To Obey is Better than Promising to Obey (Matthew Sermon 104 of 151)
June 21, 2009 | Andrew Davis
Works of the Flesh, Judgement Day, Repentance, Good Works
I want you to picture yourself now, just this morning in your mind's eye, moving away from a home that you've lived in for 40 years. You're elderly now, feeble, unable to care for your home with all of its constant needs. You've buried your spouse a couple of months ago. Your children are all grown and gone now. It's time to move to a smaller simpler place, and that means packing up. You rummage through drawers and boxes and something catches your eye. It's a note of encouragement that you started to write to a friend who was dying of cancer. The friend died three years ago and you never finished the note. You'd forgotten that, and stumbling across it now, the sight of it brings somewhat of a stabbing pain, like a splinter in your hand, announces its presence by pain.
Well, you continue to rummage and you come across a brochure for a missions program designed for retirement age couples. Now you and your wife had talked seriously about doing it. You prayed about it, you promised yourselves that you would do it, but then things got busy, time slipped away. She got sick and you couldn't do it and now you're too old to go. Your rummaging fingers pull out a prayer card for a missionary. It's old now. The missionary has since left the field, that was over 20 years ago. The card was a reminder to pray daily for him and his wife, that missionary couple. You remember distinctly the service at which the man spoke, how the Lord spoke to you. He asked people to come forward and kneel at the front of the church if they would just commit themselves to pray daily for him and for his wife as they served the Lord in a hostile Muslim country.
The service was very moving. You were emotional, you cried, you went forward. You received the laminated card. For a while it was on your refrigerator and then it was on your nightstand. Now it's buried under a pile of bank statements and other flotsam and jetsam from your daily life. You realize with some regret that you prayed for him daily for a month or so, weekly for a few months after that, monthly for a few months after that, and then eventually you stopped praying for him all together. He left the mission field 10 years after you stopped praying for him.
A pile of papers. Pro-life appeals to write to a congressman about an important bill that was in front of Congress, information on AIDS orphans in Africa, handouts from a personal evangelism course that you took at church. So suddenly, you just sit back and look at it, all these papers you kept for some reason. It's evidence of a life of promises made to God and promises not kept.
Dear friends, this is one of the great dangers of our deceptive hearts, that it is enough just to promise God that from now on, we're going to do right. That it's enough just to intend to do right. And then who cares if you actually see it through? Well, the scripture says that God cares if you actually see it through. To obey is better than to promise to obey. When God sends forth his word, it produces conviction of sin. When conviction occurs, God wants us to repent. Repentance is only genuine if we then obey what that word had commanded that we do. Promises, vows, intentions, desires, are all good things. They are wonderful things, but they are not enough if they're not followed up by obedience, by action. And, dear friends, this is precisely why God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world, because we are like that. Because we are in the habit of promising things to God and not doing them.
All the best intentions of our hearts, all our best plans and dreams for how we serve the Lord, we're going to serve the Lord, many of them come to nothing. Now, in the parable we're studying today, a father has two imperfect sons. One talks a good game but doesn't live up to it, he doesn't back it up. The other one has clearly a rebellion problem, an attitude problem, but he ends up, through repentance, doing the right thing. Now, Jesus clearly puts the priority on in the end, doing the right thing. Now this parable I think, has three different applications for us today.
First of all, I think it is a warning to any that there might be here today, in the category of a self-righteous religious person who thinks that their outwardly compliant religious lifestyle will compensate for the fact that they really don't obey God on what matters, they're trusting an outward religiosity, an outward yes to God without anything behind it. It's a warning to such people. That's exactly why Jesus told the parable to the chief priests and the elders.
Secondly, it's a warning to us who make promises to God when moved by moments of conviction or emotion, but who consistently fail to follow through. We make resolutions, we have good intentions, we make promises to ourselves and to God, but we don't do what we have resolved.
