Matthew 25:31-46: The Joy of Service
Do you know why dogs and cats are so different? A dog looks at you with those big brown eyes, cocks its head to one side and says to itself, “You love me, you feed me, you care for me, you take me for walks... you must be God”. A cat looks at you with those piercing green eyes and thinks to itself “You love me, you feed me, you care for me, you stroke me ... I must be God”. There are cat people and there are dog people. There are tennis people and there are golf people. Some people like to sleep with the windows open and some people prefer to sleep with the windows closed - and they are usually married to each other. Some people keep a pen and notepad by the telephone while other people just have children. There are breakfast people and there are people who don’t remember what breakfast is. There are A type people and there are the rest of you. There are Tigger people and there are Eyore people. There are blue sky optimist people and there are chicken little - sky falling in people. And every team has at least one of each. When it comes to finances, some are cheque book people and some are cash people. There are Harrods people and there are T.K. Maxx people. There are Waitrose shoppers and Aldi shoppers. There are carefully balanced every month cheque book people and there are shut the cheque account down every two years and start over people. There are people with stock brokers and there are people perfectly capable of going broke without them. And you know who you are. Jesus says that ultimately, there are only two kinds of people - the sheep people and the goat people. Do you know which you are?
31“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.” (Matthew 25:31-33)
Lets find out how Jesus
distinguishes one from the other. And lets make sure we know which we are and
which we want to be. We can make five simple observations from this passage:
1. How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny
“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…41“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.” (Matthew 25:34 & 41)
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying we are saved by good works. But our behaviour demonstrates our paternity.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)
Jesus has told
us ahead of time because he wants us to choose wisely. Ken Blanchard wrote the book,
the One Minute Manager. He is probably one of the finest thinkers on motivation
and leadership. At university, he took an unusual approach to education.
On the first day of the new academic year he gave out the exam paper he would set at the end of the year. Then during the year, he taught his students how to answer the questions. If they wanted to pass, they attended and took careful notes. He wanted every student to reach their full potential and get straight A’s. Why not? Jesus feels the same about you. He wants you to win. He wants you to succeed. He wants you for his flock. That is why he has told you ahead of time what the finals will include:
“Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)
How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny.
2. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus
“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, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’…42For I was hungry and you gave me
nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I 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.’ (Matthew 25:35-36
The test is this: When you see another person in need, do you treat them as if they were Jesus? Some argue Jesus is referring to Jewish people when he refers to “these brothers of mine”
but that cannot be sustained. Earlier Jesus insisted that only those who did the Father’s will were his brothers and sisters.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35)
So is Jesus limiting my responsibility to Christians perhaps? I don’t think so either. What did Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount about loving our enemies? What was Jesus reply to the lawyer who asked “Who is my neighbour?” What was the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan? Jesus expects us to show compassion toward whoever we encounter in need. That person becomes our neighbour. How we treat them, may, by God’s grace, lead them into his family also. The apostle John put it like this in his first letter.
“We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (1 John 4:19-21)
How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus.
3. Because how we treat others reveals our heart condition
When we are in a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, filled with his Spirit, serving his cause, we will be unaware that our goodness, our kindness, our faithfulness, or gentleness toward others is anything other than natural. Showing compassion and mercy toward the stranger, toward the sick, toward the prisoner, is a supernatural act. “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). How we treat others will reveal our eternal destiny. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus. Because how we treat others reveals our heart condition.
4. Because how we treat others is how we treat Jesus
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 45“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.’ (Matthew 25:40 & 45)
Do you consciously treat people the same way you would treat Jesus? If not, why not? Proverbs says “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord.” (Proverbs 19:17). The writer to Hebrews adds,
“God … will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (Hebrews 6:10)
Jesus goes further, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40).
How we treat others therefore will reveal our eternal destiny. Because how we treat others reveals the state of our relationship to Jesus. Because how we treat others reveals our heart condition.
Because how we treat others is how we treat Jesus, and fifthly,
5. Ultimately, how we treat others is the way Jesus will treat us
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
This surely our
greatest incentive, our greatest motivation.
Jesus has told us before hand what is going to happen when he returns. He is going to separate the world into two groups – the sheep people and the goat people. Jesus has told us because he loves us. He has told us because wants us to choose wisely.
