ďTEARS, TARES & TESTIMONIESĒ
No one would question that the Apostle Paul was always very careful in his dealings with lost souls. I would suspect a more thorough and cautious personal soul winner has never lived. However, no matter how careful Paul was, no matter how cautious, there have always been, even in his own experiences, unsaved people who succeed in posing as believers in Jesus Christ. These are people with false hopes and also people who are not entertaining false hopes, but who are perfectly aware they are not believers in Jesus Christ. There can be no doubt, for example, that Paul was aware of the man named Simon Magus, who is referred to in Acts 8.9-24, who was discovered by the Apostle Peter to be a counterfeit Christian. Certainly, he was also familiar with the case of Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Savior for thirty pieces of silver. The Corinthian fornicator was another example of an unsaved church member, First Corinthians 5.1-5. Even before his own experiences with his coworker Demas had come to light, Paul had warned the Ephesian elders of dangerous men who would come, Acts 20.28-30:
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
30 Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.
Here at Calvary Road Baptist Church we, too, have experienced enemies of the cross of Christ and their efforts to destroy our church and her gospel witness in the San Gabriel Valley. Thankfully, over time, and with attention to certain surprisingly obvious details, we have been relatively free from all but the most occasional disruptions over the past few years. I mention these things so you will understand that none of this is new, my friends. The issues that Paul raises with the Philippians is disconcerting, and can be very disruptive and discouraging. Recognize, if you will, that this is just a part of the Christian warfare. However, it is a part of the warfare that must not be taken lightly. Souls are in the balance.
Our text for this message from Godís Word is Philippians 3.18-19:
18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)
Three points to consider:
First, THE TRAGEDY THAT CAUSED PAUL TO WEEP
Paul was a man who acknowledged and delighted in Godís sovereignty. However, recognizing that God is sovereign in His dealings with men does not negate the personal feelings and concerns that a child of God has for the welfare of other individuals. Paul was a man who was moved, who was touched, who felt compassion, and who wept. We should ask ourselves, why did Paul weep as he wrote this portion of the Philippian letter? Allow me to venture an educated guess. And as I venture an educated guess, we might ask ourselves if what moved Paul to tears has the same effect on each of us. If not, why not? Some things ought to break the hearts of Christians.
First, Paul wept over the fact that so many are lost. There is a whole world out there, dying and going to Hell. The Bible is very clear in its declaration that their punishment will be eternal. That sobering truth ought to have an impact on your life. It affected such men as Paul, and Adoniram Judson, and Hudson Taylor, and C. T. Studd, and William Carey. It should also affect you. To be sure, much of your service to Christ and efforts to reach the lost will connect you with strangers and those you have only a passing relationship with. However, some are family. Others are very close friends and loved ones. Still others are those you have taken a special interest in. Unless you are a very unusual Christian, the sheer enormity of their hopelessness and their numbers can at times be overwhelming, driving you to understandable tears.
However, thatís not all. Paul also wept, in my opinion, because he knew that so many Christians are lost. I donít know if you are saved or not. How can I know, for sure, that you are saved when Paul did not know for sure that Demas was saved, and then it turned out that he likely was not? God does give to us in His Word the means to detect and discern to some degree of confidence whether a person is lost or saved, but never absolutely, never certainly. I think there were times when Paul was overcome by the fact that so many Christians proved themselves over time to be lost. I think he wept brokenhearted tears over the wickedness and depravity of sinful man, even those who claimed to be blood washed and blood bought Christians. You invest valuable time and resources, you focus your attention and your prayers on specific individuals. It seems there is a breakthrough, and a profession of faith follows. Then, down the line, it seems that once more all is lost with that precious soul, so you fall on your bed and you cry and pray to God. This is the life of one who bears fruit.
Finally, I think Paul wept because so many so-called Christians are enemies of the cross of Christ. Okay, so a guy has convinced the preacher that he is saved and he isnít. The preacher is now fooled by the guy. Okay. It is possible. It happened in Samaria with Philip and in Corinth. Why, then, must that fellow proceed to undermine and weaken the ministry of reaching others who are lost? Why must he undercut the pastor? Why must he act like a termite in the wood, gnawing away until there is no strength remaining? Why, when he leaves (because such people always leave, eventually), canít he just leave quietly? He doesnít have to be an enemy of the cross of Christ just because he rejects the Savior. But no, he has to evangelize. He has to try to take people with him. And he has to go elsewhere to subvert solid ministries wherever he goes. If he is not in the ministry, he transfers to this church and then to that church, always undercutting and undermining. If he is in the ministry, he is always about the business of stealing sheep from other churches rather than reaching new converts himself. This wickedness of being an outright enemy of the cross of Christ would also get to the Apostle Paul and break his heart. Paul didnít weep for himself, you understand. No. He wept for those souls whose opportunity to hear a clear and uncontaminated presentation of the gospel would be forever denied by the enemies of the cross of Christ. A Christian just wants to peacefully live his life in his church, and reach out to the lost without causing anyone any trouble. But no, the enemy of the cross of Christ has to disrupt, has to cause a commotion, has to stir the pot, and has to do his masterís bidding of accusing the brethren. All of this produces the Christianís tears.
Next, THE TARES THAT ARE SOWN BY THE DEVIL
Turn to the parable about the tares and the wheat taught by the Lord Jesus Christ, Matthew 13.24-30:
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
The wheat in this parable represents genuinely saved people. The tares represent unsaved people in the midst of believers. Tares are weeds, but not just weeds. Though the Savior did not call attention to it (perhaps because it was already widely known), tares are poison. Some people in church are identified by the Savior as little more than weeds, taking up space, sucking up nutrients from the soil, and absorbing water the wheat could put to better use. And they are spiritual poison. Because the roots of the tares mingle with the roots of the wheat, you cannot remove the one without endangering the other. In like manner, when a pastor would deal with an unsaved church member, the issue is caught up in the lives of even the genuinely saved, and can easily threaten their well-being, depending on how the unsaved church member behaves. The good man in the parable who sows the good seed undoubtedly refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. The enemy who sows the tares among the wheat is, of course, the Devil. Notice how the Devil mimics the Savior, to a degree. They both sow, but the Saviorís fruit is wheat, while the Devilís result is a spiritual form of weed. I wonder what it must be like to be someone the Savior identifies as a spiritual weed, undermining, distracting, and thereby interfering with the advance of the gospel.
We canít examine the parable thoroughly, but there are two principles I want you to learn: First, learn that there will always be false professions among the genuine. There will always be unbelievers mixed in with the real believers. And the reasons the good man would not allow his servants to try and remove the tares is because of the mingling of the roots of the two (which I already mentioned), and because it is very difficult to discern the wheat from the tares until the two come to ear. The wheat kernel will become bigger, heavier, and will then bend the wheat stalk by its weight, while the tares will remain straight and proud. Next, learn that there will come a day when the wheat will be separated from the tares. There will come a day when those with better discernment than you and I have will cull the tares and gather them for burning, but will gather the wheat for the good manís barn. So, I as a pastor and you as a church member must recognize that there will always be unsaved church members in Calvary Road Baptist Church. There is little you or I can do about it. Itís a tactic of the enemy to place unsaved, spiritually lifeless, and quite poisonous, members into our church. Though we must be careful, we will never be a congregation that is thoroughly converted. We must always be on guard.
