On the Go
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 21:28-32 about a man who had two sons. He told each son to go work in his vineyard. One son refused, saying he would not go. He sounded rebellious, but later he repented and went. The other son said he would go and work. He sounded obedient, but he did not go. There is often a difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do. Obeying involves more than claiming.
In Jesus’ parable, the religious leaders were represented by the son who said he would work, but didn’t. They thought of themselves as very religious and devoted to God. They looked down their noses at tax collectors and harlots. However, Jesus, knowing their hearts, said that tax collectors and harlots would enter the kingdom of God before these religious leaders would. Pride and arrogance often blind people to their true condition. James 4:6 tells us that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
In Matthew 9:13, Jesus said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” There comes a time in everyone’s life when he gives in to temptation and commits sin. James said in James 1:14-15, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” We are all guilty of sin. Paul wrote in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
In the process of giving in to temptation and committing sin, the individual is, in effect, choosing to serve Satan. Paul wrote in Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” But if we are humble enough to admit our mistakes and to submit to God, He will give us the opportunity to repent and obey Him, just as the son in the parable did.
2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” In the church at Corinth, there were people who had been fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, extortioners, and other kinds of sinners. But they repented and obeyed the Lord in becoming Christians.
So, regardless of what we have done in the past, God still loves us. He wants us to love Him back and to demonstrate that love by obeying Him (I John 5:3). Those who love the Lord will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Jesus, who was obedient to His Father, gives eternal salvation to all those who obey Him (Hebrews 5:8-9).
There are many people like the other son, who claim to serve the Lord, but they do not obey Him. Jesus asks in Luke 6:46, “But why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus said, “Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Rather than obeying the Lord, they were obeying the commands of men, or simply obeying their own ideas and opinions.
Many who consider themselves to be faithful Christians are much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Paul wrote in Titus 1:16, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.” It is not enough to simply say, “Yes, Lord, I will obey.” We must make sure that we know what the Lord commands, and not simply do what some person tells us to do. If Jesus is our Lord, then we must obey Him. And obeying involves more than claiming!
Steve Lay is the evangelist for the Chouteau Hills Church of Christ.