At the Global:Church Forum, Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries discussed how the global Church is changing.
12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[b] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” 15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant[c] to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you,[d] none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” 25 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. 33 So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
What happens at the end of the world? There will be judgment. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. And western cultures say, “Oh, and there is going to be a banquet!” But what type of banquet? A wedding banquet. And whose wedding is it? Partly ours.
What does it mean to be betrothed? Think of the anticipation. Yet I find it interesting that we often struggle to live as though we are the bride of Christ.
Most people in affluent cultures, find themselves having to constantly increase the pace and volume of consumption in order to maintain the same level of enjoyment. This cycle is called the Hedonic treadmill. Research shows that consumers consistently make self-defeating choices.
Now in Jesus’ parable about the wedding banquet, the servant is not inviting people to the banquet when he goes out. The invitations have already been sent out and accepted. When the servant goes out, he is merely ringing the dinner bell. But everyone made excuses. The first 2 excuses are commercial in nature, and we understand how people get caught up in money. This is what happens with the affluent.
But the 3rd excuse causes a lot of Westerners problems. The 3rd excuse is a man saying, “I have a women at home, and I would much rather be doing something with her than you. The is not an affluent excuse but a sexual one. The modern era has become too focused on viewing men and women as sexual objects. We live in e that tells women that they are empowered if they act as sexual objects. How is that progress?
In the Western world, sexual desire was driven by a sense of spiritual connection. In India, sex has been long thought of as a mystical connection. But today sex is increasingly viewed as a product to consume. Pornography is rampant. And we increasingly think of ourselves as animals.
Slavery reduces people to objects rather than people. Pornography treats people as objects. Sin dehumanizes us. It makes us less human than we actually are. When we treat people as objects, we lose our way.
Is it even possible that today’s Christians treat God as an object that is to be consumed?
One US government analyst said, “Hypocrisy is the new unforgivable global sin.” When you marry objectifying people and unhealthy consumption with our integrity, what do you have?
In Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet, people had an invitation that they ultimately rejected, so the servant went out and evangelized. The servant sought out who would come. The servant compelled people. He must be compelling.
If you do not pick up your cross and forsake all you have, you cannot be Christ’s disciple. That statement cannot be compelling unless God’s servants live it.
The trouble is we are trying to teach morals of discipleship that do not demand everything. Even some churches treat people as objects that give them money.
Don’t ignore the people in the trenches that are laying down their lives. We have arm chair quarterbacks that are ignoring the pleas of help from those in the trenches as well as their feedback on how to do things better. I’ve known people that would not fund a ministry initiative because they are afraid people will be martyred. But I wouldn’t fund ministry by people who weren’t willing to lay down their lives.
Salt that has lost its saltiness is worthless. If the impurities in salt reach a certain level, it will be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Poor areas of the world are modeling out an incredible spiritual richness. So since we are in the West, it is not just enough to learn from the theology of the Church of the South and the East. What we need to do is learn from those who are persecuted and willing to die yet keep growing in their passion for Christ.
If as a Church we are willing to pay the cost that the majority of the Church is paying, you will be scared at times, but you will also be more effective.
Affluent cultures are born by sacrifice. When we are poor, we mistake scarcity for spiritual discipline. But when affluence comes and scarcity becomes scarce then peoples lives are destroyed if they lack discipline. The trouble is that in the West, we have been affluent for a very long time. The types of disciplines that we need have been gone for a very long time.
God has a habit of humbling people who trust in themselves. The goal of life isn’t to live as long as possible but to live a life that is obedient to Him. That is the only life worth living.
I think the models of discipleship we have in the West (1) move too slowly, (2) expect to little, (3) promise too much, and (4) expect quick maturity.