On the wall in my office is my Seminary diploma. It is a certification that I have been schooled in Theology. I studied for 8 years. 4 in college and 4 more at Seminary. I studied Hermeneutics. I studied Homiletics. I studied Isagogics, Exegesis, and a host of other disciplines that I barely remember how to pronounce anymore. However you get it, this type of certification verifies that you might have a semblance of an idea of what you’re talking about as you preach at a church.
You wanna know something amazing? Jesus didn’t have one.
Yet there he sat as he had so many time before, in the temple courts preaching and teaching. There were crowds of people at his feet and they were hanging on his every word.
This was a problem for the Pharisees, the one who had earned the right to teach in the temple. They had gone to school. They had paid their dues. They were official members of this teaching groups.
Not Jesus. He was not a card carrying member of the Pharisees. He didn’t work his way up in the Sanhedrin. He didn’t graduate from local Hebrew school with a special preaching license. These men had rightfully earned that respect. They had paid their dues and they wore authentic religious teacher garb.
They stormed over to Jesus and the infuriated teaches snarled at him, “What authority do you have to do such things?” (21:23) “What gives you the right?”
But Jesus didn’t bite. Instead, he told them a story.
A man owned vineyard (Jesus really liked parables about vineyards). Instead of going to the market and looking for workers, he recognized that he had two very capable workers in his own household. His Sons.
He found the first son. “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” (v.28)
“I will not!” (v.29) came the sassy reply.
Maybe he was getting close to conquering the final level of Angry Birds on his cell phone. Maybe he was watching a funny video on YouTube. May he just wanted to get some sleep under the tree, like any self-respecting teenage boy.
But later he thought better of it. Maybe he felt sorry that he had disrespected his dad or maybe he felt a wave of responsibility rush over him. He changed his mind and went. (v.29)
Meanwhile dad approached his other son.
“I will sir!” And one can’t help but see the pride in this respectful answer. “Yes, Dad. You are the greatest. I will come like always. I will be there. I’ll work hard for you. I’ll do the good work just like a good son should because I’m a good son.”
But the ‘good son’ took a good time in coming to work. In fact, he did not go. (v.30)
And maybe he got distracted. Maybe he fell asleep. Maybe a friend texted him that a bunch of them were headed to the local ice cream shop and the girl that he had a crush on would be there. I don’t know.
What we do know. One son said he wouldn’t do the work, but did. The other sons said he would do the work, but didn’t.
Then, the riddle: “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” (v.31)
Did you come to the same conclusion as the Pharisees? “The first,” they answered, “the one who actually did the work that the Father had asked.” They were right. It’s no shocker.
But what Jesus said next was shocking, “I tell you the truth,” he told the Pharisees, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to show you the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” (v.32)
Do you get it? Do you see what Jesus is saying with the parable? Do you see the tragedy in the answer of these teachers?
Jesus was using this parable like a mirror. He was revealing to the Pharisees how God saw them. It wasn’t how they saw themselves (as even better versions of the first son.) They, these “followers of God,” “holy people,” “descendants of Abraham,” and “Experts on what God has to say,” were the second son.
Consider this: God the Father called them. In Scripture, he had told them to watch for a Messiah. He gave them clues as to who the Messiah would be: Born in Bethlehem, born of a virgin, causing the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the sick to be well, and the dead to rise! They were ready for such a Messiah. They were ready to do the work of their Father and follow Him.
But when they saw this Messiah, when they saw a regular looking carpenter who spoke softly and lovingly, they didn’t listen. The Prostitutes did. The Tax Collectors did. The “scum of the earth did.” But not the ones who had pledged to follow God! They didn’t believe the Scriptures. They didn’t believe John the Baptist. They didn’t believe the miracles. They didn’t believe the testimony of God the Father himself.
They said, “We’ll listen to you Heavenly Father,” but then, “they didn’t do what he said.” They didn’t do what his work was.
What was that work? John 6:29 -- Jesus said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the One he sent.”
That’s what they didn’t do. And they were forfeiting their place in heaven because of it.
WHAT KIND OF CHILD ARE YOU?
