They Would Not Come

Christ gives us insight into the heart of Man, what we’re all like unless God interferes with our free will, in a parable about a king inviting his subjects to a wedding for his son, the prince. The king sends out the invitations and prepares a lavish feast (Mt 22:2), but when the time comes to celebrate, no one shows up: the wedding has zero guests.

So, the king sends messengers to call on those he’s invited, encouraging them to come and enjoy the wedding, but all of them decline, refusing to attend. (Mt 22:3)

So, the king sends more messengers to plead with his subjects, explaining that the food is ready, that it can’t wait much longer; he’s laid it all out and it can’t be taken back. If they don’t come the food will spoil and the prince’s wedding will be ruined. As their king, he commands them to come. (Mt 22:4)

But the people don’t take their king seriously, having no fear of him; he’s patient and merciful, so they presume he won’t do anything if they just ignore him. They simply go on about their busy lives, leaving the king and prince to enjoy their little wedding alone; they’ve no interest in celebrating with royalty, to share in their joy and fellowship. (Mt 22:5)

however, a few citizens are so irritated by the invitations to the royal marriage that they capture the king’s messengers, treat them hatefully, and eventually kill all of them. (Mt 22:6) The rest of the people get wind of this tragedy, but don’t bother to arrest the murderers or apologize to the king, and just go on about their business as if nothing’s happened, essentially making them accomplices in the treachery.

When the terrible news gets back to the king, how his own people have murdered his servants, though he’s a temperate man, this outrage makes him so angry that he sends out the army to kill the them all and decimate their city, razing it to the ground. (Mt 22:7) Those he has invited to the marriage have shown themselves to be murderers, traitors and enemies; they have no right to dwell in his kingdom, much less attend the wedding.

But the time is late and the banquet is close to spoiling, yet there are still no guests attending the prince’s wedding, and the king is determined to share his celebration with others. So, the king sends out more servants to try to find travelers, vagabonds, the homeless, no matter what their background is, anyone at all that’s willing to come, and invite them to the marriage. These servants do manage to find some folks who are willing to oblige the king and come, so the wedding now has a few guests. (Mt 22:9-10)

The king is pleased that a few people have decided to come, and enters the banquet hall to introduce himself and get to know them, but notices a guest who has declined to put on the fine clothing the king has provided for all of them to wear to the wedding. (Mt 22:11) The king is concerned about a person showing up for the food and dancing, but refusing to identify with the wedding celebration itself as the king has intended, and politely asks the improperly dressed guest about it to understand what happened. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding.

But there’s simply no good reason to do has this particular guest has done, to ignore the king’s provision and behave like an intruder crashing the wedding without a proper invitation. As he faces the king surrounded by other guests, who all have accepted the fine clothing provided for them and become full participants in the celebration, the guest can’t think of anything at all reasonable to say —  he is speechless. (Mt 22:12) Though willing to take advantage of the free food, this guest has treated the king, and the wedding celebration itself, with utmost contempt, and for no particular reason other than disdain for the king and his son.

The king is indignant at the insult and commands his men to tie up the intruder, immobilize him, and expel him from the banquet hall and the safety of the king’s house, into the darkness outside, expecting the intruder to suffer immensely. (Mt 22:13)

What does this parable tell us about Man, about ourselves in our natural, unaided state before God? It is this: no one seeks the living God, to understand Him, to know Him and enjoy Him. (Ro 3:11)

This isn’t because we lack awareness of God, and of His interest in having a relationship with us, or that we don’t know how to respond to Him. The problem is that we dislike and despise Him, so we just don’t bother making any effort to honor Him, walk with Him and enjoy Him. (Ro 8:7) And even if some of us happen to be willing to take advantage of His gifts, without His aid we won’t come the way He has provided, but we insist on our own way, remaining obstinate, alienated from Him (Ep 4:18), separate from Him and His way.

