Last Sunday after Pentecost: ​​ Christ the King

Jesus in Disguise

(Matthew 25:31-46)

 

INTRODUCTION

“The surprise was complete. ​​ The attacking planes came in two waves; the first hit its target at 7:53 A.M., the second at 8:55. ​​ By 9:55 it was all over. ​​ By 1:00 P.M. the carriers that launched the planes from 274 miles off the coast of Oahu were heading back to Japan.

 

Behind them they left chaos, 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes, and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included eight damaged or destroyed battleships.

 

At 6 A.M. (Hawaiian time) on December 7, 1941, the first Japanese attack fleet of 183 planes took off from aircraft carriers 230 miles north of Oahu. ​​ Ironically, at 7:02 A.M., two Army operators at a radar station on Oahu’s north shore picked up approaching Japanese fighters on radar. ​​ They contacted a junior officer who disregarded their sighting, thinking that it was B-17 bombers from the United States west coast. ​​ The first Japanese bomb was dropped at 7:55 a.m. on Wheeler Field, eight miles from Pearl Harbor. ​​ No one was prepared for what was occurring. ​​ The rest is history.

 

At Pearl Harbor, the consequences for not being ready for an enemy attack was devastating. ​​ There were signs that went unheeded. ​​ Had the U.S. military been ready to spring into action, the losses at Pearl Harbor might have been greatly reduced.

 

The element of watchful waiting applies to the return of Christ. ​​ For the believer, being ready for Christ’s return involves more than not being caught by surprise. ​​ It also involves living a life in faithful obedience to God, investing our resources in the kingdom of God. ​​ Jesus will someday return. ​​ Those who are found faithful and living in obedience to God will be rewarded. ​​ Are you among the ready?”

 

[Stuart K. Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary, 427-28].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Mission Trips

        • Spokane, WA – an important part of what we did was to take care of Wayne and Denise Miller and their family

        • Mississippi – we are planning a trip to Carthage, MS next summer to help at Abigail Farmer’s church (she is one of our missionaries) – part of the time will again be spent taking care of Abby and ministering to her

    • Serving others

        • Dwane

          • A friend of mine was diagnosed with a brain tumor

          • He was a follower of Jesus Christ

          • I took him once to his experimental treatment and waited with him

          • He had helped me out before when I woke up with something in my eye in the middle of the night

        • Serving homeless in Spokane, WA

          • They were so appreciative of the food and clothing items we brought through the two organizations we served with

          • It was a joy to minister to each person

 

  • WE

    • Youth

        • Week of service this past summer (they took care of other ministries)

          • Tender Care Pregnancy Center

          • Upper Adams Food Pantry

          • Project Share

          • Laurin and Bev Fleming’s home

        • In the past

          • New Hope Ministries in Hanover

          • Adams Rescue Mission

          • Helped with other individuals within the church

    • Adults

        • Gettysburg Soup Kitchen

        • Upper Adams Food Pantry

        • In-Gathering (happened last week)

        • Individuals in our church have used their talents to help others in the church

          • Car maintenance and repair

          • Yard work and mowing

          • Cleaning

          • Financial support

          • Rides to church, doctor appointments, the pharmacy, and the grocery store

          • These are just a few of the ways that we have helped others, but there are countless other ways as well

    • Take a moment to think about how you have taken care of others

 

Jesus has been teaching on the Mount of Olives. ​​ He has been talking about the future and gives a couple parables to help His disciples understand they need to be ready and obediently working at multiplying the Gospel. ​​ He concludes His Olivet Discourse by teaching about the final judgment. ​​ Through His teaching Jesus wants His disciples and us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Serving servants of Jesus is serving Jesus.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Matthew 25:31-46)

    • Jesus will return (vv. 31-33)

        • PROMISE/TRUTH – God will send Jesus to earth a second time

          • When God gives us a promise or truth in His Word, we can claim that promise and believe that truth, wholeheartedly

          • We can put our hope in the fact that Jesus is coming again

          • It will be in power, which is represented by all the angels coming with Him

          • He will also come in authority as He sits on His throne in heavenly glory

          • He will come with God’s glory and authority to judge

        • Nations and people

          • In the Greek the word used for “nations” is talking about all people or the Gentiles and the Jews

          • The Great Commission includes every nationality and people group in the entire world

          • While every nation will be represented, the Greek word used for “the people” is in the masculine gender and “implies that individuals and not just nations or people groups are intended.” ​​ [Blomberg, The New American Commentary, Matthew, 376]

          • This concept agrees with all of Scripture – we are individually responsible for our salvation and how it is evidenced through our actions

        • Separating individuals

          • Jesus uses imagery that would have been familiar to those He was teaching

          • The practice of keeping sheep and goats together in the pasture is still used in the Middle East today

          • Our image of sheep and goats is different than in the Middle East and probably from what was normal in the 1st Century

            • Our image of sheep are those with pure white wool coats

            • Goats can have different colored spots and patches on their coats

            • The sheep being referenced here probably had spots and patches of different colors that made them harder to distinguish from the goats

            • Genesis 30:31-32, “What shall I give you?” he asked. ​​ “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. ​​ “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: ​​ Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. ​​ They will be my wages.”

          • While sheep and goats grazed together in the fields, when it was time to separate them, they would be sent down a chute that required them to go one at time in a single line

            • A shepherd would sit on top of the fence and swing a gate back and forth to guide each animal into the appropriate pen [Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary, Matthew, 424]

            • If the sheep and goats were both spotted, it would take a trained eye to quickly separate them

          • Jesus has that trained eye

            • We do not know the heart of man, but God does

            • We may think from outward actions or superficial knowledge that we know who are God’s people and who are not

            • Praise the Lord, He knows!

          • Right and left

            • Jesus will separate each individual from all nations

            • He will put the sheep, who represent those who are righteous, on His right side – this is the place of honor

            • He will put the goats, who represent those who are cursed, on His left side – in this context, it was a place of disgrace

        • Now that the righteous and the cursed have been separated, Jesus explains what will happen to each group

    • Blessed (vv. 34-40)

        • Reward (v. 34)

          • Jesus refers to Himself as the King in this parable

          • He will beckon those on His right – the righteous ones – to come and take their inheritance

          • These individuals are blessed by God the Father

            • This blessing is not the same as in the Beatitudes, where the Greek word means “happy”

            • It rather means someone who enjoys God’s good favor [France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Matthew, 962]

            • It also has the idea that these individuals have received God’s spiritual and material blessing and favor already and that they will continue to receive it [Weber, Holman New Testament Commentary, Matthew, 424]

          • Their reward is the inheritance of the Kingdom of God

            • This was prepared for them since the creation of the world

            • There are two beliefs concerning the wording “since the creation of the world”

              • One belief system says that the identity of the individuals who will enjoy God’s blessing and favor have been determined before their birth

              • The other belief system is that Jesus is referring to the group of those who are saved as a whole

              • “God has prepared this kingship for those who will prove to be worthy of it, but who those people will be remains to be discovered on the basis of their response to the gospel and to the will of God.” ​​ [France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Matthew, 963]

              • As we’ll see in vv. 35-36, how individuals respond to Jesus’ disciples who are in need, is evidence of a genuine relationship with Him

        • Service (vv. 35-36)

          • The righteous ones recognize three basic human needs (food, shelter, and companionship) and step in to help

          • These individual did not have to be told to do these things, because it was an outpouring of their love for Christ

          • Their perspective on humanity had been transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ – they now saw each person as a valuable creation of God the Father

          • The amazing thing is that they didn’t even realize they were serving Jesus

        • Surprise (vv. 37-39)

          • These verses make it sound like the righteous are confused or surprised by the King’s statement

          • They didn’t realize that serving servants of Jesus is serving Jesus

          • Jesus is saying to the righteous that they fed Him, gave Him water to drink, invited Him in to their homes, gave Him clothing, took care of Him when He was sick, and visited Him when He was in prison

            • Jesus is talking to His disciples about the final judgment

            • So, it could be confusing how these individuals had taken care of Jesus in the various scenarios outlined, since He was already back in heaven

            • I like how Wilkins addresses the surprise that the righteous ones are experiencing

            • “Such surprise indicates that these were not intentional meritorious acts to gain access to the kingdom. ​​ Rather, these acts of mercy are evidences that the sheep belong to the kingdom . . .” ​​ [Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, Matthew, 810]

              • The righteous were ​​ not doing these things as a way of working their way to heaven

              • They were doing these things as evidence that they were already citizens of heaven

              • They had been transformed by Jesus Christ and the proof was evident through how they served servants of Jesus

              • PRINCIPLE – Acts of service are a sign of salvation.

                • Our acts of service do not have to be “great” things

                • They are usually little things that seem insignificant to us

                • Providing food and drink to those who are need

                • Welcoming someone into our home who is a stranger

                • Offering clothing to those who need them

                • Caring for the sick or visiting those in prison

                • Perhaps the righteous didn’t even remember doing these things because they seem so insignificant

          • Application

            • Are we helping those in need?

              • There are individuals all around us who are in need

              • There are those who are hungry and thirsty

              • There are individuals who need shelter and clothing

              • There are many in our congregation right now who are sick and can use help

              • We financially support Chaplain Will Olson and his ministry at Adams County Adult Correctional Facility, but he needs volunteers to help with Bible studies to both men and women

              • There are other needs in our church and community that we can help with

                • Financial counseling

                • Those who have experienced divorce and separation (children and adults)

                • Various addictions (drugs, alcohol, pornography, etc.)

                • There a things we can do corporately as the body of Christ

              • What can you do individually?

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Commit to helping those in my church and community who are in need.

            • What is our motivation for helping those in need?

              • The righteous in Jesus’ parable weren’t motivated by accolades or the hope of salvation by serving others

              • It was an outpouring and evidence of the transformational power of the Gospel in their lives

              • “True disciples will pass an examination not because they are trying to pass an examination but because they will love his brothers and sisters – and therefore Jesus.” ​​ [D.A. Carson cited by Boice, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 2, An Expositional Commentary, 541]

              • We should be serving others, because of the salvation we have received through Jesus Christ

          • This passage has been used by many in the social Gospel movement to motivate Christians to serve the poor, but those Jesus is referring to here are not just any poor or needy person

        • Servants (v. 40)

          • Disciples of Jesus

            • The least of these brothers of mine refers to Christ’s disciples or all Christians

            • In Matthew’s gospel the Greek word used for “least” is the superlative form of the adjective “little [ones]” which without exception in the gospel of Matthew refers to the disciples (10:42; 18:6, 10, 14; cf. also 5:19; 11:11)

            • The same is true of the Greek word used for “brothers” – “when not referring to literal, biological siblings, always means spiritual kin (5:22-24, 47; 7:3-5; 12:48-50; 18:15 (2X), 21, 35; 23:8; 28:10).” ​​ [Blomberg, The New American Commentary, Matthew, 377-78]

            • John Broadus explains it this ways, “Our Lord is not expressly speaking of benevolence to the poor and suffering in general, but of kindness to his poor and suffering ‘brethren’ for his sake.” ​​ [Broadus cited by Boice, The Gospel of Matthew Volume 2, An Expositional Commentary, 541]

              • For this particular passage of Scripture, Jesus is saying that our future depends on how we relate to His followers, which is a reflection of how we relate to Him

              • The Apostle Paul reiterates Jesus’ teaching when writing to the Galatians about doing good to all

              • Galatians 6:10, Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

            • While this passage does not speak to the social justice for all people, that does not mean that God is ambivalent towards the poor and needy who are not followers of Jesus Christ

          • Importance of taking care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan

            • There are multiple passages throughout the Old Testament that speak about God’s will concerning the poor, the widow, and the orphan

            • Nearly every prophetic book in the Old Testament has a warning from the Lord concerning taking care of the poor, the widow, and the orphan

            • There are additional warnings against taking advantage of those who are less fortunate

            • The king and those in authority were not to forget about those in their kingdom who were in need

            • From those passages and others in the New Testament, we know that we have a responsibility to take care of all who are poor and needy, whether they are in our church or in our community

        • We see that the righteous are blessed and will receive the Kingdom as their inheritance, because they willingly took care of Jesus’ disciples who were in need as evidence of their salvation and relationship with Jesus Christ

        • But Jesus has something to say to those on His left who are cursed

    • Cursed (vv. 41-45)

        • Punishment (v. 41)

          • We see some mirrored opposites here

          • The cursed are told to depart from Jesus instead of coming to Him

          • They are cursed instead of blessed

          • Their destiny is the eternal fire instead of kingship

            • The eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels

            • We have no evidence in Scripture that the fallen angels were given a chance to repent

            • That is not the case with humanity

            • No one should have to face eternal fire – it was prepared for the devil and his angels

              • Yet there are those who have chosen hell by rejecting Jesus Christ

              • They have no one else to blame but themselves

              • God has given each of us a free will to either accept or reject His plan of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ

              • There are individuals who readily say they welcome hell as their destiny, but they don’t understand what they are saying and what’s at stake

                • Hell is total separation from those in heaven and from God – if those in hell are able to, they will understand the vastness of God’s grace and mercy because they will no longer be experiencing it – He will no longer hold back His wrath

                • Those who go to hell will be together with the devil and his angels in total rebellion against God

                • Hell is suffering – it will be eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30)

              • There is still hope!

                • Jesus has not yet returned the second time

                • God’s grace and mercy are still in full force

                • God’s salvation is still available to anyone and everyone who repents and submits to Jesus as their master

                • Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

                • The beginning of our relationship with Jesus Christ comes in believing in Him, but it doesn’t stop there

                • It’s a total transformation that takes place in our lives through the Holy Spirit that now lives within us

                • Matthew 16:24-26, Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. ​​ For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. ​​ What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? ​​ Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”

                • Luke shares the same teaching from Jesus, but adds that the we have to take up our cross daily

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Begin my relationship with Jesus today by accepting God’s grace through faith in Jesus, and then grow in my faith by denying myself and taking up my cross daily.

          • Those on Jesus’ left did not make that decision and therefore neglected to take care of Jesus’ disciples

        • Neglect (vv. 42-43)

          • Here is the sad reality – the cursed did not do some great evil against Jesus’ disciples, they simply neglected to do good

          • The reality for us is that there are some who claim to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and attend church on a regular basis, but will be separated to Jesus’ left hand

            • Their relationship with Jesus was only lip service

            • A true transformation never took place

            • The evidence is clear from what Jesus says about those individuals

            • They did not take care of the basic needs of Jesus’ disciples who were suffering

        • Surprise (v. 44)

          • This group is also surprised by Jesus’ statement of not taking care of Him

          • They also didn’t recognize that taking care of Jesus’ disciples who were suffering meant they were taking care of Jesus

          • They didn’t understand that serving servants of Jesus is serving Jesus

        • Servants (v. 45)

          • The same disciples of Jesus were around these individuals, but they refused to take care of them

          • Their perspective on humanity had not been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ

          • They perhaps looked right past or through these suffering servants of Jesus

          • Their hearts were not compassionate towards those followers of Jesus who were suffering for Him

          • They were more concerned about themselves instead of others

    • Accountability (v. 46)

        • PRINCIPLE – Every one of God’s people will be held accountable for their response to Jesus’ disciples who are in need.

        • Those who neglect to help Jesus’ disciples will experience eternal punishment

        • Those who serve Jesus’ disciples will experience eternal life

        • “The presence of kingdom life will always produce evidence in the transformed speech, thought, actions, and character of Jesus’ followers. ​​ The absence of transformation is proof that a person has not accepted the invitation to the kingdom. ​​ Reward or penalty is distributed according to the evidence.” ​​ [Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary, 813]

 ​​​​ 

  • YOU

    • Does your life evidence a transformation by Jesus Christ?

    • If you’ve never accepted God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ are you ready to do that today?

    • If you stood before Jesus today would you be a sheep or a goat?

 

  • WE

    • We all have an individual responsibility to serve Jesus’ disciples who are in need

    • We also have a corporate responsibility

        • We need individuals who will lead various ministry aspects

        • Men’s ministry leader

        • Single’s or divorce recovery ministry for adults and children

        • Addiction recovery

        • Prison ministry

        • Many more

        • We need individuals who have a passion for these various areas to step up and lead

 

CONCLUSION

“When a friend cared for her housebound mother-in-law, she asked her what she longed for the most. ​​ Her mother-in-law said, ‘For my feet to be washed.’ ​​ My friend admitted, ‘How I hated that job! ​​ Each time she asked me to do it I was resentful, and would ask God to hide my feelings from her.’

 

But one day her grumbling attitude changed in a flash. ​​ As she got out the bowl and towel and knelt at her mother-in-law’s feet, she said, ‘I looked up, and for a moment I felt like I was washing the feet of Jesus Himself. ​​ She was Jesus in disguise!’ ​​ After that, she felt honored to wash her mother-in-law’s feet.

