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A Kingdom for Prostitutes

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Introduction

In 1987, Hank Williams, Jr. released a song entitled, “If Heaven Ain’t A Lot Like Dixie.” The main chorus of the song says that “If heaven ain’t a lot like dixie, I don’t want to go. If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I’d just assume stay home.” That is, if heaven isn’t the way that I want it to be or if heaven isn’t the way that I imagine it to be then I’d be happy to stay here where I rule over my little kingdom.
Heaven will be a shocking place for most people. Most people have come to think of heaven, not as God has described it, but as having the people we want in it and the things we want there and the activities we want there to the exclusion of all we don’t like there. In other words, we imagine that the Kingdom of God in eternity is just like our tiny, little kingdoms here --- all about us. And so, in , Jesus says there will be many who will say to him at the judgement seat of eternity, “Didn’t we call out your name? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we do many mighty works in your name?” And, Jesus will declare, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” That is, even though they professed with their mouths to be in the Kingdom of God and even followers of Jesus Christ, they were shocked to find out that the Kingdom of God was different than they had realized.
This morning, we’re going to see Jesus giving a shocking definition of Kingdom entry and Kingdom qualification through a parable on Tuesday of Passion Week.

God’s Word

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“Who Gave You This Authority?”

“Who gave you this authority?” So, if you were with us last week, we saw this great confrontation that we had been anticipating finally take place. It was actually just the first of a number of confrontations to come in the days ahead, and in this confrontation, the Temple authorities approached Jesus, and they asked him, “Who do you think you are? Who gave you the authority to do all this that you are doing?” And so, Jesus answers them with a question about John the Baptist that would’ve actually told them their answer, if they would’ve been able to answer the question correctly, which should have been apparent to the men of God in Jerusalem. But, their hearts were hardened to the truth of God about the Prophet of God, and now their hearts were hardened to the truth of God about the Son of God. What we’re going to see over the course of the next three weeks is Jesus continuing in his response to the question of verse 23 in three different parables. This is really all one, big scene, as Jesus will further tell the truth the leaders of the Temple and seal his own fate in the process.

A Parable of Two Sons

“What do you think?” In the parable that we come to this morning, Jesus is really setting them up, and He’s setting them up brilliantly. Jesus is going to tell them a story that will incite their own emotions and activate their own consciences, and then turn their consciences on themselves. Think like what Nathan did when he told the parable to David when David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered Uriah. He had David so upset by the story that David was ready to have a man executed, and then told David, “You are the man!” This is the exact same technique that Jesus uses here.
“A man had two sons” So, Jesus tells them the story of a man who had two sons. It was very common for a family in Israel to have a vineyard at this time, and it was the family that would come together to keep the vineyard. So, this father goes to his sons, as would have happened it numerous households around Israel, and he tell his sons to go and work in the vineyard. Now, understand that this is not a self-centered request. It is not only right for the sons to go and work in the vineyard, but it is good for the sons themselves. They profit from this vineyard, and they drink from its production. They are the ones in line to inherit the vineyard, and the more profitable the vineyard the greater their inheritance. The work their father is asking them to do is right for them to do, but it is also beneficial to them. The first son responds in a way that would’ve likely caused an audible shout from the religious audience that day. He defiantly tells his father that he is not going to work in the vineyard. He will not obey his father. He will not do what his father has asked him to do. But, later on, he is remorseful for how he has responded to his father. He feels bad about it. He has a change of heart. And, he goes on to do the very work that his father asked him to do. The other son answers his father with a picture perfect response. You couldn’t ask for better. He even says, “Sir!” He’s quick, obedient, and respectful! I mean, we can already tell who we’re supposed to like, right? Except this story ends in the exact opposite way, as the other son, though he claims that he will do what is right, does nothing at all.
Now, it’s hard for us to understand the impact with which this story would have landed. We tolerate parental disrespect, and we expect, even anticipate a son rebelling against his father. We read this, and think, “Big whoop! I’ve got a kid sitting at home right now because he refuses to obey me.” But, to Jesus’ crowd, this was a jaw-dropping story. One of the 10 commandments that God has written with his own finger on a tablet of stone that they carried with them in the ark of the covenant and kept in the Holy of Holies said “You must obey your parents.” In , it says that if a man has a rebellious son who continues to be rebellious, even after discipline, that he is to be brought to the elders and they are to stone him to death. The thought of a man’s son telling his father that he would not obey him flagrantly to his face, or, even worse, telling him that he would do right by him and then never showing up — lying and rebelling. It was unthinkable. Jesus is telling a story of a man with two rebellious sons.

