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When does Yes mean Yes?

Matthew 21:28-32

Jim Davis

The story is about the man who made his sons work in the cornfields while their peers spent their afternoons at the swimming hole. Someone scolded the father saying, "Why do you make those boys work so hard? You don’t need all that corn." The father replied, "Sir, I’m not raising corn I am raising boys." When I grew up on a farm the most important aspect of life that parents taught their children was how to work. The work we accomplished was never as important as the character the work was aimed at developing.

If a person has a willingness to work at whatever his/her hands find to do there are unlimited possibilities to be grasped. This person’s world is wide open to opportunity. However, the unwilling person closes the door of opportunity.

When my wife and I go to work every morning we have to fight rush hour traffic. As I think about all those people in their cars trying to get to work, I realize that these people are what America is all about. America is a land of opportunity. But opportunity brings responsibility. I think Solomon said it best.

Ecclesiastes 9:10
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. NIV

Opportunities unused are lost. Opportunities are unused when we say no to God. When we say no to the work God has called us to we are the greatest losers. Sin placed a curse upon the earth, literally upon the ground. When sin entered into this world God said to Adam and Eve, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field" (Genesis 3:17-18).

Our lives are like a field for what a field produces is up to us. One piece of ground under careful cultivation will produce a bountiful crop; another piece of ground will be overgrown with bushes when left unattended. Both pieces of ground share equally in sin's curse. The same is true with us as individuals. We all share equally in sin’s curse, but what we do with our lives is up to us.

When God asks us to work in his kingdom, he is interested in getting his work done. He is interested in sharing his grace with the whole world through us. He is interested in helping us shape our world into his new creation. This is the work of God. But he is more interested in helping us develop as Christians through our work. Works may not save us, but they help us develop Christian character.

Saying No to God

Matthew 21:28-32
28 "What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

29 "'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

30 "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

31 "Which of the two did what his father wanted?"

"The first," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. NIV

The story reveals how many say no to God. One son promised all and did nothing. This son represented the Jews who claimed to believe in God. The other son said no as he embraced a life of rebellion, but latter turned from his iniquities to embrace God. One son represented the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees and the other represented the tax collectors and prostitutes. Which one did what God ask? The one who initially said, "NO."

The first son in this story said yes, but he never worked in his father's vineyard. The unbelief Jesus deplored most came from those who proclaimed to know God, but refused to live for him. In once sense they had said yes to God. They believed in one God. They believed what the law and prophets had written. But pragmatically they had said no to God.

Matthew 15:1-3
15:1 Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!"

3 Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? NIV

Mark 7:13
13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. NIV

The Jews were merely following the traditions of their forefathers. They refused God’s ways for themselves. The religious rulers had rejected the truth preached by John, and therefore Jesus could not impart new truth. It is a basic principle of Christian living that we cannot learn new truth if we disobey what God has already told us. "If any man is willing to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God" (John 7:17, NASB). We wonder why the Jews could not accept Christ as the Messiah, but it was simple. They were saying no to God. The weren’t willing to do his will.

This is precisely why there is a lack of spiritual knowledge within the church. Many who initially said yes to Christ, never really said yes, because they never committed themselves to the work of the kingdom.

Lifestyles vs. Worship

The Jews practiced their parent’s religion, but they had not claimed God's ways for themselves. Jewish boys were circumcised when they were eight days old. They were dedicated at the temple as babies. They were obeying the rules and regulations of God, but they had lost sight of the purpose of the rules and regulations. Many thought they were obeying the rules and regulations because they thought they were already children of God solely through natural endowment. Somehow the rules and regulations came to have no relevance for their lives.

We may help our children say no to Christ by forcing them to live by rules and regulations we have made for them. Often our rules and regulations designed to clone our children in our likeness leave them doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. Cloning children through rules and regulations may work while our children are young. But we may find our children rebelling against the rules and regulations when they become adolescents.

We may leave our children the impression that Christianity is only about rules and regulations. We may never introduce them to the One who can make those rules and regulations work in every situation in life.