This universal behavior in Man is totally inexcusable, and we’re all guilty as charged. (Ro 1:20-21) If God left salvation up to us, to respond to His call to enjoy His lavish provision of personal righteousness and eternal acceptance with Him, Heaven would be empty — not a single human soul would dance in its streets. God calls us all to the marriage of the Lamb, but He must choose some, working in them to be willing to come, or no one would respond. (Mt 22:14) Thank God that He does!

The implication of the parable is clear: God is both the author and finisher of our salvation (He 12:2); apart from Him no one is saved. And salvation is much more than a willingness to take free stuff; it involves a heart-transplant, a new creature. Those who are not actively loving and pursuing Jesus Christ, submitting themselves to God and to His way, remain His enemies, and will be destroyed. (1Co 16:22) No lukewarmness is to be tolerated within our hearts (Re 3:16); He has come to save us from that. (Ro 7:24-25)

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That I May Know Him

Knowing God, like we know a friend, is different than knowing about God. We may study theology and acquire a lot of religious knowledge, but it’s not worth much if that’s all we have. (2Ti 3:7) If we’re wise, knowing God and walking with Him will be our top priority (Php 3:8), the only thing we find noteworthy about ourselves. (Je 9:23) With all the deception about us, how can we tell if we know God, and how well we know Him?

Well, are we earnestly obeying Him, the best we know how? (1Jn 2:4) Are we loving God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves? If we think God doesn’t mind disobedience, selfishness, or lukewarmness (Re 3:16), or doublemindness (Ja 1:8), if we aren’t afraid of displeasing Him (He 10:31), then we don’t know Him at all; we’ve simply made an idol for ourselves after our own likeness, another Jesus. (2Co 11:4)

And are we rejoicing in Him? Is He precious to us? (1Pe 2:7) Does meditating on His nature and His ways, on all that He does, bring a constant stream of delight to our souls? (Ps 119:97)

As God’s Law, Torah, reveals His nature and His way, the godly delight in the law of God (Ro 7:22), we serve the law of God. (Ro 7:25) We’re earnestly and consistently longing to understand and obey God’s Law more and more (Ps 119:20); that’s what it means to walk in the light with Him (Ps 119:45), the very definition of the New Covenant. (He 8:10)

Do we understand that God’s utterly sovereign? That He does as He pleases in Heaven and on Earth, and that nothing frustrates or worries Him? (Da 4:35)

Are we content in knowing the goodness and faithfulness of God (He 13:5), secure, unafraid (He 13:6), at rest in God? (He 4:3) Or are we lusting to envy, cleaving to dust?

Are we satisfied with the religion of our parents, accepting without question what we were taught as children, or what our culture and those about us claim? If we want God to leave us alone with our idols … He will (Pr 1:29-31) … to be trodden down in His fury. (2Co 5:11)

But if we want to know God, and ask Him to show us where we’re missing Him, seeking Him until He reveals Himself to us, He will. (He 11:6)

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Salvation Is of the Jews

When Jesus Christ challenges Nicodemus, a Jewish Pharisee, in  relating with God, He says, “Ye must be born again.” (Jn 3:7)

Since this is in the New Testament, and we never hear it taught from the Old, it’s easy to think that being born again is relatively novel, something Moses, David and Abraham knew nothing about.

But Christ is speaking before the Cross, before He dies and rises again, so nothing has actually changed since Mount Sinai, when God revealed His Law, or really even since Adam. There’s no New Testament scripture at this point in time, yet Christ acts as if Nicodemus should already know about being born again, as if it’s obvious from the Old Testament. (Jn 3:10) How significant! If we don’t see being born again in the Old Testament like Jesus expects, what makes us think we understand it?

In a similar encounter, Christ challenges a woman and says something just as striking. “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” (Jn 4:22) He’s saying that if we don’t understand the salvation presented in the Old Testament, the oracles of God committed to the Jews (Ro 3:1-2), then we don’t understand salvation at all; we’re worshiping in ignorance. Not a good place to be.