Which son are you in the parable? Is this whole Christianity thing fairly new to you? Are you just getting your feet wet in the church? Maybe you’ve spent your life addicted to drugs, alcohol, or pornography. Maybe you’ve been too busy chasing worldly wealthy and careers that you just didn’t have time to listen to God. Maybe you’ve finally rethought life and you are ready to do the work of the Lord (But you can’t shake the feeling that you are unworthy to do such a thing.)
Or maybe you’re more like the second son. Maybe you’ve been a ‘follower of Jesus’ your whole life. Maybe you’ve been in church, you know all the books of the Bible, you can say the Lord’s Prayer in less than 15 seconds, and your seat at church is specifically cushioned to the exact way you sit there each week.
But you don’t really believe this stuff. You find yourself doubting as you read more and more on the internet. The world has affected you. This Jesus’ teachings don’t line up with what the world says he should teach. You’ve gotten distracted by your job. You couldn’t care less what He has to say in His Word. You are more worried about you and what you do, than what God has called you to do.
Either of these Sons sound familiar?
Did you tell God “no,” but have changed your mind and are now ready to say, “Yes?”
Did you tell God, “yes,” but have changed your mind and are now telling him, “No?”
Which son are you?
The truth is that it is less important which son you are or which son you have been. What matters is what son you will be!
Because here it is! Whether it’s for the first time, the 23rd time or the 1 thousandth time in your life: REPENT OF YOUR SINS! BELIEVE IN JESUS. BELIEVE IN THE ONE HE SENT.
When you do put your faith in Him, listen to will say of you what he said to the tax collectors and prostitutes. You “are entering the kingdom of God…”
It’s what the woman caught in adultery heard. Angry men surrounded her ready to give her the very punishment that an angry God had described for her sin. A sin she could not deny. A shame that lowered her tear stained eyes.
But when God himself approached, he smiled. “I do not condemn you.” She heard the call of her Father this time. She jumped to her feet in joy. She would devote herself to her Savior!
It’s what Zacchaeus heard. He was hated by the whole town. His greed and deception had angered God and others.
But when God himself looked at him up in the tree – that was not the voice of an enemy, but a friend. “I’m coming to your house today.” (Luke 19:5) And Zacchaeus heard the call from his Father again. He believe and scurried down that tree faster than he would’ve scurried out of a house he had just cheated out of their taxes.
God will say the same to you. You who have never followed Jesus. You who followed, but have lost your way. You who have gotten distracted. You who have chosen the world. You who have backed down from this difficult work.
God does NOT approach you in anger today. Instead, he lovingly, kindly, gently calls you, “Repent. Believe in me. Believe in the One God has sent!”
Because the One God sent lived perfectly for you. The One God sent died innocently for you. The One God sent rose triumphantly for you. That “whoever believes in Him and is baptized will be saved!” (Mk. 16:15)
So. Get up and do God’s Work! Follow Jesus.
Challenge time again. Here are some practical ways to follow Jesus this week!
1) If you have never been baptized, then be baptized. In Baptism, God makes you his own. He washes away your sins. He makes you his child! He promises that he will no longer refer to you as “HIS ENEMY” but as “HIS OWN.” Speak to your pastor about this today!
2) Come back next week. If you come every other week to hear from Jesus, come every week. If you come every week, join Bible class. If you go to Bible class, start up devotion. Whatever you do, devote yourself more fully to God this week. Do God’s Work and let God work to grow your faith.
3) Share God’s Work. Once you’ve studied up on what God did for you, tell others! Tell your family. Tell your friends. Invite them to church. Invite them to Reformation. Share the sermon you’ll get from the email group with three friends!
Brothers this is what the children of God do. They do God’s Work. They believe in Jesus. They grow in Jesus. They share Jesus.
As Jesus told this parable, those Pharisees were being called to do God’s Work one more time. Sadly, many rejected this call. They got lazy. They got distracted. They chose to do as they pleased.
May that not be you. Listen to your Father’s gentle call. Listen to his voice calling you to faith.
Repent. Believe in Jesus. Believe in the One God sent.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 “About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ 7 “ ‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The disciples were confused.
