“Wherever” and “whenever” there is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a spiritual hotspot of the world, or a revival amongst Christians, the difference between true believers and those who are not, becomes glaringly obvious. Our national church planting partners have been reporting this truth to me more and more of late. As I studied again what God’s Word has to say about this fact, I read two parables in Matthew—one focuses on wheat and tares, and the other on sheep and goats. And while we must realize that these passages are specifically looking towards what will transpire at Jesus’ return, it appears that God is allowing the distinction to be clearly observed even now.
At a great distance, it is very difficult to differentiate between sheep and goats gathered in one flock. Likewise, in a field of wheat, the tares (i.e., weeds that closely resemble wheat) are almost indistinguishable from far away. On closer inspection, however, within each of these groupings, the difference is clear and distinct. This is why the parables that Jesus told on these two subjects are so important to understand in regards to both current and Last Days missions.
Up close, the sounds (words) that come out of a sheep’s mouth are different from that of a goat. Up close, sheep and goats act differently because they are distinct creatures. In the same way, the spirit or attitude of a believer is observably different from an unbeliever. Believers in Christ, because they are born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, display from the heart of their being—peace, calmness, serenity, hope, love, joy, compassion, humility, and Christ-likeness. At their core, unbelievers are the complete opposite. Some may attempt to be part of the family of God by religious observance, but on the inside, they have never come to know God personally. Goats cannot turn into sheep without a supernatural miracle. In the same way, an unbeliever cannot become a believer without a supernatural miracle—which is known as being “born again” (John 3).
Today, we are witnessing the beginning of a separation of the two groups of people that Jesus told us would come to pass in the Last Days—that being the saved and the unsaved. Leaders of national churches have overwhelmingly confirmed to me that this is transpiring in their countries presently, spurred on by the pandemic and persecution of believers. To put it in the wheat and tares analogy, “The garden is being weeded today before our eyes.” The Bible teaches that genuine Christians would spiritually shine under pressure as Jesus did. They would be bold in their witness, trusting, compassionate, hopeful, joyful, and above all else peaceful as the world falls apart around them. Jesus was preparing the children of God in advance with these two parables for the greatest test of all human history:
How will followers of Christ conduct themselves, and what will we look like,
before a watching world as the end draws near?
In a recent conversation with a leader of the national Church in India, I learned of a church planter who had recently died. He came from an impoverished Christian family, but due to his sharp mind and great skill with computers, he was offered a highly lucrative job. He flatly turned it down, because he knew he had the calling of God on his life to be an evangelist to the poor villagers of rural India. And in this role, he was exceedingly successful, leading many people to Christ and starting churches wherever he went. This man had a reputation as an exceptionally godly and peaceful lover of people, never becoming angry and never speaking ill of anyone. He and his wife were terribly poor, living sacrificial lives, always trusting in God to supply their basic needs. A few weeks ago, this faithful church planter died of natural causes, leaving behind his young family. At his funeral, many high caste Brahmins whom he had led to Christ said this:
“We came to know the Lord not because of the Gospel we heard—
it was because of the Gospel we saw in this man.”
Whether we like it or not (or know it or not) the world is watching Christians today like never before, to see whether we are sheep or goats – wheat or tares. Believers around the world in regions where millions are accepting Christ are cognizant of this reality. They are not just trying to be “on their best behaviour,” but rather are daily revealing to those whose eyes are searching for Truth that Christians are different—different inside and radiating God’s presence outside—because God lives within them and is transforming them.
The updates I share regularly are true accounts of the sheep that Jesus loves; those who are winning people to Christ, many times under very difficult circumstances. They realize, as we should as well, that Jesus is beginning to separate the true from the false—the sheep from the goats—and the wheat from the tares. Hallelujah!
Even though we live in trying and difficult times, we are watching Jesus build an expansive and powerful Church that is growing and thriving in this current world environment.
Since our inception, Empower’s guiding “motto” has been this: He builds… we strengthen… His Church. I want to thank you for the way you are strengthening the Body of Christ through your donations and prayers, empowering them to stand tall in the face of strong headwinds. They recognize your sacrifices and are appreciative of your love and concern.