15 Sep 2019

The Last Will Be First [Matthew 19:30-20:16]


This world operates on the basis of equity or fairness- we get what we work for, and we do not get what we do not work for. But God's Kingdom is the opposite- we get what we do not work for! Jesus puts it this way, "the last will be first, and the first will be last!" But what does this mean? And how is this relevant to my life? Far from being a merely theoretical story, the parable of the vineyard workers teaches us how we can be a part of God's kingdom indeed. Check out this sermon here and it may just help you to truly inherit eternal life!


Sermon Transcript

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And as a church, we have been taking our people through the Bible, we have been journeying through Matthew and we are now arriving at Matthew, chapter 20. If you have your Bibles it will be great if you could turn to that very page itself.

“It's not fair!” These three words are very familiar words, especially if you have kids at home, isn't it? You hear them very often. Someone said that an, a teenager says an average of 8.6 times of "it's not fair" in a day, that's quite a lot. I hear that quite a bit at home, my son would say, “It's not fair!” How come kor kor [older brother in Hokkien] gets to buy this, I don't!” “It's not fair! How come my friends can go out, I can't.”

And even when you grow older, you still hear the same thing - it's not fair. Maybe you say it yourself because someone newer, younger than you in office is promoted before you. Or maybe your ugly classmate just got a beautiful girlfriend and you say, “It's not fair!” Or maybe your colleague who is not so good in his job performance is having a higher pay than you are and you say, “It's not fair!”

We are somewhat irked by in what we see as unfairness. So the story we are going to study today, the story you've just read in the Bible is going to be somewhat upsetting for us because it's a story that does not seem to be very fair in our own eyes.

You see, Jesus said in Matthew 19:30, “Many who are first, don't get to be first. Many who are first end up last, and those who are last end up first.” Doesn't seem to be fair! I don't get what I deserve! The first doesn't seem to get what he deserves, the last doesn't seem what to, doesn't seem to get what he deserves. And in case you think this is a mistake, it is repeated again at the end of the story, when Jesus says again, “The last will be first and the first last.” [Matthew 20:16]

And Jesus in this passage from 19:30 to 20:16 really, let me just say, “I wish that the chapter divisions were done a bit differently.” Chapter divisions are not inspired, in other words, is not from God directly, but people who sort of organized the Bible for easy reference and reading, made those chapter divisions this way. I think, looking at Matthew, chapter 19, verse 30, should really be the start of chapter 20 for ease of reference.

But in any case, this passage in chapter 20 is really teaching us about the Kingdom of heaven and how the Kingdom of heaven operates on a very different principle than what we expect. We think in life, we should get what we deserve. But in the Kingdom, it doesn't work that way. Those who are first end up last, and those who are last, may end up very right in front. So the Kingdom of God is upside down in our opinion because that's so different from what we experience here.

So Jesus is going to teach us about the spiritual realm, about the Kingdom of heaven using a story. He says, “The Kingdom of heaven is like this story,” [Matthew 20:1] So listen up. “It is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard.” [Matthew 20:1]

So this is a wealthy man who owns a vineyard and he needs people to tend his vineyard, maybe to harvest the grapes. Now he doesn't need workers the whole year round, or he doesn't need the same number of workers the whole year round. So there are times where he needs to get workers for the day.
So he will go to this place called, “the marketplace” where able bodied men would gather, waiting for some owners to hire them for some jobs. These are odd job labourers, literally.

So this owner, probably leaves at 5am from his house, goes to the marketplace to look for odd job labourers for the day. Now typically, they start work at 6am, they end work at 6pm, and they work for six days a week. So the master of the house probably moves out to the marketplace before 6am, hoping to choose the best men for his vineyard.

When he got there, he saw some labourers, he gave a proposal. They might have some kind of negotiation and they finally settled on, “An agreement that they will work for the master for one denarius that day.” [Matthew 20:2] That's an average worker’s salary in those days. So this is a very simple agreement - they work for one denarius and they got to work probably at 6am.

