5 Understandable Words:
“...I tell you the truth…” Matthew 21:31
Whenever Jesus comes to the forefront of an organization (whether it be in church, government, the athletic field, business, etc.), the existing leaders who do not embrace His way of righteousness seek to marginalize, weaken, and otherwise limit His influence for anything good and right. The Jewish pharisees and chief priests were threatened by Jesus’ presence and were certainly displeased by the actions He took against the money-changers (read Matthew 21:12-13). They chose to publicly confront Jesus, asking, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23)
Jesus did not fall for their trap, and replied with a question of His own: “Where did John’s baptism come from? Was it from heaven or from men?” Well, the pharisees and chief priests huddled together to discuss Jesus’ question; they reasoned that if they said it was from heaven, Jesus would respond by asking why they did not believe John’s message of repentance; and if they said it was from men, they feared how that would be perceived by the people. So, they replied that they didn’t know, and thereby avoided the question. Jesus, then, refused to tell them where His authority originated.
Jesus did, however, share some parables to instruct these appointed leaders about the kingdom of God. Jesus told of a man who directed his two sons to go work in his vineyard:
one son rejected his father’s request, but changed his mind later and returned to work in the vineyard;
the other son told his father he would do the work, but failed to report for work.
Jesus asked which of the two sons did what the father asked. The Jewish leaders correctly replied that the first son was the one who complied with his father’s directive (vv. 28-31a). Jesus then reprimanded them with these words:
“ITYTT, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw, you did not repent and believe him.” (Matthew 21:31b-32)
The eternal truth found in today’s five understandable words shows us Heaven’s litmus test for true Believers who will become disciple-makers: REPENTANCE - the first step to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. For repentance to happen, one must see himself as God sees him - a sinner loved so much by God that He gave His only Son to pay the price for one’s sin (read John 3:16-17).
Jesus followed this eternal precept with another parable which reinforced Heaven’s expectation that Believers are to be fruitful… they are to make disciples, who make disciples. Jesus concluded the parable with these words:
“Therefore, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
You see, repentance is simply the first step in becoming a fully devoted follower of Christ. After one has recognized she/he is a sinner, then one repents over one’s sinful condition and confesses her/his inability to defeat it (acknowledges it and turns from it, asking for power from God to overcome it). Once sin has been confronted, the sinner then invites Jesus to reside in the heart and transform her/his mind for becoming a true follower of Christ and bear fruit… become a branch that will make disciples.
EVERYONE we will see in heaven will have, at one point in her/his life, repented from sin - realizing her/his desperate condition and inability to be worthy of heaven based on one’s own merits. We are completely suited for Heaven ONLY upon the merits of Christ and His redeeming work upon a cross.
If you haven’t repented, ask God to show you the pitiful condition you are in and turn from it… acknowledging your sin before God. Invite Jesus to take control of your heart and mind… and know that when we do sin, He will intercede for us to return to Him (1 John 1:9).
Have a blessed day…
Footnote: here is an excellent link on sin by John Piper: