Matthew 13:31-32 “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
I grew up in a branch of conservative Christianity with a view of the end times that had true believers increasingly marginalized in society, finally herded into a tiny corner of the world awaiting the return of Jesus while the rest of the world goes to hell in a handbasket. Not exactly the picture Jesus paints of the mustard seed. But I get as discouraged as anyone with the state of the church. I personally wouldn’t mind some days burrowing down in my own little corner of the world and covering my head with a blanket until it all disappears. There are some ministries associated with my upbringing that I so hope will embrace the gospel at a deeper level and then change to better reflect it. Instead, I just keep seeing the exact opposite. There is the particular issue of sexual abuse rocking segments of Christian fundamentalism, and the inability of individual leaders and ministries to articulate and embrace a Biblical ethic on sexual abuse is absolutely mind boggling to me. Instead of the bloom of the mustard seed (which results in confession, repentance, and restoration), it seems more like an infectious disease that devastates more and more ministries. I get discouraged.
I’m thankful for the reformed pastor that first exposed me to the mustard seed view of the kingdom of God. It’s growing, folks. The kingdom of God is at hand. He is making His church glorious. Certainly the works of the flesh are evident, just as Scripture predicts. We’re always going to be more aware of the bad than the good. It’s the nature of man to focus on the sensational – sin, abuse, oppression, bad theology, and so forth. The sensational is … well … sensational. But for every pastor that is disciplining a sexual abuse victim or aiming missiles at those called to hold him accountable, there are ten who are ministering gospel grace to victims, repenting of sin, correcting mistakes, pursuing justice, and modeling the life of Christ to their congregations.
The works of the Spirit are subtle. The left hand isn’t letting the right hand know what’s it’s doing, and that’s how God said it should be. If you’re quiet and patient, you’ll get glimpses. The Spirit is slow and steady, and the things He accomplishes will not be ripped away. The mustard seed is growing, and it will burst forth in glory. When Jesus returns, it’s not to a marginalized church hiding in the corner. He is making her beautiful and glorious day in and day out, and when He returns, she is overcoming.
When I get discouraged by the state of the church, I am learning to discipline myself to align my thoughts and focus with the mustard seed. Where is the true gospel being presented? Where is it taking root? Where is grace flowing? Where is confidence in the finished work of Christ for our sanctification triumphing over legalism? Where are wrongs being made right? Where is good triumphing over evil?
After a day of being bombarded with all the dysfunction in Christian circles, I wrote a friend and asked for encouragement. Where is God working?! She wrote back with a beautiful affirmation of how the mustard seed was blooming in her own little world. It was subtle – quiet conversations in the dead of night, private repentance over private sins, making things right, and seeking accountability. I was encouraged.
Yes, everything is subject to Him. No, we don’t yet see everything subject to Him. But we can be confident that He who has begun His good work will complete it. Yea, IS completing it.
Hebrews 2: 7-8
“You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
The kingdom of God is at hand!