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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Word For The Week

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, 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.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart 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.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.

Matthew 25:31-46
As we prepare to vote this Tuesday it would be a good idea for us to focus on the things that matter, and the things that matter are those things that matter most to God. Jesus taught His disciples on the Mount of Olives about the end times, about His return and the judgment, and He described a seperation of the faithful from the unfaithful. Those who were found to be faithful to God were those who were found doing that which God had commissioned them to do, as Jesus illustrated throughout the Olivet Discourse. Jesus makes that point in Matthew 24:45-46 before illustrating the point three times in Matthew 25:1-46. Jesus said, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns." It is those whose master finds them doing what He has commanded them to do who will be rewarded in eternity, while the rest will be cut to pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

So as we prepare to vote this Tuesday, what should our priorities be? If we are to be faithful to Jesus Christ and His teachings then we should think carefully about what He said, and what He did not say. In our text - or any text, for that matter - He did not say, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For you means-tested the hungry and told the thirsty to get a handout from someone else, you built a 700-mile fence to keep out the strangers and you ignored the homeless who who needed clothes; you told the sick to get a job with benefits and you made sure that those who were in prison served the maximum penalty." That's not what Jesus said. What Jesus did say was, "Depart 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."

Choose your destiny and vote accordingly.

Now does this mean, as some would say, that you can be Christian without being a Christian? No, it does not. That is, in fact, the biggest fallacy of the Religious Right - trying to get people to outwardly act like a Christian ought to act without facilitating the inward conversion that should manifest itself as outward works that conform to the character of Christ. Instead, the Religious Right focuses on the effect, not the cause, while in our text today Jesus presumes the cause (faith in Him) since He'd set the context in the previous chapter. In our text, as in the two illustrations preceding our text (Parable of the Ten Virgins, Parable of the Talents), Jesus is talking about a separation of those who claim to be His servants, of those who actively serve Him - He is not including those who simply emulate a couple aspects of His character. Jesus is talking about Christians - at least people who call themselves Christians - and there will be a division of the flock between sheep and goats, but those who do not actively serve Him are not even in the flock and they will not be among His elect for whom He returns.

It will be much like the end of the movie A Time To Kill when the sherriff rounded up all of the Klansmen, and then - to the surprise of everyone - tossed one of his deputies into the group of Klansmen. The deputy's actions betrayed the calling that he claimed so he was cast into prison with the rest of the criminals. You could almost hear the deputy cry, "But sherriff, didn't I arrest criminals in your name and in your name maintain law and order?" and the sherriff reply, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer!" Naturally, the sherrif will cast criminals into prison - that does not require a parable - the point that Jesus is making here, as in the rest of the chapter, is that there will be so-called deputies cast into the eternal prison as well.

As we prepare to vote this Tuesday we would be wise to consider that there will be many conservatives on the Day of Judgment who stand before Jesus, saying, "Lord, Lord, did we not vote Republican in your name, and in your name drive out homosexuals and prevent many abortions?" just to hear Jesus tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" However, there will also be liberals standing before Jesus in judgment, saying, "'Lord, Lord, did we not feed the hungry, and clothe the naked and comfort the sick and imprisoned?" just to hear Jesus tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" Faith without works is truly dead, and works without faith is equally dead. Only a faith that works will lead to eternal life, and that faith must be placed in Jesus Christ - the only way to the Father is through the Son.

Choose your destiny and vote accordingly.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to choose life eternal,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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