 

Today, might you echo my friend, who now wonders when she meets someone new, ‘Are you Jesus in disguise?’”

 

[Amy Boucher Pye, Our Daily Bread, September, October, November 2017, October 24]

12

 

How many here today have ever played Hide and Seek? Hide-and-seek is a popular game in which any number of players, ideally at least three, conceal themselves in the environment, to be found by one or more seekers. The game is played by one player chosen as being "it". This person closes their eyes and counts to a predetermined number, usually 100, while the other players hide. After reaching this number, the player who is "it" calls "Ready or not, here I come!" and then attempts to locate all concealed players. This popular game probably has been around since the second century originating in Greece. With hide and seek four things were always certain: “It” was surely coming, “It” was coming when “It” got ready, “It” was coming whether you were ready or not and if you were not ready, then you would pay the consequences.

When I think of being “ready or not” I think of those times when something happens when you least expect it. You can probably think of many times in your life where something happened and you were either ready for it or you were not. For me my mind goes to July of 1999 when I was in a car accident and spent 21 days in the hospital and many more laid up at home through November of that year. You know I didn’t say to my wife Judy the day before, “Hey I hope we have that supplemental insurance, tomorrow we are going to need it” or the morning of the accident, say, “Stay close to your phone because you are going to get a call from the State Police to come meet me at the hospital”. No, it was a totally unexpected event that happened and we were either going to be ready or we were not going to be ready for the future that came with that unexpected event. Now you can never be ready for something like that but as we looked back God definitely prepared the way for us to come through that experience.

What is it for you? I am sure everyone here this morning can think of something that has happened to them or their family and you were either ready or not ready for it. Maybe, it was a financial situation that came upon you all of a sudden, maybe it was a job promotion or demotion, maybe it was finding out you were having twins, triplets or quadruplets. Sure, you have time to prepare, but ready or not those little ones were coming and you probably had to change some of the plans you had at first. Maybe it was a diagnosis, disease or illness or maybe it was a death in the family that was unexpected.

This morning we are going to be looking at two passages that you may not think are linked together but they are. The first is in Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, in chapter 5. Paul had gone to Thessalonica to preach the gospel to them. In the short time he was there, before being run out of town, he told the people about Jesus’ return. Now, in Paul’s absence, the Thessalonians did not deal with this knowledge the way Paul would have hoped and this was one of the reasons for this letter to them. Paul was encouraging the church of Thessalonica and us today about the importance of being ready. That game, of Hide and Seek, reminds me of the return of Jesus.

The second passage we will look at this morning is the parable of the talents. This parable is a familiar one to us and the insights we can glean from it prepares us for our future on this earth as we await Jesus’ return. That brings us to our big idea this morning that Paul and Matthew ​​ want to us to know, and that is, being ready for Jesus’ return must be proactive not reactive. But before we start unwrapping these passages let us dedicate this morning and this message to the Lord in prayer. Please bow your heads with me.

Dear Heavenly Father, Open our ears, this morning, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills, that we may serve you today/now and always. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

To understand this passage in chapter 5, we need to first go back to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 starting in verse 9. I will give you the cliff notes replay of chapter 4. When Paul was in Thessalonica he preached about the return of Jesus and this teaching had produced an odd and awkward situation in Thessalonica. The result was that many Thessalonians had quit their day job. They were getting together in crowds exciting and upsetting not only themselves but the community at large as they waited for what they thought was the imminent return of Jesus. Ordinary life had been disrupted in their communities. They had abandoned their jobs and stopped trying to make a living for themselves. Paul gave them some very practical advice in chapter 4. First, he tells them that when Jesus comes back he would want to find them quietly, efficiently and diligently working and making a living for themselves and their families. Knowing that Christ is coming back doesn’t mean we should stop our lives it means we should live our lives even harder and better and all the more faithfully. Second, he tells them the way to show others that they were Christ followers is by not allowing their Christianity to turn them into useless citizens. That would just discredit Christians and Christianity. A religion is known by the kind of people it produces. Our witness must line up with the lives we are living. Our lives must be the sermon that brings people to Christ. Third, he tells them they need to support themselves by working their jobs and not sponging off of others for charity. The effect of the Thessalonians quitting their jobs to wait for Christ’s return was that others had to support them. As Christians we need to help others who cannot help themselves but we also must be able to help ourselves and give back to the community not just take from it. We need to delight in giving and not taking especially if we can supply our own needs.

But, this idea of the imminent return of Jesus had brought another problem to the people of Thessalonica. They were expecting it to happen at any time and they definitely thought it would happen in their lifetime. They were worried about their loved ones who had died since becoming Christians. They were not sure that those who had died would join them when Jesus returned. Paul’s answer is that both those who are alive and dead will be together when Christ returns. He tells them not to sorrow about death as those who have no hope such as the pagans. ​​ In the face of death, the pagan or non-Christian has no hope. Paul lays down a great principle here that if a person has lived in Christ and died in Christ, even if he is dead he is still in Christ and he will rise with Christ. Paul in Romans 8:38-39 says this, “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. The importance is that if we are in Christ nothing can break that union.

Paul goes on to draws us a picture which is his attempt to put into words what is inexpressible and indescribable. This is the picture: On the day of Christ’s return, he will descend from Heaven to earth. He will utter the word of command, and thereupon the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God will awake the dead, and then the dead and the living will both be caught up in the chariots of the clouds to meet Christ and will be with the Lord forever.

Here is a picture of what it may look like when we meet Jesus in the air. This picture of being caught up in the air with Jesus is sometimes called the Rapture and is considered by some Christians to be the first part of the Second Coming of Jesus. The picture that Paul describes in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a picture of Jesus returning but only in the sky and all of a sudden and unexpectedly. This event ushers in the Great Tribulation where we see seven years of upheaval and the rise of the Antichrist. At the end of the seven years Christ returns for the second time on the earth and conquers Satan and his forces at the Battle of Armageddon.

Let me pause here and give a public service announcement so to speak. Starting in February of 2018, Pastor Stuart will be preaching on the Book of Revelation which will flesh all this out. I am looking forward to hearing Pastor Stuart unpack it next year. So consider this morning a kind of prequel to what Pastor Stuart will be preaching next year.

Now we are ready to look at 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. If you have your Bibles or want to use one of the pew Bibles turn to 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 and follow along with me:

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

It is hard to understand the pictures in the New Testament of the return of Jesus to get his children. It has its background in the Old Testament in a concept called the Day of the Lord. This Day of the Lord was common in the Old Testament and all the pictures which belonged to the Day of the Lord have been attached to Christ’s return. To the Jews all time was divided into two ages – the present age which was totally and incurably evil and the age to come which would be the golden age of God. In between the two ages was this Day of the Lord which would be a terrible day. It would be like birth pangs of a new world. It would be a day when God would pour out his wrath on the ungodly. When Jesus comes to take or “rapture” his people, soon after God will begin to pour out His judgments during those seven years called the Great Tribulation. Unfortunately, many people will not be prepared. They will actually be deceived and actively deceiving others. The Antichrist who steps forward after the Rapture begins to assume power all over the world. The chaotic conditions created by the Rapture will cause people to look for someone to lead them. This Antichrist will claim that he can bring "Peace and safety". In verse 3 of our scripture this morning, Paul says destruction will come on them and they will not escape.

The main characteristics of the Day of the Lord were that it would come suddenly and unexpectedly. It would involve cosmic upheaval where the universe was shaken to its foundations, and it would be a time of judgment. The New Testament writers identified the Day of the Lord with the return of Christ. Naturally, people wanted to know when that day was and the Thessalonians like us today are no different. Jesus in Mark 13:32 said “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Jesus, himself, doesn’t even know the day he will return, only God knows the time. But, that didn’t stop people from speculating in that day and it doesn’t keep us from trying to figure it out today as well. Here are a few of the predictions of Christ’s return in the past. One of the earliest predictions was in 500 AD. Three Christian theologians predicted Jesus would return in the year 500. One prediction was based on the dimensions of Noah's ark. A Spanish monk prophesied the second coming of Christ and the end of the world would take place on April 6, 793 to a crowd of people. Johann Jacob Zimmerman, a Lutheran minister, predicted Jesus would return in 1694. Charles Taze Russell, the first president of what is now the Watchtower Society of the Jehovah's Witnesses, calculated 1874 to be the year of Christ's Second Coming. There have even been people who have predicted Jesus’ return and when it didn’t happen actually predicted it again and again continuing to move the date back. One of the latest predictions was that Christ's return would correspond with the September 28, 2015 lunar eclipse. You may have heard it called the blood moon prophecy. Finally, there are future dates that have been predicted to be the day Jesus will return. The next being June 8, 2019 which corresponds to the Day of Pentecost that year.

Paul had two things to say to the Thessalonians about that day. One, the day will be sudden and unexpected but there is no reason why anyone should be caught unawares or unprepared. We can be certain that Jesus is coming back. The return of Jesus Christ is mentioned approximately eight times more frequently in the Old and New Testaments than His first coming. ​​ In fact, Christ’s return is mentioned 318 times in the New Testament alone. ​​ The only doctrine mentioned more than the doctrine of Christ’s second coming is the doctrine of salvation. ​​ All of the nine authors of the New Testament mention Christ’s second coming.

Paul knew that the Second Coming of Jesus was one of the most repeated teachings in all of scripture. He even tells the Thessalonians it is so obvious that I really have no need to write to you about these things. Here is an illustration:

There was a man who stopped at a gas station. He noticed a piece of rope dangling from a sign. The sign was labeled "Weather Forecaster." The man asked the station attendant, "How can you possibly tell the weather with a piece of rope?" The attendant smiled and replied, "When the rope swings back and forth, it’s windy. When it gets wet, it’s raining. When it’s frozen stiff, it’s snowing. And when it’s gone... it’s a tornado!" There are some things that should be obvious without even asking. The imminent return of Jesus Christ is one of those things.

Two, Paul goes on to say that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. Just as a thief does not call you up the day before and tell you he is planning on robbing your home, so it will be when Jesus returns. ​​ It would have been helpful if the Bible gave us the exact time of Jesus’ return so we all could be ready, but that was not God’s plan. God’s plan for us was to accept his son as our Savior which would make us ready when Jesus came back for us. Jesus in Matthew 24:44, said, Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In verses 4-7, Paul, says it is only the person who lives in the dark and his deeds are evil who will not be prepared. The Christian who lives in the light and who is watchful and sober, will be ready. The Christian must be watching and waiting for the coming of Jesus. We are to be like soldiers assigned to guard duty who are commanded to “stay alert”. One of my favorite hymns growing up was “Onward Christian Soldiers”. As Christian soldiers we are commanded to “watch”. The Greek word for watch is gregario. It means to stay awake or be on the alert. This must be a continual practice of the Christian. Roman soldiers were put to death for falling asleep on watch. The outcome of not being watchful and ready for Jesus’ return could be just as fatal for the person not constantly looking for the return of Jesus. Paul also tells us we need to live daily with self-control. He warns us that we must not allow anything in our lives that will influence our moral alertness. Paul talks about be sober and being drunk. We know that drinking alcohol and getting drunk greatly hinders a person’s abilities to focus and make important decisions. Likewise, sin will affect one’s ability to make moral decisions. Usually, a person does not get drunk with just one drink, but one drink leads to 2 and then to 3. Slowly the drinker becomes drunk without even noticing it. All his senses become blurred making him a danger to himself and others. Likewise, if we do not control the sin in our lives, we will soon become so overcome by its effects that we are unmindful of spiritual matters. We can become unaware of and unconcerned about the imminent return of Jesus. Just like a drunk person who is passed out and unconscious so is the uncontrolled sinner spiritually passed out. In verse 8, it says that since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. We need to live each day with the protection of God’s armor and Paul makes special mention of faith, love and salvation.

So, we have learned that no one knows when the day will come and we cannot leave things til the last second. We must be ready now because it will be too late when that day is already here. Ready or not . . . Jesus is coming. Being ready for Jesus’ return must be proactive not reactive.

In Romans 3:23 it says for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. That’s all of us and because of our sin in Romans 6:23 it say the wages of our sin is death which is an eternal separation from God. But God made a way for us to be saved. In Romans 5:8 it says, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. And, finally we must trust and surrender to Jesus as Lord. In Romans 10:9-10 it says, If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Which brings us to our first next step. Maybe this next step is for you which is to be ready by accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior and living my life every day for him. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be left behind. As Pastor Stuart looks at Revelation next year you will see the judgment that God has not only for this earth but for those who do not believe in him or his son Jesus for salvation. Revelation does not paint a pretty picture for those who are left behind and if you are not a Christian here this morning Revelation will be a scary ordeal. But the awesome thing about Revelation and the Day of the Lord is that if you are a Christ follower and you are ready then it is a book of hope and encouragement and it should motivate us to witness to our family, friends and co-workers etc. who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

So now that we have the hope of Jesus’ return how should we live out our lives as Christ followers on this earth. The answer is found in the Parable of the Talents. In 1 Thessalonians we saw that they had stopped working and were idle waiting for the Lord to return which they felt was right around the corner. I also talked about different people, who predicted Jesus’ return and probably had fallen into the same trap. And Paul told the Thessalonians they needed to be working and being good citizens and in that way they would be good witnesses of Christ and Christianity to the world. Now, Matthew gives us the roadmap of what we are to do while we wait for the Lord’s return. Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 25:14-30 and follow along as I read from God’s word:

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

In Matthew 25:13, the verse immediately before Jesus tells this parable, he said this, "Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming." Jesus prefaced this parable with telling us he is coming again and we don’t know when. It could be tonight or tomorrow or next year! But what if it's not tonight or tomorrow or next year? -- While we wait for the Lord’s return, how are to live, what are we to do? We need to answer four questions:

The first question comes from vs. 14-15 and it is “What gifts do I have from God?” Notice here that the man gave some of His goods, (His possessions, His property) to all of His servants. They didn't all get the same amount, but all of them got something according to their abilities and then he went away. God wants us to understand that He has given us all some valuable gifts and abilities. We need to explore these gifts and abilities and to be using them for the good of the kingdom of God here on earth.

The second question comes from vs. 16-18, and it is “Am I gaining all I can for God's Kingdom?” In verses 16-18 Jesus said: "Then he who had received the five talents went and put his money to work and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money." “Am I gaining all I can for God's Kingdom?” God has given each of us gifts and abilities, but are we using them for his glory? We can’t bury our talents! We must be using them for God's Kingdom! We must get busy, and put our talents to work for God. In the King James Version verse 16 says the man with 5 talents "went and traded with them." The idea behind this word "traded" is somebody working, somebody carrying out a task.

Jesus told a similar parable in Luke 19. In verses 12 and 13 it says this, . . . A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come. We might say: "Get an occupation" or "Get busy" or "Get a job!" Jesus Christ wants us to get enthusiastically involved in serving His cause: praying, going, giving, helping, teaching, leading, serving any way we can. So, while we wait for the Lord's return, we need to ask ourselves “Am I gaining all I can for God's Kingdom?”

The third question comes from vs. 19-23 and it is “What is our ultimate goal?” Jesus mentions what our ultimate goal should be twice in vs. 19-23. Our ultimate goal as Christians is to hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord." Notice here that we as Christians are accountable to God. We will give an account of our lives to God. God's Word makes this truth very clear. In Romans 14, Paul wrote these words to the Roman Christians. Starting with verse 10, But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.'' So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way.”

Also in 2 Corinthians 5:8-10, the Word of God says this to us as Christians. “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” We must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Paul is not talking about lost people, here. He is talking about saved people. God saves us to serve Him. And while we wait for the Lord, He wants all of us to be occupied in serving Him. We should be occupied serving the Lord in our church, in our communities, at our places of work, in our families, everywhere. We will stand before God one day and all our days will be laid bare before Him and we will be judged by how we lived our life on this earth while we were waiting for Jesus to return. Did we work hard? Did we use the gifts God gave us to further his kingdom on this earth? Each one of us can only you can answer that question for ourselves.

The last question we need to ask ourselves comes from verses 24-30 and it is this: “Do I really know God?” In verse 24, the wicked and lazy servant said, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown." But let me ask you this question: Did that man really know God? – I don’t think so. Our God is merciful, kind and gracious! Listen to part of King David's prayer in Psalm 86:

“Bow down thine ear, O Lord, hear me: for I am poor and needy. Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me. Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name. For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell. O God, the proud are risen against me, and the assemblies of violent men have sought after my soul; and have not set thee before them. But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.”

Our God is merciful, kind and gracious, and He proved that forever by the cross of Jesus Christ! God is so good that He came into this world and died on the cross for our sins. He will surely save anyone and everyone who trusts in Him. This is the merciful God we know as Christians. This is the God who wants to know you as Lord and Savior, Father and friend. So, the last question is “Do you know God for who he is?”

