Sermon Date: November 30, -0001
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: Matthew 25:31-46
On which Side Will We Stand?
A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on November 6, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether On which Side Will We Stand?¬† Matthew 25:31-46Can you remember being in trouble as a kid?¬† I was in the third grade.¬† The teacher had passed out report cards we were supposed to take home to our parents.¬† I showed it to my brother.¬† I had a ¬ďC¬Ē in behavior.¬† In those days it was just understood you had better have an ¬ďA¬Ē in behavior.¬† My brother said to me, ¬ďMom and dad are going to kill you.¬Ē¬† I remember thinking, ¬ďThey can¬ít actually kill me, that¬ís against the 5th Commandment.¬Ē¬† Somehow or other I lost my report card while walking home.¬† But just as I was being grilled for how that happened, the phone rings.¬† It was a lady down the street.¬† She had found my report card.¬† It took years for me to get over my fear of report cards.¬† ¬†In our text this morning the disciples had fear of Judgment Day.¬† You might find that surprising, after all they had been with Jesus for three years.¬† They had seen His miracles, heard His teaching, and were promised they would reign with Him in the life to come.¬† How could they be afraid of Judgment Day?¬† Well, earlier that day they were in the temple and pointed out to Jesus the huge stones out of which the temple was built.¬† Jesus wasn¬ít impressed.¬† He told them, ¬ďNot one will be left on top of another.¬Ē¬† When the disciples heard that, they very likely thought of Daniel¬ís prophesy, with the river of God¬ís wrath at sin being poured out on all the world.¬† Later that night when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him, ¬ďWhen will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?¬Ē¬† Jesus answered by telling how evil the world would become and the persecutions they would go through.¬† He also warned them with a parable to always make sure they remain in true faith and are carrying out their responsibilities no matter what.¬† So, with a vision of God¬ís wrath in their head and wondering if they¬íd really make the grade, yes, the disciples were afraid of Judgment Day.¬† What Jesus tells His disciples in our text was as much for their comfort as their instruction.¬† This morning, may the Holy Spirit also comfort us as we each ask, On which Side of Jesus¬í Throne Will I Stand?¬† 1. The proof of saving faith is humility and love.¬† 2.¬† The evidence of damning unbelief is pride and selfishness.¬† ¬†We read in our text: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.¬† All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.¬† He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.¬† (Matthew 26:31-33)¬† No one is going to escape this.¬† When Jesus comes, He will put back together the dust and ashes of everyone who has ever lived, including Adam and Eve.¬† That¬ís a lot of people.¬† After all have been raised up and those who were still alive are made immortal, everyone will lift off the ground to meet Jesus in the air.¬† St. Mark tells us that the holy angels will then move us to the side of Jesus we¬íre each supposed to be on.¬† We read on in our text: Then the King will say to those on his right, ¬ĎCome, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. ¬†For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.¬† (Matthew 25:34-36)¬† ¬†Notice whom the people on the right had helped and why they helped.¬† They disciples had just heard about the coming persecutions. ¬†Innocent Christian families would be arrested and put into prison.¬† Now, the food in Roman prisons was really bad, just moldy bread and water.¬† Also, if you were arrested on a warm day and then the weather turned cold, the Romans wouldn¬ít give you extra clothes or a blanket.¬† And if someone got sick and died from being too cold and hungry, oh well!¬† And now imagine yourself doing this.¬† Walking up to a prison with a basket of food and warm clothes, and asking the Roman guard if you could give this to your Christian friends inside.¬† Would you be scared?¬† It would take an amazing amount of faith to do such a thing ¬Ė faith that the Son of God had paid for your sins; faith that He was working in all things for your eternal good; faith that He would preserve you in faith until you were safe in heaven.¬† ¬†¬†Taking foods and clothes to Christians in prison also had to take a lot of love.¬† There was nothing in this for them.¬† Their only thought was for how much their fellow believers were suffering; their only regret was they weren¬ít able to do more.¬† However in spite of their saintly actions, the disciples and the early Christians would still feel unworthy before God.¬† Growing in God¬ís Word does that to a person.¬† It makes us more aware of our so-called little sins of thought, word, and action.¬† Well, remember, the disciples had been with Jesus for three years.¬† So, with their increased awareness of their sin and now with Jesus¬í description of how true faith shows itself, could the disciples measure up on Judgment Day?¬† Will we?¬† ¬†Listen again to how Jesus reassured His disciples: Then the King will say to those on his right, ¬ďCome, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.¬Ē (Matthew 25:34) ¬†As we serve God, let¬ís keep our focus on who we are.¬† God made us His children by sending Jesus and giving us faith.