We have quite a large vegetable garden. Keeping the local herd of whitetail deer out is no small challenge, especially late in the summer when they seem to have insatiable appetites as they start fattening up for the fall and winter months. It is also quite a task to keep the weeds from taking over. We were gone earlier this summer to Oregon for little over a week and are just now getting caught back up on weeding. The weeds had matured quite nicely so that you could get a five gallon bucket full in about a 10 square-foot area! At least I had a sense of accomplishment when I dug or pulled them, as some were very large.
I went on some websites to see if I could identify some of the typical weeds we have in our garden, but all they wanted to do was sell me books, so didn’t get many identified. I just know that what we pull are things we are not raising in our garden. After you have grown a garden of corn, peas, beans, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkins, lettuce, spinach, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, beets, etc. for all the years we have, you don’t have any trouble spotting what doesn’t belong. You become familiar enough with the real things that you can spot the intruders, even though some are rather close counterfeit look-alikes. One in particular that seems to especially grow in the potato patch appears very much like the foliage on the potatoes and even has some little white flowers that are similar to those on the potato vines. You can go through and carefully pull them out and yet find more in just a few days. It seems it is hard to spot them all. Many are not rooted out until the potatoes are harvested. And every year it is the same thing. They are back again!
I couldn’t help but think of the parable Jesus taught about the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident as well” (Mt. 13:24b-26). The tares were weeds–probably darnel–which resembled wheat but which could be distinguished from wheat when fully ripe. Earlier, Jesus had warned about “false prophets who would come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). He went on to add, “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?” (v. 16). Satan is always sowing tares among the wheat–placing professing believers (who are really false teachers) in churches to lead believers away from the truth and to cause division and strife.
Throughout the early church, as described in the New Testament, we see evidence of this problem. It seems that wherever the Apostle Paul went, false teachers called “legalistic Judaizers” followed trying to convince the new converts that they still had to keep the law in order to really be saved. They attempted to put them back under the yoke of bondage of the Old Covenant. The whole book of Galatians addressed that problem specifically. Paul, in his letters, indicated that as we approach the return of Christ, there would be a proliferation of false teachers, and unfortunately, many who would listen to them, those who “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (II Tim. 4:3,4). In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: “The Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (I Tim. 4:1). The Apostle John warned that in the last times, many antichrists will arise right within the churches. He spoke of some who “went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they are not of us” (I Jn. 2:18,19). John said, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (II Jn. 7). Jude, the half brother of Jesus, wrote: “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, ‘In the last time there shall be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.’ These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the spirit” (Jude 17-19). Jude warned his readers not to be surprised by the existence of “tares among the wheat”–ungodly men, false teachers, within the ranks of the church.
So, how do you spot these “tares” and their false teachings? How can you detect counterfeits? The same way we can pick out the weeds in our garden, by being very familiar with the genuine vegetables and what they look like. When you know the real thing, the counterfeit is much easier to spot. So, we need to be continually grounded in the Word of God, learning and loving and living sound doctrine so we can spot that which is false. We need to be regular attenders of a solid Bible-teaching church in order “to attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by the trickery of men, by craftiness and deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:13,14). We need to be students of the Word, doing our own personal Bible study. We should, as Paul exhorted Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15). We need to pray as we study Scripture, asking the indwelling Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the truth so that we can come to a proper understanding of Scripture, as we apply good tools of interpretation such as context, comparing Scripture with Scripture, word studies, background, etc. It is also helpful to have some good, trustworthy Bible Commentaries to help us when needed. And always, be like the Bereans who even checked out what Paul taught to make sure it squared with the rest of Scripture (Acts 17:10,11).
And remember, just as you are never done weeding the garden, you will never be done watching for false teachers and their “doctrines of demons.” Always be alert. Always be in the Word and in communication with God.