Robert Jeffress - The Other Story About The Two Sons
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Some people think that being a Christian depends on how many times you go to church, or how many hours you spend reading your Bible. And while church and scriptures are important parts of the Christian life, God judges a person based on their heart, not their appearance. Today we're opening to Matthew 21, to uncover the Mark of a true Christian. My message is titled "The Other Story About the Two Sons", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Confederate commander, Robert E. Lee sent word to one of his generals, Stonewall Jackson that he wished to see Jackson at the next opportunity, about a matter of no great urgency. As soon as Stonewall Jackson received the message, he prepared to leave to meet general lee. He arose early the next morning, got on his horse, rode eight miles through wind and through snow and arrive at headquarters, just as Robert E. Lee was finishing breakfast. Lee was startled to see Jackson appears so quickly. He said, "I told you it was a no issue of great importance. Why did you come so quickly"? And Stonewall Jackson replied, "Sir, you said you wished to see me. Your slightest wish, is a supreme command to me".
A true child of God has that same attitude, about the commands of his Heavenly Father. As we're going to see in today's parable, Jesus says that the single greatest proof that we belong to God is our obedience to God. If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Matthew 21. Matthew 21. We're continuing our series on the parables, and as we do, I thought it was appropriate today that we choose the parable about the father that had the two sons. Remember that parable? And no, it's not the parable about the prodigal son, and the older brother. This is the other story Jesus told about two sons, and it's found in Matthew 21. Now as with all the parables, it is key to understanding the setting of this parable, to understand exactly what Jesus is saying. And this parable was told during Jesus' final week of ministry before his crucifixion.
And remember what happened in that week on palm Sunday, or depending on your chronology of the life of Christ, on palm Monday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to the hosannas of the people, and then on Tuesday, he really stirred things up by driving the money changers out of the temple. And when we get to verse 23, we find that on this Wednesday, Jesus was once again in the temple, and at this time he was teaching, not only to the Jewish leaders who had already rejected him, but to the gentiles who was in the court of the gentiles. And look at what happened in verse 23. "And he had come into the temple. As he came into the temple, the chief priest and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching and said, 'by what authority are you doing these things, who gave you this authority'"?
Now, what was he talking about, these things? In other words, they were saying to Jesus, "Who died and made you king? I mean, how in the world do you have the authority to come in here and drive out our money changers and to make the claim that you're the Messiah, by what authority Jesus are you doing these things"? Notice Jesus' response in verse 24, he said, "Jesus answered and said to them, 'i will ask you one thing too, which if you tell me I will also tell you by what authority I do these things'". That seems kind of like a smart Aleck response when you think about it. But remember to whom Jesus was speaking. He wasn't talking to people who really wanted to know the answer. These were the Jewish leaders who already rejected him. So Jesus was saying, "You want to know the answer to your question, let me give you a question first". Verse 25, here's the question. "The baptism of John was from what source: from heaven or from men"?
Now this was a trick question to end all trick questions. John the Baptist remember was the last prophet. He was the one whom when he saw Jesus said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world". John the Baptist had been executed because of his prophetic ministry. And John the Baptist was very popular among the people. So Jesus says to these leaders, "Now tell me about John. Was he a prophet from heaven or was he a prophet speaking on his own"? Well, they rightly understood the dilemma they were in. In verse 25, "They began reasoning among themselves saying, 'now, if we say, "From heaven," Jesus will say to us, "Then why did you believe him"'"? In other words, if he really was speaking God's message, why don't you accept me as Messiah? "But if we say, 'no, he was just from men, we fear the multitude, for they all hold John to be a prophet'". They didn't know what to say. Verse 27, "And so answering Jesus, they said, 'we don't know'".
Great principle there. When in doubt, say nothing. They said, "We don't know". But Jesus wasn't going to let them off the hook. He said, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things". And still Jesus wasn't finished with them. He said in verse 28, "But what do you think"? Give me a verdict. And then he tells his story beginning in verse 28. It's a parable about a father who had two sons. Not a complicated story at all. It only takes a few verses to tell, but it was a father who had two sons. Let's look at the first son first of all, in verse 28. "A a man had two sons, and he came to the first son and said, 'son, go work today in the vineyard'. And he answered and said, 'I will, sir:' and he didn't go".
Now some of you are looking at your Bibles right now and looking at me and scratching your head and saying, "That's not what my Bible says". If you have a King James Bible, it has the sons reversed. Okay? I'm reading the New American Standard. In the King James version, the first son is the one who said, "I will not go," and later says, "I will go". But in the New American Standard, the one we're using, he says, the first son is the one who said, "I will go," but later he did not go. Now, obviously this first son represented the religious leaders to whom Jesus was speaking. They were people who appeared to be followers of God. They said all of the right things, but they had rejected the most basic commandment of God, and that is to trust in Christ as Messiah. Outwardly, they gave every evidence of being a believer, but inwardly, they were unbelievers. And this leads to the theme of this parable.
I want you to write down on your outline. If you don't hear another word I say today, I want you to listen and write down the theme of this message today, and it is simply this. Professions of faith, without expressions of faith, mean there is no possession of faith. Let me say it again. Professions of faith, without expressions of faith, mean there is no possession of faith. It really don't matter what you say you believe, the true evidence of your faith is your obedience to God. Remember what John said in 1 John 2:4? He said, "The one who says, 'I have come to know God,' but does not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him". It don't matter what you say you believe. If you say, "I believe God, I'm a follower of Christ," but you don't obey his most basic commandments, and your moral life, and how you treat other people, then God's word says you're a liar. The truth is not in you. Professions of faith, without expressions of faith, mean there is no possession of faith.
We see this first son is one who outwardly said all of the right things, but he didn't follow through on the commitment that he made. By the way, there are all kinds of people today who make commitments to God, that they don't follow through on. Perhaps that's true of you. Have you ever made a commitment to God, that you didn't follow through on? Maybe there was a point in your life in which you said, "God, if you will just get me out of this jam, I will do whatever you ask me to do". And then you didn't follow through on it? Or maybe you've made a commitment of moral purity, some other commitment to God, a financial commitment, and you haven't followed through on it. Professions of faith without expressions of faith, mean there is no possession of faith. It's a very serious thing to promise God and not follow through on that promise.
I want you to hold your place here and turn over to Ecclesiastes 5, beginning with verse four. Solomon talks about, the importance of fulfilling your commitments to God. In chapter 5, verse 4 Solomon said, "When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for he takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than you should vow and not pay". God, I'm going to do this. It is important to follow through on the commitments that you've made to God. But he's not just talking about financial commitments, he's talking about any promise you make to God. Verse 6, look at it. "Do not let your speech cause you to sin, and be not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake, for why should God be angry on account of your voice, and destroy the work of your hands"?
I can't tell you the number of couples I have had stand before me in a sanctuary like this, and make a vow. Not just to me, or not just to the congregation, they have made a vow to God that they are going to remain together in spite of any circumstances that come their way. They made a holy vow to God. And yet later on, they say, "Well, it was a mistake. It must not have been God's will because I'm not happy and if I'm not happy, it must not be God's will". And they break that vow, they've made to God. Listen, we may not think anything about the promises we make to God, God takes those vows very seriously. And to break a vow you have made before God is to invite the wrath of God on your life. That's what he says here. Don't make a vow and later say it was a mistake. And you say, "Well, I know how to solve that problem, I just won't make any promises to God". No. Professions, commitments are very important to God.
In Romans 10:9-10, Paul says, "If you will confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved: for from the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation". In other words, what we say to God's very important. Professions, commitments. He's not against professions here, he's against professions that you don't follow through on. Professions of faith without expressions of faith, mean there is no possession of faith. I'd like to just point out here in this command in Matthew 21, four principles I see, in this first son's command: son go work today in the vineyard. First of all, Jesus reminds us that God has given every one of us, every Christian, a job to perform. Go work today in the vineyard.
You know it's not popular in today's Christian culture, to talk about working for God. What you hear people say in today's Christian culture is, "Well, God's not so much interested in our performance, as he is in our character. He's not that interested in what we do for him, as what kind of people we are". Now the truth is God is interested in our character. He is interested in the kind of people we are, but he's also interested in the work that we do for him. Imagine parents that you have a son or daughter it's Saturday morning, and you go into their room and it looked like a tornado went through there. And you say, "Clean up your room. I want you to clean this room up". They say, "Okay". About an hour later you walk in, it's still a mess. Not one thing has been picked up, and your child is over in the corner with his eyes closed in a meditative trance. And you say, "What are you doing"? "Oh, mom, dad, I'm just sitting here meditating on how much I love you. I'm just meditating on how wonderful I relationship is. I'm just enjoying our time together".
You say, "Well, that's great. I'm glad you enjoy our relationship, but get to work. Clean up the room". You see we want our children to enjoy a relationship with us, but we also want them to do what we've asked them to do. And it's the same way with God. God is interested in our relationship with him, but he's also interested in our performance, because it's through our obedience that we prove we really are children of God. In John 4:34 Jesus said, "For this is my food. This is my sustenance. This is what I live for, to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his". What? Work. Jesus realized the only reason he was on earth for 33 years was to do the work God commanded him to do. Or in John 9:4, Jesus said, "We must work the works of him who sent me, as long as it is day, for the night is coming when no man can work". Every one of us has a job to do.
