Our Invitation from God

RSVPjpgYou’re invited!  God has extended to you an invitation know Him and be a part of something bigger than yourself.  Will you respond or RSVP? RSVP is derived from the French phrase “Répondez s’il vous plait” literally “Reply if you please.” Today we will examine a parable or story that Jesus told just days before he would die on the cross and rise from the dead.  This parable describes how God has invited his people to experience Him.  It’s found in Matthew 21.

On the Sunday before the crucifixion, Jesus was welcomed by the cheers of the people. As He entered Jerusalem He paused and sobbed bitter tears over how the people of Israel had rejected Him. Over the next few days, He taught openly in the temple courts. The religious leaders tried unsuccessfully to entrap Him with trick questions. In the midst of these questions, He shared a parable that contained a scathing indictment against the failure of the Jewish people to accept Him and His invitation of salvation and eternal life.

He went on to tell the people this parable: 33  “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.
34  When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35  “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.
36  Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way.
37  Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38  “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’
39  So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40  “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41  “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42  Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43  “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
44  He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Matthew 21:33-44 (NIV)

When Jesus finished telling this parable, the people were shocked. They were astonished because Jesus disrupted their nice, neat understanding of God. Their view of God had become so skewed they thought God existed for the sake of their religious practices.  Not them for God.

Over 90 percent of Americans claim to believe in God–but what kind of God do they trust? For some, He is the nice, neat God they salute for an hour a week and then live the rest of their lives as if He doesn’t exist. For others, their religious rules and rituals have become a substitute for knowing God. Jesus Christ visited planet earth 2,000 years ago to teach us about God’s invitation to each of us. In this parable, He reveals four foundational aspects of the nature of God and we are invited to respond.

GOD IS GOOD – He Blesses Us With Good Things. (Creation, Health, Family, Jobs, and Recreation)

Do you know that God is good?  He gives us so many blessings! Like the owner of the vineyard, God created this world. He is the owner of this place called “Planet Earth.” He has placed us here to manage it, enjoy it and give back to Him.  We don’t own anything, we’re just the tenants. The Psalmist proclaimed, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 24:1)

During creation, God was like a master architect and craftsman.  He created something, and stepped back and said, “That’s good!” In Genesis 1, the phrase “and God saw that it was good” is repeated six times. When He finished, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

Then Lord God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 1:31; 2:18)  After He created Adam, He saw He was alone. God’s nature is to create and seek good. When He sees something that is not good, He corrects it. That’s why God gave Adam a wife, because He knew she would be good for him!

I like the funny story of God saying to Adam, “Adam, I’ve got just the woman for you. She will never complain or nag you. She’ll be a perfect cook and she’ll always look great. She’ll adore you and follow any instructions you give her.” Adam said, “Sounds good, Lord. How much will this cost me?” God said, “It’ll cost you an arm and a leg–but she’ll be worth it.” Adam said, “I don’t know. What can you give me for just a rib?”

When Adam first saw Eve, most of our English translations have him saying something profound like, “This is bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.” But in the original Hebrew text, he uttered an interjection of surprise. He said something like, “Whoa! Man!” That’s why we call them women. God gave a wife to Adam because she was good for Him. Everything good in our lives comes from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from above from the Father.”

God is good. Things may not look too good in your world right now. You think for things to be good, there must be the absence of problems or pain. When you hear someone say, “God is good,” you may want to argue, “If God is good, how could He allow this war to happen? If God is good, why do bad things happen?” Look at the parable again. The bad things that happened in the vineyard were not caused by the owner, the tenants messed up a good thing. That’s what has happened in our world today. We live in a fallen, sinful world, and our sin has messed it up. When someone complains to me that life isn’t fair, I sometimes say, “You’re right, life isn’t fair–but God is good.”  Our response to God’s goodness is gratitude.

GOD IS PATIENT – HE SENDS US MESSENGERS (prophets, teachers, evangelists, pastors)

In the parable, the owner, who represents God, sent a servant to the vineyard when the grapes were ready to harvest. The tenants were like share-croppers. The owner didn’t demand all of the grapes, just a portion of them. But the tenants rejected the servant and beat him up and kicked him out. The essence of sin is declaring independence from your Creator–refusing to acknowledge God’s ownership of this world and rejecting His claim on your life. Sin is always first an attitude that says, “I don’t need God. I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul.”

The tenants insulted the owner by rejecting his servant. What would you do if you were the landlord of a rental house and you sent an employee to collect the rent and instead of paying, the renter beat up your employee and said, “This is MY house. I’m not paying a dime!”? God would have been legally and morally justified to instantly reclaim the vineyard from sinful mankind and punish us immediately. But at this point in the parable, we learn the shocking truth that God is not only good, He is patient. Instead of punishing the farmers, he sends another servant, and another–and they are all rejected.

