Friday, January 15, 2016, 7:50 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Not Be Silent.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Matthew 21:28-32 (NASB).
Two Responses (vv. 28-31a)
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he regretted it and went. The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, ‘I will, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.”
When a person is overconfident, he may be presumptuous, arrogant, and self-confident to an excessive degree (beyond measure). This second son seems to have exhibited some amount of this overconfidence. It would appear that he certainly spoke before he considered what he was saying. He was all talk but no action, though, like the people of God who gave him lip service only, but their hearts were far from God, because they were operating in the flesh and not in the Spirit. Yet, actions speak louder than words. God often chided his people throughout history because their actions did not match their profession.
God is not pleased with lip service only. He does not smile on us and delight in us when we go our own way while ignoring his commands, and/or while we forget about our commitments to follow him and to do what he says. He doesn’t get excited over our praise and worship services where we lift our hands and sing songs about him, and then walk away from there and do whatever we desire, even following the ways of this sinful world, and then immersing ourselves in the sinful practices of those who make no claims to Christ at all. Don’t tell him you love him if you are not willing to do what he says and to keep his word. If it is just words with no action, why bother? Better to remain silent than to speak and then to not act.
The first son, nonetheless, was honest. He had no intentions to do what his father said, and he voiced it plainly. Yet, he later repented of his sin, and he obeyed his father and did what his father asked. Was he right in what he did initially in refusing to do what his father asked? No! He was not right in what he did any more than the second son was by voicing an intention to obey and then not obeying. The difference between the two was that the first son realized the error of his ways and he repented of his sin, and then he obeyed his father.
The Way of Righteousness (vv. 31b-32)
Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.”
Jesus told this parable and others like it to make a point. The people of God at that time were the Jews. They were given the promise of a Messiah to come, but when he came, they refused to listen to him, they rejected him, and eventually they killed him. They hung him on a cross to die, although he had done no wrong.
Yet, even before he came on the scene, they rejected the one who came before him to prepare the way for him. They rejected the way of righteousness, and instead chose to hold on to their hypocrisy and lip service only while they continued to disobey God and refused to honor God’s Son, their Messiah. They thought God should approve them because of all the rules they religiously followed, but following a set of rules is not the same as obedience. Obedience is surrender. It is submission. It is death to sin and self, and it is living and walking now in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh. It is realizing that your life is not your own. You were bought with a price, and now you are to honor God with your life.
Many who call themselves Christians have also rejected the way of righteousness, and have chosen to follow their own paths while still claiming that they have heaven guaranteed. They think God is pleased with them because they, at one time, voiced a prayer inviting Jesus into their hearts or because they acknowledged that he died to save them from their sins. Jesus is not interested in lip service only, though. If we say that we love him, but we do not do what he says as the practice of our lives, then we are liars, and we don’t really love him. Words only are cheap. When they are not backed up with action, they can be an insult to the one to whom they are spoken. If we claim to have fellowship with him, but we continue to conduct our lives according to our sinful flesh (walk in darkness), we are liars and the truth is not in us (See: 1 John). If we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live (See: Ro. 8:1-14).
The way of righteousness is first of all to trust in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives by the Spirit via death to sin, being transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit, and via now walking in the Spirit and living to righteousness (See: Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6:1-23; 8:1-14; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; & 1 Pet. 2:24-25). God’s grace is not a free license to live however we want and to pick and choose what we will do for God and what we won’t. God’s grace, which brings salvation, teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return (Tit. 2:11-14). Jesus died not so we could continue on sinning while claiming we have peace with God and the hope of heaven. He died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us (2 Co. 5:15). A saved life is a crucified life. A saved life is a life that walks in obedience to God, not in absolute perfection, but consistently and persistently walking in the Spirit and by the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the flesh.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day looked their noses down on the prostitutes and the tax collectors. They saw them as “sinners,” but did not see their own selves as such. They were overconfident in their own self-righteousness and thus were blinded to their own sinful condition. And, there are many people just like that today, too. They see themselves as religious. They attend church services at least once a week. They give to the church, serve on a board or a committee, teach a small group, sing in a praise team, or do some other community service of some kind, and they think that makes them good with God, but they don’t give God their hearts and their obedience.
And, then there are those who think because they voiced a belief of some kind in Jesus Christ that it guarantees them a relationship with God and eternity with God in heaven. Yet, they believe God does not require repentance or obedience, and so it doesn’t matter how they live between the time they are “saved” and the time they die and go to heaven. They are, perhaps, more like the first son who said he would not obey before he finally repented of his sin and then did what the father told him to do. And, yet they are like the second son, too, in giving lip service to God/Jesus but absent of obedience, i.e. their walk does not match their profession. Although they profess to have been delivered out of their sin, they still walk in it, completely disregarding the teachings of Jesus and of his NT apostles.
True belief in Jesus Christ is not words only. True belief is accompanied by true repentance and obedience to Christ and to his word. A profession without action is meaningless.
Not Be Silent / An Original Work / December 3, 2012
Based off Psalm 30
O Lord my God, I’ll exalt You.
I called for help,
And You healed me.
O Lord my God,
You brought me from the grave.
You spared me from hell.
Sing to the Lord, you saints of His;
Praise His holy name today.
Weeping may remain for a night;
Joy at break of day.
Our debt He did pay!
O Lord my God, I said, “I will
Ne’er be shaken.” Secure, I felt.
O Lord my God, You forgave me.
Confident I stand in You.
When I could not see
Your face I was dismayed.
I called to You. O Lord,
You are my help.
You were merciful to me;
By Your grace set free!
O Lord my God, I’m so thankful for
Salvation through my Jesus.
You turned wailing into dancing;
Clothed me with Your joy today,
That my heart may sing
To You and not be silent.
Praise Your name.
O Lord my God,
I will give you
My Lord, I adore!