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21. The Parable of the Two Sons


Chapter 21

The Parable of the Two Sons

Matthew 21:28-32

Eric H. H. Chang

February 22, 1981


“What do you think? A man had two sons, and he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” And he answered, “I will not.” But afterwards he repented and went. And he went to the second son and said the same and he answered, “I will, sir.” But did not go. Which of the two did the will of the father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and harlots go 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 the harlots believed him, and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent, and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)

We continue to consider this Parable of the Two Sons, as it is called, in Matthew 21:28-32. As you see from verse 45, he speaks to the Pharisees, the chief priests and the religious leaders.

Now this passage is very similar in many ways to the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. In that parable, there were two sons, one who left the father, and the other who stayed with the father, thinking that he was doing the father’s will, when he was in fact, not doing it. Here, you can see the close parallel between those two sons, and these two sons. What is the message that the Lord Jesus has for us here?

Have you responded to God’s call?

Whether you are a Christian, or not a Christian—“Have you truly responded to God’s call?” My question is not whether you think you have responded to God’s call, as I am sure many of you think you have. But I would like you to ask yourselves this question, and let the Spirit of God search your heart as to whether you have truly responded to His voice.

As Christians, it is essential we are committed to love the truth. You are not a true Christian if you simply love a religion. You are not a true Christian if you simply love a Christian way of thinking. You only truly become a Christian when you are committed to love the truth.

Many of you might have thought this man has been expatiating about loving the truth previously, but he never once gave us the definition of the truth. How great an over-sight for a preacher. Surely, if he wants us to love the truth, he must tell us what the truth is that we may love it. And so, no doubt, many were thinking to themselves: “Dear! Dear! This preacher really has not only failed to hit the nail on the head, but he has also made a great hole in the wall!”

Well, I was not entirely unaware of this very thing. But if you are thinking that you need to get a definition of the truth, so that you can believe it, then you have really not understood what truth is in Biblical terms. In Scripture, truth is not a thing that you know by way of a definition. In Scripture, the truth is revealed, and unless God reveals it to you, no definition of the truth will help you know it. That is why the Lord Jesus, who fully represents God, said to those who did not love the truth, “I won’t tell you who I am. I won’t tell you what is my authority” (Mt. 21:23). He refuses to reveal the truth to those who do not have a commitment to love it. That is why in Scripture, it is really not a question of defining the truth, but of experiencing it. That is, when God has revealed His truth to you, you will not only perceive it, but you will experience it.

If you would like a definition of the truth, try the Oxford dictionary and see whether that will get you anywhere. I doubt that you will be much enlightened by such a definition. Here is the Oxford dictionary definition of the truth: “quality, state of being true or accurate, honest or sincere or loyal, or accurately shaped or adjusted.” This is very enlightening! Of course, truth is not something that you can define in this sort of way, so we need not ridicule the Oxford dictionary.

Actually, this definition is not too bad. It shows you that truth is something that you are, rather than something that you know. “The state of being honest, sincere, loyal” is the state of being. How do you become like this? Truth is something that you know, because God has revealed it to you; and through experiencing the truth, you become the kind of person that can be described as true.

The point is, truth is relative. It is relative to something outside of itself. You say a thing is true when that thing conforms to a certain reality. For example, you have seen an artist drawing a portrait of some person in many shopping centers. You stand behind the artist to look at his picture, and you look at the subject, and you see just how correct his picture is in relation to the subject. So when you say that this picture is a true portrait, you mean that it conforms to the reality of the subject.

When you say something is true, you are speaking with a frame of reference outside the thing itself. This is very important to grasp. Since truth is something that has a frame of reference outside of itself, what would be the standard of truth when you speak of the truth? All spiritual reality must conform to the reality of God. A thing is true or not true, depending on the reference to God who is the truth. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6), because he is conformed to the character of God, the Father who sent him.

How do we know the truth? It has to do with our response to God’s call, as we shall see in this passage that we are studying today. You will or will not know the truth, according to your response to God’s call. Have you responded to God’s call?

It’s not what you say that matters, but what you do

Let us look at this passage. A man has two sons. The Greek word, teknon means child, but quite correctly, it can be translated as “sons” although it is not the usual Greek word for son. But since they are sent to work in the vineyard, one can well assume that they are sons.

He went to the first child and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” The first thing I would like you to notice is the word, “today”. The response to the call is not something in the future. God addresses us today, if He addresses us at all. God is speaking to us this very day.

God’s call confronts us with a sense of unworthiness

Now notice the response of the first son: “I will not”, or “I don’t want to go.” It is rude, it is blunt, and this kind of reply seems to invite some spanking from the father. But we don’t see the father responding like this here. Afterwards, this son repented. There are two words for “repent” in Greek. One is the word that I often refer to as, “the change of mind.” The other word here, μεταμέλομαι (metamelomai) indicates a strong regret to one’s own conduct, a disgust with oneself. When the first son stopped to think about it, he felt he had been very rude to his father, and he felt disgusted with himself that he should have behaved like this to his father.

So this word has one difference from the other word for “the change of mind,” and that is, this word stresses the feeling itself; no action necessarily follows. Or, this strong feeling of regret, or disgust with oneself, may or may not lead to the right action. In Matthew 27:3, this is the same word used of Judas, when he felt disgusted with himself for betraying the Lord Jesus. He felt so bitter with himself that he committed suicide.

In the case of the first son in Matthew 21, it does lead to the right action, but in the case of Judas in Matthew 27, it does not lead to the right action. There needs to be a certain strong feeling of disgust about oneself, when one comes to recognize one’s failure, one’s unworthiness. That is the first step in responding to one’s call. In Isaiah 6:5 for example, when God dealt with Isaiah at his call, Isaiah had a sense of utter unworthiness, a shame with himself that he said, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah had this problem of speaking in haste, of being a man of unclean lips. Many of us have this problem just as Isaiah had, of speaking in haste, of being a person of “unclean lips”, because of the lack of self-control.

Now it is this call of God that confronts us with this sense of unworthiness. We immediately feel, “I am so unworthy of the Lord. I am unworthy to be His child. I am unworthy to be His servant. I have got so many faults, so many failings.” You could not have been very much of a Christian, if this sense of unworthiness has not challenged you.

But notice the second son. He responds quite differently from the first. In Matthew 21:30, when the father speaks to him about going to the vineyard, he said, “Yes sir, I will go.” It is quite surprising that a son addresses his father as “sir”. It is so respectful, so cultured, and so apparently obedient. But he did not go.

So the Lord Jesus says, “Which of these two sons did the father’s will?” Which do you think? The one whose “no” became a “yes”? Or the one whose “yes” became a “no”? It is not what we say but what we do that matters. The second son said “yes,” but he did nothing. Even the Pharisees had to say, “The first son who went to work in the vineyard did the will of the father.”

Then the Lord Jesus closes this conversation in verse 32 and says, “For John came to you in the way of righteousness….” In 2 Peter 2:21, the Christian life, indeed, the gospel itself is called “the way of righteousness.” And why do we have this sense of unworthiness, this sense of failing? It is precisely because we realize that we have not matched up to this way of righteousness that is required of us.

Let us get to the main points that the Lord Jesus is teaching us here.

1. God’s Word constitutes God’s call

The first point is, the father approaches the son and speaks to him. You have heard me speaking about a call earlier on, but you may say, “I don’t see anything about a call here.” But this is precisely the call here! What is a call? In Scripture, the call is when God’s Word comes to you. Even now as you are listening to this preaching, as you hear the Word of God being expounded, you are being called. Do you realize that? If you are a non-Christian, then at this very moment, God’s Word is addressing you and calling you.

Why do I say that God’s Word itself constitutes the call? It is because God’s Word always requires a response. God’s Word is not a lecture on any subject like philosophy or literature, to which you can just listen and no response is required, because it is not simply knowledge that you put into your head. Unlike studying mathematics, or physics, or chemistry, or whatever subject, there is nothing to respond to. It is simply knowledge for you to acquire, and hopefully, to do something with it in the future. But God’s Word is not like that. It always requires a response. In not making a response, you have already made a response, for the non-response is itself a “no”. So God’s Word constantly confronts us with the need to make a response. That is why God’s Word is always a call. It speaks to us.