In the Old Testament, God sent many prophets to Israel to warn them of the dangers of rejecting God. Most of the prophets were abused and scorned when they were alive. Elijah was pursued by a wicked queen, Jeremiah was thrown into a pit to die, and Amos was scorned and ridiculed. The messages of the prophets were never valued until years after they died. Someone once said prophets and pigs have one thing in common–they aren’t truly appreciated until they’re dead.

Today he sends us evangelists, teachers and pastors.  Ephesians 4:11-12 “It was Him who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers to prepare God’s people for works of service so the body of Christ may be built up.  Do we ignore the teachers and pastors God has sent us?
As this relates to us as believers today in the church, God calls us to make disciples.  Yes we enjoy some fellowship and worship, but we must produce a harvest, fruit or disciples.  A vineyard that doesn’t produce fruit is broken, a church that doesn’t produce disciples is also sick or broken.  We have a job to do.

God owns this world, and He owns your life. Have you rejected His claim? If you have, you should be thankful God is patient. He keeps on sending you messengers to patiently request you surrender to Him what is rightfully His. If you are rejecting your pastor’s or teachers plea to surrender to Christ and serve him with your life, in a sense you are really rejecting the one who sent them.  God has promised He will punish sin. You may think you are getting away with your sin–no, God is just being patient with you. The Bible says, “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.” (II Peter 3:9) He is giving you another chance right now as you read these words. Patience is not weakness or unconcern, patience is strength under control.

In the 19th century, before radio or television, people in America found entertainment by listening to orators. One of the most infamous was a gifted atheist by the name of Robert Ingersol. He traveled around the country delivering eloquent speeches on the irrationality of believing in God. He was the Madalyn Murray O’Hair of his generation. One of his most dramatic methods was to stand on stage and shake his fist toward heaven and say, “If there is a God, I dare Him to strike me dead in 10 seconds!” Then he slowly counted to ten. Women fainted, and God-fearing people rushed for the exits, fully expecting God to send a fireball and consume Robert Ingersol. Of course, nothing happened. After completing his count, Ingersol challenged anyone in the audience to refute his logic. It is reported in one small Midwestern town, an old, godly woman laughed out loud and said, “Mr. Ingersol, do you think you can exhaust God’s wonderful patience in just 10 seconds?” God is patient, but as we will see, His patience will run out one day.  Our response to God’s messengers is obedience.

GOD IS LOVING – HE SENT HIS ONLY SON (Jesus)

God is inviting us to respond to His goodness, His patience and his Love. In the parable, after his servants had been rejected and abused, He takes an unprecedented, astonishing step–he sent his son. Jesus called him “the beloved son.” In Mark’s version of the story, the owner sends his only Son. The words “beloved son” are the same words heard when Jesus was baptized. A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved son.”

An amazing verse and probably the most important statement about God’s love found in the Bible is this, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Can you comprehend that? There is only one God and He has only one Son, and He loves us so much He sent that only son to reconcile our differences with Him. So what did we do? Did we run out to meet God’s Son and fall at His feet in surrender? No, like the tenants in the parable, we crucified the Son of God.

This parable not only highlights the shocking truth about the character of God, it reveals the shocking truth about the utter wickedness of the human heart. The tenants of vineyard didn’t kill the owner’s son in the spontaneous heat of emotion; they made a calculated decision. They thought by killing the son, they could claim ownership of the vineyard.

That’s what so amazing about God’s love. I am a sinner by nature and by choice, but God still loves me, in spite of my sin. He loves you enough that He sent His only Son to die for you. The Bible says, “but God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

How can you resist that kind of love? Years ago in the early days of computers, the publishers of Time magazine were concerned about their declining circulation, so they designed a campaign to send out thousands of letters making an emotional appeal to potential subscribers. In the past, such mailings had been done manually, at a great cost in human resources. IBM made a proposal to install a fully automated system that would write the letters, seal the envelopes, address them according to a selected database, stamp them and send them into the postal system without the letters ever being touched by a human hand. The huge computer was installed with much fanfare and anticipation. However, as is still the case with computers, there was a glitch, and as a result a poor sheepherder in Wyoming received 12,634 letters appealing to him to subscribe to Time magazine. The surprised sheepherder, who didn’t ordinarily get much mail, opened the mail bags and started reading the letters. After reading a few dozen, he sent in a subscription order with a note that said, “I give up.” That’s the kind of persuasion that’s hard to resist!

God has written thousands of letters to you–and each one of them says, “I love you.” The reason some people don’t understand the Bible is because they try to study it like they study other literature. Instead, the Bible is one long love letter. On every page, God is expressing His love to you.  Our response to God’s son is acceptance.

The owner of the vineyard was good, patient, and loving, but he couldn’t allow the wickedness of the tenants to go unnoticed or unpunished. Notice one final shocking truth about God.

