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Monday, March 22, 2010

The Judgment

The Judgment

Scripture doesn’t let us off the hook! Over and over the Bible speaks about the judgment. The return of the Lord will usher in a judgment with Jesus sitting on His throne in all His glory and with all of the nations and peoples before Him. And the first thing Jesus will do will be to divide the people into two group; putting some of the people on His right hand side and some on His left. Matthew 25:31-46 relates the story comparing those put on His right side to sheep, ( the righteous) and those on His left to goats, or ( the acursed).

After Jesus has divided all of the worlds’ people into these two groups He will first speak to the ‘sheep’ at His right hand. “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, thirsty and you gave Me drink: I was a stranger and you took Me in: naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you took care of Me, I was in prison and you came to Me” Matthew 25:34-36.

The amazing part of this Bible story is that the righteous sheep didn’t understand why Jesus was pleased with them. Why were they special? They had never remembered feeding Jesus when He was hungry or seeing that He got health care when He was sick. Did they never realize that they were following the Lord when they reached out to their neighbor in trouble? Had they never discerned the Lords’ presence there with them as they gave their time and money to help the needy or say a kind word to the discouraged?

They went about their generous lives doing what little they could to relieve the suffering around them because they cared and because it was the right thing to do. They volunteered and sacrificed because their concern for the needy compelled them to get involved. And they had never realized that it was Jesus who was compelling them to care. It was Jesus who had taught them to be compassionate. It was His Call that they had answered when they had fed His sheep. All along as they had opened their hearts to His voice He had been guiding them. And only now could they fully see this miracle.

And Jesus answered the sheep on His right hand,” Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matt. 25:40. Jesus equates our treatment of those who are destitute or distressed with our treatment of Himself. What we do for them, we do for Him. We must not allow our Christian walk to be only a spiritual enterprise, but we must not fail to care for social need, to work for social justice. The still small voice of the Holy Spirit is calling to each of us to put aside judgment and to reach out. We dare not harden our hearts to that command.

After Jesus finishes speaking to those on His right hand He turns to the group on His left side, the ‘goats.’ “Depart from Me you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food: I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not try to help.”

Just as the ‘sheep’ had never completely discerned the Lords presence in their charitable lifestyle, so the ‘goats’ on Jesus’ left hand side had never realized that the Lord was absent from their pious selfish actions. Why they had gone to church, paid their bills, even gone to war in the Lords’ name! They were a proud group, those goats. Jesus must have it wrong . Shocked and unbelieving they argued with the Lord, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name?, cast out demons in Your name?, and done many wonders in Your name?” Matthew 7:22.

It sounds like the ‘goats’ in the judgment story had been full of themselves. They were so much better than all of the ordinary sinners around them. These ‘goats’ even quoted Bible verses as they carefully learned to harden their hearts to the pressing needs of those around them. They actually believed their own lies- that God was involved with them in their greed. They had worked hard for the things they had and God had blessed them with their nice homes and expensive cars. And no one was going to take any of that away. Surely God would never expect them to share with those lazy inferior poor folks! Their freedom to do whatever they wanted was their God given right, and they would fight to the death to keep it that way.

They had proudly used Gods’ name all of their lives, they insisted. Their judgments and their prejudices were made in Gods’ name. And as they took advantage of the poor or criticized and hated the folks that got in their way, they had done it all in Gods’ name. They had all of the correct answers and God was on their side, (or so it seemed.)

And Jesus replied to them: “I never knew you: depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7:23. These ‘goats’ must have been stunned. The god they had been following had not been the Lord Jesus. All their lives had been a delusion. A mere verbal profession that Jesus is Lord without obedience to His commandments to love others hadn’t been enough. And now it was too late.

It’s strong stuff, reading what Scripture says about the coming judgment after our earthly life is over. Maybe it’s good to get a sneak preview now so we won’t be taken off guard when the time comes. The judgment will be based on moral character, and that character is revealed by charitable deeds, or lack thereof. A tree is known by its’ fruit. And outward evidence demonstrates inner righteousness or unrighteousness.

Of course we are saved not through good works but through faith in Jesus Christ. But Scripture tells us: “faith without works is dead.” James 2:26. If we believe and accept Jesus into our lives He will begin to change our lives, to mold us into the humble loving people that make up the ‘sheep’. Jesus speaks to us: “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” John 14:15. Let’s take Jesus’ commandments to love one another and help the needy seriously. Let’s take Jesus seriously. Let’s be one of His sheep on the judgment day.


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