Sermon for Sunday October 31st, 2010

 


 The Grace of God by Christian Cheong

Matthew 20:1-20:16

Today society taught us that nothing is for free.
• You’ve to work for it, pay for it. If we work hard, we will be rewarded in proportion to our work. If you work less, you’ll get less.
• There’s nothing wrong with that - but we bring that concept into our relationship with God too.
• God’s grace does not operate on the basis of what you do.

This is the reason Jesus tell this parable.
• It all started with His encounter with a rich young man in 19:16ff.
• This man came to Jesus and asked, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (19:16)
• He was good. He kept the commandments. Based on what he has accomplished, he ought to be rewarded.
• Jesus told him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Him (19:16-22). He was not able to do it, and he left.

The disciples were greatly surprised (19:25). This man has done so much and was turned away.
• Peter, reflecting on all this, said to Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
• Jesus did not rebuke him straightaway, but assures him there will be indeed great blessings for him and His disciples.
• Not only that, everyone who has sacrificed for Jesus’ sake will receive “a hundred times as much” (19:29).
• In order words, Jesus is telling Peter that God’s reward is out of proportion to our service and sacrifice. God blesses us more than we deserve.

Jesus detected in Peter’s heart an attitude that was wrong.
• Was Peter serving the Lord only for what he could get out of it? Were the disciples willing to make sacrifices only because He had promised them a reward?
• Jesus went on to tell this parable, about the workers called to work in the vineyard.

LIVING BY HIS GRACE
The landowner was a very gracious and generous person.
• He was very concerned for his vineyard, as well as the welfare of the workers.
• He agreed to pay them a denarius, which was equivalent to one day’s wage.
• In the culture of that day, workers lived a day-to-day existence. They needed money each day to buy food for their families. That’s why in Deut 24:15, landowners were instructed to pay a hired man “his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it.”

The landowner was not only fair with his workers; he was increasingly more generous with each group of workers that comes throughout the day.
• Each worker, regardless of how long he had worked, received a day’s wages.
• He received not what he had earned on an hourly basis, but what he needed to sustain his family for a day.
• The landowner could have paid them only what they had earned, but he chose to pay them according to their need, not according to their work.
• He paid according to grace, not according to debt. He paid out of love, not merit.

That’s how our God treats us.
• Jesus was not teaching principles about labor rules - that those who work more should be paid more. Jesus was teaching about GRACE - to enlighten Peter and all of us today.
• God deals with us by grace, not by merit. It is all God’s amazing grace that you and I sit here saved.
• Even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa 64:6). We cannot afford to gain God’s favor, not at the point we’re saved; not today either.

Sometimes, we have this misconception - that having been saved by grace, we must now (at least to some degree) do something to earn God’s love in our lives.
• If we sometimes feel you deserve an answer to your prayer or a particular blessing from God because of your hard work and sacrifice, you are living by works, not by grace.
• If you assume that you can do something to make Him love you more or less, then we have misunderstood His grace again. God loves us the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
• If you believe you’ve been called to serve Him in any areas because of your worthiness or qualifications, then we have undermined His grace again.

Remember the story of the prodigal son (in Luke 15)?
• Elder son said, “Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” (15:29)
• Father said, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” (15:31)

We actually experience God’s grace far more than we realize.
• But very often we do not enjoy His grace because we are trying to earn it; we want to show others how good we are. We live by merit, not by grace.
• In looking for our own goodness by which we hope to earn the blessing of God, we fail to see the super-abundant goodness and grace of God in our lives.
• When you are looking at your own goodness, you are blinded to God’s goodness.

LIVING UNDER HIS GENEROSITY

The parable highlighted two distinct groups of workers: those hired early in the morning and those at the 11th-hour.
• Those who worked for just an hour were treated extremely generously, each one receiving 12 times what he can earned in one hour.
• Why did the landowner hire these workers at the 11th-hour? Does he really need help for that last one hour? I don’t think so.

Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of heaven.
• Those 11th-hour workers were hired because they needed to receive a day’s wages.
• They had been standing all day waiting for someone to hire them so they could earn enough to support their families.
• They needed to work more than the landowner needed their work. He hired them, not because of his need, but because of their need.

Our God is consciously aware of our needs, and He is continuously working to meet them.
• God calls us to serve Him, not because He needs us but because we need Him.
• And His reward for our service is always out of proportion to our efforts - 100 times!

In the OT, we see God making a covenant to bless His people Israel.
• This promise was not given to people who were obedient and deserving of His goodness.
• For most part of their history, they sinned against God and betrayed Him.
• Yet He remained faithful and gracious.

Notice also a difference - the landowner agreed to pay the 1st group of workers a denarius a day (v.2), but the other workers had no stated agreement - “go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” (v.4)
• And so they went to work, trusting that the landowner will be fair and just. They work on that basis. It’s on the basis of TRUST.

We trust God today. God is not going to short-change us - in fact, we are undeserving. Whatever good we do can never justify God’s grace.
• “We have all fallen short of God’s glory!” [cf. Rom 3:23]
• We are taught to simply trust the Lord, and rely on His Word and character.
• God’s blessing for us is beyond what we can ever comprehend. “His grace is always sufficient for us.”

The landowner paid the men in reverse order, i.e. those who came last were paid first.
• In this way, the earlier workers saw how generous their employer was to their fellow-workers who did not have a contract.
• When the late workers receive a denarius, they happily thought that they would receive more since they have started working earlier.
• As each group was paid, these men saw their expectation decreasing until it was their turn in line, and each man received a denarius.

Of course, the men complained. Actually they had nothing to complain about, because that’s the price they agreed upon right at the beginning.
• There was one group that did not complain - those that had worked only for 1 hour.
• They nearly had no food for the day, and now they had a whole day’s wages.
• They didn’t think about any unfairness on the part of the landowner; they considered him very generous.
• Can we complain against someone for being generous? That’s how good our God is!

How do you think they felt? Grateful. That’s how we should feel today. Are you?
• The prodigal son returned home. How do you think he felt? Grateful.
• Do you think he is willing to work for the father? Yes, not as a hired servant; but a grateful son.

We serve our Father today because we’re grateful for what He has done. We serve because we have experienced His love and goodness.
• Paul says, “…for Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor 5:14). God’s grace motivates us to live for Him!
• If you truly understand the grace of God in your life, you will not sin.
• If you truly understand the grace of God in your life, you will live for Him.

Martin Luther says, “...blessings that come to us, at times can be through our works, and at times without our works, but never because of our works. God always gives them freely because of His great mercy. God great gifts & blessings are given, not because you have earned it, but simply because He is gracious.”

The rich young man asked, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (19:16)
Peter: “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (19:27)
• Both questions were wrong. We have eternal life and His blessings today, because God has chosen to offer them to us by His grace.
• It cost us nothing, but it cost Jesus everything.

Dear friends, this is what you need to do to have eternal life - put your trust in Jesus Christ.
• He died for your sin and mine. He died to save you from eternal condemnation.
• Receive Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord today, and you will have the gift of a new and eternal life. It is the gift of God.

One pastor describes it this way [Brian Bill, contributor of sermon The Scandal of Grace, Matt 20:1-16]:
• When we get to heaven, there will be no contest to see who was the most deserving of God’s grace because no one deserves it. All are sinners saved by God’s grace.
• There will only be one contest in heaven. When we recall how unworthy we were and Jesus standing there - the only contest will be to see who will sing the loudest, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

Sing Amazing Grace.
Reflect upon your salvation, how you come to know Christ.
Let’s sing with a grateful heart.