GOD IS RIGHTEOUS- HE REQUIRES OBEDIENCE (Salvation, Discipleship, Evangelism)

After Jesus spoke of the tenants killing the owner’s son, He paused and asked, “

40  “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41  “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Don’t confuse love with syrupy sentimentality. Because He is holy, He cannot tolerate sin. When I was a kid back in the olden days, school teachers and principles still paddled us if we misbehaved. I’m not proud of the fact I got a few in my time. I always got the two-for-one special because whenever I got a paddling at school, my parents always learned about it, and I got another one when I got home!  A friend of mine had a coach and teacher that had a big paddle he kept in his desk drawer. He had written the word “patience” on his paddle. Whenever someone misbehaved he would pull the paddle out and say, “You’re getting close to the end of my patience.” He always warned a student before he executed judgement. If the warning was ignored, the student got a paddling.  The coach would said, “You’ve reached the end of my patience, now the end of my patience is going to reach you.”

On the other hand, whenever we had substitute teacher, we could cut up and misbehave, because substitute teachers seldom punished us. Some people think God is like some half-witted, permissive substitute teacher who looks at the world of misbehaving sinners and says, “Now, now boys and girls, please sit down and be quiet!” No, God is Holy and like the owner of the vineyard, there will be a day of judgement for those who reject His Son.

In the book of Revelation, there is a great deal written about God’s ultimate judgement against those who reject His love.  In the middle of these future judgements, an angel says to God, “You are just in these judgements, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged.” (Revelation 16:5) Because God is Holy, He will punish sin. And because He is Holy, He is right and just in His judgements.

What was true of the nation of Israel historically is true of us personally. God sent prophets and angels to Israel, and finally He sent His son. Because the nation of Israel rejected God’s son, they suffered the consequence of losing the vineyard. For almost 1,900 years Israel passed out of existence, and only since 1948 have they had a nation again.  God sends us Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers are we listening, are we responding or do we ignore and plot against them? Again, this relates to us as believers today in HIS church, Christ calls us to make disciples.  We must produce a harvest, fruit or disciples.  A vineyard that doesn’t produce fruit is not healthy and a church that doesn’t produce disciples is also unhealthy.

As he wrapped up this story, Jesus infuriated the Jewish leaders because He claimed to be the “stone which the builders rejected.” This is a metaphor rich with meaning! In the building of Solomon’s Temple, it took 30,000 workmen over seven years to complete the temple. According to I Kings 6 all the stones were quarried far away from the building site, so there was no sound of hammering heard there. Jewish tradition says one day the building superintendent saw an unusual stone being delivered. Because it was cut in an odd shape, he thought it was flawed. He had it rolled away into the Kidron Valley where it lay untouched and unnoticed. Years later, the builder sent word to the quarry that he was ready for the main corner stone. The quarry master came and reported, “Why, I had that stone delivered years ago. When they began to search they discovered the discarded stone in the valley was the main cornerstone. It was covered with debris and moss. It took many men working hard to raise the massive stone out of the valley. When they raised it and set it, it fit perfectly! The chief cornerstone was the very rock they rejected.

Jesus is that Rock. The Jews were on the verge of rejecting God’s chief cornerstone–they would crucify Him. But God was going to exalt Jesus by raising Him from the dead.

A few months after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Peter and John were arrested for healing a paralyzed man. They were summoned before the same Jewish council who sentenced Jesus to die. Instead of pleading for mercy, Peter used the opportunity to repeat these words of Jesus right in their faces. In Acts 4:10-12 he said, “Know this, you and all the people of Israel: it is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is the ‘stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

For some of you today, this is your next step, Commit your life to Christ.  Pray, Jesus come in my life, I’m a sinner in need of a savior.  I commit my life to you.” Amen.

For others, you KNOW Christ but need to GROW more by inviting others. God is calling you to help produce fruit in His Vineyard or in other words to “go makes disciples.” (Matthew 28:18)

businesscard-3.5inx2in-h-frontWe have our INVEST & INVITE cards.  Pick one up Sunday! Who are you praying for?  Who are you inviting to Easter services?  People are more interested in coming to church at Easter than any other time of the year.  Lets be businesscard-3.5inx2in-h-frontobedient and Invite people.

What is God’s invitation? He Invites You to KNOW Him. Accept him and be baptized. He invites you to GROW in obedience, to serve in his vineyard the Church, to help produce his fruit: other disciples. He is good, He is patient, and He is loving. He invites you to serve with him in producing fruit or disciples. We need to serve out of love.

Will you SERVE Him?  Pray for and invite others, help serve in the vineyard His church tending the young believers, welcoming the new people, serving others, inviting others, praying for others.  Today is the day to respond. What is your RSVP?

http://www.RidgeFellowship.com

About dkoop

Lead Pastor of The Ridge Fellowship: Leander, Jarrell & Taylor, TX
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