The Riches of God's Grace - 09/19/99
Matt 20:1 (NIV) "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3 "About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, `You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5 So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6 About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, `Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 7 "`Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, `You also go and work in my vineyard.' 8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, `Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' 9 "The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 `These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, `and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' 13 "But he answered one of them, `Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16 "So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
Eph 2:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.
I. It is easy to talk about the love and grace of God but not so easy to realize their truth.
A. Both are undeserved.
B. Both come to us in our darkest moments.
C. Both are hard to accept
II. The parable of the vineyard workers illustrates:
A.The love of God
1. Continuously reaching out to us to be workers
Not like most companies who try to get by with fewest possible
Never too late to join in
2. Sending us out for others (the harvest)
God wants as many as possible to be in the kingdom
We aren’t called to just sit in the pews but to bring in the harvest
“The harvest is ready but the laborers are few”
B. The grace of God
1. Human fairness says less work deserves less pay
2. God says all are seen as equal
Thief on the cross
A large prosperous downtown church had three mission churches under its care that it had started. On the first Sunday of the New Year all the members of the mission churches came to the city church for a combined Communion service. In those mission churches, which were located in the slums of the city, were some outstanding cases of conversions--thieves, burglars, and so on--but all knelt side by side at the Communion rail. On one such occasion the pastor saw a former burglar kneeling beside a judge of the Supreme Court of England--the judge who had sent him to jail where he had served seven years. After his release this burglar had been converted and become a Christian worker. Yet, as they knelt there, the judge and the former convict, neither one seemed to be aware of the other.
After the service, the judge was walking home with the pastor and said to the pastor, "Did you notice who was kneeling beside me at the Communion rail this morning?"
The pastor replied, "Yes, but I didn't know that you noticed." The two walked along in silence for a few more moments, and then the judge said, "What a miracle of grace." The pastor nodded in agreement. "Yes, what a marvelous miracle of grace." Then the judge said "But to whom do you refer?" And the pastor said, "Why, to the conversion of that convict." The judge said, "But I was not referring to him. I was thinking of myself" The pastor, surprised, replied, "You were thinking of yourself? I don't understand." "Yes," the judge replied, "it did not cost that burglar much to get converted when he came out of jail. He had nothing but a history of crime behind him, and when he saw Jesus as his Savior he knew there was salvation and hope and joy for him. And he knew how much he needed that help. But look at me. I was taught from earliest infancy to live as a gentleman; that my word was to be my bond; that I was to say my prayers, go to church, take Communion and so on. I went through Oxford, took my degrees, was called to the bar and eventually became a judge. Pastor, nothing but the grace of God could have caused me to admit that I was a sinner on a level with that burglar. It took much more grace to forgive me for all my pride and self-deception, to get me to admit that I was no better in the eyes of God than that convict that I had sent to prison.
III. Lessons to learn
A. For Jesus’ hearers
1. Gentiles (those called last) equal to Jews
2. All disciples equal (aimed at Peter)
B. For those who have worked for years
1. You will get your full reward
2. Don’t forget that newcomers will also
C. For newcomers - You are not less because you have only recently begun
D. For all
1. God always gives what is needed, no more and no less
2. Receiving God’s love and grace cannot be earned, they are gifts