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Now our reading is taken from the word of God, from Luke's gospel, the gospel of Luke and chapter 14. The third gospel, Luke, chapter 14 and beginning to read at verse 15. We're thinking tonight about the parable of the great banquet. This is a story that the Lord Jesus Christ told, and behind each story that He told, each parable that He told, there was one specific point that He was trying to get across. I've entitled my message this evening: 'Excuses, Excuses'.

"And when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and showed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper".

Let us come before the Lord and ask His help as we come now to His word. Let us pray: Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down. Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure unbounded love Thou art. Visit us with Thy salvation, enter every trembling heart. Lord Jesus, we ask that You would presence Yourself here with us, that we would know a very real sense that Jesus is here. Father, even as the disciples of old sensed His risen presence as they smelt the very ointment on His body, we would pray that the sweet fragrance of the risen Lord Jesus Christ would be here. For we ask these things in His name. Amen.

I want you to open your Bible, if you have a Bible with you, at the passage and the parable that we read together - the parable of the great banquet. A doctor reported that one evening he was driving too fast, and he made the mistake of driving past a police car. Once the police car sensed this it speeded up right behind him, and thinking fast the doctor reached into his medical bag and lifted his stethoscope. He waved it out the window at the police car, and the man in the police car nodded and slowed down and stopped at the side of the road. He got away with it. A few days later the same doctor was driving down the same road, and again he passed the same police car. But this time the police car came up beside him, the policeman wound the window down, stuck his hand out the window, and was dangling a set of handcuffs.

This time in New Zealand, a woman was driving for 25 years without a driving licence. She explained to the judge who fined her: 'I only drive on roads that have very little traffic, and none of those roads lead to an office where I could apply for a drivers licence'. That's women drivers for you! Another story I heard was of a Canadian man who was charged in the United States of America, in Michigan, for driving at 74 mph. He explained that he thought that since the Canadian gallon is higher than the US gallon, that a mile might be longer north of the border. The magistrate clarified the error and fined him in Canadian dollars, which are smaller than US dollars.

It's amazing the excuses that you can find. That's what I want to speak to you this evening about: excuses. The parable that we read about this evening was about men who made excuses. Statistics tell us that 99% of all failures are people who have a habit of making excuses. If you really want to know a person, if you really want to know how someone ticks, listen to their excuses. We have some really silly excuses in this passage. We find the first one in verse 18, it says: 'But they all alike began to make excuses. And the first said, I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it: please excuse me'. This man was offered to go to a great banquet, it was probably the greatest banquet that there was in that town or city at the time. He was invited, it was a free banquet, he didn't have to pay for the banquet, he had been given a personal invitation to the banquet - but this man had something that he thought was more important. 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it'.

Verse 19, another person was given an invitation to the same special banquet, and he said: 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out: please excuse me'. Again, another excuse. What I want you to notice about those first two excuses is that they are both things that could have waited. This banquet was something that was happening once, it was something that perhaps was probably never ever going to happen again. It was something special, perhaps like a wedding or an anniversary, that was something in time that couldn't be postponed, it was something that couldn't be put off to another stage in that person's life. Yet these things, these excuses that were being made, they could have been put off. The man could have gone to check his field on another day. The other man could have checked his yoke of oxen [another day], but they didn't.

The third excuse was: 'I have just got married'. Now, I can't make that excuse yet, but I'm sure I'll use it some stage! That was his excuse. I want to ask you right away, bluntly, tonight: are you making excuses? Excuses are not reasons. A reason is something that holds weight, a reason is justified, a reason is a plausible thing - why you have not done something - but an excuse is not plausible. Excuses are not excusable. These were excuses, and perhaps you have come to gospel services, gospel missions, evangelistic outreach - you've read books about it, you've seen videos, listened to tapes about it, people in your family, your friends in your work have witnessed to you about the gospel - yet you continually make excuses why you're not saved. I don't know how many excuses there can be, I don't know how many excuses I have heard in my short lifespan, why people will not trust the Lord Jesus Christ. They can think of every excuse under the sun.

