Don’t Flatter Yourself: God Can Get Along Without You
In the last statement of the parable of the tenants and the vineyard, Jesus told the Jewish leaders something that, in their self-righteousness, they could not have believed: “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit” (Matthew 21:43 CSB).
They must have thought, “No way! We’re God’s people! What other faithful group like us does God have?” They told themselves something similar earlier in Jesus’ ministry, too: “God could never destroy us, we are the sons of Abraham and we are his only people!” But Jesus’ ministry warns of something different. In the words of John the Baptist, “God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones” (Matthew 3:9).
And, sure enough, that is what happened: In A.D. 70, the Roman ruler Titus Vespasian massacred the citizens of Jerusalem, tore down the Temple so that not one stone was left on top of another, and destroyed 985 villages in Israel. Spiritual leadership passed to Jesus’ apostles, who were completely disconnected from the religious establishment and who spent the majority of their ministries taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
Paul gives the same warning to us. To Gentile Christians, he says, “Don’t take your place for granted, either!” Romans 11:20 says, “[The branch of Israel was] broken off because of unbelief, but you stand [in their place] by faith. Do not be arrogant, but beware, because if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”
We wouldn’t be the first people in history that God had discarded and then started over with someone new.
In light of this, we in the church must ask ourselves, “Are we walking in a way worthy of the grace we have received?” This is how Paul frequently admonishes his churches: “I urge you therefore,” he tells the Ephesians, “to walk worthy of the calling you have received in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:1). Are you walking in a way that is a proper response to the grace of God? Am I?
Does how you worship demonstrate God’s grace in your life?
Does your giving reflect gratitude that God showed you, of all people, grace and your understanding of the responsibility that comes with it?
Does your quest for holiness adequately reflect the price Jesus paid to make you holy?
Have you committed yourself to see this gospel taken to others so they can have a chance to believe?
Does your life say, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them” (1 Timothy 1:15)? Or do you conveniently drop off that last phrase?
If God took the gospel away from Israel—God’s chosen nation—and gave it to others because they didn’t respond in a worthy way to it, he could do it to our family lines, our churches, our denominations. Those of us who have experienced the astounding grace of God should also tremble that we may take that grace for granted. God’s grace is abundant, but it is only poured out on the humble.
Make no mistake: God’s promises are guaranteed, and he is going to do mighty things in this world. But we must never be so presumptuous as to think that God can only do mighty things through us. As long as there are “stones” in the world, God can raise them up to sing his praises in our place.
God will do mighty things in this world. But we must never be so presumptuous as to think that God can only do mighty things through us.
If we do not walk forward in humility, he will pour out his powerful Spirit somewhere else.