And for both groups it is, I think in the end, a sweet encouragement that God accepts our repentance and actually works our repentance, and gives us a fresh start to obey him. This, I think in the end then, is the purpose of this parable, is the power of genuine repentance. The people who excuse themselves from needing to repent get nothing from this. But the people who know that they need to repent, it's a sweet invitation to you to do so and then bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance.
The Context of the Parable of the Two Sons
The Final Week of Jesus’ Life: Trouble in Jerusalem
So let's understand this parable in context. The context of the parable of the two sons. This is, as we've mentioned many times, in Matthew's gospel. This is the final week of Jesus' life. We've already seen, in Matthew's gospel, the triumphal entry. Jesus has entered Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, in fulfillment of prophecy from Zechariah, to the accolades of the people who are shouting “Hosanna, blessed is he comes in the name of the Lord,” and in he comes. He looks out, he looks around in the temple and then goes home because it's late. He goes back the next day, curses the fig tree on the way: “May you never bear fruit again.” There's no fruit on it. He curses it, goes in and cleanses the temple. An act of holy anger concerning the religious system of the Jews.
Jesus’ Enemies Attack: The Question of Authority
Jesus' enemies, seeing all the things that he's doing, they attack, they come after him openly. It's going to be, basically, open conflict between Jesus and his enemies during this final week, until finally they conspire to kill him. That's what's going on this final week. And so, this parable is in the context of conflict between Jesus and his opponents. And so they come and they ask him by what authority does he do these things, and who gave him this authority.
Jesus’ Counter-Question: The Origin of John’s Authority
And Jesus, as we saw last time, answers with a question, his own question. He said, “I'll also ask you a question. If you answer me, then I'll tell you by what authority I'm doing these things. John's baptism, where did it come from? Was it from Heaven or from men?” So they pull off into that little huddle off to the side, they're unable, unwilling to give a direct and clear answer. They've got to figure out what to say. And so they discuss it among themselves and they say, “If we say from Heaven, then he will ask ‘Then why didn't you believe him?’ But if we say from men, we're afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”
Jesus’ Enemies: Unbelieving, Cowardly, Dishonest
So having finalized their discussion, they go back to Jesus and they give him this cowardly, unbelieving answer. Dishonest answer. “We don't know.” Well, they actually did know that John's baptism came from the devil. They said that John had a demon. But they were just afraid to say what they truly believed. Of course, they would've been wrong. The real question there is, did God have the right to send a messenger directly to the people of God, the Jews, without going through their schools of training, without submitting to their authority in that way so that they received the training of the Sanhedrin. Did he have the power to do that? The answer is yes, He can raise up a John the Baptist and he can send his only begotten Son without their permission. And so Jesus tells this parable on the heels of that. Of their refusal to answer the question, when they say, “We don't know.” He said, “Neither then, will I tell you by what authority I'm doing these things, but I will tell you a parable.” And so he tells them this parable.
Jesus Tells this Parable
So the immediate application then, is to the chief priests and the elders, who seem outwardly obedient to God. They say yes to God in an outward and visible way, a showy kind of way. Their lifestyles have an aroma of religion, of obedience to the laws of God. But at their core, Jesus is implying, these men are saying no to God. They're not obeying him at the core. We'll get a fuller exposé of their religion and of their hearts in Matthew 23, the seven woes. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You're like white-washed tombs. You look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside you're full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way you, on the outside you appear to men as righteous, but on the inside are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” And so, this parable, the parable of the two sons, exposes a class of religious people that spends their whole lives outwardly saying “yes” to God, but then not obeying what he's commanded. It seems they feel that God should be grateful for their seemingly willing responses to everything he commands.
But then there's this second category of people, Jesus refers to them, the tax collectors and the prostitutes. They represent people who become convicted of their openly rebellious lifestyles against God, who repent, who turn in their hearts and then go to serve the Father. And Jesus says they're entering the kingdom ahead of these elders and these priests. So this is the parable. Look at it in verse 28. “What do you think, there was a man who had two sons, he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Now, which of the two did what his father wanted? ‘The first,’ they answered.”
