The Wedding Garment

The Wedding Garment

Scripture: Romans 8:1, Matthew 21:1-46, Matthew 22:1-14
Date: 06/11/2011  Lesson: 11
Christ's parable of the wedding banquet in Matthew 22 demonstrates that God will one day judge whose faith is genuine and whose is not.
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Good morning and Happy Sabbath. Welcome this morning to Sacramento Seventh-day Adventist Church in Sacramento, California. A very special welcome to you that are joining us here this morning in our sanctuary. A very special welcome to you that join us through the internet, live on radio, television, however you're joining us, and from wherever around the world you're joining us, welcome. And I know that you will be blessed this morning.

As you can see, I have a lovely choir behind me this morning. So we're going to sound extra special this morning. They are from weimar academy, right up the road here from central. So we just welcome them, and we're so glad they're here. Our first hymn this morning is going to be hymn 223, "crown him with many crowns.

" And this comes as a request from candace in barbados, cherry in england, mildred in Georgia, jean, aida, Esther, gloria and ching in italy, chijoke and chiemela in nigeria, sandie and vern in North Carolina, higman in saint vincent and the grenadines, and jenny in South Dakota. Hymn 223. We'll sing the first, the second and the last verse... If you have a special hymn, a favorite hymn that you would like to sing with us, I invite you to go to our website at saccentral.org. And there you can click on the "contact us" link.

And you can request any hymn in our hymnal as usual. And we'd love to sing that with you on a coming Sabbath. Our next hymn we're going to sing, our last hymn this morning is hymn number 1, all the way to the front of your hymnal, "praise to the Lord." And we will sing all three verses. This comes as a request from kara and kaye in australia, veronica, angel and jasmine in the bahamas, michele in brazil, kimberly in england, nicola in germany, bob and Paula in Idaho, debby and chynsia in New York, jayne in new zealand, garfield and nicole in saint vincent and the grenadines, erron and gabrielle in trinidad and tobago, and Christa in Virginia. Hymn number 1, all 3 verses.

.. Let's pray. Our Father in Heaven, thank you so much for bringing us here on another Sabbath day to worship you and to come before you in gratitude and praise, offering you our thanks and the very life and breath that we have each day. It is because of you. So bless us now as we worship.

Bless pastor steve as he brings us Your Words, Lord. Help us to apply them to our lives, that we can be just better Christians and uplift you in the things we do and say to those around us, so that we can be part of hastening your coming, Lord. We cannot wait to see you. And thank you for your promises, and we know that your promises are true. We pray these things in your holy name.

Amen. Our study this morning will be brought to us by pastor steve allred. And he is the youth pastor here at Sacramento central. These guys sound good, don't they? Well, how's everyone doing this morning? Today our free offer is a little booklet called, "alone in the crowd." And you can call in to the number on the screen: 1-866-788-3966 for the free offer, "alone in the crowd." Well, today we are talking about "garments of grace, clothing imagery in the Bible." And today we're on lesson number 11, we're talking about the wedding garments, the parable that Jesus told there in Matthew 22. Now some things in life are not what they seem to be.

A firefly is not a fly; it is a beetle. Did you know that? A prairie dog is not a dog; it is a rodent. Some things in life are not what they seem to be. Here are a couple more for you. Not everyone who goes to church is a Christian.

Is that true? It's true. Another one: not everyone who says they are a follower of Jesus actually follows Jesus. True? I know what you're thinking. You're saying, "yep, yep. I know some people like that.

" You know, those people that come to church. And they act like they're Christians, you know, for one day a week, sitting in church all dressed up, looking real nice. But yeah, I know what's really going on. I've seen 'em during the week. But who are we to judge? Now the Bible does say in Matthew 7, at least that's one place that it talks about this, that we can be fruit inspectors, pretty much, right? Jesus said, "by a person's fruits," in other words their actions, "you will know them.

" And the Bible talks about that, how we are to hold believers lovingly accountable. But when it comes to judging the heart, that's something we can't do. And so Jesus also said that the people waiting for his wedding--remember this parable in Matthew 25--would be both what? Foolish and wise. Mixed together, again in some commentary. Ellen white in the book, "Christ object lessons" tells us that if you were to look at these ten young ladies sitting there waiting for the bridegroom to come, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference on the outside.

They look the same. They've all got the lamp, represents the Word of God. They're dressed in the robe, the garment, the wedding garment. They, they, you know, they got their hair combed. They're looking good, but something inside is different.

