+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Matthew 21:43
Theme: Given to HIS People
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God does not neglect His people. God forged His covenant with the Israelites unilaterally. That is, He acted out of grace to rescue them from greater powers without securing any commitment or requiring any obligation on their part. It was that way from the beginning. The promise of the Messiah was planned for Adam and Eve before there is any evidence of their repentance. Thus we should not be surprised when God prefaces the giving of the Ten Commandments with a declaration of the gospel that identifies Him as their Saviour. “I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”1
That truth established God proceeds to outline the law for the well-being of His people. This moral code is the universal standard governing the activities of all peoples of all eras. In it the holiness of God is envisaged and the well-being of people is safeguarded. What Adam and Eve knew implicitly before their fall into sin the Israelites have spelled out for them explicitly through Moses. That law continues to define our status before God and humanity.
The most important function of God’s law is to convict the human heart of sin. It’s only in the clear condemnation of God for all sins of commission and omission that we can truly understand our status before Him. This is the hammer the Holy Spirit uses to break down hardened hearts and stubborn wills. The threat of God’s judgment always hangs over the unrepentant. He will call to account. His wrath cannot be evaded and no excuses will stand.
Today the parable of the unrighteous tenants serves as an unequivocal warning. The vineyard owner represents the Father and the Son He sent, Christ. “‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 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.’”2 And so it was that Christ was rejected by His own people. The rejection of Jesus and His work is the mature expression of sinful humanity.
Apart from the intervention of the Holy Spirit, original sin always progresses to such maturity. But why even the converted sometimes fall away is beyond our knowing. The mystery must stand. God plays no favourites. Christ died for all. He desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Yet not all are saved. The fault lies not with God but the hardened and sinful heart. How is one’s heart hardened? By willful, callous, and repeated resistance. God is not to be tested but revered. He is compassionate but He does not play games. He cannot be fooled.
Dear friends, everyone likes to be labeled by family, peers, or friends as a nice person or a ‘good Christian’. It can help to keep us accountable. The Scriptures clearly direct us to support and build up one another. But danger lurks too. It strokes the spiritual ego. It can create a false sense of security. Worldliness creeps in on us like morning fog. A little compromise here, a little concession there and soon our priorities have been rearranged completely. The exceptions become the rule. First-fruits become left-overs. None are exempt from such pressures and temptations. The praises of others becomes more important and less realistic than the judgment of God. But God’s assessments are not consultative. He confers with no one about our status before Him.
Our status before God is eternally changed by the work of Christ. He alone accomplishes reconciliation. A duck hunter was with a friend in the wide-open land of southeastern Georgia. Far away on the horizon he noticed a cloud of smoke. Soon he could hear crackling as the wind shifted. He realized the terrible truth; a brushfire was advancing, so fast they couldn't outrun it. Rifling through his pockets, he soon found what he was looking for--a book of matches. He lit a small fire around the two of them. Soon they were standing in a circle of blackened earth, waiting for the fire to come. They didn't have to wait long. They covered their mouths with handkerchiefs and braced themselves. The fire came near--and swept over them. But they were completely unhurt, untouched. The fire wasn’t hot enough to harm them. And the fire did not pass where they had already burned. The law is like a bushfire that you cannot escape. It consumes all in its path. But we stand in the burned-over place. We stand in the shadow of the cross. The fire of God’s wrath raged on Calvary and there it was quenched. Christ's death has disarmed it. Not a hair of the believer’s head will be singed by His consuming fire.
Believers are freed from the just punishment each and every sinner deserves. The Scripture says, “Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him!”3 And again, “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.”4 United with Christ through baptism-incorporated into His very death and resurrection- we enjoy a peace with God that transcends all the darkness and doubt of the temporal sphere. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”5
Now each day you are not forced to struggle through life without hope or purpose. You are not constrained by the problems and issues swirling around in your own little world. You need not stumble along in your vocation wondering what the point is. You are Christ’s redeemed child. You are His baptized. You are called, justified and sanctified with the promise of glorification yet to come. You are servants in the vineyard already enjoying the fruits of Christ’s labor. You have the comfort of His strong but tender promises. You are offered the food of immortality- the very body and blood that secured your salvation. You live by faith, not by sight, interceding on behalf of the world but not given over to its agenda. Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory! Amen.
+ in nomine Jesu +
Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
2 October, 2011
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt
1 Exodus 20:2
2 Matthew 21:37-38
3 Romans 5:9
4 Revelation 1:5
5 John 10:10