Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43.
Today’s Gospel reading was from Matthew chapter 13. This Gospel was the third to be written, around AD85, the first was Mark, second was Luke.
The author is the Apostle Matthew, also known as Levi; who was the tax collector, called down out of the tree by our Lord Jesus to come and be His disciple. Although it was the third Gospel to be written it is placed first in the New Testament. This is probably because Matthew, being a Jew uses the Old Testament a lot and therefore this Gospel provides a better link between the two Testaments than Mark and Luke, who were both Gentiles.
Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel is about the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew uses the term Kingdom of heaven while Mark and Luke use the term Kingdom of God. This is almost certainly because as a Jew Matthew would always avoid using the name of God just in-case he accidently blasphemed.
Last week we heard the parable of the sower and the seed and we learned about the importance of how we hear and keep the message of salvation fixed firmly in the center of our hearts. We study the bible to help us comprehend the message; we stay true through thick and thin; we turn our back upon the world towards God. We make ourselves the good seed in the good soil.
This week we have heard Christ’s parable about how the seeds in the good soil will grow in this present age. We hear from Christ that our enemy will plant his own seeds among us; but these will not be seeds of wheat but seeds of tares, or darnel, a weed that looks like wheat. But we should pay close attention to what the sower decides to do. He doesn’t go into the field and start to pull up the weeds straight away, because he knows that he will damage or uproot some of the good seed. He waits until the wheat and the weed are fully grown and strong then he sends in the reapers, who are God’s angels, to pluck up the weeds first. These weeds are then to be gathered together into bundles and thrown into the fire that never goes out, to be destroyed, burnt up, returned to ashes. Only then will the good wheat be harvested and brought into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Christ on the Cross has carried out His part of the plan. The seed has been sown. The growing part is our part of the bargain. Not as easy as it looks. Certainly not something we can do alone. We are the good seed that the sower, who is The Christ, has sown. Or at least we’re trying to be.
But we’re not out of the woods yet. We are growing up amongst the crop
of our enemy; an enemy who never stops trying to destroy us; an enemy who prowls around us, like a hungry lion, seeking to devour us. We are God’s paratroopers; living and fighting behind enemy lines, surrounded by the enemy; an enemy whose favourite weapon is whispering his lies into our minds hoping to lead us astray.
These are the lies I particularly struggle with :
“You’re not good enough, or you don’t do enough, to deserve God’s Grace”
Ephesians 2:8-9. We don’t deserve God’s grace. We are GIVEN it freely and without condition because of our Lord Jesus’ once and for all perfect sacrifice upon the Cross.
“Do you really need to spend so much time praying”?
Luke 11:10. The real question we should ask is am I praying enough?
“Why don’t you leave that until tomorrow or next week”?
Matthew 24:36-39. Get it done.
“God doesn’t really love you; you know; because of all the bad things you’ve thought, said and done”.
1 John 1:8-10. We all sin. It’s in the very air we breathe. But we have the assurance that if we accept and confess, we are sinners and we have sinned then God will forgive our sins and dismiss our lawlessness and continuously cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
In effect we are the servants of the Most High God who is Love and is ever loving. Or to put it in everyday parlance we actually work for far and away the best boss in the universe bar none. It doesn’t matter how bad we are at our job He will never sack us; we can only quit. But he is also upright and righteous and you cannot be righteous without being angered by sin.
God’s wrath is also an integral part of the deal. We go back to the final verses of today’s Gospel reading 41-43. So, fear the Lord, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And get wisdom by studying the Bible; the Word of God
How do we combat these voices, these temptations? Well we read, and hopefully study, the bible as a good first step. But we should always be aware that this is only the first step. The Bible is our best source of wisdom for this struggle. If we study the bible then we are better prepared to resist temptations and fight those battles when we can’t. Never forget the best fights are the ones you never have, you can’t lose those, so study the bible whenever you can to help you resist those temptations and avoid the struggles they lead to.
But how do we advance? How do we improve our situation? Prayer! Prayer is absolutely vital. Not the quality of our prayer. Never think that. That is another fallacy our enemy would love you to believe. Remember who we are talking to when we pray. There are 7.8 billion humans in this world and God understands us all better than we understand ourselves.
7.8 billion and God understands us all. Probably one of the most powerful prayer habits you can cultivate is to simply use the Lord’s prayer as often as you feel it right to do so and just trust that God knows you better than you know yourself and knows what you need better right then than you do.
But prayer is the foundation of your relationship with God. If you’re coming to church and reading the bible but not praying regularly then your relationship with God your heavenly father is one where you never visit for a chat, despite the fact he lives right next door, but you phone now and then to congratulate him on what a great book he wrote.
Be persistent. God’s delays in answering our prayers are not through indifference but to a love for us that desires to develop and deepen our faith. God wants us to keep on praying because he knows that when we pray, we are getting our thoughts straight in order to get our prayers straight. Remember Our Lord Jesus has told us plainly “Keep on asking and it will be given you. Keep on seeking and you will find. Keep on knocking [reverently] and the door will be opened.
Be humble and penitent. Christ insists upon humility and penitence in our prayers, and warns us against a sense of self-importance. Honest humility in our prayers means acceptance with God. Say thank you; say sorry.
It shows that we are fully aware of the fact that we are talking to God, maker of Heaven and Earth and all that is seen and unseen; and God is listening. If we fall into the trap of believing that the problem has been solved because it is us doing the praying then we are in effect hiding God’s face; we’re actually only talking to ourselves. Try to think of it like this, God is the water and we are merely the tap. When we give thanks, it should be like when we pay our water bills; we make the cheque out to the water company not the tap.
Pray in groups. If a group of Christians, who have the mind of Christ, who are honestly trying their best to think and act as Christ has required of us, pray in the Holy Spirit then their prayers will be effectual, even if they have trouble seeing it.
Mean it, believe in it. If you pray like it’s an experiment then don’t be surprised if God doesn’t take you seriously. How many of us would listen to someone who is asking us for something they obviously don’t even think they deserve or as if they don’t really think we’re there? Try to think of it like this. How do you feel about having an important conversation with someone who just won’t look you in the eye? Try and remember that when we pray, we are talking to the one true God.
I firmly believe this to be one of the greatest gifts our God has given us. Keep it simple, do it often and well. But most importantly keep it as frequent as you can and never ever, ever, give up, because God loves it when we visit for a chat and will reward prayer properly offered, not always in the way we expect, not always straight away, but always in the way we need it the most. Amen.