Now frankly, both sons needed to repent. I actually think that's key to the parable. It's not okay to do what the second son does, or the first son, saying “no” to the father and then changing your mind later. Neither is it okay to say “yes,” and then not do it. So, both of them need to repent. So Jesus begins by probing their minds.
The Parable Delivered
Think About It
He says, “What do you think?” All of Jesus' parables are designed to make you think. They're taken from daily life, little vignettes from daily life. A woman mixing yeast into a large amount of flour or a farmer scattering seed or a fisherman throwing a large net into the lake. It's just everyday life scenes. But they have, at the core, a single spiritual lesson. And you have to think about it in order to get it. And so, this lesson is that actions speak louder than words. It is better to obey than simply to promise to obey. That's what he's saying.
The Basic Facts
Now, the basic facts of the parable are about as simple as they come. There's a father, he has two sons and, it seems, a vineyard. And he wants the sons to work. He goes to the first son and says, “Son, go and work today in the vineyard.” The first son, shockingly, refuses. “I will not,” he says. Now just freeze that at the moment. That is a shocking moment. It is not acceptable for a son to say that to his father. The Ten Commandments teach us that we should honor our fathers. We should seek to obey them. And so, this first son is clearly rebellious. But then he changes his mind and goes. More on that in a moment. Then he, the father, goes to the second son. Verse 30, “He went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.” So initial respectful assent it seems, but he doesn't do anything about it.
Jesus’ Key Question
Then Jesus points to the key issue with this question in verse 31. “‘Which of the two did what his father wanted?’ ‘The first,’ they answered.” Now this is the point. In the end, who obeyed? That's what Jesus is getting at. In the movie made in the 1970s, Jesus of Nazareth, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, he actually uses this parable. He uses a number of others, but he chooses this one. And it's really quite remarkable how he shoots. It's not exactly how it happens here in the text, but as he's telling this parable, he asks, “Now, which of the two did what his father wanted?” And so there's this little, little kid about four or five years old, this little boy, and he looks up and says, “The first.” It is just obvious. This is a simple parable. And yet it's lessons are profound.
Oh, to be able to teach like Jesus, to be able to tell parables like this. To get at a simple point so clearly that a little four or five-year-old could get it. Bottom line, God desires a life of obedience that comes from a broken and contrite heart, from a repentant heart. A proud heart that thinks it needs no help from God and certainly has nothing to repent for, then, is worthless in God's sight and can do nothing for God.
The Parable Applied… to Them
So, let's apply this parable. Jesus applies it directly to them. Look at verse 31-32. “Jesus said to them, ‘I tell you the truth, 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.’”
A Shocking Assertion by Christ
So Jesus makes a very stunning assertion here. These chief priests and elders, as we've noted before, spent their full time studying the laws, the commands of God. They counted the letters in every book of Moses, as I mentioned. They knew the middle letter. They were meticulous in their study of the commands of God through Moses. They were the most sanctimonious and outwardly religious men in Jewish society. However, the tax collectors and the prostitutes were the most despicable two categories of people in Jewish society. And Jesus here, is actually claiming that these most despicable sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes, are actually entering the kingdom of God ahead of the chief priests and the elders. Now the tax collectors, as you know, were despised because of their collaboration with Rome. Rome had conquered Palestine, had conquered the Jews, was in charge of the Promised Land, the land that God had promised to Abraham and to his descendants as a permanent inheritance.
And here were these Gentiles, and they were in charge. Just another in a series of Gentile rulers over the Promised Land. But these tax collectors were actually profiting from the Roman occupation. They had obtained a franchise from the Romans to collect taxes from their own Jewish neighbors. And they had the might and the power of the Roman Empire behind them, along with their undefeated legions. And if any should harass the tax collectors or conspire to assassinate them, the full wrath of the legions of Rome would come down on that village or on those people, and they knew it. And so they were a protected class of men, these tax collectors. Even worse, the tax collectors habitually collected more taxes than they were supposed to, and kept the profits. It was a very lucrative business. They were wealthy. And even worse than that, they used that extra money, those ill-gotten gains, for throwing lavish sensual and immoral parties for themselves day after day. To a law-abiding Jew, then, no class of people could have been more spiritually repulsive than a tax collector.