In Isaiah 6:1-4, the very coming of the Word of God is a call for Isaiah. It demands a response. The same is true everywhere in the Old Testament. If you look at Hosea 1:1, or Joel 1:1, or Micah 1:1, and Zephaniah 1:1 for example, you will read that the prophet says, “The Word of Yahweh (the LORD) came to me,” that is, the Word of God addressed him. They became prophets of God because the Word of God came to them, and they responded to that Word. That is what constitutes a prophet.

In the New Testament, when God’s Word comes to you, and you respond to It, this is how you are constituted a Christian. Or if you reject it, you have said “no” to God, and shut yourself out from the kingdom, unless you repent afterwards like this son.

2. God’s call is always a call to serve

The second thing to notice is, God’s call is always a call to serve. In this parable, the father says to the son, “Go and work in the vineyard” (Mt. 21:28). So God’s call to us to become Christians, is never a call simply to raise our hands to say, “I want to be a Christian.” That is not Christianity. Every Christian is commissioned to a task. There is no Christian that has no job to do. If you are an unemployed Christian, you are not in the church at all. The church of the living God is a place of service. Every Christian is called to action—“Go and work in the vineyard.” The vineyard is the symbol of the kingdom of God. We are called to serve God in His kingdom.

3. How you respond to God’s call is crucial

The third thing we need to notice is, how you respond to God is absolutely crucial. You may respond at first, in a very rude and antagonistic way: “I will not go. I don’t want to go.” But you repent of it.

When I first came into contact with the gospel, I had the same attitude. I had no time for Christianity. I felt myself completely hardened and rejecting the gospel, not because I had any knowledge of the gospel as such, but because of the Christians that I saw. When I looked at all those Christians, frankly, they made me sick! Therefore I did not want to have anything to do with the gospel. My initial reply was, “I will not go—I don’t want to hear this stuff!” But as time went on, I began to feel a sense of disgust with myself, for my arrogance. I began to see that I needed to turn to God. Of course, after my experience of God in the prison camp in China, where God met with me, my whole life was then revolutionized and changed. I responded to His call in the prison camp. God’s Word addressed me, and at that time I said, “Yes, I will go.”

4. Responding to God’s call is: do His will—serve Him

The fourth thing to notice in this passage is doing God’s will; not just hearing that call, but doing it. Doing God’s will is not just saying, “Yes” or “No”, but getting into the substance that it means to serve God, and we need to look at this in some detail.

Let us ask ourselves this particular question, what does it mean to say, “Yes” to God’s call? We know that the first son who said “no,” represents the tax collectors and prostitutes, the moral and social scum of society. And the second son represents the Pharisees and the religious leaders. They are the ones who said, “Yes sir,” but they did not do God’s will. Too often, we have failed to learn that the spiritually most promising people are those that the world regards as the immoral and social down-and-outs. The tax collectors and prostitutes were not the poorest people in society. In fact, many of the tax collectors were quite well-to-do. Prostitutes were engaged in a very repulsive profession. They were morally down-and-out to the moral-minded people, but they were not necessarily poor.

The words of the Lord Jesus here speak the truth, that the most promising people are not at all the religious people. It is not the churchgoers that are going to be the great foundation of the work of God in the future, much to our surprise. All these moral people have a strange way of resisting God’s will. It is very strange. As Wesley discovered, when he was locked out of his church by the Anglican establishment, his work began to blossom in a way that never happened before. He began to preach upon the streets, and the multitudes turned to God, setting forth a revival, the likes of which England has not seen since that day.

And so I say to you, as Christians, not only should we never despise those outside the fold of Christianity, but we should also much more recognize that the real potential for the future development of the church is there. Never look at prostitutes as non-entities as revolting people. We don’t know why they are in prostitution. Many of them are in it, simply because that is the only way to make a living that they know how. Let us not be so superior in our moral judgment of other people.

