The Choice Is Ours

Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 7:38 a.m. – the Lord Jesus woke me with the song “Broken Hearts” playing in my mind. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read Matthew 21:33-44 (ESV):

“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord's doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Young’s Literal Translation: “…and he who is falling on this stone shall be broken, and on whomsoever it may fall it will crush him to pieces.”

The Vineyard

At the time Jesus spoke these words, it appears that the vineyard represented the people of God, Israel, the Jews of that time. The tenants were the Jewish people and/or their leaders. The servants were the OT prophets and the Son was Jesus Christ, whom they crucified. The kingdom of God was taken away from the Jews, as a nation, because they rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah, and the gospel of Jesus Christ was given to the Gentiles.

So, how does this apply to us today? The Bible says that “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). So, that means there is a Biblical principle here that can be applied to our lives yet today.

Since the vineyard represents the people of God, today that would be the church. The tenants can be the people of God, as well as the leaders, for we have all been given the responsibility of sharing the gospel, making disciples, helping people grow in their faith and in the knowledge of God, encouraging one another, building one another up in the faith, speaking the truth in love, confronting sin, exposing the deeds of darkness, and living lives pleasing to God, holy and acceptable to him, and thus letting our lights shine before men. Yet I do believe a greater responsibility lies with those in leadership positions.

God’s Care

God has gone to great lengths to take care of his vineyard, the church. He first of all sent his Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be saved. Then, he brought his Son back to life, thus conquering death, hell, Satan and sin so that we might be free from the penalty of sin, free from slavery to sin, and free to live lives pleasing to God in his power and strength within us. He gave us the gift of his grace and even the ability to believe, to turn from our sins, and to obey him. He sent his Holy Spirit to indwell us to guide, direct, counsel, encourage, teach, correct, and to train us in righteousness. He gave us the prophets, the apostles, evangelists and pastors and teachers to help us to grow in our faith, though not all are teaching the true gospel today, so we must be discerning. And, he gave us one another to help encourage, strengthen and build one another up in the faith.

God also put a hedge of protection around this vineyard of his, i.e. he gave us the Holy Spirit within us, and he has promised us his continual presence, love, nurturing and care. God is absolutely sovereign over every area of our lives and nothing can touch us but what God allows it, and he allows it for a purpose. To believe otherwise limits God and says he is not who he says he is. He also promises us his peace, assurance, joy, counsel, provisions, etc. for all that we need to live lives holy and pleasing to him while we still live in these flesh bodies on the face of this earth. We don’t ever have to be afraid, because he is always there, and he will supply all we need if we would just humble ourselves before him and call upon him in honesty, sincerity and with submissive hearts ready to do his will.

The Season for Fruit

In the life of a follower of Christ it is always the season for fruit, for the scriptures speak much of the necessity that we bear fruit in keeping with repentance and that we bear fruit for the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. This fruit can take many forms, but it is always centered in obedience to Jesus Christ and in relationship with God’s Son. We should all reflect the fruit of the Spirit, we should love one another as Christ has loved us and gave his life up for us, and we should love God by obeying his commands (see 1 John). We should also share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others, let our lights shine before men, and we should be busy making disciples of Christ of all peoples, teaching them to obey Christ.

The Servants

The servants sent to gather the fruit should be our pastors and teachers within the church who are there not only to teach us, but to disciple, to nurture, counsel, direct, love and help us to grow in our faith and to not follow the ways of this fallen world, as well as we each have a responsibility toward one another for the spiritual growth of our brother or sister in Christ. Sadly enough, though, many of our leaders, and even our fellow Christians, are like the tenants who beat, stoned and killed those whom God had sent to collect his fruit.

They have fallen prey to the ways of this world themselves, and are choosing the ways of men over the ways of God, and over the ways of truth in many instances, and in numerous respects. And, those God is sending to the church and to church leaders today to “collect”, i.e. to give an account for what they are doing with Jesus Christ and with his gospel, may not be who we might think. If God can use a donkey to get a message to a misguided prophet and to help him to see the angel in his path, and if God can speak through all creation (rocks crying out, mountains singing and trees clapping their hands), then he can speak through anyone, and even those we least expect.

I believe very much that God is sending his servants to the church today to “collect,” i.e. to call to repentance and renewed faith and to warn of judgment if the messages are refused. And, many pastor and church leader is treating those servants sent of God in the same manner in which the Jewish people treated the prophets of old and Jesus Christ. Jesus said that whatever we do to one of the least of these we do to him, and how we treat his followers who are obeying him with child-like faith is how we are treating him. So, when we persecute, reject, ostracize, kick to the curb, mock, ridicule and snub our noses at those truly humble servants of God sent with his messages, who are truly just obeying their Lord in loving God and his church, then we are just like these tenants who did the same to the prophets of old and to Jesus Christ, the Son, the stone that the builders rejected.

