Do you like a party? This parable in Matthew 22:1-14 is a personal invitation to a great wedding feast with Jesus as the host. This parable illustrates how God sent Jesus into our world asking all people to attend His joyful celebration. In this story the people who should have come to the party turned down the invitation and made poor excuses about why they couldn’t come. “Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.” Matthew 22:9 This means that anyone can come if they will only set aside their pride and belief in their own goodness and look to God with humility. You see when we trust in Jesus we trade our shaky virtues and downright offenses for His permanent righteousness. It seems as though we either find man trying to get to God his way or we find the redemptive cross of Jesus. So we exchange something valueless and empty for something of immeasurable worth. “For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then in exchange He poured God’s goodness into us.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 What a deal!
Jesus always takes us to the cross, the beautiful, the ultimate, the undeniable cross. Can we deny its power, the absolute fulfillment and crowning glory of God’s love? There everything bad that has happened to us can be redeemed. All questions are answered at the cross. But the full understanding of the events of our lives won’t be disclosed till heaven. Oh, the powerful wonderful cross. How we thank our God for something big enough to absorb all hurts, personal violations, and sorrows. Because Jesus is the final sacrifice for sin we can now truly forgive others. When we go to the cross and leave our burdens there we can experience resurrection, the new life we need so badly. God’s divine power, the very same power that brought Jesus back from the dead, is now available to help us live life to the fullest. We can conquer the persistent pull toward wrong responses and faulty character. The cross is Gods way to salvation.
Will we as a nation and as individuals respond in humility, truly sorry for thinking we could live without God? The famous hymn by Isaac Watts reminds us, “At the cross, at the cross, where I first saw the light, and the burden of my heart rolled away, it was there by faith I received my sight, and now I am happy all the day.” Friends, together let us find our happiness as we look forward to the great wedding feast where Jesus will be the beloved honored guest. Yes, we were born to experience a relationship with the one and only God who is faithful to save.
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I am not saying Jesus doesn’t give us high self-worth, He does. “Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well.” Ps 139:14 But I am also a sinner through and through. It isn’t hard to be caught playing the fool, acting carelessly or thoughtlessly, judging another or just holding back my love and acceptance from a fellow human being.
The more I am aware that I don’t have to play a part, that who I am is riddled with faults and failures; I am set free to know truly the good that comes from my life is an act of God’s grace. He designs it. He orchestrates it. He performs it. It is a symphony of life notes, sometimes notes of discord other times a melody of pure unbridled love. I can be free to be myself, a struggling human being. It is a great relief indeed, no pretense, no artificial role to play, no appearances to keep up. Charlie Brown, welcome one more stumble bum who can’t quite kick that blasted football.
Thank you God that I am at all times accepted in the Beloved. I am His and He is mine. The great lover of our souls loves me. I am a believer who wants to seek the good in the world, to see the beautiful, the worthy, that which I can commend and imitate. I believe that the goodness of God still prevails on our earth. That hope and kindness still live within the hearts of man. That the sacred scriptures call us to account and lead us into paths of righteousness. That faith, even small faith, is powerful to change the course of a life or a world. That God is in extraordinary control and the end of all things is brilliant with perfect victory.
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What’s your idea of fairness? Matthew 20:1-16 teaches us that our personal concept of fairness may not always be in agreement with Gods. This parable goes a long way toward opening our eyes to the heart of a God who is much more than fair.
In first century Israel there was so much to do whether planting, cultivating, or harvesting the vineyards. It was hard physical labor working in the heat of summer. And so the owner of one vineyard went out very early in the day to hire workers. At 6:00 in the morning he hired laborers for a whole denarius, a Roman soldiers pay for a day. At intervals throughout the day three more groups of laborers were hired all for the same pay. They were grateful for their work until this climatic moment. What! Is it fair to give all the same amount? “Those fellows worked only one hour and yet you’ve paid them just as much as those of us who worked all day in the scorching heat.” Matthew 20:11, 12 TLB
Do we have the right to dictate how the landowner pays his workers? Wasn’t his decision to pay the same an act of mercy? Our demand of fairness from God reveals more about us than we would like. Could this be exposing attitudes of selfish ambition and pride? “The world’s definition of fairness is based on the sliding scale of society’s values and the changing will of the majority. But God doesn’t buy that definition. That’s why He will never be ‘fair’ from society’s perspective. His values are higher, far exalted above yours. His timetable is different… that’s why I praise you for being just, not fair.” Joni Earekson Tada
As believers in Christ we must put aside a competitive spirit and think like Jesus. In Jesus’ day people often felt superior because of their heritage or faithful obedience to the law. But salvation, God’s great act of mercy, is not an elite privilege for a few but a worldwide invitation to all. As we struggle in a world that often lacks attitudes of mercy and justice we can remember Jesus gives us something far greater than fairness. He lived the sum total of mercy and justice. This is the wonderful grace of Jesus.
Wonderful Grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it,
Where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free;
O the Wonderful Grace of Jesus reaches me!
Just as we always suspected it really does matter how we live. The believers life is based on the decision to follow Christ closely which produces true blessings both now and eternally. This parable in Matthew 13:47-50 reminds us that there is at the end of life an evaluation of the genuineness of our faith. “…The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the godly…” Matthew 13:49 LB And Jesus will be exalted above all others as he comes to judge the earth. “When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another…” Matthew 25:31, 32 KJV Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, is worthy to judge his creation. However, don’t we all find it so unusually tempting to take part in the judging of others?
It’s often easy to judge behaviors, lifestyles, inner motives, and even whether people truly belong to Christ. The apostle James explains the vital importance of living by the liberating law of love. “Don’t criticize and speak evil about each other, dear brothers. If you do, you will be fighting against God’s law of loving one another, declaring it wrong.” James 4:11 LB This is another reason why it’s imperative to not judge one another. We will always have faults and areas that God is working on in our own lives. It shouldn’t be a bit surprising when we discover we do the very things we condemn in others. “And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother when you have a board in your own.” Matthew 7:3 LB
Now it is encouraging to know that each believer does have incredible potential to understand and evaluate. “…The spiritual man has insight into everything, and that bothers and baffles the man of the world, who can’t understand him at all.” 1 Corinthians 2:15 LB While we cannot comprehend God by human effort, the Spirit reveals many of his thoughts to us. God has set in motion the most wonderful plan; a plan that sets us free from judgmental or critical attitudes toward our fellowman. “And the Father leaves all judgment of sin to his son, so that everyone will honor the Son…” John 5:22,23 LB This is a far better way, a life that exalts the Savior. Lord, how shall we then live? Let us rely on Jesus to teach us how to see others through the eyes of both God’s wisdom and love.
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