The Lord Jesus is spoken of as “a friend of sinners, tax collectors” in Matthew 11:19. These are the kinds of people that he particularly had compassion for. The tax collectors were hated by the Jews; they were regarded as traitors to their nation, because they were collecting taxes for the Romans from their own people. Again, it may be very revolting to us, and certainly to my mind. I was brought up in the notion of loyalty to my country. Therefore I do find this kind of people very revolting. But again, we judge people by our human standards too easily. And this would be wrong because we don’t know why they are doing this. Are they greedier for money than anyone else? They have to make a living too. We don’t agree with their standard of morality, but we are not here to be judges. It is the sick who need a physician, not those who are well.

I have increasingly found that when speaking to non-Christians, the response is so much more positive than speaking to Christians. Christians have all kinds of superiority notions that they are so much better than everybody else when they are often much worse. And this kind of built-in arrogance is often under the form of courtesy. So when God speaks to you, what is your response to His call? A very polite “Yes sir,” very cultured indeed, very admirable externally, but do you do God’s will?

Why is our “yes” a “no” in doing God’s will?

Let us continue our analysis of this matter. Did the Pharisees and the religious leaders think they were not doing God’s will? I don’t think so. Why do we say “yes” and not do God’s will? I can think of five different reasons for this.

1. Willful disobedience

We could analyze this to say that the Pharisees and the religious leaders of Israel were willfully disobedient. They said, “Yes sir,” tongue in cheek. They did not really mean to do God’s will, but they still said, “Yes.” They were willfully disobedient to God’s will. But I think this is the least likely of the reasons. This is what scares me about responding to God’s call.

If we could say that we are not like these religious leaders, because we don’t speak with tongue in cheek, then we can again, put ourselves in a class superior to the Pharisees. But let me say this to you: the more I study the Scriptures, and the more I know about the Pharisees, the more I find that we are just like them. They are not worse people than we are. As I study the life of the Pharisees and their character, I would think that in fact, in most cases, they are far superior to us.

We have been taught that the Pharisees are just a bunch of hypocrites, play actors, but that is not true to life at all. All you need to do is study some scholarly work on the life of the Pharisees, and you will see that they are very admirable, and indeed, very sincere people. They certainly did not lack sincerity. For me, that was a striking discovery, because I would always be able to say to myself before, “Well, I am not insincere and I am not hypocritical, therefore I am not a Pharisee.” Wrong! The Pharisees were not in the least insincere. Therefore if they are sincere, then something else must be the reason for their disobedience.

2. Self-Deception

So this takes us to the second point of this analysis. We may say “yes” to God’s call, as I suppose most Christians have done. In Scripture, the “call” has nothing to do with full-time service. When I first studied the word “call” in the New Testament, I was astonished that I could not find the usual use of the word “call,” like being called to full-time service. That is a Christian invention.

Like the Pharisees, we have imposed our own meaning on words. All you need to do is study the use of the word “call” in the New Testament, and you will see that as Christians, we are all called. I discover that in Scripture, the call always refers to God’s Word addressing every person. If you have responded to God’s Word, then you are called. Therefore every Christian seated here today, has been called. You cannot pass the buck to say, “Only those people in training are called. We are not called.” That is a misuse of the term “call” in Scripture.

The reason for not doing God’s will is, we might suppose that in saying “yes” to God’s call, we have already done it. This is a piece of self-deception that really scares me! Perhaps a call was given at a meeting to say “yes” to God’s Word, and you responded to that call, and so thought you have done God’s will.

Likewise, the Pharisees and scribes may think that they have done God’s will when they have said “yes” to God’s Word. This son may think in saying “yes”, he has already pleased his father, and nothing more needs to be done. Whether he actually goes to the vineyard or not, doesn’t matter all that much, seeing that he has already pleased the father by saying “yes.”

Strange as this may seem, when I talked to various Christians, this is exactly what they think. They think that when they raised their hands and said, “yes,” whether it was to an altar call, or to some preacher asking for dedication to serve God in future, they have already obeyed God. They think that the response is equivalent to doing His will. What else do they need to do? Now it is up to God to do something else with them. So their “yes” effectively becomes a “no.” This is very, very dangerous indeed.