This brings us to our second next step. Maybe this next step is for you which is to identify the talents that God has given to me and start to use them to further God’s kingdom on the earth.

I have asked Ben Verow to come and play a song for us this morning before I close. Listen to the words and search your hearts and answer the four questions we just discussed.

Far too many people today are focused on the things of this world. They do not have time to go to church on Sundays or they never pick up a Bible and read it. They care nothing for Jesus or spiritual things. They are not ready and watching for the return of Jesus. They don’t even know Jesus and do not want to know him. Unfortunately, the same thing is true of people all over the world who go to church and say they are Christians. They are so wrapped up in the things of this world, they believe it is okay to be a fan of Jesus instead of a totally committed follower of Jesus. They are like the Pharisees who say one thing and do something completely different. Their lips say one thing but their hearts are not for Jesus. No matter if you are a Non-Christian or if you call yourself a Christian, if you are not ready and watching for Jesus and using your gifts for his kingdom here on earth, when Jesus comes you could be left behind. What will Jesus find you doing when he calls out, “Ready or Not, Here I Come”?

As the ushers prepare to take up the communication cards and Doris and Gene come to lead us in our final song this morning let us pray.

Generous God, we thank you for salvation. We long for the day of your return. Help each of us to be ready for that day and to be watchful and sober. We praise you for the gifts that you have given each of us. We praise You for the gift of unity that the Spirit creates in our body of believers here! You place others perfectly in our lives, and inspire us as Christians to work together with the gifts that you have given us. Help us to use the gifts and abilities that you have given us to further Your kingdom here on this earth. Not one of us can accomplish your work in this world on our own. But together, we can complement each other’s strengths and cancel out our weaknesses. As a team, a unified body focused on the gospel of Christ, we can do great things for your honor and glory as we were purposed to do. All this we pray in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

20th Sunday after Pentecost

Untrappable

(Matthew 22:15-22)

 

INTRODUCTION

In the recent past, we were noticing a mouse that would scurry from under the dishwasher to the stove and refrigerator. ​​ We also saw it scurry from under a side table in our dining room under the basement door.

 

We saw evidence of the mouse behind the dishwasher, because there were fresh droppings and dog food that had been carried there. ​​ Judy had cleaned all of those items up previously, so we knew they were fresh.

 

I had the old fashioned mouse traps (show picture of mouse trap) that I baited and put down behind the dishwasher and the refrigerator and one at the top of the basement stairs. ​​ It was frustrating to find the bait gone and the mouse traps still set. ​​ So, I decided to buy the newer mouse traps (show picture of newer mousetrap) that are pre-baited and have a more sensitive trigger. ​​ I even added more bait to the traps and set them in the same locations as the old fashioned traps. ​​ Still nothing!!! ​​ I finally bought the multi-use traps that have pre-baited glue traps inside them with a one-way door (show picture of multi-use trap), so the mouse cannot escape. ​​ You’ve guessed it; we still didn’t trap this mouse.

 

This mouse was untrappable!

 

VIDEO: ​​ “Hilarious Commercial! ​​ Mouse Trap Survivor – Nolan’s Cheddar Cheese” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoSQyXBagLk)

 

One day our indoor cat had the mouse between her paws and was playing with it. ​​ When we tried to get the mouse, it scurried away. ​​ Another time I found the mouse in the cat’s litter box, where it was trapped. ​​ It was in the middle of the night and I figured that it couldn’t get out, because the cat enters from the top of the litter box. ​​ There was no way that mouse could get out. ​​ When I woke up in the morning and went to the litter box, the mouse was gone. ​​ I assumed that the cat had taken it out of the litter box and was playing with it. ​​ Finally, the cat presented the DEAD mouse to us on the kitchen floor one morning.

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Hard questions from children

        • Working with Child Evangelism Fellowship for ten years allowed me to field some difficult questions from children

        • “Who is God’s father?”

        • “Can the devil be saved?”

        • “How did Noah fit all the animals on the ark? or “How did Noah get all the animals to come to the ark?”

    • Hard questions from adults

        • I’ve also heard hard questions from adults

        • “How can you believe that God brought all the animals to Noah so he could put them on the ark?” ​​ (I don’t understand how it happened, but I believe by faith that God accomplished it)

        • “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”

        • “Why did God allow my family member or friend to die so young?”

 

  • WE

    • Trapped by children’s questions ​​ (Bruce Kluger) [http://www.parenting.com/article/the-toughest-questions-kids-ask]

        • “Why do people die?”

        • “How much money do we have?”

        • “What is God?”

        • “Why do you and Mommy fight?”

        • “Where did I come from?”

    • Trapped by skeptics questions

        • Has it ever happened to you that when someone at school or work finds out you’re a Christian, they start asking the hard questions

        • Those questions can sometimes make us feel trapped, because we don’t have the answer(s) readily available

        • Here are 7 Questions Skeptics Ask that Rusty Wright has compiled [http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/evangelism/seven-questions-skeptics-ask.html]

          • Why is there evil and suffering?

          • What about all the contradictions in the Bible?

          • What about those who never hear of Jesus?

          • How can Jesus be the only way to God?

          • Isn’t Christianity just a psychological crutch?

          • I could never take the blind leap of faith that believing in Christ requires.

          • It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.

 

In the final verses of Matthew 22, the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees try to trap Jesus in His words. ​​ They use three avenues, political (22:15-22), doctrinal (22:23-33), and ethical (22:34-40) to try to trap Him so they could arrest Him. ​​ Jesus concludes by asking them a question that they cannot answer. ​​ It proved His authority as the Son of God. ​​ The religious leaders were unable to trap Jesus in His words. ​​ What we learn from these three attempts is that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Jesus has the answers to our hard questions.

 

Let’s pray

 

We are only looking at the first attempt by the religious leaders to trap Jesus, but I encourage you to read the other two attempts and then Jesus’ question for the religious leaders.

 

  • GOD (Matthew 22:15-22)

    • Trap laid (vv. 15-17)

        • The reason (v. 15)

          • The religious leaders have just been reprimanded by Jesus for not leading the Jews correctly

            • He exposed their desire for financial gain, by clearing the temple

            • The religious leaders challenged Jesus’ authority

            • He used three parables to show them that His authority came from God

            • The three parables also highlighted the fact that the religious leaders’ authority was soon ending and their responsibility to show the world what a relationship with God was supposed to look like was being given to others instead of them

            • Because the religious leaders do not have eyes to see and ears to hear and are unrepentant, they begin to plot and plan

          • The Pharisees get together to plot a way to get Jesus to say something that will allow them to arrest Him

        • The trappers (v. 16a)

          • The disciples of the Pharisees

            • These men would have been those who were in training to become full initiates to the brotherhood of Pharisees [Wilkins, 719]

            • They were well versed in the law and would perhaps be perceived as less of a threat to Jesus than the Pharisees themselves

            • Perhaps this was their final test before becoming full-fledged Pharisees themselves

            • Against paying taxes (poll tax) ​​ [Wiersbe, 80]

              • They did not want to submit to a Gentile power (amazing they also did not want to submit to God’s authority through Jesus – submission problem)

              • Caesar was revered as a god (they were monotheistic – only one God)

              • They had better uses for their money than to give it to Rome (although they benefited from the advancements that Rome had provided – roadway infrastructure)

            • So, the disciples of the Pharisees were there and represented one group within the culture, but an unlikely ​​ opposing group had joined with the Pharisees against Jesus

          • The Herodians

            • They were a small group of Jews who supported the Herodian family and dynasty

            • The current leader was Herod Antipas who ruled in Galilee

            • He was ruling only a portion of the territory that his father, Herod the Great, had ruled

            • The Herodians were interested in advancing the Herod’s influence in Israel

            • The end game for them was to have the Herod’s ruling over Judea in place of Pilot, whom Rome had appointed

            • The Herodians were in favor of paying the poll tax, because Herod received his power from Caesar

            • This was all part of supporting the Herodian family and dynasty

          • So we know who the trappers are, which sets the stage for the bait and the trap

        • The bait (v. 16b)

          • The Pharisaic disciples and the Herodians speak well of Jesus – they’re trying to butter Him up

          • They call him “Teacher”

            • This title was used for Jesus in Matthew by outsiders instead of His disciples

              • In Matthew 9:11; 12:38; 17:24; 22:24, 36 we see the religious leaders referring to Jesus as “Teacher”

              • In Matthew 19:16, the rich young ruler addresses Jesus as “Teacher”

            • The disciples and those who believed in Jesus addressed Him as Lord

              • Matthew 14:28, “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

              • In Matthew 15:21-28 Jesus sends a demon out of a girl after her mother approaches Jesus and addresses Him as Lord

              • In Matthew 17:4, Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” ​​ (he’s talking to Jesus after His transfiguration)

            • They not only use a title of respect, but they talk about His character

          • They speak of His integrity and character

            • Man of integrity

              • It more literally means, you are true

              • He was honest in His teaching

              • He did not say one thing and do another

              • They recognized that in Jesus

            • Teach the way of God truthfully

              • This is interesting to hear them admit this

              • We realize they aren’t being truthful themselves, because they believed Jesus’ teaching was heretical

              • They called Him a blasphemer when He spoke about being the Son of God

            • You are impartial

              • The literal translation of the text would read, it is not a care to you concerning anyone, for you do not look on a person’s face

              • The way they had formed their question, was an attempt to get Jesus to be partial – to take a side

              • We’ll see that in v. 17

              • The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians were correct in their assessment of Jesus’ integrity and character, whether or not they genuinely believed it

              • PRINCIPLE – God does not show favoritism.

                • Acts 10:34-35, Then Peter began to speak: ​​ “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.

                  • Peter had experienced the vision of the sheet being let down from heaven with both clean and unclean animals in it – God told him to get up, kill, and eat, but he refused three times

                  • This was preparation for Peter to go to Cornelius’ house (a Gentile’s house) where he would experience the salvation and filling of the Holy Spirit within Gentiles

                • Romans 2:9-11, There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: ​​ first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: ​​ first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. ​​ For God does not show favoritism.

                • Matthew 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ​​ But I tell you: ​​ Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. ​​ He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

              • Jesus was definitely not being partial or playing favorites with the those He ministered to

              • This was all part of the religious leaders plan to trap Him – they were hoping to be able to call His integrity and character into question after He answered their question

          • The religious leaders feel confident that the trap has been baited, so they ask Jesus their question

        • The trap (v. 17)

          • Their question

            • They want to know what Jesus thinks about paying taxes to Caesar

            • Is it right or wrong?

            • The tax

              • It was either the annual head tax or the more general poll tax

              • “. . . the poll tax was a direct tax levied on every adult Jew (including women and slaves), and was a potent symbol of political subjection.” ​​ [France, 832]

              • The Romans were not the only ones taxing the Jewish people

              • The Jewish religious leaders also collected taxes from the Jews for the upkeep of the temple and other expenses

              • “Some estimate that a Jewish family paid approximately 49-50 percent of its annual income to these various taxes.” ​​ [Wilkins, 720]

            • They believed their question could only be answered one of two ways

              • “Yes, it’s right to pay taxes to Caesar.”

              • “No, it’s not right to pay taxes to Caesar.”

          • Their hope

            • They have Jesus trapped!

            • If He answers that it is right to pay taxes to Caesar, He will alienate Himself from a large part of His followers

              • The Pharisees would use His answer to accuse Him of sympathizing with the Romans

              • He would be labeled a collaborator

              • While this wasn’t a crime, it was also not a popular position with the Jews

              • If Jesus sympathized with the Romans, then He obviously could not be the Messiah or from God, because some of them believed that paying taxes to Rome was robbing from God

            • If He answers that it is not right to pay taxes to Caesar, He could immediately be arrested for treason against the Roman Empire

              • He would be labeled an insurrectionist

              • Insurrectionists were dangerous, because they threatened the Pax Romano (Roman Peace)

        • I can just imagine the delight that’s spread across the religious leaders face as they anticipate Jesus’ response, because they believe He will condemn Himself no matter what

    • Trap avoided (vv. 18-21)

        • Jesus knew their intentions

          • Whether it was a supernatural knowledge from God, or simply Jesus’ seeing through their flattery, He knew their intentions were evil

            • PRINCIPLE – God knows His people’s heart.

            • We may be able to mask our true feelings and intentions from those around us, but we can never hide them from God

            • God is omniscient (all knowing)

              • This is one of His many attributes

              • He knows us better than we know ourselves

              • Jeremiah 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

              • Luke 16:15, He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. ​​ What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.

              • 1 Chronicles 28:9, “And ​​ you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. ​​ If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

              • Proverbs 21:2, All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart.

            • What are your intentions?

              • Perhaps you’ve been struggling with some evil intentions that no one else knows about

              • You’ve been hiding them from everyone else, but God knows those intentions

              • Examples

                • You’ve been struggling with pornography, but you haven’t been caught yet

                • You’ve been thinking about taking the emotional affair at work to the next level

                • You’ve been struggling in school and have decided to cheat on the next test to help boost your grade

                • You’ve been holding a grudge against someone else

                • You’re negative thoughts about someone else show that you’re struggling with pride in your own life

                • You’ve been contemplating cheating or your taxes

                • You’ve thought about ways to steal money or products from your employer

                • You’ve been thinking about hurting yourself or someone else

              • God knows all about those thoughts and intentions of your heart

                • He wants you to confess those before Him and find help from those around you

                • Some of those things are not easy to voice to another person, but having someone to hold you accountable helps to have victory over them

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize that God knows my heart, confess my evil intentions to Him, and seek accountability.

            • God knows our intentions and He knew the intentions of the religious leaders, which is why Jesus calls them hypocrites

          • He calls them hypocrites

            • They weren’t really interested in His answer, but rather in which group He was going to alienate with His answer

            • Their flattery was disingenuous – Jesus wasn’t misled by it

            • They did not really believe that He was a man of integrity, that He taught the way of God in accordance with the truth, or that He was impartial

            • They were hypocrites (they were wearing masks)

          • He asks why they are trying to trap Him

            • The Greek word behind our English word “trap” is peirazo and is the common word for “test” or “tempt”

            • “There is certainly an element of ‘testing’ here, but the malicious intent of the questioners makes this more akin to the devil’s ‘tempting,’ trying to get Jesus to do or say something which he should not.” ​​ [France, 833]

            • They obviously thought they were backing Jesus into a corner, therefore tempting or forcing Him to say something He should not

          • But, Jesus is not flustered by their question instead He asks them for something

        • Visual illustration

          • He wants them to show Him the coin that was used to pay the tax they were referring to

            • They produce a denarius (one penny coin)

            • The tribute to Rome was not too much (it was the amount of one day’s pay for a common laborer)

          • He asks them two questions

            • Whose portrait is this? ​​ Whose inscription?

              • NLT – Whose picture and title are stamped on it?

              • “A denarius of Tiberius would carry his garlanded portrait surrounded by the inscription ‘Ti[berius] Caesar Divi Aug[usti] F[ilius] Augustus’; on the reverse would be ‘Pontif[ex] Maxim[us].’ ​​ He is thus proclaimed to be not only son of the divine Augustus, but also a high priest; the two titles together could hardly be more calculated to offend Jewish piety.” ​​ [France, 833]

            • Portrait

              • The Greek word for “portrait” is eikon from which we get the English word icon

              • Blomberg explains that “‘portrait’ is, literally, image and perhaps highlights imperial ownership of the money.” ​​ [Blomberg, 331]

              • That concept will be important as we look at Jesus’ response to their question

          • The answer to Jesus’ question about the portrait and inscription on the coin is easy – Caesar’s!

        • Jesus’ response to their question

          • His response is not what the religious leaders expected

            • It was not a simple “Yes” or “No”

              • “Wait! ​​ Jesus isn’t getting trap by His words”

              • “Our plan isn’t working!”

            • The Greek word for “give” means “give back” or “pay back” what is rightfully due

          • Jesus’ answer did two things

            • It validated submitting to civil authority

              • Jesus said “Yes” to paying taxes to Caesar which endeared Him to the Herodians, yet His answer did not alienate Him from the Jews

              • “The use of Caesar’s coinage acknowledges his authority and, with it, the obligation to pay taxes. ​​ They could not benefit from imperial roads, education, justice and freedom from invasion without making their contribution . . . those who enjoy Caesar’s benefits should pay Caesar’s taxes.” ​​ [Green, 233]

              • The same holds true for us today – we must pay our taxes because we benefit from the local, state, and federal authorities

                • They provide improved infrastructure, education, justice, and freedom from invasion

                • There are many legal ways to reduce our taxable income, so we should take advantage of them

                • It is never right for us to not pay our taxes

 

“In their book Freakonomics, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner explain how a simple change to U. S. tax rules in 1987 exposed the depth of the public's willingness to deceive for financial gain:

In the 1980s, an I.R.S. research officer in Washington named John Szilagyi (shee-la-jee) had seen enough random audits to know that some taxpayers were incorrectly claiming dependants for the sake of exemption. Sometimes it was a genuine mistake (a divorced wife and husband making duplicate claims on their children), and sometimes the claims were comically fraudulent (Szilagyi recalls at least one dependent's name listed as Fluffy, who was quite obviously a pet rather than a child).

Szilagyi decided that the most efficient way to clean up this mess was to simply require taxpayers to list their children's Social Security numbers… The idea never made its way out of the agency.

A few years later, however, with Congress clamoring for more tax revenue, Szilagyi's idea was dug up, rushed forward, and put into law for tax year 1986. When the returns started coming in the following April, Szilagyi recalls, he and his bosses were shocked: seven million dependents had suddenly vanished from the tax rolls, some incalculable combination of real pets and phantom children. Szilagyi's clever twist generated nearly $3 billion in revenues in a single year.”

 

[Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, Freakonomics (William Morrow 2006), p. 239; submitted by Kevin Miller, executive vice president of Christianity Today International]

[http://www.preachingtoday.com/search/?query=Matthew+22:15-22&searcharea=illustrations&type=scripture].

            • It also validated submitting to spiritual authority

              • While Jesus had said “Yes” to paying taxes to Caesar, He also said “No” to worshipping Caesar which endeared Him to the Jews, without alienating Him the Herodians

              • What the religious leaders and those in the crowd needed to understand is that God had provided them with many benefits also, as the Creator of the universe

              • What God required was not material, but spiritual – it was worship of Him as divine, instead of Caesar

          • PRINCIPLE – God validates both civil and spiritual authority.

            • Four options [Boice, 475-476]

              • God alone as an authority – monasticism

              • Caesar alone as an authority – secularism

              • The authority of God and Caesar but with Caesar in the dominant position – cowards

              • The authority of God and Caesar but with God in the dominant position – biblical Christianity

            • Jesus was not validating one authority in exclusion of the other

            • “The two claims by the two authorities were not in conflict with each other. ​​ Obedience to both was not contradictory. ​​ Both God and civil government were valid authorities.” ​​ [Weber, 355]

              • Read Romans 13:1-7 [#1]

              • Read 1 Peter 2:13-17 [#2]

              • “The coin bears Caesar’s image: ​​ give it back to him. ​​ You bear God’s image: ​​ so give yourself back to Him!” ​​ [Green, 234]

              • As Christians we must honor and obey our civil authorities and God

                • It goes without saying that if they are not following God’s laws, we must obey God rather than men

                • Are you obeying the civil authorities?

                • Are you obeying God?

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Give myself back to God by obeying Him and the civil authorities He has placed over me.

        • Jesus has the answers to our hard questions

    • Trapper’s amazement (v. 22)

        • His answer amazed the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians (they simply left and went away)

        • It probably amazed the crowd that was also listening to this exchange

 

  • YOU

    • We serve an awesome God who does not show favoritism, but invites everyone to join Him in His kingdom

    • We also serve an omniscient God who knows our hearts and minds

    • Finally, we serve a Savior who has the answers to our hard questions

        • I encourage you to take time to ask Jesus the hard questions you’re struggling with today

        • He is waiting to hear from you

        • Quietly wait before Him and read His Word so you can hear from Him

        • The Bible is your guidebook for life – it has all the answers for your hard questions

 

  • WE

 

CONCLUSION

“An unknown writer said, "This Book is the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding; its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's character. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. Follow its precepts and it will lead you to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to a resurrected life in Christ; yes, to glory itself, for eternity.”

[Source Unknown]

[http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/b/bible_value_of.htm].

13

 

19th Sunday after Pentecost

Prepped and Ready to Attend

(Matthew 22:1-14)

 

INTRODUCTION

“When Katie Hosking decided to break up with her fiancé, it was only 12 days before the wedding. Along with her parents, Katie had reserved a country club for the reception. With 150 invited guests, the cost was $6,200. Club policy required 60 days’ notice for any cancellation, meaning the Hosking’s were required to pay the full amount.

 

The family decided to have a party anyway. In place of wedding guests, Katie and her parents invited the residents of the Interfaith Family Shelter to a country club banquet. More than 50 close family friends joined 40 homeless people, and together they danced and feasted on baron of beef, salmon, shrimp cocktail, fettuccine, and fruit. Strawberry shortcake replaced wedding cake. Afterwards they packed up the leftover food and sent it back to the shelter. It was enough to feed the homeless for several more days.

 

When it was over, the almost-bride, Katie, said, ‘We had so much fun!’

 

[Kenneth Peterson, Omak, Washington; source: The Wenatchee World (6-29-05) (AP story)]

 

[http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2005/august/failedreceptionbecomespartyforthehomeless.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Aunt Diane’s wedding

        • May 23, 1981 was my Aunt Diane’s wedding at Prince Street UB Church

        • I was 11 years old and played Little League baseball at the time

        • I was one of the acolytes at her wedding and I had a baseball game that same day

        • In fact, my brother had a baseball game before the wedding and mine was after the wedding – it was a busy day for us

        • So, I wore my baseball uniform under my dress clothes, so I could leave as soon as the wedding was done and make it to my baseball game on time

        • I rode my bike from the church to Norcross Stadium in Shippensburg

        • I was prepped and ready to attend two events

          • I had the correct clothes for a wedding

          • I also had the correct clothes for a baseball game

 

  • WE

    • Have you ever felt underdressed for an occasion?

        • In most of those situations we weren’t underdressed on purpose

        • There is always some explanation

        • Something went wrong and we found ourselves having to wear clothes that we were not planning on wearing

    • Sporting event

        • If you ever played sports, perhaps you or someone you know showed up to the game missing a part of their uniform

        • Perhaps it was a jersey or the right pair of shoes

        • It’s difficult to prepare for the game mentally when you’re not prepared physically

    • Hunting/Fishing

        • Perhaps you’ve gone hunting or fishing and realized when you got there that you didn’t have everything you needed

        • It’s hard to catch fish without a fishing pole or lures

        • It’s impossible to harvest a deer without arrows or bullets

    • We have to be prepped and ready to attend whatever event we’ve been invited to

 

Jesus shares one final parable as He challenges the religious leaders concerning their failure to lead God’s people correctly. ​​ In this third parable He wants the religious leaders and us to wrestle with the concept that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – All are invited, but only some are prepped and ready.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Matthew 22:1-14)

    • Rejected (vv. 1-7)

        • A certain king had prepared a wedding banquet for his son

          • Jesus begins the parable with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like”

          • Jesus is using a parable to help the religious leaders and the crowd go from something they were familiar with to something that was new for them

          • With this understanding we can assume correctly that the king represents God, the son represents Jesus, the servants represent God’s messengers, the prophets, and the guests represent the religious leaders and humanity as a whole

        • Three invitations

          • It was cultural for two invitations to be sent out in preparation for a banquet

          • 1st Invitation – it’s like our modern day “save the date” cards

          • 2nd Invitation

            • The wedding day had come and the banquet was ready

            • The king sent his servants to those who had been invited to let them know it was time to come

            • The reaction of the guests who had received the 1st invitation was a refusal to come (a more literal translation would be, “they were not willing”)

          • 3rd Invitation

            • The king is not deterred by their refusal

            • Instead he sends more servants and lets them know how great the meal is going to be

              • There was going to be oxtail soup

              • Ox tongue hors d’oeuvres

              • T-bone steaks and filet mignon

              • Ox and beef liver pâté

            • Two responses to the 3rd invitation

              • Some paid no attention to the servants and went off to take care of their farms and businesses

                • A literal translation is “they didn’t care”

                • The ordinary activities of life took priority over loyalty to their king [Blomberg, 327]

                • Matthew’s wording (“his field” and “his business”) lets us know some of the guests put their selfish concerns before their responsibilities to the king (God) ​​ [France, 824]

              • In Fast Company Richard Bolles, author of What Color Is Your Parachute?, was asked, ‘What stands in the way of people finding their mission?’ Bolles replied:

                Prior agendas. For example, my wife, Carol is a well-known career counselor in her own right. She was meeting with a client who worked in the rubber industry, let’s call him George. George told her in their first session, ‘I’ve got to get out of the rubber industry.’ So she gave him some homework to do before their next session. He came back the next week, and he hadn’t done a lick of the homework. My wife, rich with intuition, asked him, ‘What will happen if you don’t get out of the rubber industry?’ George said, ‘My wife will divorce me.’ Carol said, ‘Do you want your wife to divorce you?’

                He couldn’t keep the smile off of his face. She knew then that he would never change his job until it had given him what he wanted: a divorce, with his wife taking the initiative and the guilt. Based on his behavior, my wife named this ‘the doctrine of the prior agenda.’ You can’t help people change or find their mission when they have a conflicting prior agenda.

                People will never change until they truly want to.

                [Daniel H. Pink, "What Happened to Your Parachute?" Fast Company (September 1999)]

                [www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1999/october/12009.html]

              • The rest of the invited guests seized the servants, mistreated them and killed them

            • The kings response

              • When the king heard how the invited guests treated his servants, he was enraged

              • He sent his army and destroyed those who had killed his servants

              • He also burned their city

        • Application

          • 1st Century

            • The application is fairly straight forward for the hearers in the 1st Century

            • God had invited the Israelites to join Him in the kingdom of heaven with Jesus Christ

              • God’s plan was to involve the Jews in leading others to the kingdom of heaven

              • Paul has been called the Apostle to the Gentiles, yet at the beginning of his ministry he would go into the synagogue in a town, first, before preaching to the Gentiles

              • John 4:21-23, Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. ​​ You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. ​​ Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

              • Romans 2:9-10, There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: ​​ first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: ​​ first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

              • God’s plan was to use the Jews to model what a relationship with Him looked like, but they didn’t keep up their end of the covenant

                • In the parable of the two sons, the 2nd son initially agreed, but never followed through

                • In the parable of the wicked tenants, they broke their contract by not providing fruit as rent payment – they weren’t bearing good fruit

                • In this parable they dishonored God by refusing His invitation and being preoccupied with the things of this world

            • They refused to come to the celebration of the establishment of His kingdom through Jesus

            • He sent multiple prophets to let them know that He was ready to establish His kingdom and that they were welcome to join Him

            • The religious leaders and those who followed them were too preoccupied with their own selfish pursuits to be concerned about joining God in His plan of salvation

            • When the prophets shared God’s message with them about how they were leading incorrectly and needed to make some changes, they seized the prophets, mistreated them, and killed some of them

            • God allowed the Israelites to experience exile in foreign lands on multiple occasions, because of their rebellion and treatment of His prophets

            • Most scholars agree that Jesus’ reference to the burning of the guests’ city is an allusion to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70

          • Principles for us today

            • PRINCIPLE – God will not force anyone to be part of His kingdom.

              • He invites us to be part of the kingdom of heaven, but He will never force us to join Him

              • We have to come to Him of our own free will

              • “God will not force Himself upon anyone against his will. ​​ It is your part to believe. ​​ It is your part to receive. ​​ Nobody else can do it for you.” ​​ [Billy Graham]

              • John 1:10-13, He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. ​​ He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. ​​ Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

              • We’ll come back to this verse in just a little while

            • PRINCIPLE – God continues to pursue His people to the very end.

              • He continues to give the Jews multiple opportunities to join Him

              • He gives us multiple opportunities to join Him, as well

              • It is never too late, you have not used up all your chances with God

              • The fact that He has not sent Jesus back to earth for the second time, means you still have an opportunity to join Him

              • Don’t squander that opportunity

              • 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. ​​ For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” ​​ I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.

              • He is patiently waiting for you to believe in Jesus and receive Him

              • His desire is that you are a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ

            • PRINCIPLE – God will punish those who refuse His invitation to be part of the kingdom of heaven.

              • If you squander every opportunity that God has given you to join Him in the kingdom of heaven, then there are consequences for that decision

              • The same spirit that was in the religious leaders of Jesus’ day is still found in “religious” people today

              • “Today this same class will be found among the children of godly parents; dedicated from their birth, prayed for by loving piety, listening to the gospel from their childhood, and yet unsaved. ​​ We look for these to come to Jesus. ​​ We naturally hope that they will feast upon the provisions of grace, and like their parents will rejoice in Christ Jesus; but alas! ​​ How often it is the case they will not come! . . . A preacher may be too rhetorical: ​​ let a plain-speaking person be tried. ​​ He may be too weighty: ​​ let another come with parable and anecdote. ​​ Alas! ​​ With some of you the thing wanted is not a new voice, but a new heart. ​​ You would listen no better to a new messenger than to the old one.” ​​ [Spurgeon cited by Boice, 468]

              • Many of us can get caught up in the things of this world and pay no attention to God’s invitation to join Him in His kingdom

                • We may not see it as an active refusal of His invitation, but it is a refusal none-the-less

                • “Do you fit that pattern? ​​ Are you more interested in your good credit than in Christ? ​​ Do you read the stock quotations more than you read your Bible? ​​ You do not have to murder a prophet to miss out. ​​ You have only to fritter away your time on things that will eventually pass away and thus let your opportunities for repentance and faith pass by.” ​​ [Boice, 468]

                • We started the study on the Not A Fan this past Wednesday evening

                  • Through the video, Kyle Idleman challenged us to “Define the Relationship” that we have with Jesus

                  • Are we really followers of Jesus Christ or just enthusiastic admirers

                  • Read Luke 9:18-25 [#1]

              • All are invited, but only some are prepped and ready.

        • The Jews had been invited to join God in celebrating the establishment of His kingdom, but they were not prepped and ready and consequently refused His invitation

        • We see next in vv. 8-10 what the king did in order to fill his banquet hall

    • Replaced (vv. 8-10)

        • Parable

          • The wedding banquet is ready and the king does not want it to go to waste

          • He instructs his servants to go into the streets and gather all the people they could find

          • The servants obediently went out and gathered everyone they could find – it included both good and bad

          • The wedding hall was now filled with guests

        • Application

          • 1st Century

            • Jesus had made it clear in His explanation of the parable of the wicked tenants that the kingdom of God was being taken away from the religious leaders and given to another nation that would produce good fruit

            • Jesus is again making it clear that the Jews had failed to model for the world what a relationship with God should look like, so God was going to invite others to partner with Him to share His plan of salvation

            • “Whereas those who should have been “good” (Israel, God’s chosen people) had shown themselves to be evil, the king treated all who were evil as though they were good.” ​​ [Weber, 352]

            • The reference to “anyone you find” is perhaps pointing back to what Jesus said in the explanation of the first parable concerning how the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders

              • Those from the street corners were both good and bad

              • All are invited to be part of the kingdom of God

              • We saw in Matthew 13:24-30, which is the parable of the weeds, that the wheat and the weeds grew together until harvest time when they were separated (the wheat was saved, while the weeds were burned up)

              • We see the same scenario in the parable of the fishing net in Matthew 13:47-52 that all kinds of fish were caught in the net, the good were saved in baskets while the bad were discarded (the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and throw the wicked into the fiery furnace)

          • Principle for us today

            • PRINCIPLE – God invites everyone to be part of His kingdom.

            • Factors that don’t matter in order to be invited

              • Good or bad

              • Wealthy or poor

              • Jew or Gentile

              • Slave or Free

              • Male or Female

              • Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Native American, etc.

            • God invites everyone

              • John 3:16, For God so loved the world . . . that whoever believes . . .

              • John 1:12, Yet to all who received him . . .

              • Romans 10:13, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord . . .”

              • 2 Peter 3:9, . . . He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

            • “It was as shocking then as it is now that God accepts the worst sinners unconditionally. ​​ As long as a sinner shows willingness to accept God’s grace by faith, God will transform him or her into a kingdom citizen.” ​​ [Weber, 353]

        • So the king invited everyone from the street corners to come to the wedding banquet and whether they were good or bad they came

        • In the final set of verses in this parable we see that while everyone was invited to come, there was a requirement in order to remain at the banquet and enjoy the feast

        • “Although the invitation was given to all, proper attire was expected.” ​​ [Wilkins, 717]

    • Required (vv. 11-14)

        • Parable

          • The king entered the banquet hall to see the guests that had come

          • One particular guest stood out to him

            • It was a man who was not wearing wedding clothes

            • This would have been unusual for a couple of reasons

              • There is some scriptural evidence (Gen. 45:22; Est. 6:8-9) that the king would have provided festal garments for his guests

                • In the wedding feast of the Lamb it is stated specifically that garments are provided

                • Read Revelation 19:6-8 [#3]

              • Cleanest and best clothes

                • The king certainly could have provided the clothes

                • It could also be referring to the cleanest and best clothes that each person had

                • It was not their everyday work clothes

            • Declined to wear the proper clothes

              • “In either case, since the individual is addressed as ‘friend’ and is left speechless when confronted by the king, the implication is that the guest has proper clothing available but has declined to wear it.” ​​ [Wilkins, 717]

              • This man had determined that he didn’t need to put on his cleanest and best clothing or to wear the wedding clothes that were provided by the king

              • He was coming to the banquet feast on his own terms – no one was going to tell him how to dress, because he was his own man

            • The kings response

              • He asked the guest how he got into the banquet hall without wedding clothes

              • The man has not response

              • The king instructs his attendants to bind the man hand and foot and throw him outside

              • The imagery of darkness and the weeping and gnashing of teeth is representative of hell

          • Jesus concludes his parable triad with these words, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.

