Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Tare Police


There is something disturbing that I’ve noticed more and more in the church in America. I hear it in person or on TV, I read it on internet blogs and websites, and I see articles on it in magazines.

More and more, Christians are declaring that other Christians are unsaved or unregenerate.

Some Calvinists think that Arminians aren’t saved. Some Arminians think that Calvinists aren’t saved. Some non-Charismatics think Charismatics aren’t saved and some Charismatics think non-Charismatics aren’t saved. Some fundamentalists think Reformed folks are unsaved, and some Reformed folks think fundamentalists are unsaved. Some think Emergent church folks are unsaved, and some think New Perspective folks are unsaved. Some think Southern Baptists are mostly unregenerate, and some think the Methodists are all unsaved liberals.

Need I go on to the Protestants and Catholics, the Covenant Theology guys, The Dispensationalists, the New Covenant Theology guys, the Auburn Theology guys, the Open Theism guys, or those who commit some horrible public sin?

And some will say that those who think they have all the truth and that everybody else is suspect in their salvation are the unsaved ones, because they don’t accept everybody.

Now if you are not even aware of these various distinctions and you just love everybody, God bless you. But some will think you are thereby just plain undiscerning and so you couldn’t be saved.

O.K., I know all this sounds a little sarcastic.

And I know that discernment is good. I know that being Bereans who read and study our Bibles is good. And seeking to have accurate doctrine is good. And admonishing and correcting one another is good. And desiring the truth is good. And opposing error is good.

And I know that there will be tares among the wheat, wolves among the sheep. But in the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants ask the owner if they should separate the tares and gather them up. His answer?

"No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" -Matthew 13:29,30

What is Jesus getting at here? Why shouldn’t we search out the tares and pull the little rascals out?

Well, you probably know that tares were a plant that looked like wheat. In fact it looked so much like wheat that you couldn’t be sure which was which until the very end of its maturity. You might think you saw a tare, but then you couldn’t be too sure. Or you might think you saw wheat, but then it turned out to be a tare in the end.

Notice some things here that Jesus thinks are important:

1. It’s the Enemy that sows the seeds of the tares.

The Bible calls false teaching "doctrines of demons", but they can be very subtle. And sometimes real sheep, real wheat, can pass on bad teaching that they learned from other sheep passing on bad teaching. So there is definitely some evil going on with this tare thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s always detectable who the tares are.

2. If you attempt to tear up the tares, the wheat may be harmed.

Look at the care that Jesus has for His children. He would rather have the tares growing up in the visible church, than to cause harm to His brethren.

Don’t let that slide by. If you think you hate bad doctrine, God hates it worse. If you think you love truth, Jesus is the Truth. Yet He would prefer that hypocrites, unbelievers, unregenerate be left hiding in the church, than to do anything that would cause spiritual harm to His people.

This brings to my mind two verses:
1. Matthew 16:18, Jesus said, …"I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it." We don't have to worry that God's plan will fail because we don't identify every tare that comes along.

2. Rom. 8:28, God causes all things to work together for good to those who love him, and are the called according to His purpose. This includes working together for good the presence of tares among the wheat. It's not that it's good...but God will work it for good.

So how shall we deal with the tares?

Didn’t Paul the Apostle and others declare some people unsaved? Didn’t they rout out the false teachers and declare curses of anathema on them?

Yes. But they also did miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead, and did other authenticating signs of their apostleship. The apostles at times had insights into the human heart that can only be seen as a spiritual gift. But this is not promised to all of us. When Peter tells a local prophet that he is in the gall of bitterness, referring to his lost state, or when Paul or Jude identify a false teacher as one destined for the lake of fire, they are exercising a gift of direct revelation from God. We can’t presume to have the same gift.

We may have an opinion that we keep to ourselves. We may even exercise church discipline on a church member who is unrepentant of some public ongoing sin, and "treat him as if he were an unbeliever", but even then we can’t declare him to be an unbeliever.

Let’s love the people Jesus loves, so much that we are unwilling to hurt them by trying to sort out the sheep and the goats. Let’s love the brethren so much that even in our correction, we give the benefit of the doubt.

