Will the worst sinners of all sinners get in to Heaven, yet you do not? As I was reading Matthew 21 today it became clear to me that Jesus answered this question, and it is a question we must understand the answer He gave.
The first few weeks I did prison ministry two things became very clear to me. One-inmates are brutally honest when it comes to sharing their opinions about faith, God, and the Bible. Two-inmates need to be convinced they can be forgiven. Before you breeze past that 2nd point, please stop and consider this:
The average person on the street that leads a fairly “typical” life needs to be convinced they are sinners and deserve condemnation. The average inmate has not doubt that they are sinners deserving of condemnation, but need to be convinced they can be forgiven.
Jesus makes this exact point in Matthew 21. Let’s first take a look in chapter 20. Jesus tells the disciples that they are going to Jerusalem and He, Jesus, will be betrayed, sentenced to death, mocked, scourged, crucified, and on the third day He will be raised from the dead:
Matthew 20:18-19 "Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again."
In these last days before His crucifixion, He is delivering some powerful, hard-core Truth about those that will, and those that will not enter the Kingdom of God. The accounts of chapter 21 also demonstrate the silliness of man, thinking they can outsmart God. After the chief priests and elders had their little scheming plan turned upside down, Jesus ask them a question:
Matthew 21:28-31a "But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' 29 He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?"
I am fairly certain that our answer would have been exactly the same as these religious leaders; which was:
Matthew 21:31b They said to Him, "The first."
Jesus was all about doing the will of the Father and glorifying Him; and if we desire to walk in His footsteps, take up our cross and follow Him, we should be all about doing the will of God as well. The problem of the religious leaders was, they were NOT all about doing the will of God, they were all about their own selfish interests, believing themselves to be plenty good enough to get to Heaven. In fact, their self-righteousness seemed to be that of, “Heaven would be glad to have such a person as me.” But what did Jesus have to say to them:
Matthew 21:31c Jesus said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.
Tax collectors and prostitutes were considered the worst of the worst when it comes to sinners, yet, Jesus said they will enter the Kingdom of God before the religious leaders…why? Like the average inmate we discussed earlier, they had no illusion of being fit for the Kingdom, they knew they were not fit for the Kingdom of God. But, when you know you are not worthy of God, that is the beginning of surrender to Jesus Christ. When you know that your bondage to sin will keep you from eternal life, the message of being set free in the Blood of Christ is so liberating that you will feel the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders. On the other hand, if you are like the religious leaders, counting on your own works and righteousness, you will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Jesus gives hope to the one that has spent his enter life in the bondage of religion or any other sin:
Matthew 20:1-15 "For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' 7 They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.' 8 "So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. 11 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' 13 But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?'
Isn’t that glorious!!! Whether you have served Christ since you were a youth; or you have a thief on the cross experience; when the Son sets you free from the law of sin and death, you are free. Freed in the Blood of Christ, accredited with His righteousness, and through faith in Him and nothing else you are glory bound.
It all starts with recognizing our depravity in the eyes of God, and calling out to Him. Do not keep silent, do not be so foolish as to say, “maybe tomorrow”….today is the day of salvation, if you feel His hand of conviction upon you do not harden your heart.
Psalm 32:1-5 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah 5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah