Compelled to Attend

Do you ever take your salvation for granted?  In a sense, this is not incorrect, for in the economy of God’s providence, that is exactly how it came to you.  Salvation is granted. However, in the sense that we use the phrase “for granted,” do you ever rest too much on the fact that your deliverance was just a part of your being?  If you are like me, days pass where the only thought of your inclusion in the family of God is an assumed constant.  Like your family name or your nationality,  your salvation can become such a part of your existence that you forget how unlikely you were to have received it.

Assurance of salvation is truly a blessing.  By the power of the Holy Spirit you can be made to never doubt the fact that you have been renewed and transformed.  However assurance can be a double edged sword.  Knowing that you have no possibility of loosing your salvation can evoke a perilous situation where you become stoic in your faith and forget who you really are.  I am covenantal in my belief.  If you are not familiar with the term “covenantal” don’t be concerned, you are in the majority.  In a nut shell, without going deep into Covenant Theology,  my belief is that my inclusion into the family of God came through his promises to the biblical patriarchs of continuing his seed.  I must admit that though this belief system produces a wonderful strengthening of faith, if not properly monitored, it also tends to make one stale in the faith.  You can become so assured, that you forget you are truly of a class not worthy to be called children of God. You tend to forget that God had to powerfully and supernaturally force you to come to him.

In a sermon preached before the administration of the Lord’s Supper,  Boston reminded his congregation how God sought after a people most unworthy of being admitted to the feast, a banquet prepared for those whom he loves.  The sermon was exposited from  the Parable of the Great Banquet, Luke 14.  In this parable, Christ paints a picture of an exclusive class system that was broken wide open by a man shunned by those of his order.  In the story the master of the house plans a great banquet for his friends and associates.  As the time draws near he begins to receive regrets with a myriad of excuses from those he invited.  It is apparent that none see any benefit in being in attendance.

I have been just as guilty as those original invitees.  Many times I have regretted to invitations to functions I saw no advantage from attending.  I usually felt no obligation to attend.  I could usually convince myself that my absence would be of no loss to the host or me.

The master of this house then sent his servants to seek other guests.  They were told to go into the streets and ally ways and invite anyone they could find.  Then they were to go into the rural areas and invite those they found there also.  As you can assume from the nature of the places they were looking, these were not the socialites but rather the laborers, street urchins and sodbusters.

Proper interpretation of scripture requires that you read a parable as having one intended message.  From this particular parable we are to see what a stretch it was for Christ to reach out beyond the natural lineage of Abraham, the Jews, to us, the gentiles.  The Jews regretted to the banquet.  However, so would the gentiles had the Master not added an imperative to the invitation.

Yes, this is a wonderful story of Christ’s invitation to those who had no title to make them worthy to come.  Truly, Christ sought us while yet strangers, and welcomed us to the feast. But if you look more closely you will see an important, yet most often overlooked, portion of the parable.  This seemingly insignificant verbiage makes our salvation even more valuable.  Buried deep into the meat of the parable we come to verse 23. Christ instructs the messengers, “Go out to the roads and country lanes, and make them come in, so that my house will be full.”(Luke 14:23 NIV) I prefer the NIV for its more modern vernacular but the older translations say that the servants were to compel the people to come.  Is it any wonder that Boston titled his sermon on this parable “Gospel Compulsion”?  The people had to be forced to come to the feast.  We had to be compelled also.

Here I go again.  Let me warn you that I do not intend to offend or antagonize some you by what I am about to say.  I despise the practice of “Gospel invitation.”  You invite someone to church. You invite someone to your home for Christian hospitality.  You do not invite someone to believe the Gospel.  They must be compelled and that is outside of man’s scope of authority.  When Christ included in his parable the instruction to his servants to make the guests come, and the translators from the original chose the word “compel” or “make”, it was no accident.  If we simply us the definition of compel, we can see the true sense of its use here.  To compel is to force an action or to cause an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way that is especially against one’s conscious  wishes.  In reformed circles we say this God’s “irresistible grace”.  When God choses you, and calls you, you will come.  Another good term to know is “effectual calling”.  The Gospel message may constantly be preached calling all to come, but when one is effectually called by the combined work of God’s Word and the Holy spirit it is a done deal.  You will come and have no power to refuse.

Now, in light of what has been said about how you got to the party,  does it not change your appreciation of your salvation?  You were just like the all of the invited guests.  You were ungrateful and unwilling to accept your invitation.  You may have been hungry, sick, homeless, without hope, but you would not have reached out received the bounty of the master’s hospitality.  Only the Master’s desire that his house be full, and the power of his compelling will, could draw you in.  You can take no credit for your salvation.  That is why it is all about Grace.  Treasure the Grace of God.  It is what truly gives value to you inclusion in His family.

 

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