The Invitation (What Excuses Do We Give To God?)…
“The Invitation (What Excuses Do We Give to God?)”
*(The Biblical text is in italics; SoulSpartan’s comments are in regular type throughout the Biblical text)
For those of you who have had a great Christmas, I can’t think of a better way to cap such a blessed weekend than to be together this morning, worshiping God and getting to know Him better through His Word.
For those of you who have not had such a great Christmas but have had one filled with
I can’t think of a better way to cap such a blessed weekend than to be together this morning, worshipping God and getting to know Him better through His Word.
In 1926, Dr. James A. Francis wrote, “Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another obscure village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty, and then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office.
He never owned a home. He never set foot in a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He had no credentials but Himself. While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves.
His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth while He was dying – and that was His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.
Twenty-one centuries have come and gone, and today He is the centerpiece of the human race and the leader of progress. All the armies that ever marched, and all the navies that ever were built, and all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned, put together have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as that one solitary life – Jesus Christ.”
And may we be assured that this same Jesus is no longer a baby—and is no longer hanging on a cross or resting in a tomb—but is alive, with us, representing us before the Father, preparing a place for us in heaven—our eternal home)—and is getting ready to come back for us to bring us where He is. Wow!
So as we celebrated His birth yesterday…
…we will celebrate this morning His invitation, His offer, His proposal, His gift, to all of us today.
Luke 14:15-24 (New International Version)
The Parable of the Great Banquet
15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus,
“Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
So then we read here in verse 15 that one of those sharing a meal with Jesus—one of “the unclean, the riff-raff, the ungodly”—one of “these” people makes what appears to be a rhetorical statement, “How great it is going to be for those who are in heaven someday!” This particular person obviously was looking forward to heaven.
When was the last time we paused, thought about heaven, and longed for it. Longed for HIM?
Do we see our earthly lives through the Biblical lens? That we are strangers—ALIENS—in a land that is not our own, that we are never truly HOME as long as we live on this side of eternity, that this life as we know it is only temporary, is at best merely a shadow of the days to come?
Or is our current life our heaven, and are we attached only to what we can see now?
God describes heaven throughout Scripture as:
1. a place that is beyond our wildest dreams
Scripture: “However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9 NIV).
2. a place that is amazing not because of WHAT is there (Ferraris and a mansion for everyone!) but because of WHO is there—God Himself, in a way we’ve never experienced here on earth;
3. a place where there is no sin, no suffering, no tragedy, no cancer, no pain, no divorce, no betrayal, no frustration, no poverty, no selfishness, no ego, no regrets, etc.
4. a place where we will forever be satisfied, content, and fulfilled because our entire focus is on God—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We will finally see His face and live with new bodies and minds freed from the shackles of sin and self-worship.
5. A place where we won’t need to have preachers teaching us about God—we will be able to see God and approach Him ourselves, personally, profoundly, relationally, knowing Him fully as He knows us.
This is how the LORD reveals heaven throughout Scripture, and may I encourage us to allow ourselves to dream, to think, to gaze at God’s view of His Kingdom—when we’re stuck at a red light, bogged down in traffic, folding the 7th basket of laundry, picking up our kids’ toys/coats for the 10th time, waiting for the person ahead of us in line at the supermarket to fumble through writing a check, etc.
May we ponder where God is leading us because this will help us to persevere/endure the route He is using to get us there.
Scripture: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV).
Let’s continue with our text from Luke:
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
What excuses do we give to God?
