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 “C” in behavior.  In those days it was just understood you had better have an “A” in behavior.  My brother said to me, “Mom and dad are going to kill you.”  I remember thinking, “They can’t actually kill me, that’s against the 5th Commandment.”  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’t impressed.  He told them, “Not one will be left on top of another.”  When the disciples heard that, they very likely thought of Daniel’s prophesy, with the river of God’s wrath at sin being poured out on all the world.  Later that night when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  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’s wrath in their head and wondering if they’d 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’ 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’s 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’re each supposed to be on.  We read on in our text: 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.  (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’t 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 – 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’t 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’s 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’ 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, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34)  As we serve God, let’s 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’s a free gift earned for us by Jesus’ 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’s 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, “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.” (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’ 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’t 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, “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, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (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’ brother, sheds light on what going on in these peoples’ 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, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 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’t 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’s 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 – His right or His left?  God doesn’t want “Cs” in our faith-behavior.  He demands “A+s.”  But what should we do then if we realize that our faith-behavior is maybe even closer to a “D” or an “F”?  Here’s 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’s 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’s Supper!   Finally, after our faith has been nourished and we’ve been reassured that we are God’s 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’s prison of sin and deceptions, and they’ll 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’t been that great?  What if we doubt our abilities or our effectiveness?  What if everyday we’re still disappointing ourselves?  That’s 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’ll 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.           

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