Not that long ago some parents had brought their young children to Jesus. The disciples immediately tried to send them away. How could these young ones follow Jesus? He didn’t have time for them. They’ll just play around and get in the way without anything of merit to contribute.
Jesus told them that “the kingdom of heaven belonged to such as these.” (Mt. 19:14)
“Ok, Jesus wants them in the kingdom, even though they have nothing to contribute, but a bit of drool.”
Then, a rich, young man had approached. An entrepreneur. He had the know how, the drive, and the economic resources to really boost this whole discipleship movement.
But Jesus put up such a high standard: keep all the commandments and then sell everything and follow their movement that the man ended up walking away dejectedly.
What was going on? Why was Jesus extending grace to those without merit, but turning away those with much merit!?!
The disciples were confused. So. Jesus told this parable
“A landowner…went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.” Most likely he headed to the marketplace where workers would go to be hired. It’s the old fashioned equivalent of heading to Lowe’s or Home Depot where you will find workers for hire waiting outside near the carts.
He found some workers and He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. (v.2) A denarius was a common day’s wage. Eleven hours of work for about a hundred dollars. Fair enough. They’ll start work at 7am and go until 6pm.
After going back and setting them up with the work they had to do, he went back to the market to get more workers. In fact, he goes back four separate times. Once at 9am, once at noon, and once at three. Then he comes back at 5pm when there’s only 1 hour left. He finds a few guys who haven’t done any work all day. They are just lounging around – perhaps they are even finishing up a PBR—giving up on any work for that day.
Somehow the Vineyard owner persuades them. They go to work in the vineyard…maybe thinking, “I’ll make enough money for another beer.”
Then, it’s quitting time. He calls them all to get paid. First in line are the guys who came at 5pm.
Imagine their surprise when he reaches into his pouch and pulls out one shiny new denarius for each worker. $100 for an hour of work? Not bad.
But as excited as those workers were, imagine the excitement that those who had been working all day felt. They’d been there 11 hours. If these guys got $100 for one hour, then they’d get $100 x 11, $1100 dollars.
Think of what you could buy with that! It’s a nice down payment on a car. A whole month’s worth of rent. 275 bags of Doritos! Suddenly, the long hard day of work in the hot sun of the vineyard field was well worth it.
Picture what happens next. The boss calls them forward. They are trying to withhold their excitement as they step up to the front. They hold out their hands…maybe even close their eyes just to be a bit more surprised. The boss places his payment into their hands. They open their eyes.
Yep. The exact same amount that the guys who only worked for an hour got.
Jesus says, “When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.”
That’s not fair! We worked all day. What an unfair boss you are. Don’t you appreciate a hard worker? I’m reporting you to the Better Business Bureau of Jerusalem for unfair labor conditions!!! We have merited so much more.
The business owner doesn’t blink. ”Excuse me? Am I being unfair? Didn’t we make a deal? Weren’t you willing to work for a fair wages of a denarius? Didn’t I give you just that? I gave them a day’s wage, yes. But what is it to you? You didn’t lose any money. You got paid exactly what I said you would. I didn’t have to hire you and give you anything! Be thankful for what I am giving you, take your money, and go.”
Now Jesus doesn’t tell us this story so that we can put it to the test of our justice system and see if there needs to be a Labor Union set up for Vineyard workers in order to prevent the exploitation of others.
It’s a parable. There’s a spiritual meaning behind it. Jesus is warning us to watch out for entitlement!
Entitlement is a part of our society today. Entitlement means “This is what I’m entitled to. It’s what I’ve earned.” A coworker gets a raise and we better get the same raise. Someone gets off of work an hour early; we better get that same perk. If someone gets paid $15 an hour for a job that requires a college level education, I should get paid $15 for a job that doesn’t require a college level education?
It even happens with kids. They get upset if they don’t get a birthday party with a pony, a clown, and $500 in gifts because “My friend got that and so should I!”
Be wary that our culture of entitlement. It doesn’t take over your views on spiritual matters. Watch out for spiritual entitlement. It’s dangerous and it leads you to feel like God owes you.
