Contributed by James Chandler on Apr 6, 2003 (message contributor)
Summary: Jesus taught some very important lessons about Christian character near the end of his life. Here are three of them.
Last week we saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem in the “Triumphal Entry.”
Remember the scene...Jesus on the back of a donkey. People lining the streets with palm branches. Hosanna, Hosanna!
This week the scene changes. It’s no longer an exciting street lined with people. Now it is a classroom. Not a classroom with desks and chalkboards. But a classroom with a teacher and students. Jesus the master teacher talking to his disciples, religious leaders, and crowds.
We have great teachers right here in our congregation, but sometimes the best lessons learned take place outside the classroom. Jesus in the latter chapters of Matthew is preparing for his arrest, trial, and execution.
Knowing that his death is imminent he takes some time to teach some important life lessons. I want us to take a look at a few of those.
Lesson #1: Character Counts
The Parable of the Two Sons
28"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ’Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29" ’I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ’I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.
32Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
Two sons here.
Son #1- said no to his father, then changed his mind and obeyed.
Son #2- said yes to his father, then lied and abandoned his father.
Son #1= tax collectors, sinners who repented and found God in their lives.
The thief on the cross.
Son #2- The religious leaders, the Pharisees. Living a lie to God.
If you say you are going to do something, you better do it. It is called follow through.
You and I must remember in life- it isn’t how we start that matters it is how we finish.
Moses started out as an abandoned baby, became a great leader.
David started out as little shepherd boy, became a great king.
Paul started out as Saul killing Christians, ended up a great man of God.
The list goes on and on.
Judas started out as a faithful follower of Jesus, ended up a traitor who killed himself.
The church is often guilty of getting people started and not helping them to finish.
We spend 90% of our effort to win them to the Lord, and 10% on teaching them how to grow as a Christian.
“Just get them into the baptistry, worry about the rest later.”
Jesus needs finishers.
Too often Christians burn out. They drop out, they fall away. But it isn’t how you start, it is how you finish.
I remember in high school track I ran the last leg of the 2 mile relay. At a huge invitational meet we were competing in the 2 mile relay. When I got the baton, we had dropped to 8th place and it wasn’t looking good. I ran the first of two laps around the track. I thought to myself, I cannot go on. I have to drop out. I had hit the proverbial "wall." Then something strange happened. I felt what is known in the running world as a "second wind." All of a sudden I felt refreshed and energetic. I had broken through the wall. My short legs carried my 85 lb. body as fast as I could go. When I crossed the finish line we were in 2nd place.
Christians need a second wind. When life gets tough, and it will, they need to not give up. Instead they need to allow God to help them break through that spiritual wall. God can and will give us a second wind, where we recapture that energy and excitement that we had when we first became Christians.
It is not how we start the race, but how we finish. Are you running the race of life in such a way that you will be able to finish? Or have you already dropped out?
Character counts. It counts with God and it counts with others.
Lesson #2: Character cannot be faked.
1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2"The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.