After a while, however, something unusual happened in that the master of the house went back to the marketplace. We're not told his motivation but he's getting more people to work, because we read in verse three, “He went out about the third hour.” [Matthew 20:3]

Now what's the third hour? The clock really starts at 6am and that is zero hours. First hour will be 7am. Second hour will be 8am. Third hour will be 9am. So at 9am, he goes back to the marketplace and he sees that there are people still hanging around in the marketplace, no one hiring them. And so he said to them, “You go into my vineyard too and whatever is right I will give you.” [Matthew 20:4]

Notice, there is no negotiation! There is no agreement of a price, there is no statement of what they deserve, or they earn after working for 9 hours. “Just come! Since you have no work, come and I'll give you what is appropriate.” This is repeated again at 12pm and then again at 3pm. At the sixth and ninth hour, he did the same thing. [Matthew 20:5]

And then what is even more amazing is at 5pm. 5pm is the 11th hour and actually they have only one more hour of daylight to work. “So at 5pm he went out again and found others standing. He said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day? They said to him because no one wants to hire us.’” [Matthew 20:6] Everybody is gone! “No one wants to take us and we have no job.” He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’” [Matthew 20:7] Again no settlement, agreement of the salary they should deserve. “Just come.” Not even a mention of pay.

So after they have all done working, 6pm comes, it's time to pay them and for them to return to their families. The Bible tells us, “The owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last up to the first.’” [Matthew 20:8]

When I was in secondary school, we have many, many tests. We had many subjects and therefore, we have many tests and every time we receive our test papers, we are always anxious as to what we get. I have a biology class teacher; her name is Miss Koh. She takes particular effort to give out the test papers in a way that will encourage us and also provoke us. You see every other teacher just gives back the test paper and you and you look at your result and you, you wallow or you rejoice where, whatever your results are. But for her she wants to make it public.

So, she arranges our test papers or the return of our test papers based on results. So usually the first or the one who scores the highest gets the test paper first. So I'll generally hear - Wen Wen Quan, Seow Zhen Hui, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. The names go out, and I'll be wondering, “When is mine coming up?” And after 10 has gone, after 20 has gone, I'm still waiting. And I come in 27, 28, 29, in a class of 30.

So I'm usually the “loh buay” [Hokkien], the, the, the last few. But there was one week, I hear, “Lee Zexian, Lin Jinyuan.” “Eh, eh, I'm second! I got number two!” And then I realized, she actually gave from the reverse up.

So in this case, something interesting happened! “This foreman is told to give those who worked the least first their salary.” [Matthew 20:8] That’s not quite common practice. Those who work the most should get the most and get earliest. But no, those who are last, get it first. Now, how much do you think those who work for one hour should receive? I think many of you would say, “Err, not very sure. But pretty sure it should be less than what those who have worked a full day should receive.”

But the twist to this is, “When those hired about the 11th hour came, those who work for only 60 minutes, one hour, not much to do, each of them received a full denarius.” [Matthew 20:9] I want you to maybe join me in thinking about what it must be like for one of those who worked from 5pm to 6pm. Maybe let's call one of them, Jacob.

Jacob has a family, probably a wife and maybe two or three kids or maybe in those days, more kids. And Jacob is an odd job labourer, he couldn't find a permanent job. And I could imagine him living quite a simple and maybe even difficult life. He is a hand to mouth existence and sometimes they wouldn't even have enough to put on the table for the entire family. Maybe his kids are struggling and he's struggling and his wife is struggling.

And so early that morning, he got up, together with his wife, while the kids are sleeping, they got together and prayed, “Lord, please provide for us our daily bread. Our kids have not eaten for some time now, have not eaten well, a decent meal for some time now. We need Jacob to get a job, Lord, would You provide?”

I could imagine Jacob just bid farewell to his wife that morning with tears in his eyes because he knows if he doesn't get anything back, they are going to suffer another day of hunger. So he goes out to the marketplace because that's where he expects owners to come and hire him. And when he got there, he sees other able-bodied men hanging around and, and he hopes that someone would hire him.

5.30 came, 6am came and the hirers selected the best they could find, the most able-bodied men, of course, and Jacob is left behind. Maybe Jacob has some kind of an illness. Maybe Jacob has some physical deformity. Maybe Jacob is just not as healthy - he's thin and scrawny. He doesn't look like a tough guy. And so he's always in a side, in a sense, side-lined, neglected. 9am comes and again, no one takes him. 12pm comes, no one takes him and his worst fears are coming to be true, until at 5pm, this particular owner comes and says, “You, Jacob, come into my vineyard.”