¬† Also, heaven is not our pay for a life of hard work.¬† Heaven is our inheritance; it¬ís a free gift earned for us by Jesus¬í hard work.¬† The more we focus on who we are, the more we are freed to not worry about ourselves and instead look to the needs of others.¬† Also, as we do this, Jesus counts all we do as having been done for Him.¬† So, on which side of Jesus will we be standing?¬† By means of hearing the Word and receiving the Sacrament, let¬ís always keep our focus on Jesus, because each day until He comes again, He is with us.¬† He guides us and gives us strength to do all that He has prepared for us to do.¬† Sadly, not everyone God has brought into His church cares.¬† We read on: Then he will say to those on his left, ¬ďDepart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.¬† For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.¬Ē (Matthew 26:41-43)¬† Hell was not intended for people.¬† It was only meant for the devil and his angels.¬† However, hell is where all who reject Jesus¬í free salvation are going to end up. ¬†And now here are some visible signs of rejecting Jesus.¬† Instead of there being humility and love, there is pride and selfishness.¬† ¬†On Judgment Day unbelievers won¬ít believe Jesus that they were guilty of that, but will insist they had done a lot of good.¬† We read in our text: They also will answer, ¬ďLord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?¬Ē¬† He will reply, ¬ďTruly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.¬Ē (Matthew 25:41-45)¬† ¬†In some respects those on the left did do a lot of good.¬† In fact God may have even used them at times to bring others faith.¬† However, James, Jesus¬í brother, sheds light on what going on in these peoples¬í hearts.¬† He writes: My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ¬ďHere¬ís a good seat for you,¬Ē but say to the poor man, ¬ďYou stand there¬Ē or ¬ďSit on the floor by my feet,¬Ē have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (James 2:1-4)¬† Those on the left would help others, but only when there was something in it for them.¬† Maybe it was the money the rich might give their organization.¬† Maybe it was having others slap them on the back for what a fine job they were doing.¬† Or, maybe it was giving themselves reassurance that they were good people, in spite of the sins they knew were hiding in their heart.¬† On the other hand, when there was nothing in it for them, such as helping a poor Christian family in prison, forget it!¬† They wouldn¬ít do it.¬† Why take a chance?¬† Just as the disciples needed to be aware of why they did what they did, so do we!¬† So, then, why do we do things we do in God¬ís Kingdom?¬† Is our humility mixed with pride?¬† Is our love mixed with selfishness?¬† If so, on the Day of Judgment, on which side of Jesus will we be standing ¬Ė His right or His left?¬† God doesn¬ít want ¬ďCs¬Ē in our faith-behavior.¬† He demands ¬ďA+s.¬Ē¬† But what should we do then if we realize that our faith-behavior is maybe even closer to a ¬ďD¬Ē or an ¬ďF¬Ē?¬† Here¬ís what we should do.¬† This is from the Personal Preparation for Holy Communion on page 156 in our hymnal.¬† I will confess before God all my sins, those which I remember as well as those of which I am unaware.¬† I will pray to God for his mercy and forgiveness.¬† If I may continue reading the questions and showing the answers on the screen: How do I receive his gracious forgiveness? ¬†His Word assures me that Jesus led a pure and holy life for me and died on the cross for me to pay the full price for all my sins.¬† Through faith in Jesus, I have been clothed in my Savior¬ís perfect righteousness and holiness.¬† What further assurance do I have that Jesus is mine and I am his? ¬†In Holy Communion he gives me his body and blood together with the bread and the wine as a truly life-giving food and drink to unite me with him and my fellow believers.¬† By means of this sacrament, Jesus not only forgives my sins but sweeps away all my doubts about his love for me, gives me his own strength to live a God-pleasing life, and grants me a foretaste of heaven.¬† So, on which side will you be on?¬† Find your answer in the Bible and in the Lord¬ís Supper!¬† ¬†Finally, after our faith has been nourished and we¬íve been reassured that we are God¬ís children, we look around and realize there are a lot of people who are in a worse prison than a Roman prison.¬† They are in Satan¬ís prison of sin and deceptions, and they¬íll be forever condemned with him, unless someone can get through to them before Jesus comes again.¬† Jesus wants us to be that someone.¬† But what if our past hasn¬ít been that great?¬† What if we doubt our abilities or our effectiveness?¬† What if everyday we¬íre still disappointing ourselves?¬† That¬ís the kind of servants God wants, because humility and love are the proofs of faith.¬† So, remember who you are.¬† Remember all God has done for you.¬† Then be confident in Christ which side you¬íll be standing on.¬† I would like to close with a prayer that concludes the Personal Preparation for Holy Communion.¬† Lord Jesus, with joy and gratitude I know come to your table to receive the precious food of your life-giving body and blood.¬† May it strengthen me to remain in you as you remain in me, so that I bear much fruit in devoted service to you and in acts of kindness to others.¬† Amen.¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬† ¬†