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The 'Blessed Idiocy of Grace' and How We Must Respond

In the parable of the vineyard and the tenants, Jesus tells a story that illustrates God's gracious, continual pursuit of man through the ages, ultimately through His Son, Jesus Christ. This parable offers us a striking picture of God's offer of grace, but we also see that the offer eventually has an end, and that refusing His offer is a mistake with eternal consequences.

Todd WagnerMar 16, 2002
Mark 12:1-12

Messages In This Series (11)
Habits and Huge Gifts: Two Things That Don't Always Please God
Todd WagnerApr 21, 2002
The Main Man, You, and the Main Thing
Todd WagnerApr 6, 2002
The Root of All Error and the Truth About Death
Todd WagnerMar 30, 2002
The Separation of Church and State
Todd WagnerMar 23, 2002
The 'Blessed Idiocy of Grace' and How We Must Respond
Todd WagnerMar 16, 2002
A Game God Won't Play
Todd WagnerMar 10, 2002
A Tree, A Temple, and A Timeless Truth: The Danger of Leaves Without Fruit
Todd WagnerMar 3, 2002
Not Your Typical Spring Cleaning - Jesus in The Temple
Todd WagnerFeb 17, 2002
The Day the King Came and the Question His Followers Should Ask and be Able to Answer
Todd WagnerFeb 10, 2002
Busting Out From the Crowd of Darkness: What You Want and What to Do When You Get It
Todd WagnerJan 27, 2002
What We All Want and How to Get It
Todd WagnerJan 20, 2002

"On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a crude little lifesaving station. The building was just a hut and there was only one boat, but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the sea. With no thought for themselves, they went out night and day, tirelessly searching for the lost. Many lives were saved by this wonderful little station, so that it became famous throughout the land.

Some of those who were saved and various others in the surrounding area wanted to become associated with the station and give of their time, money, and effort for the support of its work. New boats were bought, and new crews were trained. The little lifesaving station grew. Some of the members of the lifesaving station were unhappy, though, that the building was so crude and poorly equipped. They felt that a more comfortable place should be provided as the first refuge of those saved from the sea.

They replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged building. Now the lifesaving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They decorated it beautifully and furnished it exquisitely because they started to use it as kind of a club. Few of the members were now interested in going to sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired a lifeboat crew to do this work. The lifesaving motif still prevailed in this club's decoration; there was a liturgical lifeboat in the room where the club's initiations were held.

About this time, a large ship was wrecked off the coast. The hired crews brought in boatloads of cold, wet, and half-drowned people. They were dirty and sick, and some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin. The beautiful new club was considerably messed up. So the property committee immediately had a shower house built outside the club where victims of shipwrecks could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting, there was a split in the club membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's lifesaving activities as being unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal social life of the club. Some members insisted upon lifesaving as the primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a lifesaving station. They were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all the various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own little lifesaving station down the street. And they did.

As the years went by, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved also into a club, and yet another lifesaving station was founded. History continued to repeat itself. If you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of exclusive lifesaving clubs along this shore. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown."

That's a big mistake. The purpose of being a lifesaving station is not to have liturgical lifeboats on the wall. The purpose of being a member of the Coast Guard is not to wear great-looking uniforms and take fun trips on the water. It's to get wet; it's to risk your life for the sake of those who are depending upon you.

Someone in authority has commissioned you to be a part of saving people who are in great peril, but that's not comfortable work. In fact, it's perilous work, and lives are lost. Some of the people you save aren't always as grateful, or some people are flat-out a pain when they first come kicking and screaming at you in the water. It's a big mistake to try to build a place that is comfortable for you as opposed to being who it is that you are supposed to be.

We're looking at the person of Jesus Christ and stories that he told to drive home a point. There's one in Mark 12 that has application to what we've already flirted with this morning. Follow with me. "And He began to speak to them in parables…" Now the them are the leaders who had already avoided the obvious evidence of who this Jesus was. They had made a huge mistake.

It wasn't because they had just not recognized him. It was because he threatened their modus operandi. He threatened the way things were, and they liked the way things were. They were very comfortable the way things were. They avoided his questions, and you're going to see in a minute they even avoided the conviction of the Spirit, but they could not avoid, you will find out, the eventual judgment from the one in authority over them.