And we find out later that one half of them have extra oil, half of them don't. And so Jesus has told us over and over again that we cannot judge the heart. We can be fruit inspectors, but we can't judge the heart. And of course, as the lesson points out, if you went through your lesson this week, in Matthew 7:3, Jesus said who are you to look at the spec in your brother or sister's eye and not consider that you have a log in your own eye? Isn't that the way it works sometimes? I've caught myself doing that. Man, I'll get really irritated with someone else's character defect, and then I'll realize that maybe even my irritation, my anger towards that person is a bigger problem than that person's little spec of a character problem.

You know what I mean? So these are heart issues, things that we're talking about today that apply to myself, apply perhaps to you as well. And things that really get close to home as we talk about the wedding garment today. Well, let's open up our Bibles, Matthew 21. Let's head over to Matthew 21, sets the stage for the parable in Matthew 22. Now the lesson study this week asked us, they said, alright read through Matthew 21.

See what themes you see popping up over and over again in Matthew 21. What happens over and over again in this chapter? Now you have to understand, this chapter Chronicles the last few days of Jesus Christ's ministry here on earth. And so here he is. It's Wednesday morning, perhaps Tuesday. Jesus is entering Jerusalem in Matthew 21 in what we call the triumphal entry.

Here he is just a few days--actually, I'm sorry, this may have been Monday. Anyway, I'll have to go back and check--just a few days though before he is going to be taken and tried and then finally executed. Okay? Here he is, he's coming into town. This chapter tells us what happens in these last few days. Now we're not going to read through all of this together, but basically as Jesus comes into town, the people are shouting out, "hosanna to The Son of David!" And they're throwing their garments on the road in front of Jesus.

And then Jesus, the Bible tells us, goes to the temple. And he casts out the money changers and the people who were buying and selling. And he says, "take these things away. My Father's house is not meant to be a shopping mall. It was meant to be a place of worship.

" Right? And he casts out the money changers. And as he does this, it says that the children and the blind and the lame, they all come to Jesus and they're happy. This is what the temple was made for. And they come and they praise him. And the priests and the rulers begin to rebuke them and say, "what are you letting these kids make such a raucous for in the temple? They're not being reverent, Jesus.

Tell them to be quiet." And Jesus then rebukes the priests and the rulers. Then Jesus leaves town. And on his way back the next day, he comes across a fig tree. He's hungry, it's breakfast time. And if you know what fig trees look like, aren't they--aren't they pretty trees? I love figs.

We have a fig tree in our backyard. We just planted it this last fall. And that little fig tree is just a beautiful little tree. Well, fig trees often times will get their--this fig tree, in this case, had a lot of leaves, but no fruit. And as he's looking through the leaves for the fruit, what happened? Couldn't find any.

And so Jesus curses the fig tree. It's an object lesson to the disciples. And Jesus, as they come back, they find the fig tree barren and wilted and completely dead. Then Jesus goes to the temple. And as he enters the temple he begins to teach.

And the scribes and the pharisees come up to him and say, "who gave you authority to teach like this? Who said that you would be here? Where's your ministerial license Jesus? "I don't have one. My father gave me authority to do this," Jesus says. Then Jesus tells a parable. He tells a story about two sons. One of The Sons, the dad says, "son, go work in my vineyard today.

" And The Son refuses to do it, but afterwards he repents and comes back and says, "okay, I'll go." Then there was the second son where The Father said, "son, go work in my vineyard." And he said, "I will." He gave lip service, but he never actually went. And the scribes and the pharisees, they listen to this and they are getting uncomfortable. Then Jesus tells them these words. He says, "listen, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going to go to heaven before you will go to heaven." Oh! Would that hurt a little bit to hear that? If Jesus came here today and said, "you know, the people downtown at the gay bar, they're going to heaven before you guys are." "What? Jesus?" Right? Similar analogy, isn't it? Bernie madoff is going to get to heaven before you do, because, you know, sitting in prison after he scammed all those people, he's repented. But you're, you know, looking the truth in the face and it's not affecting you.

Wow. Whoa, Jesus. Pretty hard words. Then Jesus tells this one last parable, before we get to the parable that we'll be looking at today. He tells the parable about the landowner.

And let's look at this parable. It's in Matthew 21. Jesus said, in verse 33, "listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and he rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey." Verse 34, "and when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third.

And again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first, and they did the same thing to them. But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'surely they will respect my son.'" Verse 38, "but when the vine-growers saw The Son, they said to themselves, 'this is the heir; come, let us kill him, and then we will inherit the vineyard.'" And so they took him and they threw him out of the vineyard. They killed him. And then Jesus asked the question, "therefore when the owner comes, what will he do? What will he do to these vine-growers?" The scribes and the pharisees at this point, they realize this was a--this was a zinger. And it was just straight to the heart.

