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Many are Called, Few are Chosen

1Again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

      11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:1–14)

In Dr. Luther’s explanation to the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, he writes, “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”

By means of God’s Word and Sacrament, God’s Kingdom comes among us as His blessed Word is received and believed.  It is here, where God creates faith via His means (not ours), that God’s people gather and are to be certain of His Kingdom coming.  It is also here where God’s people are certain that Christ is truly present.

God’s Kingdom, synonymous with Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven, does not only refer to the time when our Lord Jesus returns in all of His glory.  God’s Kingdom also refers to the here and the now, present tense; not only the Word which is to come, but the Word that comes now, as St. Paul says, “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’  Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)

 Now is not the time to delay, wait, or sluggishly ponder concerning the Lord’s Word and His Christ.  Nor is it the time to make excuses concerning the God’s Kingdom here on earth where Word and Sacrament are freely given for the sake of God’s people.

All too often, people stay away from where God would have them be for the most insignificant of reasons.  But there is no significant reason to keep away from God’s Holy Word, even that which condemns (The Law) and that which saves (The Gospel).

Some might not like the preacher or the preaching, but even this is no reason to abandon God’s Kingdom where God’s Word is rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15).

The calling of repentance goes out to the many.  All is ready.  The meal is prepared.  Yet few do come, for they reject God’s Christ and His forgiveness, believing that they need it not.

Sadly, those who reject the preaching of God’s messengers (Called and ordained servants of the Word) also are rejecting Christ and His Word of forgiveness and eternal life (See Luke 10:16).  Because the Jews rejected Christ, they received their due punishment and the Gospel was taken away from them.

Beware, lest the Gospel be taken from you!  Do not give in to the popular notion that it does not matter from whom you hear the preached Word.  Nor follow the examples of the invitees in the text, who for the love of the world and their own life refused the invitation of the King himself, condemning themselves to the punishment to come.  Instead, heed the Word of the Lord.  Believe His promises.  Deny yourselves.  Wear what the Lord gives, even Christ’s robe of righteousness, in which you are clothed through faith, for only in that are you acceptable among the guests in the King’s court.  Amen.

Mt22.1-14, Pentecost 17, 2011A, Outline & Notes

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Whoever Loves Jesus Keeps His Word

15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

      18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will     manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. John 14:15-24

 

 

Novelty in the Christian faith is something to be wary of.  The Christian faith is historic.  Christians have gone before us and Christians will come after us.  The one common thread is the faith of our Lord Christ, in Him who is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The objective Christian faith is this way.  It does not change as the seasons.  It does not change with the times.  It stays the same and does not because its Author stays the same and never changes.  This is great comfort!  God the Lord does not change His love and mercy towards you.  Independent of the sin and regardless of the trespass, God the Father, through His Son, gives you His entire and complete forgiveness.  It doesn’t matter how big of sinner you are.  Nor does it matter what you’ve done.  God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of your sin, whether large or small.

This is so because of Christ.  Jesus kept all the commandments of the Father ‘to the T’, perfectly obeying them, lacking nothing.  But Jesus had no need of making amends for any of His own sin.  He had none.  The Scripture says that Jesus knew no sin (1 Corinthians 5:21).  The Bible says that, In all points He was tempted as we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus did not keep the commandments for Himself.  He was already completely righteous, without sin, and entirely perfect.  But when the fullness of the time had come, God’s Son was born of a woman, and born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:4-5).

God sent His Son, not for Himself, but for you.  Christ died on the cross, not for His own sinlessness, but to clear you of your sinfulness.  This is the good news of God’s changelessness.  Christ already died on the cross, never to die again.  He already conquered death and the grave.  Because Christ has done these things, sin and death are no longer your lot.  God’s grace and His mercy are.

These do not benefit you if you refuse these gifts of our Lord.  God and His Christ do nothing with partiality.  He either forgives all your sin or none of your sin.  Your works do not add anything to what God has already done.  His forgiveness is all according to His grace, as it is written, To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works (Romans 4:5-6).

Because of Christ—this is why you are forgiven.  The promises of God are yours, for Christ’s sake.  Though you change, being confident the one moment and doubting the next, God does not.  He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  His Word is true; His grace, sufficient (John 3:33 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Through ordinary bread and wine, though these are all your eyes see, Jesus is really and truly present, for you, not because you do see, but because He declares it to be so.  For this reason, God’s Word is our confidence in faith and life.  Your understanding of it is not.