Finally THE TESTIMONIES THAT MUST BE SCRUTINIZED
I have emphasized that no church will ever be entirely free of unsaved members. And I do not believe I am supposed to strive to root out the unsaved among us. Instead, I think God would have me to wait until unsaved people manifest the behavior of an obviously lost person, at which time the steps outlined in Matthew 18.15ff can be implemented. It would also be wonderful if the unsaved member is convicted of his sins and becomes interested in Christ for real. That said, there are certain steps every church should take to guard as much as possible against taking in unsaved church members in the first place. I talk to folks who want to join the church or who want to be saved, and I ask them questions to find out certain things:
First, I ask questions with regard to someoneís testimony of doctrine. If you think a person is saved by being baptized, your doctrine shows you are not saved. If you think a person is saved by asking Jesus into your heart, your doctrine reveals you may very well not be saved. If your concept of the Savior is the same as the Mormon Jesus, or the Adventist Jesus, or the Jehovah Witness Jesus, then your doctrine of the Savior is sufficiently skewed that you are not saved, because their Jesusí do not save anyone. These are just a few of the doctrinal points that I like to touch on when dealing with someone. There arenít really that many, when you take everything into consideration. Remember, little children can be saved and they typically donít know very much doctrine. However, little children who know Christ give far better evidence of experiencing conversion than most professing Christians who only pretend to know Christ. You need be no theologian to know in what form Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, or if Jesus Christ is angry with sinners, or where the Lord Jesus Christ is situated presently. Even little children with correct doctrine know where Jesus Christ was before He was born in Bethlehem, and for how long. Yet few churches these days seem to think knowing basic doctrinal truths related to the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross bears any significance in the life of someone who claims to be a Christian.
Second, I ask questions with regard to testimony of experience. Someone tells another Christian how he thinks he was saved. Most wonderful Christians, who truly know the Lord and seek to glorify Him, will likely not know how to listen to such a personís testimony with anything like real discernment. Though good Christians may have a wonderful verbal testimony themselves, they typically have grown up in an environment unused to exercising spiritual discernment in this fashion, the result of which is almost any statement in which reference to God and Jesus Christ is made sounds to them like a credible testimony. Thus, very good Christians need to develop discernment in this area. Not judgmentalism, mind you, but discernment. Therefore, our church seeks to compensate for that glaring problem so common in so many churches. We are not compensating by listening to the testimonies of hopeful converts, since that is basic to discerning someoneís true spiritual condition. I am convinced churches have no reasonable alternative to listening to the testimonies of those hopefully converted. We compensate by giving as many church members who want to the opportunity to observe as I and others carefully consider someoneís testimony. We do this for several reasons, but one very important reason is for the development of each memberís discernment in this area. Why so? Paul wrote in Second Corinthians 13.5, that we are to ďExamine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.Ē This is not a reference to me examining me, but to one church member examining another church member. Peter wrote along the same lines, in First Peter 3.15, where we read ďBut sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.Ē Peter admonished his readers to be ready to respond to anyone, even lost people, when they ask us about our faith in Christ. Therefore, does it not make sense that we know how to not only speak but also hear with discernment? I think so. I know so.
Finally, there is the testimony of lifestyle. I have dealt with people who held to perfect doctrine, so far as I could tell. And they seemed to have a good testimony of how they were saved. However, they never lived the Christian life. Not perfection, mind you, since no one is sinlessly perfect. But salvation is from sin, isnít it? And there will be a measure of victory over sin in your life if you are saved, wonít there be? Therefore, peace, joy, love, kindness, church attendance, tithing, prayer life, Bible reading, and witnessing are among the things that fit together to convince me that I am dealing with a genuinely saved person. I may still be fooled, but I will at least have done my best to see that the people I pastor are saved people. You might hear someone say, ďBut what gives you the right to decide who is saved?Ē To that I would answer, ďI have no right to decide who is saved. That is Godís right alone. However, as a pastor, I must exercise discernment to discover who is a Christian. Is it a sheep or a goat I am dealing with? I need to know. As well, if you claim to be a Christian, you too have a duty to discover who among those who claim to be Christians really is one.Ē Consider that only saved people are fit candidates for believer baptism. Only saved people are qualified to become church members. A Christian man or woman must exercise discernment so that he or she will know if that person who wants to get married is truly born again. As well, no one entering into a business relationship should consider an unsaved person as a partner, if he himself is a believer. Thus, each of these situations demands that a Christian exercise some discernment, not to decide who is a Christian, but to discover who is a Christian, so you donít marry a lost person, partner with a lost person, baptize a lost person, or take into church membership a lost person. And then there is the need to know who you should try to reach with the gospel. Granted, no one is perfect in his ability to discern the spiritual condition of someone, and no one should engage in harsh judgmentalism. However, what kind of wisdom is displayed by a young woman who is proposed to by a young man whose testimony is iffy? When he stops going to church after they are married, and refuses to be a Christian dad to their children, who has she to blame for marrying a lost man but herself? Churches cannot be quite so picky as a young man or woman ought to be, since we are dealing with new Christians whose new life in Christ has not always stabilized. But then congregations always have measures we can resort to to deal with unsaved members. A spouseís or a business partnerís options are sometimes limited. However, the point is sufficiently made that lifestyle testimony is undoubtedly important as verification that someone really is a Christian.