You're like, "he's talking to us. This is about us." And so "they said, 'he will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and then he will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper season.' And Jesus said to them, 'did you never read in the Scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore--" verse 43, "I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you," Jewish nation, priests, rulers, "and given to a people producing the fruit of it." Wow. And verse 45, "when the chief priests and the pharisees heard this parable, they understood that he was speaking about them. And when they sought to seize him, they feared the people, because they considered him to be a prophet." Wow. And so as I read through this chapter, and the lesson said alright, what themes do you see popping up over and over again? The one theme that just stood out to me is summed up in one word, the word obstinacy.

The word stubborn refusal to see and receive the truth. Would you agree? Over and over again Jesus tries to reach the priests and the rulers. He cleanses the temple. "Hey, let me show you, it's not supposed to be this way." He tells stories. I mean don't you love stories? But boy, they sure do get the point across, don't they? He tells stories, and they, they won't listen.

He comes into town and the people are just like, "this is The Son of David! This is the Messiah!" And they still are hardening their hearts, not willing to see the truth that Jesus is their redeemer, their deliverer. They're obstinate. They're stubborn. They won't budge. Now we might ask ourselves, now listen, if I had lived back then, I would have been different.

Right? Yeah, come on. We know, you know, looking back, you know, what do they say about hindsight? Isn't it something like it's 20-20 right, vision. You can always looking back say, "you know what? I got everything figured out." But boy in the present, or you know, looking into the future it's not always so easy, is it? I was just talking this morning with somebody on the way to church here. And we were talking about how, you know, what if we had lived back then, you know, we probably would have, you know, accepted Jesus. But maybe not.

Maybe we would have been a little hardhearted too, just like the priests and the scribes. You know what? There's a tendency as we read the Scripture, at least I found this in my own life, tell me if you can identify, to take what I read in Scripture and apply it to somebody else. You ever done that? I mean I read the laodicean message, you know, where it says you're wretched and miserable and poor, blind and naked, you know, you think you have need of nothing. And I'm always thinking about somebody I know who's like that. You know what I mean? I'm thinking, man, you know what? I totally know this person.

They are such. They're laodicean. But the point is this, folks. God did not give the Bible to us for us to use it on somebody else. He gave it to us so that it could be a sword that would cut through our own heart, right? It would convict us of our own sins.

And boy, I'll tell you what, we shouldn't fool ourselves as the lesson said. They said, "is there any reason to think that even as Seventh-day Adventist Christians living with so much light, that we are much different than the scribes and the pharisees and the priests back in Jesus' day? Do we not at times show a hard and calloused indifference to truth, particularly when it interferes without our pet sins and desires and worldliness?" Now I'll have to say, especially here at sac central, we need to be careful with this, because we have a lot of truth, don't we? And we're pretty convinced that we have a lot of truth, aren't we? And we do! But here's the problem. It's when we get to thinking we're rich that it gets really dangerous for us, doesn't it? And so we especially ought to be careful to say, you know what? Am I really seeing what God wants me to see in His Word? I'm speaking to myself by the way, folks. Am I really being open to what God has for me in His Word? Or do I think I've got it all figured out? Do I think I have, you know, I've reached the sum of truth in my life and that's all there is to learn? Because that's pretty much what happened with the priests and the rulers, and as a result they missed seeing Jesus. That's a problem, isn't it? Well, so we see this theme through Matthew 21.

And Jesus tries to get his message through, and apparently it does get through to some extent. Because at the end of the chapter, the priests and the rulers say, you know what? He's talking about us. Right? They figured that much out. But they still weren't willing to budge. There's something called pride.

We all are afflicted with this disease to some extent. And pride is this thing, it's this funny thing that, you know, once you make one wrong decision, pride keeps you from admitting that you made that--going back on that decision. You know what I mean? And then if you take another step in that direction, pride just kind of cements us, doesn't it, in that bad decision-making process that we've made. And that's what happened, I think, to the priests and the rulers. Let's not be proud folks, right? Let's say to God, "God, I come to you and I want to be humble.

" Let's humble ourselves before God. And let's say, "God, I realize I don't have it all figured out. I need your wisdom. I need to be able to see things through your eyes. I don't want to be like the priests and the rulers in Jesus' day.

" That's my prayer. Is it your prayer? Now here's the thing. We're going to go to the next lesson here. And I don't know about you, but do you like weddings? Does anybody here like weddings? I know all the ladies are probably going to say they do. And that's good.

