I am sure we have all seen the popular antiques-oriented TV Show called “Pawn Stars” that features a pawn shop / antiques store in Las Vegas. Or perhaps you’ve seen another, less dramatic program called “Antiques Road Show.” On both occasions, ordinary people are bringing antique items for professional evaluation, and hopefully for a big payday. An expert examines the items carefully for genuine authenticity. Within this industry are many fakes and reproductions, things that appear to be genuine but are in fact rather worthless by comparison to the real deal.
We need to understand that there is a great deal of counterfeit around us in the world of faith and religion – involving people, teachings, movements, and energies, etc. And whereas the counterfeit is not going to be rooted out from amongst us until the very end, we can look, learn, and evaluate what is true and what is fake.
As we have noted about the parable of the wheat and weeds, the story is not complicated. But what does this teaching mean for us today? I think the major challenge for us, as it has been throughout this series, is to ask yourself if you are truly rooted in the right soil of God’s Word and truth. And beyond that, how deep are your roots, how well are you being nourished through those roots, and are you seeing an increasing display of fruit (proof of true life in Christ) through your life?
Satan is the master deceiver. The entire problem of sin originated when evil slithered into the garden and fooled one of the original parents of the human race, and we’ve been paying for that ever since – with the ultimate debt of that wrong only being able to be paid by someone else, in whom we trust as the core message of the gospel.
But in terms of the “enemy” in the story – the Devil – let’s think of some of the things that Satan has replicated and counterfeited over the years. What are these tares among the wheat?
Counterfeit Plan and Vision for the World – Satan has had quite a long career, from leading a revolt of one-third of the angels in eternity past against God … to the Garden of Eden … to Pharaoh trying to kill the Jews … to Herod seeking the Christ-child … to the temptations of Jesus … to thousands of other incidents down to our own day. He is the ruler of another kingdom that is doomed in the end, but he fights with an intensity even beyond ISIS.
Counterfeit Religious Workers – Paul wrote about his ministry challenges in 2 Corinthians 11:26, saying … I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. These false believers and teachers were pretty much everywhere he went and in every church – tares among the wheat.
Counterfeit Gospel Message – In Galatians 1:6-8 Paul wrote to the readers about their declension from the truth: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! This was not another gospel of the same type, but another categorically different gospel message with no authenticity at all. There have been false gospel messages that distort the truth pretty much right from the beginning of the Christian era. And they are rampant in our day.
Counterfeit Righteousness – The entire book of Romans essentially argues for a righteousness in Christ versus a righteousness that is a natural sense of obligation arising from guilt – fed by the Evil One. This promotes the sense that you have to work and earn it on your own, by your goodness and deeds, to make it to God. This is another gospel.
Counterfeit Church – These have existed practically from the beginning, having some marks and symbols and statements that speak of the truth, but that at the end of the day preach a message totally the opposite of the truth. And a worldwide counterfeit church arises in the end times, being under the False Prophet who draws the attention of the world to worship the Beast, the Anti-Christ. And speaking of that fellow …
Counterfeit Christ at the End of Time – We live in scary times. We wonder and speculate how events play into last times narratives – stuff like the European Union / Worldwide financial crises / the rise of terror worldwide / even this past week – events in Nice, France and the political fallout from instability in Turkey… related to that country’s critical place in the world, associations with Russia and their leadership’s affinity toward radical Islam, etc.
So it is frustrating to have to live and grow in the context of so many weeds that choke out the message and advance of God’s Kingdom, even as we seek to be faithful in the clutter and confusion of it all. But it won’t always be this way, and that is the big idea. There is a harvest in the end and a judgment that ensues.
We cannot fix the world around us. God may use us and our testimony and service to convert some of the nearby weeds – God is able to do stuff like that and change their entire DNA from a weed to a wheat, right down to the roots and seeds. It really is new life when that happens. But our main responsibility is not to fix the world, but to remain faithful in the midst of the diversity and competing values systems. Be rooted!