Amazing Results

Amazing Results

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father,
from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, on this last
Sunday of the church year, the sermon text is the Gospel reading.

“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal 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 welcome me,
naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me …
Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did
not do it to me.”

Wow. Those are some pretty pointed and sharp words. What a
scene, this scene that our Lord shows us of the final judgment. All people who
have ever lived, who are living presently, and who are still yet to be born
before His coming are all gathered before Him in this huge and very regal
scene, a very serious scene, I suppose serious if you are a goat, but a very
serious scene indeed. And it causes us to ask ourselves, Have I been welcoming
enough? Have I visited and given as I ought? Did I take every opportunity that
was presented to me by God and follow through? Did I promise and then renege on
my promise?

Wow. A lot of things about which to think. But it’s very
important for you to see what this scene is all about. This scene is after the
end of the world. So, the scene that we’re getting kind of a little cameo or
look into is a different look and understanding than the scene that you and I
are living right now in our life. That’s a very important differentiation to
make. The scene that you and I are living, the goats aren’t so evident and the
sheep aren’t so evident. In fact, if you were to look around you and judge by
your own estimation who is the goat and who is the sheep, oh, I’m sure that you
and I could probably pick some, but we would be woefully wrong on others. Hence,
this scene is not a method or a way of determining who’s the sheep and who’s
the goat. It is merely the completion of God’s judgment upon the entire world.

When all of the nations, all of the peoples are gathered,
before anything is proclaimed from the lips of our Lord Jesus, are the goats
separated onto one side, His left, and are the sheep onto His right, before
there is anything ever said. Now be inquisitive of the text. If this separation
has occurred, then is there any need for anything more to be done? Or for that
matter even said by our Lord? If the separation has already taken place, why is
there a need to even have something said? For whose sake is it being said? Because,
if you’re a goat, you’re going to know good and well why you are a goat, and if
you’re a sheep, you’re going to know good and well why you are a sheep.

So then, for whose sake is it said? Be inquisitive. Think
about these things. It’s said for the sake of adding to and expanding the judgment
of the goats. It’s not to bring any guilt upon the sheep. It’s not to allow
them to feel more sorrow over their life lived by faith in this life. It is
said for the sake of the goats. The sheep are stupefied. They’re completely
taken aback. They can’t even remember ever seeing the Lord Jesus, let alone
knowing that He was the One whom they were serving.

The goats, if you listen to their answer, they are seeing
God in everything that they’re doing, because they want to know for sure by
what they’re doing that they’re God’s people, that they have appeased and made
happy the God whom they do not have a relationship with, but whom they wish to.
How sad. How sad indeed.

The sheep on the other hand in this life, who nurse
regularly from the mother church, who get what they need for their soul here,
they’re served here by the shepherd of the sheep. They’re brought here by the
still cool waters to bring refreshment for their soul. They’re brought here to
the green pastures, verdant and growing, that they too can grow stronger

But all of this is not evident to your eyes or your senses,
because what your eyes and senses see is a sinner preaching to you, full of
other sinners whom you know their hypocrisies and you know when they do not act
like God’s sheep. You’re in the midst of a group of people who do not look like
sheep. And that’s a good thing, because if you and I were figuring out who’s
the sheep and who’s the goat, boy, would that ever lead to pompous
self-righteousness, the kind of thing that Jesus came and shattered among the
religious establishment in Israel.

“I came to seek sinners. I came to save those who are in
need of a physician. I came to seek and save the lost. I came to search for the
one, leaving the ninety-nine on the hillside. I came to receive the prodigal
sons and daughters of the world who return to their father in humility and
contrition, desiring to be saved.”

That’s the sheep. The goats never saw Jesus as being
something that they needed. They saw Jesus as only being the standard by which
they must yield and live. Well, that’s very true, but if that’s the only way
you see Jesus, how are you ever going to know whether you’ve done it, done it
rightly, done it to the right people, done it at the right times? How are you
ever going to know whether or not you have fulfilled what God has laid in your
lap? You never will. As a sheep, you will always live in humility and

That’s why to understand this text as if it applies to our
life right now is a mistaken understanding of this text. This text has been
written for your sake as sheep to be comforted, not to be fearful, to be
comforted. Comforted in knowing that you live your life in this world like
these sheep, unaware of whether you have fulfilled what God has given you or
not, because you do not live in this life according to your sight and
understanding, but you live out your faith in this life by faith.