Principle number two. Our main work is to perform God's work. We've got a work to do, and our main work is to do God's work. Now, in the past, I've talked about your work and your vocation. And remember I preached a message a few months ago in which I said your vocation whatever it is, has meaning and purpose to it. You don't have to receive your paycheck from the church to have a profession that is meaningful to God. God has a work for each one of us to do. Now I'm not backtracking on that at all. But what I am saying is, regardless of what our vocation is, regardless of where our paycheck comes from, we should never forget that our main assignment is to do God's work. And so that nobody forgets what that work is, Jesus told us in Matthew 28 what that work is. He said you are to go into all the world and make disciples. That is the main reason we are here on earth. The reason God doesn't rapture us the moment we are saved, the reason he has left us here, is to make disciples. That is to introduce people, into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and to help them grow in their relationship with him. That's why we're here. That's the great commission.
And do you realize ladies and gentlemen, every person you introduce to Jesus Christ, loosens the grip just a little bit that Satan has on this world. And that's our job, to loosen Satan stranglehold on this world, to soften the ground as we prepare for the arrival of our commander-in-chief, Jesus Christ. Who will deliver the kingdom of this world, and make it once again, the Kingdom of God. Our job is to introduce people to Christ. We are to be working in God's vineyard. Son, go work today, in the vineyard. Now, admittedly, fewer and fewer Christians really believe that this is their primary work in the world: to lead people to know Christ as Savior. Did you see the article in the Dallas morning news a couple of weeks ago by Christine wicker. And she was talking about the decline in baptisms among Southern Baptist. And not only among Southern Baptist, how fewer and fewer churches, are really busy winning people to faith in Christ. And she said one reason for that is fewer, and fewer Christians, really believe there's only one way to heaven. Fewer and fewer Christians believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Because of global travel, as Christians are introduced to other cultures, as other religions are planted in America, many Christians believe, well surely there has to be another way to heaven besides faith in Jesus Christ. And ladies and gentlemen if that heresy ever seeps into a church, it will kill evangelism in the church. After all, why should we risk offending people by preaching such a narrow message that Jesus is the only way? Why risk offending people, if there really are multiple paths to heaven? And so what we had happening in more and more churches, including Baptist churches is, people are saying, "Well, the mission of the church is more broad. It's broader than evangelism and discipleship". And so they say our mission includes aids awareness, and caring for unwed mothers, and feeding the hungry, and providing shelter for those who don't have homes. That's our mission.
Now hear me very clearly. Our church does all of those things. We see those ministries as vital but here's the difference. In our church, those ministries are not ends unto themselves. They are a means to an end. They are a means to introduce people to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. That's why we have our Dallas Life Foundation and our Pregnancy Center and everything we do here in our church, we see it as a means to introduce people to a faith in Jesus Christ, and that is the mission of the church. Jesus said, John 6, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent". Ladies and gentlemen, if there is any other way to heaven, except faith in Jesus Christ, then why did God send his Son to suffer that horrific death? Do you think if there was any other way to be saved, God would have sent a Son to make such a sacrifice? The fact that Christ came and was nailed to the cross means this is the only way a person can go to heaven when he dies. And it's important we understand that.
Now, I appreciate the enthusiastic response, but let's get personal for just a moment. All of us are busy. I measure if I were to ask you today "Are you tired"? You would say, "Pastor, you don't know how tired I am". And we're all tired, we're worn out. But what are you tired from? Like look back over the last week at your activities. Whether it was family responsibilities, work responsibilities, all these things you're doing. How much time during the last seven days did you spend doing the one thing God asked you to do, his work? How much time, how much energy did you devote in this last week, to either introducing people to Jesus, or helping them grow in their relationship with him? I'm not trying to put you on a guilt trip. I mean, even in church work I'm in church work, it is easy to get involved doing peripheral things instead of doing the one thing we were commanded to do. What I'm saying is our main work is to do God's work. And God's work is to introduce people to Christ. Our main work is to perform God's work.
Third. Our work is the result of our relationship to God. Our work is the result of our relationship to God. Notice in this parable, he doesn't go to some stranger and pick him up off the street and say, "Stranger, go work in my vineyard today". No, he goes to his own Son. He says, "Son, you go and work in my vineyard". He said, "Son, in light of everything that I've done for you in the past, in light of all of the inheritance that is going to be yours in the future, you have an obligation to work in my vineyard". And the same is true of us. The reason we're to do God's work is first of all because what God has already done for us in saving us. 1 Corinthians 6 says, "Do you not know you're not your own? You've been redeemed with a price". In light of what God's done for us in the past but also, in the light of all that is going to belong to us in the future. Because of our eternal inheritance, we have an obligation to work. To do God's work.