Be Humble or Be Humbled – taken in part from “Fall, or Fallen?” May 2012 -

Then Jesus said: “He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed” (NIV84). I believe, in the context here of the dual people types, i.e. those from whom the kingdom of God will be taken away, and those whom the kingdom will be given who will produce its fruit, the “but” (or “and”) in Jesus’ statement must be seen as depicting contrasting thoughts, not complimentary thoughts.

In other words, I believe Jesus was saying that to fall upon the stone means to willingly come to Christ in humility and repentance with broken and contrite heart. The brokenness is a result of falling upon the stone, i.e. putting our faith and trust in Jesus Christ via repentance (turning from sin) and via choosing to turn to Christ in faithful obedience and surrender of our wills to his will for our lives. This is the kind of fruit God was hoping his vineyard would produce and the kind the prophets were to “collect.”

In contrast to that, those who choose to not fall upon the stone, i.e. who refuse Christ either by refusing to believe in him or by refusing, by our lifestyles, to walk with him, obey him, and honor him as holy, will be crushed (will face the judgment of God). First of all I see here that there are those who have fully rejected Christ and they will face the final judgment of eternity in hell. Yet, the Lord says that he disciplines, rebukes, chastises and punishes those he loves in order to make us holy, so sometimes we can be crushed in spirit because of sin in our lives that the Lord wants to purify out of our lives. And, his discipline in our lives is his way of humbling us so that we do fall upon the stone in humility and repentance.

So, we humble ourselves by falling upon the rock, i.e. by coming to Christ willingly in brokenness of spirit and with contrite heart, in repentance (turning from sin) and in surrendering our wills to the will of God over our lives, truly making him our Lord and master. Or, we refuse Christ and/or we refuse his requirements for salvation (the appropriate wedding attire – see Matt. 22), and we do not humble ourselves or become obedient to the cross of Christ in dying to our old lives of sin so that Jesus Christ and his righteousness can live in and out through us, bearing much fruit in keeping with repentance. The choice is ours. Humble ourselves, fall upon the Rock, Jesus Christ, and experience the brokenness of a heart given over to Christ Jesus. Refuse the Rock, and the Rock will fall on you, i.e. God will judge your heart for your refusal of his Son. Which will you choose?

Broken Hearts / An Original Work / December 14, 2012

Based off Jeremiah 31:15 (cf. Matt. 2:18)

Weeping in Ramah;
Her children no more.
Rachel is weeping;
Her comfort forlorn.
Jesus is waiting;
Her comforter be,
When she calls on Him,
Down on bended knee.
He has provided our
Sins’ sacrifice,
When He died for our sin,
Paying the price.

Our hearts are broken;
We’re feeling her pain;
Looking for answers
And someone to blame.
Jesus is calling us;
Him to believe;
Turning from our sins,
So we can be free.
Trust in His promises.
Lean on His grace;
Living for Jesus,
Eternal life gain.

Days of confusion,
Distress, pain and grief;
Looking for someone
To give us relief.
Our God and Father
In heaven above
Is looking down to us;
Providing love.
Call upon Him in your
Sadness and pain.
Trust your life with His Son;
Live life again.

Jesus was speaking here to Jewish people who believed in God. He was speaking of himself as the Rock. They, as a nation, rejected Jesus Christ as their Messiah and Lord. In fact, they went beyond just mere rejection. They hung him on a cross to die as though he were a common criminal, although he had done no wrong. Since they refused him, the Rock, he would give his gospel to a people who would bear fruit for his kingdom. If we refuse Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives we will come under his eternal judgment. The Bible teaches in Romans 1 that we all know God (know he exists) from all that he has created, and that God has placed within each of the knowledge that he exists, so that men are without excuse.
Knowing and believing that God exists is not the same as believing in him by faith as Lord and as Savior of our lives. James says that even the demons believe and they shudder. Believing in God's existence is not the same as faith in Jesus Christ. Faith involves repentance (turning from sin and turning to God), and obedience, and death to our old way of living for sin and self, being transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God, and living new lives "created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness," by God's grace and in his power and strength within us (see Eph. 2:8-9; Luke 9:23-25; Eph. 4:17-24; Rom. 6: Gal. 2:20; Rom. 12:1-2; and 1 John). So, when the scriptures say we have to believe, this (these scriptures and more) is what is meant by belief. Jesus said the way to heaven is a narrow (restricted) road and that few find it, but the way to destruction is broad and many travel that road. The problem that exists today within the church is that many are teaching a broad road to heaven absent of the cross of Christ in our lives, and that is not true faith.