Friday, July 24, 2009

In the hedge and on the highway

Luke 14:23 (NASB)
14:23 "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.

Years ago I when I was agnostic, I did not understand who Jesus was outside of what I had read, perceived, and been told. I never considered the Christian faith my choice religion because of various reasons. I had built up a hedge around myself using my knowledge of religions and personal thoughts about God. I may have appeared, in my actions, to a Christian observing me as a good person; because I strove to be a moral man, one in the middle of the highway of life. Deep inside I just wanted to be left alone. I was happy with my views on God and religion in general. I never really wanted anything but peace, while deep inside I was afraid like a small child lost in the dark. So as a wall of protection, I built up my hedge.

Why did I bring up my past? Because it still weights on my heart and mind when I read about the Grace of God in the Bible(Luke 19:10, 1 Timothy 1:15). It weights on me not as an anchor to my past and the world, but a reminder of the Grace of God and His salvation(2 Samuel 22:36). My heart sings with joy and love for Jesus when I remember my past, because He delivered me from my sin(Hebrews 8:12). He delivered me from death into life, He redeemed me even though I did not deserve redemption. I see this as encouragement to spread the Gospel(1 Tim. 2:3-4) trying to compel people to come to Jesus Christ.

What is see in Luke 14:23 is a commandment to go to all people, regardless of their state, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the south, where I live, the roads are generally clear and we can see which way traffic is going. We have signs and signals to help guide us as we travel. In the hedge it's another matter all together down here, we have critters!. In the hedge we cannot easily see where we are going or what we are going into. We may run into spiders, thorns, holes, snakes, and in some parts of SC gators! It takes more caution to venture into the hedge than to venture in the open highway. Both the highway and the hedge can be equally dangerous and frustration to maneuver in, but that does not mean one is of greater importance than the other. To go into the hedge requires a little more patience because the things in the hedge are hiding for a reason. What I see in Luke 14:23 is a picture of humanity. All of us are lost without Jesus(Romans 5:12, 1 John 1:8 and Romans 3:11) and in this passage the master: Jesus tells the slave: those of us saved by His calling, to go out and compel these people to come to where they hear about Jesus. The Bible says in:

Romans 10:17 (NASB) 10:17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

We are to go out and pray that God draws these people in the highway and hedges to Him. We are to go out and witness our testimony in our deeds and words. We are to pray that God saves those whom we compel to come to God's house. What I see is a difference in preparation based on location when we go out. I see that we are to be mindful to our audience and environment when spreading to Gospel. I'm not saying to compromise our faith based on the environment, I'm saying that we need to be mindful of what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do and say. The commandment is the same from Jesus no matter if we are going to the highway or hedge. That commandment is to go out and spread the good news of Jesus Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ) for our sins, and for repentance from sin (Mark 1:15, Mark 6:12, Luke 13:1-5, Acts 2:38, Acts 17:30).

When I think about my past as a critter in the hedge, I thank God for reaching down and saving me. I look at myself as not a perfect man, but rather a new creature saved by the Grace of my Lord Jesus Christ(Galatians 6:14). It is my heart's desire, and my prayer, to be used by God to help reach those who are like I was many years ago. To help take the Gospel to those who are hurt, afraid, cold, lonely, and hiding in the hedge because of fear and doubt. I'm not saying that I only want to spread the Gospel to one group of people, nor am I saying that one group is worse than the other(Mark 16:15). Sin is sin, and it is sin that separates us from God no matter what that sin may be(Romans 3:21-26). With God there are no white lies, small sins, and great sins. Sin is sin, and sin is death.(Romans 6:23). All I'm trying to illustrate is people are different and they may see things different that we do. The common denominator that will pull all of us to the same level is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Christ the foot of the cross is level(Romans 10:12 and. Matthew 5:45) and God is no respecter of man(Acts 10:34). We are to give them the Gospel(Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, John 3:16, Romans 10:8-13) and allow God to do His job(Ephesians 1:3-14, Ephesians 2:8-9). As a man in the hedge, my heart is to reach the hedge, but as taught by God I will try to reach all people for Jesus. We all have areas that God has called us into, and mine happens to be in the hedge and the highway(1 John 5:11-12).

Luke 14:16-24 (NASB)
14:16 But He said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many;
17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.'
18 "But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, 'I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.'
19 "Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.'
20 "Another one said, 'I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.'
21 "And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.'
22 "And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.'
23 "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.
24 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.' "

This powerful teaching from Jesus tells us:

1. Go out to all people

2. Do not be discouraged

3. Keep spreading the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

4. Allow God to draw people to Himself. We cannot save anyone.

5. Just do what God tells us to do and He will handle the rest.

6. Be obedient to Jesus.

We must prepare our walk with Christ so that we can fully follow His will for our lives.

Ephesians 6:10-17 (NASB)

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.
11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.
14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

I know this is a lot to take in, but we must strive to walk in Jesus and follow Him.

Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB)
2:6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,
7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

In the highway and hedges, there are so many people that need to hear about Jesus. It is my prayer that we always pray, prepare, and set out to reach all people for Jesus. It's my prayer that we would use our gifts given to us by God in order to glorify the name of Jesus Christ. My calling may not be your calling, but we are all in one body in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us all work in order to preach, teach, and witness in truth and love.

Philippians 2:3-11 (NASB)
2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

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