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The subject that I want to speak to you about this evening I have given the title “The Two Banquets.” I’m going to be speaking about two banquets that are described in parables in the New Testament, in the parables of Jesus. I’m going to base my message on three parables of Jesus. I think I should say at the beginning that this message is a warning, it’s a warning against presumption. It’s a warning that comes initially from Jesus Himself. It’s a warning against presuming on a relationship with God that you don’t actually have.
It also raises two questions. The first is what kind of people receive God’s provision and the second is what kind of people miss God’s provision. So, I want you to be listening with those thoughts in mind.
Now I’m going to read the first parable which is found in Matthew 21:33–46. It’s usually called the parable of the vineyard. It speaks about a landowner who rented out a vineyard to workers, vinedressers; but he expected them to bring some of the fruit as payment for the vineyard. They refused to do that and this describes how the landowner dealt with them. Beginning then in Matthew 21:
“There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. He leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country. Now when the vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize the inheritance.’ And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
Now we get the response of the people who were listening to Jesus.
“They said to Him, ‘He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the scriptures the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone? This was the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. Therefore I say to you the kingdom of God will be taken from you [Jewish people] and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.’ Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking of them.”
They saw that it was directed to them, the leaders of the Jewish people of that time.
“But when they sought to lay hands on Jesus, they feared the multitudes because they took Him for a prophet.”
So there is the story. And you see, the vinedressers made a mistake. They assumed that they could take over ownership of the vineyard for themselves. They didn’t realize that they were only stewards appointed by the owner and they had an obligation to the owner.
The real issue which was raised there is the issue of fruit. The vineyard is for those who bring forth the fruit. And at that time Jesus was telling His own Jewish people, “If you don’t bring forth the fruit that God requires, the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of faith, the fruit of mercy, God will take this vineyard from you and give it to another nation.” Now, the word in Greek that’s used for a nation, ethnos, is the word that’s normally translated Gentile or, the Hebrew word is goyim. And you need to know that the Jewish people, in a certain sense, tend to look down on the goyim, the Gentiles. And so, when Jesus said you Jewish people are in danger of losing your inheritance, that which God has provided for you, this vineyard which He planted and provided with all that was necessary for bringing forth fruit, if you don’t bring forth the fruit, if you don’t give God the fruit that is His due, God is going to take it from you and give it to a Gentile nation. Those were terrible words to Jewish ears. If you haven’t lived amongst Jewish people, you’re not aware of this gap that they feel between themselves and the goyim, the other nations. And because of their special background and all the privileges that God had bestowed upon them, they couldn’t conceive that they would lose their privileged position and that the privileges would be given to another nation.
Now, I don’t believe the other nation is a specific nation such as Britain or America or New Zealand or Australia or any other nation. I believe it’s a new nation that God has brought forth, for Peter wrote to the believers in Jesus and said, “You are a holy nation, a special people, a people who belong to God.” And I believe that is the nation that Jesus had in mind which is made up, of course, not only of Jews or of Gentiles but of both Jews and Gentiles.
But you see, the problem with these people was they presumed they had a relationship with God which actually by their misconduct they had forfeited. They presumed because of their background, for something like 14 centuries, they’d been especially privileged people, a unique people amongst all nations on the earth. They could say, “Well, God gave us the law of Moses. God instructed us to build the temple. God sent to us all His prophets. We have the only priesthood that God acknowledges on earth.” And all of that was true but it didn’t mean that they could presume on their relationship with God. And actually, in the subsequent years God did exactly what Jesus had warned them He would do. He took that privileged position away from them and gave the kingdom of God through the message of the kingdom and the gospel to what we would call today the church, a new nation formed out of many different nations, Jewish and Gentile.
And then Jesus reminded them that this had been predicted in their own prophets in Psalm 118. He quoted there, He said, “Hadn’t you ever read the stone which the builders rejected—and He was referring to Himself—has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes.” And then He went on to say, “Whoever falls on this stone will be broken, but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” So Jesus said these words are going to be fulfilled in me. You builders, you rabbis, priests, scribes, elders, you may reject me but I am the chief cornerstone and the whole building depends on me.
