A sermon by Dr Donald T. Williams - donaldtwilliams.com
Presented at Trinity Fellowship on 10/15/1995
In this age of Yuppies and upward mobility, no topic captures the imagination more than investment strategy. Should you be in money market funds, mutual funds, certificates of deposit, or IRAs? These are not unimportant decisions, because your economic freedom in your last years, with all the opportunities for serving the Lord such freedom would bring, is at stake. But a far more important decision than how you invest your money is how you will invest your life. For unless you are already investing your life in making disciples for Jesus now, any economic freedom you might gain through investing your money will just be wasted in the future. Jesus parable here is about both. It is about investing money on the surface, but ultimately it is about how we should be investing our lives.
Jesus told this parable to combat the preconceived notions that the Jews had about the coming of the kingdom of God. They were expecting Jesus to overthrow the Roman Empire and replace it with a glorious and righteous Jewish one, and as he got closer to Jerusalem, they were expecting him to do it then and there. That is the point of the word immediately in verse 11. But Jesus gives them an entirely different scenario. He is going away to receive a kingdom that seems to have little to do with the people he is talking to, most of whom appear as rebels against the master rather than as his triumphant supporters in the war with Rome. He will apparently bring this kingdom with him when he returns at an indefinite time. In the meanwhile, their place in that kingdom depends on how faithful they are to Christ while he is gone. They may be great, ruling ten or five cities, or small, losing even the responsibility they started out with, or outside the kingdom altogether and slain in the kings presence. In hindsight, we can see that the nobleman was Jesus, the trip his Ascension into Heaven, his servants the Christians, his enemies the unbelievers, especially the unbelieving Jews who would refuse his reign as soon as they realized it didnt fit their preconceived notions.
So there are two lessons here. First, the kingdom is not coming immediately, and unless you repent it wont be coming for you at all. Second, your status in the kingdom when it does come will depend on your faithfulness to Jesus now; your faithfulness will depend on your relationship to him; your relationship will depend on your attitude toward him; and your attitude will depend on your concept of him. We can see how this all plays out by asking two questions.I. DO YOU BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST ENOUGH TO TAKE HIM AS YOUR LORD?
Do you believe in Jesus enough to take him as your Lord? Most of the people in the crowd did not. They are the ones in the parable who did not wish him to reign over them (verse 14, 27). Since these people are slain in the last verse, it is clear that the Lordship of Christ is the thing that separates the lost from the saved.
To understand why this is so, we have to examine the relationship between the Lordship of Christ and the kingdom. And that relationship is not hard to see once you put the question that way. In the kingdom of God, Jesus is the king. Those then are the citizens of the kingdom who have embraced his kingship. For in Scripture there are only two masters, Christ and the Devil. There are only two kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. There are only two paths, the path of light and the path of darkness. There are only two gates, the narrow gate that leads to life and the broad one that leads to destruction. There are only two final dwellings, only two homelands, Heaven and Hell. There are only two conditions, saved and lost. And your relationship to Christ determines how you related to each of these binary pairs. To ask which kingdom you belong to is the same question as to ask which king you serve. If you serve Elizabeth I you are an Englishman; if you serve Philip of Spain, you are a Spaniard. It is as simple as that.
Satan loves to encourage this watered down Christianity that surrounds us in which you can have Jesus as your Savior without having him as your Lord. Why? Because it encourages professing believers to avoid the only question that matters and hence allows them to avoid ever becoming real Christians. He has even used an essential Christian doctrine, the doctrine of salvation by grace alone apart from works, in such a way that it seems to support this nonsense, as if insisting on the Lordship of Christ is somehow to reintroduce works into the plan of salvation. Nonsense!
Yes, nonsense it is. I choose the word carefully. And I think I can show you just how nonsensical this pseudo-Gospel is. Let us just imagine two hypothetical believers. One of them says, in effect, OK, I want to take advantage of Jesus blood to pay for my sin so I can avoid Hell, but as for running my life, he can go jump in the lake! The other says, Yes! Now I see! Jesus died for ME, to pay for MY sins. I deserve Hell but he offers me Heaven as a free gift purely by graceat the price of his blood! What wondrous love is this? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Oh, marvelous grace of our loving Lord! And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Saviors blood? Died he for me who caused his pain, for me who him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Christ my God should die for me? OK: How can I then deny him anything who has given everything for me while I was yet a sinner? I will probably fail him a hundred times, but what else can I do? I MUST follow him!
Now you tell me: which one of these two understands the Cross? Which one of them understands and embraces salvation by grace alone? Which one of them understands and has accepted the Gospel? There is only one, and I dont even need to tell you which it is. The first statement is not only nonsense, it is blasphemous nonsense, damnable nonsense. You are a citizen of the kingdoma forgiven and pardoned citizenif and only if you acknowledge the authority of the King. And so I repeat: In the final analysis, the question on which the forgiveness of sin, eternal life, salvation, belonging to the kingdom of Heaven depends is Do you believe in Jesus Christ enough to take him as your Lord? Or, in other words, Will you have this man to reign over you?
