Sunday, April 18, 2021

Four Gospel Pictures from the Parables of Jesus

"Kenneth Clark, internationally know for his television series Civilization, lived and died without faith in Jesus Christ. He admitted in his autobiography that while visiting a beautiful church he had what he believed to be an overwhelming religious experience. "My whole being," Clark wrote, "was irradiated by a kind of heavenly joy far more intense than anything I had known before." But the "gloom of grace," as he described it, created a problem. If he allowed himself to be influenced by it, he knew he would have to change, his family might think he had lost his mind, and maybe that intense joy would prove to be an illusion. So he concluded, "I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course."
-Our Daily Bread, February 15, 1994.

Many of us here at dinner church I'm sure have felt the power of God's Spirit in this room, in this wonderful dining room at The Salvation Army Owosso.  We've felt God's presence! We've been swept up into a powerful experience of His love. 

But did we allow that consuming power of God's love reshape our lives?  Did we make a decision to give our whole lives to Jesus Christ the savior of all? That is the question I want you to ask yourself today.  

Often we know God is real. We've experienced Him here. But we don't want our friends and family to think we're crazy.  We don't want to have to change our lives. We don't want to have to become a new person.  But I want to tell you day just how much it's worth it to make that decision, and commit to a whole new way of life.  

So today I want to look at four parables that Jesus taught, that give pictures of what it means to make a decision for Jesus and follow Him. 

First, the parable of The Two Sons - Matthew 21:28-32

“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.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered."

Our Lord is like a father who calls his sons to work on his property. Anyone here ever worked on a farm? It's kinda like that. God is our father and says go work on my farm.  And as followers of Jesus, either we go and do the work of leading people to Jesus, or we don't.  And it's interesting, it doesn't matter what we say. We can say "oh sure i'll go do that Father!"  But then we don't.  And we can say at one time "no i wont go."  But then later we change our mind and we do it.  And it's so important that we do it. We go live it.  If we don't, then God won't accept us, plain and simple.  And even if we reject God at some point, we can always come again later and agree to go work in his field.  And he accepts us. 

The second parable, the classic Prodigal Son parable - Luke 15:11-32

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate."

Many of us have gone off in our own direction. Just like the son who spoiled his inheritance. And we're afraid to come back to God, because we're afraid he'll be mad and punish us.  But God is so good, that when he sees us coming home to him, he runs out into the road to welcome him back.

Did anyone in here have a very strict and harsh father? A dad during the time when the parable was spoken would've been very strict. The idea of welcoming home a son who had squandered his inheritance was unthinkable.  But God is like the loving father who celebrates are return to Him and gives us great blessings and restores us as his children. 

The third parable, The Pharisee and The Tax Collector - Luke 18:9-14

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Sometimes when we follow Jesus we can get puffed up and start to look down on others.  We start to think we're better than everyone else.  But Jesus reminds us that this is not so.  The Pharisee prayed to God and bragged about all the good stuff he did.  And God despised that prayer. But the tax collector cried out to God for mercy and forgiveness for sin.  And God loved that prayer.  Coming to Jesus is about throwing ourselves at the mercy of God, and seeking God's forgiveness for our many sins.  

Finally, the parable of  The Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

“‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

“Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

“But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

Ten virgins, they basically represent the church. Christians at the time of the end.  And they've walked with Jesus. But as they live day by day, they start to fall asleep, and stop watching for Jesus. They get lazy as Christians.  And as a result, they lose their inheritance in the kingdom.  
Following Jesus is about continuing with Jesus through your whole life.  Continuing to walk with Him and serve Him always.  That's a big commitment.  And that's why we attend church every Sunday, and pray, and read the Bible every day. 

Alright, tune in with me, listen very closely. What exactly must I believe, and what must I do, to make a decision for Jesus Christ?  
You must believe that Jesus Christ is really who He said He was. God come in human form.  You must believe that Jesus died on the cross. And that on the cross Jesus took your punishment, for your sins. And removed your sins from you.  Confess your sins to Him, in your mind, to Him.  How have you sinned? Ask him for forgiveness for the times that you told lies.  Ask him for forgiveness for times that you stole.  Ask him for forgiveness for sexual immorality.  Ask him for forgiveness for times you swore and spoke his name as a curse word.  Ask forgiveness for the times you mistreated others, and the times you didn't keep God first in your heart.  

As you reflect on that in your mind, recognize, these sins mean that you are guilty before God, and will be sent to hell, to a place of darkness and horror when you die.  You stand guilty before God, and the wrath of God is against you. 

But if you will believe that Jesus Christ was crucified to remove those sins from you, then you will be saved.  Jesus Christ went to the cross for you, to take all those sins you just thought about, off of you, and onto himself on the cross. So he died in your place.  Took the penalty you deserved for your sins.  

And we believe that Jesus Christ on the 3rd day rose again, we believe Jesus is alive right now. We serve a living God, not a dead god. 

That is what you must believe.  And what you must do is repent, turn away from all your past sins, those things you were just reflecting on. Commit in Christ to not do those things anymore.  

And now you must follow Jesus the rest of your life, endeavoring to win people around you to Jesus. 

Basically you're committing to put your whole life under the authority of Jesus, and committing to serve Jesus, put your full allegiance to Jesus, today, and always.

So if you're feeling God call you to do that right now, would you pray with me.

Dear Lord Jesus, we consider every time we rejected you God, every time we lied, stole, cheated, misused drugs and alcohol, committed adultery, fornicated, used your name as a curse word, when we failed to keep your first God, and we repent, we turn away from those past sins, and we trust now in our hearts, that Jesus Christ died on the cross to set us free from the penalty for those sins, which is hell. We believe our sins are forgiven in Christ. We have a clean slate.  We receive the Holy Spirit within us, to guide us on our walk with Christ always.  We commit our whole lives to you Jesus.  Amen.