Weddings are beautiful things often times, aren't they? Well, I don't know about you, but I did not--i did not unfortunately get an invitation to prince william and kate's wedding. Did anyone here get an invitation to the royal wedding over in england? Are you familiar with the royal wedding? Did you hear about that? I did not get an invitation, and it really disappointed me. I'm serious. My feelings were hurt. But I think I'll get over it, so it's okay.

I understand, and this helped me a little bit, because I understand that pastor mike, who is a subject of the royal crown, also did not get an invitation. And so that makes me feel better, because if he didn't get one, you know, I'm a little farther removed so it doesn't make me feel quite as bad. I want to be invited to a wedding that we're going to read about here in a minute. Don't you? I want to be invited to the royal wedding of the Kings of Kings with his bride, the church. Don't you? That is a royal wedding that by the way invitations have gone out to everyone.

But yet we find in this parable that some will reject the invitation to the wedding. How sad. Because not only is this just an honor to go to this wedding, but this is a life or death issue. This is an invitation with consequences that are eternal in proportion. Matthew 22, so the Bible begins, let's read here a little bit of this parable in verses 1 through 8.

The Bible says, "Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 'the Kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son." Now bear in mind, that Jesus is following up to the priests and the rulers wanting to kill him for just telling them a parable that just, that just cut them right to their heart. And so Jesus follows it up with another parable. He says the Kingdom of heaven is like a king who has a wedding feast for his son. Big deal, right? Royal wedding, right? Queen mother having a wedding for prince william and kate. That's how big of a deal this is.

So the King sends out his slaves, verse 3, "to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come." Verse 4, "again he sent out other slaves saying, 'tell those who have been invited, 'behold, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen, my fatlings, my livestock are all butchered, everything is ready; come to the wedding feast.' But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves--" and did what? "Killed them. But the King was enraged, he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire." Verse 8, "then he said to his slaves, the wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy." Do you see any themes, any story lines popping up again that we just read about in chapter 21? Unwilling to come, verse 3; paid no attention, verse 5; mistreated them and killed them, verse 6. Anything similar to what we just read about? Obstinate, refusal to receive or to see the truth, right? And so Jesus tells this parable to the priests and the rulers as they're listening. They're probably, again, getting a little uncomfortable thinking, "man, this is close to home. This is close to home.

" The same theme of obstinacy, hubris, complete disrespect and ultimately even persecution appears in this story. Some make light of it. Others go their way. For others it was the lure of material things, "I got to take care of my farm. I need to deal with this piece of business over here.

" And for others it was a matter of hatred and enmity against the messengers. the King said those who were invited were not worthy. Now are any of us really worthy to be invited to the King's feast? Can any of us sit here today and say, "you know, yeah I'm worthy to go to heaven. I mean I'm not that bad of a person." You know, I'll be honest, when I was younger I kind of used to be that way. You probably wouldn't have wanted to know me then, because I wasn't always the nicest person to be around.

I had a very legalistic mentality. And since I did, my life consisted of looking at a list of things that I wanted to measure up to. And as long as I pretty much measured up to that list, I felt like I was okay. I remember even praying a couple of times and feeling like, you know what, what do I have to pray about? I mean God's pretty lucky to have me. I mean I didn't quite think that, but you know what I'm saying? Can we ever get there in our Christian life where we think, you know what? Yeah, I'm worthy.

But I tell you what, God had to send me through some experiences that really humbled me and helped me to realize that you know what? I will never be worthy to say that I got to heaven because of something I did. I will never be able to get to heaven and be able to say, "I'm here because, yeah, you know, I earned it. I deserve it, Jesus. This is why I made it here today." See none of us are worthy, are we? Our worthiness comes from somebody else. What's his name? Jesus Christ.

He died on the cross so that we could be worthy. Our worthiness comes not from ourselves, but from what Jesus has done and what we allow him to do in us. That's where our worthiness comes from. And so none of us are worthy. But as we look at this parable, we realize that as the King is looking at these people who have rejected his invitation, he says, "you know what? They're not worthy.

They have rejected my offer, my free offer, to come to the wedding feast." I have a question. Of the reasons that we just read about, making light of it, distracted by materiality, the lure of the world. Going our way, we're busy, or maybe just outright hostility. Which of these can you identify with? Can you identify with any of these people? When the invitation comes, have you ever been unwilling to respond to Jesus? We probably have, all of us at some point, haven't we? Have you ever been unwilling when God comes knocking on the door of your heart early in the morning and says, "hey, I want to spend time with you," but you say, "I'm too busy. I've got to get to work, God, sorry.

I don't have time." I've done that. Have you done that? You ever been unwilling when God says, "listen there's something in your life that I need to talk with you about. I want--i want you to be a happier person. I want you to represent me better in your life." And you say, "I'm unwilling. I don't want to do that, God.