3. Procrastination

There is a third reason as to why a person says “yes”, and does not do God’s will. It is very important to see the point that a person may say, “yes”, and not be willfully intending to disobey God. I shudder to think of how many meetings I have been at, where the preacher says, “How many of you will raise your hands to commit yourself to God for full-time service?”, and so many hands went up! But where were these people when it came to full-time service? They are nowhere to be seen! I often wondered to myself, are these people really willfully disobeying God? What were they doing at these meetings? What went through their minds? Did they willfully deceive themselves and the preacher? Why did they raise their hands if they did not genuinely intend to enter God’s service?

I guess the point simply is that, they raised their hands with the intention of serving God in a full-time sense, somewhere in the future, but not today, not tomorrow, not the day after, but “someday, I will serve God. ” Therefore they think that in saying “yes” in this way, they have already fulfilled what is required. They feel that they have pleased God, they have pleased the preacher, and they have pleased themselves. But were they being dishonest? No, they do mean that one day, whenever that day will be, they will be serving God. But that fatal one day, is constantly pushed ever further into the future. Maybe that one day will come when they retire, then they will have a lot of time on their hands, and then they can serve God full-time after they are sixty-five, assuming they live till then. And if they did not live till then, presumably it was not God’s will for them to serve God full-time!

Now I cannot understand this thinking unless this is the reasoning going on. And many times, I have questioned people about this, and they would say, “Oh yes, one day, one day.” One does not know when that one day is. It is forever being pushed still further away.

4. Serving God in my way

There is a fourth possibility why a person may say “yes”, and it still turns out to be a “no”. It is this: “Yes, I will do it, but I will do it in my way.” Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” The whole key is doing things your way. So I say “yes” to God, already with the understanding in my mind that I will serve God in my way.

For example, I said to one person just lately, “Did you not make a commitment to full-time service?”

He said, “Yes.”

So I said, “Then are you not in breach of that commitment?”

“But I am serving God in all my spare time.”

Now I cannot understand this reasoning. Is this deliberate self-deception? Doesn’t he know that serving God in one’s spare time is not a definition of full-time service? Then why did he make a commitment in the first place? Why has the “yes” become a “no”? And yet people like this don’t seem to have their conscience bothering them, and this really bothers me. I am very puzzled that Christians can practice this type of deception upon themselves. And do they think that they have really deceived God? Why not simply say, “No, I will not,” and that is an honest answer? But don’t say “yes”, and it turns out to be “no”.

So this brother is doing it his way. He thinks that he is more or less serving God full-time by doing a lot of Christian activity. Maybe it’s just a few percentage points below full-time service, but who worries about a few percentage points? It is strange how we can do these things. That is why I say this is where it frightens me. Have you really responded to God’s call to be a Christian, and to serve Him as one? Full-time or not full-time is not the question right now. What I am saying is, are you living the Christian life as God requires you to live it? If not, in what way is your “yes” a “yes”? In what way is your response to God the kind of response that He should be receiving from you?

Let us take it down to everyday life. Take for example, do you lose your temper quite often? If so, how is your “yes” a “yes”, to God’s call? Did the Christ He sent not call us to take up the cross and follow him, and did he not call us to be meek and lowly of heart? Did he not call us to shine as light, so as to glorify his Father and God in this world? Do you glorify God? If not, how is your “yes” a “yes”? Is not your “yes” a “no”? In your office, in your school, in your home, is your life so glorifying to God? Are you shining as light in the world? But if not, what happened to your “yes” to God’s call? I don’t mean that you have to be perfect, but does it grieve you when you do ungodly things? Does it grieve you, or doesn’t it when you let your passion run away with you? If you have failed, do you have this painful sense of self-disgust which causes you to change your direction, that you don’t do this again?

We are so quick at seeing the faults of the Pharisees. We see the great big splinter in their eye, when all the time, this great beam is sticking out of our own eye. I have often heard it said, that Christians are not even ordinary let alone extraordinary, and it cuts me to the heart. We fail again and again, and yet we think that we have said “yes” to God. The question is not whether you have said “yes,” the question is whether you are doing His will.