            • All humanity is invited to experience God’s grace and mercy through faith in Jesus Christ

            • Not everyone will accept God’s free gift of grace

              • Some will refuse it outward

              • Others will give excuses why they can’t

              • Some will think they can come to God on their own terms

        • Application

          • 1st Century

            • Jesus wanted those in the crowd, who were listening to Him, to not misunderstand what He was saying

            • He was teaching in the court of the Gentiles, so it was possible that there were Gentiles who were listening to His teaching at this point

            • The religious leaders understood clearly that Jesus was saying they had not led the people of God correctly and that they would not be part of the kingdom of heaven unless they repented

            • Jesus had said that the tax collectors and prostitutes were entering the kingdom of God ahead of the religious leaders, but that was not a universal blanket of acceptance

            • The Gentiles were going to be given the opportunity to enter the kingdom of heaven, but they had to be dressed in the correct garments

              • The man in the parable and perhaps the Gentiles in the crowd thought that their best was good enough for God, but that was not true

              • The wedding clothes probably referred to the righteousness of Christ provided by God through Jesus’ death

              • Isaiah 61:10, I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. ​​ For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a ​​ robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

            • The same is true for us today

          • Principle for us today

            • PRINCIPLE – God will only accept those individuals who are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness.

            • Personal response

              • Each one of us is accountable for our own response to Jesus’ invitation

              • Donald Grey Barnhouse is the one who started asking the question “Suppose you should die tonight and appear before God in heaven and he should ask you, ‘What right do you have to come into my heaven?’ what would you say?”

              • He learned that there were only three responses a person could give

                • Many would cite their good works, saying, “I’d say I’ve done the best I can, and I’ve never done anything particularly bad.”

                  • Isaiah 64:6, All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

                  • Romans 3:20, Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

                  • We’ve all sinned and fall short of God’s perfection (Rom. 3:23)

                • Others would not have anything to say – they would be speechless

                  • That was what the man who was not prepped and ready did in the parable

                  • He had no response for why he was not wearing the proper wedding clothes

                  • He knew what the requirement was, but refused to comply

                • The third and acceptable answer is this, “None at all, so far as I myself am concerned. ​​ But Jesus died for my sins and has given me the covering of his own righteousness in which alone I dare to stand before you. ​​ I come at your invitation and in that clothing.”

 

  • YOU

    • God invites everyone to be a part of His kingdom and continues to pursue you to the very end, but He will not force you to join Him.

        • He provided Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice, so you could be clothed in His righteousness

        • Read John 1:10-13 [#2]

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Accept God’s invitation to be part of His family by clothing myself in Jesus’ righteousness.

    • God will punish those who refuse His invitation to be part of the kingdom of heaven, or try to enter on their own terms.

        • Are you refusing God’s invitation today?

        • Are you more concerned about the things of this world instead of eternal things?

        • Are you trying to get to heaven on your own terms?

        • The result of doing things your own way is eternal separation from God

  • WE

 

CONCLUSION

All are invited, but only some are prepped and ready

 

“So the meaning of this parable is clear. ​​ God has provided the feast of the kingdom. ​​ It is the wedding feast for his Son. ​​ The invitation goes out far and wide. ​​ If you reject it, you miss the party. ​​ If you think you can get in relying on your own fitness, you will be thrown out. ​​ Many are invited, but few show, by their response, that they are chosen (14).” ​​ [Green, 232]

12

 

18th Sunday after Pentecost

Second Chances

(Matthew 21:33-46)

 

INTRODUCTION

“Thomas A. Edison was working on a crazy contraption called a "light bulb" and it took a whole team of men 24 straight hours to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with one light bulb, he gave it to a young boy helper, who nervously carried it up the stairs. Step by step he cautiously watched his hands, obviously frightened of dropping such a priceless piece of work. You've probably guessed what happened by now; the poor young fellow dropped the bulb at the top of the stairs. It took the entire team of men twenty-four more hours to make another bulb. Finally, tired and ready for a break, Edison was ready to have his bulb carried up the stairs. He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. That's true forgiveness.”

 

James Newton, Uncommon Friends: Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel and Charles Lindbergh, 1989, p.22.

 

[http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/s/second_chance.htm]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Ford Bronco II

        • My father did not react how I thought he would

        • He was very gracious and merciful

    • With my boys

        • Harsh with my boys

        • Had to apologize to them and ask for their forgiveness

 

  • WE

    • Affair – Physical or emotional

        • Some of us have experienced at least an emotional affair with another coworker and especially pornography

        • When our spouse found out about it, we were hoping for grace and mercy and a second chance

        • Some of us have been given third and fourth chances

    • Failure at work

        • Depending on the circumstances of our mistake at work, our boss has given us a second chance

        • They’ve extended grace toward us

    • Failure at school

        • Our teachers or professors will sometimes give us a second chance

        • Maybe we failed a test or didn’t complete a project the way that we were supposed to

        • The teacher or professor can extend grace by allowing us to retake the test or have more time to complete the project the correct way

    • All of us can probably say that we are grateful for second chances

 

Jesus continues to teach the religious leaders in Jerusalem and the crowds about God’s plan. ​​ He exhorts the religious leaders concerning their failure to lead God’s people like they were supposed to. ​​ In this second parable of three He wants the religious leaders and us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Embracing God’s mercy is important.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Matthew 21:33-46)

    • The Parable (vv. 33-39)

        • Characters involved

          • Landowner = God

          • Tenets = Jewish religious leaders

          • Vineyard = Israelites

          • Servants = Prophets

          • Landowner’s son = Jesus

        • Landowner’s provision (v. 33)

          • The language found in this verse is very close to the language found in Isaiah 5:1-7 (read Isaiah 5:1-7 [#1])

          • We see here that the landowner provided everything that the tenant farmers needed to be successful is producing a harvest

            • Winepress to extract the juice from the grapes to make wine

            • Watchtower for shelter and burglar control

            • Wall to keep out wild pigs and other trespassers

          • God had provided everything for the Jewish religious leaders to be successful in leading the Israelites spiritually

            • He had provided the law and the sacrificial system

            • Unfortunately, they added to the law and disobeyed some of the law

            • Instead of producing good fruit, they were producing bad fruit

            • They continually went their own way

          • God has given us everything we need to be successful in producing good spiritual fruit for Him

            • PRINCIPLE – God equips His people to do His work.

              • Holy Spirit – guides, prompts, convicts, protects, teaches, and gifts us

              • The Bible – we know God’s will for us as followers of Jesus Christ (read Matthew 28:18-20 [#2]); we know His plan of salvation for humanity – the Gospel (Romans road, John 3:16, etc.)

              • The body/church – to encourage and be encouraged; to hold us accountable

              • “Has he not planted us in our lands, whatever they may be? ​​ Has he not fenced us in? ​​ Has he not watered and cared for us? ​​ Has he not built a watchtower for us?” ​​ [Boice, 461]

                • God has placed us in the job where we are to be a witness for Him

                • God protects us as we gather together as the church

                • God feeds us and takes care of us through small group Bible studies and through His messages on Sunday morning

                • He has provided the Holy Spirit to watch over us as we serve Him

            • Sometimes we do just what the religious leaders did in the 1st Century

              • We add to the Bible or take individual verses out of context to justify our beliefs

              • We time and time again go our own way instead of following God’s leading

                • We give God excuses as to why we can’t do what He is asking us to do

                • We explain that we can’t make the sacrifices He is asking us to make to be a true follower

                • We express our fear in sharing the Gospel with our neighbors, coworkers, and family members

            • What kind of fruit are we producing?

              • Since God has equipped us to be successful in producing good spiritual fruit, the question we have to ask ourselves is what kind of fruit are we producing?

              • If we are not being obedient to what God is asking us to do, then we are producing bad fruit

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize that God has equipped me to do His work and to be obedient to what He is calling me to do for Him.

          • The idea behind the landowner going on a journey is that he was not present during the growing and harvesting time

            • God is not present with us on earth in a physical sense

            • He has given us the Holy Spirit that lives within us as another Counselor/Helper, but again not in a physical sense

            • There is a harvest coming and God has expectations for us as His tenets or workers

          • Since the landowner had provided everything for the tenants to be successful, he expected to receive his portion of the fruit

        • Landowner’s expectation (v. 34)

          • While the landowner was not present for the harvest, he was not unaware of when the grapes were supposed to be ready

            • So he sent his servants to the tenets to collect his fruit

              • There were certain servants, in wealthy households, who were highly trusted and put in positions with great responsibility

              • They represented the master or landowner in his absence

              • To mistreat one of these servants was to mistreat the landowner

              • This information will be important when we talk about the tenants actions in vv. 35-39

            • This would have been the rent payment required from the tenets for the vineyard

              • The landowner had put up the capital to plant the vineyard, wall it in, build the watchtower, and dig the winepress

              • The fruit was the return on his investment

          • God’s expectation for the religious leaders that He would receive a good return on His investment in a spiritual sense

            • He was looking for Israelites who were dedicated to Him, because the religious leaders had carefully tended to their spiritual needs and pointed them to God

            • He was looking for Israelites who were obedient to His commands and laws

            • He was looking for Israelites who had a repentant heart and were seeking forgiveness through the sacrificial system

          • God has the same expectations of us as followers of Jesus Christ – He looking for a good return on His investment

            • He is looking for individuals who dedicated to Him, because we have been carefully sharing the Gospel with those in our sphere of influence

            • He is looking for individuals who are growing in their faith, because we are mentoring and discipling those who have repented of their sins

            • He is looking for individuals who are not just fans, but rather followers – who recognize that a relationship with Jesus requires more than just admiring who He is and what He came to do, but are willing to sacrifice everything for Him

          • God has expectations for us as His workers just like the landowner had expectations for the tenants of the vineyard, but we see that the tenants did not live up to those expectations

        • Tenant’s actions (vv. 35-39)

          • The landowner sent three different groups to the tenants in an attempt to collect the return on his investment

            • He sent, what appears to be, three servants

            • Next he sent a larger number of servants

            • Finally, he sent his own son (his son was sent with all the father’s authority)

          • The tenants mistreated all of the landowners representatives

            • They beat some of them

            • They killed some of them

            • They stoned some of them

          • The tenants were not loyal to the landowner

            • Even after the landowner had provided everything they needed to be successful, they were not loyal to him

            • They did not respect him, his son, or his servants

            • They had a false sense of entitlement over the vineyard

            • “On my side of the family there has been a steady arrival of tiny nieces and nephews. When we gather for holidays or other occasions, it is interesting to watch the toddlers handle the toys. My little nephew Bryan is about two years old, and his cousin, Kate, is four. One day Bryan and Kate were playing at my parents' home. Suddenly I heard those adamant words, "mine, mine." They were at both ends of a toy pulling with all their might. "Mine, mine," they would repeat as though no one got the point. After two days I began to understand "toddler property laws:"[1]

 

1.  If I like it, it's mine.

2.  If it's in my hand, it's mine.

3.  If I can take it from you, it's mine.

4.  If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.

5. ​​ If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.

6.  If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are ​​ mine.

7.  If it looks just like mine, it is mine.

These rules are easily observed in the lives of children. They seem to continue in force even among us adults.”

 

[The Rev. Dr. Robert G. Moore; https://soundfaith.com/sermons/61694-matthew-21-33-43-(sermoncentral)]

          • Amazingly, the landowner shows incredible grace and mercy to the tenants by giving them more than a second chance to do what is right

            • PRINCIPLE – God is infinitely gracious and merciful toward His people.

            • God gave the religious leaders multiple chances and opportunities to lead His people correctly, to repent of their sins and turn to Him

            • He sent prophets time-and-time again to call them to repentance, yet they mistreated them and even killed some of them

              • Jeremiah 20:1-2, When the priest Pashhur son of Immer, the chief officer in the temple of the Lord, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things, he had Jeremiah the prophet beaten and pout in the stocks at the Upper Gate of Benjamin at the Lord’s temple.

              • 1 Kings 18:4, While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in tow caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.

              • 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. ​​ He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ​​ ‘Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? ​​ You will not prosper. ​​ Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’” ​​ But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple.

            • God gives us multiple chances and opportunities to pursue, grow, and multiply disciples

              • There are family members, coworkers, and neighbors who are looking for the meaning of life

              • God has equipped us to share the Gospel with them

              • He also gives us multiple chances and opportunities to share with those around us

              • Sometimes we are so focused on ourselves that we miss the opportunities that God brings our way

              • There are times we’re simply content with the fact that we are saved and it doesn’t matter about anyone else

              • God may be sending opportunities our way to disciple new believers, but we find excuses not to get involved

            • God gives us multiple chances and opportunities to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ

              • It’s been said that it can take as many as five times of hearing the Gospel for someone to understand the Gospel and make a decision for Jesus

              • God sent Jesus to earth the first time to take our punishment for sin

                • The son in the parable represents Jesus

                • Jesus is alluding to what the religious leaders will do to Him in the not too distant future

              • God is patiently waiting to send Jesus back to earth the second time, because His desire is that no one will perish

              • 2 Peter 3:8-9, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: ​​ With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. ​​ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. ​​ He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

              • Admit – Rom. 3:23; 6:23

              • Believe – 1 Cor. 15:3-4

              • Call – Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Call on the name of the Lord and be saved.

        • Jesus finishes the parable and immediately asks the religious leaders a question concerning the landowner

    • Explanation of Parable (vv. 40-46)

        • Landowner’s actions (vv. 40-41)

          • The question that Jesus asks them would have been easy for the religious leaders to answer

          • “Drawn into the movement of the story by its sheer power, they blurt out, almost against their will, the obvious answer: ​​ they knew what happened to bad tenants on estates – it was not an uncommon situation in those days.” ​​ [Green, 228]

          • The religious leaders are basically pronouncing their own sentence when they tell Jesus what the landowner will do when he comes

            • The religious leaders had been leading God’s people astray and abusing them for personal gain

            • They had killed the Lord’s prophets – the most recent one being John the Baptist

            • They were going to eventually kill the Son of God

          • Their punishment would be complete destruction

            • “A literal translation of the passage would be, ‘The bad ones, he will destroy them badly.’ ​​ Destroy here is an amplified verb meaning ‘to destroy utterly.’” ​​ [Weber, 349]

            • The responsibility for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ was no longer going to be in the religious leaders hands

            • God would use the Apostles, Messianic Jews, and Gentiles to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a dying world

            • He would use them to produce spiritual fruit that they would return to Him as an offering to Him for His glory

        • Jesus’ self-identification (v. 42)

          • Jesus asks the religious leaders a rhetorical question about Psalm 118:22-23

            • He is questioning whether or not they have every read that Psalm before

            • It’s fairly likely that they had, but they perhaps didn’t understand that it was speaking of Jesus

            • They had misunderstood or misinterpreted other OT scriptures that prophesied about Jesus, so it’s not improbable that they never made the connection in Psalm 118

          • We know that Jesus was rejected by His own hometown as well as the religious leaders and many of His own disciples

            • Luke 4:24, “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”

            • John 10:30-33, “I and the Father are one.” ​​ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles form the Father. ​​ For which of these do you stone me?” ​​ “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

            • When Jesus started teaching hard things about His death, burial, and resurrection and what would be required of His disciples, we learn from John that many of Jesus’ disciples turned back and no longer followed him (John 6:66)

            • They did not realize Jesus’ importance in God’s plan

              • “Back when the Old West was being settled, pioneers flocked across the country to California and Oregon. In one particular spot on the Eastern slopes of the Rockies there was a large, dirt covered rock protruding in the middle of the trail. Wagon wheels were broken on it and men tripped over it. Finally someone dug up the odd stone and rolled it off trail into a nearby stream. The stream was too wide to jump over, but people used the stone as a step to cross the cold creek. It was used for years, until finally one settler built his cabin near the stream. He moved the odd stone out of the stream and placed it in his cabin to serve as a doorstop.