And then He said there are going to be two ways that any person can respond to this stone. This is the generally accepted interpretation of this scripture, which I agree with. You may fall on the stone in repentance, kneel, cast yourself down upon the stone and cry out to God for mercy. And, you’ll receive mercy, you’ll be broken. Your pride, your arrogance, your religious assumptions will all be smashed—but you’ll be saved. But, if you refuse to bow before this stone and humble yourself and acknowledge your need of God’s mercy, the stone will fall on you and crush you to powder. It will destroy you.
So, this stone which is Jesus can either become the place where you find mercy and salvation through brokenness or it can become the instrument that crushes you in divine judgment. And there are only two ways that anybody can respond to Jesus. There’s no third possibility. A lot of people don’t want to make a commitment but they don’t want to be accused of rejecting. They want to find a kind of place of neutrality. Jesus ruled that out. He said he that is not with me is against me. And, the one who doesn’t gather with me is scattering. So there are only those two possibilities. I would like to ask you tonight, consider in your own heart where are you in your relationship with Jesus Christ? Don’t presume. You may have a Christian background, you may be a member of a church, you may know a lot about the Bible but that’s not the question. The question is where do you stand in your relationship with Jesus? Are you with Him? If you’re with Him you’ll be gathering, you’ll be positively serving Him, doing what He commands. But if you’re not with Him then you’re against Him whether you know it or not. And, being against Him, you’re scattering, you’re wasting. You might say what am I wasting? You’re wasting everything that God has given you—your life, your talents, your time, your money—they’re all being wasted, they’re being squandered. They’re being used on things that have no permanent value, you’re missing the privilege of investing in the kingdom of God. And there are only those two situations.
And you see, history records the tragedy of the Jewish people. I love the Jewish people. I’m not Jewish but I love the Jewish people. I don’t say this with any attitude of arrogance or superiority, I simply say it as an objective fact. They made this tragic error, they presumed on a relationship with God which they didn’t have. They presumed upon it because of their background, because of all the privileges that God had bestowed uniquely upon that nation. But you see, privilege is something that you’ve got to take very carefully. It’s not a cause for arrogance or for taking anything or granted. On the contrary, privileges confer responsibility. Jesus said to whom much is given, of him much will be required. So the more privileges you’ve received the more God expects from you in return.
Consider yourselves as citizens of New Zealand. Think of the privileges you have. Political freedom, just and impartial laws, liberty to assemble, liberty to proclaim the truth, liberty to worship. An almost endless supply of teaching, first of all, in the Bible itself, then in all sorts of books and other teaching materials. That’s wonderful but remember, to whom much is given, of him much will be required. God expects much more from you people than He does from people who’ve never heard the truth or just have—like people in China. A man who has one page of the Bible becomes a pastor. They have one Bible between a hundred believers. Brothers and sisters, the fruit that’s coming forth out of their lives is amazing. How do you compare with them? With all the privileges that you have, are you being more fruitful than they? Are you spending more time in prayer than they spend? You have liberty, most of them have to work hard from early morning until evening. There are very few kinds of free time that they can enjoy. What are you doing with your time? Are you wasting endless hours before a television set? There’s very little on television that will make you holy and there’s a lot that will do the opposite.
I tell people in many lands if you really want to be a spiritual giant, you just have to exchange two things. There are exceptions to this but for most of you, if you really want to be a spiritual giant I’ll tell you the secret. Just exchange or reverse two things. The amount of time you spend in front of the television and the amount of time you spend in front of your Bible. Just change them and you’ll be surprised how you’ll grow spiritually. I’m not preaching against television, there are things on television that serve a useful purpose. But basically, it’s not the place that you become spiritual.
We had a visitation in our local church in Fort Lauderdale in 1986, about six weeks of visitation. And most of the time we were on our faces on the floor before God. There was very little preaching. It was one of those rare occasions when we let God speak. And all sorts of sins—I mean, it was a good, respectable, Charismatic church. I would say probably in the top 20% of such churches in the nation. But when God visited us the sins that we had to confess amongst ourselves—not publicly—and I didn’t have personally to confess most of these sins, I want to make that clear. But there was adultery, fornication, alcoholism—all in the midst of the church. I think the sin that most people had to confess was idolatry. And you know what the idol was? You can guess, the television set. And I can’t count the number of people that had to confess to the sin of wasting endless hours before the television set. Remember, to whom much is given, of him much also will be required.