Hence, your great need to come back at the very table from
where you were fed to begin with to be fed again. Hence, you come back, seeking
the very thing that you continually seek. “Lord, have mercy upon me.”

You come into His temple, not like the Pharisee who stood in
the middle and said, “Lord, I thank you that I’m not like other men. I give you
a tenth of everything that I have. I do all the things that are required by the
law and I obey them to the letter.”

No, you and I come here like the tax collector in the corner
of the entire church and on bended knee beat our breast and say, “Lord, have
mercy upon me, a sinner.” That’s what sheep do. That’s what a sheep is. But on
this side of this judgment scene, there are a lot of goats who do great works,
who love and serve and visit and provide more than sheep.

And that’s why God never said, “Walk by sight. Understand me
by what you experience. Define me and my great Gospel by what you feel.” He
never said those words. He said to live and walk by faith. That’s why the goats
are so adamant in having been told by the Lord, “Depart from me because you
never did these things.”

And the goats are recounting every time that they did. “We
know we did. We did it here, and we did it here, and we did it here. How dare
you question our integrity.” It’s as if that’s what the goats are saying to the
Lord. Scratch your head at that one, but that’s what someone who knows they are
judged by their works.

The sheep on the other hand are completely amazed because
they lived and breathed by faith. And they could not point to what they had
done in this world. They could not have any confidence in what they
accomplished in this world. They could not find any solace or refuge in
anything that they did in this life, because there is no true confidence in these
things in this life. That’s why the sheep are going, “We don’t ever remember
doing it, Lord. All we remember is that we failed. We know we tried and we were
never doing it enough. We know we went out and did these things, but we could
have done them more. Lord, we came back to you regularly saying, ‘Have mercy
and forgive me,’ and You readily took us back. You readily brought us and had
us sup at your table again and again when we were not worthy to even kneel at
your table.”

That’s your life in this life. And the reason your life is
like that in this life is so that your confidence is not based on this life. It
is based on God’s promise and declaration to you.

When someone is bed-bound, wheelchair-bound, you tell me,
what are they doing for the Lord? Oh, well, you know, that’s different. That’s
because they’ve been sequestered into those areas by the Lord. Yes, but does
not the same law apply to them? So what about those who are a little mentally
challenged, emotionally struggling? Does the same standard hold to them? That’s
why that standard is what we repent of each day and that’s why we as sheep take
comfort in this text, because it’s not judging us, but according to our life
lived out in faith. Yes, you are serving and loving and caring and continually
re-reminding others of what God has done to you, but you dare not glory in it
or take any confidence in it because it is built upon sand and not the rock. And
when the storms of this life and the winds of this life blow against it, it
will fall and you will be completely at wit’s end and at a loss.

But when you build it upon that rock, you build it upon that
which God will judge you because He knows you have received such mercy, and not
because you take any confidence in what you’ve done in this life.

God gives you opportunities every day. He gives you
opportunities to honor Him in your marriage, opportunities to honor Him in your
love and compassion for your children and grandchildren and your own parents,
your brothers and sisters, as well as when you love other people within the
congregation who aren’t always easy to love. And then there are the people
outside the congregation whom God wishes to use you to bring them inside the
congregation, because what’s preached here isn’t preached everywhere, what’s
proclaimed here isn’t on the street corners and available. And you know that. That’s
why you’re here.

That’s the sheep. Take heart, sheep. Your Shepherd will lead
you into eternal life, and you and I will glory in not knowing why. Truly,
ignorance is bliss and the more ignorant we are of what we can do and have done
in this life and the more enlightened by faith we are of what God has done in
us and through us and for us, the more secure and joy-filled are we. There’s
peace. That’s what Jesus meant. Taking His yoke upon Him. Let Him take yours.
Cast your burdens upon Him. That’s what He meant. Let Him bear it on the cross
and revel in your adoption.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.