5:11—“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

 

2 Corinthians 6:17—“Come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean and I will receive you” but after the end-time church has done its best to follow God’s word and cleanse the camp of the open sinner, will the end-time church still have tares? Yes. Jesus has said so plainly. There are two groups in the purest church—the wheat and the tares. The tares are good people, good kids but they are unconverted, unsurrendered and lost. And Jesus taught this truth over and over using numerous illustrations for the same point. No one needs to wonder about this. Christ used a number of symbols to describe the two parties that would emerge within the end-time church. The wheat and the tares are also referred to as the wise and the foolish virgins. The foolish virgins, the tares, are not hypocrites. Though they were foolish, they were virgins, professing a pure faith. The wise and foolish virgins are indistinguishable until the crisis. The wheat and the tares are the wise and the foolish builders that look the same until the crisis, the storm. The wheat and the tares are the wise and the foolish servants, the wedding guests with or without the wedding garment, the sheep and the goats, the true and the false prophets or teachers that Jesus warned of in Matthew 7. And there are others. Each of these different descriptions emphasize different aspects of the same two groups within the end-time church. A tare is outwardly a Christian. Though Judas appeared to be a Christian, what was he really? A tare! Though the rich young ruler looked like an outstanding member of his community and church, what was he? A tare! Though Simon Magus was baptized, he was exposed as a tare. The Siamese twins of wheat and tare cannot be safely separated by any surgeon, no matter his skill. It is the final message and crisis it produces that separates the two groups and make their difference apparent for the final harvest.

 

Jesus continued in Matthew 13:26—“But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appear.” You see, it’s by their fruit you will know them. And the fruit is displayed at the harvest. What exposed the tares? Not their leaves—that’s their profession. It was their fruit. The tares have been in the field all along. They blended in and they appear to have a zeal but the fruit reveal the plant.

 

Special Testimonies, number 11, page 10 “Under the zeal of Satan, some have for a time, the appearance of men in a flourishing condition but it is only for a season. Sooner or later, evil thoughts are partially revealed by evil action. The servants of Christ went from being excited by the rich harvest they expected to being confused by a recognition of the tares.

 

Notice verse 27 of Matthew 13: “So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then, does it have tares?” Why didn’t the servants of the owner know how the tares were planted? Verse 25 tells us that they were sleeping! It happened on their watch but they were asleep and did not see it. They were watchmen and did not watch. They did not stop them when they could have.

 

Now, I would have told the story differently if I were Jesus. This would have been my statement to them, “You worthless servants. You were at fault. You were sleeping.” But is this what Jesus does? No! Gentle Saviour, precious Friend, tactful Teacher! He said to them, “An enemy has done this.” Oh to learn to be like Jesus. The enemy works in the dark, unseen while watchmen sleep.

 

What does it mean to sleep? Mark 14:37-38—“Then He came and found them sleeping and said to Peter, Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.” In the sign language of the Bible, to sleep is to fail to watch and pray. In our unguarded, inattentive moments, like unexpected method, error is implanted in our hearts without our even realizing it. We succumb to sudden, unexpected temptations. As leaders, whether we are elders, teachers or parents, can we be asleep?

 

Notice this statement from Manuscript 128A, 1903—“Every Christian is a standard bearer of righteous principles. Let there be no lowering of the standard, no countenancing of wrong movements. It was while men slept that tares were sown among the wheat. It is the unwatchful, sleeping condition of God’s servants that implicate them with their associates and guilt. The only safe and righteous way to escape being an unfaithful watchman is to watch and not to allow to continue the evils that can be checked. To sustain by silence a work that God cannot approve is to abet Satan’s work. This results in the loss of souls. No one should be at ease until he has done all that is possible for him to do to counterwork evil. The parent, teacher, elder or pastor that fails to rebuke sin and warn of its consequences is sleeping.”