Paul said we live our lives bearing in mind that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of the things done in this body, whether they be good or bad. No third category. It’s either good and if it’s not good it’s bad. And every one of us is going to have to give an account of ourselves, every one of us.
Brothers and sisters, don’t waste so much time pointing out the faults of others, criticizing other churches, congregations. Because, you won’t have to answer to them. There’s just one person you’ll have to answer for. Who’s that? Me, that’s right.
Now I want to go on to two other parables which are the parables of the two banquets that I want to speak about. The next one is in the next chapter of Matthew. I have to make a statement here based on my knowledge of Greek. Anybody who says he knows all there is to know about Greek is kidding himself because nobody does. But I have learned Greek since I was ten years old and I studied it for fifteen years and I was qualified to teach it at university level. That does not mean that I’m incapable of making mistakes but it does mean that I’m entitled to my opinion. So that’s all I’m saying! And what I’m going to tell you is there are two banquets, one in Matthew, one in Luke. And almost all the translations, there is one exception, I can’t remember which it is, call them both dinners but that’s wrong. The banquet in Matthew was not a dinner, it was a breakfast. The banquet in Luke was a supper. Anybody who knows Greek here, the first word is ariston which is breakfast—still is in modern Greek. The second word was dicon which is supper. And the point of this is the first was at the beginning of the day, the second was at the end of the day. You understand? If you miss that you don’t get the full application of these two parables of the banquets.
Now we’re going to read the one in Matthew 22:1–14. I’ll just go ahead of myself and say I believe this parable was fulfilled in the Jewish nation because they were the people who had all the privileges. They were the people who received the invitation. Let me read it and then comment on it.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come.”
They’d been invited, their name was on the list of guests but they wouldn’t come.
“Again he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner. My oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm and another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully and killed them.”
In verse 4 it says, “See, I have prepared my dinner.” But it’s breakfast. What it is, it’s the first meal of the day. It could be anything before midday.
“The rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. [And the king is God.] And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up that city.”
Now that has a historical fulfillment. It was fulfilled in 70 AD when God released the armies of Rome against Jerusalem and against the Jewish people. They took and destroyed Jerusalem, destroyed and burned the temple. This is because they refused the invitation.
Now, the wedding was scheduled—do you notice how good I am at saying scheduled? Somebody said to an American, “Where did you learn to say schedule?” And he said, “I learned it in school.” I’m bilingual, I just have to think what nation I’m in.
All right. The wedding was scheduled but had to be postponed because the guests didn’t come. So here we have a wedding that was scheduled for the beginning of the day and it didn’t take place. Now we’ve got to read on in the Bible to find out when it does take place. After the destruction of the guests who’d refused—and dear brothers and sisters, let me say it’s a terrible thing to refuse God’s invitation. It’s an insult.
Many, many years ago my father was an officer in the British army in India in the days when India had a Viceroy, you probably can at least remember that historically. And some British officer was invited to meet the Viceroy which was the king’s representative. He received an invitation which said from the Viceroy’s secretary, “I have been commanded to invite you to come.” And he wrote back and he said thank you but I’m not coming. He got into terrible trouble for refusing this so he said I must have misread the invitation. I thought it said I’ve been commanded to invite you, not I’ve been invited to command you. But if you get into trouble for refusing the Viceroy’s invitation, think what it means when you refuse God’s invitation. How can you insult God anymore than refuse His invitation?
“The king said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready but those who were invited were not ready. Therefore, go into the highways and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So the servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
You see, when the Jewish people refused, Jesus said to His disciples, “Now go into all the world and make disciples of all nations [Gentiles].” So this is the point at which the invitation which had been refused by the first guests was extended to a multitude of other guests right out, far away, not living in this privileged relationship in God’s land.
So the servants now went out into the highways and gathered all whom they found. Notice both bad and good. It interests me that the bad were put before the good. Not all the people who accept the invitation are good people, did you know that? How do I know that? I accepted it and I wasn’t a good person by any means. And generally speaking, the bad accept before the good, did you know that? When the gospel is preached it’s the bad people that respond first. Jesus said the harlots and the tax collectors go into the kingdom of God before the religious people. You know why the religious people have a hard time accepting? Because they think they’re good enough already. That’s their problem, is being good.