And at 6pm, he had just worked out to break a sweat as it were. It's done! It's over! And the foreman calls him, “Come Jacob, you will be the first to get your pay.” And the foreman gives him a full denarius. Jacob looks at it and says, “Sir, I'm … I'm sorry. I … I think you must have gotten it wrong. I'm the one who came at 5pm, those guys are the ones who work for a full day. I only did one hour's work, you might have paid me wrongly.” The foreman says, “No, Jacob, it's not wrong. The master of the house told me that you will get a full denarius. Go, provide for your family.”

I think Jacob will be dumbstruck. He will be … he'll be speechless, but he will be so happy, he will be so amazed. He would not understand what has just happened, “How come the owner of the vineyard is so generous and so kind and so merciful.” But he has tears of joy that he could be able to bring back some food for his family - finally!

That story would have been beautiful, if it had ended there. But no, there is something more because we are told that, “When those who are hired at 6am came, they thought that they would receive more but each of them also received a denarius.” [Matthew 20:10] So I think in a sense, you can understand they saw those who work for one hour get one denarius and they must have thought, “Hey, we work 12 times as hard, we should get 12 times more, at least!”

“And so when they got that one denarius instead of what they had now thought, they grumbled at the master of the house saying, “These guys who worked at 5pm, worked only one hour and you have made them equal to us. We’ve borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” [Matthew 20:11-12] “But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I'm doing you no wrong. Did we not agree for a denarius?” [Matthew 20:13]

“Is there any injustice? Is there any unrighteousness? Have I defrauded you in any way? No! We agreed upon this.” “Now, take what belongs to you.” [Matthew 20:14] I can imagine these 6am workers like the Capuchin you know, the monkeys. They took the cucumber, “Huh, one cucumber! Don't want! “So no, no, no, take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give the 5pm workers as I gave to you.” [Matthew 20:14]

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” [Matthew 20:15] Is it wrong for me to be generous? Is it unrighteous for me to be gracious? Is it injustice that I should give them more than what they deserve? Have I defrauded you in any way? No.

So this story says, “Many who are first will be last and the last will be first.” [Matthew 19:30] And again, “So the last will be first and the first last.” [Matthew 20:16] Because this is the “upside down Kingdom”. This is the way of the Kingdom of heaven. This is the spiritual realm. So if I may say, “The upside down Kingdom” does not operate on the same principle we expect.

In life, in Singapore, in many countries, in human realm, we operate on the basis of deserving. You work hard, you deserve the results of your work. The first in effort gets the first in reward. But when it comes to the Kingdom of God, it is actually the opposite. People do not get what they deserve because the Kingdom does not operate on the principle of fairness, the Kingdom operates on the principle of generosity. Or if I give a more technical word, the Kingdom of heaven does not operate on fairness, but it operates on grace.

Grace, is God being generous to us when we don't deserve it. “Hah, alright! Why? How does that work? What does this mean to me?” Well, if you want to understand this parable, not just in its meaning, but in its application, then you really got to understand the context why Jesus gave this story.

What … what triggered Jesus giving this illustration? Well, the context is really quite straightforward, quite simple. You will remember, some two weeks ago, there was a man who came to Jesus, right? He asked Jesus this question, this man is no ordinary man. He's a rich young ruler, a promising bright star of Israel, a bright man - I've no question. Someone who is extremely rich with great possessions, the Bible says so. He's a ruler, probably of the synagogue. So he's a religious man, respected man, rich man, he's a someone that I think the whole of Israel would look up to and if they have any daughters, they say, “Eh, this kind of guy must marry because he's the bright shining star.”

And this man came to Jesus asking, “What good deed must I do to inherit eternal life?” To him, coming to God, inheriting eternal life, entering the Kingdom of heaven is found in a series of do's and don'ts. What good deed must I do? We call this self-righteousness. I deserve heaven by my deeds – self-righteousness.

“So Jesus, I'm right now maybe 95% good, tell me what more do I need to do, so that I can cross that threshold and qualify for heaven. Tell me please.” Now Jesus, masterfully dealt with him. This is a man who I think, imagines himself to be first. This is a man who I think the whole of Israel thinks that he is first. If there's anyone in Israel who is going to be part of God's kingdom, they say, they would say, “It's the rich young ruler and his gang. They are the first!” But Jesus bursts that bubble.

