THE GREATEST TALENT SHOW ON EARTH
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
FEBRUARY 28, 2016
14 “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. 15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16 He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17 So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18 But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. 19 Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. ’ 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more. ’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. ’ 24 He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours. ’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
— Matthew 25:14-30, ESV
From the time of Ringling Brothers until now, the world has been inundated with talent shows. Some travel the country while others appear on our televisions. “American Idol” is finishing fifteen years of top ratings and in the two most influential English speaking nations, both “America’s Got Talent” and “Britain’s Got Talent” top the airwaves. There seems to be a lot of talent in the world.
There is a lot of talent in the church, too. Some of it is obvious, some of it gets hidden, and all of it is given by God to glorify God and do good to others. Like millions of viewers of those television talent shows, God is watching us to see how we use our talents. This reality is explained in one of the most comforting and frightening parables Jesus ever told.
The comfort comes with hearing God’s word utter some words God says to faithful servants, “Well done …, enter in.” The frightening part is when some servants are put “in that [other] place.” Paul wrote “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Like this parable of the Lord, he was pointing at the church. Perhaps people in the church today should tone up for the greatest talent show on earth. It is coming up soon and will be broadcast live, when Jesus Christ comes again.
Everyone’s Got Talent
A “talent” in Jesus’ day was a bag of coins of various weight and worth. The worth depended upon the weight and whether the coins were gold, silver, or other metals. The talents in this parable represented all of a certain man’s “property,” all he had to give. He gave it all away in various amounts to his servants, a great blessing. But, with great blessing comes great responsibility.
A “master” with “servants” was a common occurrence in the first century, as well as a perfect metaphor for Christ and the members of His church. The picture Jesus painted before He canvassed the cross and evacuated the tomb is relatively clear to see. Upon the completion of His first advent, Jesus went away, but He is coming back again. In the meantime, Christ has given His true value — the Spirit of God, the word of God, baptism and communion, the great commandment, the great commission, all of His promises and purposes — to every member of the church, true Christians and fake Christians. Upon the Lord’s return, He will judge each and every church member by what we have done, or failed to do, with the talents He has given to us. It will be the greatest talent show on earth.
Everyone’s got talent. That is, every one of us who have professed faith in the gospel and been baptized into the church. We are the “servants” of the “master” and we’ve got “talent” which we are blessed with by grace to use by faith and produce good works. How are you using the talent God has given to you?
Everyone’s Talent is Not The Same
Please consider my complete thought before judging me harshly for disagreeing with the Declaration of Independence. As a Christian and an observant human being, I do not believe “all men are created equal.” I am deeply convicted that all men and women should have equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But our Creator created us in decidedly different ways for deliberately different means.
God gave every human being different levels of intellect, physical abilities, facial appearances, and the genetic propensities to be healthy or sickly, skinny or stout, short or tall. One is not better than the other, but one is always different from the other. This is self-evident.
The same is true among the members of the visible kingdom of God on earth, the church. Some speak articulately, some speak softly or simply, while some are so silent about the gospel with life and lips that no one would ever know they profess faith in Jesus Christ. We sing together, on key and off key, and together make a joyful noise to the Lord, except for those who refuse to sing about their faith, inside or outside of church gatherings. We all serve, but who do we serve? The Lord, others, or only ourselves? It all depends upon whether or not the Lord’s talents are on display or hidden away.
A popular talk show host claims to have talent on loan from God. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but I do know it is true for every member of Christ’s church. God’s Spirt and word are poured out in different sized bags upon all who identify as members of the kingdom of God. Do you use your church membership to enrich and expand the kingdom of God, do you use it to enrich yourself, or do you use it at all? One day you will have to put your talents on the table, and it will be the greatest talent show on earth.
Everyone Will Show Their Talents to God
Remember, every one of us has talent, and our talents are unequal. Some get five, some two, some only one. At the end of the day, the day of the Lord, the day between the first and second coming of Jesus Christ, it will be time for the talent show. God will call. We will show. Our hands will reveal what we have done with the talent God gave to us.
In the parable, the first and second servants hold different hands but receive the same reward. It seems like the master was not as interested in the talents and he was the servants. This means God does not want your talent, He wants you. He wants a relationship with you, He wants to bear fruit with you, He wants to spend eternity with you, and He wants you to have reward and rest with Him. Those who take whatever talent the Lord has given them and use them for His glory will hear these perfect words and find this perfect rest.
Those who do not will find something quite different at the end of their miserable little lives. Remember, “weeping and gnashing of teeth” represent an eternal punishment reserved especially for those who profess faith in Christ but do not practice it. It is the judgment of the nominal and hypocritical psuedo-Christian. In this parable they are called “wicked” and “slothful” and “worthless.” They were not saved by grace through faith in Christ. They were not actively engaged in the work of the church. Their lives, at the end of the day, will have been wasted, and Christ’s words to them will be harsh, horrible, and final.
“Well done” or “worthless,” what will it be when you appear on the greatest talent show on earth?
My favorite story from all the talents shows on earth is that of Susan Boyle. She was born on April Fool’s Day, offered a simple upbringing, and endowed with plain, even unattractive looks. In 2009, this native of Scotland made her appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent.” At first, people thought is was one of those joke segments where someone without talent was put on the stage to humiliate themselves and amuse the audience. But then she opened her mouth and floored the millions watching on British television, and millions more on You Tube, by singing a startling and superlative rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream.” She had talent, she was not afraid to use it, and now she has five albums and many other rewards to show for it.
Look around the church and you will see a host of simple Susans. Each one has some amazing talent given to them by the grace of God. Faith propels us to use our talent to touch others lives with the gospel and the word of God. Faithlessness hides them in the ground. God is watching.
Have faith in God. And, have a little faith in yourself. You are talented, you can make a difference in the lives of others, and you can gain a reward. Live with confidence as you look for the second coming of Jesus Christ. It will be the greatest talent show on earth.
THE GREAT CO-MISSION
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
FEBRUARY 21, 2016
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:18-20, ESV
There are certain things God reserves for Himself, certain things He gives to His people, and a certain place on earth where God’s mission of being God and our mission of being God’s people come together in the great co-mission. As a matter of fact, we call it “the great commission,” a title not only of the great text that closes the Gospel of Matthew, but of the great task that is carried out by God and God’s people.
We are already involved, and there is an urgent need to become more committed to sharing the gospel with our community, country, and world. But before we begin again to carry out the great commission, we need to look again at how the most important task on earth unfolds. The gospel begins and ends with God, who gets all the glory and honor in the saving of souls. It comes to and is carried along by believing men and women, who bear the great responsibility of this great co-mission. And it comes to fruition in a torn and tattered institution that needs as much renewal and refocus as the great commission itself.
So let’s get reacquainted with the great commission and recommitted to the great co-mission, by beginning at the beginning, with God.
The Sovereignty of God
Our Lord Jesus Christ, God of very God, begins the great commission by asserting the absolute authority of God. “All,” in this case means all, and “authority” is power, privilege, to do as one sees fit without outside interference. There is a word for “all authority,” and it is the word sovereignty. God is sovereign, and the gift of the gospel is in accordance with God’s sovereign grace.
Sovereignty is sometimes hard to fathom in our modern democracy. We the people choose to do what we the people want to do. We choose to keep or break the law. We choose to exercise or forgo our liberties. No sovereign, no emperor, no king chooses for us. We choose, period.
So when it comes to the gospel, we tend to think we have it because we chose God. In our age of the sovereign self, it is easy to be self-centered even with something as sacred as the gospel. But Christ reminds us, at the outset of the great commission, that those who are summoned to the commission of God are those who are sovereignly chosen by God.
Jesus had already taught this to His disciples in the bread of life discourse (ref. John 6:37-44) and punctuated it with the first great commission (ref. John 15:16). The book of Acts records the carrying out of the great commission and the great conversion of peoples through great and sovereign grace (ref. Acts 11:18, 13:48, 16:14). The eminent theologian of the New Testament, the Apostle Paul, declared the great doctrines of grace throughout his inspired writings (ref. Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 1:3-14; etc.). Salvation by grace alone means grace alone saves, through the means of God-given faith, focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Just like the first Christians who stood at Jesus’ feet on the mount of ascension two thousand years ago, we are under the authority of the Lord. He chose us, He saved us, and He commands us. Chief among His commands is the great commission, to take this gift of grace and share it with our world.
Are you saved by God’s grace? Are you one of God’s people? Are you listening to the great commission? Then you have a great responsibility to carry out this co-mission with God, the God who has promised to be with us “until the end of the age.”
The Responsibility of God’s People
God is with us, and we must be with Him. God’s grace saves, but it does not save in a vacuum, robotically, apart from means. The means of grace is faith, and the means of faith comes through faithful people. For the faithful people of God, our great and glorious co-mission with God is to share our faith in the gospel with others. Generally, we do this by living the gospel. Specifically, we do it by giving the gospel.
With “authority,” Christ compels us to “Go,” a two-letter word in English derived from a powerful punch of a participle in the original language. It’s passive tense conjoins with a commandment (“make disciples”) to teach us that based upon one thing, we proceed to do another.
Let me explain it in the context of the great commission. Because Christ has claimed authority over the Christian, the Christian proceeds to live as one under the authority of Christ. When Jesus makes you a disciple, you live a disciplined life, which in and off itself is a witness to the gospel. The first step, therefore, in our great co-mission with God is to live the gospel, to live a genuinely Christian life, with all of the loves, sacrifices, virtues, and disciplines empowered by the Holy Spirit and instructed by God’s holy word. People will notice, and they will either be repulsed or attracted (ref. 2 Corinthians 2:16).
The next step is to give the gospel. People will be attracted to you, if you are standing for Christ and walking with the Lord. You will be attracted to people, for God will speak to by His word and Spirit to tell you to go to someone specific. The living is done, now it is time for the giving of the gospel in words, words of Scripture and words of testimony, which God’s grace will use to put God-given faith into the mind, heart, and will of another human being. “Making disciples” of the Lord Jesus Christ is on ongoing process whereby Christians obey the great commission and produce new Christians to be on a co-mission with God.
And what do you do with a new Christian, once one has been made? The great co-mission includes baptizing, teaching and learning the great doctrines of the faith. The means find an end on earth where we gather to wrap ourselves in the constant power and presence of God.
God and God’s People
The gospel and the great commission is the story of God and God’s people. Love produces love, life produces life, a disciple made will makes another disciple. The story is best told, however, in the complete context of a peculiar institution, one that has been attacked for two millennium and in desperate need of reformation and revival today.
Campus Crusade, or Cru, is great at making disciples, but they don’t baptize. There is a site on the Jordan River in Israel that may be the best place in the world to get baptized, but they don’t evangelize or conduct Bible classes. I teach at a Christian college, but most of the students there are already reached for Christ and my classroom does not have a baptistry.
My point is that there are many points along the way in the kingdom of God where parts of the great commission are being realized, but there is only one place, one people where each glorious component of the co-mission is carried out. The story of God and God’s people is best told in God’s church.
I thank God for the many “para-church” organizations. Missionary sending agencies, campus ministries, homeless shelters, food pantries, and others do wonderful gospel work. But the unfinished task of getting the gospel out to the whole world will not get done unless the whole church gets involved, with our many members committed to praying and giving and going.
And, the whole of the gospel story can only be fully and rightly celebrated in the whole church. It is in the church where we worship God in all of His authority, sovereignty, triunity and respond to His eternal presence. It is in the church were being disciples makes disciples of our children, family, and friends. It is in the church where the sweet fellowship of fellow disciples shares the sacred burden of the gospel. It is in the church were the ministry of the Spirit reaches in and launches out. It is in the church were an emphasis like “Finishing the Task” can fan the flames of world missions to get the whole gospel out to the whole world. It is to the church Christ was first talking when He gave His great commission at the end of the first advent, and it is for the church Christ will come on the great day of His second coming.
God will not share His glory nor His sovereign authority with us. But God shares His mission. It is our co-mission, God’s and ours, to be the church that lives and gives the gospel to the world. Who will commit to the commission and face a task unfinished?
“Facing a task unfinished,
That drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease.
We, who rejoice to know Thee,
Renew before Thy throne,
The solemn pledge we owe Thee,
To go and make Thee known.”
BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
FEBRUARY 14, 2016
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But atmidnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him. ’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out. ’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves. ’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us. ’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you. ’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
— Matthew 25:1-13, ESV
It is amazing how many phrases from the Bible have worked their way into our common vocabulary. When we complain of "a drop in the bucket" (ref. Isaiah 40:15), "a fly in the ointment" (ref. Ecclesiastes 10:1), "a thorn in the flesh" (ref. 2 Corinthians 12:7), or being "at our wit's end" (ref. Psalm 107:27), we are quoting the Bible. When we say someone is "as old as Methuselah" (ref. Genesis 5:27) or if they've gone beyond that and "bitten the dust" (ref. Psalm 72:9) or "given up the ghost" (ref. John 19:30), we are quoting the Bible. When we call someone "the salt of the earth" (ref. Matthew 5:13), or "the apple of my eye" (ref. Psalm 17:8), or "a man after my own heart" (ref. 1 Samuel 13:14), again we quote Scripture. It seems as if "the handwriting is on the wall" (ref. Daniel 5:5) when it comes to seeing the Bible brought to bear on our every day lives.