Our emphasis has to be right. I must ask myself constantly, “Is my life at home, or in the church, or out in the streets, or wherever I go, glorifying to Him?” If not, then my “yes” is also a “no”, because I am not doing His will. We know what His will is. Let us not say we don’t know what His will is. If you say, “I don’t know what I am supposed to do,” you can start by glorifying Him. Start by living such a life that your friends say, “I look at this man and I say, ‘That’s what being a Christian is about. Nobody has to give me a definition of Christianity.’”

Why is it that when I talk to various people, almost everyone tells me the same thing? “I did not want to become a Christian, because the Christians behaved in such a way that they disgusted me.” How can you be a Christian if you did not say “yes” to God at some time? Did you not say “yes” to God? Then your “yes” is a “no”, just like these people. If anyone can say, “My knowing you has put me off from Christianity for good, then your “yes” is a “no.” It is a disgrace to the gospel, a disgrace to God, no matter how politely, how nicely you said, “Yes sir” to Him.

Why call Jesus, “Lord”, when you don’t do God’s will as he does?

What is more, the Greek word translated as “sir” in verse 30, is the same Greek word for “lord”, so it reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things that I tell you?” The whole Sermon on the Mount tells us we are to imitate Christ, to do the will of God. So he asks us, “Why do you call me “Lord,” and then lose your temper with your wife or your husband? Why do you call me “Lord,” and you get irritable with people? Why don’t you do the things I tell you to do? I said that you are to be light; you are to be salt of the earth; you are to be meek, to forgive, to help those in need, to love your neighbor.” If you haven’t done these things, why do you dare to call Jesus, “Lord”?

Are we better than the Pharisees? I don’t think we are any better than the Pharisees. If anything, I think we might be worse than they. We too readily congratulate ourselves when our lives are marked by constant failure in every department. For example, as young people, do you manage to keep your sexual desires under control? That is an area where young people fail, again and again, and again! It is so difficult to keep one’s sexual drives under control. Then do you do things that dishonor God? Do you hear Christ saying, “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord” and don’t do what I say?”

Yes, in these “days of opportunity,” as it is called, the opportunity for sin is waiting for us on all sides. I think with fear, of how many times I came near to making a disaster of my life! Today, as young people, you have your own rooms, and it is so easy to be alone with somebody. I shudder to think how in my student days, I myself came just so near to falling into sin. But for the mercy of God, I would have wiped out my witness all together!

Therefore, I don’t say this by way of condemning any of you. If you are struggling, and feel weak in the struggle, let me tell you, I am just as weak as you are. I am no superman. Maybe you are a lot stronger than I am. But beware! One little slip, and you will have to be sorry for it for the rest of your life. And then you will find yourself a lot worse off than the Pharisees! If you think they were hypocrites, just wait till you see what kind of hypocrite you have become, trying to put up a front of being a “Christian”, and living in sin. Alas! Your “yes” is really a “no”.

5. Have intention but cannot attain

We can think of a fifth reason why a “yes” is a “no.” Not only the fourth reason is “doing it my way”, but the fifth is saying “yes” with the intention of doing it, but saying, “I couldn’t do it.” “I really meant “yes,” but when it came to the bottom line of the matter, I couldn’t do it. I did not mean to be insincere. Lord, Your teaching is too difficult for me. My temper is bad, and I can’t help it that my temper is bad. I have tried to control it, I really meant to say “yes”, but I couldn’t do it.” And we hope that God will have pity upon us.

Will God have pity? Yes and no, depending on how we respond. If we say that the Christian life is unattainable, then we are meaning that God has asked us to do the impossible. He has given us a teaching through Christ, which is impractical, pie in the sky, and cannot be imple­mented. Now that is to say we failed because God made no provision for us. He gave us unrealistic teaching that was simply impossible to do. “So I did say, “yes”, and I meant “yes”, but I am sorry I couldn’t do it. But I am still saying “yes”, even though in fact, I am failing all the time. And I hope that God will have pity upon me.”