                As years passed, railroads were built and towns sprang up. The old settler’s grandson went East to study geology. On a visit to his grandfather’s cabin, the grandson happened to examine the old lump of stone and discovered within that lump of dirt and rock was the largest pure gold nugget ever discovered on the Eastern slope of the Rockies. It had been there for three generations, and people never recognized its value. To some it was a stumbling stone to be removed. To others it was a stepping-stone, and to others it was just a heavy rock. But only the grandson saw it for what it really was--a lump of pure gold.

                Jesus is the precious rock God has given us to be both the cornerstone and the capstone of our lives. Will you come to the rock today? Will you build your life upon Him? One day, you will discover Jesus will either be a stepping-stone that gives you access to God, or He will be a rock over which you stumble…so close and yet so far. The choice is yours.”

                [David Dykes; https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-sermoncentral--stories-jesuschrist-83678?ref=TextIllustrationSerps]

              • Jesus is the foundation stone on which He would build His church

              • Jesus is the capstone that holds the building together

          • The religious leaders did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world – they rejected Him and would suffer the consequences of their rejection

        • Punishment explained (vv. 43-44)

          • The kingdom of God was taken away from them and given to a people who would produce fruit

            • We’re not told who this people group is

            • A better translation of the Greek for “people” is “nation”

            • Jesus is probably referring to the church universal, which encompassed Jews and Gentiles

            • PRINCIPLE – God will accomplish His plans even when His people reject it.

          • Jesus then refers back to the stone imagery again

            • Jesus is the stone in this metaphor and depending on whether or not they reject or accept Him will determine how they see Him as the stone

            • To Israel, Jesus was a stumbling stone

              • Isaiah 8:14-15, and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. ​​ And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. ​​ Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.”

            • To the church, Jesus is the foundation stone, the head of the corner

              • Ephesians 2:20-22, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. ​​ In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. ​​ And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

            • At the end of the age, Jesus will come as the smiting stone, destroying Gentile kingdoms

              • Daniel 2:34, While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. ​​ It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.

              • Read 1 Peter 2:4-10 [#5]

            • PRINCIPLE – God will punish those who mistreat His messengers and reject His plan.

        • Rejecting God’s mercy (vv. 45-46)

          • The religious leaders knew that Jesus was talking about them

          • Instead of repenting of their spiritual pride and entitlement, they harbored bitterness in their hearts

          • They wanted to arrest Him, but were afraid of the crowd

          • The crowd understood who Jesus was even when the religious leaders refused to accept it

 

  • YOU

    • Embracing God’s mercy is important for the believer

        • He has been infinitely gracious and merciful toward us

        • He has given us many second chances to fulfill His plan through pursuing, growing, and multiplying disciples

        • We need to make sure that we are obediently following what He has asked us to do

    • Embracing God’s mercy is important for the unbeliever

        • He continues to patiently wait to send Jesus back to earth for the second time

        • He loves everyone so much that He is continues to woo us until the very end of time

 

  • WE

 

CONCLUSION

VIDEO – “Mike Foster – Second Chances” ​​ [https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/VideoElement/114091].

11

 

17th Sunday after Pentecost

More Than Just Words

(Matthew 21:23-32)

 

INTRODUCTION

“Dr. J.B. Gambrel tells an amusing story from General Stonewall Jackson's famous valley campaign. Jackson's army found itself on one side of a river when it needed to be on the other side. After telling his engineers to plan and build a bridge so the army could cross, he called his wagon master in to tell him that it was urgent the wagon train cross the river as soon as possible. The wagon master started gathering all the logs, rocks and fence rails he could find and built a bridge. Long before day light General Jackson was told by his wagon master all the wagons and artillery had crossed the river. General Jackson asked, where are the engineers and what are they doing? The wagon master's only reply was that they were in their tent drawing up plans for a bridge.”

 

[Pulpit Helps, May, 1991 (http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/a/action.htm)].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Saying “Yes”

        • There have been times when I’ve told someone that I would do something for them, but then did not follow through

        • I didn’t intentionally blow them or their project off

        • For me, if I don’t write it down on my “To Do” list or put the appointment in my calendar, then, odds are, I’ll forget to do it

        • That’s why I try to immediately put the request in my phone, so I won’t forget

    • “I’ll pray for you!”

        • I used to say that more often than I do now

        • I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone used to do the same thing, but would sometimes forget to pray for the individual

        • They began to stop and pray for the individual as soon as they shared the request with them

        • I try to do that more often than not, so I don’t forget to pray for an individual

        • I also try to write down the request and later add it to my prayer list, so I can continue to pray for them

 

  • WE

    • Said “Yes,” but didn’t do it

        • I’m sure you can think of someone who has promised to do something for you, but never followed through on their promise

        • They may have the same problem I do – they didn’t write it down or put it in their calendar and then forgot

        • Every one of us can probably think of a situation where that happened to us

        • When we went back to ask them about it, they were apologetic and explained that they had forgotten, or had some other explanation of why they didn’t keep their promise

    • Said “No,” but did it anyway

        • This scenario is more rare

        • It doesn’t happen very often that someone refuses to help with something and then later goes and does it anyway

        • Perhaps some of us can think of a time when that happen, but most of us probably don’t have a situation like that, that we can remember

 

Jesus has just cleared the Temple of all the commercial vendors and comes back the next day to teach in the Court of the Gentiles. ​​ He is approached by the religious leaders and questioned about His authority. ​​ Jesus uses this confrontation to help the religious leaders, His disciples, and the crowds to understand who He is and where His authority comes from. ​​ Jesus wanted the religious leaders and us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Actions > Words.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Matthew 21:23-32)

    • Jesus’ Authority Challenged (vv. 23-27)

        • Jesus is teaching in the temple courts

          • It appears as though everything that happens between now and the end of chapter 23 takes place on Tuesday, after Palm Sunday and before the Passover and Christ’s crucifixion

            • There are multiple parables told by Jesus

            • The religious leaders continue to question Jesus concerning paying taxes, the resurrection, and the Greatest Commandment

            • Jesus eventually condemns the religious leaders openly instead of indirectly through parables

          • Everything also happens in the Temple courts from now until chapter 24

            • Most likely, Jesus is teaching under one of the colonnades that surrounded the courtyard in the Court of the Gentiles

            • Show picture of Herod’s Temple

          • While Jesus is teaching, the chief priests and the elders of the people come to him

        • Chief priests and elders ask Him two questions

          • Mark, the Gospel writer, also includes the teachers of the law in the group that comes to Jesus while He’s teaching

            • The chief priests and the elders made up the Sanhedrin which had executive, legislative, and judicial power within the Jewish governing system

            • They were the authority figures for the Jews

            • The chief priests worked together with the high priest to provide oversight for all of the temple activities, the treasury, and the priestly orders

            • These religious leaders were perhaps “approving” and “rejecting” anyone who was teaching in the Temple courts

          • Two questions about Jesus authority

            • “By what authority are you doing these things?”

              • When Jesus had cleared the Temple courts of the commercial activity that was taking place, it basically shamed the chief priests and the elders because they had “authorized” these kinds of transactions to take place on the Temple grounds

              • Any time we’re shamed in front of other people, what is our natural desire? ​​ (to get back at that person by shaming ​​ them publicly)

              • That is basically what the religious leaders are doing with Jesus

              • They probably spent the rest of the previous day and part of the evening talking about how to get back at Jesus – how to shame Him publicly

              • Jesus was just a carpenter from Nazareth who had never attended any of the scribal schools and had not received any formal authorization to give spiritual leadership in Israel [Green, 224]

              • They were the authority figures and they had not given Jesus their “seal of approval” to teach in the Temple courts

              • “These things” points back to several activities that had taken place (where did Jesus get the authority to do these things?)

                • Where did He get authority to purge the temple on the previous day and quote God from Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11

                • Where did He get the authority to accept the crowds praise as the “Son of God” during His triumphal entry?

                • Where did He get the authority to teach about God in the Temple courts?

                • Where did His authority come from to do miraculous signs and wonders, including healings?

            • “Who gave you this authority?”

              • They wanted to know who had given Him His authority, because it definitely had not come from them

              • The religious leaders were flexing their “spiritual muscles” in an effort to shame Jesus in front of the crowd who was listening to His teachings

          • PRINCIPLE – Jesus’ authority threatens those who claim authority falsely.

            • The religious leaders in the 1st Century were claiming to have God’s authority, but they were not always following God’s Law

            • They had created a complex set of rules and regulations that sometimes set aside even the laws of God [Dubler, 4]

            • When Jesus came with God’s authority and began to challenge their authority, it created problems for them

            • The people began to turn to Jesus for their religious and spiritual instruction

            • The religious leaders were feeling marginalized

            • They didn’t like having their spiritual authority and actions questioned

            • Application

              • Jesus’ authority threatens our false claims to authority

              • It can happen within the modern church today, just like it did in the 1st Century

              • Individuals can have a false sense of authority in leading the church

              • It can be elders, deacons, pastors, board members, other leaders within the church, and even just church members or attenders

              • Isaiah 29:13-14, The Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. ​​ Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. ​​ Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.

              • We might be able to fool those around us, but we cannot fool God

              • Our outward appearances can look really good, but inwardly we can be struggling with sin

                • Pride, Bitterness, Hatred

                • Lust, Gossip, Selfishness

                • A desire for wealth and riches

              • When someone confronts us about those sins in our lives or the Holy Spirit convicts us through a sermon, we don’t always cheerfully change

                • We become defensive with others

                • We express our reasons to the Holy Spirit for feeling justified in having ungodly, unbiblical thoughts and feelings and sometimes acting on them

              • Are we just giving God lip-service and claiming authority falsely?

                • The danger becomes speaking for God (as His authority) when He has not said something

                • Or, speaking against God and His plans when He has said something (using our authority and influence to try to stop God’s plans)

                • We need to make sure we are submitting to Jesus’ authority and not our own

                • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Submit to Jesus’ authority and not be threatened by it.

                • Three important things about Jesus authority that we see from Matthew 28:18-20 (read Matt. 28:18-20, #1)

                  • Jesus’ authority is God’s authority (“all authority in heaven”)

                  • Jesus’ authority validates his teaching (the teachers of the law were astounded with His knowledge at 12 years old; others recognized that Jesus’ teaching was different than the teachings they had previously heard)

                  • Jesus has authority to forgive sins (this is our greatest problem, yet Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection proved that He has authority over sin and death)

            • Jesus wants the religious leaders to recognize that they have been claiming authority falsely – they have not been leading the people of God correctly

          • Jesus then uses a common rabbinic debate technique

        • Jesus responds by asking them a question, where did John’s baptism come from – heaven or men (vv. 24-25a)

          • Were they going to submit to Jesus’ authority as the Son of God or not?

          • Jesus could easily have answered their question about where His authority came from (it was from God), but if He had done that, they could have easily accused Him of blasphemy

            • Jesus recognized the trap that the religious leaders were trying to set for Him

            • Instead, Jesus creates an incredibly difficult scenario for the religious leaders to have to work through

          • Jesus will answer their question about where His authority comes from, if they answer His question about where John’s baptism came from – heaven or men

        • Discussion and answer from the religious leaders (v. 25b-27)

          • These religious leaders show great wisdom in not responding immediately, but taking their time to discuss their answer

            • They were trained in the art of oratory and debate

            • They knew better than to simply speak the first thing that comes to mind

            • They are measured and cautious, so they don’t fall victim to a trap

          • From heaven

            • The religious leaders cannot answer that John’s baptism came from heaven, because they had been rejecting his ministry

            • If they say that John’s baptism came from heaven, they would be acknowledging that his authority came from God

            • In turn, if they acknowledged John’s authority came from God, they would also have to acknowledge that Jesus’s authority came from God

            • John and Jesus’ ministries were similar in several ways

              • Neither of them had studied in the rabbinic schools

              • Neither had been endorsed by the Jerusalem authorities

              • Both had been accepted by the people

            • John’s baptism was pointing to Jesus as the Messiah

              • Read Matthew 3:11-17 ​​ [#2]

              • Read Matthew 11:1-6 ​​ [#3]

              • “John’s message, ‘Repent,’ is the precondition for Jesus’ message, ‘Believe’.” ​​ [Green, 225]

            • The religious leaders were unwilling to change their minds about John’s ministry or Jesus’ claims to being the Messiah

            • “It is a basic principle of Christian living that we cannot learn new truth if we disobey what God has already told us.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 77]

            • Acknowledging that John’s baptism came from heaven was not an option for them, because then they would have to explain why they didn’t believe him or accept Jesus’ authority as being from God

          • From men

            • They also could not answer that John’s baptism came from men, because they were in a crowd of people who believed, correctly, that John was a prophet, sent from God

            • They were afraid of the people

              • Several scholars believe that if Jesus had asked them this question privately, that they would have readily said that John’s baptism did not come from God, but rather from men

              • God’s sovereignty is at work in this scenario

              • He will not allow the religious leaders to get off the hook so easily

              • They either have to face the truth that is in front of them or be dishonest

            • It’s amazing that the people were accepting of the truth, while the religious authorities were not

              • Religious pride is a serious issue

              • It’s the idea of not being teachable

              • When we have been taught something for a long time, we hold tightly to those beliefs

              • When we learn something different about a particular passage of scripture that perhaps contradicts what we’ve been taught for years, we tend to condemn it outright

              • Seminary and sermon preparation have been good for me, because through professors and the Holy Spirit, God has refined some of my beliefs about things I was taught while growing up

          • PRINCIPLE – Pride and fear can keep God’s people from speaking the truth and being obedient to the truth.

            • The religious leaders allowed pride and fear to stop them from speaking the truth

            • We’ll see in v. 32 that their pride and fear stopped them from being obedient to the truth

            • The same is true for us today

              • We can allow pride and fear to keep us from speaking the truth and being obedient to the truth

              • We know what scripture teaches and we’ve been shown that our long held belief about a particular scripture was incorrect or taken out of context, but we’re unwilling to accept the truth of God’s Word

                • We continue to hold to our incorrect belief

                • We criticize others, privately and sometimes publicly, who teach the truth of God’s Word correctly and in context

              • We also let the opinions of others determine what we say and do concerning God’s Word

                • Sometimes we agree with someone when we’re in a group setting, but inwardly we don’t believe what they are saying

                • If the conversation would take place privately we would perhaps share out beliefs with them, but sometimes we don’t because we’re afraid they will tell others what we truly believe

                • The fear of man can be very powerful

                • The Apostles were confronted with a situation where they had to determine whether or not they would give in to the fear of man

                • Read Acts 5:27-33

              • We have to determine, just like the Apostles, that we will obey God rather than men

            • Pride and fear can keep us from speaking the truth of God’s Word and from obeying God’s Word

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess my spiritual pride and fear and ask the Lord to give me strength to speak the truth of His Word and be obedient to His Word.

          • Because of pride and fear the religious leaders tell Jesus that they don’t know where John’s baptism came from

            • In reality they did know, but were not willing to be honest with Jesus

            • They were also not being honest with the crowd that had been listening to Jesus’ teaching

            • They were not leading God’s people correctly

        • Jesus’ response

          • Jesus knows the answer to their question, but He will not answer their questions as long as they are unwilling to be honest with Him

          • Jesus had told His disciples in Matthew 13:10-17 why He was teaching in parables – it had to do with those who have eyes to see and ears to hear

          • The religious leaders did not have eyes to see or ears to hear

          • So, Jesus was placing a hurdle between them and the answer to their question [Weber, 344]

          • He wasn’t going to make it easy on them although He was going to answer their questions through three parables

        • Jesus uses the three parables to explain that the religious leaders have failed to respond to God’s call and what the consequences of that failure have been for the future of His people

          • All three parables contrast two groups of people (those who assume they have a right to their privileged position and those who find themselves unexpectedly promoted

          • All three talk about the radical and unexpected reversal of roles

    • Parable of the Two Sons (v. 28-32)

        • Read Matthew 21:28-30

          • “What do you think?” was a commonly used question to prompt students to use their minds to solve a problem

            • Jesus wants the religious leaders to pay attention to the parable

            • He wants them to basically answer their own questions

          • The parable

            • The parable is simple enough

            • There are two sons who are asked by their father to go work in a vineyard

            • The first son does not hesitate to refuse his father, but later goes into the vineyard and works

            • The second son immediately agrees to work in the vineyard, but never follows through

          • So, Jesus has set the stage for the explanation of this parable, which will address the fact that actions are greater than words

        • Read Matthew 21:31-32

          • Jesus asks the religious leaders which son did what his father wanted

            • They did not hesitate to respond that it was the first son

            • Jesus’ parable was not difficult to understand, but as the religious leaders were about to find out, the explanation of the meaning will be difficult for them to accept

            • Jesus’ question about which son did what his father wanted shows that He was more concerned about what they did instead of what they said they would do

          • The first son represents the marginalized and rejected in the 1st Century culture

            • Tax collectors were despised by the Jews because they had sided with the Romans

            • Prostitutes were also despised because they represented something that was unclean

            • “The son that originally refused but then obeyed is like those in Israel who were disobedient to the law, such as tax collectors and prostitutes. ​​ But when John arrived with the message of true righteousness through the announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of God, they obeyed God’s call through John and were repentant.” ​​ [Wilkins, 696]

          • The second son represents the religious leaders

            • They were all talk and no action

            • They said they were obedient to God, but they rejected His prophets

            • This happened in the Old Testament and was happening in the 1st Century with John and Jesus (God’s representatives to them)

            • Jesus’ claim that tax collectors and prostitutes were entering heaven ahead of the religious authorities in Jerusalem must have come as a shock

            • Their spiritual pride and entitlement, through their heritage, gave them a false confidence that they were already guaranteed heaven (they were externally obedient to the law)

            • Yet they refused the way of righteousness that John and Jesus preached

            • Their pride and fear kept them from being obedient to the truth

              • They had seen the marginalized repent and turn to Jesus for salvation

              • Some of the religious perhaps knew about Mary Magdalene and her sorted past and watched as she was transformed by the power of the Gospel

              • Others were perhaps aware of Matthew’s previous employment as a Jewish tax collector or the transformation that took place in Zacchaeus’ life

              • Yet they were unwilling to let go of their spiritual pride and release their grip on their spiritual authority in order to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus as the Messiah

            • ​​ Actions > Words

              • PRINCIPLE – God values obedient deeds over claims to obedience.