We will make mistakes. But we need to err in the direction of love and acceptance for even the weak or misguided sheep. And we need to err in the direction of encouraging the sheep that we may even privately think are not sheep. And if they prove to be sheep after all, we will have done a great service to the Kingdom of God. And if they prove in the end to not be sheep, we will have honored our Lord who said not to tear up the tares. Leave that to the harvesters at the end of the age.

And finally, we may have encouraged or admonished or corrected one who was not yet a sheep. But through God’s grace, our love and encouragement and teaching, one day they truly believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Let’s not be tare police. Let’s not let the failings of church folks steal our fruit of the Spirit. Our love, or joy, or peace, or patience, or kindness, or goodness, or meekness, or faithfulness or self-control.

Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.

16 comments:

Terry Rayburn said...

Brian,

Please email me your phone number. I would like to give you a call.

Blessings,
Terry

Donny Prater said...

Terry, I've heard these arguments about other doctrines as well and they are very discouraging. All I know is that if your name is written in Lamb's Book of Life, the only book that matters, you're in the club. Thanks, Donny

Terry Rayburn said...

Donny,

Good point :)
Thanks.

Blessings,
Terry

Anonymous said...

Love!? What Do You Know of Love! What Do You People Know of The Unsaved Loved Ones!? Everything in Your Article About Us iz a Lie and Untrue for You Speak Not From Experience! We Have No Love for the World in Our Hearts nor Do We Wish for It but Spend Our Days and Nights Serving Mankind and Not One of You Make the Effort to Make Our Hearts Smile, We Are Only Unsaved Because Not One of You Makes the Effort to Know Your-Selves - And Not One of You Knows MY Father - Who iz M0*H-M-D!?

Dennis Thurman said...

Good post brother. I guess this is one of the reasons I have been reluctant to require a class for new members rather than make it a qualification. Yes, it might keep out some tares, but it also might prevent some young wheat being rooted. I'm not judging those who do, just sharing why I've not taken that step. Appreciate this.

Cheryl Kaster said...

Aloha Terry,

Boy was this timely. I have recently experienced some of this anti-this and anti-that, in fact, have fallen into some of it myself, until recently I had some of it coming back at me and God graciously allowed me to see how ugly it is and how much He hates it.

How do we get so far off track? My thoughts are that early in our Christian lives we somehow get our focus off of becoming like Christ and onto all sorts of other things, like "ministry," etc., failing to realize the truth of 1 Corinthians 13, that if we are not doing what we do out of the love that God by His grace will put into our hearts, then the good we think we are doing is really hay, wood and stubble, destined eventually for the fire while we, ourselves will be spared.

The good news continues to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the work He has done and is continuing to do. May we find our joy in Him and not in the false idols we (my self being chief idol worshipper) grow so comfortable with that we don't even recognize theyare there.

God bless you and your family,

Cheryl

Terry Rayburn said...

Well said, Cheryl. Thanks.

Terry Rayburn said...

Thanks, Dennis.

I see your point about the class. I see the class as just "discipleship", so I wouldn't personally require it for so-called formal membership.

Ed M said...

Terry,

Here is one passage on how we should biblically handle wolves.

Romans 16:
17I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles(I) contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught;(J) avoid them. 18For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but(K) their own appetites,[f] and(L) by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19For(M) your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you(N) to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20(O) The God of peace(P) will soon crush Satan under your feet.(Q) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Identify them and stay away, that is Paul's teaching on the subject. IE stay away from Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen... and the like.

Here's is a exposition of this passage.
http://bible.org/seriespage/watching-out-wolves-romans-1617-27

Grace and Peace,
Ed M.

Terry Rayburn said...

Ed M,

I agree, particularly in the case of those you specifically mention.

Would you agree, however, that we are not in a position to declare them unsaved?

Ed M said...

Terry,

Depends on the situation. I'll base my argument on this. In order to be a Christian you must repent and believe the Gospel.

Here are 2 situations and how I'd look at both.

1.
(Actually happened a couple weeks ago)
I was witnessing to my boss and during the conversation he made the statement that he'd consider himself a Christian because he holds/values Christian values. But he also states that he doesn't believe the gospel or everything that is stated in the bible.