Jesus tells a story. He says, "There's a man; he planted a vineyard, and he put a wall around it. He dug a vat under the wine press. He built a tower, and he rented it out to vine-growers, and he went on a journey." A couple of quick observations there from that very first verse: He had a vineyard, a little tract of land, that he purposefully built a wall around to give it protection. He put every provision necessary for them to be able to bring forth the fruit that was expected from the vineyard there. He built a tower for shelter, for storage, and for security.

Then, he didn't sell this vineyard; he stewarded it out. He gave it to some people who were accountable to him to work that vineyard in a way that they could provide for their families and be blessed as a part of a very significant and rewarding work, but they still were accountable to him.

"At the appointed time, called harvest, he sent a slave to those vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce form the vineyard." There was an expected result from this place that every advantage. "But these tenants took the slave, and they beat him and sent away empty-handed. Again, he sent them another slave, and they wounded this one on the head, and they treated this one shamefully. So he sent yet another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, they beat some, and they killed others, just depending on their mood.

He had one more to send, a beloved son, an only son. He sent this one last of all to these tenants, saying, 'Hey, surely they will respect my son.' But those vine-growers said to one another, 'Hey, wait, this is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!' They took him, they killed him, and they pitched him out of the vineyard."

Here's the question that he poses at the end of telling that little story. He didn't ask, "What kind of lifesaving station will you be?" He says, "What do you think that those in authority would think of individuals who are commissioned to save lives, who are commissioned to care for those who are suffering off the coast, but instead of being a Coast Guard become a yacht club? What do you think those who are funding that operation will do when it's finally exposed that what they thought was a provision for hurting people was, in fact, a country club for the privileged?"

Christ says it this way: "What will the owner of the vineyard do when he comes to those who had destroyed his servants and eventually his only son?" He says in verse 9, "He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others. Have you not read the Scripture: 'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" David wrote in the Psalms, and Jesus quoted here.

It says that those who were listening to this, the leaders who were convicted, who understood the story was about him. Not about the ladies in the beauty shop or the dress shop, but about them. It says "…they were seeking to seize Him; and yet they feared the multitude; for they understood that He spoke the parable against them. And so they left Him, and went away."

What we have right here is a group of guys who are very smart. They're not ignorant; they're a savvy lot, and they know not to kick a man when he's up. Christ was up in the eyes of the people, so they weren't about to kick him in front of the crowd. In fact, they stow away late at night, found him alone in a very quiet place, and that's when they decided to kick him.

F. Scott Fitzgerald has a great quote about Ernest Hemingway. He said that Ernest Hemingway never failed to extend a hand to somebody who was above him. Talking about this very self-sufficient, manipulative, self-satisfying man, who F. Scott Fitzgerald said was not a man to model your life after. In fact, all he was about was stepping on others and grabbing others who were above him to pull himself up to places he wanted to be. That is a savvy man in the world's eyes.

You don't kick a man while he's up, and these leaders were not going to kick him while he was up. They also were going to avoid Christ's questions. Just last week, we spent some time talking about a game God doesn't play. God doesn't play a game with those who say they want some information when they really don't want information; they want to put up a smokescreen of excuses they don't have to deal with what has already been delivered to them.

What you're going to see in this little context right here at the very end of the life of Christ is he deals with those who are in positions of influence who have the ability to care for others but who choose not to do that because it just isn't comfortable for them. You can avoid the penetrating questions of the Son, and you can avoid the conviction of the Spirit.

Do you think this crossed the minds of these vine-growers in the story? "You know what? Maybe we shouldn't beat this guy. Even if we're not going to give the guy what he's asking for, this is just a poor slave who came to ask for the wages that are due of us. It's probably not right to beat this innocent person."

They can suppress their conscience because the crowd is telling them it's okay, that they have a plan. Then the next one comes, and they don't just beat this one; they knock him on the head and deal him a rather serious blow. Maybe they strip him and humiliate him. They treat him shamefully.

Then another one comes. Some they killed and some they beat. I'm sure the conscience of some of those vine-growers was going, "Man, this is probably not right." But you can suppress your conscience, can't you? You can avoid penetrating questions. You can do it. You can give yourself a cloud of reasons why you don't have to believe when people examine your faith, when you say things like, "Well, I don't need God. I don't need the Bible. I don't need this Jesus. That's a crutch for weak people."

