EATING DINNER IN GOD'S KINGDOM
"That triggered a response from one of the guests. 'How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God's kingdom!' ..... 'Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house full! Let me tell you, not one of those originally invited is going to get so much as a bite at my dinner party.'" Luke 14:14-24 (The Message).
There's a sting in the tale (!) of Jesus' response to the comment made by the dinner guest. He never allowed the thought to pass that God makes arbitrary decisions for people, bypassing their freedom to choose and their responsibility for making the right choices,
God's kingdom has been flung wide open to all people, but there are still rules by which people gain entrance. This man (the one who made the comment) was more than likely a Jew, traditionally a member of God's chosen people. Jesus forcefully drew his attention to the history of his people. In spite of God's goodness to them, they ignored His invitation to a life of blessing and prosperity by doing life His way. The 'dinner table' had been set and laden with the bounty of Hislove and favour but it required 'coming to the party' by being obedient to His commands.
God has not prepared His banquet for nothing. There is more than enough for everyone but He will not force anyone to accept His invitation and neither will He waste His grace on those who think their way is better. 'Go out,' He instructs His servants, 'and find those who are willing to come in. I must have my house full of guests.'
Those who are decent and properly dressed but refuse the invitation will be left out and those who are 'misfits, homeless and wretched' will be welcomed to the banqueting table simply because they accept the invitation. God is not concerned about the condition of their lives. He can take care of that. His forgiveness is sufficient to clean up their past and give them a new start as long as they accept His offer.
It was imperative for the man to understand that membership of God's chosen people did not automatically give him entrance into the kingdom of God. That required a personal response to God's invitation. Once again, unlike man-made religion that does not understand the inborn freedom and responsibility to choose, God does not intrude into the non-negotiable gift of free will.
Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus, a teacher of Israel and one who should have understood the nature of God's kingdom, that no-one can 'see' or 'enter' the kingdom of God without a radical, Spirit-energised 'new birth' into the realm of God's rule (John 3). This is God's powerful response to the simple decision of any person, regardless of his present state of heart or behaviour, to recognise who is in charge, submit to His authority and surrender the right to direct the course of his own life.
Entering God's kingdom involves a change of destiny (from hell to heaven), a change of direction (from self to God, a change of master (from Satan to Jesus), and a transformation of dispostion, (from selfish greed to selfless service), and it all happens through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in those who make the simple decision to believe what God says and accept His invitation to 'eat at His table.'
Strange how the 'table' of the world has nothing to offer but misery, loss and futility and yet people continue to choose that in place of the limitless bounty of God's love, forgiveness and blessing. You can have either but The choice is yours...
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