How Long Have You Been a Christian?

I want to start this morning by posing a question: How do you feel when a long time opposer to Christ comes and makes a deathbed confession, knowing that they will receive the same payment that you do for a lifetime of work? Does it make you jealous? Angry? Happy? Sad? Rejoiceful? I want you to think about that for a moment. Think about how that makes you feel. You don’t have to share it with anyone, just think about it; someone who has spent their entire life partying away, doing drugs, alcohol, and maybe committing crimes. That person, because of their confession late in life, will get the same reward of eternal life that we get. Regardless of time spent working for Christ, we are the recipients of the great gift of salvation.

Our subject today poses the question: How long have you been a Christian? We are going to tackle this today in Matthew 20:1-16. If you would turn there and we will read.

1 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 After agreeing with the workers on one denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 When he went out about nine in the morning, [a] he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 To those men he said, 'You also go to my vineyard, and I'll give you whatever is right.' So off they went. 5 About noon and at three, [b] he went out again and did the same thing. 6 Then about five [c] he went and found others standing around, [d] and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?'
7 " 'Because no one hired us,' they said to him.

" 'You also go to my vineyard,' he told them. [e]8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, 'Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.' [f]

9 "When those who were hired about five [g] came, they each received one denarius. 10 So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. 11 When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: 12 'These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat! '

13 "He replied to one of them, 'Friend, I'm doing you no wrong. Didn't you agree with me on a denarius? 14 Take what's yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. 15 Don't I have the right to do what I want with my business? [h] Are you jealous [i] because I'm generous? ' [j]

16 "So the last will be first, and the first last." [k]

Footnotes:a.Matthew 20:3 Lit about the third hour
b.Matthew 20:5 Lit about the sixth hour and the ninth hour
c.Matthew 20:6 Lit about the eleventh hour
d.Matthew 20:6 Other mss add doing nothing
e.Matthew 20:7 Other mss add &ls;and you'll get whatever is right.'
f.Matthew 20:8 Lit starting from the last until the first
g.Matthew 20:9 Lit about the eleventh hour
h.Matthew 20:15 Lit with what is mine
i.Matthew 20:15 Lit Is your eye evil; an idiom for jealousy or stinginess
j.Matthew 20:15 Lit good
k.Matthew 20:16 Other mss add For many are called, but few are chosen.

Parables are so much fun. This one especially. Jesus teaches this in the midst of possessions and what it takes to get into Heaven. To follow these up, Jesus then tells the parable here. The story starts out normally, men going to work for a set wage. But what differs here from the norm is that throughout the day, the vineyard owner continues to hire more hands as the day goes on until then, nearing the end of the day, some are just starting work. When the men come back to the vineyard owner at the end of the day, he starts at the end of the line…those who were hired last and gives them their wage first. The men who were first start thinking that they’re gonna get more…but what happens is that they get the set amount they agreed upon. These guys then get irate! They’re mad because this dude who only worked one hour gets the same pay that those who worked through the day and during the heat.

Jealousy in today’s world is a very real threat to us. Jealousy opens the door to further sin.

There is an old fable of the Devil and a Hermit
The Devil once was crossing the Libyan Desert and met a group of friends tempting a holy hermit. They tried seductions of the flesh, used doubts and fears, etc. But to no avail. The holy man was unmoved. The Devil then stepped forward: “Your methods are too crude. Watch this.” Going to the hermit, he said, “Have you heard the news? Your brother has been made the Bishop of Alexandria.” According to the fable, a scowl of malignant jealousy clouded the serene face of the holy man.

The Devil isn’t going to just come flying at us with guns blazing and huge indiscretions in front of our faces. It is going to be with subtlety. There is a reason that he is called the Great Deceiver. A strong Christian isn’t going to be pulled away with a huge sin. It’s going to be the small nods over a long period of time.

I want to take about 5 minutes and show you a music video by Casting Crowns. I was going to just quote a few lines from the song, but I found the video on YouTube, and having never seen it before, I wanted to show it because it depicts perfectly the idea that it isn’t just one huge decision that makes people crumble, it’s a series of decisions over time.

Did you catch all of the small in reverse decisions that led up to the affair, the broken home and family? In everyday life, it isn’t just jealousy that spurs our feelings…however, jealousy for most plays a big part. For others, it isn’t a big issue.

But let’s go back to the original question. How long have you been a Christian? Do you get jealous of other people when God still forgives them and gives them a reward, regardless of the length they’ve followed Jesus? Have you thought about the question I gave you earlier? How does it make you feel? I want to tell you that once upon a time, it would make me upset to think that a dude on death row for murder could repent of his sins and get into Heaven.

But as most of you know now, I am adamant about spreading the Gospel everywhere, regardless of what they’ve done. I have a passion to seek and save the lost…I wouldn’t be a minister otherwise. This is the place that I want to lead you to. I want to lead you to a place where the Grace of God overflows from us like a waterfall.

The main idea of what Jesus is talking about is the “first will be last and the last will be first”. It isn’t necessarily how long we’ve followed Christ that matters in the end. It isn’t our job to worry about who is going to get what. It isn’t our job to try and figure out what criteria God will judge on. What our job is, is this: follow Christ the very best we can with the help of the Holy Spirit.

However, beneath this main point that the Parable gives, I want you to also be conscious of the idea of how the Devil snares us. Remember the fable? The holy man wasn’t tripped up by sins of the flesh. He was tripped up by telling him that his brother was now the Bishop of Alexandria. It was jealousy that nailed him down. Earlier I talked about how jealousy opens the door to deeper sin. Jealousy is just another word for covet. 10th Commandment. Do not covet your neighbor’s ____ (fill in the blank).

I want to leave you with this story. There once was a great man. He unfortunately was in love with his neighbor’s wife. However, his wife had no idea he’d been watching her. He was jealous of his neighbor. While his neighbor was away, he found a way to be with his wife. Soon they fell in love…then he devised a plan to have him bumped off. After he had been murdered, the wife became pregnant…a child of the affair. This man is someone we all know and have heard about. Have you figured it out yet? It’s king David. All because of jealousy in breaking the 10th commandment, he then violated a whole host of others.

When Casting Crowns sings the song of a “Slow Fade”…it’s the truth. How long have you been a Christian? The longer you’ve been walking with Christ, the more subtle the tricks to get you to slide away from God. Be cautious…be prepared…be ready for anything…and everything.


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