I just--i don't want to deal with this in my life, so no." Have we ever been there? Have we been like the people in this story before? And so now the King sends out another invitation. Look what it says, verse 9, "go therefore," he tells his servants, "to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast." Can you see what has changed from the first part of the story to this second half of the story? First part of the story, invitations go out to a select group of people, right? "We can fill the chapel with 1900 people, and that's all the invitations we're going to send out." Right? Alright. But they all reject. "Servants, go out and tell the word on the street. Proclaim it on television.

Put it in the newspaper. Let people know that anyone who wants to come to the feast can come." Isn't that good news? This is the message of the Gospel, friends, that God has opened up--you know, when the Jewish nation were God's special people, God said to the jews, "listen, I'm going to make you a special people. I want you to follow me. I will bless you and people around you will see what a blessing you are, what a blessing it is to live in my will. And they'll want what you have.

They're going to come to you. You're going to be a lighthouse in the world, and they will accept the truth. They will want to know me." But the jews decided that instead of being a lighthouse, they were going to be a fortress. And so they built their walls very high. And they only let a few people in at a time if they met certain very stringent conditions.

And they shut out the truth from the rest of the world. That's the first part of the parable, right? Ultimately they rejected the one who was coming to give them the invitation to the wedding feast. But as the Bible says in Ephesians 2, God broke down the middle wall of partition between the jews and the gentiles when Jesus came. The cross destroyed the barrier, the fortress mentality. And God said, "I'm opening up salvation.

Salvation's always been open to everyone, but I'm opening up the truth, the possession of the truth to anyone who will accept it and take it." Isn't that good news? You know, the Bible says in the book of Romans chapter 1 and 2 that, "unto the jews were committed the oracles of God." In other words, they had the truth. Just like we as Seventh-day Adventists today, as I look around the world, I look for churches that teach the truth. And so far I've only been able to find one that teaches the truth as close to the Bible as it possibly can and that is the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And that's why I'm a part of this church. But here's the thing.

We as Seventh-day Adventists, even though unto us has been committed God's last-day, three angel's messages, we don't want to be like the jews, do we? We don't want to build up our walls and say, "you know what? No, we're just going to stay to ourselves, have a good time within our own walls." No, no, no. God's invitation should be going out to everyone, on the highways and in the byways. And what does the Bible say? How do those in the highways and the byways receive the invitation? Look what it says in verse 10. The Bible says, "those slaves went out into the streets and they gathered together all that they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was--" what? "Filled with dinner guests." No problem. Just like that.

"Sure, you want us to come to a wedding? You want us to come eat some food? We're homeless. We're on the street. We're hungry. We'll be there." Bam! No problem. Interesting, isn't it? The invitation goes out to those who feel their need and they are there.

They are on it, aren't they? I don't ever want to get so full with God's truth that I become like the people in the first part of this story. Do you? I don't ever want to become so satiated with a knowledge of the truth that I start to say, you know, I don't need to go and have a feast with God. I've got enough. I want to be a little bit hungry all the time. Don't you? I want to be hungry for God.

I want that hunger that those in the second part of the story had. Man, when they were invited, they were there. They were on it! Just like that. Now the Bible says though that both evil and good came to the wedding feast. What does this mean? What does this mean? What does it mean that some who came were both bad and good? Well, we just talked about the parable of the wheat and the tares, didn't we? And as the net of the Gospel goes out, our nets--do nets discriminate? Are nets like fishing with a line? Not really.

Nets gather up a lot of stuff, don't they? In fact I understand that when fishermen fish with nets out in the ocean, that as they cast their nets, often times they will pull in all sorts of things. Sometimes things that they had no intention of catching, including starfish and all sorts of other things that are of no good to the fisherman, right? And so the Bible says that the Gospel net brings in a mixture of good and bad, wheat and tares, foolish and wise into the church. And that is exactly what we see in the church today, isn't it? We see that in the church today, absolutely. And so the lesson asks us. They said, "alright, well considering this, that there are both good and evil in the church," they said, "have you ever noticed--" and this is--boy this is a question.

This is on, let's see here, on Tuesday's lesson. This is a question to really ask ourselves more as a thought question than as a finger-pointing question. They said, "have you ever noticed that some of the meanest and nastiest people, and most hateful people, are professed Christians?" Have you ever noticed that? Is it true that some of the most retaliatory types of people, some of the people who are sometimes the most unkind claim to be followers of Jesus, is that true? It sure has been true in history, hasn't it? In fact the church has done more in history to persecute and condemn and even kill than actually than those who have not claimed to follow Christ at all. And that's sad, isn't it? It's very sad. In fact, if you go back to the crusades, the crusaders were people who were dedicated to their faith in the God that they believed to worship.

