Tag Archives: Kingdom of Heaven

Called to be Chosen

The parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14) tells of a king who prepares a feast for his son’s wedding and sends servants to invite the guests.  However, after refusing the invitation once and being invited a second time, the guests either blew off the invitation and went about their business or mistreated and killed the king’s servants.  After sending out his armies and wiping out those who were originally invited (them and their city), the king sends out servants once more, this time to invite to the feast anyone and everyone they can find.  The servants do so and gather many people, bad and good, so that the wedding hall is full.  When the king comes out to see the guests, he notices a man who is not wearing a wedding garment (that is to say, he is not dressed for the occasion).  When confronted by the king, the man has nothing to say for himself and is cast out of the hall into the outer darkness where, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Christ concludes the parable with the words, “For many are called, but few are chosen”.

When Christ says that many are called, He refers to the open invitation to life with God and living out the kingdom of heaven.  In the parable, invitations to the feast were ultimately given to everyone regardless of who they were, their status, etc.  Likewise, through the gracious and mighty work of God on the cross, everyone has been invited to be with God.  John 3:16-17 reads,

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

Consider also the parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50) in which as many as possible are gathered and later separated, being either placed in vessels or thrown away.  The door to salvation stands wide open despite being on the narrow path.

Now, it is also true that the Bible contains much talk of “the elect” or “the chosen” and this must be addressed if one is to credibly speak about there being an open invitation to salvation and the kingdom of heaven.  The word used in these instances carries the connotations of being a higher quality; similar to choice cuts of meat or choice parts for a car or computer.  Perhaps, then, we might say that the elect are those chosen by God because they are of a certain quality.  However, we know that we not saved by works or achievement (Ephesians 2:8-9), so what is this quality and how is it found out?

While not a comprehensive study, the parable can help us to begin to get our minds around this.  We can first conclude that the man who was thrown out was called but not chosen while those who remained were called and chosen.  The man was thrown out because he did not wear a wedding garment and therefore he was not dressed appropriately.  (FYI, this is not a lesson on what we should or shouldn’t wear to church.)  He did not put off his old clothes and put on those befitting a wedding feast.  Likewise, we are called to “put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Although the man was called and came to the wedding feast, he did not respond to it.  He did not allow himself to be conformed to the nature of the feast.  We may show up at church or Bible study, but that alone does not mean that we’ve responded to God’s invitation to us.  To respond to that invitation is to believe in Christ who God has sent (John 6:27-29) and whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).  So it seems that the quality that separates the elect, that makes them God’s chosen, is to believe in His Son which means to submit to His lordship over our lives and to allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into Christ’s image.  That is what it means to be called and chosen.

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A Single Seed

In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus tells a parable which compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed.  Although it is one of the smallest seeds, it eventually grows into a tree large enough for birds to nest in its branches.  One thing that we can glean from this monologue of mustard seeds is that the kingdom of heaven begins with and consists of the little things.

Our life in the kingdom doesn’t begin with great feats of godliness.  Quite the opposite, it begins with the little things:  setting aside 15 minutes for prayer, stopping what we’re doing to really listen to the person in front of us, forgiving that person who cut us off while driving to work this morning, etc.  Many times we get caught up in the bigger and flashier parts of the Christian life like mission trips or Sunday services.  However, these make up a relatively small part of our walk with God.  Let’s take Sunday services as an example.  Regular corporate worship and being part of a congregation are very important parts our spiritual life and development.  However, if this is the only time that we live the kingdom life, the only time that we encounter God, it amounts to 1 hour a week.  That, in turn, translates into about 4 hours a month or 2.16 days a year.  2.16 days a year that we spend time with God and live out the Gospel.  On the flip side, it also shows how the small things add up.  Spending 15 minutes a day in prayer amounts to 1.75 hours per week which is about 7 hours a month or 3.79 days a year.  Compared to only going to church for an hour every week, only devoting 15 minutes a day to prayer leads to roughly 75% more time spent with God.

Now, it bears reminding that mere accumulation of hours does not a spiritual life make.  The key lies in spending time with God as opposed to spending time in religious observances.  However, the point at hand is that the little things in life add up to more than we often think.

Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote a book about what he called the “sacrament of the present moment”, that is, how we encounter and serve God from moment to moment.  Perhaps that is at the core of living out the kingdom of heaven:  living each moment in the kingdom.  Each moment of our lives is a seed that has the potential to subtly change us.  Grown from these moments, the kingdom of heaven becomes deeply rooted in our lives and our lives begin to take on the shape of the kingdom as God shapes and forms us.  But it all starts with a single moment, a single seed.