I consider him to be unsaved. It doesn't matter that he claims to be a Christian, he doesn't believe the gospel.

2.
Now in the case of Arminians/Calvin or Catholics/Protestants or Charismatics/Non-Charismatics, I wouldn't hold such a dogmatic stance. If they tell me they've repented and believe the Gospel, I am not going to declare them unsaved over certain theological disputes.

Well maybe 3 examples.
3.
But I believe there is a different between the likes of a Arminians(I subscribe to the Calvinist side of the arguement) and someone like Creflo Dollar. He preaches ANOTHER gospel which he obviously believes. Or Osteen who admits that Jesus is not the only way, ANOTHER gospel.

This is not the Gospel and I personally cannot call them brothers in Christ. If I am wrong I pray God corrects me. But from what I read in scripture it is quite possible to identify wolves which are very different than "mis-guided sheep".

Question for you, would you consider Mormans or Jehovah's Witness's to be saved?

Ed

Terry Rayburn said...

"Question for you, would you consider Mormans or Jehovah's Witness's to be saved?"

I would certainly have no confidence that they are saved, and they certainly could not be saved on the basis of their false religions.

But my understanding of Scripture and my experience is this:

Someone MIGHT truly believe the true Gospel, truly repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and THEN be led into various false doctrines.

At that point, they may be indistinguishable from an unregenerate person.

They may need to be called to repentance for their false teaching, and if they fail to repent they would biblically TREATED AS an unbeliever, but the actual state of their heart cannot be known for certain.

I believe that is why Jesus said not to seek to tear up the tares, since that might hurt the true believers.

Ed M said...

Someone MIGHT truly believe the true Gospel, truly repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and THEN be led into various false doctrines.

This I agree with.

I would certainly have no confidence that they are saved, and they certainly could not be saved on the basis of their false religions.

I asked the Mormans / Jehovah's witness question because I don't see them any different from the likes of a Creflo Dollar. Morman's use the bible and another book, JW's use a pseudo bible and they both call themselves Christians but they believe and spread and false gospel/religion.

Creflo Dollar boils my blood. He twist scripture, adds verses to the bible and the list goes on and on.

Ed

Terry Rayburn said...

Ed M,

Agreed. The love of money (with a little sociopath power hunger thrown in) is the root of all kinds of preacher evil.

Thanks.

Blessings,
Terry

theoutlet said...

Terry, thank you for a great article. I have recently been a recipient of this issue and was disfellowshipped from my church. I am now shunned by the church community because the pastor felt that I exhibited fear and therefore didn't trust God and didn't submit to his leadership. I was told he doesn't believe I am a Christian. I even asked the pastor directly to help me become a Christian if I wasn't one because it was the most important thing to me and he said he didn't have time and couldn't help. Not only did he try to take my faith from me, if he had been right and I was an unbeliever he just turned someone away who was seeking to enter God's kingdom.

After 25 years as a believer and having my faith be the most important thing in my life the accusations have been devastating, and the break in relationship with my church and all my friends has caused a great deal of pain and disunity. Despite everything I have tried to reconcile, restore, forgive, love, make restitution, seek answers, submit to any direction and guidance they would provide, etc. ....the pastor and elders will not communicate, forgive or work to reconcile and they continue to leave the relationships broken and untruth spoken. I love this pastor and truly see him as a brother in Christ that I will never leave and abandon, but I do not believe he understands some of God's most basic teachings about love, grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He is causing disunity and damage to God's family and hurting others and as a fellow believer I would never throw him out of the church or seek to hurt him or others but I think there is a point where we need to address wrong behaviors and ask those who are causing damage and disunity to stop their behaviors and change. It is my prayer that God changes his heart and life and that those under his leadership are sheep that follow God instead of being led astray by this shepherd who needs some guidance, counsel, and accountability to get back on track.

Terry Rayburn said...

theoutlet,

So sorry to hear of your sad situation. And yet sometimes these things are what clarifies our thinking, and eventually opens the eyes of others.

Keep walking closely with Jesus in His Grace. Christ IN you, the hope of glory. He will never fail us, as men sometimes do.

Always always forgive.

Thanks for the note.

Blessings,
Terry