This won’t be good enough because God has given us the power to do it. Unless we are passing the buck back to God, saying, “God, You know my heart, I intended to do it, but I can’t. And because I can’t do it, it is Your fault for asking me to do the impossible.”

God has given us His holy Spirit to empower us

Unfortunately, we won’t get away with that. That is why God gave us His holy Spirit at Pentecost. He gave us His Spirit because He knew we could not do it. He gave us the Spirit to empower us so that we can. That is why I say, truth is to be experienced, brothers and sisters. Experience it to see whether God’s Word is true, whether it can be fulfilled. Otherwise you are saying God’s Word is not true. “He tells me to do what is impossible to do, therefore it is not true. It can’t be done.”

God gave us the power to move mountains (cf. Mt.17:20). He gave me the power that I don’t lose my temper. He gave me the power that I don’t have to be nervous and jittery, and end up having a mental breakdown. I am sorry for those who have mental breakdowns. I am sorry for those who are nervous and jittery. I am sorry for those who lose their tempers. But don’t put the blame on God, or on the church, or on anybody else. God provided us with the power that we do not go down. Even though I may have gone down before, I can rise again, because God’s power can lift me up again. My youth can be renewed as the eagle, if only I will so repent. It is not losing one’s temper and repenting, and losing one’s temper and repenting—a perpetual cycle of never-ending repentance; but a repentance which drives me so to take hold of God, that I will not fall again, at least not on that particular point. It is not true repentance if we keep saying, “sorry”, and keep doing the same thing. True repentance experiences God’s power, God’s reality and God’s truth in our lives.

God responds according to your response to do God’s will

I wonder which of these categories do you come under? I asked right at the beginning that you question yourself, whether you have responded to God’s call. If you have, ask yourself very honestly, whether your “yes” has truly been a “yes,” or whether it has turned out to be a “no.” Why do you have to examine yourself honestly on this question? It’s because whether you enter the kingdom of God, that is, whether you enter into God’s eternal life, hangs upon it.

In verse 31, in the passage we are studying today, Jesus tells us, because the Pharisees’ “yes” turns out to be a “no,” they shall not enter the kingdom of God. Whereas for these tax collectors and sinners (harlots or prostitutes), because their “no” became a “yes” through repentance, they enter into the kingdom of God.” And notice this: “The tax collectors and harlots go into the kingdom before you”, doesn’t mean that the Pharisees will follow later. It simply means that they have gone ahead of the Pharisees. The Pharisees have shut themselves out of the kingdom. We see this even more specifically stated in verse 43: “I tell you the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” Think of it!

If your “yes” becomes a “no,” then God’s “yes” will also be a “no”. The kingdom of God was already theirs, because how can the Lord God take away something they never had before? But the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to others. It is absolutely essential that we get this issue straight. How we respond to God’s call, whether or not we do God’s will, is the crucial issue to whether or not we will enter the kingdom of God.

It is very interesting that for those to whom God says, “Go,” and they obey, God will say, “Come.” In Matthew 25:34, we find this very thing. “Come! Blessed of my Father and enter into the rest prepared for you.” But on the other hand, those to whom God says, “Go” and don’t go, God will say, “Go” to them a second and final time. This we see also in Matthew 25:41. “Depart from me you evildoers!” Now that is the final “Go” of God.

So if we don’t respond to God’s first “Go”—God’s command to go and serve Him in His church, then the second “Go” will be a final “Go” to depart from God. That means “Go and don’t come back again.” That is the frightening “Go.” But to those who go in obedience to God’s will, God’s call, God will say, “Come! Blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom. The kingdom is now yours.”

So, truly examine yourself before God, as your eternal welfare depends on it. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that you have said, “Yes”, when for one of those five reasons you have actually said, “No.” This is the most important decision that you have to make. And if you have said “Yes”, then you must understand the “yes” in terms of going out to do His will every day, living the kind of life that glorifies God, and depending on God’s strength to do it. Then you will experience God’s truth.


(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church