Who Did the Will of His Father?

“Which of these two did the will of his father?” So, Jesus asks them a question that is more complex than it may first appear to us. Which one of these rebellious sons did the will of his father?
“Which of these two did the will of his father?” So, Jesus asks them a question that is more complex than it may first appear to us. Which one of these rebellious sons did the will of his father? Neither of these two boys are in the clear. Both of them have sinned against their father. Both of them have acted wrongly. But, what Jesus is teaching is that one son is to be welcomed back into his father’s house, and one is to be excluded. So, which one He asks them. The first one they answer him.
Jesus has them right where He wants them. He looks them in the eye and says: “You’re right! And, just like the robbers and hookers at first lived as though there was no God, but now have repented and accepted the baptism of repentance, they are like the first son, and they shall be considered greatest in the Kingdom of God! But, you are like the other son who said that he wanted to honor God and wanted to love God and wanted to be reverent toward God, but failed to actually do what God said to do. You, unless you repent as the prostitutes and tax collectors have done, will be excluded from your Father’s house.” Now, imagine the scene. They’re literally in the Temple Complex, the very place Jesus has called his Father’s house. And, Jesus just told them that they’ve lost a comparison test the very scum of society. You can imagine that if I brought in the abusers and thieves and molesters from the prison in Talladega, and I told you that God said they were greater than you that it would be hard for you to hear. This is exactly what Jesus is saying to them.
No

Why the First Son?

So, I think that the question that jumps up at us now is: Why the first son? What specifically causes the first son to be held up to us as such a shining example? Or, maybe if we want to look at who Jesus tells us the first son represents, why is Jesus holding up to us ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ as a shocking model of who makes up the Kingdom of God?

An Inward-Outward Change

“afterward he changed his mind and went” So, the father goes to his two boys, and he tells them both to go and work in the vineyard. The first son responds by immediately wounding his father. He’s disobedient, irreverent, and rebellious. But, the other son’s response is much more encouraging. He’s like, “Sure dad, count on me! I’m happy to help. I’m just glad you don’t have two bum sons!” But then, he doesn’t show. He’s polite, but he’s a liar. The difference in the two men is the word ‘change.’ Do you see that in verse 29? It pops up again in verse 32, doesn’t it? Why is the first son the example? Why is he the picture of those accepted in the Kingdom of God? He realizes he’s sinned against his dad, he feels remorseful for sinning against his dad, his mind changes, and he goes to make it right. “Change” indicates remorse. It indicates a transformation in your opinions. Now, I want you to notice something. Notice that first, it changes his mind. It changes how he thinks. It changes his thoughts about his dad and his thoughts about his sin and his thoughts about himself. Then, he ‘went.’ That is, after it changed his mind, it changed his life. It’s an inward-outward changed. And, it has to happen just like that, in that order. Otherwise, you’re just trying to fistfight the wind. This is what Christian repentance looks like. It’s a change inward that leads to a change outward. It doesn’t begin outward with behavior. It begins inward with your heart and your mind and your desires. But, it always leads to outward. If it doesn’t lead outwardly, then your mind didn’t really change, your opinions didn’t really change, your thinking isn’t any different.

Immune to Grace

“You did not afterward change your minds” But, the exact opposite was the case for the scribes and priests. Jesus compares them to the second son who said the right things, but did nothing and never changed his mind. He said that they went out they saw all of the ‘tax collectors and prostitutes’ repenting and receiving John’s baptism, but they thought to themselves, “We don’t need that!” They won the moral comparisons. You would have to acknowledge that the priests win the moral comparisons with the prostitutes going away. Winning moral comparisons will not earn you the favor of God. In fact, as Jesus was teaching this day, winning moral comparisons in your own mind immunize you to grace. How often do you hear someone say when the gospel or church or Jesus comes up, “I don’t worry myself with all of that because the way that I see it none of them are any better than I am. Heck, I live a better life than most.” Why do they say that? They’re winning the moral comparisons in their own lives, and they’re immunizing themselves to grace, for they have no need for it!
APPLICATION: The aim of the Christian's life is not to win moral comparisons, and the aim of Christian parenting is not to teach your children how to win moral comparisons. The aim of the Christian life is to offer your heart and your passion and your devotion to Christ.

