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*Love the Giver More Than His Gifts*
Molly and Abby are out of town right now for her sister’s graduation, so the other night I went to the ASU ~/ U of A baseball game.
It was a beautiful night and I was sitting out with some friends on the grass hill down the third base line.
We’re sitting there talking and hanging out when I get a call from a friend of mine named Alan, who goes to church here.
From time to time Alan and I will talk and there’s often some kind of spiritual question or insight that he is pondering.
Since I was at the game, we didn’t really get a chance to dive into the thought he was having, but what he said has really stuck with me and been rattling around in my head—and it fits perfect with what we’re studying together tonight.
Alan was reflecting on something that Jeff Johnson—who spoke a month or two ago about Islam—said about what it means for a Muslim to start following Jesus.
Jeff had said something like, “When a Muslim becomes a Christian, he knows that he is giving up his life and losing all that is dear to him.
He has to count that cost and give up all that is familiar and comfortable to him in order to follow Jesus.”
So, Alan’s question was, “Isn’t that what it means for everybody to become a follower of Christ?
Is it a different thing for Americans than it is for Pakistanis?”
It’s a very good question, and I think that—based on the passage we’ll study tonight—Alan is right.
Sure, few Americans face the threat of being killed for their faith or being completely rejected by everyone they know.
But, according to Jesus, becoming a Christian is renouncing all that has been previously dear to you because you have been so captivated by Jesus and what he’s done for you.
For me, that’s what it meant to become a Christ-follower—being sold out to him.
[Share brief testimony]
Tonight, we’re going to study a portion of Scripture that answers the following questions:
* How does a person enter the kingdom of God?
* Who will and won’t be in the kingdom of God?
* What things keep people out of the kingdom of God?
Open your Bible with me to Luke 14, where we’ll begin in verse 15. [Pray]
This passage is in a section of teaching that goes from Luke 9:51 to 19:27 where Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the final week of his life.
For almost three years Jesus has been doing his ministry of teaching and healing.
In Luke 9:51, it says “/When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem/.”
So, Jesus begins a pilgrimage from Galilee down to Jerusalem where he will be killed in just months or weeks.
His ministry is coming to its climax and Jesus is focused.
If you read this middle section of Luke, you’ll notice that it’s not filled with much fluff.
Jesus means business and he is clear about what it takes to follow him.
* Luke 9:57-62 – Jesus says that there is a huge cost to following him
* Luke 11:37-12:3 – Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being outwardly clean and inwardly filthy
* Luke 12:49-53 – Jesus says came not to give peace, but division
* Luke 13:1-5 – Jesus says that if you don’t repent, you’ll perish
* Luke 13:22-30 – Jesus says that the door that enters the kingdom of Heaven is narrow
We find the setting of this passage in Luke 14:1, where it says, “/One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully/.”
Jesus, who is always in the center of controversy, heals a man who had dropsy (abnormal swelling due to accumulating fluids) on the Sabbath and uses it as a teaching moment to the Pharisees, who were so legalistic that they resented the way Jesus healed people on the Sabbath.
Then, in verses 7-14, Jesus gives instructions about how to be honored as a guest and how to be honorable as a host.
We pick up the passage in Luke 14:15, where a man says “/Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!/” Why does he say this?
It seems like a strange statement that comes out of left field.
Well, in verse 14 Jesus talks about the reality that those who give themselves away to people who can’t pay them back will receive their reward at the “/resurrection of the just/.”
So it’s likely that this man is simply thinking ahead to what he imagines the kingdom of God to be.
Chances are good that he has a very different idea of what God’s kingdom would be.
The common idea was that it would be a political kingdom where the Messiah would physically reign as king over Israel and do away with Israel’s enemies.
Jesus’ ideas of the kingdom of God are much different, but either way, this man says a very true statement—“/Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!/”
If you read between the lines, you get the feeling that this guy fully expects to be part of this feast at God’s kingdom.
It’s hard to imagine that he’s thinking, “Boy, it will be so great for those who eat in the kingdom of God and I won’t be anywhere near it!”
His assumption is that he’ll be part of the kingdom of God.
This is exactly how most people think today.
The vast majority of people believe in Heaven or some kind of afterlife, and almost all of them believe that they will go there.
George Barna reports that 76% of Americans believe that Heaven exists and that nearly two-thirds (64%) expect to go to Heaven.
Some believe in reincarnation, some think they’ll cease to exist, but just .5% expect to go to Hell.
So, people expect something good to happen to them.[1]
We all give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.
I have even talked to people who say they don’t believe in God or Heaven, but they’ve told me that if God and Heaven exist, they are confident they will go there.
I had a pastor in high school who used to say, “There are 3 things that will surprise you in Heaven—who’s there, who’s not there, and that you’re there.”
What about you?
Will you be in Heaven?
If you were to die today, how sure are you that you would spend eternity with God?
What is that judgment based on?
Well, Jesus tells this parable to set the record straight.
Jesus teaches that many people who think they’ll be part of the kingdom of God actually will not be.
Luke 14:16-24 says, /But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many.//
//And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’//
//But they all alike began to make excuses.
The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it.
Please have me excused.’//
//And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them.
Please have me excused.’//
//And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’//
//So the servant came and reported these things to his master.
Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’//
//And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’//
//And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.//
//For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’
”/ (Luke 14:16-24)
In this parable, it’s quite clear who the characters represent.
The main person in the story is the Master, who represents God.
There’s also a servant who plays the role of inviting people to the master’s banquet.
Everyone else is somebody who’s invited.
So, what do we learn from this parable?
God has prepared a great banquet and invited many people*
Verse 16 says, “/A man once gave a great banquet and invited many/.”
The word “/great/” refers to the banquet being large.
The man had plans on the banquet having great numbers of people.
Therefore, he invited “many.”
The man had plans to throw a big party with lots of people.
The point is that God has a huge, magnificent banquet prepared for people to enjoy and he is inviting many people to participate.
His invitation is sounding out to people all over the world to come and to enjoy him.
Isaiah 55 says, “/Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.//
//Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.//
//Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live/.”
What is the rich food that God invites us to enjoy?
Jesus said, “/I am the bread of life/” (John 6:48).
He is supremely satisfying.
The primary attraction of the kingdom of God, both on earth now and in Heaven for eternity is God.
What makes God’s banquet worth attending?
In Revelation 22:3-5 we get a picture of what Heaven will be like after God renews the earth: “/No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.//
//They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.//
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