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Applying Pre-Emergent Weed and Feed

I heard a message in which the ministry emphasis was changing "tares" to "wheat" (Matt. 13:25-40). The sermon featured anecdotes of church staffers, their wives, deacons, elders, the famous and the infamous, all of whom were tares-become-wheat through hearing his sermon. Man, when the invitation came I felt like I needed to go forward and get saved. I even peeked to see if he was going to come down off the podium and get saved. The altar was flooded.

All Christian counselors deal with the devastation such preaching can produce in those who can’t meet the challenge and appropriate what the preacher says is the "real thing." In messages such as these, salvation is most often boiled down to experiencing a certain "feeling." If something tangible happens in your feeler, you got saved; if not, your salvation is suspect. Folks, that’s not biblical; it’s your heart that changes, not your feeler.

A tare is a weedy rye grass resembling wheat in appearance. The seeds are poisonous to man, producing sleepiness and death. (Webster; Vine) Jesus used the metaphor of wheat and tares to differentiate between members of the organism ("sons of the Kingdom" [vs. 38], the "wheat") and members of the organization ("sons of the evil one" [v.38] who are "tares among the wheat"; i.e. tare-members of what is called a church). Wheat-people experience (spiritual) life; tare-people are "sleepy" toward Jesus and experience (spiritual) death. How do folks who intended to become wheat become tares instead? And is there such a thing as a pre-emergent weed and feed? Something which when applied to "fields which are white for harvest" keeps tare seeds from sprouting but encourages wheat seeds to germinate? I believe there is.

Before we answer these questions, let’s determine what makes tare-people tares. God’s job description is this: He runs things. There is one True God; there are 5,000,000,000 wannabes. Each new baby draws an imaginary circle around himself declaring this is my life; I’ve got my rights; I’ll do it my way. Hey, those of you who have kids will understand what I’m saying here. From day one, it’s me, me, me. That kid declares himself god…god of "his" circle, or "lord of the ring" to play on Tolkien’s words. Adam’s eating from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" simply means that he wrote the first personal declaration of independence. Well, like father, like son. Thus, our guilt goes much deeper than breaking the Big Ten. It’s the attitude: I’ll determine what’s right and what’s wrong for me. I have a right to make such determinations. Folks, independence is the great sin of man. It’s the taproot of all sinning. Salvation through Christ delivers man from this identity and restores him to God.

Tare-people, instead of seeing the gospel as paving the way to an obedient, intimate Father/child relationship with God, have been deceived by the devil into seeing it as merely the way to get to heaven. Satan paints Jesus Christ as an environmentalist whose purpose is to rescue man from a bad environment (hell) and take him to a trouble free one (heaven). Many well-meaning teachers present a "gospel" of: If you want to go to heaven when you die, just ask Jesus to come into your heart. You see, it’s a simple matter of adding Jesus to your present identity–all you’re missing is Jesus. Get Him and you’ll have all of your bases covered. He’s your celestial American Express card: Don’t leave earth without Him. This "gospel" presents heaven–instead of knowing God intimately–as the goal. Folks, that is not the gospel of Christ.

Many folks in the pew find the thought of intimacy with God uncomfortable. They just want to escape hell and go to heaven. They seek a pleasant, peaceful environment. They’ll settle to get inside the gate. They don’t long to know Christ. They just want the perks. I believe these folks are tares who have never repented of who they are: lords of the ring. A tare retains his "right" to control his life. He has never experienced a "repentance…to salvation" (2 Cor. 7:10).

When God introduced His Messiah, He gave John the Baptizer a one-word sermon to prepare men’s hearts to receive Him–repent. That’s it folks, the dreaded "R" word, the pre-emergent weed and feed which keeps tare seed from sprouting but encourages wheat seed to germinate. This is the word that most offends lords of the ring who refuse to surrender control of their lives. "I just wish the pastor would stop using that ‘R’ word. He’s going to drive folks away from Jesus instead of winning them to Him." Why are these members of the organization themselves offended by the "R" word? It is because they have never repented. After Esau traded his heavenly inheritance to get his earthly needs met, he "desired to inherit the blessing, [but] he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance" Heb. 12: 17). He wanted heaven, but without relinquishing control on earth.

Of what must I repent, and why does God insist that I do so? Well, repentance is not simply confessing that I stole the hubcaps off a Cadillac (a so-called tiny sin), or even that I had an affair (an industrial-strength sin), although I must certainly be repentant of each of these offenses against God. No, it goes deeper that. My sins are but symptoms of my core problem. God calls on me as a lost man to see what an offense I am. I am sin; that’s the problem. I am at war against God for the right to control my ring. I am my authority, my god. That rebellious identity–not your sins–is what takes you to hell, folks (Rom. 5:14, 16-19). Thus, you need two things: forgiveness of sins and a changed identity. Only Christ can solve that two-fold problem. While I deserved nothing but the back of His hand, Jesus offered me His nail-pierced hand, that through faith in Him I might gain both forgiveness of sins and a new, righteous identity (all right with God). That’s why I must repent.