'I'm too young, I've got the rest of my life ahead of me'. 'I'm too old, it's too late at my stage'. 'I've done too many wrong things, God couldn't take me, God wouldn't have me'. 'I have a career to think about'. 'I'm only starting out in life, I've my education, I want to get on the right footing of life - and then, perhaps, when I have everything around me like a good house, a good wife, a good salary, then I'll think about it'. Perhaps it's family: 'I want to devote my time to my family. Between my job and my family, well, if I started going to church and if I became a Christian and had to dedicate myself to something else I wouldn't have the time for my family, or I wouldn't have the time for my career'.

Is it your reputation? I was hearing today from one esteemed brother in Christ on a video about the Lord Jesus Christ - so often preachers and authors worry about their reputation, we all do it and we're all human. When we're in the workplace we worry about our reputation - but it's great, isn't it, to have no reputation. The Lord Jesus Christ, what was said of Him was this: that He had no reputation. Therefore, to a certain extent, He did not need to worry what people said about Him, He didn't worry what they thought about Him, because He wasn't worried about His reputation. Perhaps you're worried about what people would think of you: 'If I came to Christ the hassle I would get, the jokes that I would receive, the friends that I would lose' - listen: are you making excuses? Are you? Listen: they are not reasons, they are only excuses.

He who excuses himself accuses himself. An excuse cannot stand up. The excuse that you are making for not trusting Christ - don't think that it fools the person who's witnessing to you, don't think that we cannot see right through to the reasons behind why you're saying these things. When you make excuses you're accusing yourself of this fact: that excuses are guarded lies. More importantly, you don't fool the Christians in your family, you don't fool the Christians in your church, but listen: you don't fool God, because God can see right into the deep recesses of your heart. God can weigh your motives, God can weigh your excuses, and God knows more than anyone the excuses that you are making, and He knows that they cannot stand. We only make excuses when we ought to making opportunities. You see, you only make excuses in a negative sense, there is never a positive way to make an excuse - you only make an excuse when you know you should be doing something else. Excuses are ways of hiding making opportunities.

This is what happened to these three guests who were invited to this banquet. They knew where they should have been, and I'm sure that they knew deep down that this excuse that they were making wouldn't wipe anyway with the person who was inviting them. They knew deep down in their heart that these things could have waited, that this banquet was more important, more prestigious, and the person who was inviting them was more important than anything that they could do. Yet they - knowing that they themselves could see through their excuses, knowing that the person inviting them could see through their excuses - made the excuses nevertheless.

Now, what opportunities were they missing? These silly excuses were making them miss a super banquet, a super party. In verse 16 we read that a certain man was preparing a great banquet, this was something special, this was almost something that never ever happened before - perhaps a chance that they would never get again to go to something like this. This man was inviting people to this banquet. Do you know what Jesus was talking about? Jesus was talking about the Christian life, that's the banquet that Jesus was alluding to in this parable. It was a banquet of happiness, it was a banquet of delight, it was a banquet of fulfilment and satisfaction.

Some people think that Christianity is a funeral. Perhaps Christians, some of us, are guilty of portraying that image. But listen: don't judge Christianity by Christians, in fact don't judge Christianity by any man because men - we all, the Bible says, you and me, no matter who we are - we are all sinners. If you look to us, you'll be sure to be let down. But judge Christianity by the person who is the head of Christianity, and that is Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ, who never sinned. Jesus Christ, who never knew what it was to think of sin. Jesus Christ, when He was tempted with sin, refused it. Jesus Christ, who could heal the sick. Jesus Christ, who could read a man's mind and could look right into his heart to see his motives, to see the masks that he was putting up. Jesus Christ, who loved all men. Jesus Christ, who was no respecter of persons. Jesus Christ, who hated hypocrisy. That is Christianity: the Jesus Christ who died for sinful men, who shed His blood. The Jesus Christ who suffered, taking the sins of the world upon His shoulders. The Jesus Christ who literally endured hell so that sinners, His creatures, would not have to go through it. Jesus Christ, who said: 'If I lay down my life, I take it up again'. Jesus Christ, who had the power to rise from the dead - that's Christianity! That Jesus Christ says that one day He is coming again, and that Jesus Christ will judge the world, and no man - no matter how many excuses he makes, no matter how detailed, no matter how convincing they are - that same Jesus Christ, with His eyes of flaming fire, will burn through every man's soul. All the masks of history, the masks of the rich and the famous, the masks of the politicians and the ordinary man on the street, they will fall. All the covered things will become uncovered.

