The Feast

From my Kingdom of Heaven Study

Matthew 22:1-14

Some of my very favorite times are spent with family around the dinner table. Whether it is a cozy weeknight meal or a big gathering with family, little can top the completeness of good food and spending time with those I love.

It makes me smile that more than once, we are told that in Heaven we will “feast.”  In this passage, the kingdom of Heaven itself is compared to a feast that a King gives for his son.  What a joyous occasion!  And who will be joining the King in this celebration?

First, this passage says that those who were invited first reject the King, his Son, and the feast.  We must accept this truth that simply an invitation does not secure admittance.

Second, after those who were invited rejected the invitation, the King’s servants went into the streets to gather all whom they found, “both bad and good.”  It matters not what we were before we were invited into the Kingdom. It matters what we do with the invitation.

Which brings me to the final point. When the King came to look at his wedding guests, he saw that there was one with no wedding garment. To this the King replied, “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  (v.13)

What is the wedding garment?  From what I’ve read, it represents the salvation that we gain through accepting the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. In Isaiah 61:10 it says, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself as a priest with a beautiful headdress, as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  Other passages point to an outer garment being the “righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 16:15)

A quick aside in this parable:  those that the King’s servants summoned from the streets most likely did not have these garments or the means to attain these garments.  So these garments were given by the King himself.  The people only had to accept the wedding garment provided by the King.

In the same way, we have no means to attaining our own salvation. We only have to accept what has been offered us: the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sins that would separate us from God for eternity.

If we do not, we will be as the guest without the wedding garment.

Christians, what does this mean in the context of kingdom living?  We must remember that we have done nothing to attain our own salvation. We only have to accept it.  It also means that we must face the real fact that for those without Christ’s salvation, there will be no Kingdom of God.  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  This is a reality.

We need to get real about those we come in contact with on a daily basis who are only moments away from an eternity without God. An eternity of suffering beyond our imagination.

The enemy blinds us into the busyness of the here and now.  I know this is a battle I face daily.  We must look to our King so we can do his Kingdom work before the feast, when it will be too late for many.

Father, open my eyes to those around me who need to hear of your gift of salvation.  Open their eyes to their need and the reality of their future destruction if they do not choose to clothe themselves with your salvation.

Dependent Like Children

From my Kingdom of Heaven study

Matthew 18:4 and Matthew 19:14

Jesus says in these verses that his kingdom is characterized by people who are like children. As I read these verses, I started asking myself, “What is significant about children in the context of the kingdom of God?” I wanted to look at why children were singled out and made the example.

As a mother of two young children, the first characteristic of children that came to my mind is how dependent they are.  They may have their own opinions and wills (no doubt about that!), but they depend on adults in their lives for just about everything.  Nutrition. Rest. Guidance. Security. Love.

If the kingdom of heaven is comprised of those who are like children, what does that tell me?  Jesus wants his kingdom members to be completely dependent on him. That doesn’t mean we lose our personalities or even our preferences. But when it all comes down to it, we’re completely and totally dependent on him for everything.

I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s easy to depend upon myself. I may not verbalize these thoughts, but I do think them more often than I like to admit: My way of life is dependent on how successful I am at my vocation.  How my children turn out is dependent on how I raise them (or so I think!).  Their safety is dependent on how cautious I am.  My future health is dependent on what healthy choices I make.

I’m all about controlling everything around me. But when I do that, where does my utter dependence on God come in?

There is truth to some of what I described above (the Bible says we do reap what we sow); however, sometimes I take that to an extreme. It’s plain easier to TRY to control everything than to depend on Jesus, whose promises aren’t always visible. Whose timing isn’t always to my liking.

What about you? What things in your life do you need to hand over to Jesus, to become completely dependent upon him?

The Enormous Cost of Unforgiveness

From my Kingdom of Heaven study.

Matthew 18:23-35

I have to admit, I read and re-read this passage for several days. I posed many questions and don’t have all the answers.  But the one theme I seemed to settle upon was forgiveness, and the consequences if we as believers do not forgive.

Jesus is comparing the kingdom of heaven in this passage, and I’ll give you a little summary.  A king began to settle accounts with his servants, and he brought in a man who owed him what would be equivalent to 20 years’ wages multiplied by 10,000.  When the servant couldn’t pay and begged for mercy, the king had mercy on him and cancelled his debt.

Then this servant  found a fellow servant who owed him what would be equivalent to 100 days’ wages.  When this servant couldn’t pay, the first servant put him into prison.

Other servants found out about this atrocity on the part of the first servant, and they went and told the king.  The king became very angry and delivered the servant to the jailers (or “torturers”) until he could pay the debt. (Remember this was the massive, unpayable debt.)

Jesus summarizes, “So also my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (v. 35)

What struck me in this passage was the condition the unforgiving servant found himself in.  He was tortured unceasingly.

Is it possible that our Father allows us to be tortured in some way – I would think in spirit mostly – if we are harboring unforgiveness?

This servant clearly forgot the debt that he had been forgiven.  The point of this parable is that we as Christians (those who have accepted Jesus’ payment for our sins and have chosen to follow him with our whole heart) have been forgiven a debt that we cannot possibly pay.

Nothing that anyone does to us will ever compare to the debt Jesus paid for us. And if we refuse to forgive, we are the ones who will be in torment.

Father, search my heart. Show me if there is any unforgiveness there, and if there is, remind me of the enormous debt you paid for me. Give me strength to forgive. For there is no room for unforgiveness in your holy kingdom. Thank you for forgiving my massive debt providing freedom for me.

Humbling Ourselves

From my Kindom of Heaven study.

Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Am I a humble person?  Are you a humble person?  

When I think about being humble, it almost seems like an attribute, like being kind or generous.  And I believe that this can be the case. Moses described himself as being the most humble person on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

But this passage in Matthew 18:4 indicates that humility goes beyond a sheer attribute. It indicates that becoming humble is a deliberate act. 

What does it mean to humble ourselves “like this child?”  The way I see it, with two preschoolers at home, is that a child doesn’t rely upon any accomplishments or knowledge of his own.  He is dependent on the adults surrounding him, content with their presence and provision. 

I picture the act of humbling myself as understanding that I am nothing on my own. I am completely dependent on my Creator. For life. For strength. For knowledge. For existance. On my own, I am nothing. 

Heaven leaves no provision for pride.  If there is any pocket of pride in my heart – believing myself to be anything on my own – I am called to humble myself. 

Father, show me if any area of pride exists in my heart, and show me how to humble myself so I can be pleasing to you and your kingdom.