Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sermon for SUNDAY, November 26, 2017 "Come Meet Jesus"

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37 Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40 And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44 Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45 Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’"

"Come Meet Jesus"

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen

Have we ever wanted Jesus to show Himself? Would we like to meet Jesus? Have we been walking right past Jesus without recognizing Him?

Let’s look at the Judgment of the Nations in Matthew 25:31-46, the Parable of the Sheep and Goats.

A fellow pastor was involved in church relief after a national disaster. He noticed large crews repairing church buildings. Then they packed up and left. The pastor’s team stayed on to repair people’s lives not just buildings. Repairing church buildings while people outside are hungry, thirsty, in need of clothing, in need of hospitality, sick, and in need of a caring visit is a woeful example. Can we even call that Christianity! Is it time for the Christian Church to repent? Does Matthew 25 tell us that Jesus identifies more with the needy than our holy places? Is the street then also a holy place, where Christians truly live the Gospel?

In Matthew 25:32 Jesus describes the judgment of the nations “as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.” Sheep farming is intensive work, but sheep are easier to work with because they are gentle and quiet. Goats are more independent and not as intensive work. But, they are not as easily herded as sheep, and they stink. Goats will domineer and often butt sheep out of the way to reach food. However, they are not harmful predators like wolves, so they may flock together to be separated later. Is that exactly what Jesus will do at the judgment? Can selfish and stinking people stay in the church for now?

What kind of faith saves, a dead or a living faith? James 2 teaches that a living faith is accompanied by works, not works of the law, but good deeds. Dead faith is just a show, not accompanied by good works. How can anyone claim to have faith that saves without showing love to neighbor! In Matthew 25:37 the righteous asked Jesus, “Lord, when did we see You…?” Those “righteous” didn’t even know they had fed and clothed Jesus. Could it be that their motive was love for God and their neighbor and not earning salvation by works? Could it be that such good works are evidence of living faith?

Does the Parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25) teach salvation by works? By the washing of regeneration, we were born from above. The Holy Spirit transforms our lives by giving us participation in God’s loving nature. As Christians we are sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18) and by the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:16, 2 Thessalonians 2:13). Good works are evidence of a sanctified life (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7) and faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Saving faith is alive with the bright light of good works (Matthew 5:16) including helping the needy. Works don’t save us. They are visible evidence of a living faith.

In Matthew 25:35-36 Jesus identifies with the suffering, saying, “I was… hungry… thirsty… a stranger… naked… sick… and… in prison…” Do we see Jesus in the poor and needy of the world? Do we avoid them? Do we see the suffering of Jesus in the hungry and thirsty? Do we see the prophesied Messiah rejected as a stranger by His own people? Do we see Jesus’ nakedness on the cross in those with little clothing? Do we see the One who took all our diseases in the sick? In the suffering, anxiety, pain, rejection, loneliness and depression of a prisoner do we see Jesus? Jesus suffers with all who suffer.

Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is with us always (Matthew 28:20, John 14:30, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 3:17) and we sit with him, spiritually speaking, in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6). He is in our worship, prayers, fasting, tithes and offerings. Matthew 25 describes other places to find Jesus. During His earthly ministry, he was often found among the least, the lost and the last. Jesus came to the poor and needy. He was born in impoverished circumstances, lived an itinerant life without fixed abode and served the sick and poor. In Matthew 25:42-43 Jesus identifies with them saying, “I was” the needy.

In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Jesus calls people in all nations His brothers and sisters. The judgment seat here called the throne of His glory (Matthew 25) is elsewhere called the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15). It is judgment of all the nations, not just the Church. The judgment is: how nations handled human suffering. Do we see suffering people as brothers and sisters like Jesus does? Do we have hearts of charity? Jesus Christ is Savior of the world. Do we also save the suffering as we are able?

In Matthew 25:44 Jesus describes those who ignore the needy: “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Charity is often called the “social gospel” focusing on “social justice.” Good deeds light up the world (Matthew 5:13-16). Good works involve deeds of charity such as feeding and clothing the needy. This so-called “social gospel” is part of loving our neighbor in action. The concept of a “social gospel” is used by some as an excuse to abandon other teachings of the Bible and by others as an excuse for disobeying the command to love our neighbor.

Overpopulation, deficient distribution methods, rising costs, poor education, unemployment, underemployment, environmental degradation, individual responsibilities, medical costs, sickness, greed, the cost and devastation of war, natural disasters, industrial changes, recessions, discrimination, pregnancy out of wedlock, disability, crime and unjust incarceration, immigrant status, and gang presence cause poverty. People without a high school diploma are 3-5 times more likely to be poor. Fatherless families are 3-4 times more likely to be poor. Two thirds of disabled people are unemployed. Domestic abuse victims are twice as likely to to be unemployed. Women, minorities, children, immigrants, the disabled and female-headed households face far greater poverty rates. Christians don’t just blame the victim, but do something.

Is caring for the needy an individual or national responsibility? A king represents national leadership and Psalm 72 refers to the Messiah’s reign, a standard for all national leaders. It says, “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor” (verse 4) and “For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life; and precious is their blood in his sight.” (verses 12-14)

Did Jesus say anything about welfare, immigration, healthcare and prisons? Christianity is political. Jesus’ discussed ancient universal principles of politics. Ezekiel 34 condemns evil national leaders. “You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.” (verse 4) What is our responsibility towards the needy? What kind of a barbaric society refuses to defend the poor, the life of a helpless unborn baby, or distressed and homeless immigrants? Do we see in the needy an inconvenience or do we see Jesus?

Amos gives a dire warning to any nation which would “trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and push the afflicted out of the way.” (Amos 2:7) Excuses are hollow justifications for greed and selfishness. The selfish feast. The poor suffer. The selfish “oppress the poor and crush the needy,” saying, “Bring us another drink!” (Amos 4:1) Does the national family “afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and push aside the needy in the gate” (Amos 5:12)? Amos warns those that “trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor” (Amos 8:4). Such nations are cursed by God. Amos echoes Matthew’s message (Matthew 25) to relieve the poor.

We are disappointed with human government. Democracies curtailed royal excesses, striving for something better. But, democracy cannot change men’s hearts, and society’s predators continue their dastardly work. Atheistic communism also failed, as predators took party control and became billionaires. The ideologies may be different, but human systems have one thing in common: the strong bully the weak. Jesus says He will come back and bring justice. At that time we will “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.” We will, “Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations.” (Psalm 100)

Jesus identifies with the poor and marginalized. Do we identify with the needy as Jesus does? When we do, we have found Christ.
Dear Lord above, never let me forget about those who are hurting from guilt, shame and other afflictions I may not know about. Show me that I need to remember those who are: sick, imprisoned, lonely, confused, in need of a friend, dying, hungry, spiritually lost in their lives — wandering aimlessly through life. Teach me to comfort my brothers and sisters in their hours of need, wherever they may be. Guide me to look deeply into their hearts and understand.

Teach me to reach out my hands and help them up and feed their souls and hearts with your word, O Lord. Let me never forsake one of my hurting brothers or sisters along life's way. Grant me the strength to carry forth your will and your way, in bringing all to you, dear Father. I pray this needful prayer through your blessed Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The New Revised Standard Version Bible may be quoted and/or reprinted up to and inclusive of five hundred (500) verses without express written permission of the publisher, provided the verses quoted do not amount to a complete book of the Bible or account for fifty percent (50%) of the total work in which they are quoted.

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