The Christian faith finds itself, not in novelty, but in faithfulness; steadfastness to Him who paid the price for our redemption with His own suffering and death. We were bought at a price, therefore, we are to honor and glorify God with our body, even with our heart, mind, and mouth (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

We were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Christ is the means for understanding today’s text from St. John, the 14th chapter.  All that has been said was said for your benefit.  In order for anyone to love the Lord, he must first know that He has a gracious God, in Christ.  It is God who first loved us.  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

To love the Lord, there must first be faith in the heart.  It is the bitter truth that apart from Christ, without faith, no one can rightly love God.  Any who think they can or are only deceive themselves, for God says, Whatever is not from faith is sin and that without faith it is impossible to please Him  (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).  Also, Jesus Himself says, Without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

It is revealed in Scripture that you lack what God demands.  This is why Christ is necessary.  Without Him, you are still in your sins.  Only in Christ does God count you righteous, perfect, and holy, not because you originally possess these qualities (of yourselves you don’t), but because what is Christ’s is counted as your own, for Christ has taken what is rightly yours—your sin, your death, and your hell.  One truly fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things only in Christ.  Because Christ was perfectly obedient to the Father, through faith, Christ’s obedience is considered as yours.

A Christian does not boast in his own work.  But he does boast in Christ’s work, acknowledging the truth that apart from Christ, he bears no goodness of his own before God, as the hymn has it, ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name’ (TLH 370, v1)..  Like Paul, the Christian too learns to say, with confidence, God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

Having said this, that Christ is your boast, He your Salvation, your Hope, and your life, the words of Christ from St. John’s Gospel are all the more relevant, for in Him do they find their proper place.  The Lord’s commandments you don’t fail to keep, because everything of Christ’s is already yours.  Just the opposite takes place.  Because in Christ everything of His has become yours, you can’t help but keep what the Lord says, both with regard to the true doctrine, for there is Christ, and with regard to life, loving neighbor.

This is so because Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).  No longer are you under this curse.  You already have God’s favor, through faith in God’s Son.  Therefore, because of Christ, you freely keep and do what God says, cheerfully from the heart, according to the new man within you.  You still contend and struggle with your sinful nature, and your flesh is still weak, but the spirit is indeed willing (Matthew 26:41).

Therefore does Jesus speak of having and keeping His commandments.  To say that you have them, but not to keep them is nothing but hypocrisy.  I’m here speaking of God’s commandments, not man’s.  Man and the world invent their own works to please God.  But these only anger Him, for they do not have His approval, for they neither come from faith or belong to His Word.

Here is where we must be careful.  Our Lord clearly says, The one having my commandments and keeping them, it is he who loves me.  By commandments, He means HIS Word. Just a little later, He says, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me (John 14:23-24).

This is how you love God, by believing the Word which He has given and remaining in it.  All who do not do this, following the dictates of their own heart and not what the written Word says, show who they truly love and who they truly don’t.  Not keeping God’s Word is sin.  This is why we take issue with wrong uses of Scripture and declare the truth of God and not the thoughts of men.

This is what Christ is talking about with regard to loving Him and keeping His Word. This is what makes it so necessary not just to believe anything that is said everywhere and anywhere, whether verbally or in print, whether in Christian bookstores or on Christian TV, or anywhere else, but to discern whether it is of God or of man.  Loving Christ means no less than paying close attention to preaching and teaching, distinguishing between what is true and right from what is false and wrong, only according to the Word, for not everything that sounds Christian is Christian.

This is how we love Christ, by keeping His Word.  This means, believing it, trusting in Christ for mercy, and not doubting His work, but placing full confidence in Him who loves us so.  Believing it, we will also live accordingly.  Though we be weak in the flesh, Christ remains our life and our peace with God.  Therefore will we ever be vigilant in good works that are according to God’s commands and doing in faith, even pointing out truth from error and suffering for it on account of Christ.  We won’t have the love of the world for doing this, but we will indeed have the love of the Father, the love of Christ, and Jesus making Himself known to us.  Amen.

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