There is a tragedy that affects us all, and not just in churches, but also in marriages, in business partnerships, and in other types of relationships. Satan sprinkles amongst us lost people. Perhaps you, without even knowing it, are a tare sown among the wheat. We know it happens. We also know that nothing that anyone can say or do will completely prevent it from happening. However, we can take reasonable and scripturally mandated steps to improve the situation. We can examine each otherís testimony in light of Godís Word, as we are commanded to do. We can be more sure of each other than we presently are.
We can learn to live our lives with wisdom, and within the confines of Godís guidance. For example: Throughout Godís Word we are challenged and shown the benefit of establishing matters of fact by two or three witnesses. The result will be churches that are less gullible and individuals who are less gullible, because our operational mode should be something along the line of ďtrust, but verify.Ē However, even someone who exhibits real wisdom will find himself, and will find his church, in situations where the presence of tares among the wheat causes significant heartache and damage. We live in a broken world, populated by Christians like ourselves who donít know everything and are not always as wise as we should be, with a whole lot more unsaved people surrounding us, some of whom are very good at pretending to be Christians.
Therefore, there will be tears, in part because of the tares in our midst, therefore let us improve the situation as best we can by paying attention to testimonies, both our own and othersí. And when it still turns out poorly and painfully, because it frequently will, we can thank God for His comfort and consolation, especially the comfort and consolation He provides through our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Calvary Road Baptist Church.
 Many modern commentators think this young man was saved, but only backslidden and in need of rededication. First Corinthians 5.5 clears up the matter completely. Notice the word ďmay be savedĒ is a single word in the Greek New Testament, swzw. There are two ways the future is dealt with in the Greek language, either using the future tense of the verb or the subjunctive mood of the verb. Using a future tense verb indicates something will happen. Using the subjunctive means something might happen or hopefully will happen. ďMay be savedĒ in this verse happens to be a subjunctive verb, meaning Paul was not certain the fornicatorís spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. That can only mean this fellow was not saved.
 Consider 2 Timothy 4.10 in light of 1 John 2.15-17
 John 8.44; Revelation 12.10
 Fauna And Flora Of The Bible, (New York: United Bible Societies, Second Edition, 1980), pages 194-195.
 Ibid., page 195.
 Ibid., page 194.
 2 Corinthians 6.14-18
 Numbers 35.30; Deuteronomy 17.6-7; Joshua 24.22; Ruth 4.9-11; Job 10.17; Isaiah 8.2; 43.9-12; 44.8-9; Jeremiah 32.10, 12, 25, 44; Matthew 18.15-20; Luke 24.46-48; Acts 1.8; 2.32; 3.15; 5.32; 10.39; 13.31; 2 Corinthians 13.1; 1 Thessalonians 2.10; 1 Timothy 5.19; 6.12; Hebrews 10.28; 1 John 4.1; 5.7-9; Revelation 1.1
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