 

In meditating on this topic of sleeping, I made enough notes for a sermon, just on sleeping, how we as members sleep and lose our blessing, how we as parents sleep and lose our children, how we as teachers sleep and lose our students, how we as elders or pastors sleep and lose our churches.  Like Jonah, like the ten virgins, like the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration and again at Gethsemane, we have all been sleeping.

 

No wonder Paul urges us in 1 Thessalonians 5:6 “Let us not sleep as other do but let us watch and be sober.” It is a fact that we have all been sleeping and as the sure result of our inattention and negligence, there are tares in our hearts, there are tares in our homes, there are tares in our schools and there are tares in our church.

 

What should we do as we see tares among wheat? Perhaps the most encouraging part of the parable is next. Verse 28: “The servant said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  Verse 29: “But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares, you also uproot the wheat with them.” Did you see the value of one blade of wheat? Jesus is not willing to lose one. You and I are important to God. It is for our sakes that the tares remain. Why are there tares in the church? Because Jesus loves me and if the tares were uprooted, I might leave the church. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some men count slackness but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

 

We should not miss how carefully God fights wars. He is precise. He does not want any collateral damage. He does not desire indiscriminate bombing. He is not willing to lose one soul. To this end He gives instruction to His servant, ‘Let both grow together until the harvest and at the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, ‘First, gather the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into My barn.”

 

Later, with the disciples, Jesus explained that in this parable, verse 39, “the reapers are the angels. Therefore, as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of this age. The Son of Man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness.” There will come a time when the angels will separate the tares and the wheat. And those that are offensive, those who practice lawlessness will be gathered out of His kingdom.

 

How do these angels gather all the tares out of the church? This is explained in Revelation 14:6-14 with the gospel message of the three angels followed by the reaping in verse 14. It is the three angels’ message that God designed to clear the church of tares. Which group receive the seal of God—the wheat or the tares? The wheat. Which group receive the mark of the beast—the wheat or the tares? The tares. Is the clueless multitude around us aware of the danger of receiving the mark of the beast?  No. But does Christ’s parable of the tares warn us that there are some dangers within the church and some within the church that are just as clueless about their danger of receiving the mark of the beast? Yes. Are there two groups within the church, one group that will receive the seal of God and the other that will receive the mark of the beast? Yes, indeed. There will be a great separator between the wheat and the tares.

 

Notice this in Early Writings, page 118, very fascinating: “I then saw the third angel. Said my accompanying angel: “Fearful is his work (he is talking about the third angel of Revelation 14), awful is his mission. He is the angel that is to select the wheat from the tares and seal or bind the wheat for the heavenly garner. These things that engross the whole mind, the whole attention.” Isn’t that interesting? When Jesus said that it was the angels that did the separating, what was he referring to? The three angels, particularly the third angel. That message that is warning against receiving the mark of the beast. While this message must be given to the world in general, it is a specific warning to church members. This evangelistic message, this warning, must be given to the church. By my response to the third angel, I am being bundled. When will the tares be revealed? When will the tares be separated from the wheat?

 

A year and a half ago, I sat for my re-certifying exam for dermatology board. Some of the questions were easy, not many. Some of the questions were hard, and some of the questions were very, very hard.  Please listen carefully to a sentence in The Great Controversy, page 608 because I am going to ask you several questions. One of them will be hard. Here’s the sentence: “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition.” Do the tares profess faith in the third angel’s message? Yes. Do tares obey the truth and in the process become sanctified? No. Is there a large class within the church who are tares? Yes. Who abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition—the wheat or the tares? The tares. Now are you ready for the hard question? Do the majority of tares stay in the church until they are persecuted? No. The majority of tares leave at the threat of persecution. Read the sentence again. Think of it. The Lord has provided a shelter in the time of storm like Noah’s ark in the Flood. He has provided a safe position to occupy—the only place of safety—the church. But the tares don’t recognize it. They leave the only place that will help them survive and they will be lost in the storm. The Desire of Ages, page 599: “Many persons are, by their own endeavour, hewn, polished and beautified but they cannot become living stones because they are not connected with Christ. Without this connection, no man can be saved. Without the life of Christ in us, we cannot withstand the storms of temptation.”

