Devotional 184: Who Did the Will of His Father?

Matthew 21:28-32

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

We live as servants to the Lord in our life’s purpose. Once chosen, called, redeemed, and reconciled to the Father in spite of our many sins and wayward walks, our Lord commands us to tell others so they may also come to repentance, seeing the goodness of G-d in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Jesus admonishes us to be about the work, not about the intentions to work; there is such a thing as too much counsel. There are also those who feel a sense of superiority in the fact that they’ve been chosen, and allow pride to ruin and otherwise sidetrack them from the simple, yet most difficult of commands: Love one another.

Harlots and tax collectors were considered to be the worst kinds of sinners, separated from G-d by their sin, and then John the Baptist came preaching with zeal and passion, telling them that G-d still loved them, and wanted them, but they had to stop what they were doing and come to Him in spirit and truth. Abandoned by the chosen ones whose hands were available to help, but only threw more spiritual stones of condemnation at them, their hearts and spirits responded to the message.

Jesus told them in this parable that if the worst of sinners could respond to the Gospel, what was it in the hearts of the chosen that kept them back when they saw what was happening?

Certainly Paul, the most cynical and prickly of the Apostles, who didn’t even walk with Christ, and persecuted the church, as he says, ‘with zeal,’ knows what he’s saying when he tells us that ‘knowledge puffs up.’ (1 Corinthians 8:1)

In contrast, John, the disciple Jesus loved, tells us that we cannot claim to love G-d whom we haven’t seen, if we hate our brothers and sisters we see all the time. (1 John 4:20)

Jesus Himself tells us that if we are to be with Him in the Father’s presence, we must do the Father’s will. (Matthew 12:50).

Let us reflect today on which of the two sons we truly follow: the one who repents and obeys, or the one who speaks willingness, and leaves his work undone. If we are not among those we deem the worst of sinners, and they’re getting in ahead of us because they receive the message of forgiveness, repentance, and obedience, we will have our answer.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

There are days I feel energized, excited, and fully capable to perform all that the Father asks of me. I am a beacon of light in those times: enthusiastic, excited, happy, and even patient and understanding with those who resist me, forgiving those who stand against me, and in those mountaintop experiences, I praise You with a song of ascent.

My faith feels firm, sealed to my spirit as I go about doing the work I was called to in Your Name, to the Father’s glory, and for awhile I really do believe all things are possible.

There are other days, Lord Jesus, when I feel like the Father should be grateful I’m even speaking to Him. Something or someone has battered my spiritual armor, and got past my guard. They spoke a word, or did a deed, or both, that shook me, angered me, and made me want to call down the Father’s holy fire in such a manner that they would never think to do so again.

You tell me in those moments that I don’t know the type of spirit I’m letting in (Luke 9:55). I get sullen, and prideful, and don’t ask forgiveness. I wonder if the Gospel is nothing but a cosmic hoax sent not by the King and Creator, but merely a divine jester and puppet master. I attribute the behavior of wicked men to a holy G-d, and walk in foolish fearlessness of Him who is able to cast my soul and body into eternal fire, and to wipe it out in an instant.

Today then, I stop, and give heed to the voice of my Father, and ask His forgiveness once again. I regret my rebellion, and remind myself that when I walk in His will, all that He has is mine, and as I fulfill my calling to bring glory and honor to His Name, He will sustain and protect me in all that I do. And I am reminded that Satan has no power over me, save that which in my flesh, I give him, as Adam gave him dominion once he disobeyed the will of his Father by not obeying His command.

Today then, let me be the repentant one who quietly goes and does their Father’s will, that I might be reconciled to Him once more through Christ, who bore my punishment and the Father’s wrath, that I might come to know His eternal love for me when I dwell in His presence forever, praising as I serve.

May Your Word be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Look at the greeting Jesus uses for His betrayer, whom He already knew was going to do this through the power of Satan (Luke 22:3-5). 

Why would He use such a term to describe such a man? We aren’t told much about the calling of Judas, but we do know that he’s the Apostle who was, ultimately, the weakest. He’d been privy to all of the teaching, all of the miracles, the signs, and walked among the rest of them, but his heart wasn’t rocky soil, and he fell off the path.