Most of us do not own “five yoke of oxen”—moreover, we’re only confident that we even understand two of the words in that phrase: FIVE and OF! But while cattle may not block us from God’s invitation, here are some of the excuses I’ve given (and sometimes still give) to God’s invitations to me each day:
1. Too busy—I’ll get to You later
2. Don’t understand You/the Bible
3. Kind of bored reading Scripture/going to church
4. The Bible/Church/Christians are kind of strange, to be frank
5. I really don’t need You right now—I’m a good person and life is going well
6. I’m going to live life my own way and in the end that will be good enough to get me to heaven
7. I’m afraid of what others will think of me if I start REALLY following, serving, and worshipping You
8. I don’t deserve Your love—I’ve done too many terrible things
9. I have doubts about You that I cannot get free from
10. Honestly, I don’t really care about You, God
11. I forgot—sorry ‘bout that!
12. I prayed a prayer when I was 6 years old—what more do you want from me?
13. I go to church most of the time—what more do you want from me?
14. My family, parents, spouse, children are Christians—that makes me one by default
15. I don’t think You’re God, Jesus—I worship someone/something else; he/she/it will get me into heaven|
16. You’ve let me down, God, and I can’t seem to forgive You.
Despite these real and understandable excuses, God’s offer/invitation to us is still “on the table”; He WANTS us!
You see, God has two invitations for each of us:
1. To be forgiven of our sins—to have our moral debt to Him paid in full—and thus to live with Him in heaven forever
2. To get to know Him personally each day, being changed more and more from the inside out to reflect HIS greatness
Let’s continue with our text from Luke:
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.
God is completely INCLUSIVE! He wants a full house, and will stop at nothing (short of forcing us) to be sure that everyone who wants to live with Him forever get to do so.
24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
And so we arrive at God’s final statement in this passage, verses 23 & 24:
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
IN verse 23 God is saying: “Go out all over again—find ANYONE you can, no matter what sins they’ve committed, no matter how bad they have been, no matter how far they have strayed from Me, no matter how undeserving they are—and compel them, do everything short of forcing them, persuade them, convince them, MAKE THEM AN OFFER THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY REFUSE: put all Your cards on the table and offer them this great gift of knowing ME, of eternal life with Me, offer them ME FOR FREE—the great gift of GOD’s grace—the good they don’t deserve—and say, “All you need to do is accept it, to trust in Me, to surrender your fears, your sins, your pain, your worry, your ineptitude, your masks, TO ME! DO this, because there is still room in my house and I want a full house in heaven because I delight in inclusion, I glory in the sharing of ME, both now and forever more!”
So why does God seem to be upset in verse 24? Why does His statement seem like He is THROWING PEOPLE OUT of the Banquet (i.e. heaven) here?
I assure you, God is not throwing out those invited as much as He is lamenting—in a mix of godly anger, sorrow, and pain, in the great middle eastern tradition of demonstratively expressing mourning—the fact that so many have rejected HIM, have ignored His great invitation, have turned their backs on HIM, saying, “I got this. I can handle my life, God—I don’t need You or Your rules or Your Savior. I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
It seems perhaps like God is unfairly and exclusively barring these people from heaven—the Great Banquet—simply because they were a little bit distracted and busy in their lives (we can all relate to this).
It’s as if God is flicking ants off His picnic table—swatting flies away from His face in annoyance.
That’s how it seems…
But that is not reality…
You see, the characters’ rejection of God’s invitation in this parable represents not one or two indifferent moments in their lives, but rather the sum of their lives as a whole. A series of declining God’s great offer over decades and decades, which He has offered them thousands of times in a myriad of different ways.
These people are not merely busy or distracted; this parable represents people who don’t want anything to do with God (as He truly is); this parable represents people who only want God on their terms, on their conditions, and on their schedule; this parable represents people who are tired of God (and His people) knocking on their doors. “Leave me alone!” so screams the sum total of their lives’ actions. So God, being the Gentleman that He is, finally says, “Alright. Have it your way…”
God is upset in verse 24 because He understands what is at stake when a person repeatedly rejects Him over the course of their lives.
So why is God upset in verse 24?
Because He understands the eternal life in heaven that many forfeit because they won’t accept His Son Jesus–and He also understands the joy that many heaven-bound believers forfeit on earth because we are simply too busy to consistently focus on, think about, be with, and soak in God in our daily practical lives. A person can physically live for a while on one big meal per week, but they eventually start to wither. And spiritually this is the same as well: a follower of Jesus can survive for a while thinking about, plugging into, and being with God for only an hour per week at church, but their spiritual pulse will weaken and slow down drastically over time with so little nourishment.
God is upset in verse 24 because He understands how much it cost Him to offer us His grace, His mercy, His forgiveness, His Son, His everything.
God understands that Christmas is not so much about a bucolic domestic scene in a manger as it is about His Great Rescue Mission where through Jesus God kicks down the door separating humans from Him and storms this decaying world to pick up and carry on His shoulders ANYONE who realizes they need Him, ANYONE who realizes they cannot save themselves and “get off the island” of sin and its consequences alone.
God understands what it cost Him to see His only Son mistreated, abused, ridiculed, falsely accused, used, rejected, beaten, and crucified some 30+ years after that first Christmas.
God understands what is represented by the Wise Man’s gift of myrrh—that myrrh was used in ancient times as a sort of balm for the burial of a person. While to many of us this would have understandably been a very very strange gift to give a newborn baby (think of someone at your child’s baby shower showing up with an ornate CASKET), God understood the respect, awe, admiration, and utter worship reflected in that gift, that His Son Jesus was born to DIE as payment for the sins of any humans who would accept Him and His sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins.
God is upset in verse 24 because He—and He alone–understands the deep pain He felt when, on the cross, His Son Jesus cried out, “My God, MY GOD, why have You forsaken (abandoned)(turned Your back on) ME?” God alone understands what it did to His purely loving Father’s heart when He poured out His white hot wrath on His Son Jesus, and all of that so we humans could have the invitation, the opportunity, to be forgiven and to have eternal life WITH God and FOR God, eternal life that begins NOW on earth and extends forever in heaven.
God is upset in verse 24 because of the unconditional limitlessness of His love for us, the love that is expressed in Ezekiel 18:23 (NIV): “’Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked?’ declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?”
Or in Ezekiel 33:11 (NIV): “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’”
Will we accept—or reject—God’s invitation to us?
God is upset in verse 24 because of the bottomless depth of His love for us, expressed through Jesus’ emotional and vulnerable words in Luke 13:34 (NIV): “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
God is upset in verse 24 because each around the world EACH DAY approximately 200,000 people die—they finish the earthly portion of their lives and most enter into the next portion unwilling to surrender their lives to Jesus. And around the world EACH DAY approximately 350,000 babies are born, the average of whom will live 67 years, and most of whom will be either unconcerned of Jesus and His invitation to them or will utterly reject Him and His invitation.
This breaks God’s heart.
So are we willing to accept Jesus’ invitation, God’s free gift of grace and love and mercy?
And if yes, are we willing to invest time slowing down and getting to know God today?
When one of my daughters was three years old, almost every day that I came home from work that summer she would run out of the house and into the driveway when she heard the garage door open, and she would spin, smile, and say
“Papa, It’s me, it’s me!”
Now she can get away with this because she is three and so doggone beautiful! (If I did this as you all were entering church this morning, you would rightly think that something very serious is wrong with me!)
She is still innocent in many ways, and she does this partly because of her gorgeous personality. And she also does this because God has blessed me and my wife to pour into our children, to tell them with our words and show them with our actions (most of the time!) that we enjoy them, that we delight in them, that we love to simply be around them (don’t worry–we make PLENTY of other mistakes as parents).
So when I get home, our children know that seeing them will be such a treat for me that this particular daughter ran out to share the gift of herself with me: “It’s ME, Papa–it’s ME! Aren’t you so thrilled to see ME!?”
Doesn’t God do the same to us each morning that we wake up, each day that we are alive?
The Bible tells us that, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV).
God blesses us each day whether we love Him or not–He is WOOING us to pursue, know, accept, and love Him forever! Every good gift that we receive, every “lucky” break that goes our way, every success we achieve or tragedy that we avoid–ALL come directly from God and are some of the ways that He draws us toward Him so that we would eventually say YES to Him and all He has for us.
Each day we live God is saying, “It’s Me! Delight in ME! Enjoy ME! Love ME (not because I NEED you, but because I want you and because I made you to know and enjoy and be filled with ME!)!”
Will we say yes to Him? His invitation is waiting. All we need to do is accept it…