Summary of the Sermon by Pastor Daniel Prajogo, Bethany International Church Melbourne, Australia, at Bethany International Service, on Sunday, 6 January 2019.
THE WAY WE RESPOND TO THE GRACE OF GOD
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16)
This parable depicts how the rules of the Kingdom of God work. If we believe that we are saved, we are in the Kingdom of God while we are still here on Earth. Therefore, we need to understand how the Kingdom of God works.
For the Kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner during harvest. In the old days the landowner usually needed extra workers during harvest. The extra workers are not permanent employees and are usually daily-rated workers.
There are five groups of people who work on different shifts - 6am, 9am, 12 noon, 3pm and 5pm. First hour begins at 6am. The workers in this group are the first and had a contract with the land owner. These workers are hired for an agreed amount – one denarius. The rest of the groups do not have a contract with the land owner and they have no idea how much they would be paid. It is based on trust, without a contract.
Jesus told this parable to give us an idea how we are related to God. Some Christians relate to God on a contract basis – we will serve God only if we receive something in return. Some Christians relate to God truly based on trust.
At the end of the day, the landowner pays all the workers starting from the last shift workers – the 5pm shift. These workers should receive only 1/12 denarius because they only work for an hour. The 5pm workers were so grateful because they expected 1/12 denarius but instead, they received full payment – every one of the workers received one denarius regardless of the number of hours they put in.
This parable talks about the grace and mercy of the LORD. God’s grace is beyond human, it is not something that we can assume or earn. We are either grateful for grace or we are angry about it. We may love it or hate it, like durians.
The workers who started working since 6am were angry with the landowner because they felt that they had been treated with injustice. They felt that they did more and they deserved more money. Our God is the God of justice and He never treats anyone unjustly; and He is also the God of grace. He gives both grace and justice.
Have we ever been angry with God and we feel God is unjust? We think we have been doing so much for God and while others, who don’t do so much for God, seemed to be blessed more than us. If we have this mindset, we belong to the first group of workers – always comparing ourselves with the rest of the shift workers. When they received their payment, they began to grumble against the landowner.
There are people who serve God because of the reward they expect from God, like how the older son, in the Parable of the Lost Son, related to his father – they are disappointed and upset with God. We create a contract mindset with God which eventually results in our anger with God just like the older son towards his father. ‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ Luke 15:11-32
Peter was trapped in a contract-based relationship with God in Matthew 19:27, like the young rich man. 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Peter thought he was better than the young man; Peter followed Jesus by giving up everything and he began to be disappointed with Jesus.
When Jesus was crucified on the cross, two criminals hung on His left and right. While on the cross, one criminal repented at the eleventh hour and Jesus saved him. This criminal can be compared to the workers who started working at 5pm. This is why grace and salvation can only be found in Christ Jesus, not because of our own good works. Romans 6:23, Salvation is not a wage, it does not come from our good works and efforts. It is purely the gift of God. Stop counting on our works, stop living on a contractual basis with God and start counting on God’s grace in our lives. Be amazed by the gift of salvation daily. May we experience the grace of God more and more as we value His grace. We only deserve the wrath and judgement of the LORD, but because of His love, His grace abounds for us. Repent from demanding God and stop thinking that we deserve more than our eternal salvation.