Be careful. This entitlement comes in three areas:
· TIME. I’m entitled to more blessings from God because I’ve spent more time a Christian. I’ve logged in more hours at Gethsemane. I’m one of the stable members of Adult Bible class. I sat through even the boring parts!
· WORK. God has got to be more pleased with me than your average church goer because of all the good things I’ve done. I’ve been a part of many maintenance projects at church, I’ve been on the Council, the altar guild, the cookie makers, the lawn mowing team, the ushers, the nursery, the Sunday School teachers...I even have picked up litter in the parking lot, so I’m basically the WELS version of Greenpeace.
· MONEY. God has to be impressed with all the money I’ve given...10% of my paycheck always has gone to church. In fact, there are a few years I’ve given 10.1% by accident…but I didn’t complain. It makes me a little better than those who don’t…I know. God’s got a special place in heaven for me. I should get a plaque on this church’s wall.
Hmmm…? Does that sound familiar at all?
Then, in spite of our feeling of being entitled to specific things: God comes out in his Word and says this to all people, “Whoever believes in me will not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16) He says, “All have sinned…and all are justified freely by God’s grace in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23) He says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mk. 16:15)
No time requirements. No money amounts. No work awards. There’s no difference – God gives the same promise to all.
That’s when entitlement attitude really starts to kick in:
Really God? That guy? He hasn’t done anything. He’s barely been at church. He’s not a part of any service group. I’ve never seen him put a dime in the offering basket! And you’re offering him the same promise of love and forgiveness? I even see Pastor spending extra time talking to him after church? What did he do to deserve that? And why are we having a New Member Sunday? Shouldn’t we be having a “Long Time Member" Sunday?
That’s unfair God! You should give him as he deserves. You should give me as I deserve.
Really? You want God to be fair. You want God to “give you what you deserve.”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.” You ever sinned? If so, what do you deserve?
I’m reminded of that time in a college English class when I approached the English Professor and asked him for a better grade on my test. I had a B and I thought I deserve an A!
Then, he said, “Oh, you wanted me to give you what you deserved? I had thrown out a few questions and graded on a curve, but I guess I could put those questions which you got wrong back into the test and drop the curve. Would you be happy with a C-?”
Trust me on this. In Spiritual matters, you don’t want what you deserve. Because what you, I, we deserve is hell.
So let’s go back to God’s promises. In spite of your sin he says, ‘’You who believe in Jesus as their Savior, will not perish, but have eternal life.” "You who have sinned…are justified freely by God’s grace.” You who “believe and are baptized will be saved.”
Think about what God is offering you. Heaven. A place you can’t get into unless you are perfect! Yet God offers it to you. Not because you earned it, but as a gift. Romans 6:23 continues, “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”
And this gift is more than just heaven. It is the forgiveness for all of your sins. Peace with God. A new life on this earth serving God. An eternal life in the pain free, sin free, glorious streets of heaven!
That’s a pretty fair deal, isn’t it? We deserve hell, but we get heaven. All for believing his promise!
Then, instead of grumbling when others receive this message, why not rejoice!?!
If someone puts a picture of something they are happy about online, how do people react? A cute puppy picture? LIKE! A new outfit! COMMENT: That looks fantastic! “You just had a baby? I’ll SHARE it with my friends.”
Why not do the same thing with new believers? Why not celebrate? Celebrate when they are but a child OR celebrate when they are much older. Have a party! Give a bunch of high fives! Pray countless prayers of thanks AND sing the hymns in worship with a whole new vigor.
And understand this, it isn’t a celebration of THEM. It’s not a celebration of YOU. It’s a celebration of GOD!
So…here’s your challenge this week:
1) Read Romans 3. The first part of the chapter will remind you of what you really deserve, while the second part of the chapter will fill your heart with the amazing nature of God’s love! Read it and be thankful for the gifts you have been given.
2) Share the Message of Jesus with someone who doesn’t look like he deserves it. Specifically reach out to someone with a tattoo OR at a bar. I’m gonna have my business cards available after church. Why not just grab a few, have them on hand, and be ready to say, “Hey, I wanted to invite you to our church on Sunday! I want you to learn about grace.”