Anyhow, the bad and the good were all invited. Verse 11:
“When the king came in to see the guests he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.”
Now you need to understand in that culture at that time, when you were invited to a wedding, the man who invited you provided you with the appropriate garment to wear at the wedding. You didn’t have to provide it at your own expense, it was part of his hospitality. So, the man who didn’t have the garment, it wasn’t because he didn’t have enough money. What was his problem? Shall I tell you? He presumed. He presumed that he could get in without the appropriate garment. What happened?
“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servant, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; for many are invited but few are chosen.’”
That’s the end of the man who presumed that he could get in without a wedding garment. He ended up cast out forever in a lost condition into outer darkness. It’s dangerous to presume that you have a relationship with God that you don’t have.
Now, the wedding garment represents salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and being clothed with His righteousness, not your own. In Isaiah 61:10 it says:
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul will be joyful in my God because He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with a robe of righteousness.”
That’s the wedding garment, it’s a garment of salvation. And when you get a garment of salvation you also get a robe of righteousness. Not your own righteousness but the righteousness of God imputed to you through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21:
“God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Not our own righteousness, not our religiosity, not the best we can do but the righteousness of Jesus received by faith because on the cross Jesus bore our sins. He was made sin with our sinfulness that in return through faith, and no other way, we might be made righteous, reckoned righteous, with His righteousness.
It’s one of the most beautiful pictures. And the prophet says:
“I will greatly rejoice in the Lord. My soul shall be joyful in my God.”
I tell people if you’ve never got excited, I doubt whether you’ve ever worn the garment of salvation or the robe of righteousness. Some people laugh at us because we get excited about our religion. I tell you, I was a professor of logic. The only logical thing to do is get excited, there’s no other logical response! Here you are, clothed in the filthy garments of your own righteousness and the Lord says, “Take them off and I’ll cover you with a garment of my own righteousness. And, you can come before me without shame, without diffidence, knowing that you’re covered with my righteousness.” If you don’t get excited about that you’ve never really believed it, that’s the truth of the matter.
I was brought up in the Anglican church in Britain and I thank God for many good things I received in the Anglican church. But, I never met the Lord there. I’m sure He was there but I never met Him. As a boy and a teenager growing up, you know, teenagers tend to be rather critical. I appreciated the beautiful words, they’re really lovely words, but when I looked at the people I said to myself, “I wonder if they really believe what they’re saying?” I had this little mental picture. I thought of one of these dignified ladies at the end of the service walking out of the church and dropping her beautiful lace handkerchief. I pictured myself running behind her, picking up the handkerchief and saying, “Madam, here’s the handkerchief you dropped.” And somehow I thought she’d be more excited about getting her handkerchief back than she would about all the wonderful things she’d been saying about God through the service. If you can get excited about a lace handkerchief, wouldn’t it be reasonable to be excited about being clothed with the total robe of Christ’s righteousness?
Every time I get to this truth in scripture I get excited and I’m not basically an emotional person. You really never appreciated what God is telling you. I don’t see how you can help being excited. There you are in rags, filthy, just unattractive. And, you’re invited to this wedding breakfast and all the people there are in beautiful garments. You think, “I’d love to get in there but I’d be so conspicuous.” And when you get to the door the servant says, “Take all that stuff off, we’ve got a robe for you.” And you can walk in and not feel ashamed.
See, when we’re all wearing Christ’s righteousness, none of us can feel superior to the other. If you think you’re superior to other Christians I don’t think you probably are wearing the robe of righteousness.
Well, the final lesson is many are invited but few are chosen. Few meet the conditions. Now you might be sitting here this evening saying, “Well, Mr. Prince, I don’t think I’ve ever heard about this garment of salvation and this robe of righteousness. I really don’t know what to do but it sounds wonderful.” I want to tell you very briefly what you have to do. You have to have a personal transaction with Jesus Christ, there’s no other way. You can be leading a good life, doing nobody any harm, paying your bills, even going to church; but that’s not a substitute for this. The Bible says in John’s gospel, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the privilege of becoming sons of God.” It’s not enough to just believe about Him, it’s not enough to repeat the creed or say the Lord’s Prayer. All that’s good but it’s not sufficient. You have to receive Jesus personally as your savior and that will change you, that will transform you. Receiving Jesus. The scripture says you’ll be born of God, you’ll have a new birth, a new life will come into you. You’ll become a new kind of person.