Listen: if you want to know what real Christianity is about, don't look at the church, don't look at the Christians! Listen: read the word of God, read the Gospels, read about the greatest person that ever lived, Jesus Christ the Son of God. He is the Word of God the Bible says, that means He is the expression, He is the reflection, He is the stamp of God Himself. If you look at Him, you will say, like the Centurion: 'Surely this man was the Son of God'. If you read and listen to His words, you will surely say: 'No man ever spoke like this man'. If you see His actions, if you see His miracles, you will say: 'What manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey Him?'. Do you know what real Christianity is? I'm not talking about religion, I'm not talking about denominationalism, I'm not talking about anything like that. I'm talking about a relationship with the man Jesus.

This was a super party, it was a banquet that was going to bring happiness. Do you know what happiness is? Do you long to know happiness? Where are you searching for happiness? Some men thought that happiness was found in unbelief and atheism, but Voltaire - a great atheist - was the greatest infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote these words: 'I wish I had never been born' - that's where atheism leads you. Happiness is not found in pleasure, and don't think that Christians are kill-joys and they never have any pleasure, but all we are saying is that you will not find real satisfaction in pleasure alone. Lord Byron died, he had lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote these words: 'The worm, the canker and grief are mine alone'.

Happiness is not found in money. Money is not wrong, the Bible does not say that money is wrong - but it does say that the love of money is wrong. Why? Because God, Jesus Christ, God the Father, God the Holy Spirit is to be the only one we love truly and bow down to. He is to be first in our life. Jay Gould, a famous American millionaire, when dying said this: 'I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth'. You can't find happiness in position or fame either. Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed his fair share of both of these, yet he wrote: 'Youth is a mistake, manhood is a struggle, old-age is a regret'. Imagine that! These men had what we think is perfect, in the eyes of young people today. They had unbelief - that means that they knew they weren't going to suffer for anything they did. Hedonism, they went and did whatever they wanted because they thought there were no consequences.

They thought they could find it in pleasure, in money, in position and fame. Alexander the Great thought he could find it in military glory, and when he had conquered all the known world in his day - having done so he wept in his tent, because he said: 'There are no more worlds to conquer'. Listen friend: if you are striving for what we have down here, if it's for career or money or fame, if it is for satisfaction with earthly fleshly things - listen: you will get to the top of the ladder and realise that there is nothing there!

Where is happiness found? Happiness is found in Jesus Christ, for He said - and He alone said - 'I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life'. Life! You see, the life that you are now living with all this sickness, with all this pain, all this emotional turmoil - when we look around the world and see what's going on, even in our little province - that is not the life that God intended for us. Because we messed it up, and because way back then Adam and Eve disobeyed God when they had a perfect, vital relationship with Him they turned their back on Him and went after their own selfish will and lust - because of that the plan that God had for life, true, vibrant, abundant, satisfying life, it all went down the tube.

Because of God's love, because He loved us so much, He had to bring that life back to us. So He sent eternal life, personified in Jesus Christ, into the world. He was the life, He was coming to infuse, to energize, to regenerate those dead lifeless bodies with God's life. He said this: 'I come to give you not religion, I come to give you life - freedom from the bonds of religion, freedom from the bonds of sin. A relationship with God Almighty, face-to-face, I'm coming to give you that life and give you it in abundance'. He says: 'I'm coming to give you life to the full, life the way it ought to be'.

Maybe you think you're living it up. Maybe you're thinking you have a great time with the drink, maybe it's the drugs, maybe it's going to the discos and the nightclubs - I don't know what it is. But whatever way you're in the world, you are enjoying yourself - but listen: you're not living! You see, you cannot know what living is - and you cannot judge Christianity until you know, until, as the word of God says, you taste and see that the Lord is good. Listen: I am not spinning a whole load of lies to you tonight - Christianity is the only life to live! Christ is the only person that satisfies! Jesus is the only friend that sticks by you! Jesus is the only one who can give you the assurance that your life is in His hands, that it is in His control, and no matter what happens to you down here He will work it all together for your betterment.

If you do not know that, if you are enjoying yourself - in a measure - in this life on earth, and then when you die and you're not sure where you're going - that is not life. That is life living in the midst of death. Don't tell me, if you're not a Christian, that you're not afraid of death. I want to tell you tonight: Jesus gives life, and He gives eternal life. It's not a package that when you pass from this time to the next, when you die on earth and go to heaven, that He hands it to you all wrapped up when you get there. Listen: this eternal life that He gives, He gives it to us now. You have it now! You can begin to live it now, you can begin to be prepared for heaven now.

Do you know, do you really know what life is? Christians walk around with sour faces, puritanical, they're criticising this, that and the other. The world points at them and says: 'Look at those miserable people, what kind of a life is that?'. On the other hand, if Christians go about with a jump in their step, and with a smile on their face, and with a whistle and a song - they look at them and say: 'They're oblivious to everything that's going on in this world - look at them!'. That's what they said about Jesus, remember John the Baptist? The greatest man, the greatest prophet that ever lived, yet Jesus said to the people of Israel: 'Look, John the Baptist came to you and you said that he was the devil because he didn't eat and drink the way you did. He wasn't like you. Then I came, the Son of God, I came eating and drinking the same way that you did, I look the same, I'm the same - a normal man as far as you can see with the eye. Yet you say I'm a winebibber, I'm a friend of publicans and a friend of sinners'.

Listen: you need Christ to please you tonight. That will only happen when you look at Him, when you stop looking to the world, when you stop looking to yourself, your family, your career to satisfy you - because in a flash, like Job, all those things could be taken away from you. Are you going to tell me that that's the end of living? Some people don't even start off with those things. Christianity in the home is kindness, Christianity in the business is honesty, Christianity in society is courtesy, Christianity in work is fairness. Towards the unfortunate Christianity ought to be pity, towards the weak it ought to be help, towards the wicked it ought to be resistance, toward the strong it ought to be trust and an arm to cry on. Towards the fortunate it ought to be congratulations, towards the penitent it ought to be forgiveness - and towards God it ought to be reverence and it ought to be love. Maybe you have some form of Christianity, but it doesn't give you life. Listen: you need Jesus Christ, for He alone can give you that life.

These men made silly excuses, these men missed a super party, but we see that the people who came to this feast - they were strange guests. In fact, Jesus says that this man who was inviting these people had invited the respectable, the rich, the famous, the religious leaders - but these men, it seemed, were too busy. These men had too many concerns, so this man instructed his servant to go out and to go into the highways and byways and collect the poor, collect the down and out, collect the sinner, collect the social outcast and the sexual pervert, to collect them all and invite them into the kingdom of God. Very rarely is a rich man saved, that's what Jesus said. It's not anything to do with the fact that he has money, but because his material needs are met, because in a way he's spoilt with worldly goods, he cannot see within him - or a certain part of his soul is masked to seeing - his dire need, his lack in the sight of God. He mistakes his lack of physical need for a lack of spiritual need.

Is that you tonight? Perhaps you're not rich, but perhaps you've no real need physically. I urge you to ask God to show you your need, to show you what you are in the sight of God - because it might be that you could be one of these people that were invited to this banquet. Perhaps you've been invited so many times, yet you're not willing to come - you're hardening your neck against God. Listen: these men, these men didn't go - and Jesus said: 'I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet'. If you don't get time right now, and make time at this very moment, to deal with God, to get right with God, to face God and to debate the matter over with Him - and let Him and you reason together - you will never in this life, or the life to come, taste that life that is eternal.

It was the convicted terrorist, the homosexual, the prostitute, the cripple, the murderer, the blind, the lame, the leprous, the drug addict, the no-hopers who were in that feast. These were the people who Jesus ate with. In this society, listen, to eat with someone was not just to sit down like we would to a meal - that wasn't what it meant. To eat with someone communicated something more, in fact it spoke volumes about the relationship between those who ate together. To eat together - that's what the Lord's Supper means - it's a sign of communion, a relationship, a special fellowship. In Palestine, to eat with a friend was to show a deep communion and fellowship and love between one another.