Today I want to stress the importance of living out another common phrase that is written into our language. It is called "burning the midnight oil." This expression is gleaned from this parable, in which Jesus is talking about His second coming and the need to be prepared.
You’ve no doubt burned the midnight oil prior to a test at school, a paper at college, a presentation at work, even a sermon for church. Why? Because it is important to be prepared. Final exams, work deadlines, a time to appear before a class or a congregation — these are all judgment days, or at least days in which at least a part of your life will be judged. It is important to be prepared. But isn't there a greater day coming, a grand finale, a promised end to the world as we know it? Yes, and we even call it Judgment Day. Judgment Day is coming. This is a promise from God. I think it is important, even of the utmost importance, to be prepared. Let us let this parable show us how.
A wedding is a wonderful occasion which requires a great deal of preparation. Many months and much money is spent in preparation for that day to arrive. Then when it does, the ceremony seems to come and go in the blink of an eye. At least this is the way it is in our culture.
Weddings were widely different in Jesus’ day. They often took years to plan, as the parents of the respective bride and groom looked for and agreed upon just the right match. A dowery and future financial responsibility had to be negotiated and transferred from the bride’s family to the groom’s. When it came time for the ceremony, a half hour of vows and a couple of hours for a reception just wouldn’t do. Usually, two weeks or more were set aside for the wedding.
The first week’s festivities were held at the home or in the village of the bride. There had to be enough food and wine for all the guests, for to run out would be a great embarrassment (ref. John 2). After a few days of revelry, a chamber or tent was provided for the bride and groom to consummate their vows.
For the second phase of the wedding, the bride and groom were escorted by the bridesmaids from the home of the her family to the home of the groom. The celebration ensued for a few more days, then everyone went to their own home. Finally, the bride and groom enjoyed their new, permanent home together.
In our day and age, we could never pull this off. Our children would never let us arrange their marriages, a dowry negotiation would instigate a lawsuit, and none of us except the one-percenters could afford to pay for a reception that lasted for days instead of hours. But, in the days of the first advent of Christ, this was the way it was typically done, and the “ten virgins,” or bridesmaids, played an especially critical role. They had to burn themidnight oil.
When the bride and groom went into their bridal chamber at the home of the bride’s family, the bridesmaids went to the groom’s house. There they made preparations for the bride and groom to come to their new home. They waited there until the time was determined by the groom, a time unknown to the bridesmaids, for him to bring his bride home. The bridesmaids’ chief responsibility was to light the way. They were to carry oil to keep their lamps lit so that at a moment’s notice they could properly escort the bride to the groom’s permanent home. Failure to be prepared was more than a faux pas, it was considered to be an unpardonable sin.
As you can read in this parable, half of the bridesmaids were “wise” and prepared, half of them were “foolish” and unprepared. Only those who burned the midnight oil actually scored the bride into the permanent home of the groom.
Remember that the overriding context of this text is the second coming of Jesus Christ (ref. Matthew 24:3). Remember also that our immediate preceding text talked about the two types of servants, true and false, found in the present and visible kingdom of God, the church. So, this parable presses a point more precisely.
Every parable of Christ pictures the kingdom of God. It tells of who is in, who is out, how to get in, and why most are kept out. This story, a wedding parable, fills out the script completely.
The bridegroom is clearly the Lord Jesus Christ, who comes to us and meets us at our home, our hearts. He makes an everlasting covenant with His bride, which includes the promise that He will take her to His permanent home. The groom’s returning home with his bride is a clear and beautiful picture of the second coming of Christ.
The bride of Christ is the church. She enters into a covenant of grace by faith in the groom, in Christ, while on this earth. Then, at the appointed time known only by God, the bridegroom appears from his chamber, Christ splits the eastern sky, and takes His true bride home to be with Him in the new heavens and new earth forever.
Who, then, are the bridesmaids, and why is their chief responsibility to carry oil and light? The bridesmaids are part and parcel of the bride. They represent her on earth and they go with her to heaven; if, they are able to burn the midnight oil. “Oil” is a consistent symbol in Scripture of the Holy Spirit, and “lamps” or light is a constant symbol of the gospel and the word of God.
