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November 15, 2020 Living in Our Master’s Joy

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Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ,

“The Day is Surely Drawing Near”,  says our hymn.   At the end of our Church Year,     our attention is focused on Christ’s return.  Judgment Day is a great AND terrible day.  A terrible day for those who ignored & did not trust God-the-Master;  but a day of fulfillment & relief for those who trusted God & His Word,  who listened & obeyed Him.       Jesus’ parable illustrates the difference between those two kinds of people.   The one thinks he knows what the Master is like;  & he imagines God as a ‘hard master’,  a stern & unfair King.    And he resents it;  the servant resents that he is not in control of things.   So,  the man does what he wants anyway,     & thinks he can get by with excuses.    In the end,  he is ‘cast out’.

The other kind of person  is the one who recognizes God as the Master,  and himself as a servant;  this is the reality of this life.   The Master IS powerful,  but is also kind & gracious to include the servants in helping with His kingdom.  When the Master returns to settle accounts,  those who have been faithful with the Master’s things will be commended.  They’ll hear him say:  ‘well done…,  enter into the joy of your master.’   In Jesus’ teaching,  the difference between these two servants is ‘faith’.   The one only imagines what God is like =that he’s harsh & unfair;  the other truly knows & trusts how God has revealed Himself = powerful,  but loving.

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Jesus’ parable ALSO shows us  that it is the Master  who determines his assignments for his servants,  and that our Creator is expecting us  to take what He has assigned us in this life,  and use it in faithfulness to Him.   In the parable,  the Master’s delight was not in the amount of profit made,  because the servants were equally commended  for doing their best  with what they were given.   So, Jesus is teaching those 2 things:   to ‘trust’ in God as our Master;   and to ‘serve’ by living the life we’ve been assigned  as faithful & useful to God.

When we stand before God to account for the life He gave us,  we want to hear those words:

“Well done,  my good and faithful servant!. … Enter into the joy of your Master.”     

So,  living in our Master’s joy  includes those two things:   Trust and Serving.   FIRST,  we trust in the God whom Jesus reveals to us,   rather than in the ‘god’ we may imagine.

So we’re told that the End of the world is both  great and terrible.  Zephaniah called the Day of the Lord a day of wrath,  of distress & anguish,  of ruin & devastation.   It will be  for those who were warned & could’ve known,  but refused to trust in God.   In the Parable of The Talents,  the unprofitable servant caused his own damnation;  he resented the fact that he was not the master of his own life.  He rebelled against the assignment given him,  & he blamed the master for having expectations of him which he didn’t like.   

We may know people like this.   All mankind has One Master,  God-our-Creator is Lord over all people;   but not all people see God the same way.   I had a friend in high school who said that he didn’t want to come into church,  because he feared that God would strike him dead for his sins.  His view affected his behavior;  by hiding from God,  he didn’t really know or trust God.

I didn’t understand that;  I liked going into church.   I had just as much sin as my friend, but only in church did I hear who God truly IS = He is gracious & forgiving towards me in Christ Jesus.  So,  my view also affected my behavior.  The scared person imagines a mean God;   but you & I trust in the God  whom Jesus reveals to us;  & that’s the right & true view of God.

We must all give an accounting of our lives to God == *is He only to be feared,  or can He be trusted?  Jesus shows us that God is merciful to us;  He can be trusted.  God is holy & hates sin;  but He sent Jesus for us,  & promises kindness to us.    This is the Christian faith.

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Jesus also teaches thru the parable that God is generous;  He gives gifts & purpose into the lives of every person;  like a master entrusts his servants.    A ‘talent’ is a weight  to measure value.   A silver talent was a lot,  & was worth 20 years of daily labor;   a gold talent was worth 600 years of daily wage.   So those servants wanted to be faithful & profitable with the master entrusting them with value.

But the unprofitable servant lives with a much different view of his life.  He sees the master as a ‘hard man,  reaping where he did not sow,  and gathering where he scattered no seed’.    You may know people who imagine that God is cruel & unfair.  They think God invades our privacy & expects too much;   that God lets good people suffer & lets bad people get away with evil;  that God must like seeing people suffer  since He doesn’t prevent it.

That’s what this servant believes,  so he’s not going to help the master’s business = he wants to live his own life,  & be his own master.   So,  he buries the master’s talent given to him, & ignores the master’s word,  because he doesn’t like or trust the master.  When the master returns to hold everyone accountable,  the servant is judged according to what he has believed.   Because the servant rebelled,  he’s cast out of the kingdom,  where there darkness,  weeping & gnashing of teeth.

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The original rebellious servant was Satan.  Satan was created an angel, a heavenly being;   and was entrusted with some value & purpose of God’s Kingdom;  but Satan did not trust his Master.   Satan resented that he was only a servant.   So, he rebelled & refused to help the Master’s Kingdom.   And so God removed him from the kingdom,  & threw him out into the darkness.     And any human being  who would adopt Satan’s backwards view of God  will share in Satan’s dark-future.   Some people resent God’s control over all things,  because they don’t want a Master over their lives ==even tho they only have life  because God gave them life.