This happened to me in the last days of July 1941 in an army barrack room. I didn’t know anything about the new birth but when it happened I was changed. My fellow soldiers said he’s become religious but it wasn’t true, I got saved, that’s what happened. I was born again. And, that’s nearly fifty years ago and I want to tell you it lasts. Furthermore, it gets better and better, there’s nothing stale about it.
Another scripture that’s important is if you want to be saved you have to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and you have to confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord. Many good churchgoers believe in their hearts but that’s not enough. With the heart man believes to righteousness but with the mouth confession is made to salvation. You’re not saved until you make a public confession of your life committed to Jesus. There are some here tonight who’ve never done that. You’ve believed in your heart but you’ve never had the courage or never been instructed that you’ve got to make a public confession of your faith in Jesus. We are going to give you an opportunity to do that here tonight before this meeting closes, so be ready when the time comes.
Now I want to go on to the third parable which is in Luke 14, and this is a supper. This is not a breakfast. We’re not speaking now about events at the beginning of the age referring to the Jewish people, listen to me carefully, we’re talking about a supper, a meal at the end of the day. This is the end of the age and now the Jewish people are not in focus because for more than 19 centuries the privileges have been offered to Christians. We can look back over 19 centuries where we had the Bible, we’ve had the church, the gospel has been proclaimed. Many of us have grown up in an atmosphere of professed Christianity. But you see, we’re in danger of making the same kind of mistake that the Jewish people made, presuming that we have a relationship with God because of the privileges we’ve enjoyed. Can you see how totally the roles have been reversed? Now we are the people who think we’ve got it all. Ha!
I remember—I hope this won’t offend anybody—probably thirty years ago my first wife, who was Danish, and I were in Denmark in the land of Hans Christian Anderson, in the very city where he came from. I was preaching in a little Pentecostal church. In the church there was a dear elderly lady who was a widow, she was sick, she was poor, she didn’t have much. I remember the conversation, she said in Danish, “We’ve got it all.” I looked at her and I thought to myself, “Dear Lord, if that’s all, it’s not much.” She was a sweet person but she had been taught in her congregation that the Pentecostals have it all. Brothers and sisters, none of us has more than we have.
I’ve met a lot of Christians who’ve said I’ve got it all. I got it all when I was born again. If so, you’re different from the apostles because they had to seek God. But I say to those people, if you’ve got it all, where is it all? Let’s see it. Don’t just tell us about it, show it. The kingdom is not in word but in power.
Anyhow, let’s read this quite brief parable now. It was prompted by a remark by one of these pious religious remarks that people make. Luke 14:15:
“Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is he who shall eat the best in the kingdom of God.’”
I’m sure he thought it sounded good. But Jesus took him up and gave him a very strict warning.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at suppertime to say to those who were invited, “Come, for all things are now ready.” But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I’ve bought a piece of ground and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.”
That’s a ridiculous excuse. Who buys a piece of ground without ever having seen it?
“And another one said, ‘I’ve bought five yoke of oxen and I’m going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’”
Who buys a yoke of oxen without trying them out first? See? It’s just an excuse.
“The third one said, ‘I have married a wife and therefore I cannot come.’ So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry...”
And notice the reaction. When the invitation is rejected it is always anger.
“...being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded and still there is room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled. For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper, not one mouthful.’”
Now what’s the application? As I understand it, it’s the end of the age. The privileged ones are not the Jewish people, the privileged ones are the professing Christians. And they are in terrible danger of making the same mistake that the Jews made at the breakfast, of presuming on a relationship with God which they don’t walk out. And since the time they received the invitation they got busy with other things—real estate, business, social relationships—and they’re just not prepared to respond to the invitation. They’re too busy. Does that sound like people we know? Does it sound like some of us?
You see, Jesus said about the days prior to His coming, and I’ll just read from Luke 17:26:
“As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man. They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, as it was also in the days of Lot. They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built. But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.”