All of the bridesmaids, all of the church members, had light. But, for some it did not last. Only those with oil could keep the light burning and only they were able to go from earth to heaven with the groom. It seems it pays to burn the midnight oil, after all.
To be gathered with the church on the Lord’s Day is good preparation for Judgment Day. I truly believe that those who have no interest in meeting with God in a Sunday church service will not be prepared to meet Christ at His second coming. But being in a church building on Sunday does not necessarily make you a Christian, no more than sitting in a garage can make you a car or truck. It takes more, it takes light.
If light is the gospel and the word of God, then those who make a profession of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and pledge allegiance to the Bible are bridesmaids, members of the church. But in our day and age, most people who have professed faith and joined the church can no longer be found in the church. The light went out and it was discovered they had no oil.
You can borrow the light but you cannot take someone else’s oil. You can profess faith in Christ, because your grandparents or parents or friends did. You can join a church, because it seemed like a good and popular decision at the time. But if you are living off someone else’s light, your light will fade in time. And should the end come when your light it not shining, you cannot borrow or buy your way out of God’s final judgment.
For the true light of the gospel to shine and keep on shining, to be able to burn the midnightoil, the Holy Spirit has to regenerate your heart, giving you the deep and abiding gifts of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When God truly saves, you, He seals you with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption. You will go to heaven with the bridegroom, Jesus Christ, when He comes again.
Those who have not truly received the gospel will not enter in. Those who give lip service to the gospel but bear no fruit will not enter in. Only those who are born from above, only whose who profess and practice and persevere in the faith. Only those who burn themidnight oil will be able to see the permanent place God has prepared for all those who know and love Him.
When will this happen? “Watch, therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”
Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
FEBRUARY 7, 2016
45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
— Matthew 24:45-51, ESV
The end times scenario proclaimed by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse is spoken with heavenly drama and earthly logic. It is mysterious and unpredictable, yet reasonable and traceable. The birth pains begin, the signs of the times unfold, then the rapture strikes like lighting. The second coming of Jesus Christ will end the world as we know it and separate all the members of the church into those who go to be with the Lord and those say they know the Lord but somehow wind up “in that place [where] there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
To which place will you go? It all depends on what you expect, which is determined by what you believe, which is evidenced by whom you serve. When it comes to the latter, Bob Dylan wrote, “It may be the devil or it may be the Lord, but you're gonna have to serve somebody.” Dylan is prophetic, to be sure, but the Lord Jesus Christ is the Prophet and Messiah. His words are sure and perfect in this tale of two servants.
The Faithful Servant
The faithful servant is easy to follow, for he or she is a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The faithful servant can be found present and presenting service in the “household,” which is the same symbol Paul used in 1 Timothy 3:15 to refer to the church. So, the faithful servant is a born again, baptized believer and member of a local church that belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Four terms describe this servant: faithful, wise, giving, and blessed.
A person who is faithful is, hang on to your hats for this highly technical definition, full of faith. They do not give lip service to faith, our just have a little bit of faith. They are full of it, and I mean that in a good and godly way. They have received faith from the Lord (ref. Ephesians 2:8; 2 Peter 1:1). They profess faith in baptism and communion. And, they demonstrate faith in responsible church membership and reasonable service to others. Faith is what they believe and faithful is the way they behave. When it comes to faith and faithfulness in Scripture, you cannot separate one from the other (ref. James 2:14-26).
The faithful servant is also wise. Wisdom is useful intelligence from a reliable source. We would all hope our doctor is a wise woman using intelligence gained from her medical school. We would hope the same from our accountants, lawyers, teachers, and other professionals we turn to for service. But where does the wisdom come from that is useful for the true Christian, practical for this life and the life to come? It comes from God and His holy word. Real Christians feed upon it and share it with others.
Faith and wisdom are gifts that keep on giving. The faithful, wise servant is constantly giving, with “food” here symbolizing the sustenance of spiritual life. True Christians give grace, mercy, peace, prayers, fellowship, and service to the body of Christ. They are constantly found in worship services, small groups, and one on one giving an ear, giving encouragement, giving time, giving talents, and giving treasures to God by giving them to the people of God. At the end of the day, the givers discover that you cannot outgive God.
