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18th November 2001

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Sermon

RISKING GOD'S REJECTION.

Scripture Reference

MATTHEW 22:1-14


Many people are totally complacent about their relationship with God. God invites them to come to know Himself, but complacent people do not respond. The invitation is there, but the response does not come. The time to act is now, but people do not. The Gospels emphasise that the hour of God's favour is running out. 

Now is the opportune time for entering His Kingdom. But we must respond. Jesus emphasised that the world was facing a crisis. To the Jews of His day, Jesus prophesied the crisis for Jerusalem that would reject Him and would be itself rejected. Which was exactly what happened. Jerusalem was utterly destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.. Jesus also spoke of a crisis for individuals and for the world that had rejected God. We are still in that later era. Do you think the current world-wide crisis indicates how fragile is our human existence? Do not people ask, "Why has God forsaken us?" 

Jesus taught that the axe was already at the root of the unfruitful figtree. But God in His mercy, has given us time to repent. Only His grace holds back the end of this world. Jesus was pointing out to his listeners, that in His coming, the Kingdom of God was drawing near. His teaching deals with His rejection by Israel as God's special messenger who invites people into God's Kingdom. A crisis was at hand because people were rejecting the coming of the Kingdom. He would be crucified and buried. But out of the destruction of Jerusalem and its citizens, God would bring a new people of God consisting of people from every race and colour, a new Israel, believers called "the Church". 

The early Christians encouraged one another when they were persecuted by recalling His parables of the coming crisis. These parables can encourage us as we too face the world crisis. If we respond to God's invitation we will be with Him when Jesus comes again. This is seen in a top ten parable: the Great Supper. Matt 22:1-14

1. THE GRACIOUS INVITATION. 
"A king prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' 

Jesus used this parable to demonstrate our opportunity to repent and enter the Kingdom of God. Living in God's Kingdom was like enjoying a great wedding feast. You would think all the guests would want to celebrate with the newly married King's Son. But some rejected their invitations. Jesus was teaching a great truth: we must accept God's invitation when it comes. 

2. THE CRUEL RESPONSE. 
"But they paid no attention and went off, one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city." John the Baptist had announced the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus had invited all to enter the Kingdom. But the people invited had not accepted. So others would be invited and their city ruined. 

Jesus said that when the king's guests decided not to attend he asked for them to checked and found they all made excuses. "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' "Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.'" They all had excuses. 

Once a Public Relations Consultant invited me to speak at an important meeting. He hired Wesley auditorium for the event. On the invitation was a list of guests including more than twenty of the best known people in Australia including former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam, TV and radio personalities, several film stars, and a large number of well-known community leaders. I was flattered to be asked speak. I did not want to attend but I felt if all the others were coming, I had to attend and speak. But I declined to attend inspite of being told everyone listed was coming. The function was held. Audiovisual equipment hired at a cost of $20,000 was in place. A lavish dinner provided. But only one person arrived - a TV soapie star who flew up from Melbourne. Nobody else came. The others also realised that we had each been told each other had accepted before any of us had. The food was not wasted. Our Wesley Centre manager invited the regulars sitting in Wesley Centre to come to the auditorium for an unexpected banquet! The people of the streets of Sydney enjoyed the feast! In this parable, the people invited were all well-known, successful and wealthy people, but when they received their invitation they declined to attend. It was not that they could not attend, but that they would not! 

The wedding celebration was held at night. That made their excuses ridiculous. One wanted to check his land, another his cattle, another could not come because of his wife. They were too busy with their own affairs. In the 1960's we used to sing about this: 
"I cannot come to the banquet, don't trouble me now. 
I have married a wife. I have bought me a cow. 
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum. Pray, have me excused, I cannot come."

Then the King sent His servants to ask them again to come. But some of the invitees killed the servants! This refers to how the Jews treated God's messengers. They even killed God's Son when He came with an invitation for them to come to God's Kingdom. Jesus warned that their city of Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans as a punishment for rejecting God's messenger. This was exactly what happened four decades later when the Romans under General Titus, massacred the Jews and destroyed Jerusalem totally.

