Robert Jeffress - How To Spot A Phony
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Some people think that growing up in a Christian home or going to church at the holidays automatically makes them a Christian. But as we read in scripture, being a genuine follower of Christ entails so much more. Today we're going to explore the difference between authentic and false belief. Because when it comes to salvation, the heart is the only thing that matters. My message is titled, "How to Spot a Phony," on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
How is it that somebody who talks like a Christian, who appears to embrace some of the values of a Christian, how is it that they can be used by Satan to accomplish his purpose here on the earth? We're going to discover the answer to that question in the parable we're going to look at today. Jesus said the world is filled with phony Christians. People who talk like Christians, they profess to be believers, they come to church, they serve as Sunday school teachers, deacons, and even pastors. But even though they appear to be Christians in the final judgment, they will be separated from true believers and they will spend eternity in hell alongside the most vile and hardened criminals. Do you find that difficult to believe? If so, consider the parable of the wheat and the tares.
If you have your Bibles turn to Matthew chapter 13, as we discover how to spot a phony Christian. Matthew chapter 13, the last time we began this series on the parables. Remember the definition of a parable, you probably learned it as a child, an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Well that's what a parable is. A parable takes divine truth and it lays it alongside everyday experiences. Jesus loved to teach truth through parables. Last time we saw the first parable in Matthew 13, about the Kingdom of God. It was the parable of the soils and explains why it is that everyone who receives the Gospel doesn't embrace the Gospel. It all has to do with the condition of the human heart. And now beginning in verse 24, Jesus is going to share another aspect of the Kingdom of God. And that is, not everyone who appears to be Christian is in fact a genuine believer.
Look at the parable in verse 24, Jesus presented another parable to them saying, "The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and he went away". Now that seems strange to us because we don't live in an agricultural society like Jesus did. But his disciples understood the story. It was very common in Jesus' day for someone if they wanted to get even with somebody else, if they had an enemy, they would go into their field and they would plant tares. They would plant weeds in that person's field. In fact this word tare in your New American Standard version or a King James version, is really an unfortunate translation. The word actually refers to the darnel seed. It was a rye poisonous grass that in many ways looked like genuine wheat. It would grow alongside the wheat, but when it finally came to fruition, it had no fruit in it. It was empty. And not only that, the weeds of the darnel seed would strangle out the growth of the genuine wheat that would produce fruit.
And so if you wanted to get even with an enemy, you would plant this rye poisonous grass in the field of your enemy. In fact it was such a common practice that the Romans had a law against doing such a thing. So anyway, Jesus said, this is what happened to this particular man, verse 26, "But when the wheat sprang up and it bore grain, then the tares became evident also". How did the tares become evident? Because when they sprang up, as much as they appeared to be genuine wheat, they had no fruit, they had no grain. Verse 27, "And the slaves of the landowner came and they said, 'sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tared, this fake wheat'? And he said to them, 'an enemy has done this'. And the slave said, 'do you want us then to go out and gather them up'"? I mean that makes perfect sense. If you see all of this false wheat that is strangling out the genuine growth of wheat, would it make sense to go ahead and uproot it once you discovered it?
Look at verse 29, "But the master said, 'no, lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them'". The danger of pulling up this fake wheat was two-fold. First of all, the disciples could make a mistake. They were slaves could make a mistake and accidentally mistake, genuine wheat for fake wheat or fake wheat for genuine wheat. And not only that, the roots had become so entangled with a genuine wheat, that if you tried to pull up the fake wheat, the fake tares, you might accidentally uproot that which was genuine. So on verse 30, the master said, "Instead allow both to grow together until harvest. And in the time of harvest, I will say to the reapers, 'first gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up, but gather the wheat into my barn'". He wasn't saying don't ever try to separate the tares from the wheat, he said wait until the right time when you can easily distinguish between the two, then you can gather the tares and burn them, and the wheat will be gathered into my barn.
Now Jesus told two other stories. One about the mustard seed in verse 31 and 32, one about the leaven in verse 33. But the one the disciples wanted to know about was this one about the wheat and the tares. Look at verse 36: then he left the multitudes to whom he had told the story went into the house and his disciples came to him saying, "Lord explained to us the parable of the tares and the field". Why did they want to know about this one? Because it was the most disturbing of all of Jesus' stories. It's a story that reminds us, you may be able to fool other people about your faith, you may even be able to fool yourself about your relationship with God, but you can't fool God. There is a time of judgment coming when genuine believers will be separated from phony believers. Tell us Lord, what does this mean? Well Jesus was only too happy to answer their request for an interpretation.