Somebody might come back to you and rightly say, "Well, wait a minute. Rather than assuming that's a crutch for weak people, isn't it possible that your denial and suppression of truth and the evidence before for and available to you if you would investigate it, the fact that you don't want to do that is, in fact, a crutch for you so you don't deal with the accountability that is to come? Your denial of God is really something you lean on so you can feel good about your lifestyle."

You're brilliant in your self-justification. You can avoid the questions sometimes. You can even suppress your conscience which says, "I know what I'm doing isn't right." You can get away from that. But what this parable is telling you is while you can avoid the questions from the Son, and while you can suppress the conviction of the Spirit, you will not escape judgment from the Father.

You can have your time and your season when it looks like you're going to wrongly acquire and enthrone yourself in a place that you were never meant to be enthroned. You're getting away with it, but there will be a time, at the appointed time, when you're going to find out that the man who owns that which you have been stewarded will call you into account. What I want to do is take this little story that Christ told and draw some applications for the people of the day but then realize that there are major applications for you and me.

Jesus told the story, and he's a genius as a teacher because he goes right at them in a way that, at first, they identify not with the tenants of the vineyard but the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders were the landowners in Israel. When he tells a story and says, "Let me just ask you a question. Can you imagine owning land and letting people on it?

These people are on your land and you let them provide for their family, and you care for them by making every provision so that they would be successful in their endeavors, and all you ask from them is that they continue to give a little of the produce of the land as an appropriate rent When you go to collect it, they beat those who you send to collect it."

These Pharisees are sitting there listening, and they're going, "I wouldn't stand for that." They see themselves as the landowners, at first. Then, all of a sudden, the story turns, and they realize that in the story, they're not the landowners. They're the wicked tenants, and they deserve great judgment.

It would be a lot like if I was trying to send Tom Hicks a message saying, "Can you imagine owning a baseball team? The people that you paid millions of dollars to play baseball for you purposefully went out there to mock you." Tom Hicks would relate to that story as an owner of a baseball team.

It would be like if I went to Jerry Jones and said, "Can you imagine owning a football team?" and created a story from that angle, only to show that he was not the owner in the story, but he was the player who consistently went out to shame the owner, to mock the owner, to squander the owner's money, and to spite the owner just for spite's sake.

Christ was a master storyteller, and he brought these guys right in in order to drive home a point. He used a vineyard for a specific reason. Let me take you back to Isaiah. We're going to go there a couple of times today, but the first time is in Isaiah, chapter 5. Follow along with me. The vineyard is a picture of the nation of Israel all throughout the Scriptures.

It says in Isaiah, chapter 5, verses 1-5 , "Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard." Isaiah is saying, "Let me sing a song for God. Let me sing a song about God's vineyard on a fertile hill." In effect, "He dug a wall around it. He removed its stones, he planted it with the choicest vine, and he built a tower in the middle of it." Is this sounding familiar to you?

Also, "… [He] hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between Me and My vineyard," God would say. "What more was there for me to do in that vineyard that I have not done?"

"Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?""So now let me tell you what I'm going to do to this vineyard. I'm going to remove its hedge, which protects it, and I'm going to let it be consumed. I'm going to break down its wall, and it will become trampled ground." In the parable of the vineyard owner, Christ doesn't say, "I'm going to destroy the vineyard right here." The vineyard goes forward.

He says, "I'm going to call those who are in charge of the vineyard into account." There are other places that we see the nation of Israel has not been faithful at accomplishing what God wanted it to accomplish, and so he doesn't work uniquely through that vineyard for a season, but he's going to begin to work through another vineyard that he's going to plant over here for a season that eventually he will uproot only to go back and make the vineyard of Israel a fruitful place.

Today's story is about those who are over whatever vineyard they are over and about teaching them some things about what God does in terms of expectation and what God does in extending grace to those who suppress what they know to be true. As he again and again offers them insight into their foolishness, ultimately, there's going to be an account.

What I want to do is walk you through this parable one more time, and I want you to see something of the heart of the God. I want you to see something of our response to this same God who puts us in a place of responsibility. I told Kyle about an hour ago, "I have three different ways to begin today, and I'm not sure which one to use."

I was going to start by telling you guys a story that I had made up about some third-world country, about a guy who grew up in the ghettos. His mother was a prostitute, and he was a young man who saw the horrors of the way women were treated who had to sell their bodies for their own survival, to give even their kids scraps so they might not die of hunger. This kid got out of there, he made it, and he became very successful in business in the Philippines.

With some of his money, his decided to take some of his buddies and say, "Listen, I'm going to fund you very well. I'm going to have you make more money than you could ever make doing anything else. I'm going to put you back in that same ghetto I grew up in, and I want you to go to the young women who are orphaned in that street.

I want you to take them in, train them, and care for them. I want you to teach them to read and write. I want you to teach them dignity and self-respect. I want you to allow these women to have a life my mom never had. I'll come check on you when I have some time, but here's millions of dollars. Use it for your own salary, use it for your own comfort, but care for these girls."

The man was consumed with business in the large town of Manila in the Philippines, and so he didn't get often to that little place of refuge he had set up in the ghettos. What was going on there was not, in fact, the training of young girls, but in the name of providing a respite for these young women, these guys were bringing them in and exploiting them sexually for their own pleasure.

The guy went to find out what had been going on with some of these girls. It had been many years now, and some of the girls should have grown up and made it out of the ghetto themselves and become very productive. The guy sends one of his top aides, a woman who worked closely with him, to go and to check out how it went.

When that new woman came into their grasp, his friends who he had sent there took her and raped her. He never heard back from her. It was strange, so he sent another woman down there to check on this shelter and to give him a report back. This one they toyed with a little bit. They stripped her and made her do shameful things, embarrassed her, and knocked her around, pushed her out into the streets naked.

Now if I'm telling you this story as if it were true, and if I was going to create it like a news story that I just read that was going on, what are thinking about now in this story? Who are you angry at? I'm angry at two people. I'm angry at the men who are obviously exploiting these innocent young women and these envoys who came to find out how the women were cared for.

But who else are you angry at? As messages get back to this guy: "Hey, that girl you sent, word is from the police report in that town that she was beaten and raped." So he sends another woman right into that lions' den? I get a little frustrated with that owner, with that funder of the orphanage. Don't you?

Well it gets worse, because in this news story that I want to share with you guys, he has a 16-year-old daughter, sweet as the day is long. He has heard about what has happened to the two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight women he has sent prior to this. He goes to his young, sweet 16-year-old daughter, and he says, "Sweetie, I have sheltered you and cared for you from the time you were young, but there are some things going on in this town that I'm concerned about.

Would you go and tell those men to stop raping and abusing women? Would you go in there and would you tell them to repent, to ask forgiveness, to deal with what they have done that has been wrong already, and to plead for my mercy and forgiveness?" He sends his 16-year-old daughter right there into that group of marauding, evil men. How many of you think that is absolutely ludicrous and irresponsible? I do. I think there's a problem with that guy. I think he's in some sort of denial, he's naïve beyond description, and he offends me.

That's the story in Mark, chapter 12. Do you understand that? Let me lay it out for you like this. This is what is going on right here. The offering of grace can look exceedingly stupid. One guy who made some observations in this passage called this the "blessed idiocy of grace." Here's a group of guys who have shown themselves to be hardhearted, foolish, mindless, and rebellious. He sent them a servant, and they beat him. He sent them another servant, and they knocked him on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent them another servant, and they killed him.

And again and again and again and again and again, and he keeps thinking that the next one will have a message, the next one will look a certain way so that the people will realize, "What have we done? What are we doing? We should stop this craziness. We should show that we are, in fact, people who are humbled under the fact that we are just stewards of this vineyard. We should ask for mercy because we deserve death."

The "blessed idiocy of grace." This is who God is, folks, and it is offensive when you stop and think about the fact that he is sovereign, that he is well-funded in Manila, and instead of sending the hatchet men down to deal with these guys at the first word that they weren't caring for the young, tender women they were supposed to, he sends an envoy to tell them to get it right before judgment day, and they rape her. So he sends another one, and they rape her. So he sends another one, and they rape her.

You and I are thinking, "Stop this madness!" What you and I miss is that God's love and God's care and God's tenderness for you and me is so exceedingly great, and this is offensive. It looks stupid, but his love for you is so exceedingly great that he is willing to let those who he loves and cares for suffer immensely for the sake of one other person who is living in rebellion against him to come to repentance before the hatchet falls.

Did you hear what I just said? He understands that his 16-year-old little girl might get raped, but he understands also that there is a greater accounting than even the suffering that happens on a hillside in Jerusalem to his Son. There is an eternal consequence to offending this Father, and so he is willing to let myriads of people suffer for him in his effort to try and get individuals to come to their senses.

I want to tell you: As a pastor, it looks stupid to me. As a father, it looks highly irresponsible. As a human being, it looks unreasonable beyond my ability to describe it to you. I want you to understand this morning that that is the love of God. There are some of you who are out there today, and you mock me. You go, "There is no accounting. There is no God, and I do suppress the conscience I have inside of me that tells me otherwise. I do suppress the evidence and the questions you can ask me that show me there are good reason to believe."

I'm going tell you in a loving way that you will not be able to avoid. You're dealing with the Father. There's a verse and it comes in Ecclesiastes, chapter 8, verse 11. It fits in Mark, chapter 12, and it fits my story from the Philippines. It says this: "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil."

This verse is saying that the very first sign somebody sends somebody to call us into account, I knock them upside them head and continue in my marauding. I go, "There's no consequence to this; this is great." Then another one comes: "We'll just kill him. We'll treat them shamefully." Then another one comes and, "We'll deal with them harshly."

There's never any consequence. The raping, pillaging, and pleasuring continues until, all of a sudden, the sentence against an evil deed is executed. Notice this: Christ, in this story, fully felt comfortable identifying himself as God's Son. Christ, in this story, was fully aware of the fact that he was the Son who was going to be sent to these wicked men who had killed a long string of prophets. Not only did they beat one upside the head, this last prophet, John the Baptist, his head they took off. Now here he comes, and he knew exactly what he was walking into.

Look what else Christ knew. He knew there would be an accounting, and he knew there would be a Father who would set things right. He had faith that even to the point of his serving him leading to a grave of defeat would not end there. That is faith. One of the amazing things you and I have to realize in this story is that many of us will lean more toward the experience of Christ than the experience of Elijah who was zapped out of his chariot and ascended up into heaven.

In other words, God is comfortable letting his people suffer for his cause knowing that he will make it right. You and I want to see him make it right right now. When we see the sentence against an evil deed not executed quickly, not only did they continue in sin who were doing the evil deeds, but we start to hesitate in obedience, thinking maybe we're fools for serving a Father who would send woman after woman into that den of rapists.

Knowing that he wouldn't even spare his own daughter for the sake of these men who, for years, had lived in rebellion, thinking maybe his daughter would get them to repent. That means he might send me. That means he might want me to be more than a member of a yacht club. He might really want me to be a part of the Coast Guard.

I want you to see this morning that the offering of grace can look really stupid, but I want you to also see this. The offering of grace has its end. Look at this little verse. In Mark, chapter 12, verse 2, it says, "…at the harvest time…" In other words, there's going to be a time when we're going to stop offering a chance for them to live as they want, and we're going to call them into account.

Psalm 32:6: "Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found; surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him." In other words, there's going to be a day when God is not going to offer his hand out to those who are bobbing up and down in this sea of self-fulfillment. The offering of grace can look stupid, but the offering of grace has its end. I want you to listen to me as I read now from Isaiah 65.

"I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; who sit among graves, and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine's flesh, and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.

Who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils, a fire that burns all the day." God says, "Their wickedness, in effect, never leaves my attention." "Behold, it is written before Me, I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will even repay into their bosom, both their own iniquities and the iniquities of their fathers together, says the LORD." In other words, wrath is being stored up.

"Because they have burned incense on the mountains, and scorned Me on the hills, therefore I will measure their former work… Thus says the LORD, As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one says, 'Do not destroy it, for there is benefit in it,' so I will act on behalf of My servants in order not to destroy all of them."

God is saying right here that there is still going to be some good in here and he will preserve a piece of this vineyard for some future work. For the wicked parts of the vineyard that aren't producing the fruit that they should, the offering of grace has its end. He says in verse 9, "And I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and an heir of My mountains from Judah; even My chosen ones shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.

But you who forsake the LORD, who forget My holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune, and who fill cups with mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter. Because I called, but you did not answer; I spoke, but you did not hear. And you did evil in My sight, and chose that in which I did not delight.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, My servants shall eat, but you shall be hungry. Behold, My servants shall drink, but you shall be thirsty. Behold, My servants shall rejoice, but you shall be put to shame. Behold, My servants shall shout joyfully with a glad heart, but you shall cry out with a heavy heart. And you shall wail with a broken spirit. And you will leave your name for a curse…and the Lord GOD will slay you."