3. THE UNEXPECTED REQUEST. 
"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests." So the King sent his servants into the street to invite any they found to the celebration." The early church were to invite all into God's Kingdom the lame, blind, crippled, poor, the outcast, the addict and the foreigner. That was how the church grew. 

Those rejected by the Jewish leaders were accepted into the Church. Then the King came! He was there with them. There was great rejoicing and celebration. Those who refused His invitation were green with envy. Now they wanted to get in, but it was too late. This parable gives good news and bad news: the bad news is that if you reject God's gracious invitation into His kingdom, He will reject you. The good news is that no matter who you are in this city, from the highest to the lowest, you are welcome into His Kingdom celebration.

So into God's Kingdom came the lame bumping into each other, the blind groping towards God's tables of generosity, the sick and the well, the cultured and the uneducated, the good and the bad alike ? all who respond are welcome! When General William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, died, a poem pictured him entering heaven with all the homeless, the poor, and the disreputable who had responded to God's Kingdom invitation. "Booth led boldly with his big bass drum 
('Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?')
The Saints smiled gravely and they said: "He's come."
('Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?')
Walking lepers followed, rank upon rank, 
Lurching winos from the ditches dank,
Hookers from the alleyways and drug addicts pale ?
Minds still passion ridden, soul-powers frail: ?
Vermin ridden saints with mouldy breath,
Unwashed legions with the ways of death ?
('Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?').
But they were changed and now: clad in raiment new,
The lame were straightened, withered limbs uncurled
And blind eyes opened on a new, sweet world."

4. THE HALF-HEARTED RESPONSE. 
"But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless." When God invites us to enter His kingdom, He does not mind our condition when we come: all are invited. But He expects us to make some effort when we enter His kingdom. He expects us to dress appropriately. The alcoholic is welcomed just as He is. But once in the Kingdom, God expects the person to change. You do not enter the Kingdom of God and stay the way you are! God wants you to change, and He provides the power to enable the change. Don't come to the King's banquet where he provides beautiful clothes and stay in your smelly old clothes! God welcomes all into His Kingdom, but He expects that when you are with His people you will accept His resources, be strengthened with His power and make the effort! The thief no longer can steal when He becomes a Christian. The liar learns to control His tongue. The adulterer stays within his marriage commitment. The promiscuous leads a pure life. You enter the Kingdom just as you are, but you put off the old garments and put on the new. What you wear to God's celebration is not your own garments, but what He provides for you! These are the wedding garments we wear to the banquet feast of God: 
"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress."
If we are clothed in that righteousness, we can stand before God and rejoice in our salvation. If we are not clothed rightly, we will be speechless before Him. God expects you to change and be clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God sees you through His righteousness!

5. THE SURPRISE REJECTION. 
"Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen." The man who scorned his host's provision of wedding clothes insulted the host. His goodness was enough for God! But God says that it is not. God rejects any who relies on his or her fancied goodness. Isaiah says: 'All our righteousness is as filthy rags." 64:6 We are not fit to be seen before God, let alone to enjoy the feast of his Kingdom. "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 called, but few show, by their response, that they are 'chosen'." Michael. Green 

So many people are totally complacent about their relationship with God. God invites them to come to know Himself, but complacent people do not respond. The invitation is there. Their own response causes rejection. The time to act is now. The hour of God's favour is running out. Our opportunity for entering his Kingdom is limited. Everything is ready. We are invited to enter in. You too have been invited! People from all over our city are invited. Come on in! It matters not your background or how much or how little you know about Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Just come as you are: humbly, with faith, anxious only to please Him. There are good times in God's Kingdom. But you must be dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Your faith in Him grants you acceptance. Your complacency alone causes God's rejection! 

Rev Dr Gordon Moyes

 



Send an e-mail to Gordon Moyes - gkmoyes@wesleymission.org.au

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