And beginning in verse 37, he tells us what this parable means. And be sure you have your outlines out, and I want you to write these things down because they're Jesus' explanation of the parable. And he answered, and he said to them, "The one who sows the good seed, this is the Son of Man". Jesus is the sower. He is the one who plants the good seed into the ground. Verse 38: and the field is the world. The field represents the world. It's not just the church, it's the world that contains the church. And as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom. The good seed represents genuine believers, genuine Christians. Now remember in the first parable, the seed represented the Word of God, but here it represents genuine believers. And the tares they are the sons of the evil one, verse 38 says. The tares represent unbelievers, our fake Christians. By the way, this idea of fake Christians living right alongside genuine Christians, that is nothing new. It has been happening since the beginning of Christianity.
As I was preparing the message this week, I thought I would pull down Dr. Criswell's commentary on Matthew and see how he handled this passage. Dr. Criswell made a great point when he said, "From the beginning of the faith, believers and unbelievers have lived right alongside one another". Even in Jesus' circle of the 12, there was a tare, his name was Judas. He appeared to be a believer. He even lived right alongside those disciples for three years, but he was a phony Christian. Among the 500 who saw the resurrected Lord among them were some tares. Some who doubted. Right alongside Paul, the greatest missionary whoever lived, there was a Demas the man who forsook Paul because he loved the things of this world, more than he loved the Lord. You look at the great creeds of the early church, those great confessions of faith.
Do you realize all of them were reactions against some heresy that had been begun by unbelievers in the early church? Since the beginning of the faith, we have seen believers and unbelievers side by side. That's what he's talking about here. Verse 39: the enemy who sowed the unbelievers is the devil. Satan is the enemy. Just like the enemy came and took a land that was not his own and he planted these false wheat, these tares. So this world really doesn't belong to Satan, it's God's. But Satan is the great transgressor, he is the one who has come and tried to destroy what God is doing. The harvest, that represents the end of the age. The harvest equals the final judgment at the end of the age. That's at the end of the grace era that we're in right now. It's not at the raptures, we'll see in a moment, but when Christ returns at his second coming to set up his kingdom on the earth, that's when this judgment takes place.
And notice also the reapers, the one who separate believers and unbelievers are the angels. That's the meaning of the parable. Look verse 40, "Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with a fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. For the Son of Man will send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness". This is the judgment that will occur when Christ comes back to earth. Remember when Christ returns at his second coming, it will be at the end of the Great Tribulation. And at the end of that seven year of tribulation on the earth there will be some Christians who survived that tribulation. These will be men and women who were saved at the beginning of the tribulation. They persevered in their faith. They weren't martyred. They are alive when Christ returns. There are also unbelievers who will be alive at the end of the second coming. People who weren't destroyed by the plagues that God sent up on the earth.
So when Christ comes back to earth to establish his kingdom, there has to be a judgment. Only true believers can then enter into the Kingdom of God here on earth. So this is when this great judgment is going to take place. Now, I want you to hold your place here and turn over to Matthew chapter 24. Another reference to this judgment. I want to show you one of the most misinterpreted passages by Christians in all of the New Testament related to the second coming. It's in Matthew 24, beginning with verse 36, Christ has just detailed beginning in verse 29 his coming to earth, his second coming, his visible return. Now notice in verse 36, what he says, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven nor the son, but the father alone".
Anybody who tells you, they have found the secret to the Bible code, or they have found the secret of Bible prophecy, and can tell you when Christ is coming back again, write them off as a quack. Nobody knows when Christ is coming back again, not even Jesus himself knows. It's reserved for God himself. That's what Jesus said. But what he does come notice what it will be like, verse 37: for the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For is in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark. Verse 39: and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. Underline that phrase in your Bible, took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Now, who got taken away by the flood God's judgment, believers or unbelievers. Unbelievers, the unbelievers were taken away by the flood.
Now here's where it gets interesting verse 40: then there shall be two men in the field. One will be, there's the same word, taken away, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken away and one will be left. Where is the woman at the mill taken? Where is the man in the field taken? To heaven? No. This isn't the rapture. This is the second coming. The ones that are taken are the unbelievers who are taken away into eternal judgment. That's what Jesus is describing here. The judgment that takes place when he comes his second visible coming. Now go back for a moment to Matthew chapter 13, let's see where these people are taken away to. What is their destination? Matthew chapter 13, beginning with verse 42, talking about Christ it says: and he will cast them into the furnace of fire. In that place where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus is saying the eternal destiny of phony Christians is hell.