These people would believe that if they were to go on these long crusades across the deserts to the holy land where they would then fight with the muslims and those who were the infidels as they called them. They would then receive a special, you know, dispensation. And they would be able to assure the salvation of their loved ones, or maybe even buy someone's, you know, way out of purgatory or assure their place in heaven. So these people would go and they would fight in the name of Christ and slaughter hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in the name of Jesus. You think that's a good way for Christians to act? What do you think? Is that a good way for the followers of Christ to share the Gospel? The lesson says that one eyewitness reported in the crusades that our troops boiled pagan adults in cooking pots.

Wow. What a great way to spread the message of Jesus, right? They impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled. That's disgusting. And then the lesson asked, "how could these horrors have been done in the name of Jesus?" Good question, isn't it? And yet it has been done in the name of Jesus. And before you say, "well, that was just the catholics.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. They did all of that." Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait, wait. Did you know, in fact I was just reading an article this last week, excEllent article. The name of the article is "the cross and liberty of conscience: are the two inseparable?" By a man named gerald finneman. And it was in the magazine, "glad tidings" that's published by the 1888 message study committee.

And someone just printed this out for me, or copied it and gave it to me. And as I was reading through this, I found an interesting story that I did not know before. But there was a man. He was a physician. His name was Michael servetus.

Back in 1553, the catholics did not like this guy. Apparently he was preaching something too heretical for them, maybe that you could be saved, you know, by God's free grace or something like that, right? And so they decided in France that the catholic tribunal there decided they, since they did not have him in their custody, they were going to burn him an effigy. So they made a little scarecrow out of--that looked like Michael servetus. And they burned it in public, and said, "we're burning him at the stake. Even if we can't get our hands on him, we'll do the next best thing.

" Well, apparently he went to switzerland thinking, "maybe I'll be safe there," because switzerland was controlled by the calvinists who were protestants. And John calvin of course was in charge at that time. By the way, John calvin in many ways, a Godly man, but did not understand the importance of separation between church and state, which is a value that we hold here in America and which we as Seventh-day Adventists have always advocated for, 'cause it's a biblical idea. And so in 1553, listen to this, calvin deceived as he was in this area, influenced his court system in switzerland to execute Michael servetus as a heretic. And then the author of this little article said, "Michael servetus is the only one with the unique distinction to be burned by catholics in effigy and by protestants in actuality.

" I thought wow, wow. Burned by both the catholics and the protestants. So it wasn't just the catholics who were out doing these horrible things in the name of Jesus; it was also the protestants. They were doing some things that were very mean, very ugly and very un-Christlike. Were they deceived? Absolutely.

Were they sincerely deceived? Perhaps. In fact, in the book of John 16:2, the Bible says that the end of time Jesus warned us, he said, those who persecute you will think they are doing God a service. They're going to think that it's--they're doing a good thing. That's how deceived the world will be. That's how much people will believe that God is for intolerance.

That he wants people to be forced to do his will. Now I am thankful for the Word of God. And I'm thankful for the truth that we as Seventh-day Adventist Christians know. And I want to just--i want to be one of those people who say to God, "God, you know what, listen. I want not to set myself up in your place and act as the judge of other people's hearts, but I want to remember that you God, are the only judge of the hearts of men and women.

Aren't you glad that God is the judge? And by the way, he will judge. He will judge, even those who have set themselves over the consciences of other people. Now this is getting to where our story today is going to take us in the last few minutes here of our study together. Go back to Daniel 7, real quick, rapid fire sequence here looking at a few verses, Daniel 7. In the book of Daniel 7, the Bible gives us a picture--if I can find Daniel this morning.

I know where it is, but I'm just having a little bit of a challenge here. Daniel 7. The Bible says, look what it says in verse 9. It says, "I kept looking," Daniel 7:9, "until thrones were set up, the ancient of days--" that's God The Father-- "took his seat." Won't that be amazing, some day to see God The Father on his throne? "His vesture was white like snow. The hair of his head was like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire." What a majestic, incredible scene. "A river of fire," verse 10, "was flowing and coming out from him; thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before him." Then look what it says. "The court was seated, and the books were opened." This is a court scene in heaven. Majestic, powerful. Then look what happens in verse 11.

"Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the little horn was speaking." By the way, little horn, antiChrist power, beast power, Revelation 13, they all match up if you compare them. This power, what is a defining characteristic of the little horn power? They do what to God's people? They persecute God's people, right? Okay. So just keep in mind, this power is basically saying to the world, "hey, you need to do things my way, think my way, believe my way. There's no such thing as freedom of conscience. I will tell you what to believe, and if you don't, I'll kill you.