The Pharisees, the religious hypocrites, looked at Jesus Christ - and they saw Him showing a deep concern and compassion and love, a wish for a relationship with sinners! They looked at him and said: 'Look! He eats, He even eats, with publicans and sinners!'. They looked at Him as, in public, an immoral woman kissed His feet. Remember, He was of no reputation, He didn't care. She cried on His feet, anointed ointment on His feet, and with her hair - which was almost a sensual thing in Palestine - she wiped His feet. The Pharisees are saying to themselves: 'Does He not know what type of a woman this is?'. That was the type of woman Jesus came to save: it was the zealots, the terrorists - Jesus slept in their homes, Jesus ate at their tables, Jesus listened to their concerns. Jesus, with an ear that could hear every pang of the breast, listened to their cries for help deep down in their soul - and Jesus heard them! Jesus came from heaven to save them.

Who are you? Are you the rich man that makes excuses? Are you the person who's crying out for help? Listen: whoever you are, all people here were invited to this feast! They were all invited! Jesus even said that the man who invited these people to this feast, when they came he said: 'There is room for more!'. The song says:

'There's room at the cross for you.
Though millions may come,
There is still room for one,
There's room at the cross for you'.

A man once wanted to paint a portrait of the prodigal son. He looked all over the place for a suitable model, and he couldn't find one. He went to the market places, he went to the sewers were those type of people would hang about - but he couldn't find anyone. Until one day he was walking through a marketplace, and in the corner of that market there was a bundle of bones and dirt and drink lying there. He walked over and he said: 'Sir, could I ask you a question? Would you please pose for me, for I want to draw a portrait?'. He said: 'Me?'. 'Yes, you! I want to draw a portrait, and I want you to be at my studio tomorrow morning at eleven o'clock'. The next day, sure enough, at eleven o'clock there was a knock upon that artist's door. He opened the door and there stood a man. He asked: 'What do you want?'. The man said: 'I'm here'. He said: 'Well, who are you?'. The man said: 'Well, you told me to be here at eleven o'clock'. The artist replied: 'I did not tell you to be here at eleven o'clock'. He said: 'Yes, you did. I was in the market, I was lying in the corner'. He said: 'But you didn't look like that'. The man said: 'Oh, well I thought if you were going to paint my portrait, and I was going to be on canvas, I would clean myself up a little, I would put a few new clothes on, I would look my best'. Before slamming the door in his face, the artist said: 'I'm sorry Sir, but I wanted you the way you were'.

Listen: God is not in the business of cleaning you up with soap and water. You can't do that for yourself, God has to make you a new person. God is willing to do that tonight. On every invitation you receive, at the bottom there are four letters: R.S.V.P. You know what they mean. Tonight, to the banquet, there is an invitation with your name on it. The responsibility is yours to reply as soon as possible. That banquet will not hold off for you, will you hold off for it and miss it? Jesus says to you tonight: 'Come now, for everything is ready'.

Let us pray. If you're here tonight and you're not a Christian, and you've never come to Christ for Him to save you, and you want Him to do that now - you want to respond to Him, to that invitation to come to His feast, to have true life, not the farce that you're living now - why not, in the stillness of this moment, while everyone is quiet, ask Him to save you. Just say: 'Lord, I come to You. Save me'. Say it now.

Father, we pray tonight for those in our gathering that do not know You. Lord, we can do nothing, all we can do is give what You say to them. Father, I pray that Your Spirit, who alone can save a man, would enter into their hearts now, that He would do a work of grace, that He would warm their heart, set it alight, and give their heart of stone a heart of flesh. Lord, change them, give them real life that's worth living for. Give them a Friend, a Saviour, Master, and a Lord in Jesus Christ. Give them peace in their heart, give them life everlasting. Father, we thank You for today, we think You for the gift and the blessing of Your presence. We pray that that presence would go with us in the week that lies ahead, that others would see Christ in us and glorify our Father that is in heaven. Part us now, we pray, for Christ's sake. Amen.

Transcribed by:
Preach The Word.
June 2001

This sermon was delivered at Portadown Baptist Church in Portadown, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Excuses, Excuses" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.

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