FBCJ Feature Article: CHANGING POSITIONS
Matthew 20:16(NKJV) 16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.
King Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot.” If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that change creates stress and tension in our lives because it upends our comfort levels, leaving us insecure and afraid. It challenges our expectations, our routines, our understanding of the world and how we live in it. There seems to always be a guarantee in life that change will happen. Even changes we consider joyful create a type of stress response. Whether good or bad, we can conclude change creates stress.
However, for the children of God, God has a plan for our lives. According to Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. If we trust in God and allow the change to grow us to become more like Jesus Christ in how we respond and act, then we are promised that “all things will work together for good for those who love Him and keep His commandments” Romans 8:28.
The Bible provides several examples of the changing of positions: Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:19-34), David and his brothers (I Samuel 16), Joseph and his brothers (Gen. 37), Joseph’s sons (Manasseh and Ephraim- Gen. 48:12-20), Daniel and the Hebrew boys (Daniel 3) and many more. We must remember that there is one common denominator for promotion, God. Psalm 7:5-7 says “Do not lift up your horn on high; Do not speak with a stiff neck. For exaltation comes neither from the east, nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another.”
In the parable of the workers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1-16, Matthew records Jesus’ announcement of the change of position of the Jews and Gentiles. Prior to the advent of Jesus, Gentiles were long seen as enemies of the Jewish people, yet Christ provided good news for both Jews and non-Jews. This parable was forecasting a change that was coming; Gentiles would be preferred over the Jews. John informs us in John 1:1-13 “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
According to this parable, the householder hired laborers the first, third, sixth, ninth and eleventh hour to work in his vineyard, many would be called but few will be chosen. The parable concludes with the major theme, the change of positons of the Jews and Gentiles. On the fifth call, or eleventh hour, the householder calls the Gentiles to the vineyard (the church of Christ) to work when the unbelieving Jews would be finally rejected. The Gentiles (non-Jews or simply put you and I), who have been long without the true God, shall now enjoy all the privileges of the new covenant. The Jews, who have enjoyed the privileges of being God’s chosen people from the beginning, shall now be stripped of this privilege because they rejected the Lord and as a result Jesus will reject them. Apostle Paul, a Jew, stated the position that we should all take when he encountered Christ when he wrote Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
This contentious presidential election in 20I6 has caused a shake-up in American culture. God is setting the church up for a change of our positon. In the article by Michael Lipka “Why America’s ‘nones’ left religion behind” found on the Pew Research Center website, states “Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood.” From the article, many have been disenfranchised with organized religion, church, for several reasons: they feel church is divisive- not uniting, that it has lost its focus and has become more of a business than a place of divine help and it has done more harm than help in our society. We have been put on the back burner, placed last on their agenda.
As in the parable in Matthew 20:1-16, God’s word is being fulfilled before our very eyes, “So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen.” It is time to go to work. God is changing our position from irrelevant (last) to relevant (first). People are looking for solutions and hope. John 13:34-35 states, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God is looking for willing workers to fulfill the mission and vision God has provided to FBCJ:
Led by the Holy Spirit, we will preach the gospel through holistic (spiritual, social, economic and political) development of our community to uplift and glorify the Kingdom of God while effectively developing disciples of Jesus Christ to bring the transformative gospel to the community of unbelievers.
Minister to the eternal, educational, emotional, environmental, and economic needs of all people through Christ’s liberating gospel by word and deed creating transformation for the whole community.
Pastor Derek V. Gatling