In a third encounter, Christ tells an equivalently insightful story of a rich man suffering in Hell, concerned that his family will follow after him into its flames. He asks Abraham to send an acquaintance back from the dead to warn them. Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (Lk 16:29) The claim is that Old Testament scriptures are a sufficient witness of the gospel. But the rich man pleads, convinced that the Old Testament is insufficient; if someone they knew rose from the dead to warn them, then they would repent and be saved. But Abraham is firm: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Not only is the Old Testament a sufficient witness of the gospel, it is so overwhelmingly sufficient that if one isn’t convinced through it, then nothing will convince them.

Salvation is of the Jews: accomplished by Christ, a Jew, and revealed by and through Jews, God’s chosen people, in the scriptures God has transmitted to us all through them. This doesn’t mean we have to become Jewish in order to be right with God (1Co 7:18-20), but it does mean that the gospel of the New Testament is exactly the same as the gospel of the Old Testament. If the gospel we believe in isn’t an Old Testament gospel, then it’s a false one. (Ga 1:8)

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Few Find It

Christian Universalism is the teaching that all people will eventually be saved and enter Heaven. It sounds nice, the typical fairy tale happy ending to eternity, but is it true?

All people certainly would be saved if everyone earnestly sought salvation from God (1Ti 2:3-4), but even though all are invited to do so (Re 22:17), very few are willing to come, and none on their own initiative, apart from the drawing of God. (Jn 6:44)

Christ tells us to strive to enter Heaven, that many will seek to enter their own way but won’t be able to (Lk 13:24), that the way to Heaven is narrow, obscure, hidden, and that very few will find it. (Mt 7:14)

Further, Christ teaches that there are certain types and degrees of sin that are never forgiven, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. (Mt 12:32)

Since God is eternally merciful to those who repent and yield to Him (Is 55:7), it would appear that the problem with universalism isn’t that God is unloving or holds grudges, but that Man refuses to repent, even from the flames of Hell. If God waited for men to repent on their own accord, He’d wait forever. (Ps 81:15)

Man is incapable of transforming himself (Je 13:23), and no amount of external punishment or torment will make any difference in the end. (Pr 27:22) The only hope any of us have is the irresistible grace of God; God is able to work in the human heart according to His will (Php 2:13), moving in us to seek Him and obey Him.

It is perhaps a mystery why God does not choose us all; one must look to God’s purpose in Creation to find the answer. (Ro 9:22-23) Evidently, God will be the most glorified in the way He chooses (Ps 46:10), and this is enough for me.

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Dead Works

One of the first principles of spiritual life is repentance from dead works. (He 6:1) What are dead works? How do we repent of them?

Dead things are missing that life force from God, the energy and vitality He gives to all living things (Ac 17:25), making them sentient, aware of their surroundings, causing them to change and grow and function as they ought.

To repent is to start believing the truth about something, and to start acting differently as a result. (2Ti 2:25-26)

So, repentance from dead works must be to start thinking differently about our lives, understanding why we’re living as we are, identifying what sort of works we’re doing, and to stop doing things which are not energized by God, activities that are apart from and outside of Him.

Christ says that unless we’re abiding in Him, we can do nothing that’s worth doing (Jn 15:5); unless we’re aligned with Him, seeking to honor and obey Him, we’re working against Him. (Mt 12:30) In other words, if we’re willing to continue living our lives apart from Him, out of fellowship with Him, for our own pleasure, then we’re the walking dead (1Ti 5:6), having only the outward appearance of life (Re 3:1): we’ve yet to begin the spiritual life. (Ep 2:1)

Everything we do, we choose to do; to repent of dead works is to start making different choices, in every choice we make. It’s a fundamental life change, a transformation, living for a different reason than we’ve been living, living for God instead of for ourselves.

If there’s something we’re thinking that Christ can’t be thinking, that He would find distasteful or repugnant, let’s stop thinking that; if we’re going where Christ wouldn’t go, let’s stop going there; if we’re speaking words He wouldn’t speak, let’s stop speaking them. Let’s be thinking what Christ in us is thinking, doing what He’s doing, and going where He’s going. If Christ dwells in us, let’s let Him live as He will in us, incarnating Himself again in this evil world through us. Everything we do, let’s do it in Christ’s name (Col 3:17) and for God’s glory. (1Co 10:31)

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