Maximizing Grace

‘tax collectors and the prostitutes’ But, we must also be careful not to minimize the sin of the first son and the sins of the ‘tax collectors and the prostitutes.’ There’s another school of thought out there that doesn’t seek to win moral comparisons but to rid ourselves of any morality at all by saying, “Look! Jesus says that prostitutes will be first, and so let us live and Jesus will love us in to glory.” It is a perversion of the gospel to say that the sin of the 'tax collectors and prostitutes' is insignificant. This gets back to the modernized, half-truth gospel. This parable highlights their sin only so that it can highlight two more truths that are often forgotten: 1) They are received in the Kingdom of God 2) Because they are repentant. That is, because they regret their sin, change their opinion of their sin, offer Jesus their sin, and seek to follow Jesus with the rest of their lives. Because they have experienced this inward-outward change they now know personally Jesus' wondrous grace. Their sin would not crush them; it would only maximize the glory and grace of Jesus Christ.

You are a Case Study of Jesus’ Grace

APPLICATION: If you will repent, there is not a sin in the world that is strong enough or big enough to withhold from you the grace of Jesus Christ. Satan wants to convince you otherwise, but it's a lie. If the Gospel is God's dynamite, He's got enough grace to flatten the entire solar system. Abortion. Homosexual acts/desires. An affair. Swindled people. Pornography addiction. Walked out on your family. Anger. Bitterness. Your enemy wants to convince you that your sin is so bad and so big and so ugly that not even Jesus or the church or Christians want you. But, can I tell you who you are? You are another opportunity for God to showcase how good He is. You are another opportunity for Jesus to showcase how much more powerful his grace is than any sin. You are a case study in just how massive and just how powerful Jesus' grace really is. But, you must repent of your sin and entrust it to him.
APPLICATION: If you will repent, there is not a sin in the world that is strong enough or big enough to withhold from you the grace of Jesus Christ. Satan wants to convince you otherwise, but it's a lie. If the Gospel is God's dynamite, He's got enough grace to flatten the entire solar system. Abortion. Homosexual acts/desires. An affair. Swindled people. Pornography addiction. Walked out on your family. Anger. Bitterness. Your enemy wants to convince you that your sin is so bad and so big and so ugly that not even Jesus or the church or Christians want you. But, can I tell you who you are? You are another opportunity for God to showcase how good He is. You are another opportunity for Jesus to showcase how much more powerful his grace is than any sin. You are a case study in just how massive and just how powerful Jesus' grace really is. But, you must repent of your sin and entrust it to him.

It All Boils Down to Time and Fruit

“You did not afterward change” What’s ironic about this parable is that neither son does what he says that he will do. One says he won’t, but then he does. One says he will, but the he doesn’t. So, Jesus is, in so many words, saying ‘Talk is cheap.’ In a day in which people around our community believe they are going to heaven because they told the Father once, “Yes, sir, I will obey you, but have never followed Jesus one day of their lives.” Jesus would say, “Talk is cheap,” just as He is saying to these priests and scribes who say they want God but then live lives that show anything but. What this parable teaches is something that Jesus often taught. Genuine faith, true faith, teal repentance will be proven through time and fruit. It took time to see which son would be the obedient one. It was apparent at first. It took time to see which son really loved his father. The first words weren’t the best indicators. It all boils down to time and fruit.
APPLICATION: God uses time to authenticate repentance, and God uses time expose frauds. Frauds can't fake it forever. Pretending to love God will wear you out. It will consume you with guilt. There's nothing more exhausting than having to be two or three different people at the same time. But, not godly sorrow. Not godly brokenness. Godly sorrow leads you to repentance. It leads to a transformation of what you want and what you desire and your opinions on something. You're not upset you got caught; you're sorrowful that you're not as full of God as you could be and that you've sinned against him, and you want to be right with him. So, your change in desire, your change in opinion transforms your life, and that, brothers and sisters, will you stand the test of time.

Landing

ILLUSTRATION: My cherry tree verses by crepe myrtle. When I first purchased them, I paid $6 for the cherry tree, and $1 for the crepe myrtle. It was basically a throw in trade day deal. It looked like a stick. The cherry tree was beautiful and had leaves. Even throughout the drought, the cherry tree seemed like it was able to maintain leaves when everything else was withering. But, slowly, limb by limb, it be began to die. One branch would get brittle and break and then another and then another. My $1 crepe myrtle on the other hand had bloomed every year. My dog even chewed it down to the ground, and it came right back. Time has proven one to be healthy and one to be diseased. What will time prove you to be?
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