Perhaps one of Jesus most vivid descriptions of hell is found in a parable we'll look at in detail in the weeks ahead, Luke chapter 16. The story of the rich man and Lazarus. Remember the rich man died and he went to hell, to hades. Not because he was wealthy, but because he was self-sufficient. He could never bring himself to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation. Remember what Jesus said when that man shut his eyes on earth for the last time and awakened in hell. The Bible says: and in hades, he lifted up his eyes and said, "Father Abraham have mercy on me for I am in agony in these flames". Jesus taught there was actual conscious eternal suffering in hell. And here he describes it in verse 42, as a place that will be characterized by weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth.
People who say, oh, I don't care about going to hell, that's where all my friends are going to be and we'll have a great time there. They don't know what they're talking about. Your friends may be in hell, but you won't know it. Because it's a place of indescribable loneliness. Of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Perhaps the most terrifying thing about hell is, it's a forever destination. The weeping, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth will not only be due to the physical suffering there, but it will be the realization that there is no way out. The awful truth about hell is this, when you will have spent 10 billion, trillion years in that place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. When you have spent 10 billion, trillion years there, you will not have lessened by one second, the time you have left to spend there. That's the awful truth about hell. People say, I just don't believe that. I don't believe that. I don't believe God would ever allow such a thing to happen.
Ladies and gentlemen, if you don't believe that then Jesus Christ is a liar. You have to come to that conclusion. Because Jesus talked more often about hell than he did about heaven. You can't say, well, I accept what he said about heaven. I just reject what he said about hell. No. He spoke more often about hell than he did about heaven. Why? Because it's a reality. It's the place from which he came and died to deliver us. Jesus said, "Those who are phony Christians will be cast into this place of fire". But notice in verse 43, the destination of genuine believers, in contrast, "Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father. He who has ears, let him hear".
What Jesus is showing is the great contrast in the eternal destiny of the unbeliever and the believer. The unbeliever will be forever in hell. That place of darkness. The believer will be with Christ forever in heaven. One reason we have a hard time believing that, one reason we have a hard time believing there really is a difference between the eternal destination of the saved and the unsaved is, right now in this world, believers and unbelievers exist side by side with one another. That's true in your workplace. Where you work right now, there're believers and there're unbelievers, working at the same place of business. In your home very possibly, there are unbelievers and believers who live under the same roof, who perhaps even sleeping in the same bed. Even in this church this morning, First Baptist Church Dallas, out there in the pews, there're believers and unbelievers sharing the same pew. Each here, each purporting to worship God. Some are genuine believers. Some are fake believers, but even though we exist side-by-side, the wheat and the tares, believers and unbelievers, even though we exist side-by-side in this world, Jesus is saying there is a time of separation coming.
There is a time when God will separate the real from the fake. Real Christians from phony Christians. And that separation will last for all eternity. And what's the application of this parable for us? Lemme suggest to you first of all, three wrong or false applications that people mistakenly make from this parable. First of all, this parable is wrongly applied if it leads to an apathy for lost people, an apathy for loss people. There's some people who would say, well, since you can't really tell who's a real Christian and not a real Christian, you shouldn't even try, just leave it up to God, let him worry about it. And pretty soon you will find yourself not sharing your faith with anyone because you think, well, I can't tell who's really a believer and not a believer. That's not what Jesus is saying.
If you look at Luke 15, as we will in the months ahead, Jesus told three parables about a lost coin, a lost sheep and a lost son, to show that God loves people who are lost. That's why he sent Christ to rescue them. And if we really have the heart of God, we too will be looking for those who are lost, not to judge them, but to lead them to a place of salvation. Jesus isn't saying we shouldn't try to determine whether somebody is saved or lost. We ought to try to make that determination, not to judge them, but to rescue them.
By the way, let me give you a foolproof question you can use to determine whether somebody is saved or lost. There's somebody you're concerned about. You really want to know whether they're saved or lost, ask them this simple question, what are you depending on to get you to heaven when you die? What are you depending on to get you to heaven when you die? Most people even church people will say, well, the fact that I try to keep the 10 commandments, or I live by the golden rule, or my grandfather was a founder of the church, or I was baptized when I was an infant. They'll come up with all kinds of things. All of which are the wrong answer. There's only one right answer to that question. What am I depending on to get me to heaven when I die? The fact that I've trusted in Jesus to be my Savior. That I believe that he died in my place, that he took the punishment that I deserve.