Banquet Of Scraps

The other day, when I was talking to someone about how scripture says Christians are to forsake the desires of the world and die to self, their disregarding response was, “Well, I will never be like you.” Implying that my level of commitment was not only something that they didn’t think Christ required of them personally, but was also way more of a commitment than they were ever willing to make themselves. What this person was basically saying was that they will never pursue Christ in such a way that would require them to make major changes in their life towards a radical faith and commitment because, in this particular case, this person has no desire to forsake the world. What this person fails to realize is that Christ calls all of us to the same standard of righteousness and commitment. He calls us all to radical pursuit. Indeed, we all have different parts to play in His kingdom, but His command to be willing to forsake everything to follow Him, applies equally to us all.

Most Christians in this day and age are content with spiritual scraps, when God has offered them a banquet feast. Jesus speaks a parable to this effect at Luke Chapter 14, and although He is primarily alluding to the Jewish nation forsaking their Messiah and thus some of them losing their place in His kingdom, this parable can also be understood in a Christian context as well. Jesus is Savior of us all and His commandments and the gist of His teachings apply to all of those who choose to be part of His kingdom.

At Luke 14:15, a man tells Jesus, “Blessed, happy and fortunate is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” And Jesus responds to Him with a parable about a man who gives a great banquet. In the parable, a man planned a large banquet and sent out invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to contact each of the invited guests, telling them that everything was ready and the meal was about to start. But verse 18 says, “But without exception they all began to make excuses.” One after another, the guests made excuses for not coming. One had just bought a piece of land and said he had to go see it (verse 18). He made tending to his home and possessions priority over God’s kingdom. Another had purchased some oxen and said he was on the way to yoke them up and try them out (verse 19). He made his work and personal projects priority over God’s kingdom. Another gave the excuse that he was newly married and therefore could not come (verse 20). He made his family priority over God’s kingdom. Jesus said when the master of the house heard their excuses, “Then the master of the house became angry” (v. 21), and told his servant to go out at once and gather the poor, the blind and the lame to fill his house.

After telling this parable, Jesus turns to the crowd and says, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, in the sense of indifference to, or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God, and likewise his wife and children and brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life also– he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not persevere and carry his own cross and come after (follow) Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26,27 Amplified). Being confronted with the stark reality of what it truly means to be a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ, is a game-changer for most of those who have long-claimed Jesus as Savior, but have never truly understood what it means for Him to be Lord of their life.

To drive home the point of His parable about the banquet feast, Jesus then tells the crowd the Parable of the Builder who did not count the cost of his endeavor, and thus, wasn’t able to finish. Jesus then concludes these teachings by saying, “So then, any of you who does not forsake (renounce, surrender claim to, give up, say good-bye to) all that he has, cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33 Amplified). Notice who Jesus is addressing in Luke 14:26,27,33– “If anyone comes….Whoever does not persevere….So then, any of you…..” Anyone, whoever, any of you— Jesus is addressing us all.

Unfortunately, as we see in the Parable of the Banquet, and many other of Jesus’ parables, not all will be willing towards complete surrender. In the Parable of the Banquet, they had excuses. In the Parable of the Builder, he didn’t count the cost and was unable to finish. In the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:11-15), some weren’t receptive (the hard ground), some weren’t committed (the stony ground), and some succumbed to distraction (the thorns). The thorny ground represents those who seem to receive the Word, but their heart would rather pursue worldly riches, pleasures, desires and lusts, “And as for what fell among the thorns, these are the people who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked and suffocated with the anxieties and cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not ripen or come to maturity and perfection.” (Luke 8:14). For those among the thorns, the things of this world take their time and attention away from radical pursuit of Jesus and His Word, and they end up making excuses for why they are unable to attend the banquet.

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions– is not from the Father but is from the world. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:2)

“You adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

”On hearing this, Jesus told him, ‘You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.’ But when the man heard this he became very sad, for he was very rich. Seeing the man’s sorrow, Jesus said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 18:22-24)

“So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” (Rev 3:16,17)

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Have The Funeral

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, on account of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service [your true and proper worship].  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:1,2)

Because we are saved by God’s grace, the Apostle Paul says our “reasonable service” to God is to live lives that are pleasing to Him, making every effort not to conform to this world.  Paul says that coming out of the world and living our lives according to God’s word is how we worship Him in our daily lives.

We are not to conform to this world because the prince of this world is Satan, and not only does this world reflect his image in all obviousness and subtlety, he is a master at appealing to our flesh.

We are not to seek the things of this world:
“Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2)
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness..” (Matt 6:33)

We are also not to conform to this world because scripture tells us we are not of this world, we are sojourners and aliens here because we are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus:
“Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and sojourners, to abstain from fleshly desires, which war against your soul..” (1 Pet 2:11)
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus..” (Eph 2:6)

Although in Jesus we have been granted victory over Satan, we can’t outwit him and many of us are in bondage to him without even realizing it.  Many brothers and sisters in Christ are frustrated in their spiritual walk, discouraged, depressed and defeated, not understanding why they can’t seem to move ahead in their relationship with Christ.  Not realizing that they are watching the same T.V. shows and listening to the same music they did before they got saved.  Not acknowledging that they are harboring anger and resentment, still hanging on to roots of bitterness or prejudice.  Not realizing that although they may have come to the cross, they aren’t picking it up and carrying it.  Or misunderstanding “carrying their cross” as meaning to suffer through the inevitable ups and downs of their life.  Jesus said that we would have trouble (John 16:33).  That’s not carrying your cross.  Jesus said that carrying your cross is to deny yourself,  “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt 16:24).  Coming to the cross, is salvation.  Picking it up and carrying it, is sanctification.  Sanctification matters to God.

Scripture says that when we are saved, we become new creatures.  We are told that the old passes away and all things become new, but many Christians are living in spiritual defeat because they don’t want to let go of the old.  “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor 5:17)

Scripture says our identity is to be in Christ, yet many Christians define who they are by the things of this world.  “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” (Gal 3:27).  God’s love for us is so consuming, that He doesn’t want to share us with anyTHING or anyONE.  He created us in His image and He is jealous of that image.  When that image reflects more of the world than it does of Him, we are not giving God our reasonable service.  God tells us that all we do, should glorify Him:
“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31)
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Col 3:17).

I want all my brothers and sisters to get what I’m trying to say here:  The whole point of being born again, means that the old “you” MUST DIE,  “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)

When you are born again, you gotta have the funeral for the “you” that was defined and identified by the things of this world,  ” ..knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him..” (Rom 6:6).  The Bible calls that process “sanctification”.  That’s what Jesus means when He says that to find life, we must lose it (Matt 16:25 & 10:39).  Many Christians are trying to find their life in Christ while still hanging onto their old one.  The only way we can carry our cross is to approach it with empty hands.

Let us humble ourselves before our holy God and ask Him to point out anything in our lives that may be serving as a stumbling block to our spiritual growth.  Then let us ask for His grace to deny ourselves, take up His cross and follow Him.