But there is a second question the passage also raises. The first one deals with whether or not we will be in the kingdom. The second deals with how far in we will be. And it isII. DO YOU LOVE JESUS ENOUGH TO LIVE FOR HIM?
The first question, do you believe in Jesus enough to take him as your Lord, differentiates the slaves of the master from his enemies. This second question differentiates the first servant from the third servant. Do you love Jesus enough to live for him? It is this question, and not their relative success in making money, that is the difference between the first and the third servants. Do you see that? Let me try to show you.
The key to the failure of the third servant is his attitude toward the master. What does he say when his turn comes to give an account? Master, behold your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief. For I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man (verses 20-21). Contrast that with the excitement in the voice of the first servant: Master, LOOK! Your mina has made ten minas! The first servant is happy because he knows the master he loves will be pleased with him. The third is afraid because his master is an exacting manor, as the King James familiarly put it, a hard taskmaster. But where did he get this idea? To whom was the master a hard taskmaster? Not to the first servant, or the second! They received an extravagant reward for their faithfulness, all out of proportion to what they had done. It is very significant that the master says he will judge the third servant by his own words. You call me a hard taskmaster? OK, Ill show you what one is really like. Take away his mina and give it to servant number one! Perfect love casteth out fear, and the love of this servant for the One he had taken as Lord was not sufficient to do so. His hard words about the master became a self-fulfilling prophecy. So here is the question that will determine the quality of your Christian life: Do you serve Jesus out of love or fear? Recall our two hypothetical believers. The first one was not a believer at all. He was just mouthing words without the slightest understanding of what they mean. The second one was full of love for his Lord, love that casts out all fear. He DIED for us! Do you understand? How is anyone who did that going to turn around and be mean to us? We can trust him. We can cast everything on him. Unfortunately, it is possible to forget that first love, or have it squelched by legalistic teachers who have spent too much time with the third servant. And so we can be in the kingdom but hide our mina in a handkerchief.
We hide our mina out of fear. But the opposite of fear is love! Let us think about the first two servants as they appear in contrast to the third. They show us the nature of loving service.First, loving service takes risks and is willing to be vulnerable. Why not? What does it have to fear? The very nature of doing business is risk taking. How could the first two do that? Well, what do you think would have happened if they had come back and said, Sir, we did our best with your money, but the stock market crashed or a tornado hit our store and the insurance company wouldnt cover it or we were robbed on our way to the bank. They were willing to take risks because they had confidence that their master would not be unjust or harsh, and that was the key to their success. Second, loving service gives glory to God and does not need to horde it for the self. Hear what the first servant said in verse 16: Not, My brilliant investment strategy has paid off, or Look what I have done, but YOUR mina has made ten minas. By contrast, the third servant is completely focused on himselfhe was afraid, he put the mina in the handkerchief. We are naturally selfish people. The only way I know of not to be focused on myself is to be filled with love for someone else. That is what took the first servant from I have gained to You mina has multiplied. The third servants focus on himself is totally unproductive. Love is the difference! Third, loving service is rewarding. Can you hear the excitement in verse 16? Master, LOOK! Your mina has made ten minas! The first servant was happy and fulfilled before he ever gave his report, because he knew he had pleased the master he loved. Because of love, the service itself was rewarding, irrespective of any reward that might be forthcoming. And then he received the masters response! Are there any more joyful words in any language than Well done, thou good and faithful servant? Note also: the reward of faithfulness is further responsibility. He was put over ten cities. Forget this nonsense about Heaven being a bunch of boring nerds sitting on clouds playing harps! We will be fulfilled because we will have meaningful work to do in which we can serve our Lord and receive his pleasure forever. What? The reward of faithfulness is more work? Isnt that a punishment? In human companies, it often is. But in heaven it is reward indeed: meaningful work to do to serve our King whom we love! What could be better than that? (I know it is also called the Sabbath Rest, but that does not mean we wont have meaningful things to do. Ruling cities does not sound like being a cloud-potato!) CONCLUSION
These then are the two most important questions you will ever ask or answer: Do you believe in Jesus enough to take him as your Lord? Do you love him enough to live for him? A yes to the first question should lead straight to a yes to the second. Sometimes it tragically does not. But if we see him for who he is, we will desire nothing but to say to them both, Yes! Now I see! Jesus died for ME, to pay for MY sins. I deserve Hell but he offers me Heaven as a free gift purely by graceat the price of his blood! What wondrous love is this? Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! Oh, marvelous grace of our loving Lord! And can it be that I should gain an interest in my Saviors blood? Died he for me who cause his pain, for me who him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be that Christ my God should die for me? OK: How can I then deny him anything who has given everything for me while I was yet a sinner? I will probably fail him a hundred times, but what else can I do? I MUST follow him!
And follow him I shall. Will you join me?
Here endeth the lesson. Dr. Donald T. Williams