Summary: Was Jesus teaching us that we can "buy" our way into heaven by doing good works?
OPEN: One night a woman dreamed that she was having a conversation with God. She was angry about all the suffering and evil she saw around her, so she complained to the Lord. “God, why don’t You do something about all this?”
God gently replied: “I did. I created you.”
APPLY: Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to talk about a concept we’re calling our W.A.T.S. series: We Are The Sermon
Here in Matthew 25, Jesus is telling His followers that He wanted them to be a sermon. He wanted them to be walking, talking, living, breathing sermons
I. Now, this is one of the hallmarks of Jesus ministry. This is what He did.
When the crowds were gathered around Him, Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
In the book of Acts, Peter tells us “how (Jesus) went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Acts 10:38
And Luke tells us Jesus taught His followers: “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Luke 14:13
Jesus taught this.
He lived this.
He modeled this.
And He conducted His ministry in this way because that was what God had ALWAYS said He wanted of His people:
In Proverbs 19:17 God promises us that “He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.”
Proverbs 22:9 says “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.”
And Psalms 41:1-3 gets really explicit by promising: “Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the LORD delivers him in times of trouble. The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”
Being kind to the poor and downtrodden was central to what God had always asked of His people. In fact, this was so expected by God that He condemned those who failed to it.
When we think of Sodom and Gomorrah, we think they were destroyed because of the sin of homosexuality. And that was part of their wickedness.
But the prophet Ezekiel told Israel there was more to their iniquity than just that one sin:
“…this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” Ezekiel 16:49
Proverbs 21:13 tells us “If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.”
ILLUS: One person observed how prevalent this truth was in Scripture, and so he rewrote Matthew 25 in this way:
I was hungry and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel and prayed for my release.
I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health.
I was homeless and you preached to me of the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely and you left me alone to pray for me.
You seem so close to God; but I am still very hungry, and lonely, and cold.
The person who wrote that, realized that if we only talk about doing good for Christ - the result is an empty and powerless faith.
II. Now, before we go any further, there’s one issue about this passage that troubled me as I was preparing this message.
If you were to simply read Jesus’ comments here in Matthew 25:31-46, you might get the impression that Jesus was teaching that good works can buy your salvation.
Jesus tells one group that because they…
· fed the hungry
· gave drink to the thirsty
· gave a bed to strangers
· clothed the naked
· looked after the sick
· visited those in prison
… they were going to heaven.
Then He tells the others that because THEY DIDN’T practice those kinds of things they were going to hell.
Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and say:
“Hey! If I do enough good deeds, I can get into heaven!”
In fact, this is the teaching of every world religion - except for Christianity.
By contrast: Christianity has always taught that:
“(Jesus) saved us, NOT BECAUSE OF RIGHTEOUS THINGS WE HAD DONE, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” Titus 3:5