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Dressed for Heaven, or Getting Dressed for Hell

The End of the Road  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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God has prepared a wedding feast, and has invited all who hear the invitation to come. We receive His Wedding garments, rather than trust in our own clothes, so that we can rest in peace at His feast.

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Prayer

Lord God, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a Word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May Your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You send it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen

Heaven

“When I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there: The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there” (John Newton, author of hymn “Amazing Grace”).

The Ohio Players had a song on their 1974 “Skin Tight” album that was called “Heaven Must Be Like This.” It opened with the conversation between a man and a woman:
Man: You know what I think Heaven is?
Woman: Uh-uh.
Man: I think Heaven is you!
Jesus gives us what I shall call an interesting but troubling image of heaven in today’s Gospel text.

22 And again 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, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.

And again 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, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4

“When I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there: The first wonder will be to see many there whom I did not expect to see; the second wonder will be to miss many people whom I did expect to see; the third and greatest of all will be to find myself there” (John Newton, author of hymn “Amazing Grace”).

The only thing more amazing to me than “Amazing Grace” is the amazing rejection of that grace by so many. This, in spite of the oft-claimed desires of so many for world that looks a lot like heaven, in that there will be no more sin or sorry, no more injustice, no more death.
When God’s Holy and Righteous Law is declared, both to exhort us to live justly in this world, and to show us our sin so that we can cling to God’s eternal promise of salvation, so many push back, declare that they aren’t subject to that Law, God doesn’t have that claim upon their lives, and that they have a right to do what they please.
The only thing more amazing to me than “Amazing Grace” is the amazing rejection of that grace by so many.
Matthew 22:4–6 ESV
Again 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.” ’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.
I wish this were just talking about the world, or the Jews in 1st Century Judea. But it isn’t. It goes on in the Church today. People who have been united to Christ in His death by baptism disparage His Word in the pure preaching of the Gospel, preferring to have their ears tickled by entertaining heretics who fill the book shelves and airwaves with false Gospels and alternative Christs.
Others show up for their weekly dose of Anti-Hell vaccine, but expend little energy, effort or investment in the Mission of Christ, leaving that to “the professionals” like the Pastors, Teachers, Deacons or DCEs, but refusing either passsively or sometimes even aggressively, to care for them so that they can focus on the work to which they have been called instead of spending time trying to keep the budgets balanced or serving two masters - God’s flock and somebody’s time clock.
Finally, there are those who embraced God’s gift of grace, but now believe that they have what it takes to pull themselves to heaven by their own bootstraps. About them, Dr. Luther said,

The Quest for Righteousness

“He who would gain righteousness by faith and works is as the dog who runs along a stream with a piece of meat in his mouth, and, deceived by the reflection of the meat in the water, opens his mouth to snap at it, and so loses both the meat and the reflection” (Martin Luther, Treatise on Christian Liberty [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1943]).

Regardless of where you fit in this terrible picture, the end for you is not good:
New Dictionary of Biblical Theology Righteousness, Justice, and Justification

RIGHTEOUSNESS, JUSTICE, AND JUSTIFICATION

Matthew 22:7–10 ESV
The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And 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.
Green, M. P. (Ed.). (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
The Mission of God goes on with you or without you.
In English usage, the term ‘righteousness’ is associated with the idea of individual moral rectitude. ‘Justice’, on the other hand, generally signifies a right social order, that is, the proper distribution of goods and honour, including retribution for evil. Thus the latter is often forensic, while the former is associated with personal ethics. Although such concepts are not foreign to the biblical authors, their concerns lie along other lines. The lexical distinction to which we are accustomed in English is absent from the Scriptures. The biblical terms often translated as ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice’ belong to a single word-group, that associated with the ṣḏq root in Hebrew, or that based on the dik- root in Greek. Furthermore, the Hebrew usage, which influences that of the NT writers, tends to be relational and concrete; one is ‘righteous’ with respect to another human being or to God, in a particular kind of conduct, or in a particular ‘contention’ which has arisen (*e.g. ; ; ; ; ; ; ). The ṣḏq root does not signify a proper inward disposition, even though it may presuppose it (usually other terms, especially the adjective yšr, express this idea). On the other hand, while ṣḏq terms often carry forensic overtones (*i.e. ‘justice’ and ‘justification’), they generally signify the outcome of a ‘contention’ or ‘lawsuit,’ rather than the act of judging or its content (*e.g. ; ; ; cf. mišpāṭ). Furthermore, the verbal forms denote the dispensing of justice in a positive sense: ‘to give someone justice’ is to vindicate them, to grant them salvation from injustice (*e.g. ; ). Although in non-biblical Greek ‘to do someone justice’ had the sense of ‘to punish someone’, the NT authors adopt the Hebrew usage, which likewise appears in the Septuagint (*e.g. ; ; ; cf. dikē [punishment] ; ; ).
God purged unbelievers from Israel, so He knows how to clean house.
Romans 11:17–18 ESV
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
That wedding feast was filled, Matthew wrote, with “both bad and good.”
Seifrid, M. A. (2000). Righteousness, Justice, and Justification. In T. D. Alexander & B. S. Rosner (Eds.), New dictionary of biblical theology (electronic ed., p. 740). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Bad: πονηρός, ά, όν. —Freq. in Gk. lit. the opp. of ἀγαθός/καλός or χρηστός [1] pert. to being morally or socially worthless, wicked, evil, bad, base, worthless, vicious, degenerate. [2] pert. to being so deficient in quality in a physical sense as to be worthless, of poor quality, worthless. [3] pert. to being in an unhealthy condition physically.
Romans 11:17–18 ESV
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.
Good: ἀγαθός, ή, όν. -When used of pers., freq. in ref. to good citizenship or acceptance of communal responsibility
[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 851). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Come as you are
Matthew 22:11–14 ESV
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then 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.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
How did he get in?
Not everybody in the room came through the door
1. Formula: SD XI:34 The reason why “many are called, but few are chosen” [*]324 is not that in his call, which takes place through the Word, God intended to say: “Outwardly, through the Word, I call into my kingdom all of you to whom I give my Word, but in my heart I do not intend to call all but only a certain few. For it is my will that the majority of those whom I call through the Word should not be enlightened and converted, but rather should be and remain condemned, even though I make the opposite commitment in my call to them through the Word.”[1]
2. SD XI:37-39 [37] Accordingly, Christ offers the promises of the gospel not only in general but also through the sacraments, which he has attached as a seal of the promise and by which he confirms the promise individually to each and every believer. [38] Therefore, as is stated in the Augsburg Confession article eleven, we retain private absolution and teach that it is God’s command that we “believe this kind of absolution and regard it as certain, that we are truly reconciled with God when we believe the word of absolution, as if we had heard a voice from heaven,” as the Apology also explains in this article [German translation: XI, 2]. This comfort would be taken away from us completely if we could not conclude from his call, which takes place through Word and sacraments, what God’s will toward us is.[2]
What are you wearing?
Isaiah 61:10 ESV
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
I’m dressed for War, and I’m dressed for the Wedding
Ephesians 6:10–20 ESV
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.
[2] Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (pp. 646–647). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Closing Prayer
Closing Prayer
[3] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 852). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
[4] Arn
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