 

Return to the book The Great Controversy. I want to read another sentence two pages before the sentence on people leaving the church as the storm is seen to be approaching. As the tares are leaving the church by the approaching storm, the threat of persecution, notice what else is happening. This is page 606: “As the question of enforcing Sunday observance is widely agitated, the event so long doubted and disbelieved, is seen to be approaching. And the third angel’s message will produce an effect which it could not have had before.” Two responses to the storm that is approaching: the tares depart while the wheat come into the fold of safety.

 

Letter 36A, 1890: “Many souls will come from other denominational churches and at the eleventh hour, they will obey all the truth. Because they have not set themselves in array against Heaven’s light but lived up to all the light they had. While those who have had great light, large privileges and opportunities and have failed to live in the light and walk in the light, will drop out by the way.”

 

Did you ever notice that people from England talk with an English accent? People from Australia speak with an Australian accent. Have you watched people and noticed that people from South Africa dress like South Africans? Have you eaten in Mexico and noted that Mexicans like Mexican food while Chinese like Chinese food? They speak like they do; they dress like they dress; they eat like they eat because of the influences that is around them. If we follow the influence of the world around us, we will be like the world. I can tell you what is influencing the people I see daily. I have employed 17 people in my office and all day long, I hear them talk of this movie or that movie. I almost never hear a word of this Scripture or that Scripture. These are good people and not SDAs, but it’s easy to have an empty name of Christianity, a mere form with no power to change the life.

 

Perhaps you saw the news report some months ago. The presidential candidate being given a helicopter tour of the Mexican drug cartel scout location in Southern Arizona. During the flight, the county sheriff led out in a briefing of the candidate. The sheriff explained that the territories 70 miles from the Arizona border within 30 miles of Phoenix was no longer under the control of either the State or the Federal Government. Drug barons control the entire area and you would enter at your own peril. You might ask, “How could the federal government allow such a state of affairs? How could this happen that their own government does not have control of its own territory? But there’s a much more important question to ask. Does the enemy have footholds into your life? Are there areas in your life, habits in your life that are outside of God’s control, outside of your control? Are you ever impatient? Are you ever intemperate? Do you have the slightest dishonesty or impurity? Is there unfaithfulness in tithe and Sabbath observance?  God’s federal government demands control of all. The strongholds we leave for Satan to control will ultimately gain control of us. God wants to secure our borders. He has given us His fence, the law of God. What is the difference between the wheat and the tare? The tare allows little encroachment, little sin, little neglect of known duty to remain in their lives. The tare withholds his all from Jesus.

 

Acts of the Apostles, page 424: “What the hands may do or the tongue may utter, what the outer life reveals but imperfectly shows man’s moral character. The law searches his thoughts, motives and purposes. The dark passions that lie hidden from the sight of men, jealousy, hatred, lust and ambition, the evil deeds meditated upon in the dark recesses of the soul, yet never executed for want of opportunity, all these God’s law condemns. God wants to purify us and sanctify us by obedience to the truth.”

 

Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts. Let him return to the Lord that He may have compassion on him and to our God for He will abundantly pardon.” And I thank God, in all these He promises victory. Do you want to have Jesus Lord of all of your life? Do you want to be saved from your sin? If this is your desire, would you just stand right now as we pray? Dear Father, we are grateful that You want to be King of our lives. King of our life, we crown You now. We want to forsake our evil thoughts, to have the mind of Jesus—love, compassion. Lord, today, I realize again my need of You. How easy it is to speak in public. Lord, I want to live every moment of my life as You have. We all confess our weakness, Lord and we cling to Jesus. We are grateful that He is the Saviour. He loves us. And we still have this opportunity. Take us now. Use us today in Your service as we are with our families and others here at camp meeting. Make us witnesses right now for You, showing the glory of the Lord. In Christ’s name, Amen.

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