Matthew 21:28-31"What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ĎSon, go and work in the vineyard today.í He answered, ĎI will notí; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ĎI go, sirí; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?"
What is it to be a Christian? While there are many things which might be mentioned, there is only one real answer. Is it going to church? Is it living a holy life? Is it following the Savior? Is it hearing the word of God? Is it time in prayer and in worship? Is it obeying Godís Word? Often we mention the parts, but being a Christian is more than the sum of its parts. If you look in many groves, you will find the parts for many combines, something separates them from the ones which are working in the field. And so we see a difference between outside appearances, and the way things really are, which is often inside, and hidden. For what it is to be a Christian, is not what we do or have done, it is rather what God in Christ has done, calling us by the gospel, enlightening us with his gifts, sanctifying us and keeping us in true faith.
Being a Christian is living the new life that God has created in us. Being a Christian is being what God in Christ has created us to be. And as our earthly father shape who we are as humans, so our Christian life is shaped by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus example shapes our lives. Jesus did His Fatherís will. It was not always easy, for it is not easy to suffer and die, and to give up your life for sinful people. Jesus prayed, and God gave him the grace and the strength, and so Jesus completed his work, and won life and salvation for all people by his holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. Some donít like to think about Jesus. The think instead about other people. They think, well, no one is perfect, as long as I am better than most, that is enough. Jesus knew people would think such things, and so he told the parable in our lesson. A man had two sons, neither one was perfect, for when the father went to them and asked them to go to the vineyard and work, one said he would not, and the other said he would, but did not. While neither son was perfect, one of the sons repented, the other did not. Jesus did not ask which one was better. Jesus did not ask which one was perfect. Jesus asked which one did the will of the father?
One went and worked in the vineyard, and that is what the father had asked. Sometimes we are tempted to do things which God did not ask forÖ. This is not doing Godís will. But perhaps even more important than the work which was done, is that one son repented of his sinÖ the other did not. We know that all mankind are sinners. We know that God in Christ is calling sinners to repent of their sin. Which did the fatherís will -- could it be the one who repented, and with contrite heart did what he had been asked?
Its a simple story, but often the obstacle is ears that cannot hear. Parents often know about ears that cannot hear, so they often say -- turn down that music, I have something to say to you. Sometimes parents must turn off the TV, to get their childís attention. How does God get our attention? Sometimes we are rebels, often we are sinners, but where else would we turn to find a God who has done so much for us or given so deeply for us? There is no other family calling us to be a part of them, no other family who will accept us as we are -- although many would accept us if we were perfect. And the question yet to be answered is, how do we show our thanks, praise and gratitude for all our Heavenly father has done for us?
First thing, is we go work in the vineyard. We find time daily to hear His Word. We find time daily to converse with Him in prayer. For the first part of being a Christian, is to learn stewardship of time, giving thanks to God that he has given us a day of rest, and using this time to His glory. Next we give thanks, praise and glory to God, through the use of our talents. For our abilities are gifts of God, and in gratitude for these blessings, we return a portion to God, and to his service. Often we hear calls for workers, sometimes we may be tempted to say, well, Iíll let someone else do it, Iíve done my part. Let us not give in to temptation, let us rather hear the call for workers, and answer those we have been equipped to answer, for there are a variety of gifts, and a variety of callings, but there is one Lord.
Finally we give thanks praise and glory to God through the offering of a portion of our treasures. All treasure comes from God, and we are not owners, merely stewards, entrusted with caring for those things which God has given us. Remembering that God did not give of his leftovers, but of his best. Remembering Jesus did not do what he had time to, but He gave his life and he suffered and died, that our sins might be forgiven. So we remember, and we give from the heart, we give from the first fruits, not counting he cost, giving in gratitude that there is forgiveness of sins in the blood of Jesus Christ, in gratitude for eternal life and salvation. We do not bring a collection of our leftovers before God, but we bring an offering of the best of our first fruits, knowing that without Godís hand blessing our labor, there would be no fruit at all. So we offer to God our treasures, with joyous and thankful hearts. Thus we live on earth, the people of God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.