And what of prostitutes? Well, if tax collectors were the worst of men, then in their mind, prostitutes were the worst of women. There is no need to go into any detail describing the immorality of these women. Day upon day and night upon night, it seemed impossible that such a woman could ever be holy and blameless in the sight of the God before whom we must stand and give an account, the God who is holy, holy, holy.
Habakkuk 1:13 says, “His eyes are too pure to look on evil. He cannot tolerate wrong.” And so how can he look at tax collectors and prostitutes as holy and blameless in his sight? And yet, these sinners, these tax collectors, these prostitutes, Jesus said, were entering the kingdom of God ahead of the chief priests and the elders.
The Way of Righteousness… Proclaimed by John and Jesus
And Jesus points to John's ministry as a chance for the elders and the chief priests to see what God was doing. John came preaching or walking in the way of righteousness, he came in the way of righteousness. He was living an outwardly holy life himself, not in any way a sensual life. He wasn't living like the tax collectors and the prostitutes. He was a man out in the desert eating locusts and wild honey and wearing camel's hair and a leather belt. Just like Elijah, a stern austere life in the desert in the way of holiness. And he was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for sinners so that they might repent and come back to God in a way of righteousness.
The key to John's ministry was a simple proclamation, Matthew 3:1-2, “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” This is the central concept. All human beings are sinners. All of us are sinners, and God is a holy King and God has the right to give laws by which we should be governed. And we must obey God's laws. He is a king.
In the parable of the two sons, this image, this idea, is set in a family context, of father and two sons, but … the father representing God giving commands to the human race. All of us, however, have broken his commands, we have violated and transgressed them, and we stand guilty before him. And John came in the way of righteousness preaching that they should repent. And he was very clear with the tax collectors in Luke 3:13. He told them to stop collecting more money than they should. He didn't tell them by the way, to give up tax collecting. Jesus did say, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, there's nothing wrong with collecting that tax money, to some degree you would rather have a godly Jew collecting just the right amount of tax money, no more and no less from you than some Roman who might bully you and dominate you. So John didn't tell them to give up tax collecting, he just told them to repent and stop collecting more money than they were supposed to. And then Jesus came and preached the exact same message. Matthew 4:17, “From that time on, Jesus began to preach ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is near.’”
Entering the Kingdom of God … by Repentance
So here's the basic concept, friends. God is a king, he has a kingdom, in that kingdom, inside that kingdom, everything gladly, delightedly serves Him the sovereign Lord. We as sinners are naturally outside that kingdom, and we must through repentance and faith enter the Kingdom of God. No one is born into it, people are born again into it by the power of God. And so look what Jesus says here, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.” It's just like Jesus has said in the Sermon of the Mount, “Enter through the narrow gate,” we are naturally on the outside of this kingdom. We must enter. Now don't misunderstand God's sovereign power extends beyond these boundaries of those that, with a glad heart serve Him. And he is sovereign over kings whether they are righteous or wicked, the king's heart is like a water course in the hands of his sovereign Lord, he can direct it whatever way he chooses. But now he's talking about repentance and faith and entering that kingdom, where God's servants are delighted to serve him, where they are joyful in service to him, like a son would be in love to his father.
And so these chief priests and the elders they represent someone on the outside who did not through repentance and faith decide to enter the kingdom of God. And the fact that the tax collectors and prostitutes in large numbers were entering the kingdom through John's preaching, and through Jesus' preaching, should have been assigned to them that they also needed to repent.