Tell me, dear friend, have you repented of who you were simply by showing up on Planet Earth? The Bible makes it clear that you must do so as a precursor to salvation. Let’s document that by referencing, in chronological order, the ministries of Jesus, Peter and Paul.

When Jesus launched His ministry after His baptism, the first word out of His mouth was "Repent"–not "Would you like to go to heaven when you die?" (Matt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15). The purpose of much of Jesus’ teaching was to convince lords of the ring two things: that they were in a hopeless state without a Savior and that He is that Savior. When He finished His earthly work through the cross, men could repent, then through faith in Christ be forgiven and changed into new creatures who delight to submit to God’s will, who long to worship, love and know Him. I’m not teaching that there’s saving power in repentance, but that repentance prepares a man to appropriate salvation by faith in Christ. Repentance is the front porch to salvation. God is not real to the man who refuses to obey Him (remember God’s job description). Repentance is a necessary precursor to salvation by grace. Only the thirsty crave water. Wanting to be changed is a prerequisite to being changed. This is accomplished by turning away from what you are to having faith in Jesus to forgive you and change you. Although no man understands it at salvation (or even afterwards!), through faith in Christ, God causes several wonderful things to become yours; your sins are forgiven (Acts. 16:18), your old identity dies (Rom.6:6), you are reborn as a righteous person (Cor. 5:17, 10), with a built-in yearning to obey God (Heb. 10:16), and you are equipped with the Holy Spirit as Teacher, Companion and Life (Col. 3:3-4). This is all appropriated by faith and experienced through obedience.

Eleven of the twelve disciples demonstrated repentance by submitting to the authority of the pre-cross Jesus. But they had to be born again at Pentecost to serve the post-cross Christ. Afterward, when Peter, Christ’s apostle to the Jews, launched his ministry, Christ (the Vine) spoke convicting words through him (a branch). Folks "were pierced to the heart and said …‘what shall we do?’…and Peter said to them, ‘Repent…Be saved from this perverse generation!’ " (Acts 2:38,40). Look at that! Just as when John introduced pre-cross Christ to men, the first step toward post-cross Christ was "Repent." Gang, God didn’t stop insisting that lost men repent after Pentecost. And look, the Bible reveals the same pattern when Paul, His apostle to the Gentiles, kicked off his ministry in each city he visited. Christ (as Life) through Paul always began with, "Repent, and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (see Acts 26:20, emphasis mine). When addressing the unregenerate, Paul always emphasized "repentance toward God, then faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" (see Acts 20:21, my emphasis). Dear people, these are quotes from scripture; they’re not my ideas. First, our Savior, Jesus, then Peter, His chosen messenger to the Jews, and finally Paul, His chosen messenger to the rest of the world, all emphasized repentance as a precursor to salvation.

Now I am not saying you have to actually utter the "R" words to get saved. I’m speaking of an attitude of the heart. Jesus Christ must be acknowledged as your personal Lord. This means that you must let Him be Lord of your ring. As my friend Jack Taylor says, "If you want to get along with God, stay out of His chair!" Many moderns gloss over God’s insistence on repentance. They issue no call to "pick up your cross daily and follow [Christ]" (i.e., die as who you are in Adam; give up your rights). Folks, bearing a cross is not suffering with arthritis or with the burden of a wayward loved one. A cross is an instrument of death for a dear friend of yours–yourself (2 Cor 4:10). While the gospel emphasizes that we must die in order to live (Matt. 10:38-39), many moderns emphasize escaping hell and gaining heaven. They emphasize afterlife instead of life in Christ.

Have you ever heard these words from the baptistery (especially to a child), "Tell us, did you invite Jesus into your heart?

"Yes."

"You’ve all heard this testimony and with that evidence I now baptize you, my sister/brother, etc., etc."

No repentance, just adding Jesus to who they are, and many such "church members" go on to bear no spiritual fruit, have no interest in spiritual things, have no prayer life, find the Bible boring and show no evidence of God’s disciplining hand in their lives. Yet they claim they are heaven-bound Believers. God’s Word says folks like this are not His kids; they’re illegitimate (Heb. 12:8). They’re tares, folks–tares among the wheat.

If this describes you, you’ve read some mighty bad news. But, the good news is that there is a fabulous Solution to your problem. Bow before Jesus and admit that you are a lord of the ring, that without Him you are a hopeless case. Repent of what you are and from the way you have lived–independently. Mean what you say as you place your faith in Christ to forgive you; let Him take control and save you from yourself. By doing so, you will have begun again, dear friend, and will be a true child of the Kingdom (1 Jon. 5:11-13).

About the Author

Bill founded Lifetime Guarantee Ministries to encourage people to experience the reality of Christ as life. His transparent, humorous, down-to-earth style and sense of humor made him one of the most effective teachers of his time. He communicated with great clarity the full extent of what God accomplished in Christ and what that means for the Christian identity. Although Bill passed away in June 2011, his messages are timeless and will continue to impact generations to come.