              • “What Jesus denounced is an insincere profession, the profession of one who cries, ‘Lord, Lord . . .’ but who does not do what Jesus says.” ​​ [Boice, 459]

              • Are we in that category?

                • Is our obedience to God simply lip-service?

                • It is if we say that we have joined the church, can recite the Apostles creed from memory, list all the books of the Bible in order, have a reputation as a good Christian, volunteer at the church or in another ministry on a consistent basis, give a tithe and/or offering each week, support a child through sponsorship, or even have a career as a Christian worker or minister

                • We can do all those things and still be disobedient to God, because we reject Jesus Christ as the Messiah, our Savior from sins

              • “In the final analysis, it is the fruit of our lives that proves whether or not we are submissive to God’s message through his messengers.” ​​ [Wilkins, 696]

              • “Like the father sending his sons to work, God commands all people to carry out his will. ​​ Like the son who ultimately disobeyed, some promise but do not perform rightly and so are rejected by God. ​​ Like the son who ultimately obeyed, some rebel but later submit and so are accepted . . . In the kingdom performance takes priority over promise.” ​​ [Blomberg, 322]

              • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Make sure that my obedience to God’s will is more than just words, but is followed by repenting and believing in Jesus for salvation.

 

  • YOU

    •  

 

  • WE

 

CONCLUSION

Pastor John E. Dubler summarizes this passage with a phrase he once found on the back of an envelope he received. ​​ It said, “Only what you do, do you believe.” ​​ He goes on to say, “Talk is cheap. ​​ In the end, actions matter more than words and are the only reliable standard for obedience. ​​ Saying ‘I will obey You, Lord,’ and actually acting in obedience are two different things.” ​​ 

 

[http://www.johndubler.com/Parables_09_WEB_Two_Sons.pdf]

 

We see this through the story of Rachelle Starr. ​​ Read Rachelle Starr’s story from Not A Fan, pages 186-187.

11

 

16th Sunday after Pentecost

First or Last

(Matthew 20:1-16)

 

INTRODUCTION

VIDEO – “Last to First.”

 

BODY

  • ME

    • CEF Headquarters

        • Working as State Director for CEF of Ohio, Inc.

        • Asked three times to consider joining the USA Ministries Department at the CEF Headquarters

        • I finally accepted the position of Associate Director of Administration and Finance

        • It wasn’t long after arriving at the headquarters that the first layoff occurred

        • A couple of years later a second layoff happened

    • CEF layoff

        • Another round of layoffs were coming and I was thinking to myself that I am too valuable to the USA Ministries Department for them to lay me off

        • It was the night before the layoff that God spoke to me and let me know that I was one of the people who was going to be laid off

        • I was considering myself to be first, but through that layoff ​​ I understood that I was last

 

  • WE

    • Entitlement

        • We can have those same feelings in many areas of our lives

        • Sports – we may feel like we should be starting, because we’re better than to other person playing that position

        • Work – we may feel like we have a better work ethic or we deserve a raise or promotion over other people

        • Government – we may feel like we are entitled to certain privileges or tax deductions from the federal, state, and/or local governments

        • School – we may feel entitled to a certain grade in school or to special treatment, because we our grades are good

        • Church – we may feel like others should look up to us because we serve on the board or have been a long-time member of the church

        • It’s not in every case, but it does happen sometimes that those who were popular in high school have not really made anything of themselves as adults (perhaps this happened because they didn’t work hard and felt entitled to certain privileges)

        • Again, not in every case, but in many cases, those who were marginalized as “nerds” (band, math, science, etc.) are now the ones who are successful and have done something significant with their lives ​​ 

    • Attitudes

        • In every case above, our attitude determines the outcome

        • Pride and entitlement can cause problems with our relationships

        • Humility and service can also affect our relationships in a positive way

 

As Jesus continues to teach His disciples, He explains, again, what the kingdom of heaven is like. ​​ He uses another parable to help them understand an important truth. ​​ Jesus wanted His disciples and us to know that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Our attitude in service determines our place in line.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Matthew 20:1-16)

    • Background

        • What Jesus teaches us in Matthew 20:1-16 is a result of His conversation with the rich young ruler in 19:16-22, and Peter’s response to Jesus’ statement about how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God

        • The disciples are astonished and wander who is able to be saved if it’s difficult for the rich to be saved

          • This was part of the cultural belief of the 1st Century that the wealthy were able to achieve whatever they wanted

          • Perhaps we have the same misconception about the wealthy in our culture today

          • It’s not hard to have that opinion when we see some celebrities receiving what looks like an easier sentence for something that would land us in jail

          • In God’s economy, wealth has no standing

        • Peter then makes the statement about how the disciples have left everything to follow Jesus and wants to know what there will be for them?

          • The rich young ruler refused to sacrifice his wealth to follow Jesus

          • The disciples have sacrificed everything to follow Jesus (businesses, family, etc.)

          • Jesus explains that the Twelve Disciples will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel

          • Everyone who sacrifices to follow Jesus will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life

          • Many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first (notice that He doesn’t say all)

            • Many who look successful here on earth, may not be the ones who are regarded as successful in heaven

            • Many who look unsuccessful by the world’s standards here on earth, may be the ones who are considered successful in heaven

          • Jesus will repeat this principle in reverse order in 20:16

        • So, Jesus begins His parable the same way He has started other parables, “For the kingdom of heaven is like . . .”

    • Hiring workers (vv. 1-7)

        • Read Matthew 20:1-7

        • The “For” lets us know that what Jesus is about to say points back to the previous information we just talked about in 19:16-30

        • God is the landowner in this parable

        • Believers are the laborers

        • The ancient work day was typically split into three-hour increments

          • The typical work day in the Ancient Near East began at 6:00 am and concluded at 6:00 pm (sunset)

          • The landowner would have gone to the marketplace earlier than 6:00 am to begin hiring day workers

          • The third hour would have been 9:00 am

          • The sixth hour would be 12:00 pm (noon)

          • The ninth hour would be 3:00 pm

          • The eleventh hour would be 5:00 pm

        • Verbal contract

          • It’s interesting to note that the only group of workers who are given a specific amount that they will be paid is the first group

          • Some scholars believe these workers were asking what the pay would be and received a verbal contract from the landowner of one denarius (that was considered a fair wage for one day’s work as a laborer)

          • Families often went day-to-day, earning only enough money for the food for that particular day

          • Notice that the other laborers were told that they would be paid whatever is right

            • Perhaps the laborers who worked three-quarters of the day, half the day, and a quarter of the day were only expecting to receive that portion of a denarius

            • We’ll see in vv. 11-12 that there was obviously an expectation by the laborers who were hired first that there should be a sliding scale or tiered scale for pay based on the number of hours worked

        • Who do the various workers throughout the day represent?

          • This is a fair question

          • In our humanness we want to know if the full-day workers represent those who have been Christians most of their lives, while the other workers represent those who became Christians later on in their lives

          • Trying to figure that out distracts us from the main point of the parable – the distinction of the various workers is not important

          • “God’s way of compensating for righteous working may differ from what we expect. ​​ God’s sense of ‘fairness’ is not the typical self-serving human perspective. ​​ He does not compare us to one another but to our fulfillment of our own stewardship.” ​​ [Weber, 318]

          • God is concerned about how we, as an individual, are accomplishing what He has called us to do for the kingdom of God

            • When we believe in Jesus for salvation, we receive a gift or gifts from the Holy Spirit

            • These gifts are to be used in the body of Christ to encourage and strengthen the body and to lead others to Jesus Christ

            • If we neglect to use our gifts, we run the risk of losing them (Matthew 25:14-30, parable of the talents)

            • We are rewarded for what we do for the kingdom of God based on our own labor

          • Read 1 Corinthians 3:3-9 [#1]

        • The landowner continues to hire more workers throughout the day, which is a picture of God continuing to send believers into His spiritual vineyard (the world), to share the Gospel, until the last possible moment

        • After the work day is done, the landowner tells his foreman to gather all the laborers

    • Paying workers (v. 8-10)

        • Read Matthew 20:8-10

        • Difficult concepts in our human understanding

          • It seems like the landowner is doing things backwards in paying the workers hired at 5:00 pm before the workers hired at 6:00 am

            • Had he done it in the reverse order (first hired to last hired) then those who worked the longest hours wouldn’t have been around when he paid the group who only worked one hour

            • Yet, Jesus is telling the parable in such a way that He can teach spiritual truths to His disciples

            • He wanted them to understand that God’s economy works differently than man’s economy

          • It’s also difficult for us to understand why all of the workers, regardless of how long they worked, were paid the same amount

            • Each of the workers needed to be able to feed their families

            • It took a day’s wage in order to buy all the food they needed

        • Principles

          • PRINCIPLE – God cares for people more than things.

            • In the parable, the laborers who are not hired at 6:00 am, ​​ are not criticized

            • They were willing and eager to work and obviously needed the work

            • “The owner hired them not for what he could get out of them in just a few hours, but because they needed the work, and he paid them the full denarius for the same reason. ​​ The owner was not thinking of his profit. ​​ He was thinking of people, and he was using his ample means to help them.” ​​ [Boice, 420]

            • The same is true of God concerning sharing the Gospel through us

              • He doesn’t need us to share the Gospel, because His invisible qualities are clear through His creation

              • Romans 1:20, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

              • Luke 19:37-40, When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ​​ “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” ​​ “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” ​​ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” ​​ “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

              • He uses us to share the Gospel, so we can join Him in His divine plan and experience the joy that comes when someone turns from darkness to light – from death to life – from condemnation to redemption

            • Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:29-30)

              • The older son was angry because the father rejoiced in the return of his younger brother

              • He should have been rejoicing, but instead he was consumed by the fact that his younger brother had wasted his inheritance

              • He was more concerned about the fact that he had been responsible and was not carefree and careless like his younger brother

              • What was the attitude with which he remained faithful to his father?

                • Was it an attitude of love and gratefulness?

                • Or was it with an attitude of duty?

                • Did he really want to do the same thing as his younger brother, but didn’t feel like he could

            • Attitude in service is important

              • Why do we serve God?

              • Is it out of love for Him and a desire to see others come to salvation?

              • Or, is it because of what we can get Him to do for us or because we feel obligated or a sense of duty?

              • We struggle in our humanness for equality and fairness, but we don’t always understand God’s divine equality and fairness

                • We want God to operate in our idea and understanding of equality and fairness

                • If we’ve been a Christian for a long time, that should count for something more, than for those who become Christians later in life or on their death bed

                • We should be compensated for our long Christian life

                • Yet, God is more concerned about our attitude and the quality of our service for Him and not just the length of time

              • Do we have the same attitude as God does concerning people? ​​ (He values them more than things)

              • Our attitude in service determines our place in line.

          • PRINCIPLE – God is infinitely generous and gracious and will always give us better than we deserve.

            • We may struggle with the fact that God treats every believer equally

            • The God of Scripture delights to lavish blessing on His children

            • Read Ephesians 1:3-14

            • We have to understand that none of us deserves salvation, yet God was infinitely generous and gracious towards us

              • He sent Jesus from heaven to earth to die on a cross to pay our sin debt

              • We were so deep in debt, because of our sins, that we could not take care of it on our own

              • We had to have someone help us to remove the debt of sin

              • That’s exactly what Jesus did when He died on the cross, was buried, and came back to life in three days

              • He was the only One who could pay our debt, because He was perfect, without sin

              • 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

              • Jesus took our punishment for sin, so that we could be in a right relationship with God – a restored relationship with Him

              • That relationship was broken when Adam and Eve disobeyed God

              • It remained broken until Jesus Christ came to earth to die

              • God provided a covering for Adam and Eve and a way for the Israelites to cover over their sins (sacrificial system) until Jesus came to restore the relationship between us and God

              • Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

            • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Recognize God’s infinite generosity and grace and accept His gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

        • Jesus addresses the incorrect attitude of the laborers who were hired first

    • Complaint about pay (vv. 11-12)

        • Read Matthew 20:11-12

        • “Little seems more unequal than the equal treatment of unequals!” ​​ [Blomberg, 303]

        • That was the attitude of the laborers hired at 6:00 am

          • We worked a twelve hour day while the last ones hired only worked one hour

          • We worked during the heat of the day and they began to work after the sun was nearing the western horizon, about to set

        • They were upset that because he paid them the same, that it made them equal

        • Application

          • We can fall victim to the danger of comparing ourselves to others and having expectations that are higher than reality

          • We have developed a sense of comparison and entitlement

          • “The blessing of eternal life is the same for all. ​​ Some are not more saved than others.” ​​ [France, 751]

          • The amount of time we’ve been saved does not guarantee a greater salvation than those who have been saved a shorter period of time

          • The only yardstick that we should be comparing ourselves to is Jesus Christ, and when we do that we realize that we fall short – we are to be striving each day to become more like Him

          • “Jesus made the point that heaven’s rewards are based upon: ​​ God’s standards and our faithfulness to our calling in both attitude and action.” ​​ [Weber, 319]

          • 1 Corinthians 4:5, Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. ​​ He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

        • The landowner addresses the complaint of the laborers who were hired first

        • Jesus is addressing the concern that Peter raised concerning what there would be for them as disciples who had sacrificed everything and were with Him from the beginning

        • The attitudes of the laborers and the disciples are revealed at this point

    • Attitudes revealed (vv. 13-16)

        • The landowner explains that he has not been unfair with the workers that were hired first, because he paid them what was agreed upon

        • He explains that he wants to be generous with everyone that he hires and has the right to do that with his own money

        • He challenges the twelve-hour laborers concerning what is going on in their hearts – they are envious of his generosity

        • What is the attitude with which we serve the Lord?

        • PRINCIPLE – God is concerned about our attitude and motives in serving Him.

          • Our attitude should be one of gratitude, because none of us would receive anything aside from Jesus’ intervention in our lives

          • We would be eternally separated from God in our sin without Jesus’ perfect sacrifice

          • “Jesus says we have to stop thinking of our service in terms of debt or obligation. ​​ Instead, we have to serve in the spirit of a son who serves because he loves his father, rather than in the spirit of a hireling who serves only for his wages.” ​​ [Boice, 419]

          • Read illustration from Reuben Torrey in Boice’s commentary, page 419.

          • We may be surprised one day when we get to heaven and realize that “many Christians who have worked hard for God over a long period of time will have a lowly place in the kingdom, because their motives were not purged of the ideas of merit and reward. ​​ Many poor Christians who came to faith only at the end of their life will be high in the kingdom because they knew they had done nothing to boast of, and never gave rewards a thought.” ​​ [Green, 213]

        • We should be careful not to criticize God for His graciousness

          • Blomberg says, “. . . we are fools if we appeal to God for justice rather than grace, for in that case we’d all be damned.”

          • We normally only think about God’s justice when we think we aren’t getting what we deserve

          • Unfortunately we sometimes spend more time thinking about God’s justice for us, instead of God’s grace towards us

          • Grace is not getting what we deserve

        • Jesus returns to the same statement He made in 19:30, but He reverses the order

          • Now He says, “the last will be first, and the first will be last”

          • Our motivation in serving God is so important

          • Our attitude in service determines our place in line

 

  • YOU

    • First

        • If you’re attitude and motivation in serving the Lord is based on merit and reward, or debt and obligation, then the only place you will be first is on earth

        • Others may look at you and say how committed you are and much time or money you sacrifice in serving the Lord

        • Matthew 6:1, 5, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. ​​ If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven . . . And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. ​​ I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”

    • Last

        • If you’re attitude and motivation in serving the Lord is based on love for Him, then you will rejoice with those who turn from sin and find salvation through Jesus Christ – you’ll be glad for those who are laboring with you even if for a short time

        • It may appear on earth that you are last, but in God’s economy you will be first

    • Where do you want to be when Jesus returns? ​​ (First or last)

        • I would venture to say that most of us want to be first in God’s economy and not the world’s

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Be honest about my attitude and motivation in serving the Lord, and determine to serve the Lord out of love for Him and not out of merit and reward or debt and obligation.