3) Meet and talk with newer members. This is something to put into practice right after worship. Find someone you haven’t talked to before. Find someone who looks new to you. Introduce yourself. If you know everyone’s name already, then find someone that you don’t know much about. Show that you care about them. Show that you are thankful they are here. Show that you happy to marvel at God’s grace together with them. Tell them, “It’s a joy to have you here!”
At the beginning, we mentioned how the disciples were confused by Jesus, but it’s my hope that today’s parable hasn’t left you confused at all. Because, it’s clear. God doesn’t base the reward of his forgiveness on our merits. God bases it on his grace!
Praise God it is so. Amen.
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
How much should I forgive someone?
Peter’s question is not strange. It’s valid isn’t it? It’s a question that pops into our heads at a bunch of different times:
· When your husband leaves the shaving snibbles around the sink…again.
· When your kids leave a mess of the toy room…again.
· When your coworker is late to work…again.
· When your pastor messes up the dates on the calendar…again.
How many times is too many times? How many time is too much? How many times is no good for you and no good for the one who sins against you?
Peter thought he had it figured out. He thought it was simple. “Lord, how many times? Seven times?”
Jesus’ answer is flooring:
“Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
In other words; “There is no limit!”
And immediately, our sinful natures start protesting, “No limit! That’s insane. Jesus must not know how many times this person has done this sin against me. He must not be taking into account just how big of a sin it is. He must not understand just how mean this person is to me when he does it.”
And…anticipating our protests 2000 years before they happened…Jesus goes right into a parable about forgiveness. Unlimited forgiveness.
I. God’s Unlimited Forgiveness.
Jesus tells about a king who is ready to settle accounts. He’s obviously loaned out money to a number of different people and now it’s time to check and see where everyone is at in paying their loans back.
If you’ve ever owed anyone money, you immediately know what it feels like to be one of these debtors. If you have owed or do owe a credit card company, a student loan, a mortgage, or your brother-in-law for that $20 bucks he spotted you at Wendy’s last weekend, you know debt can be a severely stressful thing.
One of the men owed him ten thousand bags of gold. If you do the conversion and take inflation into account, that’s about $4 billion dollars.
In other words, this wasn’t chump change. In fact, here it’s more than probably all of us could put together in a lifetime. In fact, it would take 100,000 people in Raleigh to put their entire $40,000 yearly salary into one big pot to make the payment. Or you could try and win the Powerball…in just about every state for a whole year to make up for it.
This guy has no chance, does he? The amount of money he owes is ludicrous! It’s insane. It’s impossible to payback.
So the master begins the collection process. “He ordered that his wife and children and everything he owned be sold to pay back his debt.” Not that it would come all that close to paying it back. In fact, he could have gotten Operation Repo and the Lizard Lick Towing guys to go get everything the man had and I’m sure the billion dollars wouldn’t have had a dent in it!
So the man does all he can figure to do. He grovels. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’
You ever been on your knees asking for forgiveness from another person? It’s not a very dignified position. It’s humbling. It’s humiliating. It’s desperate.
That’s exactly where this guy is at. All he can do is plead for mercy.
And the master? You might expect him to throw him in prison out of anger. He had a legal right! You might expect him to make the man and his family permanent slaves. You might expect him to at least set up a payment plan.
He does none of the above.
The master took pity on him, cancelled the debt, and let the man go.
Could you do that? If you won the lottery and the state said, “I’m sorry but we will be unable to pay you a single dollar of what you’ve won," would you sit down at the computer and carefully construct an email that says, “I understand. No worries.”
Not so much.
Understand this amount of forgiveness is unheard of. It’s incredible. It’s amazing.
Brothers and sisters, that is the point. We don’t owe God for a monetary loan. We owe God for our sins. Every time we have ever sinned against him we owe God a payment of eternal death. Every sin = death. The wages of sin is death! (Romans 6:13)
Consider then how insurmountable your debt is. You can only, quite possibly, pay for one sin. Do you have more than one sin? Do you have more than two sins? Do you have more sins than you could possibly count?
Like 4 billion dollars worthy of sins?
