Harvest Festival Family Service: 2 questions, 2 destinations - Matthew 13:24-43
An audio recording of this sermon is available.
I want to begin this morning by showing you a few pictures on the big screen to my right hand side. And what I want you to do, as you look at each of the pictures, is to ask yourself this question: As I look at the picture, what do I feel like saying to God in response? Have you got that? Look at the picture and have a think about what you would like to say to God in response.
Hereís picture number 1 (FOOD). Now let me just see what people are thinking. Itís always dangerous to get into peopleís minds isnít it? You never know what you will find or what they will tell you. But letís try it anyway. Who would like to volunteer what they would like to say to God as a result of seeing this picture? Any offers?
Okay, hereís picture number 2 (FAMILY). Have a look at it and have a think about what you would like to say to God in response. Any suggestions?
Summary point: there are lots of events in the world and lots of people in the world that make us want to say thank to God for giving us all the good gifts that he does. And thatís one of the big reasons that we have a harvest festival here at St Johns every year. We want to say thank you to God for his amazing generosity.
But what about this picture (LONDON BOMBINGS). Have a look at this and have a think about what you would like to say to God in response. Who would like to volunteer an answer?
So what have we discovered this morning? Yes of course there are many occasions when we feel prompted to thank God for his generosity but there are also moments when rather than thanking God we want to ask him questions. We look at the state of the world as reported on the TV or we catch a glimpse of yet another depressing headline as we walk past the newsagents and donít you feel like asking God questions? I know I do and Iím sure that many of you do as well. So this morning weíre going to ask Jesus two questions about the state of the world and weíre going to listen to his answers as we find them in the bible.
Now I need your help for this because the first question that we are going to ask is somewhere under your seats. And before we ask it we need to find it. So right now I want you to look under your seat in case you discover a question mark. And if you do can you please bring it out to the front?
Ask youngster to read out the question.
(CHANGE SLIDE) So here is question number 1 and itís a really popular question isnít it? Why is the world like this? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Of course you have. Itís a question that many people ask every day. As they look at the state of the world they want to ask God this question: why is the world like this?
This is what Jesus says (CHANGE SLIDE). The kingdom of heaven (that is the place where God rules, his world) is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. "The ownerís servants came to him and said, ĎSir, didnít you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?í "ĎAn enemy did this,í he replied.
So have you got the picture? We are to imagine a man sowing good seed in his field and then at night an enemy, under the cover of darkness, carries out some devious agricultural sabotage by planting poisonous weeds in the ground. Itís a great story isnít it? I love it. But itís also a story with an uncomfortable meaning so letís listen to Jesusí explanation of the parable. This is what we read in the Bible. (CHANGE SLIDE). His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
So why is the world like this? Why is the world so mixed up? Why do so many bad things happen on a national scale and also on a personal scale? The answer, according to Jesus, is because there is a rebellion going on in his kingdom, there is a rebellion going on in his world. Did you see that? (CHANGE SLIDE) Jesus says there are two groups of people alive today. Those who are called the sons of the kingdom and those who are called the sons of the evil one. Or to put it simply: in this life, according to Jesus, you can only belong to one of two families. Either you are a member of the royal family, that is a son of the kingdom, or you are a member of the devilís family, that is a son of the evil one. So let me ask you: which one are you? Which family do you belong to?
Now Iím sure that if I took a survey of the congregation no one here today would put their hands up and declare that I am a member of the devilís family. Iím sure that you could invite me round to your house and I would never find a red costume with pointy ears. But nevertheless let me say something shocking but true. If you are someone here today who has never personally asked Jesus to be the King of your life, who has never handed over control of your life to him, then according to Jesus you are a son of the evil one. You are a soldier in his army. You are a weed in the field and you are rebelling against the rightful rule of King Jesus in your life.
