Do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.
–1 Corinthians 4:5
Some people misapply the parable of the wheat and the tares. They say, “Since you cannot tell who is a real Christian and who is not, you should live and let live. It is not our job to try to convict people of sin. Let God deal with them.” That is a false gospel. The most unloving thing you can do toward somebody you see living in sin is to allow them to continue going down a path of destruction. The result of this parable should not be an apathy toward sinners in need of salvation or an acceptance of sin in the church. Instead, let me mention three timeless principles that come from this parable.
First of all, unbelievers often resemble believers. It would be easy to spot phony believers if they were cheating, murdering scoundrels. But you see, Satan is much more clever than that. In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Paul said that Satan often appears “as an angel of light.” When Satan seeks to deceive people, it is not always with out-and-out heresy; many times it is with a little bit of truth wrapped around a lot of error. That is true in the church as well. Unbelievers often resemble believers, and they can easily lead people astray.
Second, the ultimate judgment of unbelievers belongs to God. Jesus was not saying we should never try to recognize unbelievers. He was simply saying, “Do not pronounce a final judgment that only God is capable of performing. Leave that ultimate judgment to God.” I am sure when the disciples heard the first part of this parable, they got ahead of Jesus and made the wrong application. I can just hear them saying, “Tares in our midst? Let’s launch a crusade right now and uproot all the unbelievers from the earth!” Jesus said not to do that. If you look through history, you will find all kinds of crusades that failed miserably and many genuine believers who were martyred because they refused to accept the authority of the church above the authority of the Word of God. The ultimate judgment of unbelievers belongs to God.
Third, fruitfulness is the test of genuine faith. What is the difference between a phony Christian and real Christian? A real Christian produces fruit. A genuine Christian can point to people he has led to faith in Christ. For a genuine Christian, reading the Word of God is a pleasure, not a chore. He looks forward to coming to church on Sundays and being with God’s people. His life is characterized by the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5. Fruitfulness is the test of genuine faith.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “How To Spot A Phony” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org