" That's what they're saying. Okay. So here's what happens. The little horn was speaking great words. It says, "I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.

" Amen for that, right? Going down to verse 13, "I kept looking, behold, with the clouds of heaven, one came like The Son of man. He came to the ancient of days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion, glory, a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and men of every language might serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; his kingdom is one which shall not be destroyed." And if you jump down to verse 21 and 22, look what it says, "I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them." That means persecuting them. Verse 22, "until the ancient of days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the highest one, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of God's kingdom.

" Isn't that amazing? In other words, what Daniel is seeing here, is he seeing when a judgment takes place, and basically in this judgment that's going on in heaven, it's an investigative judgment. It's a judgment where God is looking at those who profess to follow him, including this beast power. And this beast power is saying, "yes, we follow God. We believe in Jesus. But we're going to force you to do things like we do.

And if you don't do it, we're going to kill you." And they're forcing people to worship falsely. They're forcing people to go against the dictates of their conscience. And God says, "enough is enough. I'm going to come back, and I'm going to destroy the beast and give the Kingdom to my people." Good news, isn't it? In Matthew 22, as we finish up this parable, we see the same thing happening. Look what happens here.

Verse 11, "but when the King came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was--" what? Didn't know what to say. And the reason he was speechless was because this was such a big deal. This was such a big deal. He'd been invited to the wedding, but he had not put on the wedding clothes. And as the King came in to do this inspection of the wedding guests, an investigation if you will, he sees someone who is not wearing the wedding clothes.

Now you might say, "this is a really odd king. Right? He's--odd, what is odd? No, okay. Ocd, yeah, there we go. I'm thinking of add, yeah, that's the other one, right? Okay, yeah, yeah, hyperactive. I guess maybe he was a little bit add, but probably more ocd, right? He's like super--i mean what's the big deal? Come on, wear his own clothes.

Why does he have to wear your wedding garment, right? Apparently--now here's the deal. Now this is a parable and it's teaching us something about what matters to God, isn't it? Can we ever get to heaven in our own clothing? Can we ever make it in our own righteousness? Can I ever get to heaven and say, "you know, it wasn't because of Jesus' sacrifice that I got here. It was because I was a good person. You know, I gave lots of money to charity, and I was really nice to my neighbor. You know, and I you know helped an old lady across the street.

So therefore I'm a good person. I should be in heaven." That's not enough to get us into heaven, is it? Only if we're covered with the righteousness of Jesus, with the wedding garments of the King. And so as the King comes in to inspect, think of this in symbolic terms. It was such a big deal that the King says, "hey, where's your wedding garment?" And the guy is speechless. He doesn't know what to say.

Then look what happens in verse 13. "Then the King said to the servants, bind him hand and foot, throw him into outer darkness, in that place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen." What does this wedding garment represent? It represents the righteousness of Jesus, the only way that you or I will make it to heaven. And why should rejection of this be a matter of life or death, eternal life or death? Because only by the grace of Jesus will we be able to make it into heaven. Now unless you believe in once saved always saved, unless you believe that once a person has received God's free grace they can never reject it, unless you believe in that, then what is the problem, the lesson asks, with the idea that God at some point in history ultimately and finally separates the wheat from the tares? That's what was happening in this parable, isn't it? He's saying, hey, who's got the wedding garment and who doesn't? He's separating those who do and those who don't.

He's separating the wheat from the tares, the foolish from the wise. This is a biblical idea that God will have some sort of an investigative judgment before he comes back to separate the good from the bad, those who are truly following him from those who are just professing to follow him. It makes sense, doesn't it? Now you might be asking, "well wait, but doesn't God already know who are his? Can't he read our hearts? Does God need to like, you know, catch up? Is he behind on his record-keeping in heaven and so he needs to like have some sort of a judgment and get everybody to help him so that he can figure out who's going to heaven? And I think the answer is no. God is much smarter than that, isn't he? I think his memory is better than that. I don't think he needs to have a judgment for himself.

But I have a question. Do you think he might need to let a judgment happen for the rest of the universe, maybe for the angels, maybe even for our own sake? And here's why. When lucifer sinned in heaven, did God immediately zap him? Could he have? And in fact, would he have been justified in immediately zapping him? Absolutely, right? Ultimately will lucifer perish? He will because of his persistent rejection of God's grace, his desire to continue on in sin and of course all the evil that he's done. But God allowed lucifer to continue his life, to even wreak havoc in the universe so that the universe could know exactly where God stood and where satan stood. With--now with God allowing satan to continue and to do his evil deeds, the universe will never be in doubt as to what satan and his plans, where they ultimately lead.