The Parable Applied… to Us
No one is Righteous Enough to Enter the Kingdom of God
So that's the parable, applied to them. What about the parable applied to us? Well, as we've already said, first, no one is righteous enough to enter the kingdom of God. The chief priest and the elders felt that they were righteous enough, they were essentially prideful, they trusted in their own righteousness. But the Scripture says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The scripture also said, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” And so, they outwardly said, “Yes, yes,” to God, but in their hearts, they disobeyed him. And so John the Baptist called on them to repent, for the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. Jesus called on them to repent for the kingdom of Heaven was at hand, but they did not obey these commands because they didn't think they needed to. The biggest problem you can have as a sinner is to not think you're sinner. The biggest problem you can have is to think you don't need to repent, and enter the Kingdom of God if you never have. That's the biggest problem you can have.
True Righteousness is a Gift of God… Achieved by the Life and Death of Christ
The second lesson as we apply this to us, is that true righteousness is a gift from God and it comes only through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Now, I've already told you these sons are no great shakes either one. I mean, seriously, what would you rather have? The first son that's just telling you no, and then later when he feels like it, when it feels good to him, when it's his right time decides to go and do it. It's rebellion friends, it is, it's disobedience. Oh, what about the other one, the kind of goody-goody two shoes, looks good on the outside, kind of teacher's pet kind of thing, but the reality is different. Neither one is truly godly. Can I say to you that only one Son in all history has perfectly said, “Yes,” to God and perfectly backed it up with obedience, and that's Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Yes,” to his Heavenly Father, in entering the world through the incarnation. He said, “Yes” to God every day of his life by obeying the law of Moses. He was born under the law, he lived under the law. Every one of its strictures, every one of its commands and prohibitions, Jesus perfectly obeyed all of them. Every jot and tittle fulfilled in the life of Jesus. He said, “Yes,” every day of his life.
And then in Gethsemane, when God offered him Hell and death in a cup, metaphorically, to drink. He said, “Yes,” to God and took the cup and drank it, then ultimately said, “Yes,” to God. And you need to understand that every moment that Jesus was being mocked and flogged and spat upon and beaten, every moment that he was being crucified, every moment he was dying, he could have stopped, he was the Son of God, he was sovereign in his power, he could have ended it at any moment. So it was a moment by moment obedience to his Father. “The world must learn,” said Jesus, “that I obey my Father and do everything he has commanded me to do.” And so he became obedient to death, even death on a cross, and it says very, very plainly in Romans 5:19, “Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” Oh, you ought to circle that word in your Bible, in Romans 5:19. Righteous. Through the obedience of Jesus, I am righteous.
Now, I knew the beginning of my sermon would be a bit heavy-handed. That you would have the feeling of guilt, of all of the promises you've made to God, but isn't that the truth? Isn't that how we really live? We make promises to God, we mean well, we wanna do better. We wanna give to the poor and needy, we wanna be better witnesses for Jesus, we wanna be better in our prayer lives, we wanna do all of these things, but it never quite adds up to what we wish we could have done. And if it doesn't look perfect in our eyes, how much less would it look perfect to God on Judgement Day? We must have this gift of righteousness, we must have Jesus just give us his righteousness and that is the gospel. God made him who had no sin. What does that mean? He was the perfect Son. He said, “Yes,” to God and He did it. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us on the cross. So that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Oh, how sweet is that righteousness?
True Repentance is Essential to Entering the Kingdom of God
Thirdly, true repentance is necessary in entering the Kingdom of God. If you're going to enter, you must repent of your own righteousness. You must see that you do make promises and don't keep them, that you're not righteous enough, you're not good enough, nothing you do will ever be enough. Even now, you must turn away forever, from the flesh and from all it can achieve, it cannot be good enough. So what do we mean by repentance? We look at verse 28 and 29. “[The father] went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.” Changed his mind, thought differently of it, came to a different way of thinking, a different understanding.
In the parable, a different parable of a father with two sons, the parable of the prodigal son, the younger son is out there and squandering his father's money in riotous living with prostitutes and until it's all gone, and then a famine comes, and he is starving and he is feeding pigs, and he longed to fill himself with the pods from the pigs, but no one gave him anything. And Jesus said in Luke 15:17, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father's men have food despair and here I am starving to death? I will set out and go back to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and against you. I'm no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.”’” So that's just a different way of saying repentance. “He came to himself,” he saw things the way they really are. “I'm distant from my father, I'm slopping pigs, I have sinned against him, and against Heaven. I need to go back.”