For, the faithful, wise, and giving servant of God will be doubly blessed by God. He or she will be blessed with uncommon peace in this life and untold prosperity in the next life. The gospel is a prosperity gospel, when we understand that the promised prosperity comes after the lighting strikes, after our death or rapture, when in the new heaven and earth we will be joint heirs with Christ over all of His possessions.
Jesus says these are the ones, the faithful servants of the Lord, who are expecting the Lord to come at any time, because they fully believe the gospel, which is evidenced by the way they live and serve the Lord. Those who live this way will always be ready to die, or for the lightning of the second coming of Jesus Christ to strike.
The Wicked Servant
The wicked servant is both wicked and a servant. By “wicked,” this does not mean he is always bad all of the time. The word literally means “of a bad nature,” which is merely human nature, depraved and unredeemed by the grace of God. Note the person in Christ’s parabolic language is also a “servant,” meaning he counts himself as a child of God, a member of the church, and wears the external clothing of Christianity. What do you call a person who pretends to be a Christian but is not? Jesus names the name at the end.
Like the faithful servant of Christ, the wicked servant in this story is also endowed with four characteristics, none of which include faith, wisdom, giving, and blessing. On the contrary, the wicked servant is unbelieving, unforgiving, unrestrained, and unexpectedly punished.
Christ “delayed” according to the wicked servant is a permanent delay. It literally means he thinks the Lord is never coming back. The wicked servant believes the second coming of Jesus Christ is a hoax, because he really does not believe in the first coming of Jesus Christ. Remember, he is a pretender, having never made a true profession of faith in the gospel by grace alone through faith alone in the person and work of Christ, alone. So, the wicked servant is pointed out to be an unbeliever inside the church.
Not only is he unbelieving, he is unforgiving. He beats up the other members of the church by constantly pointing out their sin while never taking responsibility for his own. He talks about them behind their backs, gossips about them incessantly, and seeks to do them harm rather than serving them for their good. I suppose all of us in the church do a little of both, harming and serving, but the wicked servant is scant for true service and quick to take out the blunt instrument of the tongue and beat down the true servants of Christ.
The unbelieving, unforgiving, wicked servant is also unrestrained. Drunkenness is unrestrained and irresponsible drinking, and what the Lord says here about drinking applies to other areas of living as well. If you choose to drink, God’s word provides parameters for it, and to exceed those boundaries is sin. The same thing can be said about sex, money, food, speech, and every other area of life to which servants should submit to their master. But if you are not restrained by the Lordship of Christ and the word of God, and if the pattern of your life is governed by such selfish non-restraint, then you are a wicked servant and a, I’ll use the word now since Jesus does, a hypocrite.
The final characteristic of the wicked servant is their final destination, divine wrath and punishment fit especially for the hypocrite. They do not expect to be caught and punished at all, yet theirs is the most severe punishment of all. Seven times the Bible mentions a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Every time it refers to a particular place of punishment, not just the average lost person, but for the pretender, the faker, the hypocrite. While all divine punishment for sin and unbelief will be final and horrible, the hottest place in hell seems to be reserved for the hypocrite, known here as “the wicked servant.”
Who is the wicked servant really serving? Certainly not the Lord and not other people for their good. He may not be overtly serving the devil, as Dylan suggests, for he probably cares about as much for the devil as he does for God. He is simply serving himself, at the expense of God and others, which is absolute selfishness, the worst form of sin. When you do what you want to do virtually all the time, not caring what God has said and done, not caring how it effects the lives of other people, then you are a selfish, lost, wicked person. And if you are a church member living like this, you are a hypocrite, which is the worst of the worst.
Jesus tells us all of these things in His tale of two servants. Which kind of servant are you? Time will tell, and if it tells you that you fail to fit the description of the faithful servant, and you realize you fit the description of the wicked servant, you do not know how much time you have left. Perhaps it is time to repent and believe the gospel.
In his sermon on this text telling the tale of two servants, the late Dr. James Boice closed with a tale of three demons. They approached Satan with a strategy to mislead the nations and turn them away from God. The first said, “I’ll tell them there is no God.” That won’t work, Satan said, since everyone believes in God. The second said, “I’ll tell them there is no Hell.” That won’t work either, Satan said, for most people believe in Heaven and Hell. The third one said, “I’ll tell them there’s no hurry.” That, Satan said, will work.
You could die, or Christ could return, at any moment. If you are unsaved, even if you are a hypocrite, do not continue to serve yourself or believe the lies of the devil. And please hurry. Serve somebody, and let it be the Lord.Copyright © 2016 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
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Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org