August 29, 2016

August 28, 2016 - Luke 14:7-14

Theme: God Will Exalt You in Due Time
1) Whether you are guest or host
2) As you trust in the “resurrection of the just”

Luke 14:7-14 So He (Jesus) told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 "and he who invited you and him come and say to you, `Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 "But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, `Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, "When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. 13 "But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. 14 "And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

Football season just around the corner. If you’re interested in a particular team or maybe a fantasy player, you’ve no doubt heard plenty of predictions and analysis of the upcoming season. Both players and teams are scrutinized before the season, probably because there’s not much else to do until the official games begin. The measuring stick for each criticism seems to come down to one mantra, “What have you done for me lately?”

Most areas of life today are all about what’s happening right away. People are measured by their most recent accomplishments or failures. Glory is fleeting. This is most certainly true in an area like sports, where participants are constantly analyzed. It’s all about what you’ve done lately. But that phrase sparks up another thought. Not just doing something lately, but doing something for “me”. It sounds a bit presumptuous to measure someone’s merit based primarily on what they have done for you. Though this phrase is tossed around a lot in sports, most professional athletes could care less about what you and I think. They certainly aren’t out there for us. 

Even though that’s the truth, it’s easy for us to think like everything revolves around us. Some sports fans are so superstitious that they believe their participation by cheering is essential to victory. It’s really quite foolish but every diehard fan has felt that way at one time or another. Bottom line, it’s never good to think too highly of yourself. 

Shift now to the thoughts our text and we see how Jesus teaches that very same thing, in an area of life that is much more important than sports. Jesus speaks a parable that is directed at how we treat one another. Much like the thoughts of our text last weekend, Jesus wants us to think about not only what we’re doing but why. When it comes to helping others, why do you do it? Do you have an attitude that says, “I’ll help, but what you done for me lately?” Do we show kindness with the expectation of getting re-paid at some future date? If you’re honest about it, you know that it’s so easy to think this way. As long as what we’re doing is noble, we have a way of convincing ourselves that our intentions don’t matter so much.

Is it possible that the “what have you done for me lately?” mantra is so commonplace in our minds that we’ve also applied to our faith? Jesus would have us listen to these words as a reminder that He will take care of exalting us. We don’t have to worry or fight for attention from others. Glory seeking doesn’t have to be the priority behind our thoughts and actions. The point of this parable is that God will take care of giving us our due. He knows when we’re doing right and doing it for the right reasons. And He rejoices in that, even when it seems like no one else notices.

Jesus uses the picture of wedding feast or an invitation to a supper, but the meaning of the parable extends much further. Essentially, it comes down to anything someone does for you and anything you do for someone else. In every circumstance, Jesus wants whatever we’re doing to be done for the right reasons. When someone does something for you, or in the parable, invites you to a feast, be humble in your acceptance. Jesus doesn’t say we should shun any semblance of gifts or significance. It’s okay to receive nice things. It’s also okay to receive glory. But, even in the midst of those blessings, don’t make it all about yourself. Look for ways to serve others, even when you’re being served.

When the roles are reversed and you are the host, in other words, when you are doing someone for others, don’t do it just to receive something in return. If your attitude in helping others is first and foremost on what you can gain, then it really isn’t an act of service. It really isn’t helping if you’re only thinking of yourself. In the two pictures of both a guest and a host, Jesus covers just about every circumstance that we might find ourselves in. And it’s a fitting picture for more than the visual that it brings to mind. Whether you are a guest or a host, in every gathering there is an invitation.

In both settings Jesus talks about the invitation. Another way of translating this word is “calling”. It’s the same thought that’s used when the Scriptures speak of the Holy Sprit’s call to faith through the gospel. That same call should be on our hearts in every dealing we have with others. As Christians we have opportunities to both be served and to serve others through the call of the gospel. We are guests when fellow brothers and sisters in the faith hear our confession of sins and respond with forgiveness. We receive blessings upon blessings when fellow Christians put us before themselves. We, in turn, can then be hosts of that same call when we invite others to learn about Jesus or when we share the bounty of forgiveness to someone who is seeking hope.

