Sermon for Ninth Sunday after Pentecost July 22, 2018
Text: Matthew 13:24-30,36-43 ILCW – Series A 18:2077
Theme: Grace, Patience, Religious Freedom, and Judgment
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Can you tell me the source of that sentence? It is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. They were ratified by the existing states on December 15, 1791. How’s that for a history lesson? It’s somewhat timely since we celebrated the day of our nation’s independence just 2 weeks ago.
Isn’t it interesting that the Bill of Rights starts with a statement regarding religious liberty? It was the first thing that came to the minds of those who framed our nation’s constitution – not gun rights, not freedom from unreasonable searches, not the right to trial by an impartial jury, but the first statement in the Bill of Rights addresses religious freedom. I find that interesting. It is a blessing that none of us should take for granted.
But the opening sentence to the Bill of Rights was not the first place where religious freedom was addressed. One of the first places was in our text today. Here Jesus referred to religious freedom. He also addressed grace, patience, and judgment.
I. But let’s start with religious freedom. In a sense, Jesus, as Creator, gave that to everyone, even those who scoff at Him. In fact, those who reject Him and scoff at Him have Him to thank for the freedom that permits them to scoff. How about that?! He grants leniency to believe whatever one pleases. It’s not the desirable thing to do, but you may do it.
He began, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” The “good seed” stands for “the sons of the kingdom,” believers. This is a marvelous result of God’s grace. He fills the world with His people. In love He calls them sons, like Jesus is His beloved Son – men, women, and children who possess the blessings of righteousness won on the cross. It’s the result of God’s grace in the world, not just here and there, but the world! Yet, wherever grace is at work, the devil sets up shop next door.
Promptly the devil re-sows the field with unbelievers. Jesus said,
“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his
field. But while the people were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the plants sprouted and produced heads of grain, the weeds also appeared.”
Oh, my, that’s awful! And just like Satan! Sneeky, destructive, bent on malicious harm! Where Jesus is active with His redeeming love, forgiving mercy, and invitation to come to Him for life, there Satan is powerfully active in blatant opposition. Satan cannot ever be saved because he is unrelenting in seeking to frustrate and defeat Christ’s work of bringing His eternal blessings to sinners through the Gospel. Wherever God plants “good seed,” Satan, with evil intent, plants “bad seed” along with it.
So, now the question arises, “What should we do about that?” The servants asked the sower, “Do you want us to go and gather up the weeds?” He answered, “No! Let them both grow together.”
A person may reject the Gospel, a person may blaspheme Christ, scoff, proclaim heresies of many kinds, he may be totally consumed with worldly matters and give no respect to God. In this God gives you leniency to believe whatever you please. Of course, it’s not His will. He wants you to be good seed, sons in His Kingdom, partakers of grace. Don’t be evil seed! Be good seed!
II. But He won’t coerce, force or threaten you. His Gospel call is an invitation: “Come to me and you will find rest for your soul. Believe the Good News.” Jesus invites, not coerces. That’s opposite the religions of this world, like Islam, which seeks to force you into submission. Grace and divine love are not beaten into you.
Oh, men have tried to do that throughout time. They have threatened people with fire, and sword, and religious wars. Wherever Jesus builds a church, the devil erects a chapel alongside it and men think they must put that chapel down or set fire to it. But perhaps when they do that and try to coerce people to believe, they destroy more believers than unbelievers. How can that be?
Well, think of the Apostle Paul. Before his conversion to faith, he was the wicked Saul, the man in charge of Stephen’s murder and the persecution of many other Christians at the time. What if believers had banded together and planned to assassinate him before his conversion? They would have rooted up one of the greatest champions of Christ’s Church.
What about you? What if someone had cut short your time of
grace before God had called you to faith in the Savior? Aren’t
those good reasons for Christians not to exert force in the world?
Patience, dear friend! Even if you endure mean behavior from bad people, you never know what God, in His wisdom, has planned for that person and what time it will take place. Who would ever have thought that a wicked Saul would become the missionary Paul? Besides that, to exert force denies our very nature as Christians. That nature is love like Christ loved us – even for our enemies.
Faith cannot be coerced. “Patience! Don’t pull them up!” Jesus cries. Would you call this which Jesus allows religious freedom?
III. Hmmm, I suppose you could call it that. But then, of course, one must take the eventual consequences.
You see, no one has a right before God to believe whatever that person wants to believe. The First Commandment applies to all, not just Christians. “You shall have no other gods.” “Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” You have no right before your Creator to remain in unbelief or to choose some other religion. In fact, those who remain in unbelief and serve idols deserve no consideration whatever except to be torn up root, branch, and all and be destroyed. That will happen in the judgment. But Christ will do it, not we. Our Lord forbids us to coerce and destroy for the sake of sons of the Kingdom whom He may still draw in.
But the inevitable will come. There will be a harvest when the Lord returns. One cannot follow the devil throughout life and expect Jesus to accept him at the last day without faith. One cannot ignore and despise Jesus or maltreat His Word and have the angels at the end conduct them to glory. “The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Oh, what could have been had they not continued to despise the Lord Jesus as Savior! This judgment is not a pretty picture. But it is the eventual consequence one must take if they exercise a religious liberty that rejects Christ and follow Satan’s designs.
The Lord tells us this parable that we might each ask ourselves, “What will the final judgment mean for me?” Search your heart for secret unbelief and turn to Christ for the help He gladly gives.
Do you have ears? It’s the second time in a week that Jesus asked us that question. That’s how His grace flows to you as you listen to His words of life – through your ears. And what does He say to those who hear and believe in the salvation He offers? He says, “They will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.”
Shining like the sun! It’s how Jesus looked at His transfiguration. His clothes dazzled in white; His face radiated brightly! The disciples saw divine glory and cried out in excitement and joy, “Lord, it’s good to be here!” One day at the end, as you patiently cling in faith to the Savior, you’ll know what that’s like. God will remove all evil, and the glory, which even now dwells in the believer through Christ, will be unveiled in heavenly splendor.
I want to be there and see it. Don’t you? I want to see those people all over the world, whom Christ Jesus planted as His own, washed in His blood, held in His hand. I want to see those who suffered long and patiently endured while clinging to their trust in Him. I long to join their song of praise before the Lamb and enjoy His peace and heavenly contentment. I may not be able to do much about bad people who afflict us in life, but by grace He will take care of it in His time and we will be truly free at His side. God grant us that in faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.