Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 4:1-12 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: The essence of Paul’s letter to the Romans is that one group has no heavenly-granted right to exclude anyone from being a part of the family of Jesus followers. One group doesn’t have a special ticket to the streets of gold. Your denomination, your health habits, your spending habits, or your knowledge of Scripture don’t add up to a hill of beans when it comes to having a seat at the table of Christ. Paul reminds us that there’s a seat for everyone who wants to be at the banquet, as long as the invited choose to occupy it.
In Luke 14, Jesus Himself illustrates this. He’s been invited to a Sabbath afternoon meal with some people who live on the right side of the tracks. The houses are big and the landscapes are manicured. They are in the middle of dinner when someone who was not invited sneaks in. The uninvited guest has a disease and he’s heard that Jesus might be able to help. He sneaks in and Jesus heals him.
It’s an awkward situation, so Jesus takes the opportunity to create a teaching moment. He says, “When you have a banquet, don’t just invite the friends you agree and identify with. Invite people who you’d never think of having at your table. Include those who you’ve kicked to the curb. Open your doors to those who you think God has forsaken” (MRV—Mark’s Revised Version).
Then He tells a parable of a man holding a banquet. All of the invited guests (those you’d expect at a fancy banquet) refuse to come. So the man sends his servants out to invite anyone who would like to attend. The man in the parable says, “Invite everyone, the righteous and the wicked, into my banquet hall.”
Can you imagine how uncomfortable His wealthy and well-connected hosts must have felt about this parable? They must have been squirming.
And then the events of Luke 15 happen. This chapter contains the three parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost (prodigal) son. The chapter opens with a familiar theme. The people whom Jesus had just been sitting and dining with, the ones He taught about inclusion in Luke 14—those very same people were complaining that Jesus was dining with sinners and tax collectors—the rejects of society.
Do you see what Jesus was trying to teach them? Us? He’s trying to teach all of the sons and daughters of Abraham that the Kingdom belongs to everybody. Not just Jews. Not just the rich. Not just the well-connected. It belongs to everybody. It belongs to rich and poor, healthy and sick, churched and unchurched, loved and scorned.
Paul picks up on Jesus’ teaching, in Romans 4, reminding the church in Rome that inclusiveness in the Kingdom is the language of the Bible, it’s the language of Jesus, it’s the language of heaven. Paul reminds us that we need to adopt that language.
Recalibrate: Whom have you excluded, intentionally or unintentionally, from Kingdom consideration?
Respond: As the weekend approaches, invite someone to dine with you who you wouldn’t ordinarily consider socializing with. Pray for God to reveal this person or group of people to you.
Remember: “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
Watch “God’s Amazing Promise” in the Bible App for Kids. Sing “Father Abraham” together with your little one. Believe like Abraham did and belong to the biggest family ever.
Have you ever missed out on being invited to a party? It’s horrible when everyone else is invited and you are not. God would never do that to you because love does not leave anyone out. Because Jesus loves us, we get to choose if we want to go. All we have to do is say “Yes! I am in!” Imagine hosting a party and no one you invited came. Read the parable in Luke 14:15-24. How will you plan your next party? Know that Jesus waits for you to reply to His invitation.
I heard a story a few days ago about a boy who had planned to go to prom with all of his friends. He was all ready; new tux, new shoes, fresh haircut. The only problem was that as the evening progressed his friends never showed up to get him. After checking his phone, he saw photos all over social media of his “friends” enjoying the party without him. Have you ever had something like that happen to you? It is utterly devastating. You feel a swarm of feelings grow within you such as anger, hate, rage, sadness, and rejection. The kingdom of heaven is for everyone. Jesus’ greatest desire is that no one will be left out. There is no “us” and “them”—just “we.” As a believer in Jesus, how can you go out of your way today to make the world as it is in heaven?