Those are some serious verses. Do you know what that is? That is Mark 12, where Jesus says, "What do you think the owner of the vineyard is going to do when he comes to them?" There's going to be an awful accounting, and Isaiah doesn't even begin to touch on the horror of it.

There was another prophet; his name was Amos. Amos says, "It's going to be one of those days where you go out and you're confronted by a lion. You run to get away from the lion, only to be met by a bear. Then you run away from the bear, slap yourself inside your house, lean up against the wall to rest, only to have an asp, a poisonous snake, bite you on the hand."

In other words, there is no hiding when the owner of the vineyard comes. This is a story that offends me because God looks so stupid in his constant offer of love, hoping that maybe this one will bring repentance from those people. It's a story that offends some of you who are out there because what I'm telling you is there is consequence to rejecting this Son.

Hear me: the reason God has not yet brought us to an Isaiah 65 time in our lives is because the patience of grace has a purpose. Last week, we sang a song called "Kindness." It comes right out of the Scriptures. Romans, chapter 2, verse 4: "Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness, of his tolerance and his patience, not knowing the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" That's the purpose.

In 2 Peter, in your New Testament, there's a story there about the day when God's going to bring judgment on the world. It says, "God is not slow as some count slowness. He is patient toward you because he is not wanting any man to die in a position of rebellion against him." The kindness of God that sends prophet after prophet, day after day, message after message, blessing after blessing, revelation after revelation, in creation, in conscience, and in spoken word, wants you to repent. The patience of grace has its purpose.

There's a classic story in Scripture about a man who was very powerful, so powerful that he could do whatever he wanted. He was a king; his name was David. David saw a woman who was not his own and coveted that woman. The husband of that woman was at war for this king, furthering his greatness.

What he did in order to cover up the fact that that woman who wasn't his who he brought in, who he slept with, who became pregnant was he thought, "Oh my gosh. If this woman becomes pregnant while her husband is out at battle, it's going to be obvious that there was a scandal." So he sent a messenger out and brought down that man from the battle site and had him sleep with his beautiful wife.

But the man wouldn't do it because he didn't think it was right that he would enjoy a conjugal visit while his friends were still fighting the war. So he slept outside his own house, waiting for the day he could be released to go back to battle. Not knowing what to do, the wicked king put that man on the frontlines, only to have him certainly die in battle.

What would you and I do to that king? We would call him into great account. What does God do to that king? He tells him a story. He sends his messenger to him. Watch this, because you're getting a story today, and the question is, will you be like the leaders in Mark 12 in the way they did not respond, or will you be like this king in 2 Samuel 12 in the way he responded? Listen to this story. It says,

"Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said, 'There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him.

Now a traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather, he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.' Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, 'As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.'

Nathan then said to David, 'You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, it is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these!

Why have you despised the word of the LORD ** by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.'"**

What's David going to do? What the men in Mark, chapter 12 did is say, "I'm going to kill you for coming and making me feel bad." You may not kill me this morning if I tell you that you're going to be held into account, but you might say, "I never want to hear that guy speak again," and, in a sense, you will kill the presence of God in your life spoken through individuals like me and like your friends who are here with you who offer to you a chance to deal with who this Jesus is.

Or you can do what David did. In verse 13, it talks about the right response in the face of this kind of conviction. It says, "Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.' And Nathan said to David, 'The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.'" That is grace, friends.

Jesus tells a story today to folks who are out there who have rejected the Son who the Father has sent, who continue to reign over their own lives as if they own it, when, in fact, they are stewarded every single day. They have murdered the convicting of the Spirit, and they have murdered the revelation of God through their conscience, through the Word of God, and through other things to continually enthrone themselves without any consequence of ever having to do business with a holy God while they are not.

What God looks for are men and women who will come to a place where they'll say, "I am those wicked tenants." We've said that the offering of grace has its end, and it's quite obvious by now that the rejection of grace has its consequences. I want to offer out this little insight to you. Every time you hear a story like this… I'm prone to do this exact same thing.

When I heard this story, the first dozen times I read it, I immediately went to, "How could those people working in the vineyards be so ignorant, be so wicked, be so foolish?" I always made it about them. I never let the story turn to be about me. As I was thinking about it this week, I made the simple observation: when you hear a story like this, if you think others are always the ones with the problem, then there is a problem.