Jesus wants us to follow him and him alone. On another occasion Jesus said,
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:14, 27-28)
That is his promise. God never intended us to live alone. Sheep cannot survive alone. Goats can but sheep can’t. Sheep need the constant attention and protection of the shepherd.
They need the company of the flock to grow to maturity as God intends. That is why God created the church, the flock of Jesus Christ. Here he meets our five most deepest needs; a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. There is no other place on earth where you can find all five benefits in one place at the same time. Worship helps you focus on God, fellowship helps you face life’s problems, discipleship helps fortify your faith; ministry helps exercise your talents; and evangelism helps fulfill your mission. That is why Christ Church exists - to be your flock. That is why we take membership seriously. We cannot grow to maturity in splendid isolation. We need each other’s gifts and talents, each other’s service, each other’s fellowship and prayers. That is why we place such a strong emphasis on service. In our 2020 Vision we invite you to “Imagine everyone at Christ Church becoming mature in Christ and fully equipped for their God-given ministry. Imagine a church family investing whatever it takes to become fully devoted followers of Christ.” That is why at Christ Church we take seriously the biblical image of the Church as a Body made up of many different parts, each valued and each with unique gifts and talents given by God for the good of the whole. We believe in every member ministry.
We encourage every member of Christ Church to follow the model of the Lord Jesus and serve one another in love. So today we invite you to reflect on your role within his flock, your part in helping us fulfill our mission. I know you probably live a hectic life, working, raising a family or home making (or all three). May I therefore challenge you, as part of your tithe, to give back to the Lord in service others through Christ Church. In the Servanthood leaflet you received this morning, page 3 lists the most essential ministry opportunities that need your prayerful consideration. At the moment we particularly need more people to serve as Ushers and Greeters, more people to serve refreshments after the services, and more people to help deliver Connection magazine to one of the roads in Virginia Water. I invite you to tick one or more box and return the page to Lesley or place it in the Collection. If you would like more information, simply underline those particular opportunities that interest you.
Please look at your hands. When you
were just an infant, you came out with your hands closed. And every time
somebody put their little finger in yours, you would wrap your hand around it,
hold on tight, and not let go. As a toddler, you started grabbing rattles and
little toys. When another child came in your direction and wanted to take one
away from you, you said, "Mine," and held on tight. When you were in
junior school, you hung on tightly to bicycle handlebars and pencils and other
things. In senior school you hung on to the hand of your best friend and you
were not about to let that go. In college you hung on to a lot of different
stuff—maybe some stuff we don't even want to talk about here—but when you left,
you were clutching a diploma or degree with two hands. When you started a career, you grabbed
the lowest rung on the ladder and you hung on. Then you reached for the second
one and you hung on, and then the next one. Since then, you have been climbing
ladders, clutching rungs. Someday retirement will come and you'll hang on to
golf clubs or gardening tools, pension funds, and social security. When you get
near the end of your life, you'll start hanging on to canes and walkers.
And then do you know what
happens to some people in the final moments of their life? They clutch the edge
of a hospital bed. They hang on tightly as if to life itself. And then they
die. Finally, they relax their grip. By nature, you and I are clutchers.
We scrape and claw and work and fret, and if we get ahead just a little bit, we hold on. It doesn't matter who or what tries to convince us to relax our grip. We have a reflexive response when it comes to giving up something that's dear to us - especially money. For most of us, clutching is like breathing. It just comes naturally.” Look at your hands one more time. Are they closed or open? God's generous expressions of love confront you everywhere you turn. The question is: Do you see them? Do you see the opportunities all around you to share the love of God with others? Look at your hands one last time. What is the truth about them? One thing is certain. If you live deeply enough with a sense of God's love and generosity, your hands will start looking more like his. They really will. They will start opening up more frequently.
They will start opening up to a wider range of needs. They will start staying open for longer periods of time. And you will learn perhaps the most surprising thing of all. In the opening of your hands” … you become a visible expression of God’s hands, you become hands God uses to do his will. And you will demonstrate more and more that you are a sheep person and not a goat person.
Charles Wesley wrote 9,000 poems, or which 6,500 were used as hymns, but he once said that he would gladly have exchanged them all for the privilege of writing just one hymn that sums up this passage.
Isaac Watts in 1707 when he was just 31,
survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, My richest gain I
count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride. Were the whole realm of
nature mine, that were an offering far too small, Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.”