Repentance then is coming to your senses about sin and about God, dealing properly with your heart before God. But I believe it's not just something you do right before you come forward at the altar call. I've actually had some Baptists tell me this. “Well, I remember repenting years ago. I remember it distinctly. I even have the card and the date. I remember that day.” Very much like the husband who tells the wife, “I told you the day we married, I loved you. And if anything changes I'll let you know.” Well, the wife wants to hear it sometimes, maybe even every day. God wants to hear from you the truth about yourself every day. All that happened, if that was the day you were genuinely converted at that revival or at that meeting, whatever, all that happens, that's the first time you really came to your senses about your sin and you repented. That's just the first time.
And since that day you have repented and believed more times than you can count if you're a genuine Christian, you know what I'm talking about if you're a true Christian, how many times have you repented? How many times you just said, “You know, Lord, that was wrong. I am sorry, please forgive me.” You've turned away from sin. Whole life repentance. Luke 18:3, another parable Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector. And the tax collector beat his breast and would not even look up to Heaven but said. “Be merciful to me. Oh God, the sinner.” Can any among you, even if you've been a notable saint for 40 or 50 years, say, “I don't need to hear that anymore. I'm past that now. I no longer need to beat my breast, and say, ‘Be merciful to me, oh God, the sinner.’ No longer, I'm past that now.” No, the notable saints who have been walking with the Lord for 40 and 50 years know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, and they can see how far even still they are from Jesus and his perfection. And so they repent all the time, at every moment. Every moment, God's commands, the father and the two sons, God's commands stand over us and beckon us to go work in the vineyard. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you, God's inviting you to come and do a work. It stands over you all the time, and we fall short of it, every day. Therefore, our whole life is a life of repentance.
The Elements of True Repentance: Thomas Watson
Thomas Watson, a Puritan, gave us six elements of true repentance. I just wanna mention them to you briefly, so you know what I'm talking about. First of all, sight of sin, that you can see it by the Spirit of God and know what the lying or the deceit or the covetousness or idolatry or greed was. Secondly, sorrow for sin. That it actually makes you grieve that you have sinned, it brings sadness to you. And so Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” Thirdly, confession of sin. You speak the truth to God about your sin. I did such and such, and it was wrong and I hate it, oh Lord, please forgive me. Fourth, shame for sin. There's a burning reaction within your heart saying, "I am not worthy to be called Your son or you won't even lift up your eyes and say, to Heaven and say, “Be merciful to me,” you have a sense of shame over sin. Fifthly, hatred of sin, you don't just hate the consequences of sin, you hate it, itself. It is the virus that has unravelled, this beautiful world that God made, and you hate it and you hate the specific sin that you have in mind now as you're confessing it. And then sixth, turning from sin. Turning from it. Turning away, a U-turn.
True Repentance Always Results in an Obedient Life
True repentance, then always results in an obedient life. Jesus said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
Now, one of the sweetest things in the Christian life, is this grace of repentance. Michael Card, who does a number of Biblical songs in which he sings about genres of Scripture, he did one on the Pentateuch, and it was called, “The Beginning.” And the song about Genesis is called also “The Beginning,” and he hearkens back to when God created everything out of nothing. God said, “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth,” and Michael Card in his song says, concerning the Christian life, “He hands us each new moment, saying, ‘My child begin again... You're free to start again.’” So in this parable, you are both sons actually at different times. And sometimes you said, “Yes,” to God and you're not out working. And in effect, you become every bit like the one who said, “No,” to God initially. You know what God's handing you right now? He's handing you a moment saying, “Start over.” Start over.
If there was something in my initial illustration that caused you some pain, if there was some letter you were supposed to write or some ministry you were supposed to do or anything that God was calling on you to do, he's handing you this moment saying, “Here try again.” Try again. It's a new chance, a fresh start. Actually, he does that every day, his mercies are new every morning. He hands you a clean slate, he says, “Here, walk with me today.” Do today's good works today, you can't do yesterday's good works, feel conviction, feel shame, remorse if you didn't do it. But today, today, if you hear his voice, now, follow me. Follow me every moment.
