Matthew 20:1-16 NIV
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
The Kingdom of Heaven
What is the “kingdom of heaven”? It is a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one. It is ruled by God, not by men. God is head over all, and all who are within his kingdom submit to his rule and authority. And, all who are within his kingdom have turned away from lives of sin to follow him in obedience to his commands. So, the kingdom of heaven is the church, the true church, which is spiritual and which is a living organism, not an organization of men.
We don’t become members of this church by going through a membership 101 class, or by signing some covenant of membership with a church denomination. We don’t become members of this church through physical water baptism, either, or by going through catechism. We become members of this church immediately upon faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior of our lives, via death to sin, and being reborn of the Spirit of God.
But, this “faith” that it takes for us to be part of this kingdom of heaven is not fleeting. It is not superficial. And, it is not some one-time emotional decision that fades away with time. This faith is a gift of God to us. And, it is divine persuasion of God to turn away from our lifestyles of sin to now follow our Lord in surrender and in walks of obedience to his Word.
This faith is also continuous. It is ongoing. And, it is proved genuine by how we live our lives for God, by what we do in heart response to our Lord’s commands. For, this faith is a lifestyle, not a feeling. For, we must walk (in conduct, in lifestyle) according to (in agreement with) the Spirit of God, and we must not walk (in practice) according to the flesh (Rom. 8:1-17).
So, it isn’t just a religion. It isn’t some association with some church denomination, either. And, it isn’t membership in some social club. For, it has nothing to do with these organizations of men called “church,” or with buildings built by human hands, or with being Baptist or Methodist, etc. For, you can be Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Lutheran and Episcopalian, too, and still not enter into the kingdom of heaven. I hope we all get that!
We are The Church
Thus, the closing of the doors to these “churches” in America, or in other nations, has not closed the door to “the church,” “the kingdom of heaven.” Do you see where I am going with this? We don’t cease being the church just because we are not in some building once a week which is called “church.” And, we don’t have to cease meeting with one another in today’s technological world just because we can’t go to physical buildings.
But, let me say this, and this is very important that we get this. Getting online and watching your “church service” in place of gathering together is not the church. The people are the church. We are the church. You and I are the church if we are in Christ through genuine faith in him, which dies with Christ to sin, and which is living to Christ and to his righteousness. Watching a “church service” on TV or on the internet is not what God had in mind for his church.
Sermons are good, if they are of God, and if they are biblical and sound in doctrine, so I am not knocking sermons. But, the church is made up of all of us, and we each have a part to fulfill within the body. We each have a job, in other words. God has given us gifts of the Spirit and he has given each one of us assignments, i.e. he has “hired” us to do the work of the Lord.
So, take this opportunity while these “church” doors are closed to be the church God intended you to be with Jesus as your true head, and with the scriptures as your true manual, and with the Holy Spirit as your true guidance and direction. Pull away from this idea that the “church” is a physical building or a physical organization which is run like a business.
God has given you something he wants you to do. Do it! He has something he wants you to share with the rest of us. Share it! He has gifts he has given you to do the work he has called you to do. Use them! Use those tools he has given you to work his vineyard. And, don’t be lazy.
You know why it says we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together? It has nothing to do with all of us sitting in chairs or in pews as spectators listening to a handful of people utilize their gifts, if in fact that is what they are doing. So, why gather? That we may encourage one another in our walks of faith so that none of us are hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
And, do you know that the scriptures teach that we grow together to maturity in Christ as “each part” does its work? And, that all of us are necessary? And, that we are not to feel as though we are not needed? And, do you know that it says we are not to treat others within the body of Christ as though they are not wanted, either? (See: Rom. 12, 1 Co. 12; Eph. 4).
But, this is happening in “churches” of men all the time now, this making no room for “each part” to do its work, and this telling people that they are not needed and/or wanted. For, the Holy Spirit is being crowded out in favor of the teachings and marketing schemes of men. And, this is just wrong!!
Ok, so what does this all have to do with this passage of scripture? Well, we are talking about the kingdom of heaven here, which is the true church with Jesus Christ as her true head. And, we are talking about God inviting people to work for him in his vineyard, which is us.
And, the work he is giving us to do is to share his gospel far and wide, and it is to encourage one another within the body of Christ. And, it is to help one another to grow to maturity in Christ. And, we “each” have a part, not just a few. And, that means you! And, me.
And, it doesn’t matter who has been a Christian the longest, or how many people have Bible college degrees, or what gifts we have been given, or what our assignments from God are within the body of Christ. Not one of us is to be raised above another. We all matter! We all have a part! And, we need to be busy doing the work he assigned us.
So, how can we do that? He will show us the way. If we are on the internet, which I assume you are if you are reading this, there are many things we can do. But, we need to inquire of the Lord and ask him what assignment he has for us, for we don’t want to be in the wrong place, especially if we are trying to serve God in our own flesh.
So, ask the Lord to show you how you can be used within the universal body of Christ right now to help all of us grow to maturity in Christ. Ask him to show you how he would have you to encourage other brothers or sisters in Christ in their walks of faith. But, know that the word “encourage” is not just making people feel good about themselves. For, it includes urging, admonishing, insisting (in the Lord), advising, inspiring and appealing, too.
And, don’t worry about what other people are going to think about you. And, don’t do what you do to get “likes” or human applause and acceptance. Do what you do for the glory of God and for the spiritual wellbeing of others. Put others above your own comfort, and do what you do out of a heart of love for other people in light of eternity.
How Beautiful Heaven Must Be
Songwriters: A. P. Bland / A. S. Bridgewater / Dwight Moody Brock
We read of a place that’s called heaven,
It’s made for the pure and the free;
These truths in God’s word He has given,
How beautiful heaven must be.
How beautiful heaven must be
Sweet home of the happy and free;
Fair haven of rest for the weary,
How beautiful heaven must be…