In the day when Jesus returns. What was the problem of the people in Noah’s and Lot’s day as recorded here? They married, they were given in marriage, they ate and drank, they built and planted, they bought and sold. Is there anything sinful in any of those acts? No. They’re all legitimate. What was the problem? They had become so engrossed in them they were not ready for what God was going to do. Sum that problem up in one word—materialism. Is that a problem that affects Christians in this nation and in other western nations? Oh yes, we got the invitation, we’ve heard about Jesus, the cross and the gospel. We’re members of a church but at the present moment we have a lot of other interesting and exciting things to do. We want to make money, we want to enjoy ourselves. What happened? They didn’t come. And what was the response of the king who gave the banquet? He was angry. He said, “They’re not going to taste my supper.” Then he said to his servants, “Go out quickly in the streets and lanes. Bring them in. People who have never darkened the door of a church, people who don’t know anything about Christianity. Just go out and bring them in.” They brought them in and still the place was not filled, so the king said the second time, “Go out in the highways and hedges, as far out as you can go, and make them come in.”
Do you know that that’s what’s happening today? I’m a witness of it. A lot of professing Christians are not prepared to come to the banquet. They’re more interested in other things. They think if they sit and listen for forty-five minutes to a sermon they’ve done God a favor. You go to China and they listen to you for six or seven hours. Even in one case they stole the preacher’s luggage, took it away from him so he couldn’t leave! He finished preaching at 11:00 o’clock at night and they were up for a prayer meeting at 5:00 A.M. the next morning, saying, “We haven’t heard enough, we want to hear more.”
I’ve been in places in the Third World where they would sit on narrow benches just about six inches wide. You’d speak to them for three or four hours and you’d begin to draw to a close and they’d say, “Why are you stopping? We haven’t heard enough.” Even in Hungary, Ruth mentioned that church in Hungary, they were so persecuted they had to meet in secret. They shut themselves in and closed the windows, then they began to worship God. They would sit on narrow benches literally and worship for an hour or two hours before you even began to preach to them. Five or six hours was a short meeting. Can you see?
Are you in danger of missing the banquet? I want to read to you when the banquet is going to take place. Revelation 19, just two verses, 7 and 8. John says in verse 6:
“I heard, as it were, a voice of a great multitude and the sound of many waters, and the sound of mighty thundering, saying, ‘Alleluia, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory. For the marriage of the Lamb has come and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed [listen] in fine linen, clean and bright, which is the righteous acts of the saints.”
Nobody is going to get into that marriage supper without fine linen, clean and bright. The fine linen is the righteousness which God imputes to His people through faith in Jesus and which they work out by walking by faith. That’s going to be the climax.
Now, what is the lesson? I want to take just two brief verses from the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:3:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.”
Blessed are the people who don’t think they have it all, the people who are not so sophisticated that they just don’t need any more, the people who say spiritually we are poor, we need all that God has for us.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
I want to ask you tonight, are you hungry and thirsty for righteousness? I meet lots of people who are seeking healing and blessing and deliverance and prosperity. And thank God for all those blessings but they aren’t the ones that are blessed. The ones that are blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. The kingdom of God is not meat nor drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Shall we consider for a few moments here tonight where each of us stands with God? I would ask you just to shut yourself in with the Lord and meditate briefly on what I’ve been saying. I want to present a challenge. There are some of you here who claim to be Christians, churchgoers and so on, but you’ve never put on the wedding garment of the righteousness of Jesus. You’re not saved, you’re not born again. Tonight you’ve really heard the truth. I don’t believe you can have any excuse of ignorance. God loves you, He wants the best for you, He’s taken infinite pains and care to bring you here tonight that you may hear this message. Now, do you want to respond? Do you want to accept the invitation? Do you want to get your wedding garment here tonight? You can do it. If you do, think it over for a moment, I want to pray for you. But you’ve got to be willing to make that public confession. And so, there’s just one thing I want you to do. If you’re here tonight, you’re not saved, you’re not born again, you haven’t got the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness, but you want it, thank God for your sense. We want to help you, we want to pray for you. But, you’ve got to make a commitment, you’ve got to indicate your decision and your need. The way I’m asking you to do that here tonight is very simple but very important. Wherever you are sitting in this auditorium, on the ground level or in the balcony, if you make that decision here tonight I want you to do just one thing, I want you to stand to your feet right where you are. Say, “God, tonight I want to be saved. I want to be born again. I don’t want to refuse your invitation and make you angry. I don’t have enough righteousness of my own. I don’t qualify. I’d be ashamed to walk into that banquet wearing the kind of righteousness that I have.” Would you just stand to your feet if that’s your choice tonight, wherever you maybe. We’re going to wait a few moments but not long. Christians, would you be praying, would you be releasing—thank you, I see that lady. God bless you, I see those people standing there. God bless you, I see the one standing there in the balcony. I see you, God bless you. Don’t sit down. There should be many more, there are some up here on my right that need to stand. Bless you. Keep standing, this is the wisest decision you’ve ever made in your life. I want to tell you from personal experience, I have never once in my life regretted being saved. That’s right, stand up. Christians, keep praying, there are people moving and responding and we have more to come. We’re not doing this to embarrass you, we’re doing this to help you.