  • WE

 

CONCLUSION

“The noted English architect Sir Christopher Wren was supervising the construction of a magnificent cathedral in London. A journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers, so he chose three and asked them this question, ‘What are you doing?’ The first replied, ‘I'm cutting stone for 10 shillings a day.’ ​​ The next answered, ‘I'm putting in 10 hours a day on this job.’ ​​ But the third said, ‘I'm helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London's greatest cathedrals.’” ​​ 

 

(Source Unknown) [http://sermonillustrations.com/a-z/a/attitude.htm]

10

 

14th Sunday after Pentecost

Restoration Through Confrontation

(Matthew 18:15-20)

 

INTRODUCTION

“Don Shula, coach of the Miami Dolphins, was talking to a reporter about a player's mistake in practice. He said, "We never let an error go unchallenged. Uncorrected errors multiply." Then the reporter said, "Isn't there benefit in overlooking one small flaw?" Shula said, "What is a small flaw?" I think about that all day long. What is a small flaw? I see that with my children. I've let a lot of things slide by because I was too tired. I didn't want another confrontation. But uncorrected errors do multiply. You've got to face them some day. You might as well face them on the spot. If I could do it over again with my children, I'd face the errors on the spot. It's easier on them and on you. That works in relationships with anyone. If there's something under the surface, something you sense, you might as well just bring it right out. Face it right then. Success lies in the details. Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.”

 

(Marabel Morgan in Homemade, February 1987).

 

[http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/c/confrontation.htm].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Leadership requires confrontation

        • Our culture has marginalized some sins to the point that even Christians are able to justify certain sins

        • These sins don’t keep some Christians awake at night, because it has become culturally acceptable

        • As a pastor, I’m concerned about those sins and many times I need to confront those sins

        • I’m not always certain that I’ve taken a strong enough stand or position on certain sins

        • I question whether or not I have communicated clearly my expectations and God’s standards to those who are actively pursuing sin, because these individuals have continued to pursue that same sin

        • This has happened over the past eight years and even before I became a pastor

        • Confronting sin is not easy, but it’s necessary

 

  • WE

    • Conflict avoidance – sin

        • How many of us would agree today that we try to avoid conflict at all costs?

        • There is no way we’re going to confront someone about something, especially if it’s a sin

        • We may commit to pray for them, but talking to them about it doesn’t cross our mind, and if it does, we get this weird, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of our stomach

        • We are much more comfortable talking to someone else about the sin we’ve seen in other’s live, in hope’s that they will confront them

        • We even go to our superior at work or our pastor, expecting them to deal with the sin

    • Conflict avoidance – in general

        • We try to avoid conflict even when it doesn’t pertain to sin in a person’s life

        • If we don’t like how something is being handled at work or in our family or at the church, we attempt to find someone else to confront the problem for us instead of going directly to the individual that we have a concern with

 

What Jesus is teaching His disciples in Matthew 18:15-20 is concerning a fellow Christian who has sinned against us, but the principle He shares is universal for all kinds of conflict, whether there is active sin or not. ​​ Matthew wants his readers and us to understand that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Confronting sin requires humility and honesty.

 

Real love encompasses both humility and honesty. ​​ Separating those two character qualities creates problems. ​​ “Love without truth is hypocrisy. ​​ But truth without love is brutality.” ​​ [Courson, 145]

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Matthew 18:15-20)

    • Repentance (vv. 15-17)

        • Jesus outlines a progression towards repentance

        • There are three key points that we need to understand from this passage of scripture so that we don’t interpret it incorrectly and take it out of context. ​​ These guidelines were meant for:

          • Christians, not unbelievers

          • Sins committed against you and not others

          • Conflict resolution in the context of the church, not the community at large

          • There are some universal principles from this passage that are applicable to resolving conflict in any situation

          • We’ll look at those in just a little bit, but first we need to focus on the context at hand – a fellow Christian, in my church/community, who has sinned against me personally

        • One-on-one

          • “Against you”

            • Most early manuscripts do not have “against you” in the text – only the later manuscripts have it

            • Most modern translations include “against you”

            • France does an excellent job of handling this in his commentary when he says, “The scenario begins with one disciple aware that another disciple has sinned . . . I understand this verse to refer to sin in general, not injury specifically to the person concerned, so that to speak of ‘grievance’ or of ‘conflict resolution’ here is inappropriate.” ​​ [France, 692]

            • Whether or not the sin was against us or we are the first to become aware of the sin in a fellow believers life, the same first step applies

          • We should go to the person privately and show them their fault

            • PRINCIPLE – Upright conduct matters; sin must be dealt with.

              • The verb, “show,” in the Greek means, “to call to account, show one his fault, demand an explanation.”

              • The verb is in the imperative form, which means that it’s not a gentle verb

              • Calling this individual to account is explicit and robust

              • This means that if we’re the person confronting the fellow believer who has sinned, we had better make sure the “sin” is not simply a matter of personal preference on our part

              • Fortunately if that happens, the following steps will help to flesh that out – with as much privacy as possible

            • Since most people are scared of confrontation they avoid this first step

            • Instead they go and talk with someone else in the church about the sin they found out about in this other person’s life

            • They may go to the pastor, elders, or board members, hoping and sometimes asking them to deal with it, instead of going directly to the individual

            • Many times the Church is guilty of skipping this first step, outlined by Jesus

            • PRINCIPLE – Discipline is to be kept as private as possible, involving as few people as possible.

            • We want to immediately involve other people, but that inevitably creates more conflict and disunity, that could have been avoided, if we had followed Jesus’ steps

            • “How often personal confrontation is the last stage rather than the first in Christian complaints! ​​ It frequently seems as if the whole world knows of someone’s grievances against us before we are personally approached. ​​ Hopefully, following Jesus’ guidelines will win over Christian brothers and sisters before anyone else ever has to know about the problem.” ​​ [Blomberg, 278]

            • Judy attended Dr. Sherilyn Emberton’s (President of Huntington University) workshop at National Conference concerning leadership

              • She shared that she is normally the last person to hear anything

              • I can relate to that here (I feel the same way)

              • When she does finally hear a complaint or concern from one of her staff or faculty, she schedules a meal together with them to discuss the complaint or concern

              • She is proactive in meeting with the individual who has the original concern

              • This is how she has developed a culture of coming to her first

              • That’s the kind of culture I want us to have here at Idaville UB Church and it may require me to have some meals together with some of you when I finally hear your concerns from others

              • That’s not easy, because I don’t like confrontation and conflict either

              • The ideal scenario is for each person to come directly to me, first

            • James 5:19-20, My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: ​​ Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

          • The goal is to restore the fellow believer who has sinned

            • Before we ever confront someone, we should make sure that we have prayed thoroughly for them and for the impending conversation we will have to have with them

            • Our attitude should be to win our brother or sister over and not to win an argument

            • Confronting sin requires humility and honesty.

          • Jesus was not naïve to the human condition of selfishness and sinfulness, and so He provided a second step in the progression towards repentance

        • Small group

          • If we have gone privately to our brother or sister and shown them their sin, but they refuse to listen, then we begin to involve one or two others in the process

          • Jesus quotes the second ​​ half of Deuteronomy 19:15 to describe the purpose for taking one or two others with us, when a straying fellow believer does not repent of their sin during the one-on-one meeting

            • In OT times, it was required to have two or three witnesses in order to convict a person accused of a crime

            • They were ensuring that when the matter came to the judges that it would never be a “he said, she said” ​​ type of argument

            • Having one or two other Christians involved in the process helps in several ways:

              • They can confirm the validity of the concern of the initiator

              • They can provide additional loving persuasion for the straying fellow believer in helping that individual realize the seriousness of their sin

              • They will be a help if the individual still refuses to repent of their sin and has to be brought before the church

          • Jesus knew there would be individuals who would not recognize their sin even if confronted by two or three individuals, so He provides a third step in the progression towards repentance

        • Larger group

          • Again the purpose in bringing the sin before the entire church is not retribution, but restoration

          • In the 1st Century the local churches were small house gatherings where everyone would naturally be aware of what was happening

          • Idaville Church is perhaps larger than the local church of the 1st Century, but we are also a close-knit group like they were (there are many family connections here)

          • Stuart Weber [page 293] gives some insightful guidelines concerning which church members should be included when the church must be involved in discipline:

            • Anyone who is likely to be harmed or misled by not knowing about the sin or by failing to recognize its sinfulness and seriousness (this could potentially include everyone)

            • Anyone who should be warned by the sinning brother’s negative example

            • Anyone who can be instrumental in bringing the straying brother back to righteousness

          • Sin has a way of hardening our hearts toward the things of God, so Jesus provides one final step in the progress toward repentance

        • Treat as a pagan or tax collector

          • If the individual has refused to listen to the counsel of one person, a small group, and the whole church, then the community of believers are to treat them as a pagan or tax collector

          • “Anyone who is not willing to accept such united testimony may then properly be regarded as no longer a fit member of the community.” ​​ [France, 693]

          • It basically means that we don’t allow them to participate in public, corporate fellowship with the church [Blomberg, 279]

          • When we read this final step, we interpret it as alienating the person for good, but that’s not the purpose of this discipline

          • The purpose is to bring the person to repentance so that eventually they can be restored to the fellowship of believers

          • PRINCIPLE – Church discipline is intended for the restoration of the sinner and not for his or her condemnation.

          • Applying this type of church discipline in our culture today is extremely difficult, because church members who are disciplined simply begin attending another church where the members there do ​​ not question them or know anything about them

          • “Only as we create intimate community within the local church and networks of accountability among different churches can we hope to apply these verses effectively.” ​​ [Blomberg, 280]

          • In other countries where there is only one Catholic church and one Protestant church these verse are more easily applied, because individuals either work out their differences and/or repent of their sins or they leave the church completely

        • Jesus continues to address the discipline of fellow believers who are sinning when He talks with the disciples about unity on community discipline and life

    • Unity (vv. 18-20)

        • Unity in discipline – bound and loosed

          • This phrase is nearly identical to the phrase Jesus used concerning Peter’s role in the foundation of the church

          • There is one significant difference between the two phrases

            • In Matthew 16:19 the two “you” statements are singular

            • In Matthew 18:18 the two “you” statements are plural

            • Jesus is now extending the foundational authority, He gave to Peter, to the entire disciple community

          • The NASB again has the better translation of the meaning of the original Greek

            • “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (NASB)

            • The phrase does not give human beings some authority over what happens in heaven

            • Rather, the decisions of human beings are to be in line with what God has already permitted or prohibited in heaven

          • “. . . the church discipline decisions the church makes – when it follows Jesus’ guidelines carefully and maintains a right attitude – are in keeping with what has already been decided by God in heaven.” ​​ [Weber, 294]

          • When the church becomes aware of a sinning brother or sister, they have the authority to shut the door to the community of faith until repentance is achieved, at which time, they also have the authority to open up the community of faith once again

          • The authority that Jesus is talking about here pertains to the discipline of a straying believer

        • Unity in praying for God’s will in the community

          • Jesus uses the word “again,” which helps us understand that He is restating what He just said in v. 18

            • Reading this verse literally in the English language makes it sound like if two Christians agree in prayer about anything that God will do it for us

            • God is not a genie in a bottle to be called upon at our desire to do for us what we want

          • In context the individuals praying should be praying for repentance and restoration of the straying fellow believer

            • The word “agree” is from sumphoneo, which is where we get our English word “symphony”

            • The literal meaning of sumphoneo is “sound out together”

            • It means to harmonize, which is what a symphony does when they are all playing together

            • “The church must agree in prayer as it seeks to discipline the erring member. ​​ It is through prayer and the Word that we ascertain the will of the Father in the matter.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 66]

            • Jesus gives an incredible promise to the disciples and to us

              • When we seek God’s guidance and wisdom, through prayer, in confronting a straying believer, He will provide that for us and will be with us

              • Whether it’s one person going privately, a small group of two or three, or the entire church

              • God’s desire is for the sinning Christian to repent and follow Him and He uses other Christians to confront the sinner

        • Confronting sin requires humility and honesty

 

  • YOU

    • Confronting sin

        • Most of us are averse to confrontation – it’s something we do not like to do

        • Yet when it comes to confronting a fellow believer, who is sinning, it is necessary and Biblical

        • Perhaps you know of a fellow believer who is currently entrapped by sin

        • It’s your responsibility as a brother or sister in Christ to humbly and honestly confront that individual about their sin

        • It won’t be easy, but it is necessary

        • Maybe you know of someone like that today

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Humbly and honestly confront a fellow believer who is entrapped by sin.

          • Pray for God’s wisdom and guidance before you go to meet with them

          • Then meet with them one-on-one

          • Based on their response determine whether or not to move to the next step

    • Praying for repentance and restoration

        • In our humanness we fail to follow the steps that Jesus has outlined for us today

        • Perhaps you’ve been made aware of a situation where a fellow believer is currently living a life of sin

        • You were made aware of this because the first step that Jesus outlined for us was not followed, but others began to share it within the church

        • Your first step is to encourage the individual who told you to privately confront the straying believer

        • Your second step is to pray fervently for repentance and restoration in the situation

        • My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Pray for repentance and restoration of a fellow believer who is currently dealing with sin in their lives.

 

  • WE

    • In this passage of scripture, Jesus was dealing specifically with a fellow believer who is trapped in sin and our responsibility as a fellow believer to confront them and hold them accountable

    • The principles learned today are valuable for any situation where there is conflict, disunity, or disagreement

        • If we have an issue with someone else, our first step is to go to them privately, one-on-one and discuss it with them (many hard feelings, misunderstandings, gossip sessions, and factions can be avoided by following this first step)

        • If the issue is not resolved through that first step then invite one or two others to join you for a second conversation with the individual

        • If the issue is still unresolved then it may require the involvement of a larger number of people

        • These steps and principles are valuable in resolving conflict at home, in our family, with our neighbors, at work, and at church

 

CONCLUSION

John Burke – Biblical Conflict Resolution [https://www.rightnowmedia.org/Content/VideoElement/98544].

9

 

13th Sunday after Pentecost

Total Obedience

(Matthew 16:21-28)

INTRODUCTION

“I was at the gym last summer on one of the elliptical machines that faces the window. ​​ I was looking out at the parking lot and watching the people come in for a workout before heading home for the day. ​​ After a few minutes a guy pulls up and gets out of his car. ​​ He’s a large guy and it takes some effort for him to get out of his small sedan. ​​ He’s still in his office clothes, but I watch as he reaches in to grab his gym bag. ​​ He puts it over his shoulder and then leans into the car one more time to get something else. ​​ He emerges with a cup that has a red spoon in it. ​​ You get what’s happening? ​​ This man is finishing off his Blizzard from Dairy Queen as he walks into the gym for his workout. ​​ He stands right outside the window in front of me to take his final bites. ​​ I’m pretty sure it was cookie dough. ​​ He throws the empty cup in the trash and walks in for his workout. ​​ He wanted to get in shape, but he didn’t want to make any personal sacrifices.

 

That’s how a fan will try to follow Jesus. ​​ A fan will try and accept the invitation of Christ to follow, but they don’t want to say no to themselves.”

 

[Not A Fan, Kyle Idleman, 143]

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Fan

        • I’m a fan of a lot of sports teams

          • Washington Redskins

          • Baltimore Orioles

          • St. Louis Cardinals

          • Los Angeles Angels

          • Penn State Nittany Lions

          • Ohio State Buckeyes

        • I’m also a fan of certain players

          • Cal Ripken, Jr.

          • Albert Pujols

          • TimTebow

        • While I like these teams and players, I don’t really follow football, baseball, or these players that closely (I don’t know their stats or whether or not any of the baseball teams are on track to make it to the World Series)

        • I haven’t made any sacrifices in order to go to any of the games played by these teams

    • Follower

        • We have made some significant sacrifices in order to follow God’s leading in our lives to serve in various ministries

          • We have sacrificed living around family for most of our marriage in order to serve the Lord

          • We have sacrificed purchasing certain things in this world in order to live a more simple life on mission

          • We have willingly given sacrificially to the church, through tithing, and to individual missionaries for their personal support

        • We are constantly being challenged to sacrifice more to be a disciple of Jesus Christ

          • While we’ve sacrificed some things, th