Jesus told that man, “Now, if you really want to inherit eternal life, then just go, sell, give, come, follow. Do that!” But this rich young man went away sorrowful because he had great possessions. He loved his stuff. And Jesus is not really saying, “You can do that and qualify for heaven, Jesus gave that qualification so that He will show up that he really did not love God but he loved his riches and he will not repent of his covetousness to follow Jesus.”

So this man who seemed to be first is shown up by Jesus to really look like the last, because he would not follow, he would not repent of his sins. It's so scary, isn't it? So scary! That there are people in church, think about it! There are people in church who are respected, religious, you look the part, you speak the part, you seem to be knowledgeable about the Bible but you may actually be a self-righteous man who end up last, because it's all about what you do and what you deserve. As if God could be bribed by your good works. That's scary! That when you look so good before men, you may end up last, in terms of the Kingdom of God.

Self-righteousness here is therefore the context with which Jesus spoke about this story. And He tells us more about the heart of the self-righteous man, He says that, “The self-righteous man is typified or depicted in those who work from 6am.” “And when they did not get what they thought they should get, they grumbled at the master.” [Matthew 20:11] They were unhappy at the master. They say, “This is not fair!”

Now, this reminds me a lot about someone else in the Bible. The elder brother. Very good. The elder … who is it? Who's the elder brother? Is Shawn or … oh, no, no! Who's the elder brother? Well, the elder brother is a figure, is a character in the story, Jesus told in Luke 15. You may want to check it out if you have never heard of it before. But the parables there speaks of a young man, the younger brother, who said to dad, “I don't care about you, just give me my inheritance.” And he goes and waste the money away in terrible sinful living.

And then one day he repents of his sins, he comes back to the Father. And the father is so happy that he throws a mega party for the young son who has returned. “O, the prodigal son, the wasteful son has come back! Let's rejoice!” Everybody in the house rejoice except for the “kor kor” - the older brother.
The older brother just … I think pout and sulked and was and was like, stewing there like, like a train, steam coming out of his ears.

He's just furious, he wouldn't join the party. And this is what he said to his dad. “Dad …” or maybe if I change to a more disrespectful term, “Lao eh …” [old man in Hokkien dialect] I … I can imagine him very upset at this time. He says, “… Look, these many years I've served you and I've never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat.” [Luke 15:29] It's not fair!

Whoa! Wait a minute! Why did you stay at your father’s side? Why did you obey Him? Isn't it be … shouldn't it be because you love Him? But, no! Maybe in this statement reveals the heart of the older brother that he was obedient, he stayed in the father's house not because he loved his father, but because he just wanted the stuff from his father.

In other words, probably the younger son and the older son are not very different after all - they don't love their father but they just want their dad's stuff. The only difference is that their strategy to get stuff is very different. The younger brother just wants, “I don't care about you, just give me what I deserve.” The older brother, however says, “I'll stay by dad's side because in that way, I'll get what I deserve.” Both do not really love the father. Both just want things from the father.

And the elder brother is a picture of the self-righteous religious leaders. Jesus gave this story in a sense to help the self-righteous religious leaders look at the mirror and see themselves. They are all about the religiosity. They go to the temple. They read the Bible. They memorize scripture. They fast. They give money. They do so many things to keep the external law but their hearts are far from God.

These people worship Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They think that by their abundance of religious activity, somehow they can gain God's favour, but God sees through all of that. And shows them that all their self-righteousnesses are like filthy rags. They will be the last because they pretend that they love Me when their hearts are far from Me.

Now you notice something else about self-righteous people in this story. They seem to take note of everything they do for the master. They … they are calculative. They make sure they record it down. They say, “Hey! Look at us! We have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” [Matthew 20:12] “Hey! Come on! Did you not see our labour? Did you not see our toil? Did you not see that we suffered and were burned under the sun? We did so much, you know!” I mean, that is essentially what they are saying, right? “We did so much, you know.”

Again it reminds me of another character in the Bible, you know who? The Pharisee and the Publican, the tax collector. Look at him. Look at me, you know that, that's, that's the posture, right! Yaya papaya posture. And so this man standing to your right, he's a picture of the Pharisee, the self-righteous religious leader.

