Read: Luke 14:15-24


Never in any of our lifetimes have we seen Jesus' parable of the banquet so clearly fulfilled before our eyes as now. From the streets and lanes of the city, the highways and hedges, the guests are coming and filling the house.


It's no longer "our church" or "our religion"

            or "our denomination", it's God's Open House.


And they're coming from every nation and tribe and people and tongue. Every day more empty chairs are being filled at this gigantic table and soon they'll all be filled.


When you come to this banquet don't get the idea that all these sinners are suddenly going to be perfect. Don't be shocked by some of the things you see. It's not the kind of banquet some refined gentlemen might hold for his refined friends, and all the friends know what to do - how to hold the teacups, the proper things to say.


God's Open House, by comparison, is chaos. Most of the guests never heard of etiquette,


- they're drinking out of their saucers

- eating with their knives

- dusting off their shoes with their napkins

- they get angry with each other

- they fight and pull hair.


There are a thousand things these people have to learn.


You don't suddenly become perfect when you walk through the door. You get a robe to put on when you come in, and this robe is Jesus' righteousness,


- it means that your sins are covered,

- that God really accepts you.


The robe gives you access to every room of God's Open House. But the "you" that's inside that robe still has a lot of things to learn - a lot of changes to make.


We've been justified. But now, we've got to be sancti­fied. We've got to become inside


- through and through


            - what this robe says we are: sons of God.


The heart inside has to come to the place where it really loves, really cares about the others, really shares what it has.


These lazy, self-indulgent bones have to learn to serve God


- not just when it's interesting to serve God,

- not just when it's fun,

- not just when we have a lot of pleasant company, but all the time,

- even when we're completely alone,

- even when we have a headache,

- even when we feel tired and depressed.


The tongue has to learn to speak in a God-pleasing way what is true, and good, and edifying all the time.


- These eyes have to learn to be single.

- This body has to learn how to discipline itself.


And it's happening - there is a change going on. The day is coming when the multitude sitting at God's Banquet Table will no more be eating with their knives, or squabb­ling over who gets the biggest piece of bread, when every single guest at this gigantic table will be a perfect re­flection of the Heavenly Father.


There will be such love, such joy, such wonderful songs of praise, such unity.


It will be pure Heaven - without a trace of evil left.


God Himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things will have passed away.


But it's not that way yet - things under these robes are still pretty rough and raw. God still has to do a lot of work on the guests He's drawn together.


A lot of bending, breaking, molding, hammering, melting, buffing and polishing before we truly reflect His image.


Just look around in any assembly of believers on earth including this one - and you can see a lot of things that sure don't come from Heaven. Sometimes we get im­patient.


"If God is changing His people into His likeness, why is it taking so long? Why is there so much hypocrisy? So much apathy? So much tension? Will it ever be different?"


Some things to keep in mind:


This Banquet which God has brought us to is not a factory, it's a family.


God doesn't mass-produce saints on an assembly line.

God doesn't program the sanctification of His people.

He doesn't do it like GM makes trucks.


The Host who sits at the head of this giant table does not see us as a crowd at all.


- He knows each one of us by name.


- He looks into the depths of each of our hearts and deals with each heart as if it were the only one.


That's how He brought us to the Banquet ---- one-at-a-time.


There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.


The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one pearl of great value went and sold all that he had and bought it.


You are that pearl. The Heavenly Father gave up all that He had, His only Son, to redeem you.  And that's how God sanctifies us: one-at-a-time.


The changes that God is making in this vast family of souls He is drawing together are not made en masse.


He doesn't put us in a pot and cook us like rice pudding. He deals personally with each one of us as if each were the only one God had to deal with. The whole family needs to be sanctified not just one or two.


We're always looking for scapegoats - people to blame. Some brother or sister in the flock goes off the deep end and slides back into sin and we say, "What's the matter with him? Where's her head at?"


We're all up-tight,


- they're giving us a bad name,


- they're making it harder for all of us to minister.


But if that man was drawn into the Body and then slipped back into his old ways, his stumbling is not just a symptom of problems in his life - it's a symptom of pro­blems in the whole Body.


- Lovelessness

- Prayerlessness

- Cliques

- Gossip

- Pettiness


All these things on our part helped him to go the way he went. Or, perhaps two or three self-centered spirits tear up a Bible Study. It seems the evening is wasted for all the rest. And we complain, "Why did they have to come in here and do that? Why didn't somebody tell them to shut up?"


But the real reason that Bible Study went off the track is that the whole crowd came with unprepared hearts.


Nobody did his homework.


Nobody had been praying for that study.


Nobody was really concentrating on Jesus.


So that when two or three started arguing, the whole Bible Study fell apart. That's always a sign that the Spirit of God is telling the whole flock to wake up and get on the ball.


If the whole flock is going to be sanctified, the starting point of change is you.


Not your brother.


Not your sister - but you.


Not the preacher or the deacon.


Not the choir or the ushers - but you.


Of course those other people need to be making changes in their lives.

Of course they need to have a different attitude. Of course they need to have more love.

Of course they need to learn patience.


But there's really only one thing you can do about it: start with yourself.


God gave you a vision of the need for love in the Body, not so that you could climb into everybody's case about their lack of love, but so that you could repent before Him as one who shares that lovelessness, and begin loving.


God gave you a vision of the laziness in the Body, not so that you could get up-tight at all the lazy believers, but so that you could correct the problem in your own life.


Isaiah didn't say,


"Lord, I'm not going to go out there and prophesy to those people, they have unclean lips".


He said,


"I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips".


He started with himself.


When Jesus told His disciples there was a traitor in the group they didn't say,


"Is it Peter?

Is it Judas?

Is it James?" Each started with himself,


"Is it I?"


People who can tell you what's wrong with the church and how it needs to repent of its hypocrisy are a dime-a­-dozen. But the man who will admit that the roots of hypocrisy in the church are running through his own heart, and who will start tearing those roots out of his own heart before God, is the man through whom God will bring healing to the Body.


If you hear God calling this flock to repentance - don't run and tell everybody else to repent - you repent.


If you hear God calling this assembly to be still before Him and listen - don't run around telling everyone else to shut up - you be still before God.


And when you are really still before God a mysterious hush will sweep over the whole Body, and out of that stillness God will speak.


Every change that you see as necessary for this Body of believers must begin with you.


You see hypocrisy in the Body.

You see hardness of heart.

You see bigotry.

You see unbelief.

You see apathy, in the heart of the Body.


Get down on your face before the Lord and ask Him to deal with these things in your life,


- and suddenly those attitudes toward others will dissolve,

- you will come into the light,

- you will have fellowship with your brothers and sisters

- peace with God.


And the cleansing of God that touches you will reach out and touch others. Everybody will be blessed be­cause you started with yourself.


God is doing two wonderful things at this hour.


            He's gathering the lost into His banquet hall.


            He's transforming His guests into perfect reflections of His love.


If there is anyone reading this who has not entered the banquet hall, the word of God to you today is




If there is anyone reading this who is disappointed at the rough edges he sees in the lives of the guests re­member: the change begins with you.



Draw near.


Let God touch your life, and through the change that He works in you, He will bless your brothers and sisters more than you could ever imagine.