In Matthew chapter twenty-five Jesus was answering some comments the disciples had made about the Temple.
In the process, He touched on several issues, mostly relating to His return. Some things have already happened historically. Others are happening right now and some are yet to happen.
Chapter 25 opens with the parable of the ten virgins
The Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of ten bridesmaids who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
It is often said that we do not know when He will return and that even He does not know. Really?
He is the bridegroom, is He not? Surely a man knows when he is going to be married.
Marjorie and I did.
Our wedding was at 3pm on October 17th.
I put it to you that we might not be able to set our watches to a specific time and day, but we will know the season…
I do not intend getting onto bible prophecy, end time events and so on. That is not my objective. All I will say is that He once asked me a very pertinent question, “ Which group would you prefer to be in?” I quickly replied that I wanted to be one of those five wise girls. He replied, “ Wouldn’t you prefer to be the one who saw the bridegroom coming?” That really made me rethink my “theology”.
I want to draw your attention to that one man and others like him. Many are not even named, but they are important in God’s plan. The nativity story in one example and we will take it up in Luke 2, from verse 8.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep.
Those shepherds were part of a story that just about everyone in the world knows, but we do not know their names and we do not know what they did afterwards. When those angels left them, they could have gone about their business and eventually gotten over the incident, but they made a quality decision to act on what God had said. That is the key to your success. You can choose to follow His instructions or not and what happens afterwards depends on your decisions.
Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them.
Most of us would readily agree with me that we could liken the Lord to the man taking this journey and that the servants could be you or me. In the original text mention is made of this master’s goods. It is hyparchonta that indeed describes one’s substance or possessions. This describes what is presently real or tangible, as well as something that can yet come into existence. In other words, this man gave more than some money or a house or some actual object, but something that had the potential to produce something. It could be of like kind. It could be literal dollars, or a house or a car or...seed!
I have previously mentioned that God operates by the seed faith principle. In rough terms, if you do not sow any seed, you will never reap a harvest. We do this automatically every day of our working life without thinking it is the same principle. We sow our time and energy as the seed and the harvest (such as it may be) is our pay packet. What we see here is that the master; that is, the one who owns it, gives the servants the seed from which he expects to get a harvest.
God is looking for fruit, but to produce fruit, one has to be fruitful and the question remains, “What kind of fruit?”! This reminds me of what Jesus said-
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. John 15:8
Let us take a quick look at this now. In this discourse, Jesus is telling us that He is the vine and we are the branches and that we cannot exist without Him. If we truly want to be in relationship with God and please Him, expect some pruning! Please also remember that there are many different kinds of grapes. There are white grapes, black grapes, table grapes and wine grapes. There are grapes with seeds in them and seedless varieties. The Church is like this I suppose. We are a mixed bunch indeed, but every one of us in important and precious. Every one of us has a story to tell.
South Australia is one of the world’s renowned wine growing regions and a leisurely drive from my home takes me past many wineries. One is within a few minute’s stroll. Every season, the grower cuts the vines back until the plants look like dead sticks. There isn't a leaf on them! Those vines are trained to grow along trellises and so the vine is cultivated, pruned, tied back, watered and fertilised and, when necessary, protected from birds.
Our Father who watches over you and protects you and blesses you out of your socks is also a husbandman who does a lot of preparation in our lives that sometimes hurts! We pray a prayer of faith and can suddenly feel his hand grabbing hold of us and out come the secateurs to cut off some branches. That’s only the beginning. Loose and straggly vines are grabbed and tied back in some kind of order. We do not like such things. We prefer our independence. We do not like discipline. We want to have fun, enjoy life, watch TV, play games and expect the blessing of the Lord to fall on us automatically. I wish!
To get from the picture above we sometimes have to be like the picture here, to a grape vine after pruning. It sure looks dead and lifeless and, look closely at the trellis. It reminds me of a cross!
I feel emotional right now. I started writing something to bless and encourage you and so I will, but the Lord gently reminded me that the self life has to be crucified regularly...so that the fruit can eventually come. That is not a popular word-of-faith message, but it is necessary and is balanced. We like verse 8 and this one-
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. John 15:7
The Lord also said to keep on keeping on in Him and His love and to keep His commandments. It is conditional, but He also promised to give us the help we need to be able to please Him, which we can’t unless we are grafted into Him. When we are however, oh my, anything is possible. The Lord keeps telling me this. If we can only believe. He said that.
When a boy’s father came to Jesus for help, he asked Him to have mercy on him and help him...if you can (See Mark 9:22). The issue is not IF He CAN, but if He will and He does want to bless us and have mercy on us.