Me too. It almost makes me want to fall to the ground on my knees. Cause all I can do is plead for God’s mercy.
If you feel the same way, understand this: God is more merciful than the king in the story. For the sake of Jesus, for the sake of the cross, for the sake of his love and mercy, God forgives you. Wholly. Completely. Fully.
And there isn’t a payment plan: “Do some good this next week to make up for that one sin AND do so without borrowing out for more sins and then we’re good.” Jesus completely and absolutely ransomed you from sin. His death paid back the Father for every last one of your sins.
Colossians 2:13 “When we were dead in our sins, God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.”
II. Your Unlimited Forgiveness.
This forgiveness is amazing. And, if we truly grasp what God has done for us, it definitely should affect the way we forgive others.
Just like you’d expect that $4 billion dollar man to be affected. You’d expect him to leave that king’s throne room with a smile plastered on his face. Jumping up and down for joy. Hugging everyone that he met.
Not so much.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt."
Are you a little bit disturbed? The man just went from $4 billion in the red to even. This guy owes him a couple hundred bucks and he verbally threatens him, physically abuses him, and refuses to forgive him?
Show of hands. Does anyone think he is in the right?
The master didn’t think it was fair either. When he found out, look at what happens: 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed."
And maybe you’re thinking, “Good. He got what he deserved. If he wasn’t willing to forgive a measly amount, after he had been forgiven a ludicrously, large amount, then he deserves to have his debt back over his own head!”
You’re right. Now takes your words and apply them to yourself as you hear the point to Jesus’ parable:
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Brothers and sisters, forgive with an unlimited forgiveness, because God forgives you with an unlimited forgiveness.
Forgive your spouse. Forgive your kids. Forgive your parents. Forgive your friends. Forgive your coworkers. Forgive your enemies. Forgive your fellow church members. Forgive all of these people – each and every sin against you, because God has forgiven you for each and every sin against him.
Can you do that this week?
Can you get rid of your anger and frustration with someone who sinned against you?
Can you find a friend and verbally forgive them?
It may sound hard. Don’t do what the man in the parable did. Don’t consider what they owe you…what they did to you…how they sinned against you. If you do that, you’ll react just like he did. You’ll be frustrated and upset all over again.
Instead, look at the debt you’ve been forgiven. Like the man should have done by dwelling in God’s unlimited forgiveness. Re-examine God’s love for you. Watch your feelings of anger disappear. And feel the joy of God’s unlimited forgiveness.
Brothers and sisters, what a joy to know that God’s unlimited forgiveness is so big that not only will it cover over your sins against God, but it will provide you with the means of forgiving those who sin against you.
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
12 With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark. 14 Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.
1 Peter 5:8-14
Over this Pentecost season, we’ve been in the book of 1 Peter. We’ve learned what it is to be People of God. Strangers on this earth. Heirs of heaven. Holy in God’s sight and imperishable. Hungry for God and revelling in being chosen by Him! People of God serve as citizens, employees, and spouses. They are saved, but remain clear minded through suffering always remembering you are in this together!
It’s nice, isn’t it? Nice to be People of God.
Have you ever gotten one of those urgent emails from your In-Store Credit Card company? WARNING: You are about to lose your membership benefits! Your account has been inactive and unless you buy something in the next three months, we’ll close your credit card membership and you’ll lose all your privileges: No more rewards points. No more special deals. No more ability to buy things without having any money. No more privilege of paying them 25% interest on all purchases!
This morning at the end of Peter’s letter – the Apostle leaves us with a similar warning. He wants Christians everywhere – he wants me; he wants you – to remain a person of God and continue to enjoy all the privileges associated with it. Today he warns us of One whose very goal is the destruction of your faith! Listen then to his warning as he tells us to stand FIRM.
I. Why to Stand Firm
Peter wants us to stand firm in faith. Read verses 8-10 with me. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
The first striking command is to be alert and of sober mind. To be alert is to be awake. It’s to be watchful. To be ready for anything.
With our new puppy, I’ve been learning to be alert. I fell asleep for a 15 minute nap this past week and awoke to 5 shoes out on the floor, some ripped up toilet paper and a few little presents beside. Had I been alert, this wouldn’t have happened.
