First the Kingdom 13, The Counterfeit Kingdom
The Wheat and Tares
So far we have been focusing mostly on the positive work of Christ in advancing the Kingdom of God in the earth. In the model prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, He told them to pray for God’s Kingdom to come, and for His will to be done in earth as it is done in heaven. This is our mandate as well, to see the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven come to earth! But He also said there is a need to pray for deliverance from the Evil One. This is the negative side of the story. While God is all-powerful and always on the side of good, He in His wisdom also allows an adversary to work in the earth.
If you remember the story in Genesis, the man and the woman listened to the deceitful words of the serpent and in effect obeyed him rather than God. The judgment that came upon humanity and the creation was death. Ever since then the same serpent, the devil, Satan has held power over humanity in our falleness. We have always been left with this choice, to serve Satan or God.
The same evil one was extremely active in the days of the preaching of John and Jesus. Jesus was always aware of this, and warned his followers continually. He even told a parable about another hidden work.
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'”
Any farmer will tell you that weeds are definitely a problem. In this parable the weeds they were dealing with were particularly troublesome. Unlike other weeds, these were hard to distinguish from the real thing. There was the danger that if they were to remove these “tares” that the genuine wheat would become damaged. Only later could they be separated safely.
Sometimes the tares in this parable are interpreted to be false Christians living among the true Christians. However, in other places we see that false teachers and false believers are exposed and removed before the great time of the harvest also connected with the “end of the age.”
This to me is a long-term problem. Since the Kingdom of God was first proclaimed there have always been counterfeit versions of the Gospel. The problem is that sometimes they so closely resemble the real deal that many true, godly people follow them. For the first 300 years the number of believers in Christ grew dramatically. Periodic persecution would weed out the fair weather Christians, but gradually new ideas, beliefs and practices entered in that Christ did not introduce. In the Fourth Century when Christians filled the Roman Empire, the Emperor Constantine embraced the faith. Eventually Christianity became the established religion, and some believed that the Roman Catholic system with its Popes, Bishops and Cardinals was the full and final manifestation of the Kingdom of God!
For hundreds of years there was in Europe only one church. Because so many godly people were involved, the false ideas, beliefs and teachings of that church could not be removed. In each generation God raised up certain brave souls to challenge the false beliefs and evil practices, who were often persecuted and even killed.
Finally a change came to the world that halted this cycle. The invention of the printing press! A young Roman Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther began asking questions, and these questions were printed and published for great numbers in Germany to read and consider! Many facets of the counterfeit kingdom were exposed, and the Gospel began its glorious work in this part of the word anew. Today we take for granted this pivotal point in history known as the Reformation, to our shame.
Various forms of the counterfeit kingdom exist today. I know because I have been tempted by one of them for a time myself. We live in a wonderful time when people have become weary of rigid, dead religions that seek to hold them in bondage. They know that Christ has come to make them free from bondage but do not realize how easily they can become chained in other forms of bondage. The Truth is what makes of free, but it does not always make us feel good! We have become so addicted to feeling good about ourselves, and gravitate to preachers who can help us do just that! In His love Jesus came to free us from ourselves. His is true freedom.
Here in North America and certainly in other parts of the world the message of the Kingdom is being distorted. Even well-meaning folks do not realize that they have been seduced by Eastern philosophies that center on our human desires over the eternal purpose of God. To them the Kingdom of God on earth is a place where people live embarrassing self-centered and luxurious lifestyles. There is the core teaching that God loves us and wants us to prosper and be in health, but soon it becomes the primary focus.
In my own life I have seen where God has taken me out from horrible financial disasters and blessed me beyond my wildest dreams. I have enjoyed wonderful health in my body that I am sure comes from living in His Word. That is why I always encourage people to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things they really need will be added unto them. (Matthew 6:33) God wants to free us from the cares of this life in order that we can be truly blessed in Him, and be a blessing to others! There is a line that can easily be crossed, however.
Our God is indeed a jealous God! He sought you and bought you with his redeeming blood! Too many are falling in love with the things they think the Kingdom of God will bring to them. No! The Kingdom of God is the only thing you and I need and should pursue!
How many individuals and churches are enslaved to debt to the point that they only have time to work and scheme to pay that debt so that they can purchase even more? All of this is of course because they believe God wants them to prosper? So how does God really define prosperity?
Paul taught that we should withdraw ourselves from those who believed that godliness was a means to financial gain. He writes:
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim 6:5-11)
It is true that Christ is our deliverer from poverty. I can testify to that myself. He not only changes our thinking, but he changes our patterns of behavior that can lead us out of poverty — if we submit to the changes!
On the other hand there are many temptations and traps that keep us from living fully in Kingdom Life.
So can you see how hard it is at times to distinguish the counterfeit Kingdom from the real? Jesus came to bring real freedom from poverty, sickness and death. More ministries that I care to count affirm this, and yet their appeal, and their success in outward terms is base upon greed, theirs and ours! At the same time, because they help many people with their abundance of wealth their methods seem justified! There is such an entanglement between those who only love God and those who use them. Only the angels of God can separate them in His time.
That does not mean we should not flee these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness with others who call upon the Lord with a pure heart. (1 timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22) Every thing that can be shaken will be shaken. We have received a kingdom that cannot be moved! My hope today is that we can encourage one another in the clear, transforming and potent Good News of the Kingdom of God. Our hope is to help as many as possible avoid the traps of the man-centered prosperity gospel that claims to preach the kingdom of God.
Do you believe that there is something for you even here and now that is better than what the riches of the world has to offer? That something is a secret that only Christ Himself can reveal unto you!
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