All right. Those of you that are standing, I want you to take the next step. It’s not going to be altogether easy because of the nature of the auditorium but I want you to come out of your place, walk down to the front and stand in front here, I want to lead you in a prayer. I want to introduce you to people who can help you. Please, those who are in the rows where people are standing, make it easy for them to get out. And if you have a friend with you who needs to come but is shy or afraid and you’re a believer, just get up with them and bring them to the front. Many, many people have been saved because somebody was kind enough to help them go forward. Please, from the balconies, we’re waiting, we’re not in a hurry, it’s not late. If you were in the world you’d be in the pub till about 11:00 o’clock at least. Isn’t that right? You know how I know? Because I spent many hours there.
We thank God for every one of you. You’ve never made a wiser decision. Christians, if you’ve got somebody with you that’s hesitating, just take them by the arm. The king said compel them to come in. I know you can’t drag people but you can love them so much that you just pressure them to make the right decision.
Now, the counselors, I want you to be ready, those who’ve been appointed to counsel these people. I want you to be ready and I want somebody to be ready to show them where to go. All right? Is that clearly understood? I’m not responsible for these arrangements. I think there are more people that need to come. There’s somebody here with a broken marriage and you’re grieving and you’re lonely. It’s a woman. Tonight you’ve heard a message of hope, you need to come. I don’t know where you are but you just get up and come. You can make a new start, God can heal a broken marriage or He can heal a broken heart. So, you be bold enough to come. There’s people here tonight who love you, who want the best for you, people who’ve had this experience and they know it works. We’re not offering you a theory tonight, we’re speaking of an experience that we have had. Christians, can you praise the Lord for these people who have come?
I would like one of the song leaders to come up and be with me here, I can’t lead singing at all, I can only mislead singing. God bless you, thank you. Just stand with me. Amen.
Now, we have trained counselors here who want to speak a personal word to you, give you instruction, pray with you. Maybe there are particular questions you want to ask that you can’t ask in public. We’re going to direct you to those counselors. But first of all, I just want to lead you in a simple public prayer of confession and commitment so that you’ll walk out of here tonight knowing I have committed my life to Jesus, I have confessed Him in public. You’re never going to doubt that again. I want to pray a very simple prayer. I’ll pray it out loud, sentence by sentence, and I’m asking you to say it after me. You’re not praying to me, you’re praying to Jesus, the only one who can save you because He’s the only one who died for you. And in this prayer you’re going to confess your sin, confess your faith in Jesus, and receive Him by faith as your personal savior. It’s good if you’ll pray out loud, loud enough to hear yourself, you don’t have to speak in a very loud voice. But it’s better that you can hear yourself say these words. So, would you pray like this after me? Don’t look at me, I’m not the one with the answer. You may close your eyes or keep them open, whatever is best, but remember it’s Jesus you’re praying to. Say these words:
Lord Jesus Christ, I believe that you are the Son of God and the only way to God, that you died on the cross for my sins and rose again from the dead. I’m sorry for all my sins. I turn away from all my sins and I turn to you, Lord Jesus, for mercy and forgiveness. I trust you to forgive me now and by faith I open my heart to you and I receive you as my personal savior. I confess you as my Lord. Lord, I’ve done what you required. Now I’m trusting you that you will do what only you can do, that you will save me, give me eternal life and make me a child of God. I thank you for this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now just remain there a moment and just quietly in your own heart just speak to the Lord and thank Him.