I read a quote by some guy this week who said this: "There are always two sides to every divorce. You and the other stupid idiot." I talk to couples all the time and people in conflict. I say, "What's the problem with your relationship? What's the problem with the fact that you guys can't get along?" Almost 100 percent of the time on relationships that are headed for the grave, when they tell the story about how awful their marriage is, they tell their story and they the stupid idiot's story.

If every time you hear a story, if every time you see a problem, it's always the other person's problems, there's probably really a problem. The point of this parable being preserved for you and me is not just to look at Israel 2,000 years ago and see the mistakes they made. They made mistakes, and we can read them because they're recorded in the Scriptures.

We have 2,000 years of churches that have changed from Coast Guard stations to yacht clubs. There are individuals in those yacht clubs, just like you and me, who don't like to be cold and wet and want to build yacht clubs that are comfortable for our families and that are not places where you and I can be faithful in service to our master. The rejection of grace has its consequences. Let me share with you this little paragraph.

If you stop at nothing to get what you want, if you rationalize any behavior to justify your actions, if you think God is unwilling to act, if you think God is asleep or dead, if you have ably killed your conscience and other sources of conviction, thereby providing for yourself temporary peace, if you think God is unable to do anything about your indifference, arrogance, or outright rebellion, if you have written off Jesus as a weak Son of a weak Father who will never come to call you into account, then you are that wicked tenant, and you are making an eternally significant mother of all mistakes.

That's as straight as I can tell you. The application for me, who by the grace of God has understood that I made that mother of all mistakes for a lot of years in my life, almost two decades. By the grace of God, on the backside of the two decades, I've been doing all I can to rightly respond to the expectation of grace, which is faithfulness. If you're a part of the core body here, if you're a member, and if you're a follower of Christ, then you know that the expectation of grace is faithfulness.

You know that it's not about us building a comfortable church that meets all of our passions and desires. It's about doing what God wants us to do as members of, if you will, to use our parable at the beginning, his Coast Guard. It's about reordering our lives, and reprioritizing our lives, so we can initiate authentic friendships with those who are far from God so we can bring forth fruit in keeping with our own repentance. So we can be faithful, so that we hear not, "You wretched wretch who I will tear and bring down to a wretched end," but so that we might hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

If you seek to live your life as a faithful steward, if you seek to be a faithful messenger who sometimes walks into hostile territory where people will mock you, who will treat you shamefully, who sometimes will murder you and call you intolerant and exclusive and arrogant because of your beliefs that Jesus is the one true Son, the only foundation upon which any building can be built on, prepare yourself for some pain. Prepare yourself for some suffering.

If you're somebody who expects to respond rightly to grace, that means you don't just feather your bed. It means you take the resources you have, and you invest them in making God's work as fruitful as it can be so as many people as possible can be pulled out of the torrent of the sea before they drown. He'll want you to walk with all of your resources of creativity, of money, of companionship and community right into the lives of some of these people and spend yourself hoping that as he tarries one more day, one more of them might come to repentance.

That's what God wants, and I will tell you, if this church doesn't do that, then we are going to hear from him, the head of this church. There's an accounting to us. I'll say it again. He doesn't want us to build a church that is comfortable for us and our families. He wants us to be the church. He doesn't want us to have a nice yacht club that we all love and think is comfortable for us. He wants us as members of his Coast Guard. He wants us to be on the frontlines, completely devoted to his cause, for his glory. Can you imagine being part of a church like that?

God loves you so much that he gladly puts his church, his people, through fire, through rain, through trials. He doesn't care, but he's not slow as some count slowness, thinking as it were that he is never going to come. He is patient, wishing that none should perish but that all would come to repentance.

If you're here this morning, I want you to be offended at the love of God, that he would send more than his 16-year-old sweet, virgin daughter into a den of rapists. That he would send his holy Son who existed from the beginning of time, who never had not existed, who walked on this earth as you and I walk, and yet without sin, loving, healing, and speaking kindness and care and had him crucified and treated as the worst of criminals because he's not willing for you to die, receiving judgment.

If you, like I, have been overwhelmed by that love that broke into my wicked tenant's heart, there's a right response to grace. It's to give everything you have…time, resources, life, priorities, schedules…for the sake of bringing forth all of the fruit he wants from your life, from your community of lives, for his glory and for the good of those who he died to save. May this be his church, a lifesaving church, a disciple-making church, a God-glorifying church, and not a place that's comfortable, because we ain't home yet. Have a great weekend.


About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 5'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. <strong></strong> This volume covers Mark 10:35 through Mark 12:44.