You parents must know that children are most likely to develop your lifestyle than they are to do what you say when there is disharmony between what you say and how you live. If you are setting a bad example, expect your children to follow in your footsteps. You may think that you are fooling your children, but you are going to learn different when they buy into your lifestyle. If you want to know the mistakes you made when you were rearing your children, just watch them for they are going to mirror those mistakes for you in their adult lives. Many children go to church with their parents, but they are mad about their hypocrisy.

When your family knows you don't pretend to have it all together, that you admit failure, that you're sorry and want to do better, they can handle almost any situation. They are less likely to imitate your behavior.

The trouble with many of us is that when Satan trips us knocking us to our knees, our pride want let us get back up.

We can say no to God by becoming a double agent. We may profess ourselves to be Christians on Sunday, but live worldly lives through out the week.

Most professing Christians, from liberals to fundamentalists, remain practical atheists. They think the church is sustained by the services it provides or the amount of fellowship and good feeling in the congregation. This form of sentimentality has become the most detrimental corruption of the church and the ministry. ... Without God, without the one whose death on the cross challenges all our good feelings, who stands beyond and over against our human anxieties, all we have left is sentiment, a saccharine residue of theism in demise. Sentimentality is the way our unbelief is lived out. Citation: The Christian Century. Leadership, Vol. 10, no. 3.

Somehow we have separated worship from a real life experience. This is because we have not decided to die with Christ. If Christianity is not worth dying for it is not worth living for. If what you are living for is not worth dying for, it is not worth living for.

We are truly dying for our lifestyles. What we eat determines how long we live. Some of us are in deep trouble. A life of credit cards and instant gratification leave us buried in debt so deep we can't breathe. I know a lady who goes on shopping sprees to buy new clothes spending hundreds of dollars. Yet, she gives away clothes hanging in her closet she has never worn. She ends up giving them to others after they have hung in her closet too long. In fact the price tags on most of those clothes she gives away have never been removed. No, this isn't my wife. This lady lives in another city. I will say that she doesn't have to use a credit card to buy them, but what’s the difference.

This kind of living requires more and more of us. What we may think is fun ends up overwhelming us to the point where we lose control of our lives. Things cease to be fun when we are enslaved by them, but by this time there is even a more terrible price to pay.

You will never learn to live until you learn what you can live without.

Philippians 4:12-13
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. NIV

Why do We Say No to God?

We have sophisticated ways of saying no to God.

Luke 9:57-62
57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go."

58 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

59 He said to another man, "Follow me."

But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."

60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."

61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."

62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." NIV

Many say no to God because there is so much they are not sure about. There are a lot of things in this world that I am not sure about, but it is not going to keep me from giving my life to what I know is worthwhile. We don’t know why our children are deathly ill. But it must not stop us from giving our life to something worthwhile. I am not sure about the war, but it is not going to stop me from doing what is right. It doesn't stop me from trying to live in peace. I am not sure about my financial future five years from now, but it doesn't stop me from doing what I must do in the present. There are many answers I don't have, but I live in faith hoping that someday I will have the answers. It is the only way to successfully work through my problems.

We say no to God by being too crowd conscious. I don’t know why we are so crowd conscious, but we spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t even like. It seems like a futile, deadly way to live.

We say no to God because of growing pains. When you were five years old doing good may have been easy, but it gets tougher the further you grow. You may want to give up, but you must realize the real reason for living for Christ is about to be discovered.

You may be saying no to God because your life is smooth sailing for the moment. Why head into stormy waters? Why not try to maintain an even keel. However, troubles will come, and then what?


Many have said yes to God on the outside, but no on the inside. We do this church thing, but we are not really buying into a relationship with God.

How much more can God do to persuade you than he has already done?

Isaiah 5:1-7
I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.

3 "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? 5 Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it."

7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. NIV

Today the church is the vineyard of the Lord and Christians are his great delight. He is asking us to make a response to work in his kingdom.


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