Peter wants you to be alert so that you don’t lose your spot in the People of God. He wants you to pay attention so that you remain saved. He wants you to be aware so that you can prevent someone from taking these privileges from you!
But…you might ask…who would want to take these privileges from me?
The answer is as simple as it is scary: THE DEVIL.
He is the father of lies. The demon of destruction. The one who caused humanity to fall into sin. The one who brought death into the world. The one who brought pain into the world. The one who tempted the people at the time of Noah’s flood to continue to rebel against God and face their own destruction. The one who came into Judas and caused him to betray Jesus. The one who has caused countless people to disregard God and join him in hell!
He’s as formidable a foe now as he was in that ancient garden long ago.
Pay attention to what Peter calls the devil in verse 8. He calls him “your enemy.” He doesn’t call him God’s enemy, although he is. But Peter’s stress here is that he is YOUR enemy. He hates you.
“Jesus loves me this I know.” That’s what the children’s song says. We don’t sing a song for the devil. But if we would, do you know what it would say, “Satan hates me this I know…”
Don’t get me wrong. There are times when it feels like the devil is the good guy. “He just wants me to have fun. God’s the One who’s a prude. God needs to lighten up on his hatred for sin…it isn’t that bad.” We picture him like the cool guy enlightening us on how to live the good life.
BUT THAT IS NOT THE DEVIL! Make no mistake about it: THE DEVIL HATES YOU!
And this hate isn’t something to scoff at. Notice Peter doesn’t call him an “annoyed rabbit.” He doesn’t call him a “frightened Chihuahua.” He doesn’t call him “a declawed kitty that doesn’t like you all that much.” Peter calls him “a roaring lion…prowling…looking for someone to devour.” Ruthless. Powerful. Dangerous.
Tell me, would you like to cuddle with a hungry lion that hasn’t eaten for days?
Be even more frightened as the devil. He is that dangerous! Because listen again to his end game, “He is looking for someone to devour,” “to completely swallow up.” But the devil isn’t interested in physical food; he feeds on souls.
Think of those National Geographic specials where they show the unfortunate carcass of the slowest antelope as the lion has antelope hanging from his lips.
This is the very real picture of what the devil wants to happen to your soul! He wants you to disown God, abandon your faith, turn to sin, and spend forever in terrible torment of his lair – hell itself. He wants to tear apart your obedience to God, to rip to shred’s your faith in Jesus, to devour any hope of heaven that remains, and feast on your fear, doubt, and hatred!
Peter says, “Resist him!” But rather than just saying it, I feel like Peter could be shouting it like a safari guide whose tourists have gotten too close, “Resist him! Resist him…..because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
The call is urgent. The devil is dangerous. The devil is vengeful. The devil is…here.
Look at our scary world.
I heard this past week about a group of Christians in Nepal. In Nepal these Christians are viewed as the lowest class of society. They are the bottom of the cast system. It is illegal to share your faith there and could result in prison.
It isn’t the worst is it? Beheadings in the Middle East. Imprisonment in China. Hatred in Africa.
But don’t forget about the United States – where the devil presents a sneakier front. The Bible mocked. Sexual sin at new levels of perversity. Social media encouraging everyone to disavow the real God of the Bible. Unbelief in America is climbing at an incredible rate!
"The most dangerous trick the devil ever played is in getting people to believe that he doesn't exist!"
Isn't that America? And isn't that true for you too? It's dangerous out there. Dangerous FOR YOU!
So…I need you to answer this question for yourself: Are you ready? Are you prepared?
We should go on a field trip. Let’s drive up and down Falls of Neuse, there are a lot of churches. If you head over to Six Forks, you could add even more. But what do they look like right now on a Sunday morning? Bustling and filled with People of God getting ready to fight the devil?
Or empty. Half full. Hard to notice that there’s anything going on as you drive on by?
Actually, we could probably play a decent game of kick ball in our parking lot – and for the ball? Why not roll up all the papers from our church mailboxes of people who haven’t been here in awhile, because it doesn’t seem all that important.
