In the first part of this article, we saw how God chose to bless people who had been working for Him a long time, right along with those who had accepted His offer later on.
It seems to me that the parable of Jesus from Matthew 20:1-16 refers to the introduction of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God (despite their being relative newcomers to God’s family). This same principle is illustrated in the parable of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15:11-32). However, given the wide range of “start times” of the laborers in this parable, I think that the same principle also applies to those who are choosing to follow Jesus yet today. Even at this late era in history, the same offer is extended to each of us for being adopted into God’s family.
For one thing, it is good news that we don’t have to call Jesus up every year and ask for a “better rate”. Once we agree to follow Him, as long as we continue in that relationship (even if we fail along the way), we don’t have to keep asking Jesus to get back into His family, nor do we have to keep doing specific things to “earn” the benefits of a life with Him.
Similarly, following Jesus is always a good deal (even though there is a cost), and there’s no special deal for those who “signed up” early in life, versus those who make the choice to accept Him as Lord later in their journey.
Don’t get me wrong: there are absolutely plenty of benefits to those who decide to live according to Jesus’ teachings as early in life as possible. Following Jesus right away provides more time spent in His abundant life (see John 10:10), and less time bound to the slavery of sin. In addition, we also make sure that we are with the correct – and only – “salvation provider”, when the time comes for us to pass on from this fallen world into eternity.
Regardless of our background, restoration to God is available to everyone who receives it.
But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12 NLT
(See also Acts 10:43.)
Those with a certain family, language, appearance, or culture do not get any special deals. Being part of a particular congregation, nation, or tax bracket has no impact on what it takes for anyone to become a part of God’s family, through Jesus Christ (God the Son).
On the other hand, no sinner can receive the gift of salvation without accepting Jesus (i.e., no one gets a “free pass”), and none of us has to take more steps than anyone else, in order to receive this gift.
That’s especially good news, since – unlike cable, cell phone, or internet service – all of us need the salvation (along with restoration to a healthy relationship with God) that Jesus offers, once we severed our relationship by choosing to sin. We become spiritually bankrupt when we go our own way, so we don’t really have anything to offer that could “pay” for God’s mercy and grace. (Yes, He expects our allegiance and obedience, once we accept His free offer, but that’s really what we owed God in the first place. And, it’s a better life for us, anyway.)
So, how do we “enroll” into God’s kingdom? Peter (Jesus’ pre-selected delegate to launch the church, shortly after Jesus’ return to Heaven) outlined this in the book of Acts, when the people listening to Peter’s message about Jesus asked what they should do:
Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away —all who have been called by the Lord our God.” Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”
Acts of the Apostles 2:38-40 NLT
Once the people believed that Jesus was the One that God would send to save them, Peter instructed them to repent (turn away from their sinful lives), turn to God (the opposite direction from a self-centered, sinful life), and be baptized (immersed in water). Repenting and following God can take a lifetime to explore, but choosing to be on God’s side (rather than the side of evil) isn’t difficult.
So, listen to Jesus’ instructions. There’s no haggling, no “special deals” – just Jesus offering a superior life of following Him, instead of going without the blessings that He offers in His Kingdom. Sign up today, and never have to re-negotiate again!