He dresses the part, he goes to the temple. He prays, “God, I'm so thankful, I'm not like these extortionists, these unjust people, these adulterers. I'm not even like the tax collector, that terrible traitor of our country. I'm not like these guys. Look at me!” “I fast, twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.” [Luke 18:12] “Look at what I do! Surely, You must accept me. Surely, if you rate us on a bell curve, I'm first and the tax collector is last.”

That's the self-righteous spirit! You compare. You're arrogant. You're proud. And you keep track of all that you do, so that you can say, “God, look at how great I am! You have no choice but to let me get into heaven.” That's the psychology of self-righteousness.

But again, Jesus in this parable is really saying about the rich young ruler, and all those who trust in their self-righteousnesses, “Many who are first, you think they are first, they will actually be last.” [Matthew 19:30] Do you know, the most dangerous place to be for a self-righteous man is church. I think it's really dangerous for people in church, if you continue to attend the services, hear God's Word with a spirit of self-righteousness. Because to you, coming to church, giving money, obeying the law is a matter of gaining points before God.

That is the height of arrogance and pride to imagine that sinful people like us could do anything of worth that could force God to love you and accept you. Oh no! We underestimate our sinfulness and we don't really understand God's holiness. Those who are proud and are first, shall be last. But the Good News of this passage is that, on the flip side, “The last are first.” [Matthew 19:30] Who are the last? Oh, the rich young ruler looks like the first in society and the … who are the last? I would suggest to you that the disciples look like the last.

I will suggest to you that when Jesus spoke about this, He's probably referring somewhat to Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew. These guys who are like, in society considered no hopers. I mean, these guys are not religiously schooled. They are not some scholars. They don't study the Bible like the Pharisees do. Matthew is a wretched guy, he works for the Roman Empire. He is a traitor of the country, cheats his own people to line his own pocket. They are the low lives but those who are low lives, those who are last, those who are despised and those who know that they are nothing before God, and who will repent and humble themselves before God, they will be the first.

And that's why Jesus said, I say to you, “The tax collectors like Matthew and the prostitutes, these people who are last in society go into the Kingdom of God before you, religious leaders.“ [Mathew 21:31] Because at least they're honest about their spiritual state. At least they are broken and humbled before God, and they are willing to come as beggars before God. Not you! Not you self-righteous, religious people!

So this story is really a masterful story painted by Jesus, that speaks about amazing generosity, that those who work for only one hour, don't get what they deserve, they get far more. It's a picture of how we as sinners don't get what we deserve, because if we get what we deserve, you know where you are going to go? Hell. Judgment. Alienation from the goodness of God forevermore.

But God in His Kingdom does not operate based on fairness. He operates based on generosity, on grace. That Jesus would give His life and die and pay for sinners like you and for me. This is God's style! For by grace, not by works, nor by your own efforts. By grace, God's unmerited, free and wonderful goodness, to those who don't deserve it.

“For by grace, you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God.” [Ephesians 2:8] It's not a salary, “it's the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast.” [Ephesians 2: 8-9] No one can stand before God on the Day of Judgment and say, “Look God, I've been to Gospel Light. I've given a million dollars. I've served in children's ministry. I've kept the ten commandments. Surely, I'm first and you have to let me in.”

“Sorry, you are last because you were never a believer of Jesus and what He has done for you because you never loved Me. All your self-righteousness is not because you love Me. They are just a strategy for you to get things from Me.”

So what do I say to you today? I know many of you grew up somewhat in a church environment. But I hope that none of us today would assume that just because we have been to church, assume that just because we read the Bible, we say our prayers before meals. Just because we put some money in the bag, that means you are right before God, because no man can be right before God by his own efforts.

Let's get this very clear! God hates and does not accept self-righteous deeds. And so I say to you, “If you have been churched, I want to ask you if you have been converted? Have you really repented and believed in Jesus Christ alone and what He has done for you?”
1] Repent and Humble Yourself Before God
I want to encourage all here today to repent and humble yourself before God because that's the only way you can be saved. The Bible, Jesus earlier on, said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 21:31] What do you mean be like children? Children call for help. Children know their needs. Children say, “Daddy, Mommy, help me!”

So unless you're willing to say, “Lord, help me! I cannot save myself!” You will never enter the Kingdom of heaven. It begins with humility. Eric Raymond, I've shared this before - the church is that unique organization where one must admit their own utter unworthiness to be a member prior to entry.

Now the Bible speaks of this Good News, the Bible speaks of this Gospel. The Gospel is that Jesus came to die to save sinners. That's the Good News! But the Good News is not easy to accept, because it means you need to acknowledge that I can never save myself. But if you are willing to be like a child, accept your own utter unworthiness, then you can really believe Jesus and what He has done for you on the cross.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…” [Matthew 5:3] Blessed are those who are spiritually bankrupts and they know it. Blessed are they because when you come to God, like a beggar, like someone who understands his utter unworthiness and spiritual bankruptcy, “you will have the Kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:3]

Very simple, everyone who exalts himself …” like the Pharisee, like the rich young ruler, “… you will be humbled.” First, shall be last! “…But the one who humbles himself who is willing to be last will be exalted.” [Luke 18:14]

So I urge you today to think about your own soul and to consider that you're not just coming to church, you're not trying to earn or trying to deserve, trying to strong arm God to say, “God, you've got to save me because I've been such a good boy.” Remember God's style, it is by grace so that no one may boast.
2] Resolved To Have Gospel-Centred Ministry
I want to say also secondly, that I hope in Gospel Light, we will resolve always to have Gospel-centred ministry because it's so easy to assume the Gospel. Now we may have a generation that talks about the Gospel, but the next generation if we don't centre ourselves intentionally in the Gospel, we may then assume the Gospel, neglect the Gospel. And finally another generation may come where we forget the Gospel, where the whole church then, I … if I may say, degenerates into legalism, and about performance and show before men.

I hope that Gospel Light, we would not be raising little Pharisees. You know, children's ministry, so easy to raise Pharisees - memorize the Bible, memorize the verses, tell me the answer to who killed Goliath. We, we can get them to get the answers, live the right kind of life externally and produce little religious Pharisees. Actually, they look very cute, I think you've got little Pharisees with that dressing and they, “Thus says the Lord! Thus says the Lord!” I think it's quite cute lah.

But … but that's not what we want, isn't it? I mean, we don't want to raise little religious Pharisees who think that they are good enough for God, when they actually are filthy sinners like everyone else. We want to help our kids realize that they are so, so sinful, but we have such a wonderful Saviour who is willing to save us from our sins. We really need to help our kids do that.

So if there's only one thing I say to Simon, to our children's ministry, there's, there's really just one goal. I don't need you to make sure that the kids can memorize the whole Bible. I don't need the kids to be so good at their Bible quiz, although that can be helpful. But I think the … the real goal is that through the study of Scripture, they come to the Gospel. They realize that they are spiritual bankrupts. They realize that they need Jesus to save them. And then when their hearts are touched by the Gospel, when their hearts are touched by grace, they will obey God, not to earn favour with God but because they love God.

I hope that's what you do at home with your children because raising kids in the way of the Gospel is really not the primary responsibility of the volunteers here. It's the responsibility of parents! And parents, please don't raise legalistic children.

I'm grateful in this church, you don't expect my kids to be pastors. They are far from that! I mean, they certainly don't talk like they love God or behave like they love God. But that's fine because we understand, we're not trying to change their outward behaviour. We are praying and we are ministering, I'm serving my kids, my wife serving my kids in a way that they will really believe the Gospel.

So resolve to have Gospel-centred ministry in our Bible studies, in our care groups. O, I pray that our Bible studies, our care groups, our discipleship groups do not raise religious Pharisees. That's, that's terrible!

3] Rejoice in the Gospel for Radical Worship
Finally, I want to say, I want to apply this to worship. And I think this passage reminds us that we need to rejoice in the Gospel for radical worship. What do you mean? Well, I think that this story tells me that self-righteous people like those who are hired at 6am, they tend to be quite calculative. Don't you think?

They calculate before the master, “Eh! Look at how much I've done! I've worked the whole day. I've borne the burden. I've borne that scorching heat.” And I think self-righteous people tend to be calculative - just like that Pharisee who says, “I fast twice a week.” They sort of tick the boxes and say, “Nah, see! Look at what I've done!” But they never really give their whole life to God. It's all about a set of, set of do's and don'ts. It's all about little, little things that they want to sort of accumulate points.

It's never going to be radical, because it's always self-centred. It's always doing just enough to satisfy that God who demands so much but really they don't want to give their lives over. But the Gospel is powerful exactly in this way. When you understand the Gospel, and you're not operating on performance or legalism or self-righteousness, it really empowers radical worship.