God will Assess Our Hearts by our Lives: Not those who SAY but those who DO
And so Jesus, at the end asked that key question in the end. Did you obey or not? I think many people don't understand what Judgement Day is gonna be all about. We cannot be justified by works. Our good works can never be used to pay for our sins. I can't say it more clearly, but God will assess us by our works. He will evaluate us by our works. He will assess the tree by its fruit. Make a tree good, and its fruit will be good. Make a tree bad, and the fruit will be bad, for a tree is known by its fruits. Jesus is the fruit inspector, he's going to look on that leafy tree, he's gonna lift the leaves and see if there's fruit. If there's fruit, then he knows there is faith. And so these verses teach this, again and again. Romans 2:6-10, “God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good, seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” That's the Christian life there, those who, by persistence in doing good, they sought glory, honor, and immortality. “But for those who are self-seeking and reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.”
We will be assessed by our works, God will give to each person according to what he has done, Revelation 20 teaches the same thing, “The dead are judged according to what is written in the book. According to what they had done.” John 5 Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this. The time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice, Jesus’ voice, and come out. Those who have done good will rise to live, those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” And so, on Judgement Day, friends, it's going to come down to this, not those who say, but those who do. Matthew 7:21, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons, and perform many miracles?’ Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ then will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven."
Dear friends, as a pastor, I stand onto this more than any of you. Every week I get up and tell you the way of righteousness, I tell you about prayer, I tell you about evangelism, I tell you about tithing, I tell you about Christian living, I tell you about being a good parent. I tell you all of these things. God is going to hold me accountable for the things I've taught to see whether I have lived up to what I have taught. Do you know what that makes me do? That makes me run back to the cross and back to imputed righteousness, and cling it and say, “Oh God, be merciful to me, the sinner, and work in me more and more obedience than I've ever lived before.”
The Key Vineyard: Evangelism and Missions
Now, God has a harvest, I preached that whole sermon last week. There is a vineyard. Last week, a good number of you filled out yellow cards. Maybe you made some promises to God concerning evangelism. You know what you did this week, concerning that? Can I urge you, don't wait for the elders to call you back in reference to that yellow card. We've already actually made some calls, based on folks that wanted to get involved in urban ministry and some other things. You didn't need to have filled out that card by the way, to be under God's requirement to evangelize. I guess you know that, don't you? So those of you that didn't fill out a card, fine with the card. It's alright about the card. God still wants you to evangelize. You know that. Say, “Yes,” to God, and then go do what he has called on you to do, be faithful in that area. And don't wait for us. We are organizing the Church for ministry, we are calling on people to various ministries, but just be faithful in the way that God's called you to do.
One final point of application and we'll be done. Today is Father's Day. This parable, as so many Scriptures, sets our relationship with God in a family kind of setting. Children learn about their relationship with God first and foremost from the relationship with their father. So fathers be faithful to display Jesus' Christ’s love, the love of the Heavenly Father for them day after day. Teach them the Word of God. Saturate their lives in scripture, have daily family devotions. Pray for their little souls, pray for their growing souls, pray for them even when they're out of the house. Be a godly father to them, set an example for them.
And sons and daughters, if I can just urge you, be the kind of son or daughter that says, “Yes,” that's a sweet moment for dad. Okay, we're not into, we don't delight in, “I will not.” Alright, that's not a special moment for us. Alright, we don't delight in that. “Yes, but in the parable... “ Yes, I know, but I said both of them have problems. Okay, it's better to say, “Yes,” to your folks and then go do what they said.
But in the end, I wanna end with this. The righteousness of Jesus alone, the righteousness of Christ alone will cover us, he is the only begotten Son of God, who said, “Yes,” to his Father. And who did it perfectly for us. Close with me in prayer.