God's character will also never be in doubt because it will be seen that God is a God of justice. He's a God of love. He's a God who gives free choice. God could have zapped lucifer, he could have wiped out the memory of satan from the angels in heaven. They would never have known the difference.

But God did not do that. Instead he said, you know what? I'm going to let it play out because people need to make a decision on their own. I want people to make a decision based on their own free choice, not on what I tell them to make. And so there is an investigation. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says that God will bring every work into judgment some day.

1 Corinthians 4:5, says that God will judge all things, even the secret things. God will bring those to life. See I can judge the secret things, neither can you, because you don't know the thoughts in my heart and I don't know the thoughts of your heart, but God does. And so God will allow a judgment to take place, not because God is stupid and can't figure things out, not because God is forgetful and can't remember, but because God wants us to be able to know that he has been just, that he has been fair, and that those who are going to heaven, that they're actually the ones who want to go there and who have given their lives to Jesus. Now an example of this in the old testament is when God came to adam and eve in the garden.

Do you remember that story? And as God comes to the garden, adam and eve had just sinned. Eve took the fruit from the tree. She took a bite. Then she took it to adam and said, "hey, I just did this. This is what the serpent told me to do.

I feel better." Adam says, "I know I shouldn't do this. Eve or God, which one will I choose?" He chose his wife over God, interesting story. He chose to mistrust God instead of to trust him. And he took a bite from the fruit. And the Bible says immediately they realized they were naked, and they hid themselves.

They sewed fig leaves together. They hide in the bushes. God comes by, walking in the cool of the day. "Adam, eve, where are you? I want to spend time with you like we normally do." They're hiding. Did God know where they were? Why did God say, "adam, where are you? Adam, I can't quite find you.

I've lost track of you. My gps tracking system isn't working for you." Was that the problem? Not at all. Did God know where they were? Absolutely. Why did God ask the question? For adam's sake, for eve's sake. "Adam, where are you?" Adam's thinking, "wait, he knows where I'm at.

But where am I at? I'm separated from him. That's where I'm at." Where am i? I'm lost from God. And so God asks questions at the end of time in the investigative judgment, not because God can't figure things out, but because we need to know God's thought processes. We need to know why God has made the decisions that he has. We need to know, the universe needs to know that God is fair, that God is just.

In closing today, I don't know about you, but when I think about my works being investigated, it makes me despair. Have you ever felt that way? Look at your life. Look at your whole life. Even one sin is enough for us to be eternally condemned. That's the seriousness of sin.

And sometimes I forget how serious sin is. I forget that sin is an ugly thing that not only put Jesus on the cross, but that it destroys my life when I harbor it in my own life. And so when I think about my works being investigated I despair. I realize that I am nowhere near to where God wants me to be. And in fact I know that the closer I come to Christ the more I'll see my sins revealed in my own life.

But I know that I've been given a ticket to heaven. It's called God's grace. Sometimes though I find myself wanting to live in a way that denies that grace. Have you ever been there? You ever find yourself doing things and you realize, "wait. I shouldn't be doing this.

But I've--" God has begun to teach me. He's been teaching me for years and years that it hurts, not only him, but it hurts me when I walk outside of his will, even a little bit. I have two things I can trust in. Number one, God is merciful and he is gracious. We can cast ourselves at Jesus' feet and say, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

" Isn't that what the publican did? And didn't Jesus say he went home justified? The second thing is, found in Philippians 1:6, God says, "if I have started a good work in you, I will be faithful to complete it." Is that good news? God says, "listen, as long as you are willing," see God never forces us. He never will come to us and coerce us, but as long as I'm willing and I make that active choice to say, "God, I want to be open to you. My heart, right now is not with you. But God, I'm willing to be changed. Change my heart.

" God says, "I will complete the work in you." Where do we come in the picture? We need to open the door every time he knocks, don't we? We need to seek him, "while he may be found," Isaiah 66 says. We need to cry out after God, "God be merciful to me, a sinner." And invite him. Receive him into our lives through the study of God's Word and through prayer. Do you want to do that? Journey back through time to the center of the universe. Discover how a perfect angel transformed into satan the archvillain.

The birth of evil, a rebellion in heaven, a mutiny that moved to earth, behold, the creation of a beautiful new planet and the first humans. Witness the temptation in eden. Discover God's amazing plan to save his children. This is a story that involves every life on earth, every life. "The cosmic conflict," if God is good, if God is all-powerful, if God is love, then what went wrong?

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