Salvation is recieved, not earned!


                “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle,and said, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’ So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen” (Mathew 20: 1-16.)


                In this parable, the landowner represented God in the form of Jesus Christ.  The first workers represented the Pharisees, religious leaders, and Holy men that God had called to minister to the world; these men had been faithful for many years; some their whole lives; they had avoided lying, adultery, and drunkenness; they prayed, and observed the feasts and the commandments of God.  They felt that their own efforts and righteous deeds had earned them a distinguished place with God.  The sinners of the world were represented by the ‘later workers,’ who had lived the majority of their lives in sin.  Jesus (the landowner), had been calling all sinners to repent; many prostitutes and tax collectors were being baptized and they were turning to God; they began to do the work of the Lord, side by side with those who had never strayed from God’s path.  In this parable, the ‘day’s wage’ represented the salvation God freely offered to all mankind, irrespective of past works of righteousness.  Sinners and saints would receive the same gift from God.  The religious leaders hated Jesus, because he had made them equal to new converts; they felt entitled to a greater reward from God for their many good deeds.  Those who received the salvation they didn’t deserve were overjoyed and glorified God; those who believed salvation was a earned wage, despised the grace of God in favor of glorifying themselves (the sinner thanks God, the self-righteous thanks himself.)  No human being deserves salvation; no one can attain it through strenuous effort; it must be received as a gift.

                Some years ago, I was working in sales, and the housing market bottomed out.  One day, I was called in to my manager’s office, and I was ‘let go.’  I picked up my last check, and began looking for work full time.  I sent in untold numbers of resumes and went on countless interviews.  No call backs, no second interviews; I continued in this strenuous routine for nearly five months, until rejection after rejection finally produced within me, great discouragement and despair.  I decided if no one was going to hire me to work, I would work for free and serve God.  I began volunteering at a non-profit, a local church, and a senior center.  A couple of months later, I received a call from some company, I don’t recall ever submitting a resume too.  I was hired to be a caregiver, and to help a needy man with his daily living needs.  The job was on weekends; at the same time a man told me about a theology school I should attend just up the street; the school met on weekday mornings (which worked perfectly with my weekend job.)  God orchestrated the whole scenario so that I could be trained to serve Him.  Today, I am one week away from graduating from that school (a two year program); I still work for the brain injured man, and it has been the best job I have ever had.  In all my efforts to find work, I was trying to gain for myself, something that only God could provide.  God had used many months of disappointment to humble me.  He brought me to the point at which I was able to receive his gift for myself; I didn’t get the job because I was qualified, or because I had written some fantastic resume; it wasn’t a product of my hard work either.  Instead the job was a gift I gratefully accepted from the Lord.

                Today, there are many people who believe that they deserve God’s favor; some go so far as to make self-righteousness and human effort the means by which a person is saved.  Jesus Christ came to offer to mankind something they were incapable of earning; he came to bring salvation to those who were willing to throw up their hands in frustration and admit, “I am unworthy.”  No man, woman, or child can be right with God, unless they first realize that apart from God’s grace they are doomed.  Those who follow Christ rejoice in knowing that they, like the late workers, are freely forgiven; they stand side by side with those who have labored long in the faith.  In God’s eyes, the sinner and the saint are drawn together as one by the sweet blood of His one and only Son. [Note:  Genuine faith, once it has been experienced and received, produces a desire to be more pleasing to God.  God’s Spirit makes real changes in the heart; it is not enough to say, ‘saved by grace,’ while continuing to live in sickness without remorse or repentance.]

                “Lord Heavenly Father, we come before You today, and we ask that You help us to accept Your salvation as a free gift.  Give us the humility to realize the greatness of Your mercy and grace.  Help us to avoid being judgmental; may we rejoice with new believers, knowing that they have received the same great gift that You have given us.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.     


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