Jesus told them:  15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

He was watched by the others as well, and wasn’t above stealing. When he rebuked the pouring out of the fragrant oil on Jesus, and protested that it might be used for the poor, John tells us: John 12:6 

This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

His eyes were ever on this world. Perhaps he saw traveling with Jesus as a way to avoid work and still survive without begging. But his next to final act was an ultimate rejection of all his experiences, and a turning away from the faith to such an extreme degree that there was no way for Him to repent of it once it was done.  (Matthew 27:4)

As Jesus had taught, those who heard and saw Him, and still did not believe, would come under greater condemnation, and Judas, with that kiss, sealed his eternal fate.

I imagine Jesus’ greeting was sad, and heavy with pity in that He saw one who was falling away, and because he was being used as an instrument that Satan said would he would use at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) there was nothing Jesus could do to stop it as the Father was allowing it. (John 17:12)

As we go through our days, our routines, the seasons, the passing years, and the trials of our  lives, are there times we betray our Lord? Times when our faith is a rootless mustard seed? There are always those moments where the crossroads come, where the rubber of our faith meets the road of the world’s evil, and we find ourselves with a choice.

In our weak moments, our hearts are as vulnerable to the accuser’s whispers as Judas’ heart. We are likely to deny Him (Matthew 26:72), to become frustrated with our lack of understanding things that He says tells us to do. (John 6:50 – 60) 

We are prone to turning to self (1 John 2:18 – 20), and to being deceived (Matthew 24:23-25). And Paul tells us that the war between spirit and flesh is for life (Galatians 5:16-18)

We are told to believe, be steadfast, bold, fearless, at peace with others, to forgive, to do good works that glorify G-d and not ourselves. We are told we’ll be raised on the last day to one of two possible eternal fates: one to life, one to damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46)  depending on the choice we make.

Yet our savior calls us always, when we falter even under grace, to return, repent, and follow once again. It is not without conditions, however. He will meet us where we are, but once we’ve committed, we can’t, as Judas did, turn back. He tells us we are not worthy of His work if we do so (Luke 9:62).

Today,  let us, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves that He might see what we’re doing in His Name, to the Father’s glory, that we might rise to eternal life and be fit for service in His kingdom as we use our allotted gifts and talents to pray, sow, and reap.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us to abide in You, but how long we stay is up to us, and us alone. In the days we don’t ask, seek, and knock, we are vulnerable to all that happens to those who fall away, and indeed, to those who never come.

We ask today, in these times, that You help our unbelief and increase our faith, that we might be counted among those raised to life, knowing even now in our wretched state, that the Father will do all that You ask.

We ask for clean hearts, renewed spirits, stronger voices, and deeper love for You and the Word of the Father, as we continue to partake of the flesh of His grace, and the Blood of His mercy, imparted to us in Your atoning work on Calvary and the glory of Your Resurrection.

We remember that You tell us all that the Father has is Yours, and that which He’s given You is now given to us: Eternal life serving in the kingdom of G-d, in the Presence of G-d, forever.

Keep us from putting our hand to the plow, from going away sad, from spurning hard teachings, from stealing, from betraying our faith to false christs and fake prophets, that we might be deceived and let astray.

Help us to know Your voice, and to endure to the end, that we might be truly saved by Your hand reaching out to us in the storms You’ve prophesied would surely come, having told us beforehand what to watch out for.

We look for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens that heralds the coming of the Lion of Judah, continuing to do the work of preaching the gospel to all nations until the last one is reached.

Let us be fruitful servants, focused plowmen, joyful believers, steadfast teachers, pure in heart and motive, and unified in our love for You and our fellow man. Let us go about doing greater things, faith hand in hand with works, as we point to the Father and give thanks for glorifying our good works, that those who see may glorify Him.

We would not be the sons and daughters of perdition. Let us always keep the joy of our salvation before us, enduring the mocking scorn of the lost and faithless, ministering to them in love.

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.