Why is the world like this? Because the vast majority of people who live on planet earth, people like you and me, are selfish rebels against the loving and generous God who made them. Yes we may show our rebellion in different ways. Some people shake their fists at God and say "Get lost, I want nothing to do with you. Stay clear. Keep your distance." But for most people itís rather more passive than that. They donít shake their fists at God they just turn their backs on him. They ignore him and get on with life without him. They donít consult him. They make the decisions. They decide whatís right and they never thank God for all the wonderful gifts that he constantly throws in their direction. Human beings, young or old, suffer from the disease of self-centredness. Itís called the me disease. Who will decide whatís right? Me. Who will make the rules? Me. Who will decide when I go to church? Me. Who will decide what I do with my money? Me. And we could go on and on. Because human beings suffer from the disease of self-centredness.
And if you donít believe me let me ask you to try out this little test. Think back to all the conversations that youíve had this week with friends, family and those at work and ask yourself this: how many of those conversations have you managed to make about you even if they were never about you in the first place?
(CHANGE SLIDE) A number of years ago the Times newspaper ran a series of articles asking the question "What is wrong with the world?" And over a number of weeks they suggested various possibilities. But the most profound answer and the most correct answer was provided in a letter to the editor. It was from the Christian writer G.K. Chesterton who simply wrote in answer to the question "What is wrong with the world?": Dear sir, I am. Yours sincerely. G.K. Chesterton.
(CHANGE SLIDE) So why is the world like this? Because it is populated by a vast number of people who live selfish lives.
Okay, thatís question number 1. Now we need question number 2. So can anyone see question number 2? It should be around the church somewhere. And when you find it can you go and get it and bring it to me.
Ask youngster to read out the question.
So here is question number 2 (CHANGE SLIDE). And lots of people want to ask this question to God donít they? Why donít you do something about it? And the answer: amazingly in spite of the terrible way we have treated God in the past: he loves us. And thatís why he doesnít do something about the mess of the world now. Yes he will do something about it in the future. Jesus does promise a future harvest. But for the moment Christians of whatever age need to be patient and those who are not Christians need to become Christians before its too late.
So let me remind you of the words of Jesus. (CHANGE SLIDE) He says, "The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
The big question that you need to answer today is this: Do I believe what Jesus is saying or do I think that he was a liar? So, for example, when he talks about a future punishment for those who are not sons of the kingdom do I believe him? When he talks about a weeping and a gnashing of teeth is he trying to frighten me or is there something to be frightened about? Is he trying to spoil my fun and ruin my day or is he, because he loves me, doing this?(ADVANCE SLIDE) Is he setting up a massive warning sign that says if you continue to walk in this direction there is danger ahead? But, the good news is, there is still time to change your ways.
Let me ask you this: Which destination are you heading for? Do you know? Will it be the fire or will you instead shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father?
(CHANGE SLIDE) Why donít you do something about it? Because I love you says God. I have a passionate desire to see you prosper and so therefore I am delaying my final harvest of judgement so that all of you can have an opportunity to stop rebelling against me and instead become my children. God says to us this morning: I love you that much!
So let me finish by quoting to you the big challenge from Jesus himself. This is what he says. (CHANGE SLIDE). He who has ears, let him hear. He says donít do this (CHANGE SLIDE). Did you ever do that when you were younger? Cover up your ears and say la la la. I canít hear you. Jesus says to us this morning, donít play that game with the things of God. They are far too important to ignore. So (CHANGE SLIDE) he who has ears, let him hear.
And that means if youíre not a Christian here this morning then find out how you can become one. The stakes are massive. Your eternal future is hanging in the balance. So please either ask for a book at the end or sign up for one of our Christianity Explored courses. You must check out whether what Iíve said this morning is true. Now if it isnít then fine. Go on and carry on life as before. But if it is, and I am convinced that it is, then you must hand over control of your life to Jesus before itís too late. So please come and check out whether this is true.
And if you are a Christian here this morning then please be encouraged. God has forgotten the world. Evil will not always win the day. There is a harvest planned on heavenís calendar. So be patient and in the meantime get on with the great task of turning the sons of the evil one into the sons of the kingdom.
Jesus says: He who has ears, let him hear. Letís pray together.
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