How? Well, I remind you that Paul, the apostle gave us a great treaties of the Gospel in Romans, chapters one to eleven, he talks about the Gospel and how amazing it is. And after explaining it in the, in that eleven chapters, it's almost as if he cannot contain himself, he cannot keep that joy down and he exalts, he bursts out in this wonderful praise.

He says, “O, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God, how unsearchable are His judgements, how inscrutable His ways, for from Him and through Him and to Him are all things to Him be glory forever. Amen.” [Romans 11:33-36] He’s like praising and worshipping God in the midst of his writing, can you imagine that?

And immediately after that, there is no break, there shouldn't be a break. It's so sad that when we read the Bible, sometimes we allow the chapter divisions to break our train of thoughts, but it really shouldn't.
Right after verse 36, flows this statement, “I appeal to you therefore…” [Romans 12:1] O, look at the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ! And because of that, “… I appeal to you therefore, by the mercies, the grace, the generous generosity of God, to present your bodies, a living sacrifice.” [Romans 12:1] Cannot calculate kind. Give your whole life. Why? Because of the Gospel.

Sometimes, we lament that fellow Christians are very laid back, very passive. Doesn't seem to be doing much for God. We … we lament that we say, “Ah! We really need to motivate our people, we really need to scold them.” I hope I don't scold you ah. I sometimes preach a bit more passionately but please understand, I don't scold you, hah. I … and I don't motivate you well. I'm not a motivator. I can't do that.

But I do know something, I'm not in charge of motivating you. It is God and His Word and His Gospel, and His love that motivates you. We love Him not because Jason preaches hard. We love Him because He first loved us. And I'm saying to you, the only way Gospel Light, the only way you and I can live lives that are radical, lives that are surrendered for the kingdom is when we understand more and more deeply His love for us in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So when you grow as a Christian, they often say, “You don't grow in a sense of knowing the Gospel and moving away from the Gospel. You grow by going deeper into the Gospel.” That's why you need to rejoice in the Gospel, understand more of the Gospel. Pray God help you appreciate more of the Gospel, so that you may joyfully, freely, give of your life for His service.

It is not human psychology. It is Gospel theology, that frees us from ourselves to be that living sacrifice. Are you tired in your Christian life? Are you weary? Are you stressed in your Christian life? I say to you, “The first responsibility is to come back to the Gospel, is to sit at the feet of Jesus, to worship, to know His love, that you may then love Him out of that overflow.” I pray that would be what Gospel Light will be for many generations to come. It's all about grace! It begins right there. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we are thankful this morning for Your Word and we pray that You bless it to our hearts. I want to remember friends, churchgoers, who have been in church their whole life or for decades of their life or for many years of their life. Somehow they have absolutely believed that it is all about doing a set of regulations and requirements and somehow believing that it is by these that they will deserve heaven.

O God, shatter that lie of self-righteousness today. Would You humble them, that they will be like little children, that they will realize that they are spiritual bankrupts? And I pray by Your Spirit's enabling, You will cause them to repent and to humble themselves and to look to Jesus and His finished work alone.

Lord, how we praise You that Jesus paid it all and all to Him we owe. How we thank You today, nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling. Father, I pray there will be many, many here who are so broken and contrite over their sins, many who are so humbled over their sin who will today repent and come to Jesus to be saved.

Father, please protect Gospel Light from being a church that would slip away from the Gospel and drift into legalism and self-righteousness. Spare us from raising little Pharisees who do not know God. But help us always never to assume the Gospel, but to preach the Gospel, the message of the radical generosity of God in Jesus Christ, so that many here would praise You and thank You and believe You.

Father, we pray for those who are tired and weary and maybe some who are even sliding backwards away from You. Would You fan once again the flame of Gospel love in our hearts? Maybe we have forgotten the Gospel, we have forgotten what it all means, we have never really stopped to think about the depth of Your love for sending Your Son to die for unworthy, filthy, rotten, unworthy sinners like us.

So please God, show us the magnitude of Your love. Help us grasp the height, the depth, the breath, the length of Your love for us in Christ Jesus. Pour that love out in our hearts, that we may then love You out of that overflow. So bring us back to the cross today, bless Your people. We thank You in Jesus’ Name. Amen!


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