Jesus immediately replied-
“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Mark 9:23
Anything is possible if we can only believe. Believe what? Well, believe that anything is possible and believe that what He said will happen. Let’s get back to Matthew now and think of this man as the person who owns the vineyard. He wants a bumper crop this season, so you know what’s going to happen next. You guessed it. It’s pruning time, but this is a big vineyard and this farmer has already built up his business and he is employing others now. The owner puts in a manager and it is the manager’s task to employ staff and run the farm profitably and give regular reports to the owner.
I am registered with the Australian Government who issued me with a business number ABN 83 173 400 921.
God wants a return on His investment also and this seems evident from Mathew’s story. The owner gave the manager of one 20-acre vineyard enough to manage the farm and he worked the farm extremely well. He constructed a dam and planted more vines. He tried new varieties and explored better ways of fertilising the vines. He increased the scope of the business, even going into a joint venture arrangement with the neighbouring farm that grew apples and went from strength to strength.
The owner gave another man a 10-acre farm and he did well also. He dug a new well and replaced the old irrigation lines. He too planted more vines and looked for a better way to pick the grapes when it was the right time. He did a thorough overhaul of the tractors and made them as new and he also flourished.
The owner then put in a manager on a 5-acre lot that had good grapes. Last season had been reasonably good and the vines had promise. This manager didn’t want to risk anything. He gave token gestures only and barely kept the grapes alive, so the harvest, although “OK” barely covered running costs.
When it came time to check on progress, the owner was so pleased with the first man, he put him in charge of another property he owned. This was a 100-acre portion in a prime location and gave him a bonus with a large pay rise.
He came to the second man and was so pleased, he bought out the adjacent apple orchard, inspired by the first man and increased the manager’s salary.
After inspecting the third property, the owner sacked the manager and placed the first man in charge.
He told the first man, “Well done.” He told the second man, “Well done.” He told the third man to get out of his sight and leave immediately. “You’re fired.”
I’d now like to bring this into personal perspective. There are three classes of people in this story. You and I are in there somewhere. Every one of us is facing a new era; a new day; a new dawning and it is up to us as individuals to choose where we will finish up and what commendation we will receive.
Change is coming. That is for sure. Change came 2000 years ago when a man suddenly walked into human history and I am talking of John. He was a man with a mission. He was given a task and he went about it and Jesus commended him for it.
I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist Matthew 11:11
You could be “the least person”. You could be like one of those un-named shepherds at Bethlehem. For you and for me to join such illustrious ranks, we need to do something. Perhaps we need to do what the Lord kept saying-
And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it.
We might not be “an Elijah” but we can be like “a John.” There was a time when he started giving his message and telling people to get ready for the coming Messiah. There was a short period of time, or a gap, between when he started preaching and when Jesus arrived. When people heard it and responded, they started to assert their kingdom rights, even before Jesus started preaching. Many bible translators talk about the kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven as if they are the same thing. They are not. There is The kingdom, the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven and they are all different. Look at Acts 1:6 where the disciples asked Jesus if He was going to restore “the kingdom To Israel”. They did not say “the kingdom Of Israel”. One refers to a literal human kingdom such as that David had. The other relates to a kind of rulership in which things happen according to Divine principles.
In 1 Chronicles 29:11, David blessed the Lord saying,
Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all.
There is much to look at concerning these kingdoms, but a common thread is that God is the ultimate and supreme authority. What I am gradually learning is that He had delegated such authority to us, His Church and that He has given certain gifts, talents and abilities and has placed us in specific places in His vineyard. He wants a return on His investment of course, but what I like is that he has given us the ability to do it.
Wow! Think of it. He has commanded us to live in a certain way, do certain things, speak like He speaks and even do what Jesus did ion the earth and that’s scary at times—but He has also given us the ability to get it all together. The desire is ours. The choices are ours. We can be like one of those ten virgins or the watchman and the choice is ours. We have the power and authority to choose which kind of farm manager we want to be and so will be rewarded accordingly. We can be like one of those shepherds who had an angelic visitation and get goosebumps on our goosebumps and think it was wonderful and do something constructive and creative about it.
I anticipate a great and wonderful year (as I write this on Januray 2, 2017) that will have many blessings and opportunities. Even before 2016 came to a close, we saw it starting. Opportunities presented themselves to us—and we took them. Challenges faced us, but we overcame them. We both faced potential health problems, but refused to allow them to land on us—and remain. Marjorie and I made choices and even before the New Year Eve festivities are over, we are starting to experience the blessing. May increase more and more, both for us personally and for you.