“A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready. ‘But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’
And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’
And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.’” ─Luke 14:16-24 NKJV
There is a problem I have been struggling with and since the Bible says that there is no temptation that we have experienced except that which is common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13), then I think it is a safe bet to say that there are others who struggle with it too. The struggle that I am talking about has to do with the inner fight to lay down our own desires, hopes, and dreams; and to deny ourselves, pick up our cross daily, and follow Jesus.
Let’s be honest for a minute, and just admit that it is not an easy thing to die to self. The Bible says in Romans chapter twelve that we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God, but someone once said that the problem with living sacrifices is that they tend to crawl off the altar. Humorous as that may be, it is also a true and sobering fact that we must continually offer up our lives and be diligent to remain in a state of submission to our sovereign Lord on a daily basis. Let me see if I can bring this closer to home and illustrate it from my own life.
In January of 2011, I met this beautiful, spirited, and loving lady whom I fell in love with and she with me. Between the time that we met and were married, I started to have the Scripture verse above run through my head, or more accurately just a portion of it. The part that kept coming to mind was, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” But what it was going through my head about differed from the words of Jesus; for I did not seem to be declining to come to the Master’s banquet, but rather I was making an excuse as to why I could not obey His command to labor in His field for harvest time.
Now, I may be mistaken here, but all the things that have happened to me since this struggle began; from getting laid off from a good job that I held for seven years, to falling into a state of feeling lost and having no goals or vision to aim for, to slipping into depression and stepping out of fellowship with both the Lord and the church for a few months─have all come to pass because of this one thing: I have turned away from my calling to share the Word of God with others and to say what the Lord is laying upon my heart to say.
My wife and I have spent a good amount of time sharing with each other our dreams and desires for where we would like to live, what kind of home we would have, size of family, careers, hobbies, and so on before we were married and even more afterward. We both want a small house in the country with some land for a small farm with a barn, animals, and a garden. Now this may be just me, but I get the impression that we may not have that much time left before the Rapture of the church.
I spend time reading and listening to the news, as well as following a few blogs on the Internet and a person would have to be pretty ignorant of Bible prophecy to not see that the return of Christ is imminent. With the wars and rumors of wars, the famines, droughts, plagues, and distress of nations, I feel more strongly than ever before─that it is time that we watch and pray, for we do not know what hour the master of the house is going to return. (Mark 13:35)
What’s more, there is a huge departure from the faith happening in many mainstream Christian churches and denominations. People are leaving and joining the emergent church movement, which is adopting demonically inspired practices like meditation, which they call “listening prayer.” And listening to heretical teachers who say that the Word of God has been corrupted and that Jesus never really told people of an eternal punishment for sinners in hell─that those things were added later by the early church leaders who sought to control people by fear. They preach a pack of lies known as universalism in which they say that hell is not forever, but is only a temporary punishment meant to cleanse those that go there, so that they can one day accept Christ’s gift of grace and be saved.
These very things are happening today; and they directly fulfill the warnings that Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, Jude, and James told us about; that wolves would creep into our midst in the last days, not sparing the flock. Add to that the general hatred that is growing and spreading for Christ and His followers; that it is becoming an accepted thing to mock and blaspheme God and our Lord Jesus Christ; that the world is becoming more glutted with pornography, violence, greed, and every form of corruption than ever before; and it has become ever more increasingly popular to call what is good evil, and what is evil good. Our Lord taught us:
“And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-28).
This means that the world went about their business as usual, and had no idea of the judgment that was swiftly approaching. If we consider these things prayerfully, I am confident that we can quickly get the idea that Jesus is standing at the very door of heaven; preparing to give the command for the trumpet to sound and the archangel to shout for us to be gathered together to meet the Lord in the air.
When our Lord Jesus gave us warning of the signs of the end of all things, He said that they would be the beginning of birth pains (Mark 13:8), and we all know that when a woman goes into labor the pains start out lighter and farther apart, then they quickly grow more intense and painful and happen closer and closer together until the baby is ready to be brought into the world. It seems that things are happening at such a pace today that even with the age of instant news, the internet, and satellite communications it is hard to keep up with the events as they take place. So I am left with this God-inspired admonition that was delivered to us through the apostle Peter:
“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. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.
Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation — as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,” (2 Peter 3:9-15, emphasis added).
Here, in the holy words spoken by the Holy Spirit to the heart and mind of Peter is where I find the confrontation between the Spirit of God and my own flesh. Look again at the words in bold type─especially at the word hastening. I looked it up to be sure of my understanding of its meaning and I have been amazed at the implications of it in the passage. To hasten something means to expedite it, to make it happen faster, to speed it along and I asked a friend of mine if this actually means that by really applying ourselves to doing the will of God and obeying Him in preaching, teaching, evangelizing, and doing the work of the ministry of the church in the world, can we actually cause the return of Christ to happen sooner than planned?
As I thought of this, I remembered how one Bible teacher was saying that we humans are time-oriented, but God is event-oriented. And then I thought of the Scripture in Romans 11:25 where Paul is saying that blindness to the gospel has in part happened to the Jews, “until the fullness of the Gentiles have come in.” Does this mean that God is waiting with patient long-suffering for a certain event, for the fullness of the Gentiles to enter salvation in this dispensation of grace that we have before the time of Jacob’s trouble sets in; then God will give the command for Jesus to come and take His people out of this world?
This all sounds really great to me, but in this I find a conflict in my heart and soul; and that while I know that the best days here on earth can’t even come close to comparing with the utter joy, peace, and excitement of being in the very presence of God, I would still like to have time to obtain some of my dreams and goals that I have for home and family. I have even found myself almost praying that the Lord would take His time in returning so I could have what I want. The Bible says in 2 Kings 5:26:
“Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?”
Now in this passage, Elisha was reprimanding his disciple Gehazi for running and acquiring goods from Naaman the Syrian after Naaman was healed by God through Elisha the prophet and offered to pay for it, but I am compelled to ponder this verse as it runs through my head in my daily struggle of flesh vs. Spirit.
I believe as disciples of Jesus Christ we are to be about the Father’s business as the foremost focus of our time, talents, and treasures. While I believe that God does give us hopes, dreams and desires for our lives here on earth, and there is nothing innately evil about these things for they are after all, God-given dreams. But I want to seek by God’s graces to be ever vigilant so that my dreams and desires for a nice, comfortable life full of pleasures and luxuries will not steal away the attention and drive and ambition of my life and threaten to send the Sovereign Lord of all creation into second place in my heart.
Do we know what time it is?
“Not unto us, O Lord, not unto to us, but to Your name give glory…” (Psalm 115:1).