Would some of your papers be used?
Brothers and sisters WAKE UP! If you think the devil isn’t a big deal, wake up and resist him! Stop sinning. Stop ignoring God’s call. Hear God’s message and stand firm against the foe!
II. How to Stand Firm
Of course, you might be feeling a little nervous right about now. The devil sounds like an awful foe. And to be honest – I’m no match for him. His temptations are too strong. The doubts are too much. He’s worked on former Christian after former Christian – even member of my family. How can I withstand him? How can I defeat. I don’t stand a chance alone!
You’re right. Our frail human flesh cannot withstand the wily and dangerous traps of the hellfire breathing dragon himself. Not alone.
But you aren’t alone.
The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (v.10-11)
Do you not remember who you are? You are the People of God. As people of God that means you are of God! He is with you. And he will support you.
What is our military campaign doing against ISIS right now? They are sending air support. Drones that are dropping bombs with the goal of helping the people of Iraq defeat the terrorists there.
God is the support you need in fighting the devil. Only he doesn’t miss. He doesn’t accidently hit citizens. He doesn’t have all kinds of squabble and politics tying up each and every time you ask him for help.
Peter says, Cast all your anxiety on him because He cares for you! And His help is swift. It’s quick. It’s powerful.
Take note this support from God comes by his grace! That’s why it says, “The God of all grace.” Be careful, because it’s easy to think, “He’ll help me when I show him I’m worthy of being helped.”
But that’s not real grace. That’s like “If you earn it, then possibly I’ll think you’ll worthwhile enough to help you” grace.
Remember this is how Jesus worked. Scripture says, “When we were dead in our sins…God made us alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins!” (Colossians 2:13)
And God isn’t someone who loves you, but can only send the occasional letter of encouragement that helps you out sometime.
God is powerful. All powerful. “To him be the power…forever and ever.” (v.10) The truth is: Satan is powerful, but God is more powerful. He doesn’t say God has a little power, a bit of power, or some power. He doesn’t say he will have this power in the future OR only for a limited time.
He has all the power – which is way more than necessary to defeat Satan – and Jesus has it now and forever.
Here’s a little math for you:
The Devil > You.
God > Devil (Because I don't know if there is a mathematical symbol for "Much greater than.")
You +God > Devil.
Didn’t God already prove this power on the cross? Is that not when he completely destroyed any power that the devil truly had? Did he not defeat sin – which the devil brought into the world? Didn’t he defeat death – another comrade of the devil’s – by walking out of the grave on Easter Sunday morning? Didn’t he stomp on Satan’s power to accuse you? Didn’t he get rid of any excuse the devil had to say, “But they're sinful, God send them to hell!” Did our Lord completely and utterly destroy Satan in every way?
This too is great news. It’s what Peter repeats in verse 11 with his little doxology. To him that’s God, to God be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Now, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to pour a bowl full of Wheaties – filled with vitamins and nutrients for a championship day – and then not to eat it. It would also be foolish, if you made a delicious meal of pasta for the marathon you had coming up, but you didn’t eat a single noodle.
It is equally – and even more foolish than that — to avoid God. It is just as foolish to stay apart from His Word where he gives our faith the nutrients it needs to stay in faith. It does harm to not run to church and receive the service prepared like a pasta dinner for a runner in order to convict you of sin, strengthen you in faith, and keep you standing firm forever!
So -- run to God. Get the strength you need. And listen to his promise once more, “The God of all grace...will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
Now we come to the final words of 1 Peter. Verses 12-14. And as we look at them we are reminded – this letter – this script we’ve been following throughout summer – is no story. It is no fantasy. It is not the end of a historical fiction novel.
With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. 13 She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark.
A very real letter to very real people. People of God. A letter from people of God (Mark, Peter, and Silas) to people of God – Christians everywhere, Christians here. You.
And this very real letter to very real people from the very real Apostle of Christ? It is has the very real blessing of the very real Savior of the World – of the very real God himself.
People of God. Listen to these words and receive their very real blessing.
Stand fast in God’s Word.
Greet one another with a kiss of love.
Peace to all of you who are in Christ.