Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Abominable Mustard Tree

I used to have a hobby where I liked to grow trees from seeds. I think my parents still have sold old pots with something growing in them from that time.  I have a couple myself in pots that decorate my small garden in the Summer.  Unfortunately, as life got busier I had less and less time for a hobby that was relaxing and exciting to me.  Some may question just how exciting seed sprouting can be, but to me it really is.  It is the miracle of creation played out before my eyes. It always amazed me how some very small seeds can become very great trees.  For example, the mighty elm tree begins as a tiny seed.  An even better example is the mighty redwood trees.  These trees are gigantic and live for hundreds of years, but begin with a paper thin tiny seed.  Some tiny seeds, though, were never meant to become such giant trees.  For some seeds, overgrowth represents a problem.  Jesus gives one such example in the Bible. 
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."  Matthew 13:31-32 NKJV
Many find this to be a positive prophesy, others (including myself) disagree.  You see, a mustard seed is indeed tiny, and it is larger than other herb plants, but at most it is a bush.  It never grows into a tree.  The mustard "tree" Jesus is speaking of here is one that has undergone abnormal growth.  In fact, it is a monstrosity of what it was meant to be.  Furthermore, birds in the parables of Jesus are generally symbolic of emissaries of Satan.  Finally, when put into its context, this parable is right between the wheat and tares and the parable of leaven (a symbol for sin).  This is by no means a positive prophesy.

So what is Jesus speaking of here?  First we have the mustard seed.  Seeds are representative of truth.  This mustard tree began as a truth planted in fertile ground.  Its growth began normal and soon the mustard plant was larger than the other herbs.  Then something happened.  Something changed its nature so that unnatural growth occurred to where it became a giant tree.  It became something it was never meant to be.  It was corrupted and grew into a monstrosity.  Ultimately, and tragically, it became a place where the emissaries of Satan could take comfort.  This goes without saying, but Jesus was perfectly perfect in prophesying what we see of the church today.  Let us see how our church as become the monstrosity it was never intended to be.

First of all, there is the new modern methods of sharing the Gospel.  We have the seeker friendly or so-called emerging churches that water down the Gospel to make it palatable to unbelievers.  They forget that we were supposed to be offensive and in trying to make us (and our message) less offensive, they turn it into something else.  You can not adulterate the message of the gospel.  Other than watering down the Gospel, there are other churches that drown it out altogether.  We have churches descended from the Church Growth Movement that use a variety of programs, presentation styles, technology, and other means to grow the church. What suffers in their desire to fill their seats is solid doctrine.  The powerful and simple message of the gospel gets drowned out in a chorus of competing programs to where church become more of a social club than anything else.  Another way the gospel is drowned out is when we add to it our pet doctrines.  We turn Jesus into primarily a healer, a miracle worker, a carnival show, and genie who will grant you any wish, and just about any other thing that can tickle our flesh.  I am not saying that Jesus is not many of those things, but first and foremost He is Savior and Lord.  For them "Jesus saves" is not enough, they must add to it.  They draw people into their churches by sweetening the pot so-to-speak. 

What all this does is to infiltrate the church with the world. We have become a mutant church given some sort of a growth chemical that makes us grow real large but also very diseased.  While we look large, what we really are is inflated well beyond what we should be.  Instead of a body of believers, we are a body of wanters who are only in it for the door prizes and care very little for the eternal life to come.  We have been infiltrated by the world as we tickle the flesh of believers and unbelievers alike making coming to Jesus the next greatest thing to winning the lottery.  We have weak fleshly Christians and deceived unbelievers who only see Jesus as the Great Sugar Daddy in the Sky. 

Of course these large masses need a place to hold their weekly rock concert and pep rally.  You know, the place where they can be told just good good they are and how all that conviction they felt during the week for anything they might have done wrong was just the work of the devil.  It is also the place where someone tells that that their genie has heard their wishes and will soon grant those requests, just so long as they pay the "pastor" first with their sacrificial tithe.  On a side note, I find it rather ironic that the one law they uphold is the one that pays for the pastor's homes, jets, luxury cars, and lavish lifestyle.  Just as spiritually we have become a monstrosity, so we have physically.   We have half billion dollar cultural centers, crystal cathedrals, arenas, and stadiums.  Of course, we have to feed ourselves so many of these so-called churches have coffee and snack shops.  Let us not also forget the giant bookstores in these churches where you can not only buy ever version of the Bible ever written, CD's of the worship team and other Christian groups, but you can also buy your pastor's latest and greatest book.  Of course that book and the message is all about how God will give you even more.  This is what a large part of the church has become.  This is not what we were supposed to be. 

When I think of the true church, I think of those persecuted Christians meeting in shacks, sitting on dirt floors, sharing the one Bible they have, and living in constant concern for violence from neighbors and governments alike.  I think of those churches that meet in secret in people's homes under pastors names you will never hear.  I think of them because that is the church who will sit in hiding, on their dirt floors, under their leaky roofs, sharing their one Bible and worship the Lord with all their heart and thank him with tear-filled gratitude for all that they have.  They do not aspire for God to be a genie in the sky because God has given them all that they need.  God has given them eternal life.  For them that means everything, for us it is just a little icing on a very large cake. 

In other words, when I think of the true church, I think of one that is thankful for what they have in terms of the things of this world and not always striving for more.  Our treasures are to be laid up in heaven and not here on earth.  I think of a church that grows by solid doctrine.  Sure that church may grow slower and may not grow as large, but the growth they do have will be solid and healthy.  In other words, any true growth is better than leaps and bounds of artificial growth.  When I think of a true church, I think of the simplicity and glory of the Gospel.  Nothing needs to be added to it.  We do not need to make the message more palatable or add other things to it.  We just need the message, in its pure unadulterated form.  That is the milk that will raise babes in Christ.  As these babes in Christ grow, they will move to solid food.  That solid food must not be watered down or bulked up with fillers.  That food should also not be made more tasty with artificial flavorings.  For those that truly seek after God there is nothing more satisfying than a hearty meal of the pure Word of God.  It us up to the pastors to act as master chefs in preparing a meal that features the rich flavor of the Word of God rather than masking its flavor with heaping portions of additives. 

My prayer is that we can find our way back to becoming what we were meant to be.  Sadly, the monstrosity continues to grow and grow and those birds of Satan are singing so loud that you can barely hear those calling for a return to solid Biblical Christianity.  Jesus also predicted this and it was what we commonly call the Great Apostasy, or a massive falling away from the church.  I pray for the Lord to come quickly, but if not, let us see one last revival before He returns. 
I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:1-4 NKJV

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