But, in both cases, just like a dinner party, making it too much about ourselves can have a negative impact. It takes the spotlight off of the selfless acts of service to one another and puts it on us. But, more seriously, it takes away from Jesus, who is the source of power behind it all. Without Jesus, our dealings with others are just hollow transactions. Without Jesus, everything really does become a matter of “what have you done for me lately?” Jesus give us perspective in life to see beyond our own wants and cares, but also power to serve others instead of always trying to find our own piece of the pie. And Jesus gives validity to the call of the gospel because through His atonement on the cross there is indeed a blessing behind the invitation.  

We need to remember Jesus because He offers something that is truly unique. In our context, He calls it the “resurrection of the just.” That’s the reward Jesus promises to those who wait patiently for Him. And that’s precisely how He exalts us. It’s so easy to seek for a lesser reward. Those kind come cheap and easy but aren’t nearly as gratifying as the promise of the resurrection.

At the time of this parable Jesus was in the home of one of the Pharisees, in fact we’re told it was one of the rulers of the Pharisees. To human observation this is where Jesus belonged. If He really was God’s Son He would be present among the religious leaders of God’s people. This seemed fitting. But, in reality, Jesus was out of place. Jesus was not present there to fit in and fell comfortable. He was there to give a message that needed to be heard.

The Pharisees were the “it” crowd back then. To the people, being among the Pharisees was equivalent to being among God. It was where everyone wanted to be spiritually. If you were in that group you were good to go. But the truth was exactly the opposite. From God’s perspective to be among the Pharisees was to be in a dangerous place. They were the ones Jesus spoke to in our text. The ones who wanted to best seats. The ones who invited others only to get something in return. They wanted glory in present because it was cheap and it was easy.

Jesus wants true followers who strive for something much better, the “resurrection of the just”. It’s not an easy road to follow. Just last weekend, from Luke 13, we saw how Jesus called it the path to the narrow gate. It’s a path beset with troubles and difficulties from those opposed to Christ. You can be sure that the more you confess Jesus the more flak you’ll get from the unbelieving world. At the same time, it is also a path that is hard because God is continually testing you along the way. Remember how He said, “The Lord chastens the one He loves” (Proverbs 3:12)? To live in the love of God and to seek His resurrection is not an easy thing. And it’s certainly not a path where we ask along the way, “What have you done for me lately?”

This text should resonate in your heart because you know how it feels. You know what the Pharisees were thinking because you’ve had the same attitudes in your life. Have you ever worried about getting enough of your favorite meal? Have you ever cut in line? Have you ever been angry over missing out on something? Of course, we’ve all done those things! And they all fit into that first image, choosing the best seat for yourself. Have you ever concealed something about yourself because you wanted to fit in? Have you ever felt that someone wasn’t good enough to be around you? Have you ever straight up lied because you weren’t sure how someone would accept the truth? Sure, we’re guilty in those areas too, almost daily. And they fit into that second image, someone who invites others just to get something out of it; a dishonest host.  

We like to think that we’re off on some distant plane from the Pharisees, but really, we’re just like them. These words strike to our hearts because they are meant for us too. We do these things and more because we’re worried about losing out. We’re worried about saving face with others we care about. We’re concerned that no one is paying attention to our gifts, talents, and hard work. All corruption in the human heart centers on self-preservation. Even from the beginning, Adam and Eve were worried about missing out on so they chose something for themselves at God’s expense.

Jesus tells us in this text, relax. Take a deep breath and stop worrying. Stop being concerned about getting attention for yourself or popularity with others. Jesus says, “let Me exalt you.” He says to you, just as He did in the parable, “Friend, go up higher.” You don’t have to be concerned about carving out a niche of glory for yourself. Even if you could it wouldn’t last in the end. Jesus wants you to focus, and also trust, what He has done for you. The resurrection of the just. If that is your hope, then God is your glory.

The pursuit of worldly things can be blinding. They can lead us to spend less time at the foot of the cross. They can lead us to forget why we need to repent of our sins and receive forgiveness. They can keep us from thinking we need to be around church and fellow Christians, where we share that most important invitation with each other. Thinking only of what can be done for me can also lead us to reject our Savior’s Words; to put human opinion and desire above that which the Holy Spirit inspired.

God invites you to real glory. God calls you to the resurrection of life eternal. The invitation is on your heart, day after day. Receive it in humility. Amen.

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