They imagine that God is hard & unfair.   Man’s natural view of God is wrong.

That’s why God has revealed who He is by His Scriptures.  That’s why God-the-Father sent The Son to properly reveal Himself  to the whole world.   Jesus has shown to us the true generosity of God.   The Father’s love is not measured in amounts of money  but in the life, death, & resurrection of His precious Son.  The love of God thru Jesus has covered the high & terrible cost of our sin,  so that we would be restored to true & eternal life with Him.

Unfortunately,  there are still many in our world who don’t like this picture of God.   They don’t like the idea that a loving God would be so angry over sin,  or crucify His own Son. Instead,  they imagine their own kind of loving ‘god’,  like a kind-hearted grandfather = who is too weak & spineless to get mad at them,  & just strong enough to open heaven’s door for them.

Instead of pointing out their sins,  their ‘god’ is tolerant,  & approves of all their bad behaviors.

For some people,  the idea of confessing ourselves to be a poor,  miserable sinners,  is unacceptable.  For some,  receiving forgiveness thru the church or pastor is old-fashioned & demeaning.   For some,  being expected to actually live according to the words of the Bible = that’s out-dated;   the church needs to change with the times.

What those people have is an imaginary god,  and an imaginary faith.  That’s one of the reasons The Son of God came to earth;  to reveal the truth and reality of who God is.

Judgement Day will be terrible for all the unfaithful servants.  On that Day,  they will find out that God’s mercy comforts repentant sinners;  but there’s no salvation for the rebellious.

Those who did not believe His Word  that they needed a Savior,  will only get a Judge.

For the wages of our sin is death;  & that debt must be paid.   God IS holy,  & a consuming fire for all that is unholy.    And yet,  God so loved the world  that The Father sent His Son all the way to the cross  to accomplish our rescue  from sin, death & hell.   Jesus has shown us that God is everything we need:  He’s our merciful Savior  and  our good Master.

The Son of God knows the real danger of our sin & disobedience,  that’s why He calls us to repent & turn away from them.  Jesus knew that without His cross,  we could not be forgiven;  and without His promise & baptism,  we would not be spiritually washed clean.  Jesus knows first-hand the eternal joys of the kingdom of heaven,  that’s why  -on the 3rd day-  He rose & conquered death for us;  & now He promises to live with us  to guide us home.

To Live in the joy of our Master,  first of all,  means we don’t imagine God to be something;   instead,  we  TRUST in the God that Jesus & the Scripture has revealed to us.

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And then,  as we trust our Master,  now we will gladly SERVE Him.   So,  we daily live as servants,  differently gifted,  but equally loved.   In the Parable,  the servants who trust their Master  do not live in fear;  they see their place in His household;  they have purpose & assignments,  so they get busy.   Our Master entrusts US with His gifts for useful work in the world.   God divides His possessions between us  according to His wisdom,  & according to our ability.

So each of us is differently gifted:  you might get 5 talents to work with,  or 2,  or 1.

A ‘talent’ is a measure of worth or value = not just money,  but skills & abilities.  Each of us will  live in the joy of our Master  when we see  that we are differently gifted for service,  and equally loved.    How easy it is for me to complain  that God must not care for me as much  because He didn’t make me as ‘talented’ as that other person!   In God’s Kingdom,  having more  does not mean being better,  or more valuable.   All the servants are commended  when they use well  what they’ve been given.

Jesus wants us to understand  that God’s people are not competing with each other.

To think that way  will tempt us to be jealous,  & divide ourselves into groups as rivals.

God doesn’t see us that way.   Our Master is pleased  when we use what He has given to us,    for as long & as faithfully  as we are able;  both  inside His Church  and outside in the world.

The only one the Master is not pleased with  is the person who has been given a talent to use,  and refuses to serve Him with it = out of fear,  resentment,  or laziness.    Our God has no praise for the person  who will not acknowledge Him as the gracious God  who saves us, & equips us with abilities.  The Master has no praise for the servant who refuses to serve.

But,  what a different ending for the servants who trust the Master,  and use what they’ve been given!  They are busy & useful;  and when they stand before the Master,  He will say,  “Well done,  good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master.”

Jesus teaches this parable  because this is our goal in life.   First comes the faith to know God as He IS;   and then comes the gifts to serve Him gladly  for the good of His kingdom.  God has called you & me into His kingdom  thru the forgiveness of the cross of Christ Jesus.

He has given us a new birth as His children thru baptism,  so that we will grow up to live,

to acknowledge Him & serve Him.    *Are we doing that?

In this grace & faith,  God loves us equally;   and yet,  He also delights in our differences.   This is how His kingdom gets many things done,  large & small.   And this is how all people will know that God is calling them to join us in His Church,  so that they too  will have purpose in this life  and the hope